A Puerto Rico National Guard member takes the temperature of an incoming traveler at Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Photo by Staff Sgt. Marimar Rivera.
A deadly pandemic, a Category 5 hurricane and two earthquakes. While this sounds like cataclysms from the Old Testament — it’s not. Puerto Rico has been dealing with a range of natural disasters for the past three years.
In the center of them all is the Puerto Rico National Guard, stepping up to the challenges each provides.
“It’s certainly showing that the Puerto Rico National Guard is a flexible and adaptable force,” Maj. Gen. José Reyes, adjutant general, said.
The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the lives of just about every American. The mantra of elected officials has been, “Flatten the curve,” meaning stop the spread of the virus. PRNG is doing its part to accomplish that by conducting medical evaluations of everyone entering Puerto Rico.
Earlier this year, PRNG and other federal and state agencies started screening incoming passengers at the international airport in San Juan by installing 11 infrared cameras that measure a person’s body temperature.
If a passenger has a temperature of 100.3° or over, they are immediately taken to a triage area and tested for COVID-19.
This is a 24/7 operation with about 260 PRNG members participating — roughly 60 are assigned to each six-hour shift.
Laiza Rivera, a medical student at Central Caribbean University, took the oath of office to become a 2nd Lt. in the Puerto Rico National Guard on April 2. Here she signs her enlistment contract as Gen. José Reyes looks on. Photo by First Sgt. Luis E. Orengo.
In addition to military personnel, 150 students from Puerto Rico’s four medical schools have volunteered for this mission as well.
This actually worked as an unintentional recruitment campaign when four of them decided to join the PRNG. One of them is 2nd Lt. Laiza Rivera.
The 27–year-old says she was going stir-crazy being home all day because of the lockdown so she decided to volunteer at the airport. Rivera, whose major is ophthalmology, was already in the process of joining but inspired the other three student-volunteers to join as well.
PRNG has similar operations at other ports of entry.
PRNG’s ability to adapt is illustrated in its revised plan for annual training. Ordinarily, large groups of personnel would attend exercises at the national training center in California, as well as another location in Louisiana. Not this year. In an effort to practice social distancing, those exercises will be modified to be conducted in smaller groups at Camp Santiago in Puerto Rico.
Additionally, classes that would normally be held in a conference room have switched to video conferencing.
In 2017, Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico.
Under Reyes’ command, the island’s combined military forces provided its residents with just about everything they needed.
They provided MPs to the local police departments to maintain law and order; engineers cleared hundreds of miles of debris from roadways; and they conducted search and rescue operations in flooded communities and evacuated stranded citizens. The Army aviation unit conducted countless flights to and from the center of the island (its most rural and isolated area) to deliver food, water and emergency supplies.
Puerto Rico still hasn’t fully recovered from the hurricane and the 56 year-old general predicts that won’t happen for another 10 to 12 years.
If the hurricane wasn’t bad enough, Puerto Rico was shaken by two major earthquakes in January. There were 10,000 people who either partially or completely lost their homes.
Reyes, who was born and raised in Puerto Rico, presented a plan to Governor Wanda Vázquez Garced to relocate these refugees. PRNG then established five major camps, each with a capacity of about 1,700. In partnership with FEMA and other agencies, they relocated over 10,000 people in 56 days.
While no one can predict when an earthquake will occur, there is an established hurricane season for the Caribbean and it’s happening now.
Under Homeland Security Presidential Directives Nos. 8 and 9, states and territories are required to conduct preparatory training in response to the threats that pose the greatest risk to national security, including natural disasters.
PRNG is on it conducting emergency management exercises for hurricanes, earthquakes, pandemics and even tsunamis with all 78 municipalities on the island. Until last year, exercises were only for Category 5 hurricanes. The new exercises anticipate all these disasters happening concurrently.
Puerto Rico has had a lot thrown at it over the past three years and, in theory, it all could happen again. PRNG will be ready if it does.
Additionally, Reyes knows Guard units from other states, as well as additional DOD personnel, has Puerto Rico’s back and will be there to support him.
Reyes came out of retirement to take on this command and he’s glad he did.
“It’s a tremendous honor to command the Puerto Rico National Guard, eight-five hundred strong, fully committed men and women with an unbreakable sense of service towards the people of Puerto Rico and our nation,” he said. “I’m very proud of each one of them.”
Sully, the celebrated yellow Labrador retriever that was the service dog of former President George H.W. Bush, has joined the ranks of working dogs at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.
Inducted by way of a paw shake and through an oath of office given Feb. 27, 2019, by Walter Reed’s director, Navy Capt. (Dr.) Mark Kobelja, Sully enlisted in the medical center’s facility dogs program, in which he will work with disabled inpatients and outpatients.
During his enlistment ceremony at the center’s USO building, Sully was cited as “a true patriot” and was enlisted as a Navy hospital corpsman, 2nd class.
Sully, President George H.W. Bush’s service dog.
Pinning on Sully’s devices were Evan Sisley, personal aide and senior medic to President Bush and Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Samantha Murdock, the leading petty officer for Walter Reed’s Facility Dog Program.
The 2-year-old Labrador was by Bush’s side for six months, and it was the Bush family’s wish that after the former president’s death, Sully would join the service-dog program at Walter Reed. He joins a unit of six other dogs in Walter Reed’s Facility Dog Program.
