MIGHTY MOVIES

U.S. Marine to Hollywood honcho: Ron Meyer discusses life growing up in West L.A. and becoming a Hollywood executive

From the U.S. Marine Corps to the Hollywood mailroom, becoming one of the founders of CAA to being vice chairman at NBCUniversal, Ron Meyer has experienced a lot since growing up in West L.A.


Annenberg Media: Tell me about your family and your life growing up?

Meyer: My mother and father escaped Nazi Germany in 1939. They both immigrated and met in Los Angeles. They were German Jews; my father was a lady’s dress salesman and my mother worked with him until she had me and my sister. We had a very simple life here in west Los Angeles.

Annenberg Media: What is the most distinct memory of your mother and your father?

Meyer: They were loving and supportive parents. My father traveled four out of six weeks so he was gone a lot of the time. My mother raised us on a full-time basis. They were great parents and we loved each other unconditionally.

NBCUNIVERSAL EXECUTIVES — Pictured: Ron Meyer, Vice Chairman, NBCUniversal — (Photo by: Chris Haston/NBC)

Annenberg Media: What challenges did you face at school and in the community?

Meyer: I created challenges for myself. We didn’t have money so that wasn’t really an issue as none of us in that neighborhood had money. I worked from the age of about 12-years-old where I delivered and sold newspapers. If I saw a shirt that I liked, I had to work to pay for it. I washed cars at every job you could imagine. I did what I had to do. I was in trouble as a kid but I created most of it, so that definitely made it more challenging for my parents to deal with me. I went to three different junior high and high schools. I spent very little time going to school and I was suspended a lot. I don’t think I ever spent a full day in high school. When I was 16, I legally dropped out. That is what led me to the Marine Corps.

Annenberg Media: What made you want to join the Marines and what was your military occupational specialty (MOS)?

Meyer: I used to box and I was told there was a boxing program in the Marines. There was an active draft back then, so I had a draft card at 17. I thought I was a tough guy and the Marine Corps seemed like a good idea. I found out that there was no boxing program after joining. It was a different kind of Corps; corporal punishment was allowed, and you could fight bare knuckles. They could put hands on you, and you could put hands on them. It was a different kind of world back then.

I was a rifleman, which was my main MOS. I worked in the motor pool and as a radio man. I was a driver as well.

Annenberg Media: What values were stressed at home?

Meyer: My parents were good, honest and hardworking people. I was taught an early lesson when we went to someone’s house for a visit. When I came back home, I had four or five quarters in my pocket. When I told my mother and made up some story, she was not having it. She made me go back down, return the quarters and apologize. My parents never tolerated stealing. They taught me my values that never changed throughout my life.

Annenberg Media: What drew you to film and media while growing up?

Meyer: When I was in the Marine Corps, I got the measles and I was quarantined. I had never read a book in my life at that point. My mother sent me two books: “Amboy Dukes” which was about kids in trouble and a book called, “The Flesh Peddlers” by Steven Longstreet about a young guy in the agency business. I thought when I got out, I didn’t want to be this jerk anymore so I went looking for a job in the agency business. I didn’t have any friends or connections in the business, I just knew about it as a viewer. When a movie came out on a Friday, I thought it was finished on Thursday. I had no concept of the process. It seemed like a good way to make a living. Agents were salesmen and my father was a salesman. I was going to be a salesman of some kind so selling talent seemed like a thing to look into, so I went after it.

Annenberg Media: What was it like starting at the Kohner Agency?

Meyer: It was a great experience and I was lucky to get the job. I was a messenger there for six years. It was a fun time to live in L.A. back then. It was hard work and I worked five days-a-week and then was on call on the weekends for Mr. Kohner. It really was the best time of my life. Hollywood was a lot of fun on the Sunset Strip with all the restaurants and bars. It was just great and looking back on the time it was very Andy Hardy-ish.

Ron Meyer with reporter, Joel Searls at NBCUniversal. (Photo courtesy of: Joel Searls)

Annenberg Media: What leadership lessons in life and from the service have helped you most in your career?

Meyer: The most lasting value comes from what the Marine Corps taught me, teamwork is everything. At CAA it was about teamwork and certainly here at NBCUniversal it is about teamwork. I felt that way at CAA, you were either for us or against us.

We are all in it together. If we succeed, we all succeed and if we fail, we all fail together. You can’t be pointing your finger as a leader. If you trusted the wrong people to do the job, then you must be responsible for it. As a leader you are in it more than anyone else. It is pretty basic: you treat people the way you want to be treated, you tell the best truth you can, you do what you say you are going to do. Once you are a team those are all the fundamentals. You do the best that you can.

Annenberg Media: What are the keywords that you live by?

Meyer: I wish I could say I invented it, but when I was very young, I saw a sign that said, “Assumption is the mother of all f***! ups.” If you assume something you are at risk, I have lived by that forever and I believe that. Don’t assume anyone else is going to take care of the problem or assume you know what someone else is thinking.

Ron Howard, Brian Grazer, Tom Hanks and Ron Meyer at the APOLLO 13 premiere. (Photo courtesy of NBCUniversal/Alex Berliner)

Annenberg Media: What are your top three films while you have been at NBCUniversal?

Meyer: The films that I am most proud of being a part of are “Brokeback Mountain,” “United 93” and “Apollo 13.” I am proud of these films and they had a very important significance for me. “Apollo 13” was a perfect movie since we knew how it ended, but you were on the edge of your seat until the very ending. It entertained you and it made you care. “Brokeback Mountain” broke barriers that no one ever imagined before. It was two men falling in love with each other and the beauty of it. I was proud to be part of the studio that made it. “United 93” made you proud to be an American and it told a story of what people are capable of in the worst of circumstances. It was an extraordinary movie and it was the first post 9/11 film. There were no stars in it, and it was what really happened. I saw it with the families of the victims of Flight 93. It deserves to be a classic film and it is important for America. These are the three films that really stand out for me.

This article originally appeared on Annenberg Media. Follow @AnnenbergMedia on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The 66 religious symbols the VA will put on tombstones

The VA will provide a headstone for any eligible veteran, even if they’re already in an unmarked grave, in any cemetery around the world. In selecting a headstone, the National Cemeteries Administration has approved only 67 possibilities to date — which includes the Hammer of Thor for any believers of Norse gods out there.


Mjölnir (Thor’s Hammer) was one of two selected in 2013. The other was an icon of a sandhill crane for a same-sex spouse of a departed veteran.

