It seems the Army is planning a system for evaluating the effectiveness of potential battalion commanders with a new five-day program at Fort Knox. That’s good news for the staff officers worth their weight in salt, and it’s fantastic that they’re finally doing away with the all-around ass-kissing that goes on around OER season. It’ll also bring the hammer down on commanders who fail height and weight, give them a “leadership test,” and bring them in front of a board of officers and non-commissioned officers.
I know my opinion on the matter probably means nothing, but if I may make a suggestion…randomly select NCOs in their unit to give honest feedback – you know, the soldiers most affected by their actions.
You could ask them things like: Are they the type to step on the toes of the sergeant major? Would the candidate for battalion commander literally throw their troops under an actual bus if it meant a bronze star? How many times has Private Snuffy become a heat cat during the speeches they said would be quick yet they kept talking about themselves? You know, the actual things that separate the toxic CO’s from the ones that stick with their troops forever.
But that’d make too much sense, and apparently, online tests can determine these things better than troops. Anyways, here are some memes.
On the morning of July 4, 1989, alarm bells blared at Soesterberg Air Base in the Netherlands, home of the US Air Force’s 32d Tactical Fighter Squadron.
Within minutes, a pair of armed F-15 Eagles, manned by Capts. J.D. Martin and Bill “Turf” Murphy, were launched on a scramble order. Their mission was to intercept what appeared to be a lone fighter making a beeline from Soviet-controlled airspace into Western Europe.
Though the Cold War’s end was seemingly not too far away, tensions still ran high between the two sides of the Iron Curtain, and any incursion by an unidentified aircraft would need to be responded to swiftly.
As JD and Turf were vectored in on the aircraft, now identified as a Soviet MiG-23 Flogger supersonic fighter, ground controllers notified them that all attempts to contact the inbound jet had failed and the intentions of its pilot were unknown and potentially hostile.
When they got close the the Flogger, the two Eagles were primed and ready to shoot down their silent bogey if it didn’t respond and carried on its flight path. But when the two F-15 pilots closed in on the aircraft to positively identify it, they noticed that the pylons underneath the Flogger — used to mount missiles and bombs — were empty.
By then, the Flogger was firmly in Dutch airspace, casually flying onward at around 400 mph at an altitude of 39,000 ft.
What JD and Turf saw next would shock them — the Flogger’s canopy had been blown off and there was no pilot to be found inside the cockpit. In essence, the Soviet fighter was flying itself, likely through its autopilot system.
After contacting ground control with this new development, the two Eagle pilots were given approval to shoot down the wayward MiG over the North Sea, lest it suddenly crash into a populated area. Unaware of how long the pilotless MiG had been flying, and battling poor weather which could have sent debris shooting down the MiG into nearby towns, JD and Turf opted to let the jet run out of fuel and crash into the English Channel.
Instead, the aircraft motored along into Belgium, finally arcing into a farm when the last of its fuel reserves were depleted. Tragically, the MiG struck a farmhouse, killing a 19-year-old. Authorities raced to the site of the crash to begin their investigation into what happened, while the two F-15s returned to base. French Air Force Mirage fighters were also armed and ready to scramble should the MiG have strayed into French airspace.
Details of what led to the loss of the Flogger began to emerge.
As it turns out, the Soviet fighter had originated from Bagicz Airbase — a short distance away from Kolobrzeg, Poland — on what was supposed to be a regular training mission. The pilot, Col. Nikolai Skuridin, ejected less than a minute into his flight during takeoff when instruments in the cockpit notified him that he had drastically lost engine power. At an altitude of around 500 ft, it would be dangerous and almost certainly fatal if Skuridin stayed with his stricken fighter, trying to recover it with its only engine dead. The colonel bailed out with a sense of urgency, assuming the end was near.
But as he drifted back down to Earth, instead of seeing his fighter plummet to its demise, it righted itself and resumed climbing, its engine apparently revived.
The ensuing debacle proved to be thoroughly embarrassingfor the Soviet Union, which was forced to offer restitution to Belgium and the family of the deceased teenager. By the end of the MiG’s flight, it had flown over 625 miles by itself until it ran out of fuel and crashed.
This article originally appeared in The Havok Journal. The opinions expressed are solely those of the author.
I get a lot of questions from young men and women about what they should do about joining the Military. Most of which are about joining Special Operations or how to become a Marine Raider. So, here are my top 5 “Tips” that every young recruit should know.
1. Stay Out Of Freaking Trouble!
It might sound like a simple thing, but if I had a dime for every time I heard of a good kid doing something stupid I would be flying to Bali every other weekend for vacation. All it takes is one night out with some friends to turn your whole life upside down. Having a good time is one thing, but it’s another to get caught drinking and driving or caught carrying some dank, mary jane, molly, dope, ganja, or whatever the kids are calling it these days. Getting caught stealing, doing or carrying drugs, or even getting into a physical alteration and having assault charges can put a roadblock between you and you achieving your goals.
I had two felonies between the ages of 11-13. While I still made it through, my decisions at that young of an age affected me for a couple decades of my life. I had to work 10 times harder than the next guy to even qualify for enlistment. I could have saved so much time, money, and energy if I would have focused on bettering myself and the ones around me.