“We appreciate the time he had with the president. Sully made a tremendous impact — not only for the president — but his caregivers and the entire [Bush] family,” said John Miller, president and chief executive officer for America’s VetDogs, where Sully was trained to be a service dog.
George H.W. Bush’s Service Dog Sully Gets A New Job Helping Veterans | NBC Nightly News
“Sully’s going to do a great job here at Walter Reed. He’s going to see a patient on average every hour,” leaving patients in more cheerful moods, he said.
“He’ll do a lot of things here, but mostly bring smiles to faces,” as a dog with the right demeanor, Miller added.
Sully and the other service dogs at Walter Reed typically visit patients on wards and in behavioral health, the brain fitness clinic, and occupational and physical therapy clinics.
The facility dogs at Walter Reed average 2,500 contacts with people and more than 200 working hours per month collectively, according to a Walter Reed press release. Many of the dog handlers are active-duty service members who are trained in a 6-week program. The dogs live with a custodian of the program.
Sully, like his six battle buddies, is trained in situational awareness, sitting politely for petting, accepting a friendly stranger, walking through a crowd, how to react to distractions, entering elevators, how to react to another dog, and various commands.
What’s it like to take part in a modern air battle, flying some of the most sophisticated planes ever to take to the sky? We’re talking the F-15 Eagle and F-16 Fighting Falcon here.
The F-15 and F-16 have seen a lot of action, the vast majority of which has taken place in the Middle East. One of the most notable engagements these airframes saw was the Bekaa Valley Turkey Shoot. During the 1982 Israeli-Lebanon War, the Israelis were dealing with terrorist attacks from the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). The PLO had relocated to Lebanon shortly after wearing out its welcome in Jordan.
After a PLO assassination attempt that targetted the Israeli ambassador to the United Kingdom, the Israelis went into Lebanon to deal with the terrorists. The thing was, the PLO was backed by Syria. So, when the Israelis went in, the Syrian Army went in to stop them. A crucial part of the Syrian strategy was to take control of the air.
This wouldn’t work out so well for the Syrians. Not only had Israelis just acquired the latest and greatest fighters from the United States, they had also acquired the Grumman E-2 Hawkeye. This radar plane was perhaps the biggest advantage for the Israelis. Ground-based radar stations have a lot of trouble seeing low-altitude planes and cruise missiles. Airborne radar, however, has much less difficulty.
Between June 9 and 10, nearly 200 fighters from both the Israeli Defense Force and the Syrian Air Force clashed over the Bekaa Valley. When the shooting had stopped, all the Israeli planes returned safely to their bases. Over 80 Syrian combat planes were not so lucky, destroyed in the ferocious air battle.
You can see what this battle was like from an Israeli pilot’s perspective in the video below. There probably aren’t very many Syrian perspectives available.
James Lipton, best known for his role in creating and producing Inside the Actors Studio died earlier today from bladder cancer at his home in Manhattan. His wife, Kedaki Turner, told TMZ, “There are so many James Lipton stories but I’m sure he would like to be remembered as someone who loved what he did and had tremendous respect for all the people he worked with.”
While Lipton was known for his conversational style with countless actors during the show’s run from 1994 through his retirement as host in 2018, less is known about his early life. Lipton was born in Detroit on Sept. 19, 1926 to Betty and Louis Lipton. His mother was a teacher and librarian and his father was a columnist and did graphic design for The Jewish Daily Forward. Following high school, Lipton enlisted in the Air Force during World War II.
In an interview with AOPA Pilot, Lipton said, “I always wanted to fly.” Unable to afford lessons he joined the military and qualified as an aviation candidate. When peace broke out—like any performer Lipton doesn’t want to reveal his age, but we’re guessing it was sometime after World War II—pilots were suddenly required to sign on for four years. “I didn’t want to spend the next four years doing that,” he said, so he mustered out and moved to New York to study law. Being in law school he couldn’t afford not to work, so to pay for law school he worked as an actor.
While his career may have had a slow start in the acting business, Lipton went from unknown to iconic with the launch of his project Inside the Actors Studio.
“James Lipton was a titan of the film and entertainment industry and had a profound influence on so many,” Frances Berwick, president of NBCU Lifestyle Networks and home to Bravo, said in a statement on Monday. “I had the pleasure of working with Jim for 20 years on Bravo’s first original series, his pride and joy Inside the Actors Studio. We all enjoyed and respected his fierce passion, contributions to the craft, comprehensive research and his ability to bring the most intimate interviews ever conducted with A-list actors across generations. Bravo and NBCUniversal send our deepest condolences to Jim’s wife, Kedakai, and all of his family.”
Inside the Actors studio was incredibly popular, with such A-list guests as Ben Affleck, Meryl Streep, Brad Pitt, George Clooney, James Cameron; after 22 seasons the list goes on and on. Lipton was always prepared for his interviews and humbled by the show’s continued success.
According to The Daily Mail, one of Lipton’s favorite moments in the show’s history was when a former student returned as a guest.
‘What I’ve waited for is that one of my graduated students has achieved so much that he walks out and sits down on that chair next to me,’ Lipton said.
