The U.S. Navy issued a warning to China’s Navy over Instagram this week, telling China that it doesn’t want to “play laser tag” with the U.S. Navy with their destroyer-based laser weapons.
Last month, a Chinese People’s Liberation Army-Navy destroyer pointed a military grade laser weapon at a U.S. Navy P-8A Poseidon, which is an aircraft designed specifically for various types of sea-based warfare, including anti-submarine operations. According to Defense Department reports, the P-8A was flying approximately 380 miles west of Guam when it encountered a Chinese destroyer believed to have been the Hohhot, among the latest and most advanced destroyers in China’s fleet.
The destroyer reportedly shined a laser weapon at the P-8A, though the laser caused no injuries or immediately recognizable damage. The aircraft is being inspected further for issues. Despite the low level of threat the laser posed, the U.S. Navy has been taking this attack quite seriously, recognizing it as a test, both of their weapon’s efficacy and of the American response.
While the Navy’s warning on Instagram seems almost playful, the U.S. Navy isn’t messing around when it comes to freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, nor are they kidding about their laser weapons. The U.S. currently has a number of laser weapons under development, and just recently deployed one aboard the USS Dewey aimed at “dazzling” or blinding and confusing drones.
This isn’t the first time the U.S. has had reports of being engaged with Chinese lasers, nor is it the first time these two naval powers have found themselves in a staring contest over China’s claims of sovereignty throughout the region. The United States and the international community recognize China’s claimed ownership of the South China Sea as illegal, but China’s Navy has been rapidly expanding to enforce their claims in recent years.
China’s claims over the South China Sea are shown in red.
With neither China nor the U.S. backing down in the Pacific, and laser weapons becoming more commonplace by the day, it seems entirely likely that this won’t be the last round of laser tag between our two navies.
In 1995, Mel Gibson starred in and directed the war epic Braveheart, which follows the story of one of Scotland’s greatest national heroes, Sir William Wallace. Wallace almost single-handedly inspired his fellow Scotsmen to stand against their English oppressors, which earned him a permanent spot in the history books.
Among critics, the film cleaned house. It went on to win best picture, best director, best cinematography, and a few others at the 1996 Academy Awards. Although the film has received its fair share of acclaim, historians don’t always share the same enthusiasm. The movie steers away from what really occurred several times.
Battle of Stirling… Fields?
After a few quick, murderous scenes, Wallace joins a small group of his countrymen, ready to ward off a massive force of English troops that are spread across a vast field. In real life, this clash of warriors didn’t happen on some open plains — it occurred on a narrow bridge.
The battle took place in September of 1297, nearly 17 years after the film. Wallace and Andrew de Moray (who isn’t mentioned in the movie) showed up to the bridge and positioned themselves on the side north of the river, where the bridge was constructed.
The Brits were caught off guard, as Wallace and his men waited until about a third of the English’s total force crossed before attacking. The Scotsmen used clever tactics, packing men on the bridge shoulder-to-shoulder, mitigating their numerical disadvantage.
Wallace being knighted
After the Battle of Stirling Bridge, both Wallace and Andrew de Moray were both granted Knighthood and labeled as Joint Guardians of Scotland.
Andrew de Moray died about a month later from wounds sustained during the battle. Despite his heroics, Andrew de Moray gets zero credit in the film.
Wallace’s affair with Princess Isabelle of France
In the film, Wallace sleeps with Princess Isabella of France (as played by Sophie Marceau), the wife of Edward II of England. According to several sources, the couple was married in January of 1308, which is two years and five months after Wallace was put to death in August 1305, according to the film.
The movie showed Edward II and the princess getting married during Wallace’s lifetime. Now, if Scottish warrior had truly knocked up the French princess before his death in 1305, that would have made her around 10 years old, as she was born in 1295.
Something doesn’t add up.
Edward I dies before Wallace?
Who could forget the film’s dramatic ending? Wallace is stretched, pulled by horses, and screams, “freedom!” as his entrails are removed — powerful stuff. In the film, Edward I (as played by Patrick McGoohan) takes his last breath before the editor takes us back to Wallace’s final moment.
According to history, Edward I died around the year 1307. As moving as it was to watch the two deaths happen, it couldn’t have happened.
Every nuclear blast creates an electromagnetic pulse that can short out electronics. A large nuclear blast outside the atmosphere above the US could short out electric systems across the continent and cause airliners in flight to crash, according to the report.
But according to experts, the idea of North Korea using an EMP to attack the US is ridiculous, laughable, and totally unlikely. The US’s own Defense Technical Information Center concluded in 2008 that an EMP in reality couldn’t actually even stop a car from driving more than three times out of 37.
“If you have the required level of capability to conduct some sort of very high level exo-atmospheric EMP, you’d get more effect out of using that as a nuclear-strike capability,” Justin Bronk, a research fellow specializing in military technology at the Royal United Services Institute, told Business Insider.
Because an EMP is “quite an unpredictable effecter,” according to Bronk, North Korea would take a huge risk using an unproven technology to attack the US when it could simply bomb a city.
But if North Korea did try a bolt-out-of-the-blue attack on the US with the intent of killing as many people as possible, the result ” would be exactly the same in terms of response from the US as actually a ground detonation,” said Bronk.
The nuclear infrastructure the US would use to respond to such an attack has been hardened against EMPs. As soon as the blast in space was detected, US nuclear missiles would streak across the sky and obliterate North Korea.
