A military working dog was killed in a fierce firefight in Afghanistan in November 2018, and his actions in his final moments saved the lives of several US soldiers.
Maiko, a multi-purpose canine (MPC) assigned to Army 75th Ranger Regiment’s 2nd Battalion, was killed during a raid on Al Qaeda militants in Nimruz Province. Sgt. Leandro Jasso, who was assigned to the same unit, was also killed during this engagement.
“Maiko was killed in action while leading Rangers into a breach of a targeted compound” on Nov. 24, 2018, an unofficial biography leaked online read. “Maiko’s presence and actions inside the building directly caused the enemy to engage him, giving away his position and resulting in the assault force eliminating the threat without injury or loss of life.”
“The actions of Maiko directly saved the life of his handler [Staff Sgt.] Jobe and other Rangers,” the document said.
The accuracy of the biography, which first appeared on social media, was confirmed to Stars and Stripes by a spokesperson for the 75th Ranger Regiment at Fort Benning in Georgia.
The dog was born in Holland in 2011 and brought to the US when he was 15 months old. Maiko was seven years old and on his sixth deployment to Afghanistan at the time of his death. He is said to have participated in over 50 Ranger-led raids involving IED detection, building clearance, and combatant apprehension.
“Rest assured Maiko never backed down from a fight,” his biography explained, adding that this dog “embodied what it means to be a Ranger … The loss of Maiko is devastating to all that knew and worked with him.”
According to a Bloomberg News report from 2017, there are roughly 1,600 military working dogs serving in the field or aiding veterans. These dogs go through extensive training, and a full-trained military dog is worth around the same amount as a small missile.
Maiko was purchased by the Regimental Dog Program in 2012 and put through the Regimental Basic/Advanced Handler’s Course before he was ultimately assigned to the 75th Ranger Regiment’s 2nd Battalion. He was handled by five different handlers during his career.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The ongoing volcanic eruptions from Hawaii have been so massive that astronauts can see them from space — and the pictures are incredible.
Ricky Arnold and AJ Feustel, US astronauts stationed on to the International Space Station, posted dramatic photos to Twitter of the ash plume emerging from the Kilauea volcano on the east of the Big Island.
(Ricky Arnold / Twitter)
The volcano erupted on May 10, 2018, and is showing no signs of slowing down.
The crater is already emitting noxious fumes which can make breathing difficult for children and elderly people. The ash cloud has reached as high as 12,000 feet about sea level.
Feustal wrote: “It is easy to see the activity on Hawaii’s Kilauea Volcano from the International Space Station. We hope those in the vicinity of the eruption can stay out of harm’s way.”
(Ricky Arnold / Twitter)
Lava and molten rock bursting from the volcano’s fissures also destroyed at least 26 homes and four other buildings over the weekend, forcing 1,700 people to evacuate.
The US Geological Survey issued a rare “red alert” warning, which means a major volcanic eruptions is imminent or underway, and that the ash clouds could affect air traffic.
Here’s a shot of the volcano from a lot closer to the ground:
(Kevan Kamibayashi / US Geological Survey)
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Russian television anchor Pavel Lobkov was in the studio getting ready for his show when jarring news flashed across his phone: Some of his most intimate messages had just been published to the web.
Days earlier, the veteran journalist had come out live on air as HIV-positive, a taboo-breaking revelation that drew responses from hundreds of Russians fighting their own lonely struggles with the virus. Now he’d been hacked.
“These were very personal messages,” Lobkov said in a recent interview, describing a frantic call to his lawyer in an abortive effort to stop the spread of nearly 300 pages of Facebook correspondence, including sexually explicit messages. Even two years later, he said, “it’s a very traumatic story.”
The Associated Press found that Lobkov was targeted by the hacking group known as Fancy Bear in March 2015, nine months before his messages were leaked. He was one of at least 200 journalists, publishers and bloggers targeted by the group as early as mid-2014 and as recently as a few months ago.
The AP identified journalists as the third-largest group on a hacking hit list obtained from cybersecurity firm Secureworks, after diplomatic personnel and U.S. Democrats. About 50 of the journalists worked at The New York Times. Another 50 were either foreign correspondents based in Moscow or Russian reporters like Lobkov who worked for independent news outlets. Others were prominent media figures in Ukraine, Moldova, the Baltics or Washington.
The list of journalists provides new evidence for the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusion that Fancy Bear acted on behalf of the Russian government when it intervened in the U.S. presidential election. Spy agencies say the hackers were working to help Republican Donald Trump. The Russian government has denied interfering in the American election.
Previous AP reporting has shown how Fancy Bear — which Secureworks nicknamed Iron Twilight — used phishing emails to try to compromise Russian opposition leaders, Ukrainian politicians and U.S. intelligence figures, along with Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta and more than 130 other Democrats.
Lobkov, 50, said he saw hacks like the one that turned his day upside-down in December 2015 as dress rehearsals for the email leaks that struck the Democrats in the United States the following year.
“I think the hackers in the service of the Fatherland were long getting their training on our lot before venturing outside.”
New Yorker writer Masha Gessen said it was also in 2015 — when Secureworks first detected attempts to break into her Gmail — that she began noticing people who seemed to materialize next to her in public places in New York and speak loudly in Russian into their phones, as if trying to be overheard. She said this only happened when she put appointments into the online calendar linked to her Google account.
Gessen, the author of a book about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s rise to power, said she saw the incidents as threats.
“It was really obvious,” she said. “It was a classic KGB intimidation tactic.”
Other U.S.-based journalists targeted include Josh Rogin, a Washington Post columnist, and Shane Harris, who was covering the intelligence community for The Daily Beast in 2015. Harris said he dodged the phishing attempt, forwarding the email to a source in the security industry who told him almost immediately that Fancy Bear was involved.
