What McChrystal learned from a top terrorist before killing him - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

What McChrystal learned from a top terrorist before killing him

Before Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was blotted out by a US airstrike on June 7, 2006, he made an impression, especially on Stanley McChrystal, who, as a lieutenant general in charge of US Joint Special Operations Command, led the effort to take out the leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq.

Al-Zarqawi’s zealotry made him a lodestar for an extremist movement that still roils Iraq and the region, McChrystal said on a recent episode of Business Insider’s “This Is Success” podcast.


“For about two and a half years, we fought a bitter fight against this guy. And Abu Musab al-Zarqawi had come from a tough town in Jordan, very little education, got involved in crime and things like that in his youth,” said McChrystal, who profiled al-Zarqawi in his most recent book, “Leaders.”

What McChrystal learned from a top terrorist before killing him

(Portfolio)

“But then, what happened was he realized that if he showed self-discipline to exhibit the conviction of his Islamic beliefs — if he did that overtly, if he became a zealot — other people were attracted to him,” McChrystal added. “He was living up to what he said and was demanding that they do.”

Arriving in Iraq in 2003 to lead a US Joint Special Operations Task Force, McChrystal recognized the strengths of Al Qaeda in Iraq and the mismatch the group presented for the US military’s traditional conception of its enemies.

“By habit, we started mapping the organization in a traditional military structure, with tiers and rows. At the top was Zarqawi, below him a cascade of lieutenants and foot soldiers,” McChrystal wrote in 2011, a year after retiring. “But the closer we looked, the more the model didn’t hold.”

AQI’s network was characterized by the free flow of information and resources.

Tactics changed quickly across broad swaths of Iraq. It became clear that Al Qaeda in Iraq was less a hierarchical fighting network than “a constellation of fighters” organized by relationships and reputations.

At the center was al-Zarqawi.

“When he became the leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq, he led the same way. He wore all black [and] looked like a terrorist leader,” McChrystal told Business Insider correspondent Richard Feloni.

In 2004, al-Zarqawi beheaded American contractor Nicholas Berg, McChrystal said.

That was “a gruesome thing to do,” he added, but it served as a message that “‘our cause is so important, I’m willing to do something that we all know is horrific.'”

“He was able to bring forth people to follow his very extreme part of Islam when most of them really didn’t,” McChrystal said. “The Iraqi Sunni population were not naturally adherents to Al Qaeda, but yet he was able to produce such a sense of leadership and zealous beliefs that they followed. He became the godfather of ISIS.”

In summer 2005, McChrystal was recalled to the White House to brief the National Security Council on al-Zarqawi.

“Are you going to get him?” President George W. Bush asked McChrystal.

What McChrystal learned from a top terrorist before killing him

President George W. Bush.

(White House photo by Eric Draper)

“We will, Mr. President,” McChrystal replied. “There is no doubt in my mind.”

As US forces whittled away the middle ranks of al-Zarqawi’s organization, which he had built into semiautonomous cells, the Al Qaeda in Iraq leader was seeking to ignite a sectarian war, stoking violence between Sunnis and Shiites.

By spring 2006, al-Zarqawi was a bigger priority for JSOC than Al Qaeda cofounders Osama bin Laden or Ayman al-Zawahiri, the latter of whom is still alive.

By May that year, JSOC had mapped out al-Zarqawi’s organization around Baghdad, including his spiritual adviser, with whom he met frequently.

On June 7, 2006, a drone tracked the adviser to a house in Hibhib, a village roughly 12 miles from McChrystal’s own headquarters, where US personnel watched intently as a man dressed black walked out and strolled through the driveway.

Just after 6 p.m., an F-16 dropped a 500-pound laser-guided bomb on the house, following it with another less than two minutes later.

What McChrystal learned from a top terrorist before killing him

A U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Andy Dunaway)

Less than 20 minutes after that, US Army Delta Force operators arrived at the demolished house to find Iraqi police loading a still-alive al-Zarqawi into an ambulance. They watched him die.

“We didn’t just depose him. We killed him,” McChrystal told Feloni. “I stood over his body right after we killed him.”

McChrystal expressed no admiration for al-Zarqawi’s methods — “in many ways, he was a psychopath,” he said — but he acknowledged al-Zarqawi’s strengths as a leader.

“Your first desire is to demonize him, but you know the reality is I had to respect him. He led very effectively,” McChrystal said.

“Initially you just say we’re just going to get this guy, and then after a while you watch him lead, and you realize not only is he a worthy opponent, he’s making me better, [and] you’re also going after someone who truly believes,” he added.

McChrystal held his position in Iraq until 2008 and was credited with making JSOC more agile and more lethal, evincing “an encyclopedic, even obsessive, knowledge about the lives of terrorists” and pushing his command to kill as many of them as possible.

He took over command of NATO forces in Afghanistan in 2009, but his tenure was short-lived.

He resigned in the summer of 2010, after the publication of a Rolling Stone article in which his aides were quoted disparaging US officials, including Vice President Joe Biden.

What McChrystal learned from a top terrorist before killing him

Vice President Joe Biden.

The killing of al-Zarqawi looms large among McChrystal’s accomplishments, though he said that operation was reflective of how he learned to decentralize responsibility rather than indicative of his martial prowess.

“The myth is the counterterrorist who killed Abu Musab al-Zarqawi — went out, wrestled him to the ground, bare to the waist, and that’s total BS,” McChrystal told Feloni, when asked how he would describe his own biography.

“At times, do I like the myth, because people go, ‘Wow, look at him’?” he said. “Yeah, it’s kind of cool, and you never want to go, ‘no, that’s not true.’ But it’s not true.”

“The reality is that I built the team” that took out al-Zarqawi, he added. “Ultimately I’m more proud of enabling the team than I would be of wrestling [al-Zarqawi] to his death.”

