At face value, it seems like no two professions could be further apart. The sniper lives in the world of slow and steady (if they move at all). Conversely, the NASCAR driver’s world is fast-paced and requires quick-thinking to react to new situations within fractions of a second. But life behind the wheel, just as behind the trigger, requires nerves of steel.
“Anyone can shoot a rifle, that’s probably the easiest part of the job,” says Mike Glover, a former U.S. Army Special Forces sniper. “But the mindset, the physical capabilities, the craft… those are all important elements to being a Special Forces sniper.”
(We Are The Mighty)
Kurt Busch is no slouch himself. He won the famous high-speed, high-stakes Daytona 500 in 2017.
“To be a NASCAR driver means you’re one of the elite drivers in the world,” Says Busch. “It’s a special privilege each week to go out there and race the best of the best.”
Now, Busch is working with one of the U.S. Army’s best: a former Green Beret.
Glover recently took NASCAR’s Kurt Busch to the shooting range to teach him how to shoot a sniper’s rifle using a spotter. Busch, who drives the #41 Monster Energy Ford, quickly took to Glover’s instructions.
Busch hit his target with his second shot — only one correction required.
He credited the preparation Glover provided him, as well as having the proper fundamentals explained to him. The teamwork, of course, was key. It turns out they have a lot more in common than they thought.
(We Are The Mighty)
“When you’re zoned in to your element, that’s when everything slows down,” Busch says. “That’s when you’re able to digest what’s around you.” Glover agrees.
“That internalization, that zen approach, is how we [Special Forces] release the monster within.”
Watch Kurt Busch take Mike Glover for a ride in his world, doing donuts in a parking lot, at the end of the video below.
Three pilots from the 328th Air Refueling Squadron at the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station, N.Y., flew over Western New York to honor frontline workers during the Covid-19 crisis, May 12, 2020. (U.S. Air Force/A1C Kelsey Martinez)
Nearly 200 pilots have chosen to stay in the U.S. Air Force as major airlines operate in a limited capacity during the COVID-19 outbreak, sharply reducing the number of commercial flights around the world.
While the service is still gathering data, “171 pilots have been approved to stay past their original retirement or separation dates” since March, Air Force spokeswoman Maj. Malinda Singleton said in an email Thursday. She did not provide a breakdown of the types of pilots — fighter, bomber, airlift, etc. — who have extended their duty.
The service is also preparing for the possibility that furloughed airline pilots will submit requests to return to active duty in the Air Force come Oct. 1, the spokeswoman said. Under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security, or CARES, Act, passed in late March, airline jobs have been safe as companies are prohibited from cutting their workforces until that date. However, experts foresee a dramatic reduction in airline jobs when the restriction is lifted.
“At this time, it is too early to tell what those impacts may be as the CARES Act prohibited layoffs and furloughs in the airlines until Oct. 1,” Singleton said. “We are keeping a close watch on the situation; recognizing the challenges the airline industry is facing, we are providing options for rated officers to remain on active duty who otherwise had plans to depart.”
Airline hiring efforts had been the biggest factor driving problems in pilot retention and production in the services, officials said in recent years. Commercial airlines became the military’s main competitor during a nationwide pilot shortage.
“We tend to see those [service members who] may be getting out, or those [who] have recently gotten out, want to return to service inside of our Air Force,” Gen. Brad Webb told reporters during a phone call from the Pentagon. “I expect that we will see some of that to a degree, which will help mitigate [the pilot shortage].”
The key vote came in the Senate, where most members supported a key procedural vote to let the funding bill proceed without a filibuster. The cloture vote easily cleared the 60-vote threshold with a final vote of 81 to 18. Two Republicans, Sens. Rand Paul and Mike Lee, voted against the measure, as did 16 Democrats.
The deal will keep the government funded until Feb. 8, eight days earlier than the date in the House-passed funding bill that the Senate rejected on Jan. 19.
The final bill passed in the Senate a few hours later with the same vote as the cloture measure. The delay between the cloture vote and the final vote was due to members working out language that will allow federal workers to receive back-pay for the days the government was closed, per reports.
The House then agreed to the deal, passing the measure shortly after the Senate by a vote of 266 to 150. 45 Democrats voted for the funding bill, while six Republicans crossed party lines to vote no.
Trump weighed in on the deal following the cloture vote with a statement partially committing to an immigration deal.