In Russia, the majority of journalists targeted by the hackers worked for independent news outlets like Novaya Gazeta or Vedomosti, though a few — such as Tina Kandelaki and Ksenia Sobchak — are more mainstream. Sobchak has even launched an improbable bid for the Russian presidency.
Investigative reporter Roman Shleynov noted that the Gmail hackers targeted was the one he used while working on the Panama Papers, the expose of international tax avoidance that implicated members of Putin’s inner circle.
Fancy Bear also pursued more than 30 media targets in Ukraine, including many journalists at the Kyiv Post and others who have reported from the front lines of the Russia-backed war in the country’s east.
Nataliya Gumenyuk, co-founder of Ukrainian internet news site Hromadske, said the hackers were hunting for compromising information.
“The idea was to discredit the independent Ukrainian voices,” she said.
The hackers also tried to break into the personal Gmail account of Ellen Barry, The New York Times’ former Moscow bureau chief.
Her newspaper appears to have been a favorite target. Fancy Bear sent phishing emails to roughly 50 of Barry’s colleagues at The Times in late 2014, according to two people familiar with the matter. They spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss confidential data.
The Times confirmed in a brief statement that its employees received the malicious messages, but the newspaper declined to comment further.
Some journalists saw their presence on the hackers’ hit list as vindication. Among them were CNN security analyst Michael Weiss and Brookings Institution visiting fellow Jamie Kirchick, who took the news as a badge of honor.
“I’m very proud to hear that,” Kirchick said.
The Committee to Protect Journalists said the wide net cast by Fancy Bear underscores efforts by governments worldwide to use hacking against journalists.
“It’s about gaining access to sources and intimidating those journalists,” said Courtney C. Radsch, the group’s advocacy director.
In Russia, the stakes are particularly high. The committee has counted 38 murders of journalists there since 1992.
Many journalists told the AP they knew they were under threat, explaining that they had added a second layer of password protection to their emails and only chatted over encrypted messaging apps like Telegram, WhatsApp or Signal.
Fancy Bear target Ekaterina Vinokurova, who works for regional media outlet Znak, said she routinely deletes her emails.
“I understand that my accounts may be hacked at any time,” she said in a telephone interview. “I’m ready for them.”
“I’VE SEEN WHAT THEY COULD DO”
It’s not just whom the hackers tried to spy on that points to the Russian government.
Maria Titizian, an Armenian journalist, immediately found significance in the date she was targeted: June 26, 2015.
“It was Electric Yerevan,” she said, referring to protests over rising energy bills that she reported on. The protests that rocked Armenia’s capital that summer were initially seen by some in Moscow as a threat to Russian influence.
Titizian said her outspoken criticism of the Kremlin’s “colonial attitude” toward Armenia could have made her a target.
Eliot Higgins, whose open source journalism site Bellingcat repeatedly crops up on the target list, said the phishing attempts seemed to begin “once we started really making strong statements about MH17,” the Malaysian airliner shot out of the sky over eastern Ukraine in 2014, killing 298 people. Bellingcat played a key role in marshaling the evidence that the plane was destroyed by a Russian missile — Moscow’s denials notwithstanding.
The clearest timing for a hacking attempt may have been that of Adrian Chen.
On June 2, 2015, Chen published a prescient expose of the Internet Research Agency, the Russian “troll factory” that won fresh infamy in October over revelations that it had manufactured make-believe Americans to pollute social media with toxic rhetoric.
Eight days after Chen published his big story, Fancy Bear tried to break into his account.
Chen, who has regularly written about the darker recesses of the internet, said having a lifetime of private messages exposed to the internet could be devastating.
“I’ve covered a lot of these leaks,” he said. “I’ve seen what they could do.”
Ron Rosser was a patriot and a hero. The Medal of Honor recipient who reenlisted in the Army to avenge his brother, died in August at the age of 90.
Army Master Sgt. Ron Rosser served for three years in the post-World War II Army in Japan and Germany and then reenlisted in June 1951 with a single purpose in mind: revenge for the death of his younger brother Richard, who was killed in action in Korea.
Rosser was sent first to Japan. He then volunteered for combat and fought with his command to get a place at the front, eventually landing a spot with Company L, 38th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division.
In an oral history recording for Arlington National Cemetery, Rosser said that Big Army couldn’t understand his motivation for demanding to go to Korea. “I made up my mind that you can’t kill my brother and get away with it,” Rosser said.
Company L participated in both Bloody Ridge and the Battle of Heartbreak Ridge. Bloody Ridge lasted over three weeks, and there were an estimated 2,7000 casualties. The Battle of Heartbreak Ridge was a month-long battle in the Korean War and was one of several major engagements in the hills of North Korea, just a few miles north of the 38th Parallel.
Then, Company L was ordered to take a hill occupied by the Red Army near the town of Ponggilli. Rosser reports that he estimated at least three battalions on the hill, all in heavily fortified positions. The battle began with only 170 men from Company L. Shortly after maneuvers began, the temperature dropped to 20 degrees below zero.
The Red Army was completely dug in, and they had the advantage. Rosser gave his radio to another soldier and decided to charge alone to the Red Army front line. He stopped at an outcropping to assess the situation.
Recorded as part of the oral history for Arlington, Rosser said that he considered how much trouble he’d been through to reach that point and that there was no use wasting the day. “I let out a war whoop and jumped in the trench. I just charged straight into them,” he said.
Rosser was armed with only a carbine and a grenade, a fact that’s noted on his Medal of Honor citation. He gained the top of the kill, killed two enemy soldiers, and then went back into the trench. He killed five more enemies as he advanced, often relying on hand-to-hand combat at times.
