The true story behind the recovery of Extortion 17 - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

The true story behind the recovery of Extortion 17

The following passage is an excerpt from “Violence of Action: The Untold Stories of the 75th Ranger Regiment in the War on Terror.” It has been edited for clarity.

On the night of Aug. 5 through Aug. 6, 2011, one of the worst tragedies in modern special operations history occurred. By this point in the war, the men who made up the special operations community were some of the most proficient and combat-hardened warriors the world had ever seen. Even so, the enemy always has a vote.

The men of 1st Platoon, Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment were on a longer-than-normal deployment as the rest of their company was on Team Merrill and they surged ahead with them.


The true story behind the recovery of Extortion 17

Coalition security members prepare to conduct an operation in search of a Taliban leader. Photo by SGT Mikki L. Sprenkle, courtesy of Department of Defense.

They had yet another raid mission in pursuit of a high-value target in the Tangi Valley, which was in Wardak Province, Afghanistan, on the night of August 5.

The mission was not easy. The Rangers took contact not only during their movement to the target but also on the target. Despite the tough fight that left some wounded, the enemy combatants were no match for the Ranger platoon. They secured the target and were gathering anything of value for intelligence when it was suggested by the Joint Operations Center (JOC) back at the Forward Operating Base (FOB) that a platoon of SEALs from a Naval Special Mission Unit be launched to chase down the three or four combatants that ran, or squirted, from the target.

This was a notoriously bad area, and the Ranger platoon sergeant responded that they did not want the aerial containment that was offered at that time. The decision was made to launch anyway. The platoon-sized element boarded a CH-47D Chinook, callsign Extortion 17, as no SOF air assets were available on that short of notice.

The true story behind the recovery of Extortion 17

U.S. Special Forces Soldiers, attached to Special Operations Task Force-Afghanistan, alongside Afghan agents from the National Interdiction Unit, NIU, load onto CH-47 Chinooks helicopters for their infiltration prior to an operation in the Ghorak district, Helmand province, Afghanistan, Sept. 12, 2016. Photo by Sgt. Connor Mendez, courtesy of U.S. Army.

As Extortion 17 moved into final approach of the target area at 0238 local time, the Rangers on the ground watched in horror as it took a direct hit from an RPG (rocket-propelled grenade). The helicopter fell from the sky, killing all 38 on board. The call came over the radio that they had a helicopter down, and the platoon stopped what they were doing to move to the crash site immediately. Because of the urgency of the situation, they left behind the detainees they fought hard to capture.

The platoon moved as fast as possible, covering 7 kilometers of the rugged terrain at a running pace, arriving in under an hour. They risked further danger by moving on roads that were known to have IEDs (improvised explosive devices) to arrive at the crash site as fast as they could, as they were receiving real-time intelligence that the enemy was moving to the crash site to set up an ambush.

Upon their arrival, they found a crash site still on fire. Some of those on board did not have their safety lines attached and were thrown from the helicopter, which scattered them away from the crash site, so the platoon’s medical personnel went to them first to check for any signs of life. With no luck, they then began gathering the remains of the fallen and their sensitive items.

The true story behind the recovery of Extortion 17

Footage of the Extortion 17 crash site revealed mangled weapons and melted metal. Screen capture via YouTube.

Similar to the Jessica Lynch rescue mission almost a decade prior, the Rangers on the ground decided to push as many guys as possible out on security to spare them from the gruesome task. Approximately six Rangers took on the lion’s share of the work. They attempted to bring down two of the attached cultural support team (CST) members, but had to send them back as they quickly lost their composure at the sight of it all. On top of that, the crashed aircraft experienced a secondary explosion after the Rangers arrived that sent shrapnel into two of the medics helping to gather bodies.

Despite their injuries, they kept working. Later in the day they had to deal with a flash flood from enemy fighters releasing dammed water into the irrigation canal running through the crash site in an attempt to separate the Ranger platoon, cutting them in half. Luckily, because of the sheer amount of water heading toward them, they heard it before it hit them and were moved out of the way before anyone was hurt. If that wasn’t enough, there was also an afternoon lightning storm that was so intense it left some of their equipment inoperable and their platoon without aerial fire support.

Meanwhile, 3rd Platoon, Delta Company from 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment was alerted after coming off a mission of their own. They took a small break to get some sleep before they flew out to replace the other platoon, which would hold the site through the day. Once they awoke, they were told to prepare to stay out for a few days. They rode out and landed at the nearest Helicopter Landing Zone (HLZ), 7 kilometers from the crash site, and made their way in with an Air Force CSAR team in tow.

The true story behind the recovery of Extortion 17

Austin Williams visits the gravesite of U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Christopher C. Campbell in Section 60 of Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day, May 30, 2016. Campbell was one of 30 Americans killed when a CH-47 Chinook helicopter, with the call sign Extortion 17, crashed in Afghanistan. Photo by Rachel Larue, courtesy of Arlington National Cemetery.

After arriving, the platoon from 2/75 had to make the 7-kilometer trek back to the HLZ, as that was the nearest place a helicopter could land in the rugged terrain. The men were exhausted, having walked to their objective the night before, fighting all night, running to the crash site, securing it through the day only to execute another long movement to exfil.

