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.”

(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.

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.

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.

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

The US Air Force may make history and buy this ridiculously cheap jet

Years after initial development, Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightning II finally seems like it’s well on its way to enter the US’s fleet of fighter jets. That doesn’t necessarily mean, however, that the DoD isn’t seeking alternative jets to supplement their squadrons.


According to Defense News, the US Air Force announced that it would begin testing aircraft that were not currently planned to be in its inventory. After signing a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with Textron AirLand, the Air Force will begin a series of tests to determine if Textron AirLand’s flagship jet, dubbed “Scorpion”, will be airworthy.

Textron AirLand’s Armed Scorpion | Photo courtesy of Textron AirLand

“This is the first of its kind, we have not done a CRADA like this before and we have never had a partnership with industry to assess aircraft that are not under a USAF acquisition contract,” an Air Force representative explained in a statement from Defense News.

The Scorpion is a different beast compared to the other jets around the globe. Starting with its cost, Textron AirLand’s President Bill Anderson explained in a Bloomberg video, “The Scorpion … was designed to be very effective and very affordable.”

Photo courtesy of Textron AirLand

“The goal was to create a very mission-relevant aircraft for today’s security environment that’s below $20 million in acquisition costs, and below $3,000 an hour to operate.”

By comparison, a Predator unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) costs about $13 million and $1,500 per hour to operate, while the conventional F-35A costs $98 million per unit and $42,200 an hour in 2015.

The Scorpion features a tandem cockpit and a composite airframe in order to keep its weight and costs down. In addition to its twin turbofan engines that are able to achieve a flight speed up to 517 mph, it houses an internal payload bay that’s capable of holding 3,000 pounds.

“It’s quite maneuverable,” explained Scorpion test pilot Andy Vaughan. “It reminds me of my days when I used to fly the A-10 in the US Air Force.”

Courtesy of Textron AirLand

From start to finish, the construction of the Scorpion was kept secret to maintain a competitive advantage. Nevertheless, the secret wasn’t kept very long — Textron AirLand was able to conduct testing soon after the aircraft’s conception.

“In a classic DoD acquisition program, they can spend up to 10 years just developing and fielding an aircraft — and we’ve done it in less than 2,” Anderson said.

However, it’s still too early to determine whether this move by the Air Force will also move the sale of Scorpion units both in the US and abroad — according to Defense News, the program has attracted only one potential customer.

MIGHTY TRENDING

2017 radioactive cloud over Europe due to Russian nuke site

European researchers have concluded that a radioactive cloud that drifted over Europe in 2017 likely originated in Russia, possibly from a plant that was the site of an infamous nuclear disaster.

Meteorologists and researchers detected the burst of radioactive isotopes in October 2017, and have struggled to determine its origins.

At the time, prevailing winds and other evidence pointed to Russia, but authorities denied responsibility for the release of the ruthenium-106 isotopes. The dispersed isotopes were harmless to human health, but noticeable by monitoring equipment.


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

MIGHTY TRENDING

China’s president is kind of a big deal


  • The name of President Xi Jinping has been written into China’s constitution.
  • This makes Xi the country’s most powerful leader since Mao Zedong.
  • The change was supported by 2,300 Communist Party members at the close of the party’s congress on October.

President Xi Jinping has become China’s most powerful leader since Mao Zedong.

Xi’s name was added to China’s constitution on October 24, the first time a living leader’s name had been added since Mao ruled from 1935 until his death in 1976.

Related: China is close to entering the ‘war on terror’ — and they won’t be on our side

The political ideologies of China’s presidents have usually been added to the country’s constitution, but only Mao and Xi have been named in the title of those theories.

The amendment, called “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era,” was approved by all 2,300 delegates attending the congress. Xi is now considered the most important party leader alive — above former presidents and his eventual successor.

Russian President Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping at the opening ceremony of the Russia-China Naval Interaction 2014 joint exercises. Photo from Moscow Kremlin.

This departure from tradition indicates immense party support for Xi and his strict leadership style; that support could be crucial as Xi eyes a potential third term as president, which would also break with the two-term tradition. The biggest indicator for Xi’s 2022 plans could emerge Wednesday, when the party’s new senior leadership is announced.

If Xi does not give a nod to a young and experienced successor under 60 years of age, or ignores unofficial retirement-age rules, it may indicate the Chinese president will seek a third term in the next five years.