2. Stay In School!
When I finished the 10th grade, I was working 2 jobs making 4k-7k a month. As you can imagine that is an astronomical amount of money for a 16-year-old. When it came time to go back to school it just seemed stupid for me to go back, so I got my GED and kept tracking on putting cash in my pocket. Once I tried to join, they laughed (for several reasons, one of which was my GED). I had to go back to school and get 12 college credits, which put my enlistment date another 6 months in the future at a minimum.
Needless to say, stay in freaking school! Study the ASVAB and get a GT Score of 110 or higher. If you do this, you will qualify for some of the top positions in the military, including Marine Recon and Marine Special Operations Command.
3. Don’t Do Drugs!
I know what you are saying.. “But Nick, It’s just a little weed or a beer or two.” Yea, I hear you, I was that age as well. What it comes down to is it worth you losing the opportunity you have worked so hard for? If it is, then you are not ready for the commitment of being a United States Marine. Hate it, disagree with it; your personal beliefs don’t matter: The Marine Corps has a strict policy on drug use. If you have used in the past then you can get a waiver for “experimental use” that is if they already know about it, if you catch my drift… Stay focused on your goals and what your future has to offer you. Don’t let a little peer pressure ruin your life.
Wait until you are a salty, seasoned veteran to experience those things (in a state that it is legal of course).
4. Be In Phenomenal Shape!
This is the foundation of everything. If you are not physically fit, just turn around and go home to your mommy. When I was young, I read an article in Men’s Health Magazine that you could start lifting weights at 14 years old. So on my 14th birthday, I got a membership to a local gym and bought Arnold’s Bodybuilding Bible then got to work! Now, of course, knowing what I know now, I would have trained completely differently and become a motherf’n beast! I did good at the time, but I would have pushed to have a 300 PFT prior to even going in the service.
Being physically fit is the cornerstone of being a Marine. Not only does it affect your promotions, job, billets, and even your friendships, but it can also affect a life or death situation. I can not stress this enough! This is not a video game, there is no respawn, start-over, or return home. We only get one shot at this life and being physically fit can mean the difference between you or your best friend losing their life. I would not be able to look my best friend’s parents and wife in the face and say your son is dead because I was not physically fit enough to save them. This is not a joke, make no mistakes in your head, the Marine Corps is a warfighting machine and when you’re in it, you are either supporting the war effort, training to go to war, or fighting a war. There is zero excuse for not being as physically fit as you can be because your life and those around depend on it.
5. Know Your History!
George Santayana said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” This is truer to me now after serving what seems a lifetime in the Marine Corps. If I could do it again, I would’ve read every military campaign book starting with the early Spartans, the rise and fall of Alexander the Great, the Roman Empire — all the way up to current events. As I said, the Marine Corps is America’s fighting force and if you are going to be a professional in that organization, then you need to apply yourself as a professional would.
My favorite MSgt Phil Thome always said the most important trait for a leader was knowledge — not knowing was not an excuse! That being said, I would recommend knowing as much as you can about military warfare, asymmetrical operations, conventional and unconventional warfare. As MSgt Thome said, not knowing is not an excuse and if knowing can give you a slight leg up against your enemy, then that is what you need to do! We, as warfighters, take every advantage we can take because, at the end of the day, it’s us against them — and I’m going home to have a steak and beer when this is done.
The object of war is not to die for your country but to make the other bastard die for his. –George S. Patton
Now, you might say, “yea, yea, yea, Nick. That’s all simple stuff.” Well, then I say to you, “why is it that all of the questions I get revolve around these five things.?” Truth is, common sense is not a common virtue. I fell subject to every one of these 5 things, so I speak from the heart and from my own experiences and struggles in hope that you might learn from my mistakes. Then learn and be even better and more badass than I could have ever been!
An amateur treasure hunter lowered a magnet into a Massachusetts pond to search for trinkets, but instead hoisted up five guns, including an Uzi submachine gun.
Using a strong magnet on the end of a rope, the unnamed man pulled up a loaded Uzi submachine gun from Pillings Pond in Lynnfield, 13 miles north of Boston, The Daily Item reported.
He later found a .40 caliber Glock handgun, a Colt Cobra revolver, a rusty unidentified revolver, and a semi-automatic handgun.
The man told the newspaper he had just taken up the hobby — known as “magnet fishing” — after becoming inspired by a documentary about European fishermen hunting down World War II treasures in French canals
Pillings Pond in Lynnfield.
The man called the Lynnfield Police Department upon finding the Uzi.
Officer Patrick Curran attended the pond, identified the Uzi as genuine and loaded, before asking the man to lower his magnet again to see what he could find.
The man then pulled up the four other loaded weapons.
“In my more than 35 years on the force, I’ve never seen anything like it,” Capt. Karl Johnson of Lynnfield police told the Daily Item. “It’s a little strange.”
Lt. Thomas Ryan, a spokesman for the Massachusetts State Police, told The Daily Item that a dive team and members of the Firearm Identification and Crime Scene units also attended the site.
Four of the weapons found by the amateur treasure hunter.