But Rosser kept advancing, sometimes relying on his rifle as a club. When he ran out of ammunition, he returned to his position to reload. Rosser said that all he was trying to do was protect the men he was responsible for in his unit. He worried that if he didn’t attack, the Red Army would charge down the hill and decimate Company L.
Of the 170 soldiers in the unit, 90 were killed, 12 were captured, and 68 wounded. As Company L retreated, the Red Army didn’t fire any shots at them.
On his Medal of Honor citation, it states that he killed “at least 13 enemy,” but Rosser counts the number as more than 40.
“The purpose of me doing all that crazy stuff was trying to stop them,” he said in the oral history.
Rosser was awarded the Medal of Honor in a June 1952 ceremony at the Rose Garden in the White House. After President Truman read the citation, he turned to Rosser and said, “Personally I’d rather have [the medal] than be president.”
Once pinned, someone told Rosser that now not only did all officers have to salute him, but so too did the president. He was sure someone was pulling a fast one on him. While not an official regulation, it’s a time-honored custom that shows respect, whether or not the Medal of Honor recipient is in uniform.
Rosser was in the Army until 1968. He repeatedly volunteered several times for combat following the death of another brother, who was killed in action in Vietnam. The Army denied Rosser’s request for combat. He retired as a Sgt. First Class but was later promoted to Master Sgt.
Of being a Medal of Honor recipient, Rosser said it could have been awarded to anyone he served with. “I didn’t do anything they didn’t do. I was just lucky enough to survive it.”
Urgent new orders went out earlier this month for US Navy warships that have been plagued by deadly mishaps this year.
More sleep and no more 100-hour workweeks for sailors. Ships steaming in crowded waters, like those near Singapore and Tokyo, will now broadcast their positions as do other vessels. And ships whose crews lack basic seamanship certification will probably stay in port until the problems are fixed.
All seemingly obvious standards, military officials say, except that the Navy only now is rushing the remedies into effect after two collisions in two months left 17 sailors dead, despite repeated warnings about the looming problems from congressional watchdogs and the Navy’s own experts dating to 2010.
“Many of the issues we’re discussing today have been known to Navy leaders for years. How do we explain that, Admiral?” Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the Republican chairman of the Armed Services Committee, demanded of Adm. John Richardson, the chief of naval operations, at a hearing last week.
“Senator, there is no explanation,” Richardson said.
The orders issued recently by the Navy’s top officer for ships worldwide, Vice Adm. Thomas S. Rowden, drew on the lessons that commanders gleaned from a 24-hour fleetwide suspension of operations last month to examine basic seamanship, teamwork, and other fundamental safety and operational standards.
Collectively, current and former officers said, the new rules mark several significant cultural shifts for the Navy’s tradition-bound fleets. At least for the moment, safety and maintenance are on par with operational security, and commanders are requiring sailors to use old-fashioned compasses, pencils, and paper to help track potential hazards, as well as reducing a captain’s discretion to define what rules the watch team follows if the captain is not on the ship’s bridge.
“Rowden is stomping his foot and saying, ‘We’ve got to get back to basics,'” said Vice Adm. William Douglas Crowder, a retired commander of the 7th Fleet and a former deputy chief of naval operations, who reviewed the four-page directive issued on Sept. 15, a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times. “We ought to be doing this anyhow.”
Richardson is expected to announce additional guidance to the Navy in the next several days that builds off Rowden’s directive. “We took some time to stop, take a break, and review our fundamentals, to ensure that we’re operating safely and effectively and to correct any areas that required immediate attention,” Richardson told the senators last week.
The new orders come as the fallout continues from four Navy accidents in the western Pacific this year, including the two fatal crashes: the destroyer USS Fitzgerald colliding with a freighter near Tokyo in June, and a second destroyer, the USS John S. McCain, colliding with a tanker last month while approaching Singapore.
The commander of the Navy’s Pacific Fleet, Adm. Scott H. Swift, said this week that he would retire after being notified that he was no longer in the running to take charge of the Pentagon’s overall Pacific Command, which would oversee any military operations against North Korea.
Vice Adm. Joseph P. Aucoin, the former head of the 7th Fleet, based in Japan and the Navy’s largest overseas, was removed last month in connection with the accidents. And Rowden himself has also said he will retire early.
It has been a sobering time for commanders not just in the 7th Fleet, which has been closely scrutinized, but also the Navy’s other fleets based overseas. They are all taking a hard look at how to balance their operational requirements against eroding training and maintenance standards.
“We found some things about risk that didn’t match what we thought, and we’re making changes in things we discovered,” Vice Adm. Kevin M. Donegan, commander of the 5th Fleet based in Bahrain, said in a telephone interview.
“When we have something like this happen, we do rigorous homework,” Donegan said. “We’re not standing fast.”
There is little argument, however, that a shrinking Navy is performing the same duties that a larger fleet did a decade ago, and that constant deployments leave little time to train and maintain ships amid their relentless duties.
Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr. DoD Photo by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique A. Pineiro
Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told senators during a hearing on Sept. 26 about his visit to the Navy destroyer USS Barry several months ago, and of his learning that the ship had been at sea for 70 percent of the past 12 months.
“When we go back now and we look at were they able to do all the training necessary, and what was their life like during those 12 months, 70 percent of the time underway is an unsustainable rate,” Dunford said. “We’re going to have to make adjustments in the demand. That will incur managing operational and strategic risk, there’s no doubt.”
Many of the changes in Rowden’s order smack of simple common sense.
Hard to see and track electronically, naval vessels have long posed special perils to nighttime navigation. In addition to radar, all but the smallest commercial vessels use the so-called Automatic Identification Systems to broadcast information about their position, course, and speed. Military vessels typically carry the systems but often turn them off because the captains do not want to reveal so much information. That will change under the new orders.
