New stunning documentary shows the reality of the drone war through the eyes of the operators - We Are The Mighty
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New stunning documentary shows the reality of the drone war through the eyes of the operators

A new documentary, “National Bird,” exposes the secret drone war being carried out in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, and elsewhere from the ground level of the strike and from the perspective of three military operators who used to pull the trigger.


“When you watch someone in those dying moments, what their reaction is, how they’re reacting and what they’re doing,” Heather Linebaugh, a former drone imagery analyst, says in the film. “It’s so primitive. It’s really raw, stripped down, death.”

Also read: Osprey crash shows how dangerous Marine aviation can be

Though unmanned systems have been used for many years to carry out surveillance, it wasn’t until after the September 11, 2001, terror attacks — on February 4, 2002 — that a drone was armed and used for targeted killing. That 2002 strike apparently killed three civilians mistaken for Osama bin Laden and his confidantes, a theme that went on to play out again and again.

New stunning documentary shows the reality of the drone war through the eyes of the operators
US Air Force photo

Armed drones have operated since in Afghanistan and many other countries in which the U.S. is not at war, including Yemen, Somalia, and Pakistan. They have been used to strike militants and terror leaders over the years — a program accelerated under the Obama administration — but it has come at a deadly cost, with thousands of innocent civilians killed, to include hundreds of children.

“I can say the drone program is wrong because I don’t know how many people I’ve killed,” Linebaugh says.

Linebaugh and two others, introduced only by their first names Daniel and Lisa, tell equally compelling stories from their time in the military’s drone program. The film gives them a chance to shine a light on what is a highly secretive program, which officials often describe as offering near-surgical precision against terrorists that may someday do harm to U.S. interests.

Instead, the three offer pointed critiques to that narrative, sharing poignant details of deaths they witnessed through their sophisticated cameras and sensors. The most disturbing thing about being involved with the drone program, Daniel said, was the lack of clarity about whom he killed and whether they were civilians.

“There’s no way of knowing,” he says.

New stunning documentary shows the reality of the drone war through the eyes of the operators
Screenshot via www.liveleak.com

Though the testimony of the three operators is compelling, the documentary’s most important moments come from a visit to Afghanistan, where the documentary showcases a family that was wrongly targeted by a strike. It was on February 21, 2010, when three vehicles carrying more than two-dozen civilians were hit by an Air Force drone crew.

“That’s when we heard the sound of a plane but we couldn’t see it,” one victim says.

Filmmaker Sonia Kennebeck mixes witness statements with a reenactment of overhead imagery and voices reading from the transcript prior to the strike. A later investigation found that the operators of the Predator drone offered “inaccurate and unprofessional” reporting of what they saw.

During the incident, the drone operators reported seeing “at least five dudes so far.” Eventually, they reported 21 “military-age males,” no females, and two possible children, which they said were approximately 12 years old.

“Twelve, 13 years old with a weapon is just as dangerous,” one drone operator says. The operators never got positive identification of the people below having weapons.

That’s because the group consisted only of innocent men, women, and children, according to the documentary. Twenty-three Afghan civilians were killed, including two children aged seven and four.

“We thought they would stop when they saw women, but they just kept bombing us,” the mother of the children says.

Gen. Stanley McChrystal, then the commander of U.S. forces in the country, apologized for the strike. Four officers involved were disciplined.

The documentary cuts through the defense of drones as a “surgical” weapon that only kills the bad guys. As many reports have made clear, the US often doesn’t know exactly who it is killing in a drone strike, instead hazarding an “imperfect guess,” according to The New York Times, which is sometimes based merely on a location or suspicious behavior.

That imperfect guess has often resulted in the death of innocent locals — or, as was the case in 2015, the death of two men, an American, and an Italian, who were being held hostage by militants.

As Daniel points out in the documentary, the presence of drones on the battlefield has only emboldened commanders, who no longer have to risk military personnel in raids and can fire a missile instead. That viewpoint only seems to be growing, as the technology gets better and drones continue to proliferate around the world.

