In a recent study conducted by the Department of Defense and the Sleep Research Society, it turns out that the insomnia rate within troops skyrocketed 650 percent since the 2003 invasion of Iraq. In other news, water is wet.
No. But seriously. This should only be a shock to civilians who’re so far removed from what the troops are actually doing. If you’re wondering why we have sleep problems, take a look at our regular schedule: wake up at 0430, PT until 0700, work until 1700 (but more likely at 1800,) fill out paperwork or college courses that couldn’t have gotten done during work hours for another few hours, maybe some personal time, and eventually sleep around midnight.
That entire cycle is then propped up with copious amounts of coffee and energy drinks. And to no one’s surprise, it’s obviously the caffeine’s problem instead of systemically awful time management skills of most troops.
I’m just saying. Don’t get on the troops’ asses about drinking coffee. There are civilians who roll out of bed at 0845 and leave work at 1500 who can’t go a moment without their vanilla spiced grande chai latte whatever. Here are some memes for those of you who earned theirs!
This series of articles isn’t meant to offer concrete, hard-and-fast rules about close-quarters combat (CQB). Like anything in life, there are dozens of paths to a destination, and efficiency and safety make the difference. This article series will just present some things that many forget or are simply not aware of.
The reality of today is that the majority of tactical approaches for CQB have not been validated via scientific research. A loth of them have been adopted following one dude hearing from another dude who heard from a third dude. Some of the techniques work well on paper targets or deliver successful feedback to the team or to the viewer on the catwalk with a timer. But they aren’t actually human-behavior compliant, or in other words, they aren’t going to work when bullets are being exchanged. The purpose of this article is to highlight certain known or commonly performed errors that are not human-behavior compliant and work against our human instincts but are still taught around the globe as a standard.
Let’s begin with a small, very raw experiment. Stretch your arm while thumbing up. Now, look at the thumb. It appears in great detail, but to its right and left, your vision is more blurry. Your vision acutely drops by 50 percent to each side of the thumb. Long story short, precision sight is limited by angle due to the unique structure of the human eye. The conclusion is that:
While on your sights, only a narrow field of precision information can be processed. In low-light situations, you can imagine how fragile that becomes.
A wider field of peripheral (not in-depth) vision can be triggered by OR (observation response, aka movement that attracts the eyes)
Focused vision (aka Foveal field of vision) is only 1.5 inches in diameter at six feet and 2.5 inches at 10 feet. The central visual field is 12.7 inches in diameter at six feet and 21.1 inches at 10 feet. The peripheral visual field has no ability to detect precision focus. In other words, anything the green circle below covers has no sharp detail/precision sight coverage.
This image is a rough estimation and might be few inches off. Our Photoshop skills suck. (SOFREP)
Now that you are aware of these limitations I can present my case. One of the biggest problems that I encounter with both experienced and non-experienced students in CQB is that they move into rooms with their eyes buried into optics or slightly above. To my observations, this is one of the most consistent errors I see even in professional circles. I believe that its source is inexperienced instructors receiving implicit knowledge from movies or from someone who heard that reticle + target = success. Not always.
I’ll state the obvious: The average distance for CQB engagement is less than 10 meters and commonly ends up at three meters away from a threat. Things happen quickly and up close. There are two major factors that have a huge effect on human performance in CQB and should be considered: a lack of time and a limited field of view, both of which impact our intake of critical data and our target discrimination.
Viewing the world through a toilet paper roll will result not only in missing vital visual information — such as that extra door behind a closet or an innocent-looking tango secretly holding a folding knife — but will also result in accidents, such as a wingman shooting the shoulder or elbows of the point man because he could not get that visual data while under acute stress response (see the video above). While using pistols, this is even more apparent. From what I’ve seen with police officers, the wingman or the guy in the back will often experience target fixation and will flag the shit out of his partner’s head or body due to the sight fixation effect. Additionally, a shooter may trip over furniture, debris, kids, or other obstacles that are quite low and won’t be visible when you reduce your field of view to a toilet paper roll.
I have also recognized that reaction time seems to diminish until the individual receives a physical stimulus indicating there is, in fact, a threat in front of him. You are probably asking why. Well, it is simple: The shooter missed the critical vision information necessary to indicate the presence of a threat or a human being. In other words, the individual’s eyes were not receiving enough sensory data to process. Instead, his eyes were fixed on a reticle and linear perspective.
To summarize, sight fixation — moving with eyes locked on sights — is something that belongs in the movies. Sadly, the idea of clearing rooms while looking through optics is very common nowadays. Let’s be honest: Why do you need to aim down your Aimpoint at three meters, anyway? The only answer would be when precision shots (read, in hostage situations) are a must.