“I am pleased that Democrats in Congress have come to their senses and are now willing to fund our great military, border patrol, first responders, and insurance for vulnerable children,” Trump said. “As I have always said, once the Government is funded, my Administration will work toward solving the problem of very unfair illegal immigration. We will make a long-term deal on immigration if, and only if, it is good for our country.”
Given Trump’s wild change of hearts during the immigration discussion, it is unclear what exactly a deal that is “good for our country” would look like.
The impasse was broken after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell agreed to hold an open debate process on a bill to codify the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals immigration program. Securing a vote on DACA was a key priority for Democrats, but the deal with McConnell appears to have fallen short of the party’s original request.
Despite McConnell’s commitment, there is nothing binding the House to the deal. A 2013 immigration bill received bipartisan support in the Senate but never made it to the floor of the House.
The Islamic State (IS) extremist group has claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing in a Shi’ite area of Kabul on Aug. 15, 2018.
Earlier on Aug. 16, 2018, Afghan authorities revised the death toll from the attack to 34 killed from their earlier reports of 48 dead.
Health Ministry spokesman Wahid Majroh said that 56 people were wounded in the bombing in the neighborhood of Dasht-e Barchi when the bomber walked into a building where high-school graduates were preparing for university entrance exams and blew himself up.
Authorities a day earlier had said 67 people were wounded.
Most of the victims were young men and women studying together at a private education center in the western Kabul neighborhood.
Fifteen of the victims’ bodies were taken to an ethnic Hazara community compound in Kabul where a mass funeral service was being held on Aug. 16, 2018.
Other victims were being taken to their villages near Kabul to be buried there.
IS extremists have carried out similar attacks in the past, hitting Shi’ite mosques, schools, and cultural centers.
Jawad Ghawari, a member of the city’s Shi’ite clerical council, said there were at least 13 attacks on the Shi’ite community in the past two years in Kabul alone.
The art of sniping is more than just proper cover, concealment and sight alignment; it demands vigilant situational awareness, flawless timing and solid arithmetic skills.
U.S. soldiers had a five-day Sniper Subject Matter Expert Exchange (SMEE) with Jordan Armed Forces-Arab Army (JAF) snipers at a base outside of Amman, Jordan, in October 2019. The Military Engagement Team-Jordan (MET-J), 158th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Arizona Army National Guard; in collaboration with Jordan Operational Engagement Program (JOEP) soldiers; 1st Squadron, 102nd Cavalry Regiment, 44th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 42nd Infantry Division, New Jersey National Guard.
“As a group, we [MET-J, JOEP] were able to collaborate and come up with a good exchange,” said U.S. Army Master Sgt. Johnny Vidrio, with MET-J, 158th MEB, AZANG, “The sniper field is a perishable skill so you have to use it a lot to retain it. We are working with the JAF to keep our exchanges going.”
A U.S. Army soldier, with Military Engagement Team-Jordan, 158th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Arizona Army National Guard, adjusts the scope of a Jordan Armed Forces-Arab Army (JAF) snipers’ rifle during a Sniper Subject Matter Expert Exchange at a base outside of Amman, Jordan in October 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Shaiyla B. Hakeem)
Snipers are known for their specialization in shooting targets from long-range distances with a modified weapon, as well as their reconnaissance abilities. Vidrio, who served as the Sniper SMEE team lead, has more than 20 years’ experience with various weapons systems through his civilian and military occupations.
A U.S. Army Soldier, with Military Engagement Team-Jordan, 158th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Arizona Army National Guard, discusses a mathematical equation with Jordan Armed Forces-Arab Army (JAF) Soldiers during a Sniper Subject Matter Expert Exchange at a base outside of Amman, Jordan in October 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Shaiyla B. Hakeem)
Vidrio explained how the MET-J shared information on how the U.S. Army executes sniper tasks and in turn, the Jordanians shared their way of doing the same task. The exchange not only reviewed basic sniper skills but incorporated different approaches to instruct the material to other soldiers. The two nations were able to work through the Jordanians’ Basic Sniper Manuel which provided a platform for the Jordanian snipers to hone their basic skills and enhance their teaching techniques.
A rifle faces downrange during a Sniper Subject Matter Expert Exchange between Military Engagement Team-Jordan, 158th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Arizona Army National Guard, and the Jordan Armed Forces-Arab Army (JAF) at a base outside of Amman, Jordan in October 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Shaiyla B. Hakeem)
“The more you teach with a group, the more comfortable you will feel teaching by yourself,” explained Vidrio, “That’s what we were doing, helping them feel comfortable about teaching.”
