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.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Army will now stop rejecting recruits for mental health issues

In an effort to reach a goal of recruiting 80,000 new soldiers by the end of next September, the Army is now willing to overlook some mental health issues that in the past would disqualify potential recruits.


According to a report from USA Today, the Army has lifted a 2009 ban on recruits with a history of bipolar disorder, depression, drug abuse, alcohol abuse, and self-mutilation. The ban was imposed in the wake of a series of suicides involving Army personnel. The Army policy is that with “proper documentation,” such as a psychiatric exam, a detailed statement from the prospective recruit, medical records, and photos submitted by the recruiter, a waiver can be granted.

U.S. Army photo by Stephen Standifird

“With the additional data available, Army officials can now consider applicants as a whole person, allowing a series of Army leaders and medical professionals to review the case fully to assess the applicant’s physical limitations or medical conditions and their possible impact upon the applicant’s ability to complete training and finish an Army career,” Lt. Col. Randy Taylor, an Army spokesman told USA Today. “These waivers are not considered lightly.”

In October, WATM reported that the Army was making exceptions for marijuana use and relying on so-called “category IV” recruits to make its quota. The fiscal year 2017 quota was 69,000.  While some point to a strong economy as the reason for the trouble making recruiting quotas, others think that other reasons could explain the difficulty.

U.S. Army National Guard photo by Pfc. Andrew Valenza

Elaine Donnelly, the President of the Center for Military Readiness, told WATM when asked for comment, “I’m wondering if the Army’s dubious and possibly unprecedented ‘solution’ to the recruiting problem is symptomatic of the larger issue of the decline in interest among qualified potential recruits. If interest is declining steeply, along with physical capabilities needed to succeed in boot camp, why is that happening?  To simply draw a correlation between a stronger economy and difficulty meeting recruiting goals overlooks the obvious: correlation is not causation.”

“Perhaps the reason recruiters are struggling more than they did during strong-economy years in the past is because young people are not attracted to an organization that seems more interested in political correctness than in its primary mission – defending the country.  To find out, the DoD will have to ask the right questions,” she added.

Army recruits practice patrol tactics while marching during U.S. Army basic training at Fort Jackson, SC. USAF photo by Staff Sgt. Shawn Weismiller.

Last month, a federal court issued an injunction preventing the Department of Defense from implementing an August 25 memo by President Trump that would have the effect of revoking the June 2016 order by President Obama allowing transgendered individuals to openly serve.

Articles

Why Iran is ‘playing with fire’ in the Persian Gulf against US Navy ships

For the fifth time in about a month Iranian fast-attack craft have harassed US Navy ships with “unsafe and unprofessional” maneuvers at sea in the gulf between Saudi Arabia and Iran.


While experts acknowledge that Iran is “playing with fire” against the best navy in the world, don’t expect these incidents to stop any time soon.

“The number of unsafe, unprofessional interactions for first half of the year is nearly twice as much as same period in 2015, trend has continued. There’s already more in 2016 than all of 2015,” Commander Bill Urban of the Navy’s 5th fleet told Business Insider in a phone interview.

Iranian fast-attack boats during a naval exercise in 2015. | Wikimedia photo by Sayyed Shahaboddin Vajedi

Urban stressed that despite the Iranian navy fast-attack craft being several orders of magnitude less potent than US Navy ships, the threat they pose in the gulf is very real.

“Any time another vessel is charging in on one of your ships and they’re not talking on the radio … you don’t know what their intentions are,” said Urban.

Urban confirmed that Iran sends small, fast attack ships to “swarm” and “harass” larger US Naval vessels that could quite easily put them at the bottom of the ocean, but the ships pose a threat beyond firepower.

According to Urban, these ships are “certainly armed vessels with crew-manned weapons, not unarmed ships. I wouldn’t discount the ability to be a danger. A collision at sea even with a much larger ship is always something that could cause damage to a ship or injure personnel.”

In the most recent episode at sea, Urban said that an Iranian craft swerved in front of the USS Firebolt, a US Coastal Patrol craft, and stopped dead in its path, causing the Firebolt to have to adjust course or risk collision.

“This kind of provocative, harassing technique risks escalation and miscalculation.”

The messages Iran wants to send

Picture of US Sailors captured by Iranian fast-attack craft in the Gulf. | Released by Iranian Revolutionary Guards on Jan. 13, 2016.

“In my view, Khamenei (Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic) decided it’s time to send a message — I’m here and I’m unhappy,” Cliff Kupchan, Chairman of Eurasia Group and expert on Iran, told Business Insider in a phone interview.

According to Kupchan, the Iranian navy carries out these stunts under directions straight from the top because of frustrations with the Iran nuclear deal. Despite billions of dollars in sanction relief flowing into Iran following the deal, Kupchan says Iran sees the US as “preventing European and Asian banks from moving into Iran and financing Iranian businesses,” and therefore not holding up their end of the Iran nuclear deal.

But despite their perception that the US has under delivered on the promises of the Iran nuclear deal, Kupchan says Iran will absolutely not walk away from the deal, which has greatly improved their international standing and financial prospects.

The lifting of sanctions on Iran’s oil has resulted in “billions in additional revenue … They’re not gonna walk away from that.”

So Iran seems to be simply spinning their wheels to score political points with hardliners, but what if the worst happens and there is a miscalculation in a conflict between Iranian and US naval vessels resulting in the loss of life?

The coastal patrol ship USS Squall, one of the ships harassed by the Iranians. | US Navy photo by Mass Communications Specialist Michelle Turner

“The concern is miscalculation,” said Kupchan. “Some guy misjudges the speed of his boat, people could die. There is a lot on the line.”

According to Kupchan, as well as other experts on the subject, Iran’s navy doesn’t stand a serious chance against modern US Navy ships.

“Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps boats and the Iranian Navy are not very capable or modern,” said Kupchan. The fast-attack craft we’ve seen challenge US Navy boats have simply been older speed boats, some Russian-made, outfitted with guns.

The Iranian craft can certainly bother US Navy ships by risking collisions and functioning as “heavily armed gnats, or mosquitoes” that swarm US ships, but a recent test carried out by the Navy confirms that the gunships wouldn’t have much trouble knocking them out of the water. The ensuing international incident, however, would dominate headlines for weeks.

“The wood is dry in US and Iranian relations,” said Kupchan, suggesting that a small miscalculation could spark a major fire, and that harassing these ships is “one of the ways the Iranian political system lets off steam.”

“Hardliners on both sides would go nuts,” said Kupchan, referencing both the conservative Islamist Iranians and the conservative US hawks who would not pass up any opportunity to impinge Obama over his perceived weakness against the Iranians.

Yet Kupchan contends that even a lethal incident would not end the deal. Both sides simply have too much riding on the deal’s success: Obama with his foreign policy legacy, and Iran with their financial redemption and status in the region as the main adversary to Western powers.

However Iran’s Khamenei may be sending a second message to incoming US leadership, specifically Hillary Clinton, who seems likely to be the next commander in chief. “They know Clinton is tough,” said Kupchan, and Khamenei may be addressing Clinton with a second message, saying “Madame Secretary, I’m still here, I know you’re tough, but I’m ready.”

For now, Kupchan expects these incidents at sea to carry on as Iran vents about their larger frustrations, and that a violent exchange would “not be the end of the deal,” or the start of a larger war, “but a serious international incident.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

A Soviet pilot claims he brought down Francis Gary Powers – not a missile

In the late 1950s and early 1960s, the United States had near-perfect intelligence photos of the entire Soviet Union. In the days before satellite imagery, the Air Force had to go out and get this kind of intel the old-fashioned way, using a camera and flying over the target. This was inherently dangerous, especially over a place like the Soviet Union. The only defense aerial reconnaissance pilots had in these early days was the U-2 spy plane, an aircraft that flew so high it was out of range of most surface-to-air missiles.

It wasn’t.


American U-2 Pilot Francis Gary Powers in front of one of the infamous spy planes.

The CIA tasked pilot Francis Gary Powers for its 24th and most ambitious spy plane flyover yet. Rather than enter and exit through the same flight path, Powers would fly from high above Peshawar, Pakistan and on to Norway on a flight plan that would take him over possible nuclear missile and submarine sites in Tyuratam, Sverdlovsk, Kirov, Kotlas, Severodvinsk, and Murmansk.

Along the way, Powers faced intercept attempts from MiG-19 and Su-9 fighters, but of course, the U-2 was flying much too high for just any fighter to intercept. The fighters were even ordered to ram Powers if necessary. After flying over the Chelyabinsk-65 plutonium production facility, Powers’ U-2 came under heavy fire from S-75 Dvina surface-to-air missile batteries near Kosulino in the Ural Mountains. This is where the U-2 was brought down. Historical reports agree a missile from the S-75 exploded behind Powers’ plane and took it down. But one Russian pilot disagrees.

He was there, too, he says.

Soviet Su-9 Fishpot fighters.

Soviet Air Force Captain Igor Mentyukov was flying an intercepting Su-9 “Fishpot” fighter in the skies over the Urals that day. Mentyukov says one Su-9 attempted to ram the U-2 but missed due to the differences in speed between the two aircraft. He also says the explosions from the S-75 missile battery would have completely annihilated Powers’ aircraft and that it couldn’t possibly have taken a hit at 70,000 feet and still been recreated on the ground. No, Mentyukov says it was the slipstream from his Su-9 that brought Powers down, causing the U-2 to break apart.

Powers was able to eject and, surviving the 70,000-foot fall, opted not to use the poison the CIA gave him to use in case of capture. Eventually, the U.S. was forced to acknowledge Powers and his mission. After spending nearly two years in a Soviet prison, he was traded for Soviet spy KGB Colonel William Fisher, who went by the alias Rudolf Abel.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Pre-order your ‘Baby Yoda’ toy now while you still can

Hasbro finally announced that they are making holiday spring wishes come true with ‘Baby Yoda’ toys.

Well, not Baby Yoda, because obviously that character isn’t Yoda, but he doesn’t have a name or a species yet and “The Child” isn’t as much fun to say.

So if the Baby Yoda Funko Pop didn’t do it for you or your children or your husband, then check out these collectibles:


Baby Yoda Talking Plush – Official Teaser

www.youtube.com

Baby Yoda Talking Plush – Official Teaser

BAHAHAHAHA watch that video with the sound on.

So far, this plush is the only physical toy we’ve seen but the other mock-ups look pretty cute.

Don’t forget to use Amazon Smile.

The Child Talking Plush

This little guy comes with 10 sound effects, as seen in the video above, and is soft and cuddly, which honestly makes sense because we all want to just cuddle the sh** out of the Yoda Baby.

The Black Series

The Black Series will feature other characters from The Mandalorian so you can collect them all! Each sold separately.

6.5-inch Posable Action Figure

You can make this little guy raise his teeny tiny little arm and use the Force! Don’t pretend like you won’t.

These guys all seem to be really into his whole “eat a live frog” phase…

For the Bounty Collection, you can be just like our Mandalorian and collect the baby! Isn’t that fun? These little 2.2-inch Yoda Babies come in three 2-packs “to choose from.” None in the bassinet, though. Interesting.

Um. One of those poses is called “don’t leave” — talk about manipulation.

Funko

Oh, and don’t forget the obligatory Funko Pop! version.

So, which of these are your favorites?

Articles

China posts sub hunter aircraft in disputed island chain

China’s newest maritime patrol aircraft has made a debut by deploying to Hainan Island, a sign that Beijing wants to improve its anti-submarine warfare capabilities in the disputed South China Sea, a major maritime flashpoint.