New stunning documentary shows the reality of the drone war through the eyes of the operators
Airman 1st Class Christian Clausen | US Air Force

The drone may continue to be the “national bird” of the U.S. military for a long time, but perhaps the documentary can start a conversation around their use and whether they create more terrorists, as has been argued, than they are able to take out.

“Not everybody is a freakin’ terrorist. We need to just get out of that mindset,” says Lisa, a former Air Force technical sergeant, in the documentary. “Imagine if this was happening to us. Imagine if our children were walking outside of their door and it was a sunny day, and they were afraid because they didn’t know if today was the day that something was going to fall out of the sky and kill someone close to them. How would we feel?”

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Taliban’s most wanted leader hid from the US in plain sight

In the days after the September 11th attacks on the United States and the subsequent invasion of Afghanistan, the Taliban leader known as “Mullah Omar” fled the state he’d helped form after fighting to liberate it from the Soviet Union. The CIA believed he’d fled to Pakistan and the U.S. military issued a reward of $10 million for his capture.

His real hiding place was just three miles from the U.S.’ FOB Wolverine in Siuray. He was never more than 80 miles from Kandahar, the site he fled when the U.S. invaded Afghanistan.


The governing body of the Taliban operated out of Quetta, Pakistan after being forced out of Afghanistan in 2001. Afghanistan’s Defence Ministry, the Pentagon, and the CIA all agreed that until his death in 2013, Mohammed Omar was there with them all. But what international intelligence agencies didn’t know about Omar could fill a warehouse. Very few photos of the man were ever taken, and he let very few people into his inner circle. Foreign intelligence services didn’t even know that Omar had died for two years following his death from Tuberculosis in 2013.

A new report from the Zomia Center, a think tank dedicated to studying ungoverned spaces, says that Omar died just three miles from FOB Wolverine, a base full of hundreds of American troops.

New stunning documentary shows the reality of the drone war through the eyes of the operators

Omar in 1992.

Bette Dam, a Kabul-based journalist, working in Afghanistan between 2009 and 2014, traveled around the country trying to find a more complete picture of Omar. She spoke with friends, relatives, bodyguards, drivers, and other insurgent leaders, many of whom had fled and lived with Omar in the days following the U.S. invasion. Mullah Omar never left Afghanistan. The man who refused to give up Osama bin Laden renounced his leadership of the Taliban and then disappeared.

He found himself in two remote villages, each house close to an American military forward operating base. The first was in Qalat, near FOB Lagman. He hid there for four years, coming close to capture by U.S. troops only twice. The next village was Siuray, three miles from FOB Wolverine. Mullah Omar lived behind a larger family home in the traditional mud hut that is often found in rural Afghanistan. He lived there until his death in 2013.

New stunning documentary shows the reality of the drone war through the eyes of the operators

Omar spent much of his time alone or with his bodyguard, Jabbar Omari, who provided journalist Bette Dam with much of the information she would later corroborate. The Taliban’s leader ate and prayed alone, and even cooked for himself much of the time. The two men were always afraid of being found out and took great pains to stay indoors and speak very softly, if at all. In the evenings, Omar would listen to BBC Pashto while his bodyguard listened to Voice of America’s Dari service on the radio.

Omar never mentioned Osama bin Laden or why he refused to hand the al-Qaeda leader over to the U.S. Even when bin Laden was killed in 2011, Omar didn’t say anything in response, he only ever criticized al-Qaeda’s view of Islam. When Omar died, his bodyguard buried him in the sand without a coffin, though he would later be dug up and given an Islamic funeral at a nondescript location. He died without appointing a successor to the Taliban movement and without leaving a message to his family or followers. He just died.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How Vladimir Putin prevented an all-out Middle East war

A simmering conflict between Israel and Iran in Syria could have erupted into another regional war were it not for the intervention of Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to an Israeli investigative journalist.