Anyone can request a new emblem of belief to be added to this list. All you have to do is establish that there is, indeed, a need for the icon, that the deceased sincerely held the belief, and “submit a three-inch diameter, digitized, black and white representation of the requested emblem that is free of copyright or trademark” to the Memorial Products Service, found here:

Memorial Products Service (41B)
Department of Veterans Affairs
5109 Russell Road
Quantico, VA 22134-3903

In the meantime, feel free to choose from the following.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Air Force may train enlisted pilots for the first time in 75 years

Eugene Taylor remembers how eager enlisted airmen like him were to fly.

Taylor, who enlisted in 1968 and deployed to Vietnam, first worked as an avionics technician. Nearly a decade later, Taylor, a tech sergeant, became a T-37 and T-38 flight simulator instructor with the 71st Flying Training Wing at Vance Air Force Base, Oklahoma. He became so adept that he was occasionally given the chance to fly the T-38, with permission from the pilot, during stateside flights.


It has been decades since enlisted airmen had the chance to sit in the cockpit. But as the Air Force faces the greatest pilot shortages since its inception, service leaders are contemplating a return to a model that includes enlisted pilots. A Rand Corp. study, set to be completed this month, is exploring the feasibility of bringing back a warrant officer corps for that purpose. And another, separate Air Force study is examining, in part, whether enlisted pilots could benefit from new high-tech training that leverages artificial intelligence and simulation.

With these moves, the Air Force is inching just a few steps closer to someday getting enlisted airmen back in the cockpit, on a formal basis, for the first time since World War II.

“We have enlisted airmen in our Guard and reserve component who have private pilot’s licenses and fly for the airlines. So it’s not a matter of can they do it, or hav[ing] the smarts or the capability, it’s just a matter of us, as an Air Force, deciding that that’s a route that we want to take,” said Chief Master Sgt. Kaleth O. Wright, the 18th Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force.

Military.com sat down with the service’s top enlisted leader in February 2018, to talk about enlisted aviators and reinstituting the warrant officer program.

“It’s something we walked away from years ago, and I won’t say that we haven’t been willing to relook at [it],” Wright said, of having enlisted pilots. “It’s nothing that we can’t overcome.”

Creating a Cadre

Wright noted there may be a few bumps in the road before an enlisted cadre could be instituted.

The main challenge would be to structure an appropriate career development path for the airmen, answering questions regarding when and how they would promote and when they would rotate to a new squadron. Wright said thus far officers “naturally float” to a flight commander or squadron commander from base to base, according to a system that has been in place for decades, but questioned whether the same system would work for enlisted pilots.

Additionally, the service would have to study whether enlisted airmen should be granted the right to employ weapons from an aircraft.

“Whether it’s manned or unmanned, if there’s an enlisted airman that’s going to be flying and employing weapons, it requires certain authorities we would have to get by,” Wright said.

For example, enlisted airmen are currently only authorized to be remotely piloted aircraft pilots on the RQ-4 Global Hawk drone, a surveillance-only platform.

One of Eugene Taylor’s trainees at Vance AFB, Oklahoma, straps into a flight simulator, circa 1978-79.
Photo courtesy of Eugene Taylor

“That’s just part of our age-old doctrine, that the employment of weapons, that the authority and responsibility lies with officers,” he said.

Reinstituting the warrant officer program could also help leaders decide on acceptable policies that would “determine if it makes us a more lethal and ready fighting force,” Wright said.

“What this is about is not just aviation or flying — it’s about maintaining the technical expertise,” Wright said. “In some cases, having warrant officers will allow us retain that talent and keep those folks doing what they love.”

The Air Force in the past has commissioned studies to look into bringing back warrant officers, with another study from RAND, a nonprofit institution that provides research and analysis studies on public policy, on the way.

“The Air Force is partnering with RAND for a study on the feasibility of warrant officers and we are projecting a completion by the end of March 2018,” Air Force spokeswoman Capt. Kathleen Atanasoff told Military.com.

February 2018, the Air Force began a separate study on whether it could benefit from someday allowing enlisted pilots.

Air Education and Training Command said the study, called the pilot training next initiative, explores how pilots can learn and train faster “by using existing and emerging technologies that can decrease the time and cost of training,” but with the same depth of understanding to produce quality pilots.

That includes using virtual reality simulation and A.I. to get airmen in an aircraft faster, with the potential of expanding the streamlined training.

The study is expected to conclude in August, in hopes of advancing all 20 students in the program: 15 officers and five enlisted airmen.

Foundation of Skills

Taylor, the Vietnam-era airman, served in the 341X1 career field for T-37 and T-38 trainers, which would quickly disappear once the Air Force reasoned enlisted personnel were needed elsewhere.

Once airmen were taught scenarios in a classroom, they would go to him to practice the maneuvers in the simulator.

“I was one of those people as an enlisted instructor, and it was the best job I ever had,” Taylor said in a recent interview with Military.com.

Through months of simulation tech school paired with his past experience working on planes, Taylor had gained the skills he needed to know the aircraft. Taylor’s instructor career field, however, dissolved only a year later, and he moved back into avionics at Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi. But he remembers his “flight time” and experience with the T-37 and T-38 fondly.

“As a master avionics superintendent, I did get to fly in the back seat of the [T-38] aircraft six times to perform aircraft maintenance at off-station sites,” he said. “I told the pilot that I was a flight simulator instructor pilot at Vance. And when I flew, the pilot would say, ‘You know how to fly this, you do it.’ So, I would,” Taylor said.

Taylor recalled flying the aircraft from Columbus to MacDill Air Force Base,Florida.

“I [then] repaired another T-38 from our base and flew the aircraft back to Columbus. The pilot made the takeoff and landing on both legs of the flight, but I did all radio calls, and navigation,” he said.

Taylor would fly similar routes twice more with the same pilot.

“So yes, enlisted people can definitely perform the job,” he said.

According to a 1992 paper for the Air Force Enlisted Heritage Research Institute, the 341X1 and 341X2 career fields, born out of very early service ideals that enlisted members should work side-by-side with officer pilots, were Analog and Digital Trainer Specialists. The fields were part of the larger Aircrew Training Devices 34XXX specialty.

“The contributions of the enlisted men and women in the training devices career field were great,” noted the paper, written by Air Force student Senior Master Sgt. G. A. Werhs of the Senior Noncomissioned Officer Academy. “From its very beginning in 1939 until its end in the late 80s, [the 34XXX] was [an] entirely enlisted career field. All maintenance and operations were performed by highly skilled personnel. Every aircraft in the Air Force inventory had a simulator associated with it and enlisted members were there to operate and maintain it.

“[H]ow many people realize that for nearly 50 years those pilots received much of the initial training on the ground from enlisted soldiers and airmen[?]” Werhs asked.

Taylor suggested the career field closed because the service didn’t want enlisted troops to get to that next level: flying among officers. The service, he said, also had an abundance of pilots at the time.