Crewmen aboard the Los Angeles-class nuclear powered attack submarine USS Asheville (SSN 758), man the topside navigation watch as the submarine operates at high speed near San Diego. U.S. Navy photo by Journalist 2nd Class Thomas C. Peterson. (RELEASED)

According to a report by DefenseNews.com, the People’s Liberation Army Navy Air Force has deployed a new version of the Y-8 maritime patrol plane. This version, the Y-8Q, appears to have a magnetic anomaly detector (MAD) on the tail, giving it a profile similar to the P-3 Orion. Both planes are four-engine turbo-prop aircraft.

The aircraft was seen by commercial satellites at Lingshui, a base the Chinese have on Hainan Island. Scramble.nl notes that the 9th Air Division is deployed at Lingshui, and also has the KJ-500H, an airborne early warning variant. MilitaryFactory.com notes that the baseline Y-8 is a version of the Antonov An-12 transport.

A KJ-200 airborne early warning aircraft, similar to the KJ-500 China is also deploying. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

China has been strongly asserting claims to the South China Sea. In 2001, a PLANAF J-8B Finback based out of Hainan Island collided with a United States Navy EP-3E Aries II electronic surveillance aircraft. The Chinese pilot, Lieutenant Wang Wei, was killed, while the American EP-3E landed at Hainan Island and the crew was held for almost two weeks.

In 2016, an international arbitration panel ruled against the Chinese claims in the South China Sea, but the Chinese boycotted the process. They have built a number of bases in the disputed region, and have operated J-11 Flankers in the area, and have threatened to fine American warships that do not follow Chinese regulations in the body of water.

Chinese aircraft have also been involved in a number of close encounters in recent months.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Mat Best Has Something to Say…

My first impression is that Mat Best is the kind of guy you want to party with. Or at the very least take a shot with. Whether it’s bikini snaps, whiskey or coffee, you can tell within seconds of meeting Mat that he is all about living life to the fullest. For real.


The former Ranger turned contractor is the internet icon behind Article 15 clothing, Leadslingers Whiskey, and most recently Black Rifle Coffee Company. But that’s just the beginning of Mat’s second act. He’s walking into the WATM office as the author of his newly released memoir, Thank You For My Service, and he has something powerful to say to us all…(spoiler alert).

For the first time, Mat’s taken down some walls and opened himself up in his book in a way that even his business partners have never seen. He’s honest. He’s vulnerable, and even better he’s embraced the awkward. Especially when it comes to the most cliche statement in the history of veterans, “Thank you for your service.” A statement that has been awkward and fallen flat to so many veterans is now Mat’s source of strength.

As we mic up for the interview, I am just beginning to realize that my initial impressions don’t even scratch the surface of Mat’s world. This is man and warrior who has garnered billions of views across the internet with his hilarious videos, yet, his humour is the tool that has lifted him from tragedy. This is a very different Mat than we have seen on Youtube or Instagram and for damn sure I am going to listen to what he has to say.

WATM: Can you give us a brief intro about you?

Mat Best: My name is Mat Best. I am an internet influencer. I hate that, just kidding. My name is Mat Best, and I’m the co-founder of Black Rifle Coffee.

WATM: Are you a Navy Seal?

Mat Best: I am not a Navy Seal, although I am taking tips from their hairstylists.

WATM: So if you’re not a Navy Seal, why’d you write a book?

Mat Best: I thought we have to get the message out about the amazing individuals of the 75th Ranger Regiment, which is where I came from and grew up. So that’s the story I wanted to tell.

WATM: I love it. All right, Good.

Mat Best:You were happy with that one. He was like, “I gotta hit the Navy Seal jokes.”

WATM: I didn’t even write that joke but yes, it makes me happy. Ok, let’s go back to when you’re in the Army. What kind of soldier would you say you were?

Mat Best: I would say that I was the team room jokester, but then took my job very serious, and I would like to think of myself as an absolute professional while I’m doing my job.

WATM: Is there anything you’ve learned, especially being in the Ranger Regiment, that’s helped you in business and now writing a book?

Mat Best: Absolutely. I think being in the military, specifically the Ranger Regiment, you consistently solve complex problems. It’s you and your buddies on the ground and you’re presented with all these crazy situations, and you can’t ask for help. It’s up to you and the team to execute and follow through with the mission plan. And I think that is so attributable to business, because no one tells you what to do, what the right answer is. You’re just in a gunfight, and you got to fix it. And sometimes it’s ugly. And so, all those lessons learned in the military directly apply to business. And that’s why at Black Rifle, we try to hire so many veterans, because they come from such a diverse background, that they have so many applicable skills that a lot of civilians don’t have.

WATM: What do you think makes Black Rifle Coffee Company special compared to other companies?

Mat Best: Mainly, I would say what makes Black Rifle Coffee so special is our mission statement and our values. We’re very transparent with what we put out there, and we always say, “Vote with your dollar.” And I think it’s refreshing in American culture to know who you’re supporting when you purchase a good, and not only a good, but a very high quality good. So that’s what we take pride in. When you buy Black Rifle Coffee, you know what our mission statement is, and you know what we’re going to do.

WATM: Was there anything specifically from your time in uniform that transformed you into who you are today?

Mat Best: I’ve had a few tragedies with friends while deployed, and honestly, it just really gave me this profound perspective on life. That it’s insanely short, you never know when it’s going to end, and that only supported my goal to make people laugh, humor through horror. We have one shot at this life, there’s no dress rehearsal, let’s just live it to its fullest. And it’s okay to enjoy life. Have fun, laugh. We don’t know how long we’re going to be here. And so those experiences really helped develop me to who I am today, to not really sweat the small stuff. Let’s focus on the big stuff, health, well-being, and all that.

WATM: Did you ever get an article 15?