Additionally, a North Korean bomb detonating in space wouldn’t just hurt the US electrical grid, it would destroy all nearby satellites. Chinese, Russian, Japanese, and other satellites would become useless. The resulting EMP blast would fry electronics all over the western hemisphere in a truly international attack against humanity.
Not only would the US retaliate, but the attack would likely turn the world against North Korea, creating unprecedented international support for the use of force against its leader Kim Jong Un.
So while North Korea detonating a nuclear bomb in space could devastate the US, it’s unlikely the entire world would rest until Kim had been dug out of a bunker and made to pay for his crime against humanity.
Dog Tag Bakery is justly renowned for its butterscotch blondies and buttery cinnamon buns. But the Washington, D.C., shop has a mission that goes far beyond turning out stellar baked goods. In partnership with nearby Georgetown University, Dog Tag runs a nonprofit fellowship program that operates as a living business school for post-9/11 veterans with service-connected disabilities, as well as for military spouses and caregivers.
Twice a year, between 14 and 16 fellows go through the five-month program, which combines academics and hands-on small business experience. Fellows take seven courses that cover business basics, including finance, strategy, marketing, management and communications. Those courses are taught by Georgetown faculty in a classroom above the bakery. Meanwhile, on the floor of the bakery itself, fellows learn a wide range of practical skills, like how to decorate a cake, interact with customers, and manage a budget. For their capstone project, fellows are required to create and present a fully-vetted business plan, complete with operations, marketing, logistics, and financial projections, to help solidify the value of an entrepreneurial mindset.
Wellness is a cornerstone of the fellowships with daily workshops in mindfulness, journaling, nutrition and yoga. And, to relieve financial barriers to participating in the program, fellows receive a $1,400 monthly stipend, as well as a laptop for use during the program.
Claire Witko. Photo by Richie Downs Photography.
Claire Witko, Dog Tag’s director of programs, says the fellowship is designed to cultivate an entrepreneurial mindset. “That includes,” she says, “understanding that failure is an unavoidable part of forging a successful path forward, and that learning how to rebound and find creative solutions to challenges are essential skills.”
The aim of the program, however, isn’t to groom the next Elon Musk or Oprah Winfrey.
“We don’t define success,” Witko said. “Our fellows discover their own definition of success. It’s about finding purpose and voice.”
Fellows who complete the program earn a Certificate of Business Administration from Georgetown. Many find themselves transformed.
“Alumni often emerge completely different people,” Witko said. “They have new confidence; they know what they want and how to pursue it.”
That was certainly the case for Adela Wilson, a 2019 Dog Tag fellow. The wife of an Air Force veteran who was medically retired in 2007, the 51-year-old mother of three sons had resettled her family in several cities in the Middle East and Europe during her husband’s 15-year military career. In each new city, she’d forged a career for herself in sales. But back home in Virginia, acting as her husband’s full-time caretaker, she felt she’d lost her sense of identity and, she says, her “edge.”
“Getting accepted into the fellowship was lifechanging,” Wilson said. “The program is like drinking through a firehose. It’s so intense and fast-paced.”
She loved every minute of it, from the improv workshops and a visit to Capitol Hill where the Dog Tag fellows had meetings with Senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina and Senator Mark Warner of Indiana, to “living labs” where executives from corporations like Boeing, Nestle and Capital One mentor fellows on soft skills like delivering an elevator pitch or understanding your personality style.
Today, Wilson works as a career transitions specialist at the Wounded Warrior Project, helping veterans overcome barriers to employment.
“I feel like I’m really making a difference and I absolutely love my job,” she said.
A favorite word at Dog Tag, Wilson says, is “pivot”— fellows are encouraged to be flexible and open to new goals as their circumstances and passions change. When COVID-19 struck, the organization had to do some pivoting of its own, taking the fellowship classes and workshops virtual.
“We’ve learned how to bring the experience of being in the kitchen to Zoom,” Witko said. “The fall fellowship will be completely virtual and we’re beginning to explore hybrid models — a combination of in-person and remote elements — for the post-COVID world.”
Meanwhile, the bakery itself has reopened for business. Featured on the menu is a specialty created by some recent fellows as their capstone project: freshly baked bread pudding topped with homemade caramel and a drizzle of chocolate. Success, as the saying goes, is sweet.
By the numbers Since it began its fellowship program in 2014, Dog Tag Inc. has enrolled 148 Fellows across 12 cohorts, or classes. Here’s a look at who these fellows are: Age (at time of enrollment) 18-24: 3% 25-31: 24% 32-38: 24% 39-45: 22% 46-52: 22% 53 and older: 5% Gender Male: 41% Female: 59%
“This is it. Number one on my list of worst days at Ranger School,” 1st Lt. Anna Hodge thought as it started to rain again during day eight of Mountain Phase patrols. The blisters on her feet, the chaffing on her legs, and the prickly heat stung with the rain. She stuffed more pieces of MRE gum in her mouth, biting down hard to keep her mind off the pain.
“Your complaint has been duly noted and will be answered within 24 to 48 hours,” she mentally responded to the pain, imitating an answering machine. “Now back to counting steps, 1,344, 1,345…
“Our Mountain Phase experienced record-high rainfall, and I felt bad for my platoon mates who had chafed in some pretty uncomfortable places,” says Hodge. “My legs looked like road rash; the blood and pus was sticking to my uniform. Shivering at night was the norm; yes, it was cold, but even more because of the pain.”