On Feb. 10, 2018, an Israeli air force helicopter shot down what Israel says was an Iranian drone launched from the Tiyas Military Airbase in central Syria by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

The drone was shot down a minute and a half after entering Israeli airspace, the investigative journalist, Ronen Bergman, wrote in an op-ed article in The New York Times.

Israel responded by sending eight F-16 fighter jets into Syria to destroy the drone’s command-and-control center. While flying back to Israel, they came under attack from Syrian anti-aircraft missiles — one of which, an S-200, took down an F-16, forcing the pilots to eject.

New stunning documentary shows the reality of the drone war through the eyes of the operators
An F-16 Fighting Falcon. (U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Cherie A. Thurlby)

Israel hit back, going after Syria’s air-defense system. The Israeli military says it hit multiple Syrian and Iranian targets.

Israel has long been worried about Iran’s activities and growing influence in the region, especially in Syria, where Iran has backed pro-government forces during the country’s years-long civil war.

“The response to the downing of the Israeli jet was intended to be a lot more violent,” Bergman wrote, adding that Israeli generals brought out plans “for a huge offensive operation in Syria.”

Also read: Israel’s F-35s may have already flown a combat mission against Russian air defenses in Syria

But a “furious phone call” from Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose forces in Syria were close by, “was enough to make Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel cancel the plans,” Bergman wrote.

A former Israeli army general appeared to confirm Bergman’s reporting.

New stunning documentary shows the reality of the drone war through the eyes of the operators
A screenshot showing the destruction of the Iranian drone a few seconds after it was hit by an Israeli missile. (Israel Defense Forces YouTube)

If the F-16 hadn’t been shot down, Israel “would be able to keep this issue at a very, very low profile,” Udi Dekel, a former Israeli army brigadier general who was the head of the Israel Defense Forces’ strategic-planning division, said Feb. 14 on a call organized by the Israel Policy Forum.

“Because we lost the F-16, we decided to respond against many important targets inside Syria,” Dekel said, among them air defenses, Syrian army positions, and Iranian positions around Damascus.

Related: Syria threatens Scud missile strikes in retaliation against Israel

Israel wanted “to send a message that we could not accept any idea that they would try to shoot down our aircraft in our skies,” Dekel said.

Dekel said Israel did not pursue further strikes because it wanted to see the Syrian and Iranian response. But he added that there was “intervention by the Russians, who asked us not to escalate the situation anymore and to try and calm down the situation.”

These recent actions are likely to increase tensions in the Middle East — but Dekel says he doesn’t think this is the “end of the story.”

“We killed Iranians operating the UAV and in other locations, so I assume they will try to find any opportunity for revenge against us,” he said, referring to the drone with the abbreviation for an unmanned aerial vehicle.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Special ops forces are training in Arctic conditions

The U.S. military conducts mission-based training events year-round, but Arctic Edge 2018 is a unique opportunity that has brought more than 1,500 U.S. military personnel from 20-plus units together to train in arctic conditions throughout the Alaska range.


For Special Operations Command North, a component of U.S. Special Operations Command with headquarters at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, it is an ideal environment to test their ability to operate in extreme weather conditions.

Also read: The Army developed new high-tech fabric for fighting in the Arctic

“It’s a chance for us to get up here in these extreme conditions and conduct training to make sure the equipment is working, and we are keeping those skill sets sharp,” said the director of operations for Joint Special Operations Task Force Alaska.

Names, ranks, and service affiliations of special operations service members involved with the exercise are not included in this story for operational security and privacy reasons.

Conducting long-range movements in severe weather over treacherous terrain with limited visibility is challenging for even the most experienced operator. The teams have endured sub-zero temperatures and near whiteout conditions since the first team deployed March 7, 2018.

New stunning documentary shows the reality of the drone war through the eyes of the operators
U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Nicholas Lord with Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, provides security in defense of the Indian Mountain Air Force Station, AK, March 12, 2018. (Photo by Cpl. Bethanie Ryan)

During the evolution, one advanced operating base team and two operational detachment alpha teams — which consist of both mobility- and mountain-trained personnel — were deployed to Alaska’s Utqiagvik and Anaktuvuk Pass. So far, the teams have completed long-range ground and air infiltration events, which included an airdrop of equipment as well as reconnaissance and direct-action operations. The teams also used new communication systems to enhance their capabilities in a cold-weather environment.