(Lynnfield Police Department)
He added that, due to poor visibility in the pond, no other weapons were found and that a State Police ballistics unit had take the weapons for further analysis.
Thirty percent of the current veteran population is suffering from some level of post traumatic stress, according to VA statistics. Treatments vary, but researchers and doctors are aggressively responding to the crisis.
As marijuana begins to gain traction in treating veteran PTS (the Veterans Administration maintains its position that marijuana has only an “anecdotal effect” on veteran post-traumatic stress) researchers are examining other recreational drugs to treating the unseen wounds of war. And the newest drug under scrutiny is methylene-dioxy-meth-amphetamine, better known as “MDMA,” “Molly,” or “ecstasy.”
Pure MDMA is of interest to neuroscientists because of its effect on human empathy, fear, and defensiveness. In a recent Popular Science article, psychiatrist Dr. Michael Mithoefer said that 83 percent of his treatment resistant patients not only responded positively to MDMA treatment, they soon showed no symptoms at all.
Other reports show the drug works in treating end-of-life anxiety and alcoholism. Rick Doblin, who runs the nonprofit Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, thinks the FDA could allow the use of MDMA as a viable treatment option as early as 2021.
In studies published by the U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, MDMA was found to be addictive in “rare cases.” One being a veteran self-medicating with MDMA to treat his own post-traumatic stress. Clearly, more study is needed.
World War II and the Cold War brought out the worst in everyone. So it should be a surprise to no one to find out the Soviet Union developed biological warfare agents almost as soon as the dust from the October Revolution settled.
Despite being a signatory to the Geneva Convention of 1925 – which outlawed chemical and biological weapons – and the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention, the Soviets had dozens of sites to develop eleven agents for use on any potential enemy.
The Russian Bioweapons program would be the most capable, deadliest program in the world. It was complete with viruses and pathogens that were genetically-altered and antibiotic resistant, with sophisticated delivery systems.
Category A agents are easily weaponized, extremely virulent, hard to fight and contain, and/or have high mortality rates. They have the added bonus of being an agent that would cause a panic among the enemy population.
For most of us post-9/11 veterans, Anthrax was the one that could have been all too real. In the days following 9/11, letters containing Anthrax spores were sent to members of Congress and the media. Subsequently, troops deploying overseas to countries like Afghanistan and Iraq were given a course of Anthrax vaccines.
Anthrax can present in four ways: skin, inhalation, injection, and intestinal. All are caused by the Bacillus anthracis bacteria. Before antibiotics, Anthrax killed hundreds of thousands of people, but now there are only 2,000 or so worldwide cases a year.
The mortality rate is anywhere from 24 to 80 percent, depending on which type you get.
Ah, plague. The biblical weapon. This one makes a little bit of sense. Since the Soviet Union would most likely go to war with Western Europe, the best weapon to use would be something that regularly wiped out more Europeans than the Catholic Church.
Plague works fast, incubating in two to six days, with a sudden headache and chills at the end of the incubation period. Gangrene and buboes (swollen lymph nodes in the armpit and groin) are the best indicator of plague.
There are other symptoms too, but after two weeks, it won’t matter. Because you’ll be dead.
Never hear of Tularemia? Good for you. Tularemia is one of the many reasons you shouldn’t touch dead animals. It’s a nasty bug that can survive for long periods outside of a host.
Tularemia can enter the body through lungs, skin, or eyes. It can present as a skin ulcer, but the most dangerous form is when it’s inhaled. Pneumoic tularemia will quickly spread into the bloodstream, killing 30-60 percent of those infected.
This is deadly neurotoxin, the deadliest substance known. It was used as a biological agent by Japan in WWII and was subsequently produced by almost every biological warfare program – for a good reason. Botulism is easy to produce and presents in 12-36 hours once in the body.
In an aerosol infection (like a bioweapon attack), even detecting botulism could be difficult. Treatment is mainly supportive, there is little that can be done once symptoms start to present. The only known antitoxin even produces anaphylaxis, which means it can only be administered in a hospital setting.
Smallpox is the disease that won the new world for the Europeans, more than guns, horses, or booze. It killed off 90 percent of the indigenous population of the Americas, whose immune systems were unprepared for it.
The Marburg Virus is a hemorrhagic fever, in the same family as the Ebola virus, the deadliest of hemorrhagic viruses. In an unprepared population, the mortality rate can be as high as 90-100 percent. So if you’re unfamiliar with Marburg Virus, imagine someone making Ebola airborne and killing you with it.
Category B agents are also easy to transmit and/or virulent among a population, but is less likely to kill or cause panic. Still, they should be taken seriously. Some, like Venezuelan Equine Encephalitis can have lasting effects.
Glanders can enter the body through the skin and eyes, but also via the nose and lungs. The symptoms are similar to the flu or common cold, but once it’s in the bloodstream, it can be fatal within seven to ten days.
I’m not going to include a photo, because it’s really gross to look at.
The bacteria is at the top of the list for potential bioterrorism agents and was even believed to be intentionally spread to the Russian Army by the Germans in WWI. The Russians allegedly used it in Afghanistan during their ten-year occupation.