But Hodge had one advantage some of her friends didn’t. She decided to go to Ranger School without feeling pressured; the pain described above was something she had chosen, all simply to become a better intelligence officer.
“I wanted to focus on tactical intelligence,” says Hodge. “It is impossible to know where the enemy will move, nor how to advise the commander if you don’t know Infantry tactics.” Military Intelligence is an Operations Support branch. If soldiers don’t understand what they are supporting, mission success is unlikely.
“I’ve always had a soft spot for the Infantry, and I learned so much about Infantry tactics at Ranger School,” says Hodge. “After graduating, that respect grew even more.”
Hodge wanted to attend Ranger School dating back to 2010 when she first joined ROTC. “I loved patrolling, working as part of a squad and the challenge of pushing myself to perform on minimal food and sleep. I remember cleaning weapons one day and someone joked that I should shave my head and go to Ranger School. I thought it was funny, and secretly I really wanted to go. But it wasn’t open to females at the time.”
That all changed in 2015 when, for the first time, a female graduated Ranger School.
1st Lt. Anna Hodge proudly displays her Ranger tab on graduation day.
(U.S. Army photo by Capt. Joseph Legros)
The following year Hodge attended the Basic Officer Leadership Course for Military Intelligence. She listened to an instructor who recruited Military Intelligence, or MI, officers for the new 75th Regiment MI Battalion. “The hardest part of Ranger School is deciding to go,” the instructor said.
Hodge remembers thinking, “I’ve always been a religious person and when I heard the instructor, it was like God telling me, ‘you better start preparing because you’re going to go.'”
It wasn’t until she went to 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, “The Rock,” part of the 173rd Airborne Brigade in Italy, that she got her opportunity.
“Slowly I expressed a desire to attend Ranger School and my chain of command believed in me,” explains Hodge. “They encouraged me and other lieutenants to go; they did an excellent job creating a command climate where mistakes and failure are accepted as long as you try. Leaders can have a profound impact on a unit’s culture and I’m so grateful to serve in ‘The Rock.’ The unit is full of great leaders, past and present, serving as examples for the type of leader I strive to be.”
“There are a lot of things that get you through Ranger School, but two of the most important are ‘wanting to attend’ and ‘not quitting,'” says Hodge’s battalion commander, Lt. Col. Jim Keirsey. “1st Lt. Hodge wanted to go and earned her spot on the order of merit list. Once there, she didn’t quit. Now she is a Ranger qualified ‘Rock’ Paratrooper.”
Hodge trained for Ranger School by herself, facing the difficulty of balancing work and training. Many times she wished she could have trained more, but battalion priorities came first. She was motivated to work out twice a day, doing countless ruck marches. Sometimes she carried a sledge hammer, simulating the weight of machine gun.
“I really thought I would struggle with the physical aspect, so I trained hard prior to school,” Hodge explains. “But instead, it was the Infantry stuff that was difficult for me. Coming from a Military Intelligence background, I didn’t know the tactics very well, nor how the instructors wanted me to conduct patrols.”
At Ranger School, a student can repeat a phase for patrols, peer ratings or an observation report; this is referred to as “recycling.” If a candidate fails the same thing again, they will be dropped from the course. Her first time through, Hodge was dropped during patrols.
“I was devastated. I didn’t know why I worked so hard only to fail,” shares Hodge. “But ironically, I’m really glad I failed Ranger School my first time. Dealing with failure is one of the most important lessons you can learn.”
Being recycled is not uncommon. According to Ft. Benning, 61.2 percent of graduating Rangers were recycled at least once in 2017. This means less than 39 percent made it through without having to start any of the phases over again. No surprise here: Ranger School is tough.
“I definitely thought about heading home after I failed,” says Hodge. “To start again, it would have been colder, and mentally I was spent.” Despite those thoughts, she stayed.
“I wasn’t ready to give up just yet,” says Hodge.
1st Lt. Anna Hodge.
(Photo By Staff Sgt. Alexander C Henninger)
“I was able to sign up for a Master Resiliency Trainer course in between Ranger classes and it was one of the best decisions I ever made. Thank goodness for resiliency because my second Ranger Assessment Phase week was one of the hardest of my life. It was so cold and miserable that I wanted to quit every day, but I told myself to just quit tomorrow. Before long I made it through the week.”
“The same work ethic and ‘never quit’ attitude that got her through Ranger School is what makes 1st Lt. Hodge an asset to the unit,” adds Keirsey.
In Hodge’s case, it was also helpful to have other female Ranger graduates to follow. She became the fifteenth female throughout the Armed Services to graduate Ranger School and the first Ranger qualified female Sky Soldier. However, this also proved to be challenging.
“I never wanted to be the first female graduate,” says Hodge. “I knew those who went first would deal with criticism and scrutiny. I am very grateful for the 71 females who attended Ranger School before me, the pioneers who overcame prejudice as they pursued their goals. They helped positively change opinions about female Rangers.”
Hodge shares, “I remember reading negative comments about other female graduates, wondering if I would be judged, too. Would they question whether I truly earned my Ranger tab?”
But the length of ruck marches has not changed, nor does the rain fall only on male candidates. Everyone carries their own weight.