Also read: This is what China will do if the US attacks North Korea

The Chinese constitution stipulates that a president can serve only two five-year terms. Xi, however, could rally party support to stay for a third term or continue leading from his other role of party secretary-general — which actually outranks the president. Both options are more likely with Xi’s strong party support. Another option is to revive the title of party chairman, a label that has not been used since Mao held it.

During the congress’ closing session, party leaders referred to Xi as the country’s “core” leader, a term first used to describe Mao.

MIGHTY FIT

5 ‘trap foods’ that are making you gain weight

Every day, countless Americans walk into their local grocery stores and purchase the foods they believe to be healthy based on the packaging and labels. In the fitness world, “trap foods” are those that might seem healthy, but aren’t very good for you in reality.

Many food distribution companies trap you into thinking that if you buy their colorful products, you’re getting the most nutrition possible, meeting your health goals. Keep an eye out for these foods that look healthy on the surface, but are packing lots of nutritional heft on the inside.


Sushi

Who doesn’t enjoy a tasty sushi dinner, filled with delicious slices of epic-looking fish? I think we all do. Unfortunately, this type of cuisine can have a surprising number of calories — rolls range from 400 to 900 calories each. Since we tend to order a few rolls at a time, you’re looking at eating 1,000 or more calories in a single sitting.

On the flip side, sushi is a reliable food source if you’re trying to bulk up.

Yogurt parfait

Looks freakin’ delicious, right? Well, unless you put a yogurt parfait together at home with fresh ingredients, you can’t guarantee that it’s not loaded with tons of corn syrup and sugar — which are the last things you want while dieting.
Instead of buying something prepackaged, you can make your own by purchasing unsweetened Greek yogurt and fresh fruit. That’s all it takes!

It’s so simple.

(Photo by Nikodem Nijaki)

Guacamole

Although the addictive dip contains oodles of healthy and delicious avocados, store-bought varieties are often loaded with sodium. Additionally, this Hispanic treat is so good when garnished with a little lime and cilantro that we tend to overeat.

Traditionally, we eat the dip with high-calorie corn chips, flatbread, or tortillas, further adding to the calorie count.

Various ‘fruit juices’

Don’t get fooled by the labels while walking down the fruit-juice aisle. The packaging on these products is particularly deceptive. They do their best to make the juice appear light and airy by showing off delicious, ripe fruits but, in reality, they’re loaded with processed sugars.

Pay particular attention to the labels that advertise “cocktail juice.” Those are loaded with sugar and will break your diet in a heartbeat.

(Photo by Didriks)

Deli meats

When put on display, deli meats look like a beautiful buffet of perfectly rolled and stacked bite-sized snacks. From a glance, the meat looks fresh and healthy. In reality, however, it’s quite the opposite. Deli meats are often packaged and, in order to stay good for many lunches to come, they’re crammed with sodium to extend shelf life.

MIGHTY CULTURE

8 signs you might be a drill sergeant

Have you ever woken up to the same hellish nightmare of three-phase cycles repeatedly until you no longer know what day it is? Have you felt the uncontrollable urge to wield the greatest noncombative, yet lethal weapon known to mankind in every conversation? Does your forehead bear the markings of greatness from a wide-brimmed hat of woolen death?


There are signs. These are the signs you may just be or have been a drill sergeant.

Photo Gallery: Marine recruits survive first night on Parris Island

media.defense.gov

You are basically a vampire

It’s 4 a.m. on a good day and long before the crack of dawn. You’re there, in the dark, ready to delicately wake the trainees from their slumber. Likely, with an airhorn. Fast forward to sundown, and you’re three energy drinks in, waiting to put 200 almost soldiers, Marines, sailors, Coast Guardsmen or airmen to bed. Up before the dawn, home under the moonlight. You’re basically a vampire.

Caffeine is your new blood type 

The regulation states 6-8 hours per night, but cycle 2 has shown you humans can live (sort of) off much less. How do you function? Caffeine, copious and copious amounts of caffeine. Has anyone ever seen a drill instructor without a coffee or energy drink in hand? I think not. Pushing 18-20-hour days, seven days a week for two miserably long years requires such.

Your stare is so terrifying, it produces cries on demand

Perhaps nothing is as terrifying as a silent drill sergeant. Am I in trouble? Was that good? Is this horribly, horribly wrong? They have no idea, and that’s the entire point. What’s even worse? Dark glasses and silence. The memory will (hopefully) haunt their dreams.