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

Articles

China built a military base right next to an American one in Africa

The head of America’s Africa Command, Marine General Thomas Waldhauser, has expressed concern over China’s growing military presence in Djibouti.


He said that China’s claim that it was building logistical facilities in Djibouti was not correct because Beijing was actually creating a full-fledged military base that would sit alongside U.S. and French bases in the strategic Indian Ocean country.

It would be the first time that NATO allies — France and the U.S. — would have to contend with a military base under the command of a competing nation in the same location.

“We’ve never had a base of, let’s just say a peer competitor, as close as this one happens to be,” Waldhauser said. “So there’s a lot of learning going on, a lot of growing going on.”

“Yes, there are some very significant operational security concerns, and I think that our base there is significant to us because it’s not only AFRICOM that utilizes [it],” he told Breaking Defense.

What McChrystal learned from a top terrorist before killing him
An MV-22 Osprey prepares to lower its ramp to debark Marines during a noncombatant evacuation training operation in Djibouti, Africa, Jan. 5, 2017. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Brandon Maldonado)

In January 2016, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hong Lei told journalists in Beijing that the facilities were to back up China’s escort missions in the Gulf of Aden and would not lead to a military base.

He explained: “Vessels have been sent by China to the Gulf of Aden and the waters off the Somali coast for escort missions in recent years. In fulfilling escort missions, we encountered real difficulties in replenishing soldiers and resupplying fuel and food, and found it really necessary to have nearby and efficient logistical support. China and Djibouti consulted with each other and reached consensus on building logistical facilities in Djibouti, which will enable the Chinese troops to better fulfill escort missions and make new contributions to regional peace and stability.”

“The nature of relevant facilities is clear, which is to provide logistical support to Chinese fleets performing escort duties in the Gulf of Aden and the waters off the Somali coast,” the Spokesman said,

But Gen. Waldhauser told journalists in Washington at the end of March, “You would have to characterize it as a military base. It’s s first for them. They’ve never had an overseas base.”

Speaking to the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee early in March, Gen. Waldhauser said, “Just as the U.S. pursues strategic interests in Africa, international competitors, including China and Russia, are doing the same. Whether with trade, natural resource exploitation, or weapons sales, we continue to see international competitors engage with African partners in a manner contrary to the international norms of transparency and good governance.”

“These competitors weaken our African partners’ ability to govern and will ultimately hinder Africa’s long-term stability and economic growth, and they will also undermine and diminish U.S. influence — a message we must continue to share with our partners,” Gen. Waldhauser added.

President Ismail Omar Guelleh of Djibouti has been steering a new course as he strengthens relations with China at the apparent expense of long-time allies, France and the U.S..

The U.S. now has Special Forces members in Djibouti under its Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) to counter the increased activities of al-Shabaab in East Africa.

What McChrystal learned from a top terrorist before killing him
Soldiers assigned to the East Africa Response Force train for contingency operations on May 30, 2015. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Gregory Brook)

The French and American military dominance in Djibouti was whittled down in February 2014 when China’s Defense Minister, General Chang Wanquan, signed a security and defense strategic partnership agreement with Djibouti’s Minister of Defense, Hassan Darar Houffaneh.

Under the agreement the country offered military facilities such as the use of Djibouti’s port by the Chinese navy.

Mr. Houffaneh said that in exchange Djibouti had asked for military co-operation to be expanded in order that the operational capacities of the country’s armed forces could be built “in order to safeguard security in the country and help consolidate peace and security in the sub-region”.

But an analyst in Nairobi, speaking to the Ghana News Agency in 2014, wondered how this arrangement would work, given that the U.S. and France more or less had entrenched security roles in Djibouti.

“The American and the French governments have interests in Djibouti that are completely different from China’s,” he said. “This could lead to contestations between France and the U.S., on the one hand, and China, on the other, which could compromise the security of East Africa. Djibouti is a crucial member of the East African Standby Force, which will dovetail with the African Union’s African Standby Force, and as such President Guelleh should ensure that his country remains steadfast to the ASF’s mission of maintaining peace and security in the region.”

Under President Barack Obama, the U.S. had skirted round the issue of a Chinese military base in Djibouti, but now under Donald Trump and his hard-line stance on Beijing’s global influence, the issue of the Djibouti base has taken center stage.

MIGHTY MOVIES

This is why ‘Tango Down’ is not just another veteran-produced film

It’s a new world for military movies, a world where realism is just as important as the story. While movies like Heartbreak RidgeThe Hurt Locker, and Three Kings are memorable and entertaining, they just aren’t grounded in reality. That’s a big problem for a lot of veterans. It’s difficult to be immersed in a story set in your world when everything you see is slightly off in some way.


But the filmmakers behind Tango Down want to do more than produce a film that gets it right; they want to be able to produce other veteran films — with as many veterans working the films as possible. That vision just starts with Tango Down.

That’s where Andrew Dorsett and Rick Swift come in. They are Marine Corps veterans who decided to start writing after leaving the service.

What McChrystal learned from a top terrorist before killing him
Dorsett (left) and Swift (right).

Dorsett was in Marine Corps aviation between 1998 and 2010. After he got out, he became pretty sick of the corporate world and decided to start writing.

“Veterans are the most critical audience you can have,” says Swift. “One chevron out of place and you’ve lost them. And so many feel like Hollywood just doesn’t get it.”

Swift has loved movies his entire life and became a writer as soon as he got out of the Corps (he also writes a review blog called Film Grouch). He soon started working with actress Julia Ling (ChuckStudio 60 on the Sunset Strip) on the web series Tactical Girl. Now Ling, Swift, and Dorsett are collaborating on their short film, Tango Down.

“It’s very important to work with veterans when creating stories like this one, because they have the real experience,” says Micah Haughey, a producer on the film.