“The Vietnam War had wound down, so they had more pilots than the Air Force needed,” Taylor said. “By taking away the enlisted instructors, it let them use the pilots that were qualified to fly the T-38 instead of kicking them out of the service.”

But there are many who believe that enlisted airmen, in some capacity, deserve the chance to once again get up in the air.

Rooted in History

Before the Air Force became a breakout service independent of the Army, enlisted pilots were known as “flying sergeants,” receiving a promotion to staff sergeant once they completed pilot training.

Enlisted pilots, in one form or another, date back to 1912. But it wasn’t until 1941, when Congress passed the the Air Corps Act of 1926 and Public Law 99, that enlisted troops were able to receive qualified training.

“We never thought about whether we wanted to be an enlisted pilot or an officer pilot,” said retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Edward Wenglar, a former enlisted pilot. “We just wanted to be pilots, and we would gladly have stayed privates forever just to have the chance to fly,” Wenglar said in a 2003 service release.

Wenglar, who served overseas during World War II, holds the distinction of “achieving the highest rank of any former enlisted pilot,” according to the Air Force. He died in 2011.

Will Stafford stands third from left in this 1977 photo.
Photo courtesy of Eugene Taylor

During World War II, whoever was in the cockpit got grandfathered in and could remain flying. But in 1942, the passage of the Flight Officer Act meant new enlisted recruits no longer got the chance to fly.

The act, Public Law 658, replaced the program’s sergeant pilot rank with the warrant officer rank.

When the Air Force was created in 1947 out of the Army Air Forces, it would bring more than 1,000 legacy warrant officers in. The service stopped the program in 1959, the same year it created the senior and chief master sergeant ranks. The last warrant officer would retire from active duty in 1980.

With more than 3,000 enlisted sergeant pilots throughout the service’s history, 11 of them would become generals and 17 would become flying aces, according to information from the Air Force. More than 150 enlisted pilots would be killed in action.

“Our careers as enlisted pilots made us better men and gave us opportunities later in the civilian world that we never would have been offered,” Wenglar said in 2003.

New Focus on Warrant Officers

“If the Air Force is so very concerned about the pilot shortage, they should consider warrant officers in … the transport pilot, flight engineer, boom operator and drone pilot fields,” said Will Stafford, a former staff sergeant with similar maintenance, tech and simulator experiences as Taylor.

While in the Air Force in the 1970s and 80s, Stafford, outside of his military duties, would fly smaller aircraft such as Cessna 310s, Beechcraft Model 18s and some Douglas DC-3s. On his own, he would eventually become qualified “on 25 different makes and models of fixed-wing aircraft,” he told Military.com.

“If the [Air Force] wants their veteran airmen and airwomen to return, then they had better look at how it has squandered the talent, training and dedication that many of us had, and make some serious changes, beginning with the restart of the warrant officer corps,” Stafford said, referencing the Air Force’s initiative to bring back retirees into staff-rated positions to balance out the ongoing pilot shortage.

“This is cost-effective, and many professional fully-rated civilian pilots who have military experience would have no problem,” he said.

Stafford has tried, unsuccessfully, to start a White House petition on Whitehouse.org to get the administration’s attention about reinstituting the warrant officer corps. He has even tried to petition the Air Force directly by writing to then-Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton A. Schwartz, who Stafford got the chance to meet and work with when Schwartz was just a captain.

Schwartz told Stafford it just wasn’t in the Air Force’s plans.

Key Decisions Ahead

Wright says the new RAND study may give him and Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. David Goldfein fresh perspectives.

“We have to be smart about this, right?” Wright said. “This can’t just be, ‘Oh, this is nice to have.’ We have to know exactly what we’re buying [into] and we have a plan to implement it.”

Wright said cost-benefit analysis would play into the decision.

“I’m looking to learn, and the boss [Goldfein] is looking to learn, again, that simple question: Will this make us a more lethal force? Will it make us more efficient?” Wright said.

“There is a chance through the RAND study and through some of our internal studies that the evidence reveals and the analysis reveals that warrant officers won’t move the needle that much,” he said.

While Wright said it’s hard to say when enlisted pilots or a warrant officer program may come back into the Air Force’s ranks, he believes the feat can be achieved in roughly five to 10 years.

“I think it would help would shortages in career fields, I think it would help with retention, I think it would help with career development.

“Now there’s nothing that says that, within our current system we can’t do that same thing. But if you’re asking me what the obvious benefits are,” he said, ” … I think it’s a good thing.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

This World War II soldier was the real Private Ryan

Sergeant Fritz Niland had more to do with Band of Brothers than Saving Private Ryan – save for being the inspiration for the movie’s central plot. Historian Steven Ambrose even wrote about Niland in his book, “Band of Brothers – E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne, from Normandy to Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest.” Niland, like the fictional Ryan, lost three brothers in combat, and found out about them all in the same day.

Sadly, his mother did too.


From left to right, the Niland Brothers, Edward, Preston, Robert, and Fritz.

No one had to go searching for Sgt. Niland. He didn’t need to be saved. Niland went looking for his brothers after D-Day, while assigned to the 101st Airborne Division in Europe. His brother Bob was in the 82d Airborne, also fighting in Europe. While looking for his brother Bob, he discovered Bob was killed on D-Day. According to Ambrose, Bob Niland’s platoon was surrounded, so Bob manned a machine gun to harass the Germans so his unit could break through. They did, and Bob went through three boxes of ammo before he was killed in action. Fritz then went searching for another brother, Preston.

Preston Niland was a second lieutenant and platoon leader in the 4th Infantry Division. He too landed on D-Day, but with his men at Utah Beach. Fritz discovered that Preston Niland was killed in action on D+1 at Normandy’s Crisbecq Battery. Fritz returned to the 506th with the heartbreaking news. The news got worse from there.

Frederick “Fritz” Niland is buried at Fort Richardson National Cemetery, Alaska.

Upon returning to his unit, Father Francis Sampson informed Fritz Niland that a third brother was killed by the enemy. Technical Sergeant Edward Niland, who had been imprisoned by the Japanese in the China-India-Burma theater was considered killed in action. Fritz Niland was now the sole surviving son of his family. The Army decided to send him home as soon as possible. His mother had received all three War Department telegrams on the same day. No platoon was sent to take him home, instead, Father Samson escorted Niland to Utah Beach, where he was flown home to complete his service stateside.

Luckily, Edward Niland wasn’t actually dead. He’d been held prisoner by the Japanese after being shot down in May 1944. He was held for over a year before being liberated in 1945. Word had not yet come to the European theater when Fritz found out about his brothers. The two surviving brothers actually moved to their native Tonawanda, N.Y. when they left the Army, and Edward actually outlived Fritz by a full year. Edward died in 1984, while Fritz passed in 1983.