Flashlights are a force multiplier
For many people, flashlights are associated with crickets, dark rooms, or night operations. In reality, flashlights could and should be used as a standard, even in illuminated rooms, as soon as you encounter a non-compliant person or a threat.
Assuming your flashlight is powerful enough (which it should be), it can act as a non-lethal weapon that will disorient or divide attention, impairing a threat’s attempt to OODA himself or become proactive, since any kind of sensory stimulation moves them closer to a sympathetic response. For no-light/low-light situations, there are several nice techniques that can significantly reduce the threat’s capability to anticipate the moment of entry.
How can a flashlight be of help?
It’s a great disorientationtool. A flashlight’s beam pointed in the eyes can confuse and disorient a threat while giving you the threat’s specific location inside a room.
It divides attention. Flashlights are the ultimate tool of deception and manipulation. Especially since in low-light conditions, the world looks like a framed picture without details, contrast, or colors. You get to fill that picture; to manipulate it to fit your needs. It also causes a threat to fixate on the light, soaking up their attention and keeping it off your partners, who are ideally triangulating the threat.
It’s silent. The flashlight has no sound or signature, and will not compromise you during daylight.
It increases reaction time. Simply put, being able to see clearly increases your reaction time when determining threats versus hostages or obstacles.
During daylight room clearing, we instruct our students at Project Gecko to use flashlights almost as default (this also depends on law enforcement or military context) upon encountering a human presence in close proximity. A beam of 500 lumens can save your life. It will surely buy you more time and control, and in some cases — assuming your training is solid — it can even provide concealment. (We will get to this later in this article series.)
Acknowledge the potential of your flashlight. And don’t be cheap — carry two. One mounted and another handheld.
This article was written by Eli Feildboy, founder and CEO of Project Gecko and former Israeli commando. It was originally published in 2019.
Isreal used its US-made F-35 Lightning II stealth fighter jet in combat in the raging air war over Syria, making it the first country to ever to do so, its military confirmed on May 22, 2018.
“The Adir planes are already operational and flying in operational missions. We are the first in the world to use the F-35 in operational activity,” Maj. Gen. Amikam Norkin, commander of the Israeli Air Force said, referring to the Israeli version of the F-35 as the Adir.
“We are flying the F-35 all over the Middle East and have already attacked twice on two different fronts,” Norkin told a meeting of air force chiefs in Israel, as Reuters notes.
Shlomo Brom, a retired brigadier general in the Israeli Air Force, told Business Insider that one of those fronts was over Syria after Iranian forces fired rockets towards Israel and Israel’s air force launched a blistering retaliation that killed dozens of Iranians and hit more than 50 individual targets.
That specific air battle saw Israeli jets pound Russian-made Syrian air defenses that had been made to counter older jets like Israel’s F-15 and F-16s. In February 2018, during a similar battle, Israel lost an F-16 to Syrian air defenses.
(Israeli Air Force photo)
“The Iranians fired 32 rockets, we intercepted four of them, and the rest fell outside Israeli territory,” Norkin said of the battle. “In our response attack, more than 100 ground-to-air missiles were fired at our planes.”
The F-35 is the “ideal” platform for the congested skies over Syria, according to retired US Marine Corps Lt. Col. David Berke, a former F-35 squadron commander.
F-35 vs. Russian defenses
Fighting over Syria often gets near Damascus, one of the more heavily protected cities in the world with powerful Russian missile defense batteries protecting its ally, Syrian President Bashar Assad.
It’s unclear whether Syrian or Russian defenses tracked or attempted to engage the F-35s, but the stealth jet makes itself difficult to find.
Russia explained that the system was either not battle-ready or had run out of munitions. But Israel’s announcement on May 22, 2018, brings in a new possibility — that it had been bombed by the first combat deployment of the F-35.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Near-peer competition and the United States retaining its military competitive edge were among the issues the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff discussed in an interview with Washington Post associate editor David Ignatius.
The interview — broadcast as part of the Post’s “Transformers” series — looked at the ways warfare and security are changing.
Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford addressed the challenges coming from Russia and China first off, using the Russian seizure of Ukrainian boats off Crimea as an example. “What took place in the Sea of Azov is consistent with a pattern of behavior that really goes back to Georgia, then Crimea and then Donbass in Ukraine,” he said.
Russia is stopping short of open conflict, the general said. Instead, he explained, Russian leaders push right to the edge. “What the Russians are really doing is testing the international community’s resolve in enforcing the rules that exist,” Dunford said.
Army Sgt. Samuel Benton observes and mentors soldiers during the Bull Run V training exercise with Battle Group Poland in Olecko, Poland, May 22, 2018.