‘It happened when Bradley Cooper walked out on that stage. We looked at each other and burst into tears. It was one of the greatest nights of my life.’
As Lipton toldTHR‘s Scott Feinberg in June 2016: “If you had put a gun to my head and said, ‘I will pull the trigger unless you predict that in 23 years, Inside the Actors Studio will be viewed in 94 million homes in America on Bravo and in 125 countries around the world, that it will have received 16 Emmy nominations, making it the fifth-most-nominated series in the history of television, that it will have received an Emmy Award for outstanding informational series and that you will have received the Critics’ Choice Award for best reality series host — predict it or die,’ I would have said, ‘Pull the trigger.'”
5. If you think you’ve avoided college…think again.
Many of us joined the service anxious to get out on our own and start making a living. We didn’t know what that looked like but we knew it wouldn’t involve dorm rooms and college, at least not right away.
What’s the first thing we get once we get to the operational Air Force? Dorm rooms and college courses, of course.
4. You’re going to fight the war, just like in the movies.
Every job in the Air Force supports the fight. From Services and Security Forces, to Medical Administrators and Dental Techs, we all pitch in to help fight the good fight.
The problem is, supporting the fight could be anything from handing out towels at the gym to doing Hearts and Hands mission downrange. You just never know what you’re going to get.
It can be disappointing to not feel like you’re doing enough, but just remember that we’re all part of the military machine as a whole — supporting roles are important, too.
3. You’re a grown-up now, right?
On the surface, yes. Every man and woman serving in the U.S. military is an adult, but slow your horses.
Just because you can fight for the country doesn’t mean you can indulge in all the adult activities you want (namely: drinking alcohol). Being an 18 year old service member does not privy you to alcoholic beverages.
If you’re like me, you probably didn’t even know underage drinking was a thing prior to being told that if you’re caught drinking or drunk you’ll be on the way back to mama’s house quick, fast, and in a hurry.
2. You get to grow a big beard and wear shades all the time
Hollywood has lied to you. The small section of members that are allowed to rock those gnarly beards earn that right through training and perseverance.
Even those elite members are subject to some form of relaxed uniform standard.
The shades are cool though. Except when in formation.
And they can’t be reflective.
Or overly stylish.
Essentially they’ve got to be plain, conservative, and non-attention drawing.
NATO and Russian aircraft and ships have drawn ever closer in the skies and seas around Eastern Europe in recent years, engaging in a kind of cat-and-mouse game that has led to many near misses.
A significant number of these encounters have taken place above the Baltics, where NATO members border a Russia they see as growing increasingly aggressive in its near abroad.
June alone saw several such incidents, including a Russian jet intercepting a US B-52 over the Baltic Sea early in the month, another Russian jet flying within a few feet of a US Air Force reconnaissance jet over the Baltic Sea in mid-June, and a NATO F-16 buzzing the Russian defense minister’s jet later in the month.
Western officials and the research and advocacy group Global Zero — which analyzed 97 midair confrontations between Russian and Western aircraft over the Baltic between March 2014 and April 2017 — have said that Russian pilots are more often responsible for unsafe interceptions; some of which arise from negligence or are accidents, while some are deliberate shows of force.
“What we see in the Baltic Sea is increased military activity — we see it on land, at sea and in the air, and that just underlines the importance of transparency and predictability to prevent incidents and accidents,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told The Wall Street Journal. “And if they happen, it is important to make sure they don’t spiral out of control and create dangerous situations.”
Western officials and analysts believe Moscow is using such incidents as geopolitical tactics, responding to events in Europe and elsewhere, such as in Syria. Russia has denied this and said that recent reports about its abilities and activity in the region are “total Russophobia.”
Both sides are working toward “risk reduction” policies for the Baltics. But the uptick in aerial encounters comes amid increased military activity by both sides on the ground in Eastern Europe.
Some 25,000 troops from the US and 23 other countries are taking part in the Saber Guardian military exercise in Bulgaria, Hungary, and Romania this month — the drills are designed as a deterrent and are “larger in both scale and scope” than previous exercises, US European Command said in June. US bombers also traveled to the UK in June in preparation for two separate multilateral exercises in the Baltics and elsewhere in Europe that month.
Those military exercises come ahead of war games planned for September by Russia and Belarus. Those exercises could involve up to 100,000 troops and include nuclear-weapons training.
Neighboring countries have expressed concern that those war games could leave a permanent Russian presence in Belarus — the US plans to station paratroopers in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania during them and will adjust its fighter-jet rotation to put more experienced pilots in the area to better manage any encounters with Russian forces.
Lithuanian soldiers and US Marines from the Black Sea Rotational Force engaged opposition forces in a partnered attack during Exercise Saber Strike at the Pabrade Training Area, Lithuania, June 15, 2015. USMC photo by Sgt. Paul Peterson.
The US and NATO have increased troop deployments to Eastern Europe. UK and Canadian forces are headed to Poland, Latvia, and Estonia, and NATO personnel are already in Lithuania. The latter country has called for a permanent US military presence there as “a game changer” to counter Moscow.
In the wake of this month’s G20 summit in Germany, several countries in Eastern Europe are moving to boost their air-defense capabilities, with the US aiding the effort.