This is usually caused by drinking raw milk or imbibing other raw dairy products. If an animal has brucellosis, they’re transmitting it to you. It’s also an inhalation hazard that can affect hunters dressing wild game. Symptoms are flu-like when inhaled and soon inflame the organs, especially the liver and spleen. Symptoms can last anywhere from a matter of weeks to years.
Brucellosis was once called both “Bang’s Disease” and “Malta Fever.” It has been weaponized since the 50s, with a lethality estimate of one to two percent. Just kill me with fire if I have the flu for two years.
Like most of the agents on the list, Q-fever is also spread via inhalation or contacts with infected domestic animals – unless the Russians bombed your town with it. The agent can survive for up to 60 days on some surfaces.
When the American Biological Weapons arsenal was destroyed in the early 1970s, the U.S. had just under 5,100 gallons of Q-fever.
10. Viral Encephalitis
The worst part about this agent is that there is no effective drug treatment for it, and that any treatment is merely supportive – meaning that there is no way to treat the cause of the disease, only to manage the symptoms.
The incubation period is fast, one to six days, and causes flu-like symptoms. It can incapacitate the infected for up to two weeks and cause swelling of the brain. Up to 30 percent of infected persons have permanent neurological conditions, like seizures and paralysis.
11. Staphylococcal Enterotoxin
Staph infections are pretty common but as a biological agent, it’s stable to store and weaponize as an aerosol agent. At low doses, it can incapacitate and it can kill at higher doses. The biggest concern is that a mass infection of a population is extremely difficult to treat effectively.
This agent can infect food and water but is deadliest when inhaled. High doses of inhaled Staph can lead to shock and multi-organ failure. Symptoms of any dosage appear within 1-8 hours.
Category C Agents
Category C consists mostly of potential agents, but the Soviet program didn’t use any of the C category as we know it today. This category includes virulent but untested (for biowarfare) agents like SARS, Rabies, or Yellow Fever.
No one has ever claimed that life aboard a U.S. Navy ship was luxurious. Even on the most advanced warships on the planet life can still be cramped. Though today amenities are much improved, the sailors patrolling the oceans in World War II had a much different life than their modern counterparts.
For one thing, the submarines of World War II were much smaller. Though only about 60 feet shorter than a modern submarine, the Gato and Balao-class submarines the U.S. Navy operated in World War II had a displacement of only about one third that of modern Virginia class submarines.
In that small space, the submariners — some 60 to 80 in all — had to store themselves, their gear, and provisions for 75 days.
A submarine of that size simply could not fit all of the necessary provisions for a long war patrol in the appropriate spaces. To accommodate, the crew stashed boxes of food and other things anywhere they would fit — the showers, the engine room, even on the deck until there was space inside to fit it all.
There was one upside though. Because of the dangerous and grueling nature of submarine duty, the Navy did its best to ensure that submariners got the best food the Navy had to offer. They also found room to install an ice cream freezer as a small luxury for the crew.
Unfortunately, there wasn’t much time or space to enjoy that food. Most of the time the men were lucky to get ten minutes to eat as the boat’s three “shifts” all had to pass through the tiny galley in a short amount of time.
The serving of food was often times also dictated by restrictions on the submarines movements. Submarines were under strict orders not to surface during the day when they were within 500 miles of a Japanese airfield in order to avoid aerial observation and attack. In the early days of the war in the Pacific this meant just about everywhere as the Japanese were in control of vast swaths of territory and ocean.
This meant that the submarines stayed submerged during the day and only surfaced at night. In order to compensate, many crews flipped their schedules doing their normal daily routines at night. The crews called this “going into reversa.” This allowed the crew to take advantage of the time the sub was on the surface.
This was important because once the submarine dove after running its diesel engines for hours, the boat would quickly heat up. The engine room temperature could soar to over 100 degrees before spreading throughout the sub. Combine that with the 80 men working and breathing and the air inside could quickly become foul.
The men knew the air was getting bad when they had trouble lighting their cigarettes due to the lack of oxygen (oh the irony).
To make matters worse, there was little water available for bathing and on long patrols most men only showered about every ten days or so. Laundry was out of the question. Because of these conditions submarines developed a unique smell – a combination of diesel fuel, sweat, cigarettes, hydraulic fluid, cooking, and sewage.
On older submarines, the World War I-era S-boats — often referred to as pigboats — the conditions were even worse. Without proper ventilation, the odors were even stronger. This also led to mold and mildew throughout the boat as well as rather large cockroaches that the crews could never quite seem to eradicate.
If the conditions themselves weren’t bad enough, the crews then had to sail their boats into hostile waters, often alone, to attack the enemy.
Submarines often targeted shipping boats, but sometimes would find themselves tangling with enemy surface vessels. Once a sub was spotted, the enemy ships would move in for the kill with depth charges.
Of the 263 submarines that made war patrols in World War II, 41 of them were lost to enemy action while another eleven were lost to accidents or other reasons. This was nearly one out of every five submarines, making the job of submariner one of the most dangerous of the war.
A further danger the submarines faced was being the target of their own torpedoes. Due to issues with the early Mk. 14 torpedo that was used, it had a tendency to make a circular run and come back to strike the sub that fired it. At least one submarine, the USS Tang, was sunk this way.