(Army photo by Spc. Hubert D. Delany III)
In this case, he said, clear violations of sovereignty and signed agreements have taken place. The international community “has got to respond diplomatically, economically or in the security space,” he added, or Russia “will continue what it’s been doing.”
No discussion of military response
The chairman stressed there has been no discussion about a military response to the Sea of Azov incident. The United States has assisted Ukraine in defending its sovereignty, he said, and will continue to do so.
Russia is in material breach of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty signed in 1987, and the United States will withdraw from the treaty if Russia does not get into compliance with it, Dunford said, noting that the arms-control treaties negotiated starting in the 1980s have provided strategic stability.
“In a perfect world,” he said, “what I would say would be best is if Russia would comply with the INF, it would set the conditions for broader conversations about other arms-control agreements, to include the extension of [the Strategic Arms Reductions Treaty].”
Ignatius asked Dunford about China, and more specifically, how China is challenging U.S. military dominance. America’s greatest military advantages are its network of allies and the ability to project military power worldwide, the chairman said. Both China and Russia understand that, he added, and Russia is seeking to undermine NATO while China is seeking to undermine America’s network of allies in the Indo-Pacific region.
On the military side, China is working on capabilities that would stop American power projection capabilities in the Pacific in all domains: sea, land, air, space, and cyberspace. “China has developed capabilities in all those domains to challenge us,” Dunford said. “The outcome of challenging us in those domains is challenging our ability to project power in support of our interests and alliances in the region.”
China’s clear aspirations
Reading China is tough, he acknowledged. The nation has been “opaque” with what it spends on defense, the chairman said, but Chinese leaders have not been opaque with their aspirations. “[Chinese] President Xi [Jinping] was very clear last year … where he wants China to be a global power with global power-projection capability,” Dunford said. “Among the capabilities they are developing is aircraft carriers, which would certainly indicate a desire to project power beyond their territorial waters.”
Chinese President Xi Jinping.
China’s technological advances concern U.S. officials. China has sunk enormous sums into artificial intelligence research, and Dunford said the nation that has an advantage in AI will have an overall competitive advantage. Speed of decision is key in today’s warfare, he said, and a usable man-machine interface would give the country that perfects it an advantage.
The U.S. competitive advantage has reduced over the past decade, the chairman said. “I am confident in saying we can defend the homeland and our way of life, we can meet our alliance commitments today, and we have an aggregate competitive advantage over any potential adversary,” he said. “I am equally confident in saying that if we don’t change the trajectory we are on, … whoever is sitting in my seat five or seven years from now will not be as confident as I am.”
The U.S. military depends of private firms to provide the military advantage. Today, that means getting the best in the world to get behind artificial intelligence research. Yet, employees at Google — arguably the best in the world — protested and backed away from engaging with the Defense Department. Ignatius asked Dunford what he would say to those employees.
“If they were all sitting her right now, I would say, ‘Hey, we’re the good guys,'” he said. “It is inexplicable to me that we would make compromises to make advances in China where we know that freedom is restrained, where we know China will take intellectual property from companies and strip it away.”
The United States has led the free world since the end of World War II, and even with some failings, the values of the United States infuse the free and open world order today, the general said, and if the United States were to withdraw, someone would fill that gap. “I am not sure that the people at Google would enjoy a world order that is informed by the norms and standards of Russia or China,” he said.
A 1990 white Lincoln stretch limousine covered in dust slowly pulls to a stop. Former Army Ranger Angel Cortes, his brother, and a few of their posse roll out of the door. Their clothes sport a sketch of a grinning jack o’lantern.
They are carrying AR-15s, Multicam plate carriers, high-capacity P-mags with 5.56 armor piercing ammunition. Glocks are tucked in their waistbands. Moments later, rounds are ricocheting through car windows. Screeching high velocity lead rips into passenger side doors, metal on metal screaming as the car interiors are ripped open, their soft innards gutted by the physics of force times mass.
This could be the beginning of a post-apocalyptic film or a violent street crime. But it is not.
Instead it was a friendly gathering of ex-special operations soldiers on a practice shooting course, dreamed up and funded by former Army Ranger Angel Cortes. Bringing veterans together to shoot the shit and shoot some targets is his way of giving back and building a community of veterans and a few trusted civilians to talk about life.