In early July, Poland and the US signed a memoranda of understanding for an $8 billion sale of US-made Patriot missiles.
This week, the State Department gave tentative approval to a $3.9 billion sale of Patriot missiles and related equipment, like radars, to Romania.
Patriot missiles have also been stationed in Lithuania for the first time, albeit temporarily, as part of military exercises focused on air defense and involving five NATO countries.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has said several times that the deployment of defensive missile systems by NATO allies would be a “great danger,” and he has threatened to respond by boosting Russia’s own missile systems.
“The way I view the Patriots deployment is that it also forms part of a broader U.S. response in the region to the upcoming Russian exercise nearby,” Magnus Nordenman, a Nordic security expert at the Atlantic Council, told AFP.
“Air defense has not been a priority for the last 15 years when NATO was busy in Afghanistan, dealing with piracy and peacekeeping,” he said. “There was not much of an air threat but now that Russia is building up air forces, it is different.”
Born in Wellington, New Zealand on August 30, 1912, Captain Nancy Wake, Resistance leader and Special Operations Executive agent, wasn’t joking when she talked about her lack of fear. Wake was one of New Zealand’s most highly decorated soldiers with 12 decorations from the United States, the UK, France, the British Commonwealth, Australia, and New Zealand. Her many awards included France’s Legion D’Honneur and Croix de Guerre; Britain’s George Medal; and the U.S. Medal of Freedom.
In the process, Wake became one of the Gestapo’s most wanted enemies. They nicknamed her the White Mouse, put a five million franc price on her head, and still they couldn’t find her.
But she could–and did–find them, usually with lethal effect. A fellow resister later described her as “the most feminine woman I know until the fighting starts. Then she is like five men.”
Wake was ready to dedicate her life to fighting against the Nazis even before World War II began. A visit to Berlin and Vienna in 1935 allowed her to witness Nazi persecution and anti-Semitism first-hand. She resolved that, if ever the opportunity arose, she would do all she could to fight it. Later that same year, she married French industrialist Henri Fiocca, who would join the Resistance with her in 1940. In the meantime, the couple set up home in Paris.
The fall of France was the beginning of her remarkable career, the chance to honor her pledge to fight Nazism by any means open to her. Between 1940 and 1943, Wake and Fiocca helped organize escape routes for Allied servicemen and Jewish refugees trying to flee the German occupation. They were remarkably successful, a success that began attracting increasing suspicion from the Gestapo.
Until 1943, it went as well as could be expected. But things were about to take a tragic turn. Wake and Fiocca knew full well they were under suspicion and that the dreaded Gestapo would show no mercy if they were caught. That year, Wake became the Gestapo’s most wanted person–and the five million franc price was placed on her head.
Wake, who fled across the Pyrenees into neutral Spain and then England, wasn’t caught. Fiocca, who stayed in France to continue his Resistance work there, was. It wasn’t until after the liberation of France that Wake discovered what had happened to her beloved husband. Henri Fiocca had been tortured to death by the Gestapo, refusing to the last breath to give up his wife’s location.
In England, Wake immediately volunteered for SOE’s French Section run by Maurice Buckmaster and Vera Atkins. Buckmaster and Atkins immediately saw her potential and her willingness to undertake the most hazardous missions. In March 1944, Wake parachuted into France’s Auvergne region to help organize resistance fighters. Her main role was to arrange reliable communications between the local resisters and SOE headquarters in London as part of the preparations for D-Day. She was also tasked with arranging the arrival of more agents and airdrops delivering vital supplies, weapons, and ammunition. Without the airdrops, the resistance would simply have ground to a halt.
Wake set to work with typical gusto, eventually coordinating the activities of roughly 7,500 resisters in the Auvergne. She was also rigid about doing her share of the fighting. She ordered the killing of a French collaborator and even killed a SS soldier with her bare hands. As Wake later described it, “They’d taught this Judo-chop stuff with the flat of the hand at SOE and I practiced away at it. But this was the only time I ever used it–whack–and it killed him all right…”
Other exploits included joining an assault on the local Gestapo headquarters at Montluçon during which 38 German soldiers and Gestapo officers were killed. But one exploit in particular stuck in her mind. During a Gestapo raid her radio operator had destroyed the vital codes used for messages between France and London. Without the codes the radio link was severed. To re-establish communications, Wake travelled some 500 kilometers (over 300 miles) in 71 hours by bicycle, going through several enemy checkpoints and roadblocks to return with the vital codes.
(The Gibson Group photo)
With new codes the vital radio link was saved just in time for the Normandy landings. Wake and her 7,500 resisters fought using any weapons and methods available to them. In the process they did damage out of all proportion to their numbers. At one point the Germans sent 22,000 troops to destroy the White Mouse and her Maquisards. Wake’s response was characteristically devastating, her troops inflicting some 1,400 casualties while losing only 100 resisters, a 14:1 casualty rate.
With the war’s end, Wake found life somewhat dull. She moved to Australia, spending a few years in politics. Although she remarried in 1957, Wake still referred to her first husband, Henri Fiocca, as the love of her life. In 1985, Wake wrote her memoir The White Mouse, titled after her wartime nickname. When husband John Forward died in 1997 she sold her medals to live on the proceeds and returned to London in 2001. She spent the remainder of her life in England, moving into the Royal Star and Garter Home for Disabled Ex-Servicemen and Women in 2003.