“At Ranger School, everyone is held to the same standard,” asserts Hodge.
During one of the phases, she was assigned to carry the machine gun or the radio, the two heaviest items, on a regular basis. The frequent assignments to carry heavy equipment ultimately made her grateful.
“It showed me and others that I could carry the heaviest items and keep up,” says Hodge.
“I was an equal member of the squad, working together with my classmates to accomplish the mission. I formed friendships that will last a lifetime. I am especially grateful to the friends I made in my platoons, my unit and from Ranger Battalion. They taught me so much about the Army and the Infantry.”
“My husband was also very supportive the whole time. He even helped shave my hair and showed me how to do it myself,” shares Hodge.
When asked if she has any doubts of the results, Hodge responds, “After persevering through school, I know, without a doubt, I earned my Ranger tab. It took patience and determination. I put in the effort. I met the standards.”
She also offers the following advice to anyone thinking of attending Ranger School: “Appreciate the little things. You better learn to love patrols. Volunteer for the small, simple tasks that no one wants to do and make them your hobby, like emplacing claymores and camouflaging them. I loved that.”
She adds, “Don’t let little things get to you. Try to see the good. Yes, there were annoying bugs like mosquitos and spiders, but there were also fireflies which were super cool. Yes, it rained, and everyone’s skin was chafed. But the rain also cooled us down.”
The first Ranger qualified female Sky Soldier concludes, “Whatever your goal, take it one step at a time and continue in patience.”
The US military has killed the terrorist mastermind believed to have orchestrated the deadly USS Cole bombing eighteen years ago, the president revealed Jan. 6, 2019, confirming earlier reports.
Jamel Ahmed Mohammed Ali Al-Badawi, an al-Qaeda operative on the FBI’s most wanted list, was killed during a strike in Yemen’s Ma’rib Governorate, a US official told CNN. He was struck while driving alone. The US says there was no collateral damage.
Jamel Ahmed Mohammed Ali Al-Badawi.
That Al-Badawi was the target of Jan 1, 2019’s airstrike was confirmed by Voice of America, citing a defense official. As of Jan. 4, 2019, US forces were reportedly still assessing the results of the strike.
President Donald Trump confirmed Jan 6, 2019 that the US military successfully eliminated Al-Badawi.
The bombing of the USS Cole, an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, occurred while the warship was refueling at Yemen’s Aden harbor. On Oct. 12, 2000, suicide bombers in a small boat filled with explosives attacked the ship, killing 17 US sailors and wounding another 39 people.
Al-Badawi had been picked up by Yemeni authorities multiple times since the bombing; however, he repeatedly managed to escape justice.
After being arrested in December 2000, he escaped in 2003. He was apprehended a second time in 2004, but he managed to escape again two years later.
He was indicted by a federal grand jury in 2003 and charged with 50 counts of terrorism-related offenses. The FBI has been offering a reward of up to million for information that would lead to his arrest.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
An attack by a woman on an elderly veteran was caught on tape outside a Fresno, California, auto parts store.
Police are asking for the public’s help in trying to find 73-year-old Victor Bejarano’s attacker.
The Vietnam vet said the woman got out of an SUV and asked him for his wallet in the parking lot. When he refused, she tried to take it from him, leading to a prolonged struggle.
When he made his way inside the store in order to get help, she followed him and the struggle continued right at the counter.
None of the customers in the store stepped in to help, police said. The woman got back in her SUV and drove off before police arrived.
After all that, Bejarano said if the woman had just asked him politely for money and explained her situation, he would have helped her out.
“If she would’ve told me from the beginning: ‘Sir, please help, I have a child. He’s crying because he’s hungry.’ I would have given her the money. But she didn’t ask for the money, she asked for my wallet. I said, I can’t give you my wallet,” said Bejarano, who was at the Auto Zone to fix a friend’s van.
Spend a little time around any military installation, and you’re bound to hear tell of ghosts and urban legends. Often, the local gossip is just that, mere myth and fabrication.
But sometimes, an area is beset with enough spooky evidence that is hard to ignore, as is the case with the following ten haunted military bases.
You might want to turn the lights on before reading this list.
10. West Point Military Academy, New York
With reports of a ghostly cavalry still reporting for duty, the academy often pops up on most haunted lists. In 2017, ‘Thrillist‘ named West Point the most haunted place in New York.
Of particular interest is Room 4714, where an opalescent figure is said to drift in and out of stone walls, terrifying first-year plebes as they settle into their new sleeping quarters.
Perhaps, not so coincidentally – Sleepy Hollow and West Point are a mere 42 minute drive apart. Maybe that’s also part of the reason Ed and Lorraine Warren – the famed ghost-hunters whose stories inspired films, “Annabelle,” “The Conjuring,” and “The Amityville Horror” – also lectured at the academy in the 1970’s.
9. Fort Leavenworth, Kansas
Fort Leavenworth’s Frontier Army Museum has documented nearly three dozen haunted houses, making Leavenworth one of the most haunted Army installations. The museum has dockets of stories captured throughout the base, and from the nearby correctional facilities of: U.S. Penitentiary Leavenworth, U.S. Disciplinary Barracks and Midwest Joint Regional Correctional Facility, where multiple inmates within the facilities are on death row.