On special missions, submarines landed reconnaissance parties on enemy shores, and in a few cases used their 5″ deck guns to bombard enemy positions.
The bravery of the submarines was well-known in World War II. Presidential Unit Citations were awarded 36 times to submarine crews. Seven submarine skippers were awarded the Medal of Honor for their actions at sea.
American submariners in World War II set a tradition of duty and bravery that is carried on by American submarine crews today.
The Russian military announced on Jan. 10 that Turkish-backed rebels attacked its Hmeimim air base and Tartus naval facility in Syria over the weekend with 13 drones.
“The recent drone attack on Russian bases in Syria was launched from an area near Idlib, which is controlled by Turkish-backed rebel forces,” according to RT, adding that Moscow complained to Turkey about the incident. The drone attack reportedly took place overnight from Jan. 5 to Jan. 6.
The Russian military said that the attack originated from the village of Muazzara, which is located in the Idlib region of Syria.
Russian and Syrian bombing runs have increased in Idlib in the last week, resulting in the deaths of many civilians, according to the Syrian Observatory For Human Rights. ISIS has also recently retaken portions of Idlib, despite Russian President Vladimir Putin’s declaration of victory in Syria late last year.
It is curious that Russia would blame Turkey, given that the two countries have improved relations over the last year.
“We often overestimate how much governments in capitals have control over the rebel groups they sponsor,” Dmitry Gorenburg, a senior research scientist at CNA, told Business Insider.
“Given Turkey’s deteriorating relationship with the U.S., it [would be odd] for Turkey to lash out at Russia,” Gorenburg said.
Russia shifts the blame from U.S. to Turkey
The development comes one day after the Russian Ministry of Defense implied that the U.S. had helped coordinate the drone attacks on Hmeimim air base and Tartus naval facility.
The MoD also said that a U.S. spy plane flew over Syria around the time of the attack, which helped the rebels target the drones.
“Any suggestion the U.S., the Coalition or our partnered forces played a role in an attack on a Russian base is without any basis in fact and utterly irresponsible,” Defense Department spokesman Eric Pahon told Business Insider in an email, adding over the phone that the insinuation is “absolute bonkers.”
“This was not a super sophisticated attack,” Gorenburg said, adding that the rebels could have easily launched and targeted the bases themselves.
Russia has released pictures of the drones, which were made of wood, taped together, and equipped with low-tech bombs.
“My hunch is that [Russia] was embarrassed by the attack,” Gorenburg said, and that the MoD needed to attribute such an attack to “a major power.”
John Ripley was a Marine Corps officer and Vietnam veteran who singlehandedly slowed down North Vietnam’s entire Easter Offensive in 1972. And he did it by dangling under a bridge for three hours while an entire armored column tried to kill him. They were unsuccessful. Ripley’s next brush with death would come in 2002, when his liver began to fail him.
And all anyone could do was sit and watch. That’s when the Marines came.
It’s good to have friends.
Everyone in the Corps wanted to save John Ripley. At just 63, the colonel still had a lot of life left in him, save for what his liver was trying to take away. But his life was no longer measured in years, months, or even days. John Ripley had hours to live and, unless a donor liver could be found, he would be headed to Arlington National Cemetery.
In 1972, Ripley earned the Navy Cross for moving hand over hand under the Dong Ha Bridge. The North Vietnamese Army would soon be traversing the bridge to complete its three-pronged Easter Offensive, one that would overwhelm and kill many of his fellow Marines and South Vietnamese allies. Waiting to cross it was 20,000 Communist troops and more armored tanks and vehicles than Ripley had men under his command.
Ripley spent three hours rigging the bridge to blow while the entire Communist Army tried to kill him. He should probably have been awarded the Medal of Honor.
He should 100 percent have been awarded the Medal of Honor.
His life was about to be tragically cut short, but a faint glimmer of hope shone through the gloom of his condition. A teenager in Philadelphia was a perfect match for Ripley – but the liver might not make it in time. There were no helicopters available to get the liver from the hospital in Philadelphia to Ripley’s hospital at Walter Reed in Washington. That is, until the Marine Corps stepped in. The office of the Commandant of the Marine Corps, James Jones secured the use of one of the Corps’ elite CH-46 helicopters.
In case you’re not in the know, the Marine Corps’ CH-46 Fleet in Washington, DC is more than a little famous. You might have seen one of them before.
A Marine Corps CH-46 in the DC area is sometimes designated ‘Marine One.’
Ripley’s new liver was about to hitch a ride on a Presidential helicopter because that’s how Marines take care of their heroes. A CH-46 would ferry the transplant team to the University of Pennsylvania hospital to remove the donor’s liver and then take the doctors back to Washington for Ripley.
“Colonel Ripley’s story is part of our folklore – everybody is moved by it,” said Lt. Col. Ward Scott, who helped organize the organ delivery from his post at the Marine Corps Historical Center in Washington, which Ripley has directed for the past three years. “It mattered that it was Colonel Ripley who was in trouble.”
Col. John Ripley after his recovery.