Mat Best: No. That’s why I laugh. People will say, “You started a company called Article 15 Clothing.” I’ve got a good conduct medal, man.

WATM: What did that transition look like for you?

Mat Best: Yeah, mainly when I got off active duty, I moved here to Los Angeles, and I had absolutely no clue what I was going to do. I went through a pretty deep and heavy transition and learned a lot about myself, what I wanted to do. Kind of regaining that sense of purpose and what I wanted to devote my life to, which subsequently made me be a contractor, because I really missed the team mentality and the brotherhood. For a while, I thought I really missed war, but what I really missed was the camaraderie and the brotherhood that was enveloped in that experience. And so, once I became a contractor, that made it very clear in my mind that this is what I want to do. I want to live in this community, and I want to provide value in this community.

WATM: How did you decide to go down this route of entrepreneurship, especially on video content and being an influencer?

Mat Best: I needed an outlet creatively. So I just started making YouTube videos to make five people laugh, and five turned to a thousand, a thousand turned to 100,000 and it kind of snowballed effect. And what I realized is that there was such a want and need for that style of content that hadn’t been done before. And it’s pretty cool to see a lot of other influencers in the military making people laugh, doing callback jokes to basic training, just creating that military experience so we can not relive it, but have those fond memories of service post-service.

WATM: What do you think about the term ‘influencer?’

Mat Best: I think ‘influencer’ applies to certain people. I think influence means you have influence, you’re not just famous for posting a likable photo. And I think people are finding that out on Instagram, where they have followers, and they have certain engagement metrics, but they’re not able to influence a message or a culture or something like that. It’s a tricky term. Overused.

WATM: What do you feel when somebody says, “Hey Mat, thank you for your service?”

Mat Best: It’s a challenging question when people say, “Thank you for your service,” I think there is a sense of empathy and appreciation in the statement, but I think civilian culture has been so conditioned just to say that. Everybody wants to support veterans until it’s time to support veterans. I think a basic statement of, “Thank you for your service,” isn’t enough. Let’s go work on treatment of individuals that have moral grief and transition issues. Let’s actually impact people rather than just say that. And again, that’s my personal opinion. There are a lot of people out there that really appreciate that statement, but that’s why I named my book. “Thank You for My Service,” because I really, really appreciated being part of the community I was in special operations and doing the job. I mean, taxpayers let me go jump out of planes and fast rope out of helicopters. How cool is that?

WATM: So let’s get into the book, ‘Thank You For My Service.’ Why should we ‘thank YOU for your service?’

Mat Best: We shouldn’t thank me for my service. I want to thank you for your service and my service. No, I thought it was a funny play. Some people read it immediately and go, “Whoa, that’s super douchey.” And they go, “Oh, I get it. What he’s trying to say there.” So it was a play on that whole societal thing of people don’t know if they should thank veterans for their service. And most importantly, what an amazing experience for me to grow up. I would never even be close to the man I am today if I didn’t serve in such an amazing unit, like 75th ranger regiment. So I’m just proud of it, and I want to share that experience that I’m not a victim. It made me a better individual, even with all the stuff I saw. So I want to be a good steward of that community, and hopefully influence people to serve their country, serve their communities, and know that’s a powerful thing.

WATM: So is writing a book. Congrats man, that is a huge step and powerful.

Mat Best: Thank you. And it’s not in crayon. My book’s not in crayon, guys. This is a big moment.

WATM: Obviously, you put a lot of time into doing this.

Mat Best: I don’t think I ever really set out to write a book. It was never a part of that. I had not journal entries, but I guess you could say that I documented some of the worst times in my life, because I didn’t ever want to forget how crappy it felt. And so whenever I’m feeling down, I can look back at transitioning out of the military. I can look back at losing friends and being like, “This is why I’m here. This is what’s going to motivate me. Get off your suck. Wake up, let’s go f*cking work.” And so it really just transcribed into me talking to people, having influence, and people said, “I want to know Mat’s whole story.” And really for me, the only way to tell my entire story is to put it on paper. I mean you can do videos, you can chat about it, but a lot of people just see the extension of my personality through the entertainment and the skits that I do, which I fully enjoy. But that’s a singular perspective on my personality. So, kind of wanted to put it all in there, make people laugh, write something that no one else has ever seen in their life before, because it’s a completely different book than an average military book, that’s for sure.

WATM: In the book, you talk about how you’ve used humor as a way to get through some very tough points in your life. Are there specific instances in the book that [were] very powerful for you?

Mat Best: Yeah, I think that’s a loaded question, but it’s a good one. I think there’s certain aspects and stories in the book that you’ll see where humor, I applied humor in a very dark situation, where people were just trying to kill us, and now we’re cleaning up the aftermath, and you can tell people are a little shook up and rattled. So I just used humor to kind of offset that, get their head in the game, realize we’re here for a mission. This is really messed up. Because when do you expect ever to, as an individual, to just see people blowing up and body parts flying and shooting people? No one sets you up for that experience until it happens. You’ve got to combat it with humor a little bit. Still being a professional, obviously, but easing the moment, I would say.

WATM: Was there ever a moment you looked at the book and said, “I can’t believe I’m writing this right now?”

Mat Best: There were multiple times in the book, absolutely, where it was very challenging for me to relive a few things and I got kind of caught up and almost definitely pretty much cried a few times where I’m like, “I’ll set that down.” And there was definitely other times in the book where I had to go get a shot of whiskey or a glass of wine because I’m like, “I don’t want to be that open about this, you know? And I’m like, “But that’s how I make a good book. I have to be honest and transparent and show my struggles and my successes, because that’s what’s going to influence people to live their own quality of life.” If I just write this top level crap book that’s like, “Look at me, I served the country, I’m awesome. I do business,” what value does that bring?

WATM: We don’t want to give it all away. But do you think there’s something that maybe the audience doesn’t know that they’re going to find in this book?