Look closely and a few fine details start to emerge from the smoke and gun powder and dust. Listen closely, and you start to hear a melodic rhythm to the pattern of fire. This is not the chaotic gun fight of a street skirmish gone off the rails. Angel and his friends maintain a continuous volley of fire. When one person empties their magazine, another increases his rate of fire. They unload and reload sequentially, so that there’s never a time when someone is not firing. They are leaping and bounding in a smooth synchronicity, like members of a ballet company who have rehearsed this dance over and over again; there is a grace and a fluidity to their violence that upon close examination belies their level of training. They are shooting moving, communicating, and executing dilapidated cars the way a butcher cleaves a chicken. Look closer and you see even finer details. The magazine holders are made by Crye precision, a bespoke brand of high-end gun gear made by hipsters in Brooklyn (the gods of war have a funny sense of humor) that has become the go-to standard for the most elite Special Operations units in the world. Their skin and shirts are marked with bone frog tattoos, scuba bubbles, parachutist wings, globes and anchors. G-shocks and Garmin watches adorn their wrists. These are the subdued brands of SEALs, MARSOC and a variety of other commando units, many who have spent the last several decades at war.
The firefight ends as abruptly as it started. There’s no high fives, no whooping and screaming, little fanfare to signify the end of the run. After all, these are not the streets of LA… but it easily could have been for Angel and his brother who admittedly grew up in LA’s gang life as affiliated members. Nor are these the streets of Anbar or the dirt roads of Afghanistan. But once again… it easily could’ve been. Five years ago Angel was deployed to Afghanistan attached with 3rd Special Forces Group.
For much of the American public who holds caricatures of veterans in their heads, this seems like a strange scene. The wars are over, or at the very least waning. Many veterans are suffering. An un-indoctrinated civilian might ask, “Should they be out playing GI Joe on the range? Don’t they need to heal?” Some civilians might even be cognizant of the story of Chris Kyle, the Navy SEAL sniper who was shot by a PTSD stricken veteran on the very shooting range he was trying to help him with rehabilitation. These narratives neglect the full range of experience of a large portion of veterans who are returning from overseas.
Angel, like many of the veterans out on the range this day, became a man in the military — literally. Angel’s mom signed his papers to join the service when he was 17 years old. He was in combat in Iraq by the time he was 18. He spent most of his 20s, his formative learning and earning years, deployed. While other 18 to 30 year olds were forming networks and connections that would determine their trajectory in life, Angel was fighting and watching his friends die.
Returning at 26 to the civilian world, Angel had three kids, no savings, and few job skills that translated to civilian life (there are a few jobs outside of the smoke-jumper community that require a static line parachuting qualification). He worked at a yogurt shop while attending community college. In the military, every penny of his paycheck had been spent on supporting his brother and sister back home. He took his last active paycheck to treat himself to one thing to commemorate his multiple combat deployments, a 1990 325I BMW. The beemer just kept breaking and his wife suggested he purchase a car that was more reliable. So, he saved some money and got the infamous 1990 white limousine, with mahogany interior, which became his famous daily driver. Inspired by Bam Margera of the Jackass skater culture, it represented how Angel was driving forward in his own unconventional style. While going to school, Angel started a T-shirt company, the OG Pumpkin, based on a design made for him by his son. The pumpkin design, like Angel, is paradoxically both menacing and friendly. It has a ghoul-like appearance that is sinister, sarcastic and yet somehow seems to be laughing with you.
Angel promotes his OG Pumpkin brand online and on Instagram. Like all great advertising though, his greatest asset is word-of-mouth— and the word is starting to spread. Every month Angel uses the proceeds from his company to hold shooting range days for his fellow veterans who like him are navigating the twilight between active duty service and the civilian world.
This particular range day was a vehicle range. A mid 90s silver Jetta and a white Toyota Corolla were towed to a remote shooting range in the foothills of Los Angeles. The tow truck driver, 40-something hispanic, with easily recognizable ink indicating a formerly affiliated or incarcerated life, looks like he could’ve been right out of Angel’s neighborhood. He dropped the cars in the middle of the range, then headed to the safe fire spectators area where Angel’s dad was grilling carne asada and adobo tacos for the group.
About 30 veterans, including SEALs, Army Rangers, MARSOC and a host of other operators from the alphabet soup of elite units (DEA, HRT, SWAT, others), teamed up in impromptu pairs to run drills, shoot targets and offer tactics and tips to each other. The vehicle course is a treat even for top-tier units. It’s not every day you get to practice shooting through the front windshield of a car to hit steel targets. The operators were jovial but subdued. The culture of Special Operations, which pays homage to the idea of a silent professional (although more often in word than deed) makes it uncool to express too much emotion, even after letting 30 rounds rip through your muzzle.
Putting together range days is not just about shooting. in fact it’s very little about shooting. It’s merely Angel’s version of golf. It allows him to spend time with his friends, his fellow veterans, network about business and entrepreneurialism, and re-capture some of the community that ended when he took off his uniform.