Related: These dangerous Arctic convoys saved Russia during World War II

Biggest obstacle

The company operations officer said the biggest obstacle the teams have overcome is identifying and, in some cases, developing new equipment needed for operations in such austere environments.

“We have guys in Anaktuvuk and we have guys in Barrow, two completely different terrains, and it requires two different load-outs,” he said. “So, [we’re] finding the solutions for equipment and getting people to understand that there is no one-size-fits-all [packing list].”

With the diverse terrains and cold weather, the company operations officer said, training events like Arctic Edge allow the teams to maintain perishable skills.

“It’s cold in Colorado,” the operations officer said, “but we don’t deal with the temperatures that they deal with up here. So, the ability to come up here and train in Alaska is phenomenal.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Even more Russian ships are relying on tugs for breakdowns

In 2000, an explosion in the Russian submarine Kursk sent the vessel to the ocean floor, killing all 118 of its crew.

In the decade that followed, at least four fires broke out at Russian shipyards.

In 2009, Russia’s Admiral Kuznetsov — which has been labeled one of the worst aircraft carriers in the world — lost a sailor when a fire broke out due to a short circuit.


And in 2016, the Kuznetsov cruised through the English channel belching black smoke on its way to the Mediterranean.

This series of accidents and problems leads to one inevitable conclusion: The Russian Navy has a maintenance problem.

Bryan Clark, senior fellow for the Center of Strategic and Budgetary Studies, said that when it comes to maintenance, “You can’t live on older ships. After 20 to 25 years, all you have is what’s left on the shelf.”

New stunning documentary shows the reality of the drone war through the eyes of the operators

The Admiral Kuznetsov.

Though many of the incidents plagued their submarine force, even more telling than its history of catastrophes is the routine reliance on oceangoing tugs, which accompany its surface vessels on every deployment.

On Oct. 22, 2018, two Russian corvettes, a tanker, and a tug set sail for the North Atlantic.

Experts say Russia’s dependence on tugs is an indication of an aging, insufficient surface fleet.

While Russia can boast impressive littoral capabilities, for blue-water operations it leans heavily on its Cold War-era platforms, an influential naval expert said.

This is problematic for several reasons, according to Clark. Maintenance becomes more difficult as ships age, and as decades pass their parts become harder, if not impossible, to obtain. It is impossible, then, to manage the eventual breakdown of equipment, which results in a loss of redundancy for crucial systems.

This redundancy — secondary, tertiary and even quaternary systems — is what keeps ships afloat and ready to fight.

For the Russian Navy, the idea of tug as escort has become standard. For the rest of the world, Clark thinks there is a lesson to be learned.

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

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

This toddler’s White House briefing on COVID-19 is the best thing you’ll see today

With an abundance of data points on COVID-19 — the news, your friend from high school who has turned into a respiratory and infectious disease expert on social media despite never going to med school, your family, your neighbors, that group text — it’s difficult to discern what is relevant and what is truthful.

Finally, here’s one source that absolutely nails it. Three-year-old toddler “Dr. Big Sister” Hannah Curtis delivers a spot on briefing from her very own White House.



Articles

This Soviet sniper dropped out of school so she could kick Nazi butt

New stunning documentary shows the reality of the drone war through the eyes of the operators


Lyudmila Pavlichenko was 24 years old when Germany invaded the USSR in June 1941. Like most Soviet citizens, she wasn’t thrilled to hear that 3 million Nazis were marching across the motherland. The Kiev University history student was determined to do her bit, but she didn’t want to be a nurse. What’d Pavlichenko do instead? She became the most feared female sniper in history.