MET-J facilitates and conducts military-to-military engagements with regional partners within the U.S. Army Central area of responsibility in order to build military partner capability and capacity, enhance interoperability and build relationships.
A Jordan Armed Forces-Arab Army (JAF) sniper looks downrange through a tactical monocular during a Sniper Subject Matter Expert Exchange with Military Engagement Team-Jordan, 158th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Arizona Army National Guard, at a base outside of Amman, Jordan in October 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Shaiyla B. Hakeem)
Areas covered during the Sniper SMEE included setting up a comfortable firing position, weapons maintenance, correcting malfunctions, zeroing and determining wind values, to name a few. The snipers discussed how half value, full value, tail and headwinds affect the drift of a bullet. They examined techniques to find the directional movement of wind, such as observing the path of dust, smoke, trash or mirage waves, that are near an intended target. Target range estimation was calculated through a mathematical equation, but each nation used a different formula.
Jordan Armed Forces-Arab Army (JAF) snipers practice setting up firing positions during a Sniper Subject Matter Expert Exchange with Military Engagement Team-Jordan, 158th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Arizona Army National Guard, at a base outside of Amman, Jordan in October 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Shaiyla B. Hakeem)
“They [JAF] have a different calculation for range estimation, this was new to American snipers,” said Vidrio “We learned a whole new way of estimating distance and ranges.”
SMEEs allow open information flow and an opportunity for coalition soldiers to work together, learn and grow from one another, which is beneficial to both counties. The United States is committed to the security of Jordan and to partnering closely with the JAF to meet common security challenges.
Jordan Armed Forces-Arab Army (JAF) snipers hold certificates of appreciation given to them by U.S. Army Soldiers after the completion of a Sniper Subject Matter Expert Exchange with Military Engagement Team-Jordan, 158th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Arizona Army National Guard, at a base outside of Amman, Jordan in October 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Shaiyla B. Hakeem)
One soldier who expressed favor in ongoing SMEEs with U.S. Army was JAF Sgt. 1st Class Ghareeb Alaomary, sniper instructor and logistics coordinator. He too specifically found value in the transfer of knowledge with the arithmetical equation calculations for target distance and range. “The mathematic equation formulas given [by the U.S.] were new information for us,” explained Alaomary, “It added to their [JAF snipers] knowledge to help make more accurate calculations.”
Jordan Armed Forces-Arab Army (JAF) snipers pose for a photo after the completion of a Sniper Subject Matter Expert Exchange with Military Engagement Team-Jordan, 158th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Arizona Army National Guard, at Joint Training Center-Jordan in October 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Shaiyla B. Hakeem)
According to Alaomary, the exchange between the two countries was engaging and an abundance of wisdom was shared, which resulted in a successful exchange. They plan to take the knowledge gained through the Sniper SMEE back to their individual units to cross-train with their comrades.
“I would like to give a special thanks for the effort you [U.S. Army] have dedicated to the students and the valuable information you have provided,” said Alaomary.
A U.S. Army Soldier, with 1st Squadron, 102nd Cavalry Regiment, 44th Infantry Brigade Combat Team of the 42nd Infantry Division, New Jersey National Guard, looks downrange through a tactical monocular during a Sniper Subject Matter Expert Exchange between the Jordan Armed Forces-Arab Army (JAF) and Military Engagement Team-Jordan, 158th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Arizona Army National Guard at a base outside of Amman, Jordan in October 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Shaiyla B. Hakeem)
The U.S. military has a long-standing relationship with Jordan to support our mutual objectives by providing military assistance to the JAF consistent with our national interests. Our people and governments have a historic, unbreakable, strategic relationship that spans decades and different administrations. Jordan is not only one of the United States’ closest allies in the region but in the world as a whole. This isn’t going to change.
Afghanistan has seen a lot of fighting since the Soviet invasion in December 1979. The Soviets ended up building bases in the war-torn country. So did the United States, which has been in Afghanistan since October 2001. Now, the Chinese Communists are reportedly building a base in northeastern Afghanistan, giving them a foothold in Central Asia.
According to a report by Eurasianet.org, the base is being built for the Afghan Armed Forces. Both Chinese and Afghan sources denied these reports, but Fergana News, which broke the story originally, confirmed that the base is being built in the northeastern Afghan province of Badakhshan, which borders Tajikistan. On the other side of Tajikistan, further to the east, is the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region of the People’s Republic of China.