Multiple personalities are part of the gig 

It takes far less than sixty seconds to royally piss off a drill instructor. Fear then rage, then empathy and more fear are all emotions drills can flip between without pause. It’s the terrifyingly good performance you must put on daily to keep the illusion that you still actually care. The daily goal is keeping the entire company on their toes.

You speak in catchphrases 

Yes-no, criss-cross pizza sauce, it’s not rocket surgery. Did you get that? You live the same three-phase cycle for two years, with hundreds of faces making almost the same mistakes as the last cycle. You’ve got to keep it interesting somehow. The more ridiculous you are, the better your impersonation will be when the trainees imitate you at the end of the cycle.

api.army.mil

You are the knife hand, and the knife hand is you

The knife hand is strong with you. Its power is the multi-tool you never knew you were missing. It commands attention, corrects stupidity, instills fear, shows direction, and slices the air with precision. Its powers are so great, you no longer need to speak to converse clearly with trainees as to what they better hurry up and do.

You produce legendary nicknames

You’re reading off the roster and have no idea or could honestly care less about how to pronounce the next name. Instead, you improvise, gifting the lucky trainee with whatever condiment, thought or mistake they’re likely to make. Mistakes are often the go-to for renaming trainees to more accurately reflect the personality they are growing into. No shower shoes? Flip-flop is your new name, enjoy it buttercup.

You are perpetually pissed

Maybe it’s the lack of sleep, the sheer stupidity you witness day in and day out, or the fact that your last unit just deployed without you. Or maybe it’s all of it. Either way, you’re salty. Without the salt, you’d be normal, and normal is not part of the personality description behind drill instructors. The hatred boiling inside keeps you warm at night.

Life on the trail is the hellish nightmare you love to hate. It’s an experience engrained in who you’ve become. Every service member remembers their drill sergeants, both with a fondness and fear that they’ll never forget.

Humor

5 military myths that Hollywood has taught us to believe

We love movies! That’s why producers spend millions of dollars making them. Sometimes the films we watch are so compelling, audience members believe every moment that is spoon fed to them is the truth.


We’re all guilty of falling for it. Many movie goers get sold on the narrative as the story unfolds across the big screen — even to the point where the performances feel true to life — and the delicate line between truth and fiction becomes too thin.

Related: 7 life lessons we learned from watching ‘Full Metal Jacket’

So check out these military myths that Hollywood puts in their movies and want us to think actually happen — but don’t fall for it.

1. Vietnam veterans are crazy

Movies and TV shows love to feature characters that had tough military careers and reverted to drinking to suppress the memories. This does happen in real life from time-to-time, but not to everyone.

Most who served during that era use their military experience to propel themselves and inspire others.

2. You throw your clean cover after a military graduation

It’s a lot of work to not only find the cover you just flung into the air but clean the grass stains off too.

Does anyone have a tide pen? (Paramount)

3. Cinematic deaths

They just don’t exist — but we tip our hats to filmmaker Oliver Stone (an Army veteran) for capturing this epic movie moment in 1986s Platoon.

How many rounds do you think he took? (Orion Pictures)

4. That one guy who can save the day

In the military, you train as a team and you fight as one, as well.

The debate isn’t if one single person can save another’s ass during battle — that frequently happens.

What we call bullsh*t on is when that single motivator springs into action and becomes the final denominator and leads them to victory as the rest of his team remains pinned down and losing the fight.

They have the need for speed (Paramount)

5. No one gets concussions…ever

We’ve seen countless movies where people get blown up by various sources of explosive ordnance and seem to recover right away (just watch any 80s movie). Since we want to believe the good guys are as tough as nails, they will just brush off the injury and carry on.

It rarely happens like that.

In fact, the traumatic brain injury has been called the signature wound of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

Hearing a phone or bells ringing is one of the first signs of concussion (Sony)

Can you think of any others? Comment below.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The US accidentally built a fort to repel Canada… in Canada

The War of 1812 was a conflict between the United States and Great Britain, though it could be argued that Canadians and Native Americans were most affected by it. The northern theater of the war, especially near the border of Canada and the Great Lakes, saw some of the most intense fighting — so much so that, after the Treaty of Ghent, President James Madison ordered a heavy fortification be built at the northern end of Lake Champlain to prevent future invasion.