Captain Nancy Wake died in August 2011 at the age of 98. At her request, her ashes were scattered in 2013 in her beloved France, in the village of Verneix. Verneix is near Montluçon, the site of her assault on the Gestapo headquarters beside the Resistance. To this day, Nancy Wake is remembered as one of the SOE’s most remarkable agents.
In 2003, the town of Erie, Pennsylvania made national news when an unassuming pizza delivery man walked into a local bank and demanded a quarter of a million dollars from the vault. What happened next would baffle authorities for years and see the crime become one of the most intriguing ever committed in the United States. So what happened?
At roughly 2:30 PM on August 28, 2003, a 46 year old man by the name of Brian Wells walked into the Erie branch of PNC Bank and handed the teller a note that read, “Gather employees with access codes to vault and work fast to fill bag with $250,000. You have only 15 minutes.”
As the teller read the note, Wells informed them that he had a live explosive around his neck that would detonate if the demand wasn’t met. He then pulled down his shirt to reveal a crude, but threatening-looking metal collar with two pipe bombs attached. Wells was also holding a custom made cane that doubled as a shotgun.
Showing a remarkable amount of professionalism, the bank workers informed Wells that it wouldn’t be possible to retrieve that sum of money in such a short amount of time due to the various safeguards to limit access to the vault.
Wells then simply asked for whatever they had available, taking time to grab a lollipop from the counter, which he began to idly suck on whilst waiting for his money.
All-in-all Wells would leave the bank about 12 minutes later with ,702 in cash. He then went to McDonald’s next door for a bit, as you do, after which he headed back to his car.
As you might imagine, hanging around in the parking lot next door to the bank you just robbed isn’t a great way to not get caught. And so it was that Wells found himself tackled by police as he was walking to his vehicle.
Whilst being cuffed, Wells helpfully informed the troopers of the bomb around his neck and that three black men had put it there. He further stated that, as far as he was aware, it would go off any minute.
Naturally, the officers all very abruptly backed away from Wells, no doubt mumbling to themselves that they were “too old for this shit”, if movies from that era have taught me anything. After getting a safe distance away, they called the bomb squad.
As for Wells, for 20 agonizing minutes he sat alone on the concrete, occasionally shouting to officers to check if they’d called his boss to inform him why Wells hadn’t come back to work after the delivery, and inquiring when the bomb squad was going to show up.
Unfortunately for Wells, just a few minutes before said explosives experts arrived, the collar around his neck began beeping- never a good sign. Wells’ calm demeanor disappeared completely at this point and he frantically wiggled backwards in a futile attempt to get away from the bomb. Approximately ten seconds after the beeping started, the collar exploded, killing him.
After the bomb squad checked the collar to ensure all explosives had detonated, the gathered law enforcement began slowly sifting through Wells’ belongings, beginning what would soon become one of the most unusual cases in the annals of law enforcement history.
Most pertinent to the topic at hand, while searching through Wells’ beat up old Geo Metro, they stumbled across several pages of handwritten instructions ominously addressed simply to the “Bomb Hostage”. These instructions, evidently meant for Wells, included several explicit warnings against deviating from them in anyway and were littered with threats of harsh and instantaneous reprisal should they be ignored, including remote detonation of the bomb. Further, on one page it stated, “This powerful, booby-trapped bomb can be removed only by following our instructions… ACT NOW, THINK LATER OR YOU WILL DIE!”
Later analysis would conclude that these threats were baseless as there was no way to detonate the collar remotely, despite a cell phone seeming to be connected to the bomb; in fact, it was just a realistic looking toy phone.
As for what the instructions were telling Wells to do, beyond of course instructing him to rob the bank, what followed was a twisted scavenger hunt to find several keys which the instructions claimed would delay the timer on the bomb and, eventually, disarm it completely. At that point, they stated he would be able to safely remove it without setting it off. However, it turns out, along with the cell phone being fake, the various key holes weren’t wired or linked to anything.
As if this wasn’t bad enough, experts analysing the collar would later conclude that although the device “looked” dangerous and sophisticated, including a lot of wires that seemed to be connected in significant ways, the guts of the bomb actually had the complexity of, to quote one of the investigators, a “child’s toy“- more or less just two pretty run of the mill pipe bombs connected to two electronic kitchen timers with nothing complicated about any of it. Cut the wires to the timers, no boom.
Further, it turns out even that wasn’t necessary to save Wells’ life, as had he simply reached up and tugged the mechanism to allow it to open and taken it off, this too wouldn’t have triggered the bomb. He could have even simply added time to the timers manually or turned them off if he wanted to leave the collar on without risk.
So what devil made this dastard device of destruction?
Investigators tried to follow the trail laid out in the instructions, traveling several miles to a nearby wood to find another note which in turn directed them to a seemingly random road sign miles in the other direction. The trail went cold at the road sign when a jar that was supposed to contain yet another clue turned up empty. Investigators would later surmise that the killer or killers had learned of Wells’ death and abandoned their plans to continue placing clues for him. Either that, or they’d simply assumed he’d not have had time to get to that point before the bomb would detonate so didn’t bother leaving another message.