But why would the Chinese be helping the Afghans build a base? There’s no altruism at play here. As was the case with Tibet, there has been a long-running separatist movement in Xinjiang, which was taken into China in the 1700s. Uygur separatists have since carried out a number of terrorist attacks to try to win independence for the region.
The Chinese are moving materials for the base construction through Tajikistan and, reportedly, Chinese troops have been delivering humanitarian supplies to local villages along the way. But there is also a distinct chance that this could turn into more than just building a base for the Afghan government.
Afghan commandos from the Sixth Commando Kandak wait for two Mi-17 helicopters to land as they practice infiltration techniques using the Afghan National Army Air Corps Mi-17Õs on April 1, 2010 at Camp Morehead in the outer regions of Kabul. The training was in preparation for future air assault missions needed in order to disrupt insurgent activity and bring stability to the population and the region. (US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class David Quillen)
The Russian newspaper Izvestiya noted that China’s approach could be similar to that used by Russia in Syria. First, they’ll create working relationships with local and national Afghan government officials. Once they’ve established themselves in the country, they’ll have a new base from which to deploy troops and conduct air strikes against the Uygur, should the need arise.
The Chinese are reportedly providing arms, uniforms, and equipment for this base. As such, there is a good chance that advisors from the People’s Liberation Army will turn up to help the Afghan military learn how to use the new weapons — while also keeping any potential Uygur rebellion in check.
After nearly two decades of fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Marine Corps is looking to reorient toward its specialty, amphibious operations, while preparing for the next fight against what is likely to a more capable foe.
Peer and near-peer adversaries are deploying increasingly sophisticated weaponry that the Corps believes will make amphibious landings a much more challenging proposition in the future.
The Corps is looking for high-tech weapons to counter those looming threats, but it’s also looking for a sophisticated system to counter a persistent, low-tech, but decidedly dangerous weapon — mines hidden close to shore.
According to a recent post on the US government’s Federal Business Opportunities website, first spotted by Marine Corps Times, the Marine Corps Rapid Capability Office is looking to autonomous and artificial-intelligence technology to “increase Marines’ ability to detect, analyze, and neutralize Explosive Ordnance (EO) in shallow water and the surf zone” — two areas where amphibious ships and landing craft would spend much of their time.
“Initial market research has determined multiple technically mature solutions exist that can assist Marines ability to achieve this capability,” the notice says.
Potential systems envisioned by the Corps’ request for information include autonomous or remotely operated vehicles, unmanned underwater vehicles, and unmanned aerial vehicles outfitted with sensors and other gear to detect and evaluate explosive devices.
“Some solutions may provide the ability to neutralize detected ordnance, which is desired but not required,” the RFI states.
Marines conduct the first amphibious landing in an Assault Breacher Vehicle with a Modified Full Width Mine Plow prototype during Exercise Steel Knight on the West Coast, Dec. 8, 2017.
(US Marine Corps photo)
The Corps wants contractors to submit up to three prototypes from a single family or multiple families of systems.
Requirements outlined in the RFI for contractor-submitted systems include being able to detect and identify explosive devices in waters ranging the surf zone, where depths are less than 10 feet, to very shallow waters, which range from 10 feet to 40 feet in depth.
The proposed system must also be able to navigate and avoid obstacles in the littoral zone, which includes shorelines out to coastal waters of 200 feet in depth or more.
The system submitted to the Corps must also be able to use geolocation information to “mark” explosive devices to within a meter in environments where communications and GPS are contested or denied.
The Corps is also looking for systems that are man-portable and can be launched and recovered by one- or two-man teams in a small boat, like the Combat Rubber Raiding Craft.
A US Marine Corps medium tactical vehicle replacement drives on shore during exercise Baltic Operations 2018 at Ustka, Poland, June 7, 2018.
(Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Dengrier M. Baez)
While mines have grown more sophisticated in recent decades, even rudimentary ones are still a potent threat.
Mines have become a cornerstone of anti-access/aerial-denial strategies adopted by countries like Iran and China, which have plans to deploy them in important maritime areas like the Strait of Hormuz or the South China Sea.
The Navy has dedicated mine-countermeasures systems, including specially designed and equipped Avenger-class ships that are deployed around the world and rapidly deployable MH-53H Sea Dragon helicopters that often accompany Avenger-class ships.