The only problem… was that the fort was built on the wrong side of the border.

The Americans didn’t discover the error until two years later, when a surveyor found the fort was being built north of the 45th parallel.

Oops.

Construction halted on the fort, which earned the moniker “Fort Blunder,” until 1842, when the U.S. moved the boundary line north (see the current boundary in the image above) — because pride.

Also read: This War of 1812 veteran saw the Battle of Gettysburg from his porch – then joined it

The Webster-Ashburton Treaty resolved a number of border issues between what would one day become Canada and the United States, who promptly began to build another fort — this one named for revolutionary war hero General Richard Montgomery. The fort was built from the same limestone slabs that helped raise the Brooklyn Bridge, and, though it was never fully garrisoned, it was armed and ready for action.

As the United States’ relationships with Great Britain and Canada flourished, Fort Montgomery’s function dwindled. In 1926, it was auctioned off by the U.S. government and sold to a private bidder.

War of 1812: This is the only time since the War of 1812 that enemy forces occupied US soil

Today, it’s actually for sale… but no one wants it (except for me — I absolutely want it and I am currently looking for a $3 million donation for this cause. The parties there will be epic. Bring your boat and everyone you know…), though in 2009, it was placed on The Preservation League of New York State’s list of Seven to Save.

Articles

Adaptive sports camp helps wounded warriors reach new heights

One by one, the veterans made their inaugural trip up the steep mountainside armed with harnesses and ropes.  For most of them, rock climbing was a brand new experience, yet they were scrambling up and repelling down the cliff face at Hartman Rocks in Gunnison, Colorado, with barely a semblance of a beginner’s nerves. Amid shouts of encouragement and good-humored banter, the Airmen were bonding. While they’d been strangers just the day before, they’d already become a team.


Traveling from different areas of the U.S., the eight Air Force wounded warriors, sponsored by Team Racing for Veterans’ (R4V), arrived at an adaptive sports camp in Crested Butte, Colorado, to participate in three unfamiliar sports: rock climbing, fly fishing and mountain biking. The biannual camps give wounded veterans a chance to prove to themselves they can adapt to and overcome any current limitations, from amputations to post-traumatic stress.

Military veterans ascend a 50-foot-tall mountainside during an adaptive sports camp in Crested Butte, Colo. The full day of rock climbing at the Hartman Rocks encouraged team building and camaraderie among the group of wounded warriors. While there, the veterans received lessons on safety, etiquette, knots, belaying, rappelling and climbing technique. | Photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.

For those attending the camp, it was a chance to network with other wounded warriors who wanted to get out of their comfort zones, take on new challenges, and pursue a sense of normalcy.

In addition to sharing their common goals and adaptive sports experiences at the camp, the wounded warriors had a chance to get to know each other in a relaxed setting during their down time. Instead of staying in a hotel where they would be scattered throughout the building, the Airmen stayed in a large ranch-style home that was donated for the camp’s use. During some of their meals and at the close of each day, the wounded warriors could gather in a common area and talk.

Military veterans share their individual stories during dinner at an adaptive sports camp in Crested Butte, Colo. Each night of the camp ended with reflection and therapeutic conversations. | Photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.

While engaging in one such casual conversation in the living room with four other veterans, Staff Sgt. Gideon Connelly, a 175th Wing chaplain assistant with the Maryland National Guard, found himself smiling and feeling at ease. The openness he displayed was something new, because Connelly had grown up building walls around himself that no one could get through.

As a child, his experiences in the foster care system left him unwilling to depend on others. Though he was eventually taken in by his aunt and uncle, Connelly still found himself disappointed after witnessing his relatives getting robbed by other children they had adopted.

“Watching those kids grow up, how cruel and jagged they could be, it just pushed my trust in people away a lot more,” Connelly said.

“Before these guys,” he indicated the other wounded warriors, “you had no shot for me to trust you.”

Unexpectedly, the injuries that brought Connelly into the wounded warrior family were causing him to change for the better, he said.

On July 5, 2011, Staff Sgt. Gideon Connelly’s life took an abrupt turn after a motorcycle accident on the streets of Baltimore. As a result of the crash, Connelly lost his left leg below the knee, his right knee required a partial replacement, and his right arm had to be artificially restructured.