The surgical team landed in Pennsylvania and was given a police escort by the state’s highway patrol. When the donor liver was acquired, they were escorted back to the helicopter, where the Marine pilots were waiting. They knew who the liver was for and they were ready to take off. They landed at Anacostia and boarded a smaller helicopter – also flown by a Marine – which took the doctors to Georgetown University Hospital. Friends of the university’s president secured the permission for the helicopter to land on the school’s football field.
This was a Marine Corps mission, smartly executed by a team of Marines who were given the tools needed to succeed. Ripley always said the effort never surprised him.
“Does it surprise me that the Marine Corps would do this?” Ripley told the Baltimore Sun from his hospital bed. “The answer is absolutely flat no! If any Marine is out there, no matter who he is, and he’s in trouble, then the Marines will say, ‘We’ve got to do what it takes to help him.'”
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Oct. 20 there is a place for moderate elements of the Taliban in Afghanistan’s government as long as they renounce violence and terrorism and commit to stability. He also delivered a blunt warning to neighboring Pakistan, insisting Islamabad must step up action against terrorist groups that have found safehaven within its borders.
Speaking on an unannounced trip to Afghanistan where he met Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, and other senior officials at Bagram Air Base north of Kabul, Tillerson said the Taliban must understand that they will never win a military victory and should prepare to negotiate with the government.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah. Photo from US Department of State.
“Clearly, we have to continue to fight against the Taliban, against others, in order for them to understand they will never win a military victory,” Tillerson told a small group of reporters allowed to accompany him from the Qatari capital of Doha. “And there are, we believe, moderate voices among the Taliban, voices that do not want to continue to fight forever. They don’t want their children to fight forever. So we are looking to engage with those voices and have them engage in a reconciliation process leading to a peace process and their full involvement and participation in the government.”
“There’s a place for them in the government if they are ready to come, renouncing terrorism, renouncing violence and being committed to a stable, prosperous Afghanistan,” Tillerson said.
Tillerson outlined to Ghani and Abdullah the Trump administration’s new South Asia policy, which the president rolled out last month and views the region through a lens that includes Afghanistan as well as Pakistan and India, both of which he will visit later this week. The approach is heavy on combatting and beating extremist groups in all three countries.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Photo from US Embassy Consulate in Korea.
“We also want to work with regional partners to ensure that there are no threats in the region,” he said. “This is very much a regional effort as you saw. It was rolled out in the strategy itself, demanding that others deny safehaven to terrorists anywhere in the region. We are working closely with Pakistan as well.”
Tillerson will visit Islamabad on Oct. 21 and said he would be telling Pakistani officials that their cooperation in fighting extremists and driving them from hideouts on their territory is imperative to a good relationship with the US.
“It will be based upon whether they take action that we feel is necessary to move the process forward for both creating opportunity for reconciliation and peace in Afghanistan but also ensuring a stable future Pakistan,” he said. ” Pakistan needs to, I think, take a clear-eyed view of the situation that they are confronted with in terms of the number of terrorist organizations that find safehaven inside of Pakistan. So we want to work closely Pakistan to create a more stable and secure Pakistan as well.”
The administration’s strategy for South Asia envisions it as part of what Tillerson referred to in a speech last week as Indian-Pacific Ocean platform, anchored by four democracies: India, Australia, Japan, and the United States. The US is placing high hopes on India’s contributions in South Asia, especially in Afghanistan where Tillerson said New Delhi could have significant influence and presence by creating jobs and “the right environment for the future of Afghanistan.”
Gen. John Nicholson. Photo from Dept of Defense.
Tillerson also met at Bagram with senior members of the US military contingent, including Army Gen. John Nicholson, the top US commander in Afghanistan. He underscored the ongoing US commitment to stabilizing Afghanistan but stressed it is “conditions based,” meaning that the government must meet certain benchmarks. He praised Ghani for his efforts to curb corruption and prepare for the country parliamentary elections next year.
“It is imperative in the end that we are denying safehaven to any terrorist organizations or any extremists to any part of this world,” Tillerson said.
He arrived in Afghanistan cloaked in secrecy and under heavy security. He had slipped out of Qatar in the pre-dawn hours and flew a gray C-17 military plane to Bagram, jettisoning his public schedule, which had him meeting with staffers at the US Embassy in Doha.
Tillerson, a one-time private pilot, rode in the cockpit wearing a headset and chatting with the crew as the plane took off from the Al-Udeid Air Base outside Doha.
An Iraqi student pilot was killed when an F-16 jet crashed during a training mission in southeastern Arizona, authorities said Sept. 6.
First Lt. Lacey Roberts of the Arizona Air National Guard’s 162nd Wing said the Air Force has activated a team to investigate the crash, which occurred Sept. 5 about 80 miles (129 kilometers) northwest of Tucson.
The pilot’s identity was not released. His death was the second of an Iraqi pilot flying an F-16 that crashed in Arizona in recent years.
Roberts said the plane belonged to the Iraqi air force and that the routine training mission was being conducted in conjunction with the 162nd Wing, which is based at Tucson International Airport.
The US military is training Iraqi pilots to fly F-16s at the request of Iraq’s government, Roberts said.