A US sailor lowers a mine-neutralization vehicle from the Avenger-class mine countermeasures ship USS Chief into the water to track mines and simulate delivering an explosive package, Nov. 27, 2017.
(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Jordan Crouch)
Those systems are aging, however, and the Navy has been working on a slew of remotely operated and unmanned mine-countermeasures systems that would be deployed aboard the service’s littoral combat ships, with the goal of “taking the man out of the minefield.”
While there has been recent progress with LCS-based anti-mine systems, the LCS program and those mine countermeasures have encountered delays, malfunctions, and cost overruns that have hindered the program and its implementation.
The Corps has also made progress with countering mines that Marines would encounter on shore.
In December 2017, Marines conducted the first amphibious landing with a modified full-width mine plow prototype, which was attached to an assault breaching vehicle and sent ashore on during an exercise on the West Coast.
The regular full-width plow was too big to fit aboard the Navy’s landing craft utility boats. The modified version is easier to transport and safer to use, a Marine Corps Systems Command official said earlier this year, and it gave commanders more flexibility with their ABVs.
Once ashore, the plow supplements the ABV’s other mine-countermeasure systems, helping clear a path for Marines to advance off the beach.
“This plow prototype makes the ABV transportable and gives the commander options to accomplish his tasks on the battlefield,” Alvin Barrons, an assault breaching vehicle engineer, said in a release at the time. “The capability makes the force more lethal because it helps keep other combat vehicles intact and saves the lives of Marines.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
British Lt. Col. Terence Otway and his men were to be charged with assaulting the Merville battery on June 6, 1944, at the height of the D-Day invasions of occupied France. For their mission – as well as the overall invasion – secrecy was of the utmost importance, so Otway wanted to ensure his men held that secret close and wouldn’t divulge anything under any circumstances.
So he turned to one of the oldest tricks in the intelligence-gathering book to test their mettle: using women to try to draw the information out of them.
Otway and the British 9th parachute battalion were going to assault the series of six-foot-thick concrete bunkers that housed anti-aircraft guns, machine gun emplacements, and artillery from a special artillery division. In all, 150 paratroopers would attempt to take down 130 Germans in a hardened shelter. Since the assault would come just after midnight and well before the main landings, operational security was paramount. The Lieutenant Colonel decided to test his men to see if they could be trusted with the information.
According to the 2010 book “D-Day: Minute by Minute,“ Otway enlisted the help of 30 of the most beautiful women of the Women’s Auxiliary Airforce and sent them out to the local pubs with the mission of trapping his men into divulging their secret plans. It was an important test; if the men of the 9th weren’t able to take down those guns, the entire landing might be in jeopardy.
But Otway would be pleased with the discipline of his men. Throughout the nights, they caroused as they always had, drinks in hand, singing the night away. But not one of Otway’s men ever gave up their secret. The attack would go on as planned. His 150 now-proven loyal men landing in the area by parachute and by glider that day in June. Even though the winds disbursed the fighters throughout a large area, they still managed to take down the gun site, albeit taking heavy casualties in the process.
After the Merville Gun Battery was down, the exhausted and depleted British paratroopers then moved on to secure the occupied village of Le Plein. Their assault on the guns cost them roughly 50 percent of their total strength – but they were able to accomplish their mission because of the total secrecy surrounding it from lift off to completion.
Feature image: “The Drop” by Albert Richards (public domain via Wikimedia Commons)
The first time Changiz Lahidji joined a Special Forces unit, his loyalty was to Reza Pahlavi, the Shah of Iran. But he found himself guarding lavish parties in the middle of the desert, protecting the opulent ruler of Imperial Iran and his guests. It wasn’t exactly the life of adventure that John Wayne movies led him to believe he could have.
He didn’t stay in service to the Shah for very long. It seemed like a waste. So, he moved to California, working in family-owned gas stations until November, 1978. That’s when he joined the Army and became an instrument of destruction — for the United States.
The late 1970s were not a good time to be from the Middle East and living in the U.S., even if you’re in the Army. He had to constantly endure racism from his fellow soldiers, even though they couldn’t tell the difference between an Arab and a Persian. It didn’t matter, Lahidji pressed on and finished Special Forces training. Less than a year later, he was wearing the coveted Green Beret and by December 1979, he was on his first mission.
He was on his way back to Iran.