“Successful mission accomplishment cannot be our sole measure of effectiveness,” Rowden said in his directive. “We must take greater heed of the manning, maintenance, training, and certification pillars that collectively foster success.”
Rowden also ordered standardized rules for watch teams on the bridge when the captain is not present; new reporting requirements for major equipment failures and near misses; and manually tracking vessels that come with 5,000 yards of a Navy ship to avoid collisions.
The Navy has allowed ships to rely on grueling watch schedules that leave captains and crews exhausted, even though the service ordered submarines to abandon similar schedules two years ago. A Government Accountability Office report from May said sailors were on duty up to 108 hours each week.
The new rules essentially will adopt studies by the Naval Postgraduate School to develop a shorter watch schedule to match circadian rhythms, which uses three hours of watch duty and nine hours off. Recognizing the benefits, the Navy ordered submarines to move to a similar schedule in 2015.
Senators harrumphed last week that sleep-deprived sailors presented an obvious problem begging for a solution. “If we know that somebody’s working a 100-hour workweek, I’m not sure we need a study,” McCain said acidly.
“The Navy holds its aircrew to the highest standards and we find this absolutely unacceptable, of zero training value and we are holding the crew accountable,” the Navy said in a statement to KREM in Washington.
On Dec. 8, 2020, U.S. Army Veteran David Harker will celebrate his 75th birthday. He may recognize the accomplishment while on his daily five mile walk, or by taking a drive in his 47-year-old car – a 1973 Corvette he’s owned since it was given to him by classmates when he returned from Vietnam after spending more than five years as a prisoner of war.
A native of Lynchburg, Virginia, Harker is the third of seven children. He was an athlete in high school and received his associate’s degree from Bluefield College before transferring to Virginia Tech in 1966. By 1967, however, his fortunes had changed.
David Harker stands next to the 1973 Corvette he received.
“I was doing my junior year at Virginia Tech and my grades were low, so I had to take a quarter off in 1967 and during that time, because I wasn’t a full-time student, I had to let the government know. They got me,” he said.
When the draft notice came, Harker’s father, an electrical engineer took the news hard.
“My dad was really upset. He had worked for a power company during World War II and so was exempt from the draft,” Harker recalled. “I didn’t think about the possibility of being killed. My dad’s supervisor said he could get me in the National Guard, but I thought that would be shirking my responsibility. I was called on to serve my country and that’s what I was going to do.”
After basic and advanced infantry training, Harker was approached and offered an opportunity to go to Officer Candidate School.
“I was interested in flying helicopters, but they said I’d have to extend for another year or two, so I said, ‘no, I’ll do my two and go home’.”
Heading to Vietnam
The trip to Vietnam brought Harker through Hawaii, and Guam, before landing in Vietnam Nov. 15, 1967. The recollection of arrival is still fresh even 53 years later.
“There were men on the airstrip who had finished their year and were going to take the plane we had arrived on back home. So, they open the door and it was such a rude awakening when the door opened. The oppressive heat – and I’m sure Vietnam Vets will tell you – the country had a smell of its own.”
The soldiers on their way home watched them deplane and Harker heard them say, ‘there’s my replacement.’
“They wished us well,” Harker said.
David Harker stands next to the 1973 Corvette he received.
Although trained on a vehicle-mounted recoilless rifle, Harker was made an infantryman upon arrival in-country and reassigned from the 9th Infantry Division to the 196th Light Infantry Brigade. Six weeks later, he was a POW.
“I was in the 3rd of the 21st in an area of operations at Que Son,” Harker said. “We operated out of a fire base, with one company pulling security while the other three were out doing search and destroy missions. While out, we’d move about 1,000 meters a day and get resupplied every fourth day with c-rations if the helicopters could get through.”
As a 22 year old, Harker was among the older men in his unit. His commanding officer, Capt. Roland Belcher, told the company while they were enjoying in-country RR at brigade headquarters in Chu Lai, that he was proud of the work they were doing.
“Captain Belcher had been in a province southwest of Saigon where we were providing security for elections,” Harker said. “He said it meant a lot to him that we were able to do that – to make sure those people could go to the polls and not get hurt. I remember that because he died in the rice paddies when we were ambushed.”
Harker’s first sergeant, nicknamed Top, was a 41-year old Veteran of World War II and Korea who had earned a Silver Star before joining the company.
“After the ambush, he was the ranking person and he held us together.”
Harker and his company were on patrol when they broke contact with the enemy in a creek bed. The North Vietnamese unloaded on the unit and killed two men. As the most forward man, Harker was pinned down.
“I’m thinking, ‘I’m going to die.’ Top is behind me telling me to switch to auto and fire. They tried to get behind us and eventually I hear a Vietnamese voice and do a 90 degree and within arm’s reach at the top of this creek bank is an NVA soldier with a pith helmet and Top is there with no helmet. There’s a guy with a rifle telling me to get up. The NVA are stripping everything off us – anything they can use. I tried to bury my M-16 in the creek bed but I think they got it.”
After being taken, Harker was left with a soldier with a sidearm who walked in front of him, leading him away from the creek.
“I thought it was odd he was in front of me and I had been taught that you always try to escape. Next thing I know my hand is over his mouth and I have his arm at his side. I know I have to kill him and do it silently, but his bayonet won’t come out of the scabbard, and by that time my hand has come off his mouth and he’s yelling bloody murder. Before I could get his .45, he stabs me in the side with his bayonet. By that time there are a bunch of rifles pointing at me. I’m surprised they didn’t just shoot me, but they took some commo wire and duck-winged me that night.”
A newspaper clipping from the time shows support from his hometown.
Of the 15 men who entered the rice paddy that evening, only four made it out. More men would join Harker in his prison in the Trung Son Mountain Range where he would spend the first three years of captivity. By Harker’s estimation only about 150 U.S. soldiers were captured in South Vietnam – most of whom were taken during the Tet Offensive.