Robert and Preston are buried side-by-side at the American Cemetery near Colleville-sur-Mer, Normandy, France.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Shia hits the fan: Understanding Iran’s role in the Middle East

The Islamic Republic of Iran was America’s original nemesis in the Middle East before Saddam’s Iraq stole the spotlight from 1990-2003. (Saddam and the Iranians, by the way, fought a bloody 8-year war against each other in the 1980s.) A casual observer might assume that the Islamic Republic of Iran must be best buddies with the infamous Islamic State (ISIS)…but no, they share a mutual hatred of each other.


Yeah, it’s all a bit complicated and messy, so strap in, and we’ll clear things up a bit.

Iran is a theocracy, meaning the country is governed by religious law. Rather than a single strongman dictator, Iran is ruled by a group of religious clerics who control the country’s “elected” leaders like former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (remember him?) Iran became the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1979 after religious fundamentalists overthrew the secular government of Shah Reza Pahlevi.

The Shah was a dictator, albeit one less brutal than the current regime, who came to power in 1954 with the help of the American CIA. It was a bad look for Uncle Sam, and many Iranians never forgot it.

American hostages in Iran following the Islamist takeover of 1979.

(Source: Associated Press)

The Iranians are not Arabs like their neighbors to the west. Rather, they are Persians. Instead of Arabic, they speak a dialect of Persian called Farsi. The Iranians are predominantly Shia Muslims, whereas most Arabs are Sunni Muslims.

Theologically, Shias and Sunnis are akin to Protestants and Catholics in the Western world. 85-90% of Muslims worldwide are Sunni and, while the world’s Shia are concentrated in Iran, there are Shia minorities throughout the Arab world. Iraq is unique because it has both an Arab majority and a Shia majority, giving Iran a prime opportunity for heavy influence there (check the news…)

Al Qaeda and the Islamic State are Sunni jihadist groups, whereas Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Houthis in Yemen, and many of the large militias in Iraq are Shia.

(Source: Pew Research Center)

So the Iranians are Persians and not Arabs, and their leaders are fundamentalist Muslims but from the opposite branch of Islam than bin Laden and the Islamic State.

So what’s Iran’s game plan? In a nutshell, Iran wants to preserve and spread its “Islamic revolution” by boxing out the Sunni Arabs and supporting Shia groups across the Middle East (they also work with certain Sunni groups like Hamas.)

To dominate the Middle East, Iran’s leaders want to exploit the “Shia Crescent,” a network of Shia populations stretching from the Persian Gulf to Lebanon. Iran’s message to these Shia populations is “Big Brother Iran is here to save you from the Sunnis, the Israelis, and the Americans.”

(Source: Geographic Intelligence Services)

You can think of the fight against ISIS as World War II, with ISIS filling the role of Nazi Germany. During WWII, the Western Allies and the Soviet Union set aside their rivalries to defeat a common threat. The Defeat-ISIS campaign was similar in that Iran’s Shia coalition shared a mutual enemy with the American/Sunni alliance, even though the two sides weren’t officially partners.

But now, like in 1945, the old rivalries are back in play once again. On one side, Iran leads Syria, Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Houthis in Yemen, and other Shia factions in the region. Opposing them are the Sunni Arab countries aligned with the United States.

Fear and mistrust of Iran runs deep in countries like Saudi Arabia- so deep, in fact, that Saudi Arabia has reportedly made secret arrangements with Israel to counter the Iranian threat (that’s, uh, a plot twist…to put it mildly.) Iraq, with its Shia majority but close and complicated relationship with the United States, remains stuck in a tug-of-war between the rival coalitions.

Alleged secret plan for Israeli aircraft to use Saudi airspace to strike Iran. Saudi Arabia publicly denies this.

(Source: Rick Francona)

Iran was once the great ancient empire of Persia, and there is more to modern Iran than its leaders’ ambitions. Iran has a population of over 80 million, and resentment toward the regime is widespread. Strict religious tyranny and a weak economy cause frequent protests which the Iranian regime suppresses with ruthless violence. It’s unclear if this unrest will eventually put the regime’s power in serious jeopardy.

Iran’s economic problems are driven in part by economic sanctions imposed by the U.S. and Europe. These sanctions, in turn, are imposed partly as a result of Iran’s nuclear program- a program which, the regime insists, is strictly for domestic energy production. Iran’s alleged quest for nuclear weapons is concerning because an atomic Iran could lead its Sunni rivals to pursue their own nuclear weapons.

Iranian protesters in 2009.

(Source: Getty Images)

Further Iranian vs. American bloodshed seems to have been averted in the immediate aftermath of the U.S. assassination of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani, but violence between the two countries is nothing new.

The infamous 1983 Beirut bombing, which killed 241 U.S. servicemen, was perpetrated by an Iranian suicide bomber and 1988’s “Operation Praying Mantis” pitted the U.S. Navy against the Iranian Navy in the largest American naval combat operation since WWII. The whole region remains a Game of Thrones-tier snake pit of conflicting loyalties, religious conflict, and political scheming.

Hopefully now, however, you better understand what led to the U.S. government ordering a drone strike on that guy who looked like Sean Connery.

Iranian Quds Force general Qasem Soleimani, killed by a U.S. drone strike in January 2020.

(Source: Getty Images)

MIGHTY TRENDING

Back from the dead ISIS leader is calling on jihadists to ‘resist enemies’

The Islamic State group released a recording Sept. 28 of what it says is its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, calling on jihadists under pressure in Syria and Iraq to “resist” their enemies.


In his first alleged message in nearly a year, and following reports of his possible death, the elusive jihadist leader called on his supporters to target the “media centres” of countries fighting his group.

“The leaders of the Islamic State and its soldiers have realized that the path to… victory is to be patient and resist the infidels whatever their alliances,” the speaker said.

It was not clear when the message, released by the IS-affiliated Al-Furqan media group, was recorded.

ISIS patrol the streets of Raqqa, Syria. Image from Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently.

In it, he lashed out at “infidel nations headed by America, Russia, and Iran” who, along with their allies, have inflicted losses on the jihadists during separate offensives against IS in Syria and Iraq.

“We will remain, we will resist and be patient… We will not give in,” he said, a day after Iraqi forces defeated IS fighters who had seized areas in a surprise offensive around Ramadi, west of Baghdad.

The apparent IS leader called on “soldiers of the caliphate” to pursue their “jihad,” or holy war, and attacks.

He urged his followers to “target the media centers of the infidels,” without providing further details.

Under ISIS reign, the city of Raqqa has been turned into a veritable hell for its residents. Photo from Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently.

A US intelligence community source said they were examining the audio message.

“We are aware of the audio tape purported to be of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and are taking steps to examine it,” the source said in a statement.