F.E. Warren is old, having begun operations in 1867 as Fort D.A. Russell. Airmen stationed here have reported other-worldly screams so terrifying that they’ve called base Security Forces to report it. The responders understand, because in the Security Forces Group Building 34, K-9 units whimper and whine at the staircases. The building was once the base hospital, its basement, the morgue.
The base’s haunted reputation routinely fills seats on the Cheyenne Visitors Bureau “Haunted Halloween Trolley Tour,” and has attracted the Colorado Paranormal Investigation (CPI), a Denver-based team of ghost hunters, and the Rocky Mountain Paranormal Research Society. Both agencies have recorded unexplained paranormal activity.
On-base housing residents offer the following advice: “Want to know if your house is really haunted? Wait for Halloween, and see if the trolley tour pauses by your driveway.”
7. Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington
Under the shadow of Mt. Rainer, in what used to be mere uninhabited rugged wilderness, Joint Base Lewis-McChord has accumulated its share of the ephemeral. Once the site of a guest house called The Red Shield Inn, the Fort Lewis Military Museum has been a hub of paranormal activity with reports of hauntings dating back decades – including rumors of an exorcism to placate an actor’s restless spirit who was murdered in the inn.
Although records of the exorcism have not yet been officially substantiated by the Catholic Church, numerous accounts and reporting suggest the event might have indeed occurred.
6. Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana
When a state boasts tales of voodoo, spooky hotels, and ghost roads – it’s small wonder that when hospital and cemetery space is repurposed in Louisiana, the dead don’t get the message. Military members whose office space just happens to be along Davis Avenue, coincidentally the site of the former base hospital, have reported doors slamming shut, footsteps running down hallways, and objects thrown across the room. Even the Base Exchange and Commissary are haunted here, as both locations were built upon the former home of the Stonewall Cemetery.
As if the base hauntings weren’t scary enough, the nearby cities of Shreveport and Bossier-City are a hotbed of spookiness, including an eerie creek crossing called “Green Light Bridge” where unexplained green lights hover around the small, country bridge. Those who live near the area know, “green means go” and if you ever see the lights – run.
5. Warner Robins Air Force Base, Georgia
The ghost stories swirling throughout the misty Georgia landscape are many. As the 13th Colony, the state certainly makes a good case for itself as being one of the most haunted in the continental U.S.
Warner Robins is located 18 miles south of Macon, Georgia – a city home to many haunted legends itself, including the chilling Hay House, named one of the “13 Most Beautiful Haunted Destinations in the World” by Architectural Digest. It’s a house where wedding photographers have captured the wedding party, and ghosts, on camera.
And, if you fancy meeting a witch, just head a few miles outside of the base to “Gravity Hill.” Legend has it that locals were actually kind to the witch who lived here in the 1800’s, and interred her body in a grave upon her death. It’s believed she continues to repay the kindness by helping cars over the ridge. To see her work, place your car in neutral, and watch as it rolls…uphill, against gravity.
There is also plethora of unexplained phenomena that would send Mulder and Scully running, including multiple UFO sightings, and a strange incident from 1954. Still not completely understood, over 50,000 birds, representing 53 species flew straight into the base’s runway flood lights, and careened like projectiles into the ground. To date, the event remains one of the largest mass bird mortality incidents in recorded U.S. history.
4. Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio
Dubbed the “Birthplace of Aviation,” Wright-Patterson is one of the largest Air Force bases and also home to the USAF Aviation Museum – full of historic planes, where some of the former air crews…haven’t quite left.
But it’s Building 219 in particular that has presented the most paranormal activity. The three-story brick building was also the site of a hospital, the basement level of course serving as the morgue.
Hauntings there are so well known that the base featured on the SyFy Channel’s “Ghost Hunters” series. The production team actually received DoD permission to be escorted onto the base for an investigation, which heavily focused on Building 219. Several phenomena were recorded, including footsteps and incessant tapping.
When one of the ghost hunters asked the dark, empty air, “Give us two taps if you want us to leave,” and two taps quickly sounded – he said he felt obligated to honor his word and the team quickly left. Only later, while investigating their digital recordings did they hear women’s laughter following the taps.
3. Fort McNair, Washington D.C.
Following the assassination of Abraham Lincoln in April 1865, the arms of justice moved swiftly. After a 12-day manhunt, John Wilkes Booth was shot and killed by police, while his co-conspirators were quickly apprehended and imprisoned in the Washington Arsenal awaiting trial. Four would be sentenced to death by hanging, two others given life sentences.
One of the guilty sentenced to die included Mary Surratt, the proprietress of the boarding house where Booth and his associates developed the assassination plot. Although Surratt adamantly maintained her innocence, she was found guilty – and became the first woman executed by the U.S. federal government, with President Andrew Johnson himself signing the orders for execution.
The guilty watched from their jail cell windows as their own gallows were constructed in front of them, in the south part of the Washington Arsenal Courtyard.
The Washington Arsenal is now…none other than Fort McNair, where it is said an angry, restless spirit roams the grounds, shrouded in a dark bonnet and long black dress, melting snow in a path, as if still retracing her steps to the gallows…
2. Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam
In a place that has experienced intense emotion and devastating tragedy, something is bound to be left behind.