Born in the Kiev region in 1916, Pavlichenko was blessed with a competitive nature and a surplus of moxie. She also had a natural affinity for guns:

New stunning documentary shows the reality of the drone war through the eyes of the operators
A Soviet Union-issued postage stamp dedicated to Pavlichenko

I was keen on sports of all kinds, and played all the boys’ games and would not allow myself to be outdone by boys in anything. That was how I turned to sharpshooting. When a neighbor’s boy boasted of his exploits at a shooting range I set out to show that a girl could do as well. So I practiced a lot.

The sniper-turned-student was holed up in a sanitarium in Odessa when war broke out. She’d been sent there to recuperate from a long illness—but her patriotic fervor cured her. Pavlichenko was eager to put her sharpshooting skills to good use, so she immediately applied for a discharge. Signing up with the Red Army proved more difficult than she thought:

The moment I heard the news I stopped feeling ill. When I applied to the doctors of the sanitarium for a discharge, they refused. I didn’t feel that the time could be spared for arguments and appeals. I knew the war had done more to cure me than they could. So I took French leave. They wouldn’t take girls in the army, so I had to resort to all kinds of tricks to get in. But I finally managed it. I served first with one of the volunteer detachments called ‘destroyer squads’ organized in cities and districts close to the front, to dispose of German paratroopers.

Good thing Mother Russia decided to bend the rules. By the end of Operation Barbarossa,Pavlichenko was famous for having a very particular set of skills: She excelled at shooting fascists. Nicknamed “Lady Death” by the Western media, the 25-year-old sniper was credited was 309 confirmed kills.

Lyudmila Pavlichenko Eleanor Roosevelt Justice Robert Jackson, Lyudmila Pavlichenko and Eleanor Roosevelt in 1942

Her status as Nazi Germany’s nightmare du jour scored her an invitation to the Oval Office in 1942. Dispatched to drum up American support for a “second front” in Europe, she was the first Soviet citizen to be received at the White House. Stalin didn’t regret his decision: Pavlichenko and the Roosevelts got along famously. After their official meeting, the First Lady asked the Ukranian-born lieutenant to accompany her on a tour of the country. The “girl sniper” caused a media frenzy. When the press grilled her on her makeup habits and frumpy uniform, Pavlichenko put them in check:

I wear my uniform with honor. It has the Order of Lenin on it. It has been covered with blood in battle. It is plain to see that with American women what is important is whether they wear silk underwear under their uniforms. What the uniform stands for, they have yet to learn.

 

MIGHTY TACTICAL

US Army uses pearls for life-saving technology

Round, smooth and iridescent, pearls are among the world’s most exquisite jewels; now, these gems are inspiring a U.S. Army research project to improve military armor.

By mimicking the outer coating of pearls (nacre, or as it’s more commonly known, mother of pearl), researchers at University at Buffalo, funded by the Army Research Office (ARO), created a lightweight plastic that is 14 times stronger and eight times lighter (less dense) than steel and ideal for absorbing the impact of bullets and other projectiles.

ARO is an element of the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Army Research Laboratory.

The research findings are published in the journal ACS Applied Polymer Materials, and its earlier publication in J. Phys. Chem. Lett. (see related links below)


“The material is stiff, strong and tough,” said Dr. Shenqiang Ren, professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, a member of University at Buffalo’s RENEW Institute, and the paper’s lead author. “It could be applicable to vests, helmets and other types of body armor, as well as protective armor for ships, helicopters and other vehicles.”

New stunning documentary shows the reality of the drone war through the eyes of the operators

Round, smooth and iridescent, pearls are among the world’s most exquisite jewels; now, these gems inspire U.S. Army researchers looking to improve military armor.

The bulk of the material is a souped-up version of polyethylene (the most common plastic) called ultrahigh molecular weight polyethylene, or UHMWPE, which is used to make products like artificial hips and guitar picks.

When designing the UHMWPE, the researchers studied mother of pearl, which mollusks create by arranging a form of calcium carbonate into a structure that resembles interlocking bricks. Like mother of pearl, the researchers designed the material to have an extremely tough outer shell with a more flexible inner backing that’s capable of deforming and absorbing projectiles.