Harker’s first prison was in Quang Nam Province, a difficult, mountainous country that made food scarce and meant deplorable living conditions for the POWs.
“We buried nine Americans there,” Harker said. “That’s how horrific our living conditions were. We had very little to eat so people died from starvation, infectious diseases – malaria was rampant – dysentery. Between September of 1968 and Jan. 4, 1969, we buried six, including the youngest person we had there, a 19-year-old Marine.
“That first year of adjustment to jungle life was really hard on us. You didn’t know what to do. At first you looked out for yourself, but as time went on, you got more altruistic – you realize, it’s not about me, but about the guy next door and you realize you had to take care of each other. We came together really well in that respect.”
During the Vietnam War only one American doctor was ever taken prisoner. Hal Kushner, who grew up in Danville, Virginia, was injured in a helicopter crash in late November. By Dec. 4, North Vietnamese forces found him and marched him toward the camp where he found, according to a speech he gave in February 2018, “four of the saddest looking American creatures I had ever seen in my life.”
“They wouldn’t let him practice medicine,” Harker said of Kushner. “We couldn’t call him doc, but he was a big source of information and help to us. He led the way and showed us how to nurse and take care of men, and that became our goal – to make people in their last hours and days as comfortable as possible – it was our mission, and he was a big inspiration to us.”
In the mountains the men had to forage for food, mostly the manioc root, also known as kasava root.
“There wasn’t a place to grow food, so most of our calories came from manioc,” Harker said. “We were under a 1-to-1 prisoner-to-guard ratio, and the guards would trade manioc and so we would put baskets on our backs and go back and forth over miles of mountain trails carrying 70-80 pounds of root. It’s amazing to think that we could even do it, but we did what we had to do. The little bit of rice they gave us as a ration wasn’t enough to keep a bird flying, so the roots kept us going.”
The guards of Trung Son didn’t physically abuse their prisoners. They didn’t need to.
“We were separated from civilization in the middle of nowhere and we couldn’t communicate; had no food, and no medical attention – that’s torture enough for an individual. We were interrogated when we were captured,” Harker said, “but we knew the Code of Conduct and so we’d give that information. But they’d have a guy with a lantern and they’re asking for information about your unit, it’s size, and I just kept repeating. They didn’t pursue it much. They wanted to get us away from the battlefield but a few days later they did it again. When you have a rifle and you’re in front of the enemy, it’s different. But if they put a blindfold on you and all you can hear is round being chambered – that’s different too. In the north they beat pilots and used a lot of torture techniques.”
On Feb. 1, 1971 there were a dozen men still alive in the mountains and they were taken in groups of six to begin their march north up the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Harker watched battalions of Vietnamese troops heading south during the 60-day march, as they ground out 10 to 15 miles a day. During the journey an interpreter would give them extra rice.
“He was a military guy who had fought in Laos as a 17-year old in the early 1960s, and he looked out for us. I think he understood the condition – there was a common situation and appreciation among soldiers.”
“We’d get to a camp every day where we got hot white rice – better than we had at the mountain camp. The next morning they’d put a ball of rice on a banana leaf and we’d carry that with us for lunch as we moved. Eventually we were put on a train, in a box car, and taken to Hanoi, to Plantation Garden, an old French plantation with bars in the walls. We were kept in a 15×17 warehouse – six of us on a wooden pallet. Unlike the mountain camp we couldn’t roam around, and the boredom would overtake you and the heat was oppressive, but we had plenty to eat compared to the south. We also had better medical care there as they had a doctor to attend to us.”
In October of 1972 the Vietnamese allowed prisoners to be outside together for the first time since they arrived, and it looked like the war might be over.
“We had a communication system where we’d put a note on the lid of the waste bucket, or use the tap code, and we had to do that because we were only allowed out of our cell for about an hour a day, and never more than one cell was let out at a time. So, when they let everyone out, and then gave us reading material, they knew it was over. Or they thought it was, because before you know it, the doors are all slammed shut again.”
Soon after, Linebacker II started. From Dec. 18-29, 1972, the U.S. Air Force conducted an operation called Linebacker II, a ‘maximum effort’ campaign to destroy targets using B-52 heavy bombers that dropped more than 15,000 tons of ordnance on more than 30 targets.
“B-52s bombed all night long after talks broke down. The SAMs (surface-to-air missiles) shot down a bunch of planes on the third night, after they figured out the flight patterns, and one night they pulled up a deuce and a half and told us to crawl in the back. We thought we were being taken to China.”
Harker would spend his last three months as a prisoner at the Hanoi Hilton.
Half a world away, in Paris, a peace accord was signed January 27, 1973, and soon after Harker and other American POWs heard the news they had longed to hear.
“We were ecstatic,” Harker said. “We’d hear doors open and activity and they came and said, ‘you’re going, and you’re going, and you’re going’ dividing us up into groups that would be repatriated. They gave us western clothing and a travel bag and when they pulled us out of a holding cell wearing our red-striped pajamas we were given the clothes. By noon, nothing had happened. They gave us food and told us the peace agreement was broken – and we were right back down in the depths of despair. But a few days later we got out.
A newspaper clipping shows when David Harker returned home.
“I remember saluting an Air Force general who was sitting with a North Vietnamese officer, and when we saluted, we had been officially repatriated. On the plane home, the pilot told us when we had entered international airspace and there was a great cheer.”
The cheers continued when they landed in the Philippines, Hawaii, and Andrews AFB, Maryland. From Maryland, Harker went to Valley Forge in Pennsylvania where he went through medical treatment and rehabilitation, and he was reunited with his family.