Even before enduring one of the most tragic military attacks on U.S. soil, the Hawaiian Islands teem with stories of the supernatural. Locals warn to watch out for Pele – the goddess of fire who also has a proclivity for hitchhiking as the “White Lady.” There are the ghosts of ancient Hawaiian warriors called “Night Marchers” who drum their way across the sky during full moons, and of course, deities who guard the volcanoes, placing a curse on anyone foolish enough to take lava rocks from the Islands.
Bookended alongside the Islands’ own haunted history is the tragedy of Pearl Harbor. A total of 2,403 Americans were killed in the attack, the majority of deaths occurring in Pearl Harbor, while others occurred on neighboring installations, Schofield Barracks, and Wheeler Army Air Field. The torpedoed USS Arizona took 1,177 souls with her as she sank to the ocean floor, and still lies in memoriam.
Numerous military members have reported eerie noises from the harbor, disembodied screams, and appliances that seem to have a mind of their own. Those living in base housing have also reported mumbling voices, footsteps, and laughter, doors and cabinets that open…and close, on their own, and flickering lights, just to name a few encounters.
1. Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, Japan
Japan frequently tops the most haunted lists in horror film and literature, and the notoriety is warranted. Tales of terror stretch back in Japanese literature to the Heian period (794-1185), in a time so ancient that stories were inked onto scrolls, known as Gaki-zoshi, or “Scrolls of the Hungry Ghosts.”
Unsurprisingly, Kadena Air Base and the surrounding military community have reported all manner of terrifying activity. Ghosts have approached one installation gate so many times, that the activity has been captured in multiple videos.
Building 2283 on Kadena was once a tranquil single-family base housing unit built next to a daycare center, until an alleged family murder took place in the home. The USO used to hold ghost tours here, until curtains parted by themselves and a landline phone – long disconnected, rang in the house in front of terrified tour groups. Before the building was demolished in 2009, the next-door daycare teachers complained that their students kept throwing their toys over the fence. When questioned, the children replied, “the little kids on the other side asked us to.”
And the hair-raising terror continues in the Kadena Hospital Caves on the Banyan Tree Golf Course. The caves were once a former bomb shelter and hospital where 350 medical staff, and 222 nursing students from Japanese military units were assigned in WWII. When U.S. Forces came ashore, the caves were…evacuated. Some evacuated by ingesting potassium cyanide pills, others jumped to their death from nearby Maeda Point.
To this day, off the cliffs of Cape Maeda, scuba divers report seeing ghosts…underwater.
Sailing saved Ronnie Simpson’s life. He was an 18 year old high school senior in Atlanta, Georgia when the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq began in March 2003. Drawn to service by the events of September 11, Ronnie joined the Marine Corps Infantry the day after the war started.
Less than a year later in March 2004, he deployed to Iraq with the 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marines.
“I was a .50 cal gunner on top of a Humvee,” he recalls. “Four months into my deployment, we were ambushed during a night-time convoy, and an RPG hit the ground near my Humvee. The rocket bounced up and exploded in the air one meter from me. I had broken ribs, detached retinas, a bleeding brain which created sub-retinal fluid, a traumatic brain injury (TBI), a blown-out left lung and my tongue was blown into my airway. I was temporarily knocked unconscious. Because I wasn’t breathing and was unresponsive, Marines in my truck thought I was dead. It was actually a textbook blast injury. The Corpsman in my Humvee, Doc David Segundo, was injured too but he got up, cleared my airway, and saved my life.”
Simpson, now 30 years old, spent a lot of time recovering both physically and mentally. Most of his TBI symptoms weren’t permanent (he credits the helmet technology for that). Despite having burns over 10 percent of his body, many of those scars aren’t visible.
“It fucked me up pretty good,” he says. “Unless you knew me though, you’d never know I’m hurt. I have no visible scars unless I take my shirt off. Then I have many.”
Simpson is legally blind and can’t obtain a driver’s license. Though his body healed, his mental state took much longer. He reevaluated his life and experiences through a 9,000-mile bike trek across Europe and Asia in 2009 and more than 50,000 miles at sea, both healing counterpoints to his experiences in Iraq.
“My time in theater and my travels have shaped my perspective,” Simpson says. “There’s a lot of good and beauty in this world, and I want to add to that. Our program is about helping the men and women that are coming back – the veterans – the people we should be looking out for. We in the veteran community have these experiences and while we may interpret them differently, this shared experience can bring us together. We can come together to create profound and impactful programs to help the veterans from these two wars as well as something permanent and sustainable for veterans of future conflicts.”
Sailing is the catalyst for Simpson’s initiative. Not only his love for sailing but how he changed his life and how he aims to change the lives of others.
“I joined the Marines at 18, was injured in combat at 19, my dad died four months after I got hurt, and by 20 I was medically retired,” Simpson says. “By 22 I was a lost soul. I had reached my deepest, darkest point. I’m fearful of what would have happened if I hadn’t flipped the script. I broke off an engagement, sold my house, and moved from Texas to California. That move was my re-birth as a new person.”
On the California coast, he found his calling. After living so recklessly, he became completely focused on becoming a racing sailor and making the most of his life. Seven years later, Simpson now travels the world as a professional sailor and sailing writer.
“It helped me heal,” Simpson says. “These adventures help you positively adrenalize yourself in a sustainable manner. Guys who come back from places like Fallujah have experienced adrenaline like most will never know, and again need to achieve that heightened state of existence. But where will they find it? Drugs, alcohol, or doping the pain away with pills? I can put you on the helm of a racing sailboat in the middle of the night and it will rock your world. This is a healthy way to get that fix.”