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Richard W. Rose Jr. (Ret.) and Staff Sgt. Gideon Connelly celebrate after climbing a 50-foot mountain. | Photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.

“The first couple years were hard,” he said. “It was like gut-wrenching pain in my arm when I was lifting weights, curling, or anything like that, just because there wasn’t much muscle around the metal.”

Eventually he was able to build his strength back up, but by the time the doctors could take out the hardware in his arm, bone had grown over it and become fused to the metal. Because of this, Connelly opted not to have it removed.

“I’ve adapted to it,” he said. “I’ve adapted with my leg, my knee, and the arm was another thing. I just had to get over it.  Cold affects it, but you move your wrist around a little bit and keep going. I’m all about adapting and overcoming everything. I’m not going to let anything stop me from doing what I want to do.”

Three years after his injury, Connelly became involved in the world of adaptive sports and attended an AFW2 camp. Striving for more, he was also selected to represent the Air Force during the 2014 Warrior Games in shot put, discus, and the 100- and 200-meter sprints. It was at this competition that he met a group of wounded warriors and began to finally let down his guard.

Two years later, his wounded warrior family remains important to him – it is a group of people he keeps in touch with nearly every single day.

Although Connelly is busy training in pursuit of his dream of running track at the Paralympic Games, he leapt at the opportunity to try new sports at a Team R4V mountain adventure.

Retired Tech. Sgt. Jessica Moore rides her bicycle down a mountain trail during an adaptive sports camp in Crested Butte, Colo. The camp participants spent two full days completing bicycle trails and endurance activities. | Photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.

“Mountain biking: that was the sport that brought everybody together today,” Connelly said. He found it inspiring to watch the guys zooming down the mountain tracks on hand cycles.

“The trails are probably 20 inches wide – the same as their wheel base – and they are just flying,” he added. “Watching them struggle, but still make it up and down the hills, it was awesome!  It was definitely team building and it brought us that much closer together.”

Ricky Rose Jr. knew that the sports therapy aspect of Team R4V’s camps would help him physically, but he hesitated to participate.

After being medically discharged from the Air Force as a staff sergeant, Rose thought about attending a wounded warrior camp. It was an idea that had run though his mind many times before but what always stopped him were questions: Did he deserve to go? Would he even fit into the group?

When Team R4V invited him to their fall camp, Rose decided to set those doubts aside and give it a go.

At first he was nervous, but after realizing many people in the house shared the same medical conditions he did, Rose began to feel more comfortable. He found there was relief in being surrounded by people who’d gone through tough situations — from battling cancer to being shot in Afghanistan – because they could all relate to one another.

“While each individual’s circumstances are different in the grand scheme, we’re all fighting the same demons,” Rose said. “That’s been the most beneficial part of this camp; you feel comfortable talking to somebody that you know has been there and done that.”

At the camp, much of the conversation and bonding begins over food.

Retired Staff Sgts. Richard W. Rose Jr. and Nicholas Dadgostar joke during an adaptive sports camp in Crested Butte, Colo. | Photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.

With a focus on overall wellness, Team R4V cooks healthy meals for the wounded warriors each day, and encourages them to eat breakfast and dinner together. At the kitchen table, sharing a meal and talking about the day’s events, the Airmen got to know each other better. As they talked, Rose felt a sense of camaraderie return, one that he’d missed since the last day he’d hung up his Air Force uniform.

“I wasn’t expecting us to come together as a family as quickly as we did,” he said. “We all realized pretty quickly that we’re all Airmen and we’re all in this together.”

Surrounded by people who could empathize with his journey, Rose spoke about his experiences in the Air Force and the daily challenges he continues to face as a wounded warrior.

During his time in service, Rose deployed three times, once to Kuwait and twice to Iraq.  Employed as a combat photographer, his objective was to document the war through the experiences of the troops with whom he was embedded – the good times, the bad times, and everything in between.

“They didn’t send us on missions where we would just sit on base all day,” he said. “They’d send us on missions where crap was going to hit the fan, or there was a really good chance of it.  More times than not, we were attacked … we got blown up what seemed like almost every mission.  It felt like almost every day could have been the day you died because we lost a lot of people too. War is just nasty, and I got to help show that as honestly as I could to people.”

While deployed, Rose captured thousands of images, braving firefights and mortar attacks to accomplish his job. In 2007, Rose was named one of the Air Force’s 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year, in part for his dedication in the combat zone – a place seared into his memory by the very tool he used to perform his mission.