Ryan Garcia is one of those veterans. He returned home from Nangarhar, Afghanistan last year after serving in the 2nd Battalion 34th Regiment out of Ft. Carson, Colorado. He didn’t know Angel in the service, but had watched his YouTube videos about becoming a Ranger and going through selection. Garcia, like Angel, had grown up in Southern California, and upon completing his last tour returned home. His transition was somewhat rocky. He ostensibly was going to school, but didn’t exactly move from the front lines to the front of the class. “When I got out, I lost my purpose … yeah I’m getting through school, but I was in a depression. I would say I was busy but I wasn’t doing anything.” About six months ago, between Xbox games, Garcia saw a post of Angel’s from the shooting range. Inspired, he went to shoot. What he found was a camaraderie that seemed to fill a hole he didn’t know was missing. Being around fellow veterans was a first step toward a healthier reintegration. Garcia spoke with Angel about classes, and saw how Angel was attacking the classes like a mission. Previously Angel had helped inspire Garcia to excel in the Army, now he was leading by quiet example by stressing the importance of classes and community. Garcia remains grateful for Angel’s mentorship, and now helps out other veterans as well. “At end of day whether you’re in a warzone, or back here, we have each other’s back.”
For other veterans it’s a chance to stay involved, and help. Mike O’ Dowd, a former Navy seal close quarters combat tactical instructor volunteered his time at the range day to help other veteran sharpen their skills. O’Dowd, who runs a Company called Defense Strategy Group that teaches civilians shooting tactics and skills said, “By hosting these range days, Angel has been bringing veterans from all branches together in our natural environment. He’s given us a space to feel at home again, with people we trust. It’s something that I’ve been missing since leaving the Navy.”
Ultimately, Angel’s path as an entrepreneur, starting with a clothing company, studying to become a registered dietitian, even the range days he puts on for his fellow veterans, speak to something larger. Veterans return from service and overseas, and face a series of choices: What am I going to do? How do I support myself? And more fundamentally: Who am I? What is my purpose? Those questions are more formally known as veterans transition. There are significant headwinds for veterans transitioning out of uniformed service; many lack formal education and networks for civilian occupations, some are struggling with the invisible wounds of war, and many struggle to find purpose in a world where your mission isn’t briefed to you before you go out the door. Angel, and the cabal of veterans he has touched, show all the promise of a way forward. Coming home to a community where he once sold guns on the street, he is now a community leader, teaching self-defense and gun safety. Returning to a family that was abusive, he has broken the cycle of abuse, and is not only a father thrice over but a patron of the entire family. Angel came from a home where he often had only one meal a day, and is now feeding his fellow veterans.
Like many veterans, there was no clear path for Angel when he left the military. Instead he used the same skills and values that got him through Ranger selection and 24 months of combat, to find his way in the civilian world. Taking care of others, perseverance, service above self, finding a way to win; these are traits burnished into the character of special operations personnel. What he lacks in formal education, he made up for in hustle and drive. While Angel and many of his fellow veterans return home and are still fighting demons from their time overseas, they also have a host of skills and armor that are allowing them to become leaders in the civilian world. In some way this was the original mission of the Jack-O-Lantern, in the old world it was designed to ward off evil spirits. Angel, and his band of OG Pumpkin brothers, continue to do just that.
Kaj Larsen is an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared on NETFLIX, CNN, ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, VICE, Huffington Post, and numerous other outlets. Prior to his work in television, Kaj spent five years on active duty serving as a US Navy SEAL. As a lieutenant, he led a team of special warfare personnel in covert operations overseas deploying as a detachment commander in support of the Global War on Terrorism. Kaj continues his service as a science diver for Force Blue, a team of veterans in support of ocean conservation.
Bullets, frags, and a bayonet are just a few pieces of heavy gear infantrymen haul on patrol while in a combat zone. But there’s one thing that most grunts carry with them that is equally as important and essential — the Rip It!
Yes, the freakin’ energy drink!
Rip It has been a military staple for years because of these five epic reasons.
A grunt typically carries 80 – 150 pounds of gear when they’re hunting down the bad guys. So the last thing anyone wants to haul is a bulky energy drink can in their cargo pocket. Rip It comes in 8 fluid ounce cans for easy storage.
How awesome is that, right?
Go ahead, take a moment to look at their beauty.
2. Increased physical performance
Ground pounders need to be as athletic as possible when they’re running from compound-to-compound taking down ISIS fighters. Rip It comes with Vitamin C, Guarana Seed Extract, and a sh*t ton of caffeine to make any infantryman extra motivated while they’re kicking down doors.