Related: The US response to confirmation of ISIS leader’s death is priceless

“While we have no reason to doubt its authenticity, we do not have verification at this point.”

The Sept. 28 audio message is the first said to be of Baghdadi since November 2016, when he spoke in a defiant tone in urging his supporters to defend the city of Mosul against a massive operation by Iraqi forces.

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Still from an image released by Al-Furqan media group.

That recording, also released by Al-Furqan, was a rare sign of life from Baghdadi.

In July, Moscow said it was struggling to confirm if Baghdadi was dead or alive, a month after reporting his possible demise in a May air strike near the one-time IS stronghold of Raqqa in Syria.

With a $25 million US bounty on his head, Iraq-born Baghdadi has successfully avoided an intense effort to seek him out for six years or more.

Rumours have abounded about Baghdadi’s health and movements, but his whereabouts have largely remained unclear.

Articles

This airman is one of only 9 to receive Air Force Cross since 9/11

Christopher G. Baradat would have just as well had the Air Force mail him his medal.


It’s been more than four years since the Afghanistan battle in which the former Air Force staff sergeant was credited with saving the lives of more than 150 allies, both American and Afghan. And three years since Baradat, who served with the 21st Special Tactics Squadron at Fort Bragg, received the Silver Star for those heroics.

And to this day, the former airman believes he was only doing his job when he braved enemy fire to communicate with vital air support amid a frantic battle with insurgents in the Sono Valley, a treacherous area known as a sanctuary for insurgents in Afghanistan’s Kunar province.

“I don’t feel that I was doing anything above and beyond and heroic,” Baradat said shortly before being honored yet again in a historic ceremony in Florida. “I was doing the job that I was supposed to do.”

On April 20, Baradat and retired Master Sgt. Keary Miller, a former pararescueman, were each presented with the Air Force Cross in a ceremony at Hurlburt Field, home of Air Force Special Operations Command.

The Air Force Cross is the service’s highest combat medal for valor, second only to the Medal of Honor. (U.S. Air Force graphic by Senior Airman Ryan Conroy)

It was the first time in history the Air Force had awarded two Air Force Cross medals — the highest honor for valor an airman can receive outside the Medal of Honor.

Baradat and Miller previously received Silver Stars for their respective heroics. But after a Department of Defense-wide review of valor awards from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, they were among eight airmen who were selected to receive an upgraded medal.

The ceremony to honor them was hosted by the 24th Special Operations Wing and began with a flyover from the Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron, the Thunderbirds; included remarks from the highest-ranking Air Force officer, Gen. David L. Goldfein; and ended with memorial pushups for special operations airmen who have died in battle.

Baradat’s heroics are related to a battle in which he directed 13 500-pound bombs and more than 1,100 rounds of ammunition during three hours of intense fighting amid a mission to rescue allies trapped in a valley under Taliban control.

Also read: This airman saved 23 wounded troops during an insider attack

Miller, who served with the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, is credited with dashing through deep snow and heavy fire multiple times to care for critically wounded U.S. troops during a 17-hour battle against al-Qaida fighters in Afghanistan on March 4, 2002.

Baradat, who left the Air Force last year and now lives in California, said he was not seeking medals during the fight on April 6, 2013.

“I was just concentrating on doing my job,” he said. “It was a very busy, hectic situation.”

According to accounts of the battle, Baradat put his life on the line even as members of the Special Forces team and Afghan commandos he was attached to shouted for him to take cover.

The former combat controller, who provided an important link between ground forces and overhead aircraft, stood in an open Afghan courtyard as bullets hit the ground around him and zeroed in on the roughly 100 enemy fighters bearing down on his teammates with sniper fire, machine gun fire, and rocket-propelled grenades.

Baradat orchestrated supporting fire from AC-130 and A-10 aircraft, synchronizing the attacks and coordinating flight paths overhead amid heavy enemy fire on the ground.

“It was very steep, rocky terrain,” he said. “There was some difficulty in identifying where stuff was happening.”

Baradat said his Special Tactics training prepared him for the battle. But at the same time, he credited the soldiers from the Fort Bragg-based 3rd Special Forces Group whom he fought alongside.

“I was just one piece of the puzzle,” he said. “I’m proud of how my team worked together that day and that I was able to do my job the way that I was trained to.”

Baradat and Miller are the eighth and ninth airmen to receive the Air Force Cross since Sept. 11, 2001.

All nine airmen have been part of the Special Tactics community. And five have come from the 21st Special Tactics Squadron, which is the most decorated Air Force squadron in modern history.

On April 20, Baradat said he wished his old unit well.

“I hope that those guys are doing great,” he said. “I hope they all stay safe as they continue to do the work and continue the legacy of Air Force Special Tactics.”

Baradat spent roughly eight years in the Air Force, deploying three times to Afghanistan and once as part of a crisis response force in the Middle East.

In April 2013 he was part of a quick reaction force called to rescue 66 Afghan allies pinned down by fighters in the Sono Valley.

According to an account of the battle, Baradat and eight Special Forces soldiers went ahead of their convoy of armed vehicles, which were slowed by narrow and restrictive terrain.

Calling in close air support is a pretty baller move. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Michael R. Holzworth)

About half a mile from the allies they were sent to rescue, the troops came under attack and sprinted the length of several football fields to reach safety in a small mud compound.

There, Baradat began to communicate with overhead aircraft to try to repel the attack.

Then, as they moved closer to their trapped allies and the intensity of the enemy fire increased, Baradat left his concealed position to better coordinate a counterattack.

Ignoring the warnings of his teammates, and with the help of six A-10s and two AC-130s, he cleared the way for members of the team to reach their allies and leave the valley, continuing to direct a counterattack as the convoy left.

Baradat is credited with destroying 50 enemies and 13 enemy fighting positions.

Speaking on April 20, Goldfein said Baradat and Miller represent “the finest traits America can ask of its warriors.”

“When lives are on the line, you move carefully and deliberately into harm’s way with the protection of others on the mind,” he said. “You do what others cannot or will not do. And you do it because it must be done. And because there is no one better.”
MIGHTY CULTURE

This ‘Ragged Old Flag’ Super Bowl commercial hit it out of the park

If you were among the millions of Americans that tuned into the Super Bowl last night, you probably saw the powerful, patriotic ad in the lead up to kick off. Featuring Marine and Medal of Honor recipient Kyle Carpenter, the NFL spot is a video set to Johnny Cash’s spoken word song, “Ragged Old Flag.”


www.youtube.com

Tracing the flag’s (and America’s) journey through major wars and events, the video also shows images of protest and anger with several shots of the flag being burned before going back to images of the military, first responders and ordinary, everyday Americans.