Retired Staff Sgt. Richard W. Rose Jr. holds a portion of his daily dose of medication, which he takes to deal with post-traumatic stress disorder. | Photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.

“The hardest thing, and I didn’t know this until after a lot of therapy and a lot of different doctors, but I didn’t realize, as a photographer, how many of those images I took were just going to stay in my brain,” Rose said. “I just kind of thought I’d take a picture and then they’d go away, but they don’t.”

Even at home, he was unable to turn his mind away from the combat zone. Feeling unstable, Rose asked for help. He went to see a doctor and was ultimately diagnosed with a TBI and PTSD.

PTSD is an anxiety disorder that presents a variety of negative effects, such as flashbacks, nightmares, and intrusive thoughts and memories. Military members with PTSD can become hyper-vigilant, angry and depressed. Sights and sounds, such as large crowds, random crazy noises, and sudden flashes of light – can mentally bring them back to the combat zone and trigger an unconscious response.

“PTSD is horrible,” Rose said. “Imagine never being able to feel comfortable or like everything is alright. Every day is a challenge because I don’t know how my body and mind will react to whatever happens that day. Will I see, touch, or smell something that will give me an instant flashback and turn me into a different person? Will my conversations lead to nightmares? Do I feel like killing myself today? That’s what it’s like.”

Staff Sgt. Gideon Connelly, a 175th Wing chaplain assistant with the Maryland Air National Guard, leaps over a mountainside area during an adaptive sports camp in Crested Butte, Colo. Connelly lost his left leg after a motorcycle accident a few years ago, but he didn’t let it stop him from competing in sports. | Photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.

The temporary home in Colorado is quiet and isolated from outside stimuli. The intensity and focus needed to learn new sports is designed to wear the Airmen out and give them the ability to be calm.

“I haven’t really had a bad thought since I’ve been here, other than being exhausted and tired (from the day’s activity),” he laughed, adding, “I haven’t really had a trigger or nightmare or anything since I’ve been here. It’s been peaceful, very peaceful.”

The physical, mental and emotional benefits of regular exercise have been proven time and time again, which is why Team R4V staff said they provide support to veterans through a wide variety of physical activities. Rehabilitation though adaptive sports has been an idea at the forefront of the organization since its conception.

Inspired by a friend who coached the Air Force Wounded Warrior Program’s team for the Warrior Games, a Defense Department competitive adaptive sports event for injured, ill and wounded service members, Bethany Pribila, Team R4V’s founder and CEO, decided to start a non-profit organization that would enable veterans from every branch of the military to benefit through participation in sports.

Military veterans leave the Hartman Rocks during an adaptive sports camp in Crested Butte, Colo. The full day of rock climbing at the Hartman Rocks encouraged team building and camaraderie among wounded warriors who’d experienced post-traumatic stress disorder, amputations and other injuries. | Photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.

Team R4V provides wounded warrior athletes with funding for races and events, but it is their own sports camps, which they host in partnership with the Crested Butte Adaptive Sports Center, that holds a special place in the heart of the organization.

At the camp’s end, Pribila reflected that everything had gone as envisioned.  She had witnessed the wounded warriors supporting one another, cheering each other on, and forming lasting bonds. Though the Airmen had arrived as strangers, when they left, it was as friends and as family.

Articles

One of America’s top enemies in the Iraq War just won big in Iraqi elections

For five years, Muqtada al-Sadr’s personal insurgent army fought American troops during the Iraq War and commited heinous crimes against Iraq Sunni minorities. Now, a decade later, the Shia cleric’s Sairoon Alliance is leading Iraq’s parliamentary elections. His populist candidacy upset the U.S. favorite, incumbent Haider al-Abadi, and al-Sadr is set to be the kingmaker in Iraq.


In the years following his two uprisings against American forces, the “radical cleric” (as he was often called in Western media) continued his fight against the Baghdad government and against Sunni insurgent groups in Iraq. He eventually withdrew from public life until 2012, when he made a comeback, rebranding himself as a leader intent on bringing Sunnis and Shia together.

For most of the Iraq War, however, he was intent on blowing Sunnis apart.