In July 2015, an Iraqi brigadier general flying from the 162nd died when his F-16, a newer model recently delivered to the Iraqi air force, crashed during night training near Douglas.
In January 2016, a Taiwanese pilot on a training flight from Luke Air Force Base near Phoenix was killed when his F-16 went down in Yavapai County.
The 162nd Wing is the Air Guard’s biggest F-16 training operation and conducts training missions across military ranges in southern and central Arizona.
The wing has hosted training for allied nations since 1990 and trained pilots from nations such as Iraq, Singapore, Poland, Norway, Denmark, Oman, Belgium, and the Netherlands.
The Greek tragedian Aeschylus famously wrote: “In war, truth is the first casualty.”
Well, in this new era of so-called “hybrid” or “gray zone” warfare, truth is not only a casualty of war — it has also become the weapon of choice for some of America’s contemporary adversaries.
Recent “deepfake” videos of the actor Tom Cruise illustrate the power of the new technological tools now available to foreign adversaries who wish to manipulate the American people with online disinformation. The three videos, which appear on the social media platform TikTok under the handle @deeptomcruise, are striking in their realism. To the naked eye of the casual observer, it’s difficult to discern the videos as fakes.
Equally as stunning is an artificial intelligence tool called Deep Nostalgia, which animates static, vintage images — including those of deceased relatives. Together, these technological leaps harken back to the famous line by the writer George Orwell: “Who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past.”
The technology now exists for America’s foreign adversaries, or other malign actors, to challenge citizens’ understanding of their present reality, as well as the past. Coupled with the historic loss in confidence among Americans for their country’s journalistic institutions, as well as our addiction to social media, the conditions are certainly ripe for deepfake disinformation to become a serious national security threat — or a catalyst for nihilistic chaos.
“The internet is a machine, but cyberspace is in our minds. As both expand and evolve faster than we can defend them, the ultimate target — our brains — is closer every day,” Kenneth Geers, a Cyber Statecraft Initiative senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, told Coffee or Die Magazine.
According to a September Gallup Poll, only 9% of Americans said they have “a great deal” of trust in the media to report the news “fully, accurately, and fairly.” On the other hand, when it comes to trusting the media, six out of 10 Americans, on average, responded that they had “not very much” trust or “none at all.” Those findings marked a significant decline in Americans’ trust for the media since polling on the topic began in 1972, Gallup reported.
“Americans’ confidence in the media to report the news fairly, accurately and fully has been persistently low for over a decade and shows no signs of improving,” Gallup reported.
That pervasive distrust in the media leads to increased political polarization and is bad for America’s democratic health, many experts say. Americans’ loss of trust in the media could also portend a national security crisis — especially as contemporary adversaries such as Russia and China increasingly turn to online disinformation campaigns to exacerbate America’s societal divisions.
In fact, Russia already used deepfake technology in its disinformation campaign to influence the 2020 US election, said Scott Jasper, author of the book, Russian Cyber Operations: Coding the Boundaries of Conflict. In advance of the election, Russian cybercriminals working for the Internet Research Agency created a fake news website called “Peace Data,” which featured an entirely fictitious staff of editors and writers, multiple news agencies reported.
“Their profile pictures were deepfakes generated by artificial intelligence,” Jasper told Coffee or Die Magazine. “The fake personas contacted real journalists to write contentious stories that might divide Democratic voters.”
A Soviet doctrine called “deep battle” supported front-line military operations with clandestine actions meant to spread chaos and confusion within the enemy’s territory. Similarly, modern Russia has turned to cyberattacks, social media, and weaponized propaganda to weaken its adversaries from within. According to an August State Department report, Russia uses its “disinformation and propaganda ecosystem” to exploit “information as a weapon.”
“[Russia] invests massively in its propaganda channels, its intelligence services and its proxies to conduct malicious cyber activity to support their disinformation efforts, and it leverages outlets that masquerade as news sites or research institutions to spread these false and misleading narratives,” wrote the authors of the State Department report, Pillars of Russia’s Disinformation and Propaganda Ecosystem.
Some experts contend that the cyber domain has become the proverbial “soft underbelly” of America’s democracy. In the past, America’s journalistic institutions served as gatekeepers, shielding the American people from foreign disinformation or propaganda. However, due to the advent of social media and the internet, America’s adversaries now enjoy direct access into American citizens’ minds. Consequently, the ability to manufacture video content indistinguishable from reality is an exponential force multiplier for adversaries intent on manipulating the American people.
The emerging deepfake threat spurred the Senate in 2019 to pass a bill mandating that the Department of Homeland Security provide lawmakers an annual report on advancements in “digital content forgery technology,” which might pose a threat to national security.
According to the Deepfake Report Act of 2019: “Digital content forgery is the use of emerging technologies, including artificial intelligence and machine learning techniques, to fabricate or manipulate audio, visual, or text content with the intent to mislead.”
The advancement of deepfake technology has been meteoric. Just a couple of years ago, the casual observer would have been able to rather easily tell the difference between genuine humans and their computer-generated, deepfake doppelgangers. Not anymore. Much like the advent of nuclear weapons, the Pandora’s box of deepfake technology has officially been opened and is now impossible to un-invent.