“Professor Ren’s work designing UHMWPE to dramatically improve impact strength may lead to new generations of lightweight armor that provide both protection and mobility for soldiers,” said Dr. Evan Runnerstrom, program manager, materials design, ARO. “In contrast to steel or ceramic armor, UHMWPE could also be easier to cast or mold into complex shapes, providing versatile protection for soldiers, vehicles, and other Army assets.”

New stunning documentary shows the reality of the drone war through the eyes of the operators

A new lightweight plastic that is 14 times stronger and eight times lighter (less dense) than steel may lead to next-generation military armor.

(University at Buffalo)

This is what’s known as soft armor, in which soft yet tightly woven materials create what is essentially a very strong net capable of stopping bullets. KEVLAR is a well-known example.

The material the research team developed also has high thermal conductivity. This ability to rapidly dissipate heat further helps it to absorb the energy of bullets and other projectiles.

The team further experimented with the UHMWPE by adding silica nanoparticles, finding that tiny bits of the chemical could enhance the material’s properties and potentially create stronger armor.

“This work demonstrates that the right materials design approaches have the potential to make big impacts for Army technologies,” Runnerstrom said.

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

Articles

How Ukraine punked North Korea’s nuclear missile scientists

Ukraine has released footage of two North Korean spies exuberantly photographing fake missile designs in 2011, as part of a sting operation that eventually landed the pair in jail, as CNN reports.


Ukraine, once home to thousands of Soviet nuclear ICBMs, continues to produce missiles today as it faces a Russian-backed insurgency in the country’s east. Another Cold War remnant in Ukraine appears to be spycraft, which allowed the country to trick and capture two North Korean spies.

Authorities in Ukraine told CNN that the North Koreans sought “ballistic missiles, missile systems, missile construction, spacecraft engines, solar batteries, fast-emptying fuel tanks, mobile launch containers, powder accumulators, and military government standards,” to bring home to Pyongyang, according to CNN.

New stunning documentary shows the reality of the drone war through the eyes of the operators
North Korean spies photograph fake missile schematics. Screengrab from CNN video.

The specific plans the spies thought they were capturing showed schematics for the SS-24 Scalpel intercontinental ballistic missile, a Soviet-designed missile that can carry 10 independently targetable warheads across vast distances. Such a weapon would be a massive improvement over North Korea’s current fledgling ICBM fleet.

But the designs photographed by the North Koreans were fake, and moments after the cameras flashed, authorities broke into the room and detained them. The spies are now serving eight years in prison.

Ukraine may have released the footage to CNN after a report from the International Institute of Strategic Studies alleged that North Koreans had somehow obtained rocket engine designs from Ukraine. Ukraine has strongly pushed back on that accusation, and other missile experts have since disputed it.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Meet the Marine Corps’ first female Amtrac officer

There’s a saying in the Marine Corps assault amphibious vehicle community: “You ain’t tracks, you ain’t s—.”


It was in part that sense of bonding and pride that drew 2nd Lt. Mariah Klenke to the career field.

Tuesday morning, the 24-year-old became the first female officer to graduate from the Marines’ Assault Amphibian Officer course and the first to earn the military occupational specialty of 1803, qualifying her to command a platoon of AAVs, or Amtracks.

Klenke, whose hometown is St. Rose, Illinois, had to complete a series of physical requirements in addition to the 12-week course: She had to prove she could do a 115-pound clean-and-press and a 150-pound deadlift; she had to lift a MK-19 machine gun, weighing nearly 78 pounds, above her head; and she had to complete a 50-yard “buddy drag” with a 215-pound dummy to simulate a wounded comrade.

That buddy drag proved to be the most physically demanding element of the whole course, said Klenke, who played a variety of team sports while at Illinois’ Highland High School, and went to college on a soccer scholarship. She would graduate from the University of Tennessee at Martin with an accounting degree.

Klenke decided at The Basic School that she was interested in pursuing AAVs as a career field.