With the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq, al-Sadr also rebranded his Mahdi Army, forming the “Peace Companies,” intended to protect Shia believers from the strict form of Sunni Islam and personal violence inflicted upon Iraqis by ISIS. He continued his rebranding to become an anti-poverty, anti-corruption populist who rejects the outside influence of both Iran and the United States.

Al-Sadr’s stated purpose for Sairoon was clearing corruption, rejecting the sectarian quotas, and putting skilled thought leaders (aka technocrats) in key ministerial positions.

“The ascendancy of the list sponsored by al-Sadr shows that anti-establishment sentiment and anti-corruption have driven the choice of most voters,” said Rend al-Rahim, a former Iraqi ambassador to the United States. “None of the lists had an electoral program that outlined priorities and a plan of action. All used vague terms to lure voters. Many of the lists also used populist and demagogic tactics that played on the emotions of voters.”

Some American veterans of the 2003-2011 Iraq War are not happy with his 53-seat win.

Understandably, no one who fought the Mahdi Army or lost a friend in Sadr City wants him to wield legitimate political power in Iraq. But Al-Sadr didn’t launch a revolt in Iraq. He didn’t put a gun to Haider al-Abadi’s head to force him to step down. The cleric’s bloc was elected in a legitimate Iraqi election by the people of Iraq, none of whom were punished for not voting for Sairoon. The democracy we fought to establish in Iraq is functioning.

Sometimes the candidate you want to win doesn’t win, no matter who they might be running against.

Ask Hillary Clinton, Mitt Romney, John McCain, Al Gore, Bob Dole, Etc.

The peaceful transfer of power is another hallmark of democracy, and we should credit Prime Minister al-Abadi when he implored the people of Iraq to accept this change.

“I call on Iraqis to respect the results of the elections,” he said.

Iraq has bigger things to worry about than the United States’ opinion on their domestic politics. This was the first election held since ISIS was pushed out of Iraq — after decimating Iraqi infrastructure. The country also faces rampant unemployment, one of the main triggers of domestic terrorism in the region.

American veterans of the Iraq War should see this as a major victory. In the first post-Saddam election of 2005, with the start of the Mahdi Army’s rise to power, did we ever believe we would see the radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr with purple ink on his finger?

And yet, here we are.

The biggest issue for the anti-Iran cleric will be integrating Iraq’s militia’s into its official armed forces and security structure — especially since most of those are backed by Iran. Iran has publicly stated it will not allow al-Sadr’s coalition to lead the government. Al-Sadr has made moves to align himself with the king of Saudi Arabia, Iran’s regional adversary, to push back against the Islamic Republic.

Al-Sadr’s fight for power is far from over. Despite having ties to Iran, the Islamic Republic is no fan of the cleric, who has resisted Iranian influence in Iraq since the days of the Iraq War. And al-Sadr will no longer be able to criticize the government from the sidelines. Instead, it will be on him and his Sairoon bloc to guide Iraq to the future he promised to desperate Iraqi voters.

MIGHTY MOVIES

New ‘Bill and Ted 3’ movie casts wounded warriors as extras

Whoa! Wounded warriors have been cast as extras for the new “Bill and Ted 3” movie. The excellent news was first tweeted by CNN news anchor Jake Tapper on Aug. 13, 2019.

Tapper, a longtime Homes for our Troops’ supporter and mission ambassador, enlisted the help of friends, namely movie stars and entertainment icons, to arrange an extensive assortment of auction items to benefit the organization back in November 2018. One of the auction items was a tour of the “Bill and Ted 3” movie set.

But screen writer Ed Solomon wanted to do more for veterans than just a tour. He also cast several wounded veterans in the film, and Tapper thanked him on social media for the righteous move.


It’s still unknown what part these veterans will play in the upcoming film starring Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter, but judging by the smiles on their faces the Hollywood experience has been epic.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Philippines is worried the US will drag it into a war with China

Fearing the US could drag it into a shooting war with China in the South China Sea, the Philippines is questioning its alliance with the US and pushing for a review of its decades-old defense treaty with Washington.

The nation’s top defense official said on March 5, 2019, that the government should review the mutual defense pact signed nearly seven decades ago, adding that the regional security environment has become “much more complex,” The New York Times reported on March 5, 2019.


“The Philippines is not in a conflict with anyone and will not be at war with anyone in the future,” Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said, adding that the US is much more likely to get involved in a war in the region than the Philippines is.