Tango Down also includes actor Ryan Stuart (Game of ThronesGuardians of the Galaxy), actor and Marine Hiram A. Murray (Lethal Weapon), as well as social media personalities and supporters of the veteran community Terrence Williams, Mercedes Carrera (NSFW), and Army combat vet Jesse Ryun of American by Hand.

What McChrystal learned from a top terrorist before killing him
Carrera and Williams have a huge military following on social media.

Where Tactical Girl was a funny, tongue-in-cheek series, Tango Down is a serious film, with a serious subject. It’s a film by veterans, for veterans. Still, don’t assume that’s what Tango Down is about. The team is serious about their work with the veteran community, but Tango Down isn’t about PTSD.

“There will be some levity in it,” says Swift. “It’s geared towards the veteran community, so there’s going to be some inside jokes that only veterans will get with insider things that only veterans will understand.”

The film is about the bonds formed through military service. It’s a film with action – but not so much an action film – that shows how real veterans might overcome significant challenges using the morals and integrity instilled in them through military service. From Afghanistan to the U.S., the film follows the paths of two friends after they leave the military.

If that sounds vague, you’re right. The filmmakers are careful not to give too much away.

“It’s going to be controversial,” says Dorsett. “It’s not about the broken veteran and that’s an important part. But it’s a very positive message. No politics, no criticism of policy. It’s a character study. We aren’t taking ourselves too seriously. We laugh, we crack jokes, but we know when to be serious.”

What McChrystal learned from a top terrorist before killing him
Ling and Stewart behind the scenes on the set of Tango Down.

There are number of veteran-produced movies that made or are currently making the rounds on social media. Most famously was the film Range 15, an entirely crowdfunded effort by a group of prominent veterans to make “the best military movie ever.” Marine Corps veteran Dale Dye is pushing project designed to be as historically accurate as possible. And they all want to include as many veterans as possible.

So does the team making Tango Down. But Dorsett, Swift, and Ling aren’t just trying to make a movie, they’re trying to build a community of veterans who come together to make movies. In their view, a lot of veterans are adrift right now, seeking a voice. They want to show the world that vets have talent and don’t want to be viewed as a faceless mass.

Tango Down wants them to come and rejoin a unit with a mission – the first of hopefully many opportunities, including feature-length films.

“For all of the veterans working on Tango Down, there’s a genuine mission behind it to connect veterans, to create a community where veterans actually can connect with each other,” says Ling. “At the same time, we hope civilians can watch it and say ‘Wow, I appreciate the military a little bit more after watching this film.'”

To learn more about Tango Down or to see how you can be part of the community, visit their website. To help fund the film and the community, donate here.
MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is the Army’s billion-dollar robot program

The Pentagon is investing roughly $1 billion over the next several years for the development of robots to be used in an array of roles alongside combat troops, Bloomberg reported.

The US military already uses robots in various capacities, such for bomb disposal and scouting, but these new robots will reportedly be able to preform more sophisticated roles including complex reconnaissance, carrying soldier’s gear, and detecting hazardous chemicals.


Bryan McVeigh, the Army’s project manager for force protection, told Bloomberg he has “no doubt” there will be robots in every Army formation “within five years.”

“We’re going from talking about robots to actually building and fielding programs. This is an exciting time to be working on robots with the Army,” McVeigh said.

In April 2018, the Army awarded a $429.1 million contract to Endeavor Robotics and QinetiQ North America, both based out of Massachusetts. Endeavor has also been awarded separate contracts from the Army and Marine Corps in as the Pentagon pushes for robots in a wide range of sizes.

The introduction of more robots into combat situations is intended to not only make life easier for troops, but also protect them from potentially fatal scenarios.

What McChrystal learned from a top terrorist before killing him
The RIPSAW-MS1 demonstrates its off-road capabilities during a lanes exercise at the Fort Hood Robotics Rodeo. The RIPSAW is equipped with six claymore mines, can carry 5,000 pounds and tow multiple military vehicles. The RIPSAW is designed to be an unmanned convoy security vehicle.
(U.S. Army photo)

But there are also concerns about the rapid development of robotic technology in relation to warfare, especially in terms of autonomous robots. In short, many are uncomfortable with the notion of killer robots deciding who gets to live or die on the battlefield.

‘These can be weapons of terror…’

Along these lines, over two dozen countries have called for a ban on fully autonomous weapons, but the US is not among them.

In August 2017, Tesla’s Elon Musk and over 100 experts sent a letter to the United Nations urging it to move toward banning lethal autonomous weapons.

“Once developed, lethal autonomous weapons will permit armed conflict to be fought at a scale greater than ever, and at timescales faster than humans can comprehend,” the letter said. “These can be weapons of terror, weapons that despots and terrorists use against innocent populations, and weapons hacked to behave in undesirable ways.”

In May 2018, roughly a dozen employees at Google resigned after finding out the company was providing information on its artificial intelligence technology to the Pentagon to aid a drone program called Project Maven, which is designed to help drones identify humans versus objects.

Google has reportedly defended its involvement in Project Maven to employees.

America’s use of drones and drone strikes in counterterrorism operations is already a controversial topic, as many condemn the US drone program as illegal and unethical. The US continues to face criticism in relation to civilian casualties from such strikes, among other issues.

Hence, while the military is seemingly quite excited about the expansion of robots in combat situations, there is a broader debate occurring among tech experts, academics and politicians about the ethical and legal implications of robotic warfare.

The killer robots debate

Peter W. Singer, a leading expert on 21st century warfare, focuses a great deal on what is known as “the killer robots debate” in his writing and research.

“It sounds like science fiction, but it is a very real debate right now in international relations. There have been multiple UN meetings on this,” Singer told Business Insider.

As Singer put it, robotic technology introduces myriad legal and ethical questions for which “we’re really not all that ready.”