“It was different,” Harker said. “I had brothers who were married, and children had been born, but it was exciting coming home. A private airline flew me and my father back and the local TV station had sent a reporter who interviewed me all the way back. There must have been 10,000 people at the Lynchburg airport when we arrived – I had no idea there would be that welcome and response – my big extended family – the high school band was there. It was a long journey and I was glad to be home and for them to be there for me meant so much. I was led to a blue 1973 Corvette and handed the keys. A group of school mates had gotten together and sold bumper stickers for a dollar each to buy me a car and they handed me the keys and a check for id=”listicle-2647726394″,100.”
Being home with his family, Harker said he learned how much anxiety and frustration and worry his parents went through while he was captive.
“Every POW gets a casualty assistance officer whose job it is to let the family know when they hear something – anything – about their son,” Harker said. “My family never heard anything from their CAO. It wasn’t until 1969, when three prisoners were released that they knew I was alive. My parents found out that a couple of those who were released were at Fort Jackson, and so they went there and got onto base and met with them and heard from them that I was alive. That’s all the knew for five years. So they became involved in the National League of Families who organized and tried to have some involvement with North Vietnam to get information about prisoners and try to make the process more transparent as far as information was concerned.”
Life after war
After he returned from Vietnam, Harker took some time off, but eventually returned to Blacksburg and finished his business degree from Virginia Tech in 1976 and found his way to work as a probation and parole officer. In 1977 he married Linda, his high school sweetheart whom he had dated since 1962.
His family now includes his two children, Megan and husband Mike, and Adam and his wife Anza. David and Linda also enjoy their grandchildren: 13-year old Emily, 11-year old Ethan, and 6-year old Eli, children of Megan; and Adam’s 23-month old daughter Ava.
While Harker is open to discussing his time in Vietnam to serve as an education for younger people, he said it was a part of his life that he’s put behind him.
“Kush and I talk about that all the time – we’re not professional POWs. By the grace of God and the help of other men, we made it out. We all serve our country one way or another. This country is what we love. My life has been a real blessing since then, and the staff at the VA hospital, what they do is marvelous, and I appreciate each one of them. I know they have a heart for those Veterans, or they wouldn’t work there,” Harker said. “I love the Veterans, too, and appreciate their service, and institutions like the VA are a great service to our country.”
In the early 2010s Harker had the Corvette he received in 1973 – the car he and his youngest brother Louie drove across the country after his return – restored. He still drives it today.
“I think of all the love behind it every time I drive it.”
The AC-130 gunship is a devastating display of force and firepower. Through the years, the aircraft has been equipped with an array of side-fired canons, howitzers, mini-guns, wing-mounted missiles and bombs, and laser guided-missiles launched from the rear cargo door, earning it the moniker the “Angel of Death.”
The primary missions of the gunship are close air support, air interdiction, and armed reconnaissance.
The heavily armed aircraft is outfitted with sophisticated sensor, navigation, and fire control systems, allowing it to track and target multiple targets using multiple munitions with surgical precision.
Another strength of the gunship is the ability to loiter in the air for extended periods of time, providing aerial protection at night and during adverse weather.
The AC-130 relies heavily on visual targeting at low altitudes and punishes enemy targets while performing pylon turns around a fixed point on the ground during attack.
The Air Force is the only operator of the AC-130 and the gunship has been providing close air support for special operators for the last 50 years.
Development and Design
During the Vietnam War, the C-130 Hercules airframe was selected to replace the original gunship, the Douglas AC-47 Spooky (Project Gunship I). The Hercules cargo airframe was converted into AC-130A (Project Gunship II) because it could fly faster, longer, higher, and with increased munitions load capabilities.
The gunship’s AC identifier stands for attack-cargo.
The aircraft is powered by four turboprop engines and has a flight speed of 300 mph and a flight range of 1,300 miles, depending on weight.
The AC-130A was equipped with down facing Gatling guns affixed to the left side of the aircraft with an analog fire control system. In 1969, the AC-130 received the Surprise Package, which included 20mm rotary autocannons and a 40mm Bofors cannon configuration.
The gunships have been modified with multiple configurations through the years with each update providing stronger avionics systems, radars and more powerful armament.
Currently, Air Force special operations groups operate the AC-130U Spooky II and the AC-130W Stinger II.
The Spooky II became operational in 1994, revitalizing the special operations gunship fleet as a replacement for the AC-130A aircraft, and to supplement the workhorse AC-130H Spectre, which was retired in 2015.
The Spooky II is armed with a 25mm GAU-12/U Gatling gun (1800 rpm), a 40mm L60 Bofors cannon (120 rpm), and a 10mm M102 howitzer (6-10 rpm). The AC-130Us have a pressurized cabin, allowing them to operate 5,000 feet higher than the H models, which results in greater range.
The AC-130W was converted from the MC-130W Dragon Spear, a special operations mobility aircraft and are armed with precision strike packages to relieve the high operational demands on AC-130U gunships until new AC-130Js enter combat-ready status.
Over the past four decades, AC-130s have deployed constantly to hotspots throughout the world in support of special operations and conventional forces. In South America, Africa, Europe and throughout the Middle East, gunships have significantly contributed to mission success.
As of Sept. 19, 2017, the AC-130J Ghostrider, the Air Force’s next-generation gunship, achieved Initial Operating Capability and will be tested and prepared for combat deployment in the next few years. The AC-130J is the fourth generation gunship replacing the aging fleet of AC-130U/W gunships.
The Ghostrider is outfitted with a Precision Strike Package, which includes 30mm and 105 mm cannons and precision guided munitions of GBU-39 Small Diameter Bombs and AGM-176 Griffin missiles. The 105mm M102 howitzer system is a devastating weapon that can fire off 10 50lbs shells per minute with precision accuracy.
There are 10 Ghostrider gunships in the current fleet and the Air Force plans on purchasing 27 more by fiscal year 2021.