Mat Best: For sure. Yeah. I put a lot in this book that no one’s ever known. To quote Evan Hafer, my business partner at Black Rifle Coffee, he said, “I didn’t want to read your book. I didn’t want to read it.” And I’m like, “Well, thanks for being honest, man.” He’s like, “Well, I’ve known you for six-plus years. I know your stories.” And then when he finally read it, he went, “Dude, I couldn’t put it down. It was so interesting, and I got to a see side of my friend I didn’t even know.”

WATM: Would you say you’re fully transitioned out? Do you feel like you’re a civilian at this point, or is there always going to be a part of you that’s related to the military?

Mat Best: At least now in the workings of Black Rifle, I’ll always be part of the military for sure. To say that I don’t go look back at old photos or old experiences and miss it and for some reason still wish I was deployed fighting a war when I have a beautiful wife and a successful business, it’s still in there. So it’s always there, and I’ll always be a part of the community for sure, because I just want to see it be successful.

WATM: You offer a lot, especially to veterans out there, but not always just the veterans. Is there any advice or things that you would love your followers or people that read the book to know that you really live by?

Mat Best: Yeah, I would say as far as the transition piece, it’d be proper planning prevents piss poor performance. You have to have a mission plan going into anything. It’s just like when you’re going to the grocery store, and you have kids, all right, I need the car seat. You’re planning, you’re in that planning phase. And I think what I didn’t do when I got out, I didn’t plan for anything. I’m like, “I’ll figure it out,” in my absolute stubborn ways. And that set me up for a nosedive. And so going forward, I’ve always tried to plan, plan for the worst, expect the best, kind of thing. I know I’m just saying catchphrases, but they actually are applicable if you follow them. I mean, anybody can read a Pinterest quote, right? But if you live it, that’s a different story.

Learn more about Mat and his journey in his new book, Thank You For My Service.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The sailor from the iconic V-J Day in Times Square picture has died

On August 14th, 1945, as news of the Allied victory over Imperial Japan reached the United States, Life Magazine photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt immortalized an unlikely pair in a photograph which has come to represent the jubilation and relief Americans felt upon the conclusion of the Second World War.

The picture features a sailor planting a kiss on a very surprised dental assistant in the middle of Times Square, New York City, while onlookers smile, laugh, and walk by. On February 17th, one George Mendonsa — widely believed to be the sailor in that image — passed away at the age of 95.


Mendonsa was preceded in death by his paramour in the image, Greta Zimmer Friedman, who died in 2016 of age-related health complications.

Alfred Eisenstaedt signing a print of his V-J Day in Times Square picture.

(Wikimedia Commons photograph by William Waterway Marks)

For years, the identities of the two kissers were unknown, with a number of men and women stepping forward to lay claim to their part in what soon turned into one of the most famous and iconic photographs of all time. Friedman herself did not see the picture until the 1960s, when she came across it in book of Eisenstaedt’s works.

After contacting Life Magazine with her account of what went down that balmy August day in New York, it became apparent that she was undoubtedly the female participant in the picture, though Life only got back to her in 1980 to confirm. It was just around that same time that Life brought along George Mendonsa, who claimed to be the sailor.

V-J Day in Times Square.

(Wikimedia Commons photograph by Alfred Eisenstaedt)

Though, according to Friedman, the kiss happened quickly and was a complete surprise to her, she recognized Mendonsa and held that he was the celebrating smoocher from that day, celebrating the end of the war.

Mendonsa served on a destroyer as a helmsman and was, at the time, on shore leave from the USS The Sullivans dreading yet another wartime deployment overseas. As such, the young sailor was with his fiancee (yes, you read that right) taking in shows on Broadway and partying it up before he was due to ship out again.

The news of the war ending was obviously a major relief to the sailor who, living up to the drinking reputation of sailors worldwide, was already sporting an alcohol-induced buzz by early afternoon. He apparently couldn’t help himself amidst the throngs of euphoric New Yorkers and pulled the first woman he saw into a quick kiss.

As it turned out, the first woman he saw was a young dental assistant named Greta, who was told to close the dental clinic and go home to celebrate when news broke about the Japanese surrender in the Pacific Theater.

Greta Friedman and George Mendonsa as the guests of honor at a 4th of July parade in 2009.

George’s then-fiancee, Rita Petrie, is visible in the picture standing there with a laugh watching her sailor’s antics. She must have been greatly caught up in the celebration, as she later recalled, because it didn’t register on her mind that her man had just swapped spit with another woman right in front of her.

Either that, or Rita was in a very forgiving mood, as she spent the next 70 years blissfully married to the love of her life — George Mendonsa — who later joined the family business and became a fisherman in Rhode Island.

Friedman let on that she and Mendonsa maintained a cordial relationship due to their bond as the kissing couple from the V-J Day in Times Square picture, exchanging cards throughout the years before she died in 2016.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How to tell where US veteran served based on their medals

The US military has a host of awards and medals for its service members.

Some awards, like the Medal of Honor and the Silver and Bronze Star awards, are given to service members who display bravery in combat.

Others are given for serving in specific operations or even missions — these are known as campaign awards.

Depending on the medals a service member or veteran wears, it’s typically possible to determine which wars or regions of the world they have served in.

Scroll through to see campaign awards for operations and missions since the Korean War.


The National Defense Service Medal is automatically awarded to anyone who signs up to serve during wartime.

The medal awarded for support of Operation Inherent Resolve was authorized for service starting in 2014.

(Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Lyle Wilkie)

The ISIS fight

Service members who have supported Operation Inherent Resolve, the US mission in Syria to combat the Islamic State, are now eligible for a medal.

The medal was approved in 2016 — prior to that, service members who supported OIR were awarded the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary (GWOT-E) medal.

Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.

Global war on terror

There are two different campaign awards for service in the US’s war against terror.