What McChrystal learned from a top terrorist before killing him
While being dragged, 225th Engineer Brigade Soldier Sgt. Kasandra Deutsch of Pineville, La., demonstrates the power of the Talon robot.
(U.S. Army photo)

“This really comes down to, who is responsible if something goes bad?” Singer said, explaining that this applies to everything from robots in war to driverless cars. “We’re entering a new frontier of war and technology and it’s not quite clear if the laws are ready.”

Singer acknowledges the valid concerns surrounding such technology, but thinks an all-out ban is impractical given it’s hard to ban technology in war that will also be used in civilian life.

In other words, autonomous robots will likely soon be used by many of us in everyday life and it’s doubtful the military will have less advanced technology than the public. Not to mention, there’s already an ongoing arms race when it comes to robotic technology between the US and China, among other countries.

In Singer’s words, the Pentagon is not pursuing robotic technology because “it’s cool” but because “it thinks it can be applied to certain problems and help save money.” Moreover, it wants to ensure the US is in a good position to defend itself from other countries developing such technology.

Singer believes it would be more practical to resolve issues of accountability, rather than pushing for a total ban. He contends the arguments surrounding this issue mirror a lot of the same concerns people had regarding the nuclear arms race not too long ago.

“I’m of the camp that I don’t see as an absolute ban as possible right now. While it might be something that’s great to happen I look at the broader history of weapons,” he said.

Moving forward, Singer said countries might consider pushing for banning the use of such weapons in certain areas, such as cities, where the risk of killing civilians is much higher.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia’s ‘proof’ of the US helping ISIS is from a video game

Moscow has for months been accusing the US of aiding ISIS in Syria, and on Monday, the Russian Ministry of Defense finally tweeted out “irrefutible evidence” of the collusion.


But it turns out the evidence was just screenshots of a video game and old videos from Iraq, according to Bellingcat.

“#Russian_Mod shows irrefutable evidence that #US are actually covering ISIS combat units to recover their combat capabilities, redeploy, and use them to promote American interests in Middle East,” the Russian Ministry of Defense tweeted, in a now-deleted tweet.

One of the pictures in the tweet of the US supposedly covering an ISIS convoy leaving the Abu Kamal region was actually a screenshot from an AC-130 gunship simulator video game, Bellingcat reported.

Below is a side by side screenshot provided by Bellingcat of the Russian screenshot and the video game screenshot:

What McChrystal learned from a top terrorist before killing him
Russian Ministry of Defense’s “irrefutable evidence (left) and video game simulator (right). Screenshot/Bellingcat

The other three images were also not what Russia claimed, but instead from videos shot in Iraq in 2016.

 

Russian citizens themselves even called out their Ministry of Defense for the mistake, accordingto Newsweek.

“Do not humiliate yourselves and do not humiliate Russia,” one Russian tweeted at the Ministry of Defense.

“Won’t you comment on how a screenshot from a game appeared in your evidence file connecting the U.S. with ISIS,” another Russian tweeted.

On Tuesday, Russian state-owned media outlet TASS blamed the ordeal on a “civil service employee.”

Read More: Russia claims US is actually helping ISIS in Syria

“The Russian Defense Ministry is investigating its civil service employee who erroneously attached wrong photo illustrations to its statement on interaction between the US-led international coalition and Islamic State militants near Abu Kamal, Syria,” the ministry said, according to TASS.

The Russian Ministry of Defense has since deleted the tweets of the false images. However, some images are still up, including the one below, which is actually pinned to their page.

 

But Michael Kofman, a senior research analyst at CNA, told Business Insider that while the images still up are not from the video game or old videos from Iraq, “they are really blurry and incredibly difficult to verify.””It’s impossible to tell, but I suspect none of this footage is real,” Kofman said, adding that even if they were images of ISIS convoys in Syria, it doesn’t prove that the US is aiding the terrorist group in any way.

“The claim itself is actually ridiculous,” Kofman said, with a laugh.

MIGHTY TRENDING

China’s new nuclear bomber isn’t actually about nukes

China’s much-hyped but never-before-seen H-20 nuclear bomber has reportedly made “great progress” in its development recently and may even fly publicly in a 2019 military parade.

But while China bills the mysterious jet as a modern answer to the US’ airborne leg of its nuclear triad, a close read of Beijing’s military and nuclear posture reveals another mission much more likely to actually draw blood.

Though the jet remains an absolute unknown with only concept-art depictions in existence, let’s start with what we know. China describes the H-20 as a “new long-distance strategic bomber,” which recent imagery suggests will take a stealthy delta-wing design.


An Asia Times profile of the H-20 cited Chinese media as saying “the ultimate goal for the H-20” is an “operational range to 12,000 kilometers with 20 tons of payload.”

“A large flying wing design … is one of the only aerodynamic ways of achieving the broadband all-aspect stealth required for such a design,” Justin Bronk, an aerial combat expert at the Royal United Services Institute, told Business Insider.

Only one nation on earth operates a large stealth bomber, and that’s the US. But the B-2 has never launched a nuclear bomb, instead it’s been used as a stealthy bomb truck that can devastate hardened enemy targets with massive payloads on a nearly invisible platform.

What McChrystal learned from a top terrorist before killing him

A possible prototype image of China’s mysterious H-20 bomber.

According to Lawrence Trevethan, a researcher at the China Aerospace Studies Institute, which works with the US Air Force, that’s what China’s H-20 will likely do as well.

“I see the H-20 as a nearly exact replacement for the H-6 (China’s current theoretically nuclear-capable bomber),” Trevethan told Business Insider.

Ignore the nuclear mission

Trevethan, an expert on China’s nuclear posture, pointed out that the H-6 never trains with nuclear bombs. China’s nuclear-missile capable submarines have never had a verified nuclear deterrence patrol. China’s nuclear weapons are not kept mated atop missiles, unlike Russia and the US.

And there’s a simple reason why, according to Trevethan: Nuclear weapons are expensive and mutual nuclear war has never happened.

Instead, conventional war happens — and happens all the time.