In November, 1979, students in Tehran seized the U.S. embassy there, taking 52 federal employees and U.S. troops hostage. Lahidji wasn’t about to wait for the military to get around to assigning him to help. He wrote a letter to President Jimmy Carter, offering his unique skills, knowledge of Tehran, and native Farsi to the task. He wanted to choose his A-Team and get to Iran as soon as possible.
The U.S. military was happy to oblige. He wasn’t going to lead an A-Team, but he had an Iranian passport and he went into Tehran ahead of Operation Eagle Claw in order to get advance knowledge of the situation on the ground and to rent a bus to drive hostages and operators out after they retook the embassy. After the disaster at Desert One, he was forced to smuggle himself out aboard a fishing boat.
After Iran, he didn’t have to worry about being accepted by his fellow Green Berets. He was one of them by then.
But it wasn’t the only time his Iranian background would come to the aid of U.S. forces. In 2003, some 24 years after the failure of Eagle Claw, Lahidji was in Tora Bora, dressed as a farmer and working for a U.S. private contractor. There, he would personally identify Osama bin Laden. When he went to the American embassy to report his finding, the U.S. seemed to take no action.
Lahidji does a lot of private contractor work these days. After spending so much time traveling and in service to the United States — he’s done more than 100 missions in Afghanistan alone — he looks back on his time in the service as a privilege. Army Special Forces gave Changiz Lahidji the brotherhood and adventure he always dreamed of as a secular, middle-class child growing up in Iran.
The US government and Hollywood have always been close. Washington DC has long been a source of intriguing plots for filmmakers and LA has been a generous provider of glamour and glitz to the political class.
But just how dependant are these two centres of American influence? Scrutiny of previously hidden documents reveals that the answer is: very.
We can now show that the relationship between US national security and Hollywood is much deeper and more political than anyone has ever acknowledged.
It is a matter of public record that the Pentagon has had an Entertainment Liaison Office since 1948. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) established a similar position in 1996. Although it was known that they sometimes request script changes in exchange for advice, permission to use locations, and equipment like aircraft carriers, each appeared to have passive, and largely apolitical roles.
When we include individual episodes for long running shows like 24, Homeland, and NCIS, as well as the influence of other major organizations like the FBI and White House, we can establish unequivocally for the first time that the national security state has supported thousands of hours of entertainment.
For its part, the CIA has assisted in 60 film and television shows since its formation in 1947. This is a much lower figure than the DoD’s but its role has nonetheless been significant.
The CIA put considerable effort into dissuading representations of its very existence throughout the 1940s and 1950s. This meant it was entirely absent from cinematic and televisual culture until a fleeting image of a partially obscured plaque in Alfred Hitchcock’s North By Northwest in 1959, as historian Simon Willmetts revealed in 2016.
When the CIA established an entertainment liaison office in 1996, it made up for lost time, most emphatically on the Al Pacino film The Recruit and the Osama bin Laden assassination movie Zero Dark Thirty. Leaked private memos published by our colleague Tricia Jenkins in 2016, and other memos published in 2013 by the mainstream media, indicate that each of these productions were heavily influenced by government officials. Both heightened or inflated real-world threats and dampened down government malfeasance.
One of the most surprising alterations, though, we found in an unpublished interview regarding the comedy Meet the Parents. The CIA admitted that it had asked Robert De Niro’s character not possess an intimidating array of agency torture manuals.
Nor should we see the clandestine services as simply passive, naive or ineffectual during the counterculture years or its aftermath. They were still able to derail a Marlon Brando picture about the Iran-Contra scandal (in which the US illegally sold arms to Iran) by establishing a front company run by Colonel Oliver North to outbid Brando for the rights, journalist Nicholas Shou recently claimed.
The (CIA) director’s cut
The national security state has a profound, sometimes petty, impact on what Hollywood conveys politically. On Hulk, the DoD requested “pretty radical” script alterations, according to its script notes we obtained through Freedom of Information. These included disassociating the military from the gruesome laboratories that created “a monster” and changing the codename of the operation to capture the Hulk from “Ranch Hand” to “Angry Man”. Ranch Hand had been the name of a real chemical warfare programme during the Vietnam war.
In making the alien movie Contact, the Pentagon “negotiated civilianization of almost all military parts”, according to the database we acquired. It removed a scene in the original script where the military worries that an alien civilization will destroy Earth with a “doomsday machine”, a view dismissed by Jodie Foster’s character as “paranoia right out of the Cold War”.
(Flickr photo by Meredith P.)