“Tracks keep the Marine Corps amphibious; I really like that part about them,” she said. “And it gives you the ability to work with the infantry and be in the battle if there ever was a battle.”

What she didn’t realize at the time was that there had never been a female officer in the field.

Since all ground combat jobs opened to women for the first time in 2016, the Marine Corps has welcomed its first female artillery and tanks officers.

New stunning documentary shows the reality of the drone war through the eyes of the operators
Mariah Klenke poses in front of an American flag in this undated Facebook photo.

In late September, the first female Marine graduated the infantry officer’s course in a much-anticipated milestone.

There have also been two enlisted female Marines to complete required training and enter the AAV community. But until now, a female officer has not attempted the AAV officers’ course.

“Whenever my captain told me that was the MOS I was getting, he said, ‘You’re 1803 and you’re going to be the first female officer.’ I was kind of surprised and [it was] a little nerve-wracking being the first female, and it puts more pressure on yourself there,” Klenke said.

But, she added, she had no second thoughts. With her competitive sports background, she began to prepare mentally to face the challenge.

The assault amphibian officers course itself proved to be small, with only seven students in total, she said.

Other students would joke about her being the first woman in the course, but Klenke said the atmosphere was friendly, and she never felt singled out or ostracized because she was a woman.

“We were all good friends in the class, so it was just friendly jokes about everything,” she said.

She got a taste of the close bonds the tracks community shares during one of the most mentally challenging elements of the course: a week at Camp Pendleton staging AAV missions from the shoreline to inland objectives.

“We were doing three to four missions a day. It involved a lot of planning, and then operating too,” she said. “We were working on a couple of hours of sleep a night.”

The training made her more confident that she had chosen the right field, she said.

New stunning documentary shows the reality of the drone war through the eyes of the operators
Mariah Klenke. (Facebook)

“You get the sense that it’s a very close-knit community and anybody will do anything for you, everyone works hard out there,” Klenke said. “Frankly, the Marines in the MOS, they’re very hard-working and they’ll have your back if they need to.”

For the AAV course, graduation is a quiet ceremony where certificates are distributed. In fewer than 48 hours, Klenke expects to be at her new unit: 3rd Assault Amphibian Battalion, at Camp Pendleton.

And she can’t wait.

“After a year of training, I’m finally just excited to get my platoon and start working for them, training them,” she said.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How veterans play an important role at the CIA

Veterans of the United States Armed Forces have always played an important role at the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Take CIA’s predecessor organization, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), for instance. Founded by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt at the outset of World War II — and in the aftermath of the Japanese attack on U.S. naval forces at Pearl Harbor — the OSS began its life as a wartime body tasked with mandates to collect and analyze strategic information and to conduct unconventional and paramilitary operations.

At its peak, OSS employed almost 13,000 people: Two-thirds of the workforce was U.S. Army and U.S. Army Air Forces personnel. Civilians made up another quarter, and the rest were from the U.S. Navy, Marines, and Coast Guard. At the helm of OSS was World War I hero, General William “Wild Bill” Donovan. The story of CIA begins — and continues — alongside those of the U.S. military and its veterans.


Today, veterans comprise nearly 15% of CIA’s workforce, and we continue to serve alongside our military partners across the globe. CIA, the broader Intelligence Community, and the American people benefit tremendously from the insight and impact of veterans who bring to their work a wealth of experience and knowledge. They are mission-focused from day one and equipped with the skills CIA is looking for in its officers. Veterans often come into the building with the overseas experiences, clearances, and foreign languages that allow them to dive right into the action. A rich history of close collaboration between the military and CIA makes for a smooth transition from military to civilian service. While CIA is not a military body, its officers share that same commitment to mission and service. Veterans will find a familiar enthusiasm in the air at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia.

New stunning documentary shows the reality of the drone war through the eyes of the operators

World War I hero, General William “Wild Bill” Donovan, helmed the pre-CIA OSS.