The potential dangers of this technological leap are practically boundless.
Criminals could conceivably concoct videos that offer an alibi at the time of their alleged crimes. Countries could fabricate videos of false flag military aggressions as a means to justify starting a war. Foreign adversaries could generate fake videos of police brutality, or of racially charged acts of violence, as a means to further divide American society.
“I think it’s a safe assumption that video manipulation is a key short-term weapon in the arsenal of less reputable political-military organizations needing to shape some opinions before the contents can be disputed,” Gregory Ness, a Silicon Valley cybersecurity expert, told Coffee or Die Magazine.
There are certain commercially available artificial intelligence, or AI, tools already available to detect deepfake videos with a fidelity surpassing that of the human observer. Microsoft, for example, has already developed an AI algorithm for detecting deepfakes.
Some cybersecurity experts are calling on social media platforms to integrate these deepfake detection algorithms on their sites to alert users to phony videos. For his part, Geers, the Atlantic Council senior fellow, was skeptical that social media companies would step up on their own initiative and police for deepfake content.
“Social media profits from our negativity, vulnerability, and stupidity,” Geers said. “Why would they stop?”
The overarching intent of disinformation campaigns — particularly those prosecuted by Moscow — is not always to dupe Americans into believing a false reality. Rather, the real goal may be to challenge their belief in the existence of any objective truths. In short: The more distrustful Americans become of the media, the more likely they are to believe information based on its emotional resonance with their preconceived biases. The end goal is chaos, not brainwashing.
“If we are unable to detect fake videos, we may soon be forced to distrust everything we see and hear, critics warn,” the cybersecurity news site CSO reported. “The internet now mediates every aspect of our lives, and an inability to trust anything we see could lead to an ‘end of truth.’ This threatens not only faith in our political system, but, over the longer term, our faith in what is shared objective reality.”
Some experts say the US government should get involved, perhaps by leveraging the power of the Department of Defense, to patrol the cyber domain for deepfake videos being spread by foreign adversaries. The Pentagon, for its part, has already been called in to defend America’s elections against online disinformation.
In the wake of Russia’s attack on the 2016 presidential election, the Department of Defense partially shouldered the responsibility of defending against foreign attacks on America’s elections. By that measure, it’s certainly within the bounds of national security priorities for Washington to leverage the US military’s resources to root out and take down deepfake videos.
“Governments will inevitably step in, but what we really need is for democracies to step up and create innovative policies based on freedom of expression and the rule of law,” Geers said.
1. The Army has more aircraft than the Air Force and more boats than the Navy.
This is something that gets passed around Army circles with pride and is occasionally mentioned by other services with embarrassment. Well, buck up little sailors and airmen, the top rankings actually do go to their respective services.
The Army has 5,117 aircraft which is surprisingly high, but the Air Force still wins with 5,199 according to the 2015 Aviation Plan from the Department of Defense. Sometimes, the myth says the Navy has the most aircraft, but even when counting the Marine Corps helicopters and planes, the Department of the Navy comes in third with 3,847.
This is one of the claims we can’t outright debunk, but it’s still ridiculous. The story goes that at the United States Bullion Depository at Fort Knox, Kentucky, there is actually just an empty vault. A former head of the mint claims the gold is all there and points out that a full audit in 1953 found that all of the gold was present, a visit by Congressional leaders and the news media in 1974 found nothing suspicious, and annual inspections by the Treasury Department and the U.S. Mint always report that the gold is in place.
4. At base flagpoles, there are items to destroy the flag with honor in case the base is overrun.
The story goes that military installation flags are supposed to be destroyed if a base is overrun, and there is a kit with each flagpole to accomplish the task. The items stored at the flagpole change depending on who’s telling the story. Generally, there is a razor or match for destroying the flag, a set of printed instructions, and a pistol round. Either these items are in the truck, the ball at the top of the flagpole, or they are buried in a footlocker nearby. There is supposedly also a pistol, almost always in a buried footlocker, that the service member uses with the pistol round to kill themselves when they’re done destroying the flag.
This is insane for a few reasons. First, if a base is being overrun, the military has bigger problems than the flag. Flags are important symbols, but the tanks, ships, classified documents, and personnel on military bases are typically more important. The military Code of Conduct orders service members to resist the enemy as long as they can, so they should use the pistol round to kill the enemy rather than themselves. Finally, as a military historian pointed out to Stars and Stripes, few service members would actually be able to climb the flagpole which can be as high as 75 feet tall.
5. There are self-destruct buttons on bases and ships.
The idea that military bases, ships, or manned vehicles have self-destruct buttons likely comes from Hollywood, which uses the trope a ridiculous amount. Some foreign military vehicles have had self-destruct charges in rare instances, but the U.S. military typically guards its secrets in other ways.
Navy ships can be scuttled and the Air Force can bomb any downed airplanes or damaged vehicles. Modern computers can be “zeroized” to get rid of sensitive information. Any infrastructure on a military post that might need to be quickly destroyed could be destroyed with incendiary grenades nearly as quickly as with a built-in self-destruct mechanism.