The video spot struck a nerve immediately with some saying it was a dig at Colin Kaepernick.

Others said the video didn’t line up with Johnny Cash’s politics or beliefs although Cash was always ambiguous about where he stood on the political spectrum.

Cash released the song as part of his 47th album in 1974, at a time during great turmoil in the USA, much like today. The U.S. was winding down its involvement in Vietnam and was dealing with the Watergate scandal with President Richard Nixon just resigning the office. The song was penned to be an optimistic song for Americans dealing with such tumultuous times.

Cash, an opponent of the war and believer in social justice, had actually met Richard Nixon a couple of years before and performed several songs for him, including an anti-Vietnam War song, “What is Truth” and “The Ballad of Ira Hayes,” a heartbreaking song about one of the Flag Raisers of Iwo Jima and his life as a Pima Indian.

Cash himself would open his concerts with the song and preface it with the following:

“I thank God for all the freedom we have in this country, I cherish them and treasure them – even the right to burn the flag. We also got the right to bear arms and if you burn my flag – I’ll shoot you.”

“Ragged Old Flag” was a hit upon its release with his fans who embraced the message that one can have criticisms of this country but should still respect those people and images that symbolize it. It is a message that resonates with many to this day.

The moving lyrics of the song:

I walked through a county courthouse square
On a park bench an old man was sitting there
I said, your old courthouse is kinda run down
He said, naw, it’ll do for our little town
I said, your old flagpole has leaned a little bit
And that’s a ragged old flag you got hanging on it.

He said, have a seat, and I sat down
Is this the first time you’ve been to our little town?
I said, I think it is
He said, I don’t like to brag
But we’re kinda proud of that ragged old flag

You see, we got a little hole in that flag there when
Washington took it across the Delaware
And it got powder-burned the night Francis Scott Key
Sat watching it writing say can you see
And it got a bad rip in New Orleans
With Packingham and Jackson tuggin’ at its seams.

And it almost fell at the Alamo

Beside the texas flag, but she waved on though
She got cut with a sword at Chancellorsville
And she got cut again at Shiloh Hill
There was Robert E. Lee, Beauregard, and Bragg
And the south wind blew hard on that ragged old flag

On Flanders field in World War one
She got a big hole from a Bertha gun
She turned blood red in World War Two
She hung limp and low a time or two
She was in Korea and Vietnam
She went where she was sent by Uncle Sam

She waved from our ships upon the Briny foam
And now they’ve about quit waving her back here at home
In her own good land here she’s been abused
She’s been burned, dishonored, denied, and refused

And the government for which she stands

Is scandalized throughout the land
And she’s getting threadbare and wearing thin
But she’s in good shape for the shape she’s in
‘Cause she’s been through the fire before
And I believe she can take a whole lot more

So we raise her up every morning
We take her down every night
We don’t let her touch the ground and we fold her up right
On second thought, I do like to brag
‘Cause I’m mighty proud of that ragged old flag

MIGHTY TRENDING

The UK will not block death penalty for ISIS fighters

The British government will not block the potential use of the death penalty in the case of two captured fighters of the extremist group Islamic State (IS) who could face trial in the United States, news reports say.

Alexanda Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh are suspected of being the final two members of a IS foursome labelled “The Beatles” due to their British accents.

The two men, who were captured by Syrian Kurdish fighters in January 2018, were reportedly wanted for allegedly imprisoning, torturing and killing hostages.


They were captured by Syrian Kurdish fighters in January 2018.

Britain, which opposes the death penalty, has been in discussions with the United States about how and where the pair should face justice.

In a letter to the U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions that was seen by the Daily Telegraph, British Home Secretary Sajid Javid said London will not seek “assurances” that the pair will not be executed.

“I am of the view that there are strong reasons for not requiring a death penalty assurance in this specific case, so no such assurances will be sought,” Javid wrote in June 2018, according to a transcript of the letter published by the newspaper on July 23, 2018.

Amnesty International said the case “seriously jeopardizes the UK’s position as a strong advocate for the abolition of the death penalty.”

“At a time when the rest of the world is moving increasingly to abolition, this reported letter…marks a huge backward step,” Amnesty International UK’s head of advocacy Allan Hogarth said.

A Home Office spokesman said the government would not comment on leaked documents.

Mohammed Emwazi, known as “Jihadi John” became the most notorious of the four after appearing in videos showing the murder of Western and Japanese journalists and aid workers.

He is believed to have been killed in a U.S.-British missile strike in 2015.

Featured image: British Home Secretary Sajid Javid

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

7 times the Russian and Chinese got dangerously close to the US military

A Russian fighter buzzed a US Navy reconnaissance plane Nov. 5, 2018, coming dangerously close to the American aircraft during a decidedly “unsafe” incident.

“This interaction was determined to be unsafe due to the Su-27 conducting a high speed pass directly in front of the mission aircraft, which put our pilots and crew at risk,” the Navy said in a statement, adding, “The intercepting Su-27 made an additional pass, closing with the EP-3 [Aries] and applying its afterburner while conducting a banking turn away.”


The Department of Defense said there was “no radio contact,” explaining that they came “came out of nowhere.” The department explained that these actions “put our aircrews in danger,” stressing that “there is no reason for this behavior.”

Nov. 5, 2018’s intercept is one of many close encounters the US military has had with the Russians over the years, and the US has similar problems with the Chinese as well.

Here are seven times the Russian and Chinese militaries came so close to US ships and aircraft they risked disaster.

Guided-missile destroyer USS Decatur operates in the South China Sea

(US Navy photo)

1. Chinese Type 052 Luyang II-class destroyer nearly collided with US Navy Arleigh Burke-class destroyer on Sept. 30, 2018.

In response to a US Navy freedom-of-navigation operation in the South China Sea, the Chinese military dispatched a People’s Liberation Army Navy warship to challenge the USS Decatur near the Spratly Islands.

The Chinese vessel “approached USS Decatur in an unsafe and unprofessional maneuver in the vicinity of Gaven Reef in the South China Sea,” where it engaged in “a series of increasingly aggressive maneuvers accompanied by warnings for Decatur to depart,” a spokesman for the US Pacific Fleet said in a statement. The Decatur was forced to alter its original course to avoid a collision with the Chinese ship.

“You are on dangerous course,” the Chinese destroyer warned over the radio, according to a transcript of the exchange obtained by the South China Morning Post. The PLAN warship told the US vessel that it was on a “dangerous course,” reportedly stressing that it would “suffer consequences” if it did not change course.

In the video of the incident, an unidentified Navy sailor can be heard saying the Chinese ship is “trying to push us out of the way.”

An EP-3E Aries, assigned to the “World Watchers” of Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadron (VQ) 1, left, escorted by an EA-18G Growler, assigned to the “Patriots” of Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 140, performs a flyby over aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75).