The GWOT Service medal is awarded to service members who serve in either a direct or indirect role in support of operations during the global war on terror, including personnel stateside who process paperwork for deployed troops.

The GWOT Expeditionary Medal, seen on the left, is more specific — service members must deploy for service in an anti-terrorism operation. Ground troops deployed to Somalia for over 30 days, for example, would qualify for this medal.

A service member who qualifies for the GWOT-E typically also qualifies for the service medal.

The Afghanistan Campaign Medal and the Global War on Terror Expeditionary medal are not authorized for the same period or action.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Alexx Pons)

Afghanistan

The Afghanistan Campaign award is given to service members who complete at least 30 days in Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

The Iraq Campaign Medal.

(Army Institute of Heraldry)

Iraq

The Iraq Campaign Medal is awarded to service members who deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

For both the Afghanistan and Iraq campaign awards, service members are only eligible for one of each, regardless of how many times they deployed to the country.

Stars may be worn on the ribbons as indicators of participation in specific, designated missions during the operation.

The Antarctica Service Medal and ribbon are awarded to people who spend at least 30 consecutive days in the Antarctic or fly 15 missions into or out of the continent.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Alexx Pons)

Antarctica

The Coast Guard and Navy have Arctic equivalents, which differ slightly but both reverse the color scheme of the Antarctic ribbon and medal, with black or dark blue in the center and white on the outer edges.

The Kosovo campaign medal was awarded to service members who served during the Kosovo Defense Campaign, which began in 1999.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. John Valceanu)

Kosovo

The NATO bombing campaign led to the retreat of Yugoslav forces from Kosovo. A peace-keeping force remains there to this day.

The Kuwaiti Liberation Medal, government of Kuwait.

Liberation of Kuwait

Depending on their specific mission and location, service members who participated in the liberation of Kuwait may have qualified for awards presented by the governments of Saudi Arabia or Kuwait.

The Kuwaiti Liberation Medal, government of Kuwait.

Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm

The government of Kuwait authorized US personnel to wear this award if they served in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm in the early 1990s.

Southwest Asia Service Medal.

An arrangement of medals made during a military ceremony honoring Vietnam veterans.

(Photo by Jonathan Steffen)

Vietnam service

The Vietnam service ribbon has a yellow background with three red lines in the center and a green line on each side.

The award was given to service members who served in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, or air or water space in that region between 1965 and 1973.

Other medals depicted here are the Bronze Star, Army Commendation Medal, and Purple Heart.

Republic of Vietnam Campaign medal.

South Vietnam

This medal was awarded to service members who provided direct combat support to South Vietnam’s Armed Forces during the war.

Criteria included those who served for six months or more in South Vietnam or who were injured, captured, or killed in the line of duty.

The Republic of Korea Korean War Service Medal.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Alexx Pons)

Korean war

The Republic of Korea Korean War Service Medal was authorized in 1999 to honor the sacrifices of Korean War veterans.

This award specifically designates veterans who served in the country of Korea during the war.

The Korean Defense Service Medal is awarded to any US service member who has served in the Republic of Korea after July 1954.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Alexx Pons)

South Korea

Recognizing that the Korean War never ended, the Defense Department authorized the Korean Defense Service Medal for service members who deployed to or served in the Republic of Korea after July 1954.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

46 years later: Reviewing the timeline of the Watergate Scandal

This week in 1974, the country saw both the Watergate scandal come to an end and Richard Nixon’s presidency come to a close. The scandal that began on June 17, 1972, took two long years to unfold. In the end, the sitting President was impeached and subsequently resigned the office of the presidency, making him the first and only President ever to do so.

It’s been 46 years, but to this day, Watergate remains one of the most infamous political scandals in American history, complete with intrigue, cover-ups, money trails, secret informants and proverbial smoking guns.

For today’s history lesson, here’s a quick refresher and a timeline of events in the Watergate Scandal leading up to the resignation of former President Richard M. Nixon.


June 17, 1972

Five men — James McCord, Frank Sturgis, Bernard Barker and two accomplices — were arrested while trying to bug the Democratic National Committee’s headquarters at the Watergate hotel. Among their possessions were rolls of film, bugging devices and thousands of dollars in cash.

Bob Woodward, a young Washington Post reporter, was sent to the arraignment of the Watergate burglars, and another young reporter, Carl Bernstein, starts to do some digging of his own.

June 20, 1972

Bob Woodward had his first contact with “Deep Throat,” his source and informant for the story. Deep Throat’s identity remained hidden for 30 years. In 2005, (at the age of 91) Mark Felt, the Associate Director of the FBI (as the scandal played out), admitted that he was, in fact, Deep Throat.

June 22, 1972

At a press conference regarding the incident, President Nixon denied that the White House was involved in the incident, stating unequivocally, “The White House has no involvement in this particular incident.”

June 25, 1972

Alfred Baldwin, a former FBI agent involved with the scandal, agreed to cooperate with authorities in the investigation. Baldwin names E. Howard Hunt and G. Gordon Liddy as two of Nixon’s campaign aides who were involved in the burglary.

Aug. 1, 1972

The Washington Post reported that a ,000 check (funds intended for Nixon’s 1972 re-election campaign) was deposited in the bank account Bernard Barker — of one of the Watergate burglars.

August 29, 1972

Nixon continues to deny any involvement in the Watergate Burglary, telling reporters, “I can say categorically that his investigation indicates that no one on the White House staff, no one in this administration, presently employed, was involved in this very bizarre incident.”

In the same news conference, Nixon insists that there is no need for a special Watergate prosecutor.

September 1972

Deep Throat told Bob Woodward that the money for the burglary was controlled by assistants to Former Attorney General John Mitchell, who incidentally was now serving as the chief of Nixon’s re-election campaign. In words that would become Rule #1 in any good investigation, Felt told Woodward to “follow the money.”