With nothing else to go on, investigators turned to looking more into Wells. To begin with, upon initially being arrested, Wells, as noted, had alleged that the collar had been forcibly placed upon him by a group of large black men during a routine pizza delivery. Looking into it, indeed Wells had been working at the still existing and exceptionally well reviewed Mama Mia’s Pizzeria when a call came in from what turned out to be from a payphone at around 1:30p on that day of August 28, 2003. The original person who answered the pizzeria phone couldn’t understand the speaker, so passed it over to Wells, who then took the order and ultimately went out to deliver the pizzas.
Following the trail, investigators went to the site of that last delivery- a TV transmission tower at the end of a dirt road- and found nothing of significance other than a neighbor had stated he’d heard a gunshot at approximately the time Wells would have been there delivering the pizzas.
Local law enforcement and later the FBI further found nothing that would give Wells motive to commit such a bizarre crime had he been the one to instigate it. Wells had no apparent significant outstanding debts or commitments, and was noted as being a model employee and a man of good moral standing. People who knew him described him as a simple man, but also a very nice, and seemingly happy person.
In short, the authorities were at a complete loss. In fact, it’s possible this bizarre crime would have remained a mystery forever had the police not received a phone call a few weeks later from a man called Bill Rothstein.
You see, Rothstein lived near the TV transmission tower Wells had made his final delivery to and had even been interviewed by the FBI who combed his property for clues, finding nothing. This changed, however, when Rothstein inexplicably confessed to having a human body in his freezer.
After being arrested, Rothstein identified the body as being that of Jim Roden, the lover of one of his ex girlfriends, then 54 year old Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong. Rothstein insisted that he had nothing to do with Roden’s death and that his ex had shot and killed Roden during an argument. Not wanting to incur his ex’s vengeful wrath, Rothstein had hidden the body at her insistence and even helped dispose of the murder weapon. However, when Diehl-Armstrong told him to grind up the body and bury it, Rothstein decided enough was enough and confessed.
Now, initially the FBI wrote the whole location of the two crimes off as a bizarre coincidence. That is, until Rothstein told local police that he was so wracked with guilt about the whole ordeal that he’d contemplated killing himself.
Why is this important, you ask?
Well, to prove this, Rothstein directed police to a suicide note he’d stashed away in a drawer. Along with containing a confession about the murder of Roden and his remorse over his involvement, it also for some reason contained the sentence -“This has nothing to do with the Wells case.”
Naturally, this led to some follow up questions about why he’d written that. While Rothstein and Diehl-Armstrong initially flatly denied having anything to do with the collar bomb plot, once again leaving authorities with nothing solid, over the course of many years of investigation that followed, this trail did lead somewhere and things slowly became reasonably clear.
To begin with, it’s important to note that while in her younger years Diehl-Armstrong had been a straight-A student type and ultimately even earned a Master’s degree in college, she also had mental health problems that only got worse with age. On that note, previous to murdering Roden, it came to light that she had shot and killed one Robert Thomas in 1984. As to why she wasn’t in prison for it, she was acquitted as it was deemed self-defense, despite that he’d been apparently just sitting on their couch at the time and she shot him not once, not twice, not thrice, not what we’re going to call frice and, I don’t know, fwivce- but six times.
Further, eight years later in 1992, her husband, Richard Armstrong, died of a cerebral hemorrhage. While we can only hope that was naturally induced, it is noteworthy that she managed to finagle a rather sizable legal settlement with the hospital involved over it. She also allegedly had a couple other men in her life who likewise met rather untimely deaths at ages where men not acquainted with Diehl-Armstrong didn’t normally find themselves failing to continue breathing.
Whatever the case with any of that, she was ultimately convicted of the murder of Roden. At the same time, police were still trying to figure out if they could connect her and Rothstein more concretely to the Wells case, but coming up empty…
That is, until Diehl-Armstrong herself became tired of the high security prison life at Muncy Correctional Institution about a year and a half after Wells’ death. She thus requested to be transferred to a minimum-security prison. In exchange for granting her request, she would tell the authorities anything and everything they wanted to know about the Wells’ case, which she subsequently did.
A further break was had getting another side of the story not long after when one Kenneth Barnes’ brother-in-law decided to call the police to let them know Mr. Barnes, a retired individual who’d taken up drug dealing for some extra money, had bragged to him about his own involvement in the pizza collar bomber case. As for Barnes, he was easy for police to find as he was sitting in a prison cell at the time after being arrested for his little side job as a crack dealer. Once confronted, Barnes too had a story of his own to tell the police.
Naturally, the confessions of those involved should be met with some degree of skepticism on the finer points, particularly as they all pointed the finger at someone else being the mastermind behind the whole thing. That caveat out of the way, combining all the evidence and the stories, the generally accepted tale the investigators cobbled together is as follows.
It would seem leading up to the bank robbery, Diehl-Armstrong approached Barnes to see if he wouldn’t mind killing her father. As to why, she believed, whether accurately or not isn’t clear, that his net worth was approximately million (about .7 million today). Notably, in his waning years, he’d begun donating this small fortune to various charities. To ensure she got the bulk sum, she apparently figured it would be best not to wait for him to die naturally, but just kill him immediately.