– The original and unofficial nickname for the AC-130 gunship was “Puff the Magic Dragon” or “Puff.”
– The AC-130H Spectre was introduced in 1969 and was used for 46 years in service; the longest service time of any AC gunship.
– Air Force Special Operations Command plans to install combat lasers on AC-130 gunships within a year.
AC-130U Spooky Fact Sheet:
Primary function: Close air support, air interdiction and force protection
Builder: Lockheed/Boeing Corp.
Power plant: Four Allison T56-A-15 turboprop engines
Thrust: 4,300 shaft horsepower each engine
Wingspan: 132 feet, 7 inches (40.4 meters)
Length: 97 feet, 9 inches (29.8 meters)
Height: 38 feet, 6 inches (11.7 meters)
Speed: 300 mph (Mach .4) at sea level
Range: Approximately 1,300 nautical miles; limited by crew duty day with air refueling
Ceiling: 25,000 feet (7,576 meters)
Maximum takeoff weight: 155,000 pounds (69,750 kilograms)
Armament: 40mm, 105mm cannons and 25mm Gatling gun
Crew: AC-130U – pilot, co-pilot, navigator, fire control officer, electronic warfare officer (five officers) and flight engineer, TV operator, infrared detection set operator, loadmaster, and four aerial gunners (eight enlisted)
Deployment date: 1995
Unit cost: $210 million
Inventory: Active duty, 17; reserve, 0; Air National Guard, 0
Transitioning service members experience many changes as they navigate their way through the private sector. There are important things to understand as you make this jump into unknown territory.
Here are eight things I learned as a transitioning veteran.
1. Start expanding your network a year prior to separation from the military.
LinkedIn is a huge resource for finding a career that fits your needs (Read: 7 Ways to Leverage Social Media in Your Job Search). Having a large number of connections increases your visibility to the industry’s hiring managers, talent acquisition specialists and recruiters. Do yourself a favor and join LinkedIn if you have not already.
2. Research and learn how your occupation is different in the private sector.
Be open to a steep learning curve. You may have a lot to offer, but it may not be the exact direction or goal of the company you are interviewing with.
3. When you interview, play up your strengths.
Hiring managers and recruiters look through hundreds of resumes every day. Make your resume stand out by placing your summary of qualifications at the top. Remember, they need quick information. You may be retired from the military or you may have only served one enlistment. Regardless, try to fit all of your experience on one page. Boil it down to the fine points and list your experience in translatable terms.
4. You may have to take a pay cut from your last pay grade in the military.
It’s important to include health insurance when negotiating your salary. Remember that the private sector has a financial ladder to climb as well. Be reasonable, but make sure you are covered when negotiating your salary. The insurance that the military provides is worth $10-12k annually – not including deductibles. If you have a family, you can expect to pay $500 and up per month for health insurance premiums, depending on the company’s benefits program. If you have a family, the selected reserve may be a good option to retain your health benefits at a much lower cost.
5. Your career path in the private sector may not have existing processes put in place.
This can affect accountability up and down the chain of command. It’s important to give and receive constant feedback to eliminate silos in communication where processes may lack.
6. Don’t seek the approval of others, especially if you are in a senior management position.
While asking questions in the military shows that you want to learn and improve the process, to the private sector it can give the impression that you are incompetent. Research as many things as you can on your own before asking questions. Image and trust go hand in hand.
7. Remember that you are no longer in a contract.
People may have the tendency to feel protective of their positions. “One team, One fight” is just a formality in the workplace, but it does not always hold true every place you may work. If you choose to step in and be a “team player,” make sure you ask permission first. Perception is everything in corporate America and, unfortunately, that can determine a corporation’s measure of trust with you.
8. Research your state’s requirements for terminations and layoffs.
Employers can terminate due to restructuring, loss of profit or lack of performance. It’s important for you to understand what your rights are for the state you work in if you ever experience this. Unlike the military, a business is for profit – every decision affects the bottom line.
Early in its combat testing, a test pilot’s damning report leaked to the press and exposed the world’s most expensive weapons system, the F-35, as a bad dogfighter that the F-16 routinely trounced in mock battles.
But new videos leaked from the US Air Force’s F-35 demo or stunt flying team show the jet making head-spinning turns that older jets could never hit.
In 2015, the test pilot’s write up of the jet’s combat performance obliterated the idea of F-35 as a capable dogfighter due to a glaring flaw: Weak maneuverability.
“Overall, the most noticeable characteristic of the F-35A in a visual engagement was its lack of energy maneuverability,” the pilot wrote.
the U.S. Air Force F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.)
“The F-35 was at a distinct energy disadvantage in a turning fight and operators would quickly learn it isn’t an ideal regime… Though the aircraft has proven it is capable of high AOA [angle of attack] flight, it wasn’t effective for killing or surviving attacks primarily due to a lack of energy maneuverability,” he continued.
Furthermore, according to the pilot, there was basically nothing the F-35 could do to escape getting killed by the F-16’s gun. Any move he tried to escape the F-35’s cannon read as “predictable” and saw the pilot taking a loss.
But the F-35 program and its role in dogfights hadn’t been as well figured out back then.
Since then, the F-35 has mopped up in simulated dogfights with a 15-1 kill ratio. According to retired Lt. Col. David Berke, who commanded a squadron of F-35s and flew an F-22 — the US’s most agile, best dogfighter — the jet has undergone somewhat of a revolution.
New moves, new rules
In the video, the F-35 pilot takes the plane inverted, hits a tight loop, and appears to pause in mid-air as he enters a flat spin that makes his hundred-million-dollar jet appear like a leaf floating down towards earth. (Really better to watch than read about it.)
The flat spin move is often used by F-22 and Russian fighter pilots to show off the intense ability of their planes to sling the nose around in any direction they wish.