September 29, 1972

The Washington Post reports that John Mitchell did, in fact, have control over that secret fund, while he was serving as Attorney General. When they reached out to Mitchell for comment, instead of cooperating, an enraged Mitchell threatened the reporters and Katherine Graham (publisher of The Washington Post). Woodward and Bernstein did not back down; instead, they printed Mitchell’s threat in the Post.

Oct. 10, 1972

Woodward and Bernstein report that the FBI made the connection between Nixon’s aides and the Watergate break-in.

November 7, 1972

Richard Nixon is elected to a second term in office; winning by a landslide against George McGovern.

Jan. 8, 1973

The Watergate break-in trials begin. Seven men go on trial, five of whom plead guilty.

Jan. 30, 1973

G. Gordon Liddy and James McCord were convicted for their roles in the Watergate break-in.

March 23, 1973

James McCord wrote a letter to Judge Sirica, who presided over the Watergate trial. The letter points to a conspiracy and a cover-up in the White House. The letter is read in open court.

April 30, 1973 

President Richard Nixon accepted responsibility for the scandal but maintained that he had no prior knowledge of it.

May 17th, 1973

Senate Watergate Committee begins public hearings that were nationally televised. During these hearing, Senator Howard Baker, R-Tenn., (Vice-Chairman of the committee) famously asked, “What did the President know, and when did he know it?”

May 18, 1973

Archibald Cox was appointed as a special prosecutor to lead the investigation into both Nixon’s re-election campaign and Watergate.

July 23, 1973

President Nixon was known to have recorded his calls in the Oval Office. It was believed he was in possession of dozens of tapes that proved his involvement in the cover-up; those tapes became known as the “Nixon Tapes.” The Senate Watergate Committee issues subpoenas for The Nixon Tapes after the President refused to turn them over.

July 27 -30, 1974

The articles of impeachment were approved by The House Judiciary Committee and proceedings begin. The articles of impeachment included obstruction of justice (impeding the Watergate investigation), abuse of power and violating public trust, and contempt of Congress by failing to comply with congressional subpoenas.

August 5, 1974

Folding under intense pressure, President Nixon finally releases the transcript of his conversations with then chief-of-staff, H. R. Haldeman. These transcripts proved that the President ordered a cover-up of the burglary at the Watergate Hotel on June 23. 1972, six days after the burglary.

August 8, 1974

In a nationally televised speech, the 37th President of the United States formally resigned, making him the first and only President ever to do so.

August 9, 1974

Richard Nixon signed his letter of resignation, and Gerald Ford was sworn in as the 38th President of the United States.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Here’s what would happen if North Korea tried to shoot down a US bomber

North Korea on Monday said it interpreted a tweet from President Donald Trump as a declaration of war and threatened to shoot down US B-1B Lancer strategic bombers even if they weren’t flying in its airspace — but such an attack is easier said than done.


The US frequently responds to North Korea’s provocative missile and nuclear tests by flying its B-1B Lancer — a long-range, high-altitude, supersonic bomber — near North Korea.

Fighter jets from South Korea and Japan often accompany the bomber, and sometimes they drop dummy bombs on a practice range near North Korea’s border.

The move infuriates North Korea, which lacks the air power to make a similar display. North Korea previously discussed firing missiles at Guam, where the US bases many of the bombers, and it has now discussed shooting one down in international airspace.

Related: This is what would happen if North Korea popped off an H-bomb in the Pacific

On Tuesday, South Korean media reported that North Korea had been reshuffling its defenses, perhaps preparing to make good on its latest threat.

But the age of the country’s air defenses complicates that task.

“North Korea’s air defenses are pretty vast but very dated,” Omar Lamrani, a senior military analyst for Stratfor, a geopolitical intelligence platform, told Business Insider.

Lamrani said North Korea had a few variants of older Soviet-made jets and some “knockoff” Soviet air defenses, such as the KN-06 surface-to-air missile battery that mimics Russia’s S-300 system.

B-1B Lancers fly in formation. Photo by US Forces Korea

From the ground, North Korea’s defenses are “not really a threat to high-flying aircraft, especially if you’re flying over water,” Lamrani said.

But North Korea does have one advantage: surprise.

When aircraft enter or come close to protected airspace, intercepts are common. Very often, military planes will fly near a group of jets and tell them they are entering or have entered guarded airspace and that they should turn back or else.

Also read: Here is what a war with North Korea could look like

Though the US, South Korea, and Japan all have advanced jets that could easily shoot down an approaching North Korean jet before it got close enough to strike, the US and North Korea are observing a cease-fire and are not actively at war. Therefore, a North Korean jet could fly right up to a US bomber or fighter and take a close-range shot with a rudimentary weapon that would have a good chance of landing.

North Korea would have “the first-mover advantage,” Lamrani said, but if the North Korean aircraft shot down the US’s, “they would pay a heavy price.”

Planes at the Wonsan Air Festival in Wonsan, North Korea, in September. | KCNA

For that reason, Lamrani said he found the scenario unlikely. The last time the US flew B-1s near North Korea, four advanced jet fighters accompanied it. North Korea’s air force is old and can’t train often because of fuel constraints, according to Lamrani. The US or its allies would quickly return the favor and destroy any offending North Korean planes.

Additionally, South Korean intelligence officials told NK News that North Korea couldn’t even reliably track the B-1B flights. To avoid surprising the North Koreans, the US even laid out its flight path, an official told NK News.

At this point, even North Korea must be aware it’s largely outclassed by the US and allied air forces, and that taking them on would be a “suicide mission,” Lamrani said.

Articles

North Korean nuke fears prompt interest in abandoned ICBM sites

As the owner selling an excavated underground Minuteman II missile site in Missouri on eBay, California investor Russ Nielsen reads the pulse of America’s darkest fears.


The number of people visiting the historic property’s eBay information page spikes like an EKG in a heart attack.