Trevethan called the H-20 a bomber “that might actually contribute to a military victory in a war fought as its [nuclear] doctrine imagines. “

Bronk agreed, saying the “biggest impact of a B-2 style capability for the PLAAF [China’s air force] would be much greater vulnerability of bases such as Guam and Kadana to conventional precision strikes.”

Currently, the US has Aegis and THAAD missile defenses in Guam and its Japanese bases, which pose a threat to China’s fleet of missiles. But the US has no established defense against a stealth bomber, which China will likely seek to exploit with the H-20.

What McChrystal learned from a top terrorist before killing him

Throughout the 1960s, US B-52 nuclear-capable bombers stayed airborne and ready to launch nearly around the clock.

(US Air Force photo)

Not built for cold wars

Instead of a simple air-based nuclear deterrent, like the US and Russia maintain, spend tons of money on, and hope to never use, China’s H-20 looks more like a bomber that actually plans to fight wars. (The US’ bomber fleet, both nuclear and non-nuclear, fights in wars, but never in a nuclear capacity.)

China’s defensive nuclear posture also allows it more leeway in a shooting war. If the US and Russia got into a battle, and either side saw ballistic missiles heading for the other, it would have to assume they were nuclear missiles and retaliate before it faced utter destruction.

But with no missiles ready to go and a much smaller stockpile, China can fire missiles at US bases and ships without giving the impression of a full-on nuclear doomsday.

By fitting the H-20’s concept into China’s nuclear posture, it comes across as more of a credible conventional strike platform meant to beat the US back in the Pacific rather than a flying nuclear threat.

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

MIGHTY SPORTS

Pittsburgh Steelers honor WWII Army veteran brothers

Two brothers who served in the Army during World War II were honored during the home opener for the Pittsburgh Steelers against the Seattle Seahawks with the ATI Salute to Heroes Award.

Former Cpl. Theodore “Ted” Joseph Sikora, 99, served in the Battle of the Bulge in France in 1944 and 1945. Former Sgt. Ed Sikora, 95, served in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, in 1943 and later in the Pacific theater of operations.

The brothers expressed thanks for the tribute. “We’re not used to this much recognition, and I’m very grateful,” said Ted Sikora.


Ed Sikora said he was proud to serve. “I cherished the opportunity to serve my country,” he said.

What McChrystal learned from a top terrorist before killing him

Former Pittsburgh Steeler Franco Harris shakes hands with Army Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Vollstedt, grandson-in-law of Ted Sikora.

(Photo by Army Staff Sgt. Dalton Smith)

Although they are natives of Washington, Pennsylvania, both now live in the Pittsburgh area.

Ted Sikora was a crew member on a Curtiss C-46 Commando and Douglas C-47 Skytrain as a member of the 8th Army Air Force. Those transport aircraft dropped much-needed supplies to the besieged American soldiers.

He was stationed in England on D‐Day — June 6, 1944 — and remembers having trouble sleeping because of the noise from the airplanes taking off for France.

What McChrystal learned from a top terrorist before killing him

In a historic photo, Ed Sikora poses during basic training at Camp Edwards, Mass.

(Ed Sikora)

He also remembers planes returning damaged and on fire. He said he witnessed a lot of things he will never forget, and that he doesn’t really like to talk about.

After the war, Ted Sikora worked as a machinist. Now, he enjoys working out and taking Zumba classes.

Ed Sikora was on the opposite side of the world, assigned to the 7th Infantry Division 502nd Anti Artillery Gun Battalion.

Although Ed Sikora wasn’t in Oahu when the Japanese attacked on Dec. 7, 1941, he said the Americans were expecting another attack so they were on constant vigil.

What McChrystal learned from a top terrorist before killing him

A historic photo of Ted Sikora as a cadet shows him dressed in a flight uniform with a white ascot, black jacket, headgear and goggles.

(Courtesy of Ted Sikora)

In October 1944, he was attached to the 7th Infantry Division, which landed in the Philippines amid bombing by Japanese fighter planes. His unit was credited with downing six enemy planes.

In 1945, Ed Sikora participated in the Battle of Okinawa. His unit was credited with downing 33 Japanese aircraft.

Later in life, Ed Sikora taught high school and college, specializing in industrial arts. He later established a fruit orchard in California.

What McChrystal learned from a top terrorist before killing him

Brothers Ed and Ted Sikora, both Army service members, pose for a photo with their rifles crossed at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

(Courtesy of Ed and Ted Sikora)

Ted Sikora’s granddaughter, Alia Ann Vollstedt, is married to Army Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Vollstedt, who participated in the game’s opening ceremony joint-service color guard. Daniel Vollstedt is with 2nd Battalion, Army Reserve Careers Division, based in Coraopolis, Pennsylvania.

What McChrystal learned from a top terrorist before killing him

Brothers Ed and Ted Sikora pose for a photo wearing World War II veteran caps in October 2018.

(Courtesy of Ed and Ted Sikora)

Daniel Vollstedt said the two veterans have shared some of their stories with him over the years and were proud of his decision to enlist in the Army.

John Wodarek, the Steelers’ marketing manager, said the brothers were selected for the honor because Ted Sikora will turn 100 in March 2020 — which ties in with the National Football League’s 100th-season anniversary being observed this year and next.

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

Articles

First female Marine to attempt infantry course dropped on final attempt

The first female Marine to try to become an infantry officer has been reclassified to a different military occupational specialty after failing her second attempt at the grueling Infantry Officer’s Course, Military.com has learned.


The officer, who has not been publicly identified, began the 84-day course July 6 and was dropped July 18 after failing to complete two conditioning hikes, Capt. Joshua Pena said.

“IOC students may not fall out of more than one hike during a course,” Pena said.