CIA is committed to the continued to developing relationships with veterans, and in May of 2013, it chartered the American Veterans Employee Resource Group (AVERG) to serve as a link between the veteran workforce and Agency leaders. The group is committed to goals that include the hiring and retention of veterans, education and engagement on veteran matters, continued career development and frequent community networking opportunities. AVERG offers veterans an important link to Agency leadership — one that ensures CIA’s continued investment in veterans and the unique perspectives they bring to an important mission.

Every day, but especially this week when we celebrate Veterans Day, CIA honors the commitment of its veterans who continue to serve and continue the fight in defense of freedom.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Navy Veteran beaten by police in Portland speaks out

It is better to protest than to accept injustice.
– Rosa Parks

Twitter

twitter.com

Twitter

Over the weekend, two videos emerged that made their rounds — not just in the military community, but all over the world. In Portland, Oregon, where civil rights protests have occurred daily since the murder of George Floyd, there has been a mix of mostly peaceful demonstrations with some outbreaks of violence and destruction.

In the midst of this, the first video shows presumed law enforcement officials in military fatigues without any sort of identification yanking protestors off the street into unmarked cars. This drew a furious reaction from lawmakers on both sides, lawsuits from the state or Oregon to civil rights groups, and drew out even more protestors who were not very happy that federal officials would resort to such tactics.

One of those men was Christopher David, a Navy veteran, who showed up to make his voice heard. David’s interaction with the police was recorded and immediately went viral after he was attacked, beaten and maimed — but not broken in spirit.

David, age 53, spoke to the Associated Press about the incident, why he went out there and what he hopes happens now.

“It isn’t about me getting beat up. It’s about focusing back on the original intention of all of these protests, which is Black Lives Matter,” David told the AP.

David said he was hanging back as this was the first time he ever protested anything. He also wore his Naval Academy sweatshirt to show the police that he wasn’t some crazy anarchist. He said the protest started as a bunch of pregnant women standing with linked arms. He said he was trying to talk to the men in fatigues. He said he told them, “You take the oath to the Constitution; you don’t take the oath to a particular person,” when one officer pointed a weapon at David’s chest. Another pushed him back and he stood there with his hands at this side. That is when the video shows a law enforcement officer strike David five times with a baton. The attack seems to not faze David at all, but then he gets pepper sprayed in the face. Only then does he fall back, but not before giving the officials a hand gesture to show his displeasure.

While various people on Twitter spoke of him standing tall like a mountain and not being hurt, David says he actually has two broken bones in his hand which will require surgery to fix.

David is a 1988 graduate of the Naval Academy and served in the Navy’s Civil Engineer Corps before getting out. He doesn’t plan on going back out to protest anytime soon. “My ex-wife and my daughter would kill me if I did that. They’re so angry at me for doing it in the first place because I got beat up,” he said. “I’m not a redwood tree. I’m an overweight, 53-year-old man.”

According to CNN, the Portland Police and Customs and Border Protection have denied the officers belonged to their respective departments. So far, Homeland Security and the U.S. Marshals have refused to acknowledge if the men belong to their departments.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Community providers: How to submit medical documentation to VA

VA strives to provide Veterans with seamless care and encourages community providers to support these efforts by the timely submission of medical documentation within 30 days of providing services.

One of the best ways for community providers to submit medical documentation is to use HealthShare Referral Manager (HSRM), the main system VA uses for managing referrals, authorizations and medical documentation exchange.


Dr. Megan Stauffer, a community provider at In-Home Care Connection in Sterling, Ill., shares her positive experience with HSRM. “It has drastically cut down phone calls and faxes that I’m having to receive daily, because now all the information I need is there at my fingertips.”

In addition to HSRM, VA offers more options for community providers to submit Veteran medical documentation. Community providers can:

Using convenient electronic options to send medical documents to VA enables you to comply with the 30-day requirement for medical documentation submission.

Visit our care coordination page and review our Medical Submission Requirements Fact Sheet for details on what documentation should be submitted for care coordination purposes based on the type of service provided.

Thank you for your commitment to caring for our nation’s Veterans.

Resources

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

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