3. You get mad focus
There’s nothing more important to a grunts than mental focus while engaging targets. The super-charged energy drink will have anyone grunt seeing through ISIS’ lies and their fortified position in no time (experiences may vary, but you’re pretty damn focused).
4. They’re freakin’ delicious
Although drinking water is critical, that sh*t can get boring real quick. Rip It comes in a variety of flavors like “3-way,” “G-Force,” and the “Bomb.” Each flavor could be paired nicely with your favorite MRE. That’s what we call good eatin’.
From personal experience, the enemy often becomes terrified of their American enemy when aggressively pursued. Rip It is commonly used as a pre-workout drink for when infantrymen are looking to get those deployment gains.
A jacked Marine or soldier going up against a skinny ISIS fighter = easy freakin’ day.
Yuri Drozdov, the Soviet spymaster who oversaw a sprawling network of KGB agents abroad, died on June 21. He was 91.
The Foreign Intelligence Service, a KGB successor agency known under its Russian acronym SVR, didn’t give the cause of Drozdov’s death or any other specifics in a terse statement.
Drozdov, a World War II veteran, joined the KGB in 1956 and was dispatched as a liaison officer with the East German secret police, the Stasi. In 1962, he took part in the exchange of Soviet undercover agent Rudolf Abel, convicted in the US, for downed American spy plane pilot Francis Gary Powers.
Photo of the former chief of KGB Directorate “S” general Yuri Drozdov and a former soviet NOC Sergey Zhirnov at the office of consulting firm Namakon in Moscow. (Photo via of Wikimedia Commons)
The story was made into Steven Spielberg’s blockbuster “Bridge of Spies” in 2015 as well as the Soviet movie “The Shield and the Sword,” a 1968 classic that Russian President Vladimir Putin once said inspired him to join the KGB.
On June 21st, Putin himself offered condolences to Drozdov’s wife and two sons in a message published on the Kremlin’s website. Drozdov was “a legendary spy and an outstanding professional” who was also “an incredible person and true patriot,” Putin said.
Working under diplomatic cover, Drozdov served as the KGB resident in China in 1964-1968, and in the United States in 1975-1979.
In 1979, he came to head a KGB department overseeing a network of undercover agents abroad, the job he held until resigning in 1991. The agents who lived abroad under false identity were called “illegals” and were considered the elite of Soviet intelligence.
In December 1979, Drozdov led an operation to storm the palace of Afghan President Hafizullah Amin that paved the way for the Soviet invasion.
Drozdov also founded the KGB’s Vympel special forces unit intended for covert operations abroad.
The SVR praised Drozdov as a “real Russian officer, a warm-hearted person and a wise leader.”
An F-16 pilot flying over ISIS-held territory in 2015 suffered a malfunction of his fuel system and would have been forced to bail out if it weren’t for a KC-135 Stratotanker crew that offered to escort the jet home, the Air Force said in a press release.
“We were in the area of responsibility and were already mated with some A-10 Thunderbolt IIs that were tasked with observing and providing close-air-support for our allies on the ground,” said Capt. Nathanial Beer, 384th Air Refueling Squadron pilot. “The lead F-16 came up first and then had a pressure disconnect after about 500 pounds of fuel. We were expecting to offload about 2,500 pounds.”
After the pilot completed his checklist, it became apparent that 80 percent of his fuel supply was trapped in the tanks and couldn’t get to the engine. The pilots would have to bail out over ISIS territory or try to make it back to allied airspace.
500 pounds of fuel is very little in an F-16, so the KC-135 flew home with the fighter and topped off its gas every 15 minutes.
“The first thought I had from reading the note from the deployed location was extreme pride for the crew in how they handled the emergency,” said Lt. Col. Eric Hallberg, 384th Air Refueling Squadron commander.
“Knowing the risks to their own safety, they put the life of the F-16 pilot first and made what could’ve been an international tragedy, a feel-good news story. I’m sure they think it was not a big deal, however, that’s because they never want the glory or fame.”
The KC-135 crew returned to their planned operation once the F-16 was safely home and were able to complete all of their scheduled missions despite the detour.
The 82nd Airborne Division is getting in the holiday spirit early this year with the annual ‘All American Presents from Paratroopers.’
“All American Presents from Paratroopers is an annual event the 82nd Airborne Division hosts in order to give back to the surrounding Fayetteville community with holiday gift donations while enhancing our Airborne capability and giving our paratroopers the opportunity to earn coveted foreign jump wings,” MSG Alex Burnett, PAO NCOIC of the 82nd Airborne, told We Are The Mighty.
The paratroopers who donated toys received a raffle ticket for a chance to earn foreign jump wings during the two-day airborne operation.