What McChrystal learned from a top terrorist before killing him
U.S. Marines from Delta Company, U.S. Marines from Delta Company, Infantry Training Battalion (ITB), School of Infantry-East (SOI-E) listen to a combat order brief before stepping off on a raid, which is part of the Infantry Integrated Field Training Exercise aboard Camp Geiger, N.C. | U. S. Marine Corps photo by CWO2 Mancuso, Paul S. Combat Camera

In all, 34 of the 97 officers who began the course have been dropped. Nine, including the female officer, were recommended for MOS redesignation, meaning they will be placed in a non-infantry job within the Marine Corps.

The female officer first attempted the course in April, just months after Defense Secretary Ashton Carter declared all previously closed ground combat jobs open to women and ordered the services to design plans for integration. She was dropped on the 11th day of that attempt, after failing to complete a second hike.

Notably, the officer passed the notoriously challenging first day’s combat endurance test both times she attempted the course.

While 29 female officers had attempted the IOC on a test basis in a three-year period before the integration mandate was handed down, none would have had the chance to enter infantry jobs upon passing the course.

And because all but one of the female officers were volunteers attempting the course for personal improvement and Marine Corps research purposes, they were not guaranteed a second shot at the course the way male officers were. (The other female Marine was attempting to become a ground intelligence officer, a job that opened before other infantry jobs.)

For that reason, female officers now have their fairest shot at passing the course as the Corps looks to integrate previously male-only units.

But it remains to be seen how many women will attempt to enter these formerly closed positions.

Pena said there are now no female officers enrolled or slated to participate in future IOC classes. The current class will conclude Sept. 20.

In April, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said the Marine Corps would not change its physical standards in an attempt to help its first female infantry officers enter the fleet.

“One of the questions I got at IOC was, ‘OK, five years from now, no woman had made it through IOC. What happens?’ ” Mabus said at Camp Pendleton on April 12. “My response was, ‘No woman made it through IOC. Standards aren’t going to change.’ “

Articles

Paris attack planners obliterated in drone strike

Two Islamic State leaders behind the terrorist attacks in Paris last year were killed in a U.S.-led drone strike Dec. 4 in Raqqa, Syria, the Pentagon confirmed Tuesday.


The two targets, Salah Gourmat and Sammy Djedou, worked with external terror operations and recruitment of foreign fighters in Europe. They were directly involved in facilitating the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris, which killed 130 people.

Gourmat and Djedou were close associates of Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, ISIS’s former chief spokesman who was killed in a U.S. drone strike in August.

Walid Hamman, the third terrorist killed in the drone strike, was a suicide attack planner, Hamman was convicted in absentia by a Belgian court for a terror plot foiled in 2015.

“The three were working together to plot and facilitate attacks against Western targets at the time of the strike,” Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook told reporters.

All three were part of a terror network led by Boubaker Al-Hakim, who died in another U.S.-led airstrike Nov. 26.

“Since mid-November, the coalition has now successfully targeted five top ISIL external plotters, further disrupting ISIL’s ability to carry out terrorist operations beyond Syria and Iraq,” Cook said.

MIGHTY HISTORY

In Ancient Rome, purple was worth more than gold

In the world of the ancient Mediterranean, there were plenty of ways for the upper class to flaunt their wealth. Just like today, the elites lived in massive houses, wore luxurious clothing, and dined on decadent delicacies. But for the 1 percent of the 1 percent, there was a status symbol shrouded in myth and worth more than gold: purple.

Dyes were difficult to produce in the ancient world. All dyes were made from a natural source like a plant, animal, or mineral, and some were rarer than others. One of the rarest, though, was Tyrian purple.


Tyrian purple was made from the secretions of a certain sea snail, called a Murex. It took thousands of these snails to produce even a small amount of usable dye, making Tyrian purple extremely expensive. It was worth the cost, however; Tyrian purple was famous because over time its color would not fade but actually become brighter and more beautiful.

Tyrian purple was named after the Phoenician city of Tyre, where the dye was first produced in the Bronze Age. The Phoenicians exported purple all around the Mediterranean, making their dye and themselves quite popular. Some historians even speculate that the word “Phoenician” is derived from the Greek word for “purple.”

The dye took the Mediterranean world by storm. In the Iliad and the Odyssey, Homer reserves purple for the greatest warriors and kings. King Solomon supposedly decorated the Temple of Jerusalem with Tyrian purple. Alexander the Great and his successors wore purple as their symbol of royal authority. The Mediterranean was also awash with myths about how human beings first discovered purple.

Tyrian purple would earn its other name, imperial purple, from the Romans. In the Roman Republic, the high-ranking magistrates wore the toga praetexta, a white toga with a purple stripe. Generals celebrating a triumph, a festival that was the highest honor a general could receive, were allowed to wear the solid purple toga picta.

After the Republic became the Empire, purple was increasingly associated with the emperor and his subordinates. According to Roman historians, the emperor Caligula once sentenced a Roman client-king to death for the arrogance of wearing purple.

In the coming centuries, the Roman government would even nationalize the production of purple, and save the dye for the emperor. In the reign of Diocletian in the late third and early fourth centuries, one pound of purple wool was worth a pound of gold, and one pound of purple dye was worth three pounds of gold.

In the Eastern Roman Empire, purple was the property of the emperor. To become emperor was to be “raised to the purple” and to be the child of an emperor was to be “born in the purple.” Purple was used for the most important imperial documents, and a splash of purple on one’s clothes marked one as a bishop or imperial administrator.

Even after the fall of the Western Roman Empire, purple remained popular. The westerners could still purchase purple from the easterners, who produced it in Constantinople. Charlemagne was wearing purple when he was crowned the Holy Roman Emperor in 800, and was wearing purple when he was buried. The nobility and the clergy used purple to represent their secular and sacred power.

After the Ottomans conquered Constantinople in 1453, the production of purple went into decline. Western Europe could no longer purchase purple, and the nobility and clergy were forced to start using scarlet instead.