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Bobby J Siens)

2. Russian Su-27 Flanker buzzed a US Navy EP-3 Aries surveillance plane over the Black Sea on Jan. 29, 2018.

During this intercept, the Russian military aircraft came within five feet of the US Navy plane.

“For the Russian fighter aircraft to fly this close to the US Navy aircraft, especially for extended periods of time, is unsafe,” US Navy Capt. Bill Ellis, Task Force 67 commander, said in a statement at the time. “The smallest lapse of focus or error in airmanship by the intercepting aircrew can have disastrous consequences. There is no margin for error and insufficient time or space for our aircrews to take corrective action.”

The Department of State accused Russia of “flagrantly violating existing agreements and international law,” CNN reported.

A dramatic photo of a Russian jet coming within a few feet of a U.S. Air Force reconnaissance jet over the Baltic Sea June 19, 2017, in a maneuver that has been criticized as unsafe.

(U.S. European Command photo by Master Sgt Charles Larkin Snr.)

3. Russian Su-27 Flanker intercepted a US Air Force RC-135 reconnaissance aircraft on July 19, 2017.

The Russian Flanker “rapidly” approached the US reconnaissance plane, coming within five feet of the US aircraft. The Russian pilot engaged in “provocative” maneuvers, according to US defense officials, who accused the Russians of flying “erratically.”

Intercepts occur frequently, but while most are routine, some are considered “unsafe.” This incident was classified as such “due to the high rate of closure speed and poor control of the aircraft during the intercept,” Fox News reported.

In photos from the incident, the pilot can be seen clearly in the cockpit of the Russian Su-27. At those distances and speeds, the slightest miscalculation increases the odds of a mid-air collision.

U.S. Air Force WC-135 Constant Phoenix aircraft is refuelled from an air tanker.

(US Air Force photo)

4. Two Chinese Su-30 fighter jets flies inverted over a US Air Force radiation detection plane over the East China Sea on May 17, 2017.

A pair of People’s Liberation Army Air Force Su-30 derivatives came within 150 feet of the aircraft, with one flying inverted over the top of the American plane, US defense officials told CNN at the time.

The incident, which was deemed “unprofessional” by the US military, followed a close encounter a year earlier between the US Navy and a pair of Shenyang J-11 fighter jets. The fighters flew within 50 feet of an EP-3 Ares spy plane.

Two years prior in the summer of 2014, a Chinese fighter flew within 30 feet of a US Navy US P-8 Poseidon aircraft, doing a “barrel roll” over the top.

In this image released by the U.S. Air Force, a U.S. RC-135U flying in international airspace over the Baltic Sea, is intercepted by a Russian SU-27 Flanker on June 19, 2017.

(US Air Force photo)

5. Russian Su-27 Flanker “barrel rolls” over a US Air Force RC-135 reconnaissance aircraft over the Baltic Sea on April 29, 2016.

The Russian Flanker flew within 25 feet of the US plane before conducting a “barrel roll” over the top of the American aircraft.

“The SU-27 intercepted the U.S. aircraft flying a routine route at high rate of speed from the side then proceeded to perform an aggressive maneuver that posed a threat to the safety of the US aircrew in the RC-135,” a defense spokesperson told CNN.

In an earlier incident that same month, a Russian pilot “performed erratic and aggressive maneuvers,” including another barrel roll, within 50 feet of another US aircraft.

That April, Russian jets also buzzed the US Navy repeatedly, at one point coming within 30 feet of a US Navy destroyer.

f the Military Sealift Command ocean surveillance ship USNS Impeccable (T-AGOS-23), forcing the ship to conduct an emergency “all stop” in order to avoid collision.

(US Navy photo)

6. Five Chinese vessels harass a US Navy surveillance ship in the South China Sea on March 8, 2009.

Five Chinese vessels — a mixture of military and paramilitary vessels — “shadowed and aggressively maneuvered in dangerously close proximity to USNS Impeccable, in an apparent coordinated effort to harass the US ocean surveillance ship while it was conducting routine operations in international waters,” the Pentagon said in a statement.

The fishing vessels, assessed by experts to be part of China’s paramilitary Maritime Militia, closed to within 25 feet of the Impeccable. One stopped directly in front of the US Navy ship, forcing it to make an emergency “all stop” to avoid colliding with the Chinese vessel.

The US crew members used firehoses to defend their vessel as the Chinese threw wood into the water and use poles to snag the acoustic equipment on the Navy surveillance ship. The Pentagon described the incident as “one of the most aggressive actions we’ve seen in some time.”

A few years later in 2013, China and the US clashed again in the South China Sea, as a Chinese warship forced a US Navy guided-missile cruiser to change course to avoid a collision.

Damaged EP-3 spy plane at Lingshui Airfield after the fatal collision.

(Lockheed Martin photo)

7. Chinese J-8 fighter jet collided with a US Navy EP-3 Aries spy plane over the South China Sea on April 1, 2001.

While most intercepts, no matter dangerous, pass without incident, some have been known to be fatal.

During the unsafe incident, the two Chinese J-8 interceptor fighters made multiple close passes near the US aircraft. On one pass, one of the aircraft collided with the US spy plane, causing the fighter to break into pieces and killing the pilot — Lt. Cdr. Wang Wei. The EP-3 was damaged in the collision and was forced to make an unauthorized emergency landing at Lingshui Airfield on Hainan Island.

The crash, a definitive tragedy but not the unmitigated disaster it could have been, proved extremely damaging to US-Chinese relations.

The incident was preceded by a pattern of aggressive intercepts that began in December 2000, according to a Congressional Research Service report. Between December 2000 and April 13, 2001, there were 44 PLA interceptions of US aircraft. In six instances, Chinese fighters came within 30 feet of the American planes, and in two cases, the distance was less than 10 feet.

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

Articles

‘The Bunker’ is helping veteran entrepreneurs launch the next big tech company

 


Many efforts exist to try and tap into the potential of separating military veterans as employees and leaders, but “The Bunker” fosters veteran entrepreneurs by helping them start and grow great technology companies.

“The Bunker is a veteran-operated, veteran-focused effort with an emphasis on finding and offering entry points into the technology community,” explains Todd Connor, CEO of The Bunker, in a YouTube video about the program (linked below).

The Chicago-based program helps military veterans tap into existing government programs while also providing networking opportunities for breaking into the technology sector.

These efforts, currently encompassing seven cities, all work by providing military veterans with shared office space, networking events, and speaker series focused on growing technology companies. They also provide mentorship and help new businesses find partners interested in working with veteran-owned businesses.