“Paratroopers from across Fort Bragg donated a present and were given a raffle ticket early Monday morning,” Burnett said. “Later in the day, the Division held a lottery and those with matching tickets were given a slot to jump on December 2nd and 3rd with a Chilean Jumpmaster.”
2020 marks the second year the division has hosted this event, which is open to any current paratrooper serving at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
“In years past, U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command hosted an event called Operation Toy Drop which was a similar event, but their last event was in 2018,” Burnett shared. “In the spirit of that tradition, last year the 82nd decided to create All American Presents from Paratroopers.”
This year, the event collected more than 1,500 toys, which will go to the Children’s Home Society of North Carolina, Fort Bragg USO, Armed Services YMCA, Cumberland County Sheriff’s Department and the Fayetteville Urban Ministry.
“I wanted to participate in Presents from Paratroopers, because it’s important to me that we give back to the local community and help those in need,” Staff Sgt. Alina Zamora, 82nd Airborne Division Paralegal said. “The fact that we can do that and earn a set of foreign jump wings makes the event even more special. I am glad I got to be a part of it.”
The 82nd Airborne Division is an airborne infantry division of the United States Army specializing in joint forcible entry operations and the primary fighting arm of the XVIII Airborne Corps. Since its initial members in 1917 came from all forty-eight states, the unit acquired the nickname “All American,” which is the basis for its famed “AA” shoulder patch.
“The All American Division is fortunate to be a part of the Fayetteville community and we are proud to be able to give back while providing our paratroopers the opportunity to jump and earn a set of foreign jump wings,” Burnett stated.
Imagine a summer with no camps, no daycares, no pools, no libraries or open parks to take your kids to enjoy. No play-dates, sleepovers, theme parks or road trips. It’s just you and your kids. All day.
There’s no need to imagine because this is our reality. Summer came early. And it’s doubly intense for spouses who already have little to no relief because their service members are deployed.
On March 13, our country was declared to be in a National Emergency. The spread of the coronavirus has not only dictated our social interactions, but schools and public facilities shutting down as well have left us with no choice but to stay in with our families. But “in” doesn’t have to exactly mean IN the house. So don’t lose hope or think you have no choice but to go stir crazy.
Here are a few ways to get creative with your outdoor activities that don’t involve public places.
Go for a cruise through the city
If you’re newly PCS’d to your area, this is a good chance to get a lay of the land. Load up the kids and take the scenic route around the city. You can turn the music up loud and roll down the windows to feel the breeze. Take turns choosing the songs, so everyone feels involved.
Make chalk drawings or games like hopscotch on your driveway
You may have to dig for it, but reach through all your crafting items to get the old faithful sidewalk chalk. You can have a different theme for your drawings each time or make it a free for all.
Do some gardening/exploring
I have some stubborn weeds, but my kids love picking them with me. If you garden, spruce up the yard as a family. Or you can explore your yards perimeters. Have everyone walk around the edges and count how many steps it takes to complete the trek around your home. Water your plants or dig for worms. Get good and dirty together.
Have a picnic
Picnics seem so vintage right now. Make sandwiches, fruit or whatever you like and eat out on a blanket in the yard. Then lay back and bask in the sun! Don’t forget the SPF.
Neighborhood dance party from your driveways
Make a time with your neighbors close by and come out front. Play some music loud enough for them to enjoy as well, and boogie down. This is also a good icebreaker if you haven’t made friends yet.
Everyone likes to win at something. Make the contest a hulahoop, jump rope, or basketball game, if you have a net. Or even four square. Choose a prize for the winner each day. For example, the winner gets to choose what’s for dinner, or what the family movie will be for that evening.
The key is to get some sun and fresh air. A bonus is to find something your kids enjoy that requires them to use A LOT of energy. This makes for a great nap time. And yes, we’ve reintroduced naps now that they are out of school. It keeps everyone sane!
On a cold January day in Virginia, men and women of the guided-missile destroyer USS Donald Cook’s (DDG 75) engineering department stood at attention both somber and quiet. The bitter cold chills of the wind broke the silence of their awards-at-quarters on the ship’s flight deck. While most service members eagerly await receiving awards, this was certainly not true for Electrician’s Mate 3rd Class John Chavez-Sanchez. This was the day he did not anticipate — being awarded for his bravery and assistance in the aftermath of the terrorist attack on USS Cole (DDG 67) on Oct. 12, 2000.
“You figure my first NAM [Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal] is that one that I am most excited for, but I didn’t smile,” said Chief Electrician’s Mate John Chavez-Sanchez, from Bay Shore, New York, now assigned to USS Gerald R. Ford’s (CVN 78) engineering department. “Nobody smiled. Nobody clapped. Myself and the crew from the Cook didn’t want any type of praise. We played a key role, but we didn’t want to take any credit.”