The problem was when she asked Barnes to take him out, Barnes asked for a sum of 0,000- not exactly something she had lying around, and he was unwilling to do the job with only the promise of money after the inheritance was acquired.
So how to come up with the 0,000 to get M? Well, robbing a bank apparently seemed like the easy solution if one could think of a way to ensure there was no chance of getting caught.
At some point in here, it’s not clear when, Rothstein became involved, with Diehl-Armstrong herself claiming he was the mastermind behind the whole thing in the first place, though most authorities think it likely that it was, in fact, her. And for whatever it’s worth, Barnes claims Diehl-Armstrong herself first asked him if he knew how to make a bomb for the plot, but he did not, and thus Rothstein, who was a bit of a closet genius and worked as a handy-man and shop teacher, did.
Whatever the case, plan developed, they now needed someone to actually go rob the bank and function as the fall-guy should things go wrong.
Enter prostitute Jessica Hoopsick, who was an acquaintance of Barnes through his drug dealing business, including using his house as a bit of a home base to entertain clients, as apparently several prostitutes in the area did.
While elements of Hoopsick’s story, as with all the others involved, are considered somewhat suspect, she claims she was asked by Barnes for someone who might be easily pressured into committing a crime, though she stated she had no knowledge at the time of what the crime would be. In exchange for drugs and money, she thus gave them the name of one of her frequent clients, Wells, as an ideal candidate given he was, to quote her, a “pushover”. Hoopsick also claims that, at least as far as she was aware, Wells had no prior knowledge of the plot before his fateful pizza delivery on the day of his death.
This brings us to Wells’ role in the plan. While there is still some debate on this point, it would actually seem that Wells had known the plan going into the delivery, though had been pressured into agreeing to it in the first place. Whether that is actually true or not, it would appear on the day of the event, he decided to back out.
You might now be thinking, “If he decided to back out, why did he go deliver the pizzas?” Well, it would appear his reticence to remain involved was squarely centered around the fact that in the planning stage, he had been told the bomb would be fake. But upon arriving on the day in question, he discovered they’d lied to him and Rothstein had, in fact, made a real bomb. Thus, when they tried to put the collar on him, he attempted to flee, resulting in a gun being fired as a warning shot, as heard by the neighbor. Further, according to Barnes, he had to punch Wells in the face to get him to allow the collar to be put on.
From there, it is speculated that Wells probably was under the impression he needed to follow the steps as laid out to get the collar off, which would go a long way in explaining why he chose to go get the paper with the next step at the McDonald’s next door, rather than, you know, fleeing the scene of the crime immediately after committing it. Unless of course he simply wanted to get caught, which would have been a massive risk, but perhaps one he felt was better than returning to his compatriots.
Of course, as the bomb put a hole in his chest, we’ll never know what he was thinking at the time. But given that there was no way for Wells to complete the steps the notes required of him in the time allotted, it’s thought by the authorities the conspirators had always planned for him to die. The steps were simply to lead him out of town where the bomb would detonate and they could go collect the cash. Making sure he felt he needed to follow them just ensured he wouldn’t lead police right back to them.
Had they left him alive, even if he wasn’t initially caught, there was little chance Wells wouldn’t be identified and arrested. And on the flip-side, should he be caught before the bomb went off, well, the limited time on the device gave good odds Wells wouldn’t have time to spill the beans. Thus, aside from the mistake of having Wells go to the McDonald’s next to the bank, this was a pretty ingenious plan overall. Had Wells made it out of town, it is likely they would have gotten the cash, with no further leads for the police other than Wells’ body.
This all brings us back to Roden’s death which foiled the whole plan. According to a fellow inmate of Diehl-Armstrong’s, she allegedly told said unnamed inmate that the argument the couple had was over the scheme. Allegedly, Roden told her if she didn’t call off the plot, he was going to tell the police. Rather than nix the plan, she simply decided to kill him and then handed the body over to Rothstein. From there, she allegedly threatened him to keep his mouth shut or he’d get the same.
Whatever the truth of that, in the end, Rothstein died of lymphoma in 2004 at the age of 60, years before any of this would become known, and thus the only one of the primary conspirators to avoid jail time; Diehl-Armstrong met her maker thanks to breast cancer, dying in prison on April 4, 2017. As for Barnes, he joined the pair in the afterlife in June of 2019 at the age of 65 from complications due to diabetes.
A new video of ISIS recruits trying to pledge their allegiance to the caliphate shows a recruit fluffing his lines and being interrupted by screeching bird calls.
A video of a recruits in Yemen, unearthed by Dr Elisabeth Kendall, a senior research fellow at Oxford University’s Pembroke College, shows a bearded youth coming struggling to get through his vows.
The footage was recorded in 2017, when ISIS still held territory in Iraq and Syria, and was attracting recruits from further afield.
Kendall told Business Insider the clip was released this week by Hidaya Media, a broadcaster associated with al-Qaeda’s operations around the Red Sea.
ISIS and al-Qaeda are rival jihadist organizations and have been known to insult and belittle each other.
Although ISIS has been deprived of its former territory in Syria and Iraq, the organization continues. Both ISIS and al-Qaeda are currently fighting over territory in Yemen.