It’s not just about giving people the fix of adrenaline they were accustomed to while in combat. For Simpson and his sailing nonprofit – Coastal and Offshore Recalibration Experience, or CORE (www.medicinalmissions.com/CORE), that community of veterans is the most important result.
“Because that’s what it is: a Community,” he says. “On a sailboat you can put anyone into a job they can do, regardless of their injury. It’s a sport that doesn’t care if you have arms or legs. That’s a big part of it. Everyone has an assigned, defined role. There’s a chain of command, a defined mission, teamwork is critical and constant risk management is all part of the game. The parallels between racing sailboats and combat are incredible. When you combine that with the peacefulness and serenity of heading to sea with your brothers and sisters, it’s a powerful experience.”
Simpson and his best friend Army veteran Walter Kotecki, created a sailing program within an existing wounded-veteran nonprofit, raised $50,000 through yacht clubs and private donors, and gave a sailing experience to 30 veterans over the course of four clinics in 2012 and 2013.
“There’s always a steep learning curve when you start your own thing. We flew vets to San Francisco,” he says. “They had the whole range of injuries from PTSD to multiple amputees to blindness. We used sailing, surfing, yoga, nature walks, kayaking, art and more to help these guys look past their injuries and realize that anything is possible, no matter their injury, while re-establishing that sense of camaraderie and community that so many have lost since leaving the service.”
It was so successful and the veterans so responsive Simpson and Kotecki decided to strike out on their own earlier this year, forming CORE.
“I had a Vietnam vet hook me up with a racing sailboat and an opportunity,” says Simpson. “He passed that torch to me and told me to pay it forward. Here’s my chance to hook somebody else up. Let’s re-build that community and keep that torch going.”
CORE is seeking veterans of the recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan to participate in more sailing clinics throughout California, with the first being in San Francisco in October of this year. They will be accepting applications until August 31. For 2016, CORE is planning six to eight clinics up and down the California coast.
The most ambitious plan for CORE is participating in the 2017 Transpacific Yacht Race – where they will train a full crew of combat-wounded veterans to sail from Los Angeles to Honolulu, the first time ever that such a crew would be assembled.
“Our goal is to help reduce the rate of veteran suicide in this country. Sailing is one of the tools that we use,” he says.
Simpson is now featured in a series of short films produced by Craftsman, We Are The Mighty, and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), showing how IAVA empowers veterans as they transition back to civilian life.
“It’s admirable for companies like Craftsman to reach out to veterans groups to benefit the guys and girls that are coming back,” Simpson says. “I see a positive shift in awareness about issues that affect veterans, how we can improve the care of veterans, and how we can achieve a more holistic healing approach instead of pumping them full of drugs.”
Craftsman is donating $250,000 to IAVA and from May 25 – July 4, for every new follower of @Craftsman on Instagram, Craftsman will donate an additional $1 to IAVA (with a minimum donation of $5,000).
“I am honored to be part of this and stoked that a big corporation is out to make a difference of stemming the tide of 22 veterans a day,” Simpson says. “I’m excited that they believe in what we’re doing, and to work on this next mission of saving lives by reaching out to the veteran community.”
In April 1978, an Afghan tank commander rushed to tell President Mohammed Daoud Khan of a coming coup attempt. The President ordered his tank commander to circle to the presidential palace. Khan did not want to be caught off guard. He had only taken the reins of power from the King of Afghanistan five years before and didn’t want the monarchists coming back to power.
But when the critical moment to stop the coup came, the tank commander, with tanks surrounding the president, turned his guns on the palace. He was part of the coup all along.
The day after the revolution.
As coup attempts go, it was relatively bloodless, and thankfully short. But this coup would set Afghanistan on a path that would destroy it from within for the next fifty years or more. Daoud Khan and his family were killed in the palace that day, and the Communists under Nur Muhammad Taraki would ascend to the presidency of Afghanistan. Daoud was himself not a member of the Communist party, but the Communists did help him overthrow the monarchy. Once in power, the new president tried to keep Afghanistan non-aligned in the Cold War.
But when you share a border with the Soviet Union, that just doesn’t seem likely to happen.
Khan, on the right, shaking hands with senior Afghan military leaders
The problem with being non-aligned is that you can really lean one way or the other. When you ask for favors from a superpower, they expect you to fall in line. So it went for Daoud, who asked for help from the Soviets to settle a border dispute with Pakistan. He struggled to keep the USSR out of Afghan foreign policy thereafter. When a rivalry in the Afghan Communist Party ended with the murder of a faction leader, the Afghans were convinced it was Daoud whose hands were dirty – and that they were next. He didn’t have any of them assassinated, but he did have them arrested after protesting the government.
That sealed his fate.
The palace on the day of the coup.
It was on April 27, 1978, that Daoud’s trusted tank commander turned on him. He had already defected to the Communist party. By noon, more tanks were rumbling to the palace, the Army occupied important areas of the city, and the Afghan Air Force took to the skies, all against Daoud and his supporters. When the rebels captured the radio station Radio Afghanistan, they announced to the people what was happening.
By the next morning, the President and his family were dead, the palace was lit up like swiss cheese, and the Communists were in control of the country. It turns out Daoud and his brother charged out of the palace toward the army, guns blazing, like a scene out of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
Which eventually led to a Soviet invasion.