The role of the national security state in shaping screen entertainment has been underestimated and its examination long concentrated in remarkably few hands. The trickle of recent books have pushed back but only fractionally and tentatively. An earlier breakthrough occurred at the turn of the century when historians identified successful attempts in the 1950s by a senior individual at the Paramount film studio to promote narratives favorable to a CIA contact known only as “Owen”.
The new FOI documents give a much better sense of the sheer scale of state activities in the entertainment industry, which we present alongside dozens of fresh cases studies. But we still do not know the specific impact of the government on a substantial portion of films and shows. The American Navy’s Marine Corps alone admitted to us that there are 90 boxes of relevant material in its archive. The government has seemed especially careful to avoid writing down details of actual changes made to scripts in the 21st century.
State officials have described Washington DC and Hollywood as being “sprung from the same DNA” and the capital as being “Hollywood for ugly people”. That ugly DNA has embedded far and wide. It seems the two cities on opposite sides of the United States are closer than we ever thought.
The Air Force is upgrading facilities at bases that house nuclear bombers.
But the Air Force and Strategic Command both say there are no plans to put those bombers on 24-hour alert.
Officials from the US Air Force and US Strategic Command have said there are no immediate plans to put nuclear bombers on 24-hour alert.
Questions about plans for US bombers came after a Defense One report that facility upgrades at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana were part of an effort to prepare for an order to go to 24-hour ready alert with US nuclear bombers.
“This is yet one more step in ensuring that we’re prepared,” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein told Defense One, though he and other officials stressed that no such order had been given.
Among the upgrades planned at Barksdale are the renovation of quarters for crews who could man bombers stationed there and the construction of storage facilities for a nuclear cruise missile that is being developed. The B-52 and the B-2 are the only Air Force bombers capable of carrying out a nuclear attack.
While Goldfein is responsible for the Air Force and making sure its forces — including bombers and intercontinental ballistic missiles — are trained and equipped for any scenario, Strategic Command makes operational decisions about US nuclear-weapons systems.
US Strategic Command chief Air Force Gen. John Hyten said through a spokesman that he was not currently considering putting bombers on alert.
“There are no discussions or plans for US Strategic Command to place bombers on alert. Any decisions related to the posture of nuclear forces would come from, or through, US Strategic Command,” the spokesman told Breaking Defense. “We constantly train, prepare and equip our personnel to ensure we have a combat-ready force that underwrites strategic deterrence in the 21st century.”
Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek acknowledged that base-infrastructure upgrades, exercises, and equipment modernization were all happening but said they were needed to “maintain a baseline level of readiness.”
“We do this routinely as part of our organize, train and equip mission so our forces are ready to respond when called upon,” she told Defense News, noting that a return to alert status was not imminent.
Air Force spokesman Brig. Gen. Ed Thomas also told reporters on Monday that that he had spoken with Strategic Command and Air Force Global Strike Command, which are both responsible for nuclear-bomber missions, and said a 24-hour ready alert was not being considered.
“There’s not any discussions or plans to bring bombers on a 24-hour nuclear alert right now,” Thomas said, according to Military.com.
But, when asked if the facilities being upgraded could support a 24-hour ready alert in the future, Thomas said, “Absolutely they could be,” because they are built for nuclear command, control, and communications crews. (Air Force Global Strike Command set up a new entity at Barksdale to oversee Air Force NC3 operations in April.)
Thomas added that the Air Force routinely upgraded its facilities but didn’t say if similar renovations were taking place at other facilities where nuclear bombers are stationed. He added that the Air Force would be ready to discuss going to ready-alert status, though he stressed that Strategic Command would be responsible for such a decision.
“Right now those discussions are not happening. Could they or would we be ready for them? Absolutely,” Thomas said. “Could we be doing the mission? We could stand that up very quickly. I just don’t want to overplay something.”
The alert facility at Barksdale has been undergoing work since August 2016, and Strategic Command provided some money for the renovations. While the facility could house nuclear-bomber crews, it is more likely to house crews manning the E4-B National Airborne Operations Center planes that are used by the defense secretary and other senior officials during times of emergency.
US has not had its nuclear bombers on 24-hour alert since 1991, and the 2010 New Start Treaty signed by the US and Russia prohibited putting heavy bombers on alert during peacetime.
Within the Army’s military police is the Criminal Investigation Command. They’re like NCIS for the Army (the real one — not the TV show). They conduct investigations, collect criminal intelligence, provide forensic laboratory support, and, occasionally, they’re assigned to a unit if they suspect something is wrong.