However, purple’s association with might and majesty never quite disappeared. For centuries it remained the color of royalty, and many churches use purple vestments as symbols of authority. The ceremonial robes used in academia, modeled after clerical vestments, are often purple to represent intellectual excellence.

In America, the Purple Heart, along with its predecessor the Badge of Military Merit, uses purple to represent valor. Artificial dyes have made purple available to everyone nowadays, but it has never lost its association with greatness.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This armed anti-poacher unit was inspired by Army Rangers

It shouldn’t be surprising that the majority of professional wildlife protectors in Africa are men, but this group of ‘Brave Ones’ are proving why women deserve a place among their ranks.

Called the Akashinga (a word that means ‘the brave ones’), this armed, all-female, anti-poacher unit has made 72 arrests since October 2017 — without firing a single shot.


Zimbabwe’s women’s anti-poaching group protecting elephants – BBC News

www.youtube.com

Damien Mander served in the Australian military as a clearance diver and special operations sniper. According to the BBC, after his military service he felt increasingly dissatisfied with his life, until “a stint in Southern Africa opened his eyes to the escalating plight of elephants and rhinos,” who were being illegally slaughtered for ivory.

Mander created the International Anti-Poaching Foundation, which brought a militarized approach to animal protection. It was successful — but it wasn’t sustainable. He realized that he needed to involve the local population. In 2015, he read about the U.S. Army Ranger School’s female graduates and was inspired. He decided to recruit women to become wildlife rangers for Africa.

According to the International Anti-Poaching Foundation, trophy hunting areas across Africa take up an expanse greater than all of France. Meanwhile, “a woman with a salary in rural Africa invests up to three times more than a male into their family.” By employing women from these communities, Akashinga created a program that affords a better financial return than what trophy hunting provided.

And it works.

Not only have the Akashinga been successfully carrying out their mission, they have also been operating without any hint of corruption. Most of the women have adopted a vegan and sober lifestyle. They educate children and invest in their community.

Last night #IAPF’s Akashinga team led to a successful raid. The result: Two men arrested and charged with illegal hunting and possession of game meat. The patrol recovered a spear and dried bush meat. Their court date is pending. Great job team! http://www.iapf.org/donate pic.twitter.com/A1C44JmM8o

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While it’s too early to predict the long-term viability of the program, early successes are worth investing in. The International Anti-Poaching Foundation aims to recruit a total of 2000 women, protecting a network spanning 30 million acres of African wilderness by 2030, according to the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation.

Featured image via the International Anti-Poaching Foundation Facebook page.

MIGHTY CULTURE

What happens when door breaching goes explosively wrong

Master Sergeant George Hand US Army (ret) was a member of the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, The Delta Force. He is a now a master photographer, cartoonist and storyteller.

Five… four… three… two… one — BANG!

Bang?

We slung mutual glances from our lineup outside the door we were trying to explosively breach. Door charges weren’t supposed to go bang; they were supposed to go “BOOM!


“GO, GO, GO!” came the call as we rushed to the still-closed breach point. Moses Bentley was the man who built and fired the charge. He crashed through the still-closed door like Thing from the Fantastic Four. We piled in behind him and quickly cleared and dominated the interior of our target building.

A post-assault inspection of the door charge revealed that the explosive had gone “low-order;” that is, only a small portion of the charge and detonated, leaving the remainder still stuck to the door. “Don’t touch it…” Moses cautioned to us, “…it’s likely still sensitized from the initiator. Let’s leave it alone for about 30 minutes before I recover it.”

What McChrystal learned from a top terrorist before killing him

Moses (running) and the author training in Hereford, England, with the British 22 Special Air Service Regiment (22 SAS).

The setting was a condemned and abandoned residential neighborhood in New Orleans, “The Big Easy,” Louisiana. Our operations bros had found this hood and prepped it for a couple of days of absolutely realistic assault training with live breaches. We cut doors, blew through walls, blasted through chainlink fences… even through a shingle roof, which was more just something fun to do rather than a legit thing of tactical value, as breaching a shingle gable roof puts you in… an attic — doh!

Back at our breaching table, Moses (Mos) took the flexible sheet explosive he had collected from the door and packed it into a lumped pile. He added a little “P” for “plenty” and voila, the “Bentley Blaster,” as he entitled it, was born: “I’ll slap this Bentley Blaster between the doorknob and the deadbolt and punch all that sh*t through the jamb; right in, right out, nobody gets hurt!” Mos bragged.

“Right in, right out, nobody gets hurt,” was the meta-assault plan composed largely of anti-matter and existed in a parallel universe. The plan applied to all actions on every assault objective after the real-world assault plan was formulated. We recited it to together just before we went in on every objective.

It was a B-Team thing. Our A-Team began their assaults with the Team Leader turning to his men announcing in an Arnold Schwarzenegger voice, “I am the cleanah!” to which his men replied in kind and in unison, “And we are the cleaning crew!” Just a thing.

The Ryder rental truck with our assault teams crept through an alleyway, coming to a halt behind a cluster of houses. Inside, B-Team waited as the cleaner and the cleaning crew lowered themselves to the ground and padded their way to their target house. Team Leader Daddy-Mac turned to us and began: “Ok, what’s the plan?” to which we chanted, “Right in, right out, nobody gets hurt,” and we moved to our objective.

The team stacked just behind the corner from the front door. Mos and I emerged and moved to the breach point. Mos worked on the door where I covered him with my assault rifle in case anyone opened the door.

Mos fired the five second delay fuse to the initiator, turned 90 degrees to his left, and moved off quickly with me following. It struck me odd that he had turned his back to the charge. The SOP we followed dictated that we always backed away from our breach points.

Mos pushed into the stack with me next to him and, still with my AR trained on the corner we had turned. Our Troop Commander stood 20 feet away in an administrative observation posture. He had seen, at the very last second, something none of us realized, something which horrified him.