“The United States, with the increased and frequent passage of its naval vessels in the West Philippine Sea, is more likely to be involved in a shooting war … [and] the Philippines will be automatically involved,” Lorenzana said, referring to the South China Sea as the West Philippine Sea.

Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.

The US Navy routinely conducts freedom-of-navigation operations in the South China Sea, sailing warships past Chinese-occupied features in a challenge to Beijing’s discredited claims. These operations, which have already occurred twice this year, infuriate Beijing and have led to confrontation.

The Philippine defense chief suggested, as his country has before, that the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty needs to be reexamined and in many places clarified.

“I do not believe that ambiguity or vagueness of the Philippine-US Mutual Defense Treaty will serve as a deterrent. In fact, it will cause confusion and chaos during a crisis,” Lorenzana said.

On March 1, 2019, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo attempted to reassure a nervous US ally, stressing that the US would defend the Philippines in the event of armed conflict, but Manila, the Philippine capital, has its doubts.

“America said, ‘We will protect you. We will — your backs are covered, I’m sure.’ I said, ‘It’s okay,'” Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said March 3, 2019, according to the Philippine Star. “But the problem here is … any declaration of war will pass Congress. You know how b—s— America’s Congress is.”

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.

Speaking on March 5, 2019, Lorenzana called attention to America’s failure to prevent the Chinese seizure and occupation of disputed territories in the South China Sea. “The US did not stop it,” he said.

But the biggest concern remains the possibility that the US could pull the Philippines into a war with China, something the country is determined to avoid.

“It is not the lack of reassurance that worries me,” Lorenzana said. “It is being involved in a war that we do not seek and do not want.” Manila has maintained a conciliatory stance toward China since Duterte took office in 2016, with the president repeatedly remarking that he is not interested in a war with China, as that is a war his country cannot win.

The country, however, continues to press Beijing on Chinese encroachment into areas considered Philippine territory.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

The weird psychology behind why fights help people bond

Let’s not sugarcoat it — fights suck, and they do not inherently help people bond. But couples can become closer after a fight if they dedicate time to finding their way out of an argument productively. “Fighting does not help people bond. Solving problems with mutually satisfactory solutions helps people bond,” marriage and family therapist Tina Tessina told Fatherly. Psychologist Linda Papadopoulos elaborates on the theme of productive fighting: “For more dominant couples, conflict is often an immediate release of tension, which enables both parties to get their feelings off their chests and feel like they are being heard,” she says.

“Often once the heat of the moment has passed, they feel closer to one another as a result.”


Studies have shown that fights can make friendships stronger by helping both parties understand one another’s triggers, and that arguments among colleagues can actually facilitate bonds in the workplace. But the bulk of the research focuses on conflict in romantic relationships. One survey of 1,000 adults found that couples who argue effectively were 10 times more likely to report being happy in their relationships than those who avoided arguing altogether. Another study of 92 women found that those who reported the highest levels of relationship stress still experienced strong feelings of intimacy, as long as they spent time with their significant others. Taken together, the literature suggests that fights do not make or break a relationship — but that how a fight is handled, both during and after the spat — makes all the difference.

(Photo from Flickr user Vic)

Fights are healthy when they address issues as soon they happen, or shortly thereafter, and involve parties ultimately taking responsibility for the problem and resolving to change their behaviors in the future. There are curveballs, of course. Arguments about money and sex are generally the hardest on marriages, and personality differences can make fighting effectively more of a dance than anything else. “Arguments between confrontational and passive people will tend to make the aggressor angrier and the more passive person anxious and upset,” Papadopoulos warns. “To combat this, both need to remain aware of how their actions appear to their other half and watch their body language and tone.”

It’s important to note that relationship fights fall on a spectrum, and a heated yet productive conversation about shared finances is far different than a knock down, drag out scene from The Godfather. In extreme cases, fights can constitute abuse, which is never a healthy part of a relationship. And even shy of abuse, studies suggest that vigorously arguing in front of your children can hinder their ability to bond with others.

Tessina recommends couples be especially careful about recurring arguments, which are less likely to be opportunities to learn and grow as a couple, and more likely a sign that healthy communication has broken down. “When this happens, problems are recurrent, endless, and they can be exaggerated into relationship disasters,” Tessina warns. Ultimately, everyone involved suffers. “If you have to fight before you get to solving the problem, you’re wasting time and damaging the good will between you.”

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.