The reforms implemented by the Communists were mixed, as was the public reaction to the change in power. The new regime was brutally repressive, executed political prisoners, and brutally put down any resistance from the countryside. This repression turned the people against their Communist government, which triggered the Soviet Union’s Brezhnev Doctrine – any threat to Communist rule in any Communist government is a threat to all Communism everywhere.
The Soviets invaded and occupied Afghanistan for some nine years. The war was a brutal stalemate that severely set back the development of both countries and may have led to the downfall of the USSR.
Now that the fight against ISIS is subsiding, the anti-Israel terrorist group Hezbollah is back to preparing for war with its longtime enemy, Israel. The two haven’t been in a protracted fight since their war in 2006 which only ended with a United Nations-brokered ceasefire. Since then, tensions have always been high, but the attention on fighting ISIS took the bulk of Hezbollah’s power from the Lebanon-Israel border to the battlefields in Syria.
Now it seems like everything is getting back to “normal.”
Which pretty much means Israeli airstrikes in retaliation for Hezbollah rocket attacks.
When Hezbollah refocused its efforts to support the Asad regime in Syria, Israel took the opportunity to disrupt Hezbollah supply lines to its age-old battlefront in Lebanon. The Israeli Defence Forces have also taken the lull in fighting to train against the likelihood of renewed hostility once the threat to the Asad regime has passed and the Iran-linked militia returns to its power base in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley. In 2016, Israeli troops were training on brigade levels for massive exercises designed against Hezbollah forces.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has promised to hit Hezbollah where they live – Lebanon – but just ordered IDF fighters to strike Hezbollah targets in Syria in August of 2019. That target was allegedly preparing a killer drone attack for use on the Jewish State. The IDF airstrike killed two Hezbollah militiamen. Israel has also accused the militia of building factories of missiles, some 40- to 150-thousand, and missile sites in Lebanon, sites it has vowed to take out.
Israeli soldiers with captured Hezbollah and Lebanese flags during the 2006 war.
The problem with an Israeli first strike on missile factories is that much of Hezbollah’s missile force is already deployed in the Bekaa Valley – with hundreds of missiles pointed right at Israel. While the Israelis are targeting Hezbollah and other Iran-backed leaders in Iraq and Syria, anti-Israel militants who were once united to fight ISIS are turning their sights on the Jewish State. For its part, Hezbollah fired missiles at an Israeli military installation in Northern Israel, which it says killed many Israeli soldiers. Israel denies any casualties from those attacks. In Hezbollah, Iran has created one of the most effective non-state fighting forces ever assembled.
None of this means there have been no incidents since the last war. The Shiite Muslim militia hit a series of targets in Syria and now in Lebanon, killing two IDF soldiers. The ball is now in Hezbollah’s court, with Israel adopting a wait and see stance before its next move.
Haifa, Israel was hit by Russian-built Katyusha rockets fired from southern Lebanon during Israel’s 2006 Lebanon War.
Another war in Lebanon would not necessarily lead to a dramatic or decisive win for the Israeli Forces. Fierce fighting in the 2006 war prompted a gasp of responses from the outside world while Israel was forced to withdraw from Lebanon in the face of a barrage of Hezbollah missile attacks and fierce guerrilla tactics. It can only be assumed that Israel has adapted to the tactic but the only real way to determine its success would be a literal trial by fire.
But North Korea does not sell, export, or use such nuclear devices on anyone because if they did, the consequences would be phenomenal.
“North Korea sells all kinds of weapons” to African countries, Cuba, and its Asian neighbors, according to Omar Lamrani, a senior military analyst at Stratfor, a geopolitical consulting firm.
“The most dangerous aspects of that trade has been with Syria and Iran in terms of missiles and nuclear reactors they helped the Syrians build before the Israelis knocked that out with an airstrike,” said Lamrani. “The most frightening is the potential sale of nuclear warheads.”
With some of the harshest sanctions on earth imposed on North Korea, it’s easy to imagine the nation attempting to raise money through illegal arms sales to the US’s enemies, which could even include non-state actors, like al Qaeda or ISIS.
While procuring the materials and manufacturing a nuclear weapon would represent an incredible technical and logistical hardships for a non-state actor, a single compact warhead could be in the range of capabilities for a non-state actor like Hezbollah, said Lamrani.
Furthermore, the US’s enemies would see a huge strategic benefit from having or demonstrating a nuclear capability, but with that benefit would come a burden.
If US intelligence caught wind of any plot to arm a terror group, it would make every possible effort to rip that weapon from the group’s hands before they could use it. News of a nuclear-armed terror group would fast-track a global response and steamroll whatever actor took on such a bold stance.
And not only would the terror group catch hell, North Korea would, too.
“North Korea understands if they do give nuclear weapons, it could backfire on them,” said Lamrani. “If a warhead explodes, through nuclear forensics and isotope analysts, you can definitely trace it back to North Korea.”
At that point, North Korea would go from being an adversarial state that developed nuclear weapons as a means of regime security to a state that has enabled and abetted nuclear terrorism or proliferation.
This would change the calculus of how the world deals with North Korea, and make a direct attack much more likely.
Right now, North Korea has achieved regime security with long-range nuclear arms. If they sold those arms to someone else, they would effectively risk it all.