When Mos did his 90-degree turn, his pistol holster had caught and stripped the powerful Bentley Blaster door charge off of the door and it hung there on his person where he crouched in the stack.

To be continued in part II…

Just kidding! In a very split second, the Commander knew that if he had called out a warning to Mos, that Mos would most assuredly have tried to strip it off… and he surely would have lost his hand. Mos would certainly fare better to endure it where it was — whatever “fare better” meant in this case, anyway.

BOOM” not “bang” went the charge this time. I found myself suddenly facing the opposite direction, spitting something warm and salty out of my mouth. Turning about, I saw that Mos had been violently cartwheeled with his head angered into the ground. His body was in the most impossible position; his legs were in the air against the wall… you couldn’t have manually placed him in that configurations no matter how hard you tried, and he was out cold.

Daddy-Mac was the first to respond calling Mos’ name, pulling him down from his morbid stance. I turned to our officer and hollered from him to pull the med kit from the pouch on my back. He pulled it then stood there, frozen, with the med kit in his hands and a horrified look on his face. Disgusted, I grabbed the med kit from him and turned to the scene.

Markey-Marcos was the newest man out our team. He looked at me with a nervous grin and shook his head, over and over, exclaiming: “Whew… whew… whew!” I was annoyed again and slapped him on the back, “Snap out of it bro; that’s the way it’s going to get in this business — get used to it!” I chided in some pretentious, hardened-vet sort of way.

Markey-Marcos turned his back to pick up his AR, which had been blown out of his hands by the Bentley Blaster. He was the rear man in the stack, so he had his back to Mos to provide security to our rear. I saw immediately that both legs of his assault trousers were completely shredded and Marcos was bleeding from dozens of tiny puncture wounds.

Shocked, I immediately put my arm around his shoulders and, with a much more humane tone, I told him, “Here, take it easy Marcos… let’s have a seat; it will be alright.” Our troop medic was already on the scene, cutting clothing and bandaging trauma and burns to Mos, mostly to his legs.

What McChrystal learned from a top terrorist before killing him

Doc (left) and an Operations Cell NCO work on Moses right were he “blew up”; the wall behind them is blackened by the explosion.

Mos and Daddy-Mac argued:

Daddy-Mac: “Damn bro, you were out cold!

Mos: “No I wasn’t; I was awake the whole time.

Homes, I’m telling you I saw you and you were completely knocked out!

Bullsh*t, I was never knocked out; I was conscious for the whole thing.”

Daddy-Mac turned to our medic, disgusted but relieved, “Doc, he appears to be fine; back to his usual contrary pissy self.

What McChrystal learned from a top terrorist before killing him

Marky-Marcos was patched up and returned to us with no training time lost. Mos was hurt pretty bad but refused to be sent back home to Fort Bragg. He insisted on staying in our hotel promising he would be back the next day. That didn’t happen. Mos didn’t walk for several days. When he finally could, he only came to hang out for training with no participation.

What McChrystal learned from a top terrorist before killing him

Moses debriefs with senior representatives from the Master Breecher’s office before being driven back to the hotel to take it easy. To the right is the door where the Bentley Blaster charge had been stripped off and attached to Mos’ pistol holster.

Back at Bragg, Mos continued to heal, a process that took several weeks. He routinely reported to the clinic to have yards of Curlex bandage pulled from cavities in his legs and have fresh Curlex packed back in, and extraordinarily painful process, one that the rest of us wouldn’t have missed for the world.

What McChrystal learned from a top terrorist before killing him

Back at Ft. Bragg Moses Bentley stand behind his assault uniform as it was pulled off of him on the scene. Speculation revealed that his pistol and holster likely spared him from losing his left leg.

I’m put squarely in mind of the words of one of our training cadre from a trauma management class during our training phase:

“Pay attention to this, guys… if you stay in Delta for any period of time, you will be putting this training to good use.”
What McChrystal learned from a top terrorist before killing him

Healing back at Ft. Bragg.

What McChrystal learned from a top terrorist before killing him

Scars from the blast as they remained.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Russia’s new robot tank performed horribly in Syria

Russia’s new Uran-9 robot tank apparently had a terrible debut in Syria.

The unmanned tank couldn’t operate as far away from its controllers as expected, had problems firing its 30mm gun, and couldn’t fire while moving, amid other problems, according to Popular Mechanics, citing the Defence Blog.

Unveiled in September 2016 and deployed to Syria in May 2018, the Uran-9 is an unmanned tank that was supposed to be capable of operating up to 1.8 miles away from its controller.


But in Syria, it could only be operated from about 984 to 1,640 feet from its operators around high-rise buildings, the Defence Blog reported, citing reports from the 10th all-Russian scientific conference “Actual problems of protection and security” in St. Petersburg.

The robot tank’s controller also randomly lost control of it 17 times for up to one minute and two times for up to an hour and a half, Defence Blog reported.

What McChrystal learned from a top terrorist before killing him

Uran-9 combat unmanned ground vehicle

The Uran-9 is heavily armed with four 9M120-1 Ataka anti-tank guided missile launchers, six 93 millimeter-caliber rocket-propelled Shmel-M reactive flamethrowers, one 30-millimeter 2A72 automatic cannon, and one 7.62-millimeter coaxial machine gun.

But its 30-millimeter 2A72 automatic cannon delayed six times and even failed once, Defence Blog reported, and it could only acquire targets up to about 1.24 miles away, as opposed to the expected four miles.

Apparently the tank’s optical station was seeing “multiple interferences on the ground and in the airspace in the surveillance sector,” Defence Blog reported.

The unmanned tank even had issues with its chassis and suspension system, and required repairs in the field, Defence Blog reported.

“The Uran-9 seems to have proven to be more about novelty than capability, but that doesn’t mean these tests are without value,” SOFREP reported. “In time (and with funding) a successor to the Uran-9 may one day be a battlefield force to be reckoned with.”

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