In the video the insurgent, identified by The Independent as Abu Muhammad al-Adeni, trips over his lines, prompting a fellow recruit to say: “Stay calm, keep cool”.
On two occasions his speech is cut short by loud, intrusive bird calls. The man has a Janbiya knife tucked into his belt.
The footage may have been found by al-Qaeda operatives when they took over an ISIS camp in northwestern al-Bayda, Yemen, earlier this summer, Kendall told Business Insider.
Footage from a different part of the shoot later made it into an actual ISIS propaganda video, released in September 2017. It shows a series of young recruits gathering together, celebrating, affirming their vows to the caliphate, and eating.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
A special operations airman from the Kentucky Air National Guard will receive the nation’s second-highest medal for combat valor for his actions on an Afghanistan battlefield.
Gen. David L. Goldfein, Air Force chief of staff, will present the Air Force Cross to Tech. Sgt Daniel P. Keller, a combat controller in the Kentucky Air Guard’s 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, in a ceremony Ept. 13, 2019. The award — second only to the Medal of Honor — is given to members of the armed forces who display extraordinary heroism while engaged in action against an enemy of the United States.
Keller earned the Air Force Cross on Aug. 16, 2017, while assigned as a joint terminal attack controller for Combined Joint Special Operations Air Component Afghanistan during Operation Freedom’s Sentinel. Keller was on a clearance mission in Nangarhar Province against 350 Islamic state fighters, according to the award citation. After 15 hours of sustained contact, the assault force struck an improvised explosive device, killing four personnel and wounding 31. Injured and struggling to his feet, Keller executed air-to-ground engagements while returning fire, repulsing an enemy assault less than 150 meters away.
Staff Sgt. Daniel P. Keller, a combat controller in the Kentucky Air Guard’s 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, Friday, Sept. 13, 2019, receives the Air Force Cross, the nation’s second-highest medal for combat valor for his actions on an Afghanistan battlefield.
(Photo by Master Sgt. Vicky Spesard)
Keller then helped move 13 critically wounded casualties to a helicopter landing zone “under a hail of enemy fire,” the citation said. “When medical evacuation helicopters were unable to identify the landing zone, he sprinted to the center of the field, exposing himself to enemy fire in order to marshal in both aircraft and aid in loading causalities.”
As U.S. forces departed, Keller fought off a three-sided enemy attack by returning fire and passing enemy positions on to another joint terminal attack controller.
“His courage, quick actions and tactical expertise … under fire directly contributed to the survival of the 130 members of his assault force, including 31 wounded in action,” the citation concluded.
A Silver Star medal for the same operation was presented at Hurlburt Field, Florida, Sept. 6, 2019, to Air Force Staff Sgt. Pete Dinich, an active-duty pararescueman assigned to the 24th Special Operations Wing.
Special Tactics is the Air Force and Air National Guard’s special operations cadre, leading personnel recovery, global access, precision-strike missions and battlefield medical care.
This article originally appeared on National Guard. Follow @USNationalGuard on Twitter.
On the first day of the Mosul offensive in Iraq, a Russian fighter came close to colliding with a U.S. warplane in a “near miss” over northeastern Syria, U.S. military officials said Friday.
Air Force Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian, commander of U.S. Air Force Central Command, told NBC News that the nighttime incident Oct. 17 was a “near miss” but said he tended to believe the Russians’ explanation that their pilot simply did not see the U.S. aircraft in the dark.
However, Harrigian said similar close calls between Russian and U.S. aircraft over Syria have increased in the past six weeks amid rising tensions between Moscow and Washington over Syria’s civil war and now occur about every 10 days.
In a later statement on the incident, Air Force Central Command said that the Russian fighter was escorting a Russian surveillance aircraft and inadvertently flew across the nose of the U.S. aircraft.
The close call was the result of a “mistake” by the Russians and the U.S. believed that it was “fully unintentional,” the statement said.
“The Russians cooperated by looking into the incident, calling back, and explaining themselves and their pilots actions as an error,” it said.
In a separate briefing to the Pentagon, Air Force Col. John Dorrian, a spokesman for Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve, said the Russian fighter came within a half-mile of the U.S. aircraft, but “we don’t believe there was any nefarious intent” on the part of the Russians.
Dorrian did not name the types of aircraft involved, saying only that the Russian aircraft was a fighter and the U.S. plane was a “larger aircraft.” He said the Russian fighter “passed close enough that the jet wash from that flight was felt within the larger aircraft,” but “no one declared an in-flight emergency or anything of that nature.”
Immediately after the incident, the Russians were contacted over the “deconfliction” hotline set up by the Russian and U.S. militaries to avoid close calls by aircraft on missions in the region.
Harrigian, speaking from a U.S. base in the Mideast, said that, in some cases, U.S. and Russian aircraft flying in close proximity are “not a big deal,” but added, “I think it’s important to recognize this one got our attention.”
“We called the Russians about it and made sure they knew we were concerned,” Harrigian said. “They didn’t have the situational awareness to know how close some of our airplanes were.”
When asked why the Oct. 17 incident wasn’t disclosed until Oct. 28, Dorrian said, “There wasn’t anybody playing ‘I’ve got a secret.’ ”
He said Army Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, the task force commander, was immediately informed of the close call but did not feel that it merited being disclosed as a “breaking news event.”