According to Berke, this F-35 stunt “demonstrates what the pilots and the people around the aircraft have always known: It’s vastly superior to almost anything out there,” in terms of agility.
Furthermore, according to Berke, an F-16 could not hit the move shown in the demo team’s video.
Berke and others close to the F-35 program have described to Business Insider a kind of breakthrough in the maneuvering of the F-35 throughout its development.
Berke said the video proves that the F-35 is a “highly maneuverable, highly effective dogfighting platform,” but even still, he wouldn’t use that exact maneuver in a real dogfight.
The flat spin is “not an effective dogfighting maneuver, and in some cases, you would avoid doing that.”
F-16 Fighting Falcons.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Joshua Kleinholz)
“If me and you were dogfighting and we’re 2 miles away, and I had a wingman 5 miles away, you’d be super slow and predictable and easy for him to find,” due to executing the move, said Berke.
But despite the F-35’s impressive moves and ability to win dogfights, Berke said he’d stay on mission and try to score kills that take better advantage of the jet’s stealth.
“I want to avoid getting into a dogfight, but if I had to I’m going to be able to outmaneuver most other aircraft,” he said.
After all, the F-35’s makers never intended it as a straight World War II-era Red Baron killer, but a rethink of aerial combat as a whole.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Vice Adm. Nora Tyson, commander of 3rd Fleet, agreed with that assessment, saying that hostilities with the North Korean regime would be the “number one probability.”
The fleet commanders made their comments on a panel discussion titled, “Are we ready to fight — today and in the future?”
“Are we ready to fight? You bet we are,” said Vice Adm. Jamie Foggo, a former 6th Fleet commander who now serves as director of the Navy’s joint staff.
Foggo pointed to recent provocations out of Pyongyang as worrisome. Earlier this month, North Korea launched a land-based nuclear-capable ballistic missile that traveled 300 miles before splashing into the Sea of Japan.
“Frankly, it was pretty impressive,” Foggo said. “It was like a submarine missile launched from a tank. Solid fuel. Pretty impressive.”
Still, Aucoin pointed to the US’ strong relationship with South Korea and Japan as helping to counter aggression out of Pyongyang, along with a number of moves of sophisticated weaponry and early-warning assets to the region, including E2D Hawkeye aircraft, F/A-18 Super Hornets, and F-35B fighters being placed in Okinawa.
The US also has Patriot missile batteries and is moving forward with placing the more-advanced THAAD interceptor on the ground in South Korea. There are more than 28,000 US soldiers stationed there.
Aucoin said those assets provide a “pretty good umbrella.”
James Mitchell had a successful 22-year career in the U.S. Air Force — most notably as a top trainer at the Air Force’s survival school — before retiring as a lieutenant colonel.
And while he earned some awards and accolades for his service as a SERE leader, it was what he did as a contractor for the CIA after his retirement that truly marks his career.
See, Mitchell is the man who broke al Qaeda mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (often called “KSM”) and other high-ranking members of the terrorist group in the months and years after 9/11.
After the release of his new book about the interrogation program titled “Enhanced Interrogation: Inside the Minds and Motives of the Islamic Terrorists Trying To Destroy America,” Mitchell sat down for an interview with Marc Theissen, a Washington Post columnist and a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.
During the 90-minute discussion, Mitchell both clarified details about the controversial “enhanced interrogation techniques” he used and provided insights into the minds of the terrorists.
First, Mitchell explained the difference between interrogation and what he describes as “how do you do” visits.
“These enhanced interrogations that I was part of really only dealt with about 14 of the top folks. I didn’t have anything to do with the mid-level or low-level folks at all,” Mitchell, who’s a licensed psychologist, said. “And most of these interrogations took place over a period of time of about two weeks. KSM’s took about three weeks. And then after that, there was no enhanced interrogations for KSM — you know, none at all.”
He later added, “[O]ur goal in doing enhanced interrogations was to get them to make some movement, to be willing to engage in the questions instead of rocking and chanting and doing the other sorts of things that they had previously been doing.”
Once they broke, it was all about “cigarettes and beer,” to borrow a quote from Defense Secretary nominee James Mattis.
“We switched to social influence stuff because we know that the real way that you get the cooperation that you want is not by trying to coerce it out of them,” Mitchell said. “It’s by getting them to provide the information in a way that they don’t feel particularly pressured to do it.”
Mitchell made it clear that after the terrorists broke, the nature of his visits were more along the lines of maintenance. During one of those visits, he described how the mastermind of 9/11 revealed that he had personally beheaded Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.
“He describes cutting his head off and dismembering him and burying him in a hole. And [we] asked him, was that difficult for you to do, thinking emotionally this had to be hard to do,” Mitchell said. “And he said, ‘Oh, no. I had sharp knives. The toughest part was getting through the neck bone’ — just like that.”
Mitchell also described KSM’s shock at George W. Bush’s response to the 9/11 attacks, revealing that the terror leader thought the U.S. would treat the attack as a law enforcement problem and not go to war over it.
“And then he looks down and he goes, ‘How was I to know that cowboy George Bush would say he wanted us dead or alive and invade Afghanistan to get us?’ And he said it just about like that, like he was befuddled, like he couldn’t imagine it,” Mitchell said.
And Mitchell firmly denies that his EITs were torture.
“If it was torture, they wouldn’t have to pass a law in 2015 outlawing it because torture is already illegal, right?” Mitchell said. “The highest Justice Department in the land wouldn’t have opined five times that it wasn’t torture — one time after I personally waterboarded an assistant attorney general before he made that decision three or four days later, right?”
Mitchell’s book, “Enhanced Interrogation: Inside the Minds and Motives of the Islamic Terrorists Trying To Destroy America,” is published by Crown Forum and is available at Amazon.com.