Ordinarily, the curious property located near Holden, MO, may get some 70 online views a day, Nielsen said by phone this week from California.

When Donald Trump won the presidency last November? Boom. The site was getting 140 to 150 hits a day.

And now, as North Korea’s volatile leader Kim Jong Un defiantly sends ballistic missiles over Japan, survivalists and the frightened are back at some 150 views a day.

“It’s definitely a ‘prepper’ kind of thing,” Nielsen said, referring to the slang term for people who want to be prepared in the event of widespread calamity and disorder.

Bomb shelter companies across the nation are reporting a boost in sales.

The selling price for Nielsen’s unique property, though, is steep for most people, he said. It’s going for $325,000. He’s had five potential buyers who were serious since he put it up for sale in the fall of 2015, he said. A couple of them are still trying to raise the financing.

What Nielsen recovered — at great cost and effort over a span of two years — is the “Mike-1” Minuteman II missile launch facility that housed the missileers who controlled the triggers to 10 of the 150 intercontinental missile sites scattered across central Missouri under the command of Whiteman Air Force Base.

Most of the Minuteman II sites — including all of the Missouri sites — were decommissioned some 20 years ago. Their shafts were buried under a mix of concrete, mud, and rock that was meant to deter any thoughts of reactivating them.

The project, including the maddening bureaucracy in getting his quixotic venture approved, turned into such a laborious boondoggle that Nielsen admits he wouldn’t have done it knowing what he knows now.

Russ Nielsen stands at the entrance of his Minuteman-II silo, before renovation. Photo by Joe Ledford of The Kansas City Star.

But, having endured it, he has relished the many inquiries he has received from veterans who served underground those many decades ago — “Ratmen,” they called themselves. The history of America’s Cold War has been fascinating.

The Minuteman II missiles represented the height of America’s Cold War arsenal, with about 1,000 of them forever ready to launch.

Some 450 sites with Minuteman III missiles remain ready in Montana, North Dakota, and Wyoming.

Image from the Kansas City Star

Not surprisingly, some of Nielsen’s most interested potential buyers have had an eye on the site’s unique history as well as its accommodations in the event of a national disaster.

One potential buyer has been trying to gather financing for an historical movie project, he said. Another has interest in turning it into a residential training facility for martial and military arts.

Not surprising for a property whose curb appeal requires a bit of imagination.

Articles

Group asks Army to end probe into alleged recruiting bonus fraud

A large association of enlisted National Guardsmen is calling on the Army to end its six-year criminal probe into a now-defunct recruiting bonus program, accusing investigators of inflicting “relentless harassment” on targeted soldiers.


The Army’s Criminal Investigation Command since 2011 has been investigating soldiers who participated in the National Guard Recruiting Assistance Program, or G-RAP. It created a new cadre of recruiting assistants who received up to $2,000 for each recruit they helped sign up to meet a soldier shortfall during two wars.

Army auditors found fraud in the form of recruiting assistants receiving money for people they did not assist and full-time recruiters receiving illegal kickbacks. But the amount of fraud has not come close to the $100 million figure predicted by the Army in 2014.

“We believe those still being investigated are unfairly being targeted and that the result of the investigation has ruined lives, careers, marriages, and credit; indeed, some have opted for suicide to end the relentless harassment,” said the open letter from the 40,000-member Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the United States.

“This harassment must stop now and complete restitution to those innocent Guard members must be made,” proclaimed the letter signed by the group’s 25 officers.

Frank Yoakum, executive director, said he plans to talk directly to top Army officials at the Pentagon next week. He said the enlisted group was trying to facilitate a joint letter with the larger National Guard Association of the United States, but that group never signed on.

“We’ve been kicking around what action to take for almost a year,” said the retired sergeant major.

Recruitment fraud has been much less pervasive than originally thought – U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Jon Soucy

The Washington Times has published stories on, and spoken with, Guardsmen who have been under investigation for years without a final outcome. Meanwhile, their uncertain status has played havoc with private-sector jobs, military careers and personal lives.

The Times recently published two stories on a Virgin Islands Guardsman, full-time recruiter First Sgt. Trevor Antoine, whose 18-year career is slated to end abruptly based on a CID report. Handed to his commander, the report says he committed theft and identity theft by sharing personal information with recruiting assistants.

There is no proof in the CID report that he received any money from recruiting assistants. The Times reported that the rules sent out by a private contractor changed frequently.

The G-RAP program was designed to increase recruitment in a time of need – Photo Courtesy of the DoD

At one time, assistants were urged to acquire ID information from recruiters such as Sgt. Antoine. The Army itself did not forbid the sharing by full-time recruiters it oversees until 2010, when the program was five years old. The Army ended G-RAP in 2012.

The enlisted association letter states, “We, the undersigned, as officers of the Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the United States, call upon the Congress of the United States and the Secretary and Chief of Staff of the Army in the strongest possible way to stop the investigation of National Guard members by Army Criminal Investigation Division agents relative to the Guard Recruiting Assistance Program (G-RAP).”

It is unclear how many Guardsmen remain under investigation. The Times reported last year that the Army had identified $6 million in fraudulent payments.

DoD Photo by Jeffrey Castro

Out of more than 100,000 National Guard and Army recruiting assistants during the G-RAP period, 492 were determined to be guilty or suspected of fraud, though the majority (305) received $15,000 or less each. Of that group, 124 assistants took less than$5,000 each.

The Times has asked the Army to update these figures. A spokeswoman said the Army is working to acquire updated numbers.

Liz Ullman, a business owner in Colorado, became so alarmed at CID’s long nationwide probe, she started a campaign to expose what she considers overreaching.

She started a webpage, Defend Our Protectors, communicated with Guardsmen under investigation and posts court discovery documents.

“Their lives are being turned upside down,” she said. “They are losing their jobs.”