If CID catches wind of serious misconduct, they’ll insert an agent into a unit through which they’ll observe what’s really going on. The chain of command might know what’s going on, but no one in said unit is aware.
Now, we’re not telling you this to put you on guard at all times — that’d be crazy. You should only suspect someone is secretly a CID agent if they show any or all of these signs.
Then you should absolutely be suspicious.
1. They’re optimistic about the unit.
It’s impossible to show up to morning PT both sober and ready for the day to begin. Anyone upbeat and cheery is not an organic piece of your unit.
Only warrant officers are authorized to smile — mostly because no one can find them and tell them they can’t. (Photo by Senior Airman Kaylee Dubois)
2. They claim they don’t know how to print out their ERB (or don’t want to).
Their ERB is a dead giveaway. Every soldier loves bragging about themselves. At every possible moment, we love to remind people that, “actually, I have four certificates of achievement, not three.”
Anyone who’s not willing to engage in a proverbial pissing contest is clearly a 31D and not an 11B.
If they show off their challenge coin collection, it’s not their ERB — thus proving they’re an agent. (Photo by Spc. Tracy McKithern)
3. They don’t brag about their previous unit (or claim they didn’t have one).
Speaking of bragging, everyone also sh*t talks their current unit because the last one is always better.
Beware if you ever hear the phrase, “well, I mean, my last unit was okay. Nothing bad, but nothing special.” Obviously, their previous, nondescript unit was CID.
Everyone’s last unit was better — but their next unit will definitely be best. (Photo by Sgt. Thomas Crough)
4. They’re unwilling to do dumb sh*t with you — but want to watch.
What kind of grunt isn’t willing to throw their entire career away at a moment’s notice because their buddy said, “hey, bro. Watch this”? CID agents, that’s who!
Chances are, they’ll be sitting there with their beer, taking mental notes to use against you in court.
Don’t worry, it’s not the soldier taking “notes” on a clipboard — they’re just trying to get out of work. (Photo by Sgt. Jon Heinrich)
5. They’re always asking how your weekends were.
Immediately after a four-day weekend, normal people will make small talk by saying, “how was your weekend?” We’re not here to burst your bubble, but this isn’t because they actually care about what you did. It’s a hollow gesture. Nobody actually cares that you just stayed drunk in the barracks, playing video games.
If there’s even the slightest note of sincerity in their voice, it’s a CID Agent trying to get you to spill the beans about what you did.
6. They’re a lower enlisted who actually knows regulations (other than the loopholes).
If pressed on the spot, every response to any regulation should be, “Ah, crap. It’s, uh… AR-6… One sec…” followed by an immediate Googling of the answer. The only time a troop should be able to spout off regulations off the top of their head is if they’re an NCO.
If they know the regulation, they’re trying to pinch you on that law.
7. They actually pay attention to safety briefs.
No one cares about what is being said at the safety brief before the weekend starts — not even the person giving the safety brief. That’s why it’s the same stuff repeated week in, week out.
The typical CID agent probably just wants to get home to watch their copy of Jack Reacher for the 7th time this week, but they’re still trying to blend in with the unit and pretend like they’re not breaking any rules themselves.
Cards for Connection is a free resource that puts simple coping skills and VA phone numbers directly into veterans’ hands. Originally created for veterans who had experienced homelessness, the card deck has now been updated with information for all veterans.
As a result, veterans playing a game of cards read positive affirmations, reminders to breathe, and encouragement to make a connection with others.
Developing Cards for Connection
VA received input by veterans and that helped inform the VA staff that works with them.
Some veterans reported great feedback. Many wanted to see phone numbers on the cards, whether to see a doctor, find a safe place to sleep, or ask about VA resources.
Cards for Connection hopes to help Veterans cope with different situations.
“I like the feel of them. I was noticing the texture, it’s nice,” said one veteran.
Another veteran said, “I love this picture. If you’re in a [bad place], and you actually have a picture of something beautiful to look at, that’s something great.”
Veteran feedback will update future versions
VA will collect additional feedback on the cards via anonymous pre-addressed/stamped postcards. It will also collect from focus groups and anonymous staff surveys. VA will use this information to update future versions.
How do I get a deck of Cards for Connection?
There are about 8,000 decks available for any veteran who could benefit from using them. Requests for a deck from veterans can be sent to Katherine.Juhasz@va.gov.