On that fateful day, Cole pulled pierside in Aden, Yemen to begin refueling. It was mid-day when two suicide bombers pulled a small boat along Cole’s port side and detonated explosives leaving a 40 foot-by-60 foot hole at the waterline of the ship. Seventeen sailors died and another 39 were injured.
While on its maiden voyage, a mere two nautical miles away, USS Donald Cook got word on the events that had took place.
“We got sent to GQ [general quarters] and no one knew why at first,” said Chavez-Sanchez. “I was going through my checklist as the repair locker electrician when the CO [commanding officer] came on the 1MC and announced that the Cole was attacked. He told us, ‘This is what we train for. Get ready for war’.”
Chief Electrician’s Mate John Chavez sanches and Electrician’s Mate 3rd Class Bradley Mcbrayer, assigned to USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), tests the weapons elevator’s diagnostic server during a routine equipment check.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kristopher Ruiz)
Chavez-Sanchez said a quick prayer. Shortly after, the CO announced Cook’s air-wing was going to provide air support. A few more hours passed, now he and the engineering department were to muster on that same flight deck in which he was awarded his first NAM.
“We were asked to volunteer to be a part of the first group to help assist with damage control efforts,” said Chavez-Sanchez. “Everyone raised their hand. Everyone wanted to help. It was the single most example of camaraderie I had ever seen.”
Ten hours after the attack Chavez-Sanchez was on the first rigid-hull inflatable boat to be sent to aid the vulnerable Cole.
“The waters were clear; there was no debris,” said Chavez-Sanchez. “You couldn’t tell an attack just happened until we passed right by the hole. I could see clear into the ship. That’s when I smelled it — the rotting, decaying, foul smell of death.”
Aboard Cole, Chavez-Sanchez and his group were asked if they could handle the situation. Again, everyone raised their hands in agreement. Some grabbed a flash light or a radio, but all of them applied a small amount of vapor rub right under their noses to combat the smell.
“We were making our way around to assess what we needed for the damages,” said Chavez-Sanchez. “The only light or ventilation in the ship came through that hole where the blast happened. We knew we were by the galley; it looked like crumpled up aluminum foil. Then I saw bodies, that’s when everything hit me.”
At that sight, the 21-year-old Chavez-Sanchez realized the magnitude of the situation. He responded with a sense of duty by volunteering for anything he could do — fighting fires, dewatering flooded spaces, standing shoring watch, and security watch. However, his primary mission as an electrician’s mate was to bring up the generators and restore power to the ship.
“Throughout the day and night, there was constant flooding,” said Chavez-Sanchez. “We were getting woken up to combat the flooding. It was hard to sleep most nights.”
The guided-missile destroyer USS Cole prepares to moor in Faslane, Scotland.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Lacordrick Wilson)
Chavez-Sanchez and the many who volunteered from the Cook began a watch rotation of 48-hours on, 48-hours off, serving time and standing watch on both missile-guided destroyers.
A week into his new watch rotation, Chavez-Sanchez and his engineering team restored power and ventilation aboard Cole. Two more weeks passed and Chavez-Sanchez and his Cook team finished their damage control efforts and headed back to the Cook permanently.
The Norwegian semi-submersible dry-dock ship Blue Marlin came to transport the Cole back to the United States after the on-site repairs. Alongside the Blue Marlin, Cook was again tasked to aid the ship — this time escorting Cole back to the U.S.
“The day we heard ‘USS Cole, underway’ was emotional for our crew,” said Chavez-Sanchez. “We all celebrated because we knew we did our job for the ship to be ready to make her way back to the states.”
Once the Cole was home she began her intensive repairs and eventually became deployable again.
“After 18 years, I still remember that day, that time period,” said Chavez-Sanchez. “I carry that story with me. It became a motivation to stay in the Navy and I continue to train everyone around me. ‘Train how you fight’ became personal to me.”
Within the same year of the 18-year anniversary, Chavez-Sanchez’s story came full circle.
“While in Norfolk, the Cole was moored on the same pier [as the Ford],” said Chavez-Sanchez. “I froze for about two minutes. In that time everything rushed back — the memories, the emotions. I saw it and I prayed. I didn’t want to tell my story because I didn’t want the recognition, so I had to keep moving.”
While Chavez-Sanchez may never forget, he is now ready to share his story so that it may inspire his newest shipmates on the Ford with the camaraderie and brotherhood he formed with his former shipmates in the wake of the Cole tragedy.