While the Bunker is based out of Chicago, interested parties can apply to be part of the program in six other cities including Los Angeles, Austin, Texas, and Washington D.C. Some programs, like those in Chicago and Kansas City, are fully up and operational while others, like the one in Tacoma, Wash., are planning to launch this year.

To see companies that have successfully partnered with The Bunker or to apply to be part of the program, check out their website.The Bunker, in addition to looking for more entrepreneurs, provides the option for people to apply as mentors, interns, and business partners.

MORE: 7 things people use every day that originated in the military 

AND: 17 Brilliant Insights From Legendary Marine General James Mattis 

Also Watch: Exclusive Video: McChrystal on why the US needs national service 

MIGHTY TRENDING

North Koreans shot one of their own soldiers as he tried to defect

North Korean soldiers shot at and wounded a fellow soldier who was crossing a jointly controlled area at the heavily guarded border to defect to South Korea on Oct.13, the South’s military said.


North Korean soldiers have occasionally defected to South Korea across the border. But it’s rare for a North Korean soldier to defect via the Joint Security Area, where border guards of the rival Koreas stand facing each other just meters (feet) away, and be shot by fellow North Korean soldiers.

The soldier bolted from a guard post at the northern side of Panmunjom village in the Joint Security Area to the southern side of the village, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement. He was shot in the shoulder and elbow and was taken to a South Korean hospital, the South’s Defense Ministry said. It wasn’t immediately known how serious the soldier’s injuries were or why he decided to defect.

South Korean troops found the injured soldier south of the border after hearing sounds of gunfire, a South Korean Defense Ministry official said, requesting anonymity, citing department rules. South Korean troops didn’t fire at the North, he said.

A North Korean soldier stands guard at a missile test site.

The defection came at a time of heightened tension over North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, and could escalate animosities between the rival countries. North Korea has typically accused South Korea of enticing its citizens to defect, something the South denies.

About 30,000 North Koreans have defected to South Korea since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War, but most travel through China.

Panmunjom, once an obscure farming village inside the 4-kilometer-wide (2 1/2-mile-wide) Demilitarized Zone that separates the two Koreas, is where an armistice was signed to pause the Korean War. Jointly controlled by the American-led U.N. Command and North Korea, the DMZ is guarded on both sides by hundreds of thousands of combat-ready troops, razor-wire fences and tank traps. More than a million mines are believed to be buried inside the zone.

American presidents often visit Panmunjom and other DMZ areas during their trips to South Korea to reaffirm their security commitment to the South. President Donald Trumpplanned to visit the DMZ to underscore his stance against North Korea’s nuclear program when he came to South Korea last week as part of an Asian tour, but his plans were thwarted by heavy fog that prevented his helicopter from landing at the border area.

Read More: North Koreans are defecting from the country in droves

At Panmunjom, North Korean soldiers wearing lapel pins with the images of late North Korean leaders often use binoculars to monitor visitors from the South. They stand only several meters (yards) away from tall South Korean soldiers wearing aviator sunglasses and standing motionless like statues. This makes the area a popular stop for visitors from both sides.

Areas around Panmunjom were the site of bloodshed and defection attempts by North Koreans in the past, but there have been no such incidents in recent years.

The most famous incident was in 1976, when two American army officers were killed by ax-wielding North Korean soldiers. The attack prompted Washington to fly nuclear-capable B-52 bombers toward the DMZ in an attempt to intimidate North Korea.

In 1984, North Korean and U.N. Command soldiers traded gunfire after a Soviet citizen defected by sprinting to the South Korean sector of the truce village. The incident left three North Korean soldiers and one South Korean soldier dead. In 1998, a North Korean solider fled to South Korea via Panmunjom.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Coast Guard’s guide to the government shutdown

A government shutdown can bring questions and uncertainty. In an effort to best support you, official answers to common questions associated with a government shutdown are provided below.

Will pay be affected? If the lapse in appropriations extends past Dec. 28, 2018, military personnel may experience a delay to their regularly scheduled December end-of-month paycheck for the period ending on Dec. 31, 2018. Salaries earned during and after the lapse in appropriations will be paid to military members once an appropriation or a continuing resolution is passed. Monthly allotments will be deducted as scheduled. All personnel are encouraged to verify automated transactions with their financial institutions to ensure they have sufficient funds or make alternate arrangements, as needed.


Retiree pay is subject to the availability of unobligated balances. Questions regarding retiree pay can be directed to the Pay Personnel Center’s retiree and annuitant services branch by calling 1-800-772-8724 or emailing ppc-dg-ras@uscg.mil.

Coast Guard Mutual Assistance (CGMA) is available during the lapse in appropriations.

Today, CGMA offers aid to the entire Coast Guard family: active duty and retired Coast Guard military personnel, members of the Coast Guard Reserve, Coast Guard civilian employees, Coast Guard auxiliarists, and public health officers serving with the Coast Guard. In general, assistance is needs based and provided through counseling, financial grants, interest-free loans, and other related means. More information about CGMA may be found at http://www.cgmahq.org/.

The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Eagle awaits a passenger transfer off the Coast of Miami June 14, 2014. The Eagle served as a classroom at sea to future Coast Guard officers since 1946.

(Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Mark Barney, U.S. Coast Guard)

Will Coast Guard Child Development Centers (CDCs) remain open? It is anticipated that Coast Guard CDCs will remain open. Please contact your local CDC or Coast Guard base for guidance.

Will the Coast Guard child care subsidy be impacted? Child care subsidy processing may be delayed.

How is Coast Guard travel affected? Military members should contact their command for guidance prior to traveling or using their government travel cards.

Will Coast Guard Exchange locations remain open? Coast Guard Exchange (CGX) locations will remain open to serve all authorized patrons, unless access to facilities is limited due to other potential closures associated with a government shutdown. Please contact your Coast Guard Exchange location for verification.

Is CG SUPRT available during a government shutdown? CG SUPRT will not be impacted by a government shutdown. Services can be requested by calling 855-CG SUPRT (247-8778), visiting www.CGSUPRT.com (select “My CG SUPRT Site” and enter “USCG” as the password), or through the CG SUPRT mobile app (Login ID: USCG).

Are Coast Guard work-life staff members and programs available during a government shutdown? Work-life regional managers and sexual assault response coordinators will remain available during the government shutdown.

Once a month, Coast Guard All Hands will feature “Dear Coast Guard Family,” a column for Coast Guard families by Coast Guard spouse Rachel Conley. Rachel is married to her high school sweetheart, Chief Warrant Officer James Conley, and is the mother of three children. Rachel passionately serves as a Coast Guard Ombudsman and advocate of Coast Guard families. She is the recipient of numerous awards, including the United States Coast Guard Ombudsman of the Year Award.

This article originally appeared on Coast Guard All Hands. Follow @USCG on Twitter.