New to the scene, the platoon from 1/75 did what they could to disassemble the helicopter and prepare it to be moved. The last platoon evacuated the bodies and sensitive items on board, so now the only thing left was the large pieces of the aircraft spread out across three locations. They were out for three days straight, using demolitions as well as torches to cut the aircraft into moveable sections and then loading them onto vehicles that the conventional Army unit that owned the battlespace brought in.

Despite the gruesome and sobering task, Rangers worked until the mission was accomplished. The third stanza of the Ranger Creed states that you will never fail your comrades and that you will shoulder more than your fair share of the task, whatever it may be, 100 percent and then some. The Rangers of these two platoons more than lived the Creed in response to the Extortion 17 tragedy.

The true story behind the recovery of Extortion 17

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.


MIGHTY HISTORY

A less horrific SAW: The bizarre tale of the Pizza Collar Bomber

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.

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Heroic Fort Leavenworth Soldier stops active shooter with his car

On Wednesday, an active duty U.S. Army soldier brought an active shooter situation in Kansas to an abrupt end by ramming the suspect with a vehicle after another soldier was wounded.

Police were first called to Centennial Bridge over the Missouri River, which spans across the border between Kansas and Missouri, after reports of a road rage incident at approximately 11 a.m. local time on Wednesday. By the time they arrived, the shooter had already been neutralized by a Soldier that had been waiting in traffic. According to Leavenworth Police Chief Pat Kitchens, responding officers arrived to find one Soldier nursing a gunshot wound and the suspect “trapped under the car” of another Soldier. Neither of the Soldier’s names have been released thus far.


Both the soldier who was wounded and the shooter were transported to a nearby hospital where both are now listed in “serious, but in stable condition.”

Fort Leavenworth soldier stops active shooter on bridge

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According to reports, the shooter was armed with a semi-automatic rifle and a pistol, and responding officers found bullet holes in a number of surrounding vehicles. According to witnesses on the scene, the shooter wasn’t seeming to target anyone specifically.

The Soldier, who is stationed in Ft. Leavenworth, was reportedly waiting in traffic when the shooting first began. Once he had assessed that it was an active shooter situation, he took quick action to pull his vehicle out of the line of traffic and sped directly toward the shooter. As the shooter was already firing rounds at surrounding vehicles, the decision to ram him was a risky one, and police are crediting his quick and decisive action for potentially saving a number of lives.

“What was a very, very dangerous situation, fortunately, was ended quite quickly,” Kitchens said in a press conference.

“The soldier intervened by striking the shooter with his vehicle, causing him to be critically injured, but ending the encounter with the active shooter and likely saving countless lives,” Kitchens continued.

You can watch Chief Kitchen’s full statement about the incident in the video below:

Fort Leavenworth soldier saves ‘countless lives’ by ending active shooter situation on bridge

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Thus far, the U.S. Army has not revealed the identity of the Soldier who stopped the shooting, nor have they made any official statements regarding the incident.

“It’s one thing to react under fire in a war zone — you’re in that mental state, even when you’re relaxing your mind is still kind of on edge all the time. It’s another thing to have the quick thinking and courage to do something like this stateside — shootings back home are extremely surreal,” former Army Ranger and author Luke Ryan told Sandboxx news. Ryan speaks from experience–having served in combat as a Ranger after surviving a school shooting as a student.

“They don’t feel real, and it takes your mind longer to sort out exactly what’s happening. Of course, in a violent situation like that, every second is precious and can mean another life lost. The soldier who stopped this shooter is commendable, not only for their courageous actions, but also their ability to think fast and act decisively. I don’t know what this soldier’s background is, whether they relied on years of combat experience or whether they were just a regular person reacting the best way they knew how — either way, hats off.”

An investigation into the incident, including what the motive for the shooting may have been, remains ongoing.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

Articles

A new PTSD treatment isn’t a miracle, but it’s working wonders for some

After three combat deployments to the Gulf War, Iraq, and Afghanistan, something as simple as the smell of hay could trigger Rick Burth’s post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms.


The smell of gunpowder and jet fuel put him on edge, too. He’d known he had PTSD for a long time, but he never talked about it.

“There was this stigma, so you didn’t want to say anything,” said Burth, 49, a Roseville resident and threat assessment specialist with the state Office of Emergency Services. “You just kept your head down and kept doing your job, but after awhile, it just got bad.”

Other treatments hadn’t worked, so Burth opted for a novel procedure that some say is a quick and effective way to quiet the anxiety and agitation that PTSD patients frequently experience. He traveled to the Chicago area, where a doctor injected a local anesthetic into his neck, targeting the nerves that regulate the body’s “fight-or-flight” response to perceived threats.

The true story behind the recovery of Extortion 17
An image depicted the stellate ganglion block procedure. Screengrab from ViewMedica video.

The treatment, called stellate ganglion block, has typically been used for pain management, but Dr. Eugene Lipov, an anesthesiologist, said he discovered in 2005 that it has the potential to relieve PTSD symptoms.

The 10-minute procedure halts the nerve impulses to the brain that trigger anxiety and jitters in trauma victims, Lipov contends.

Experts disagree on its effectiveness, but some doctors and patients say it seems to be a useful tool in combination with therapy and other medications, which may not always provide relief.

Burth said it helped calm his mind to the point where he could think more rationally about the traumatic events in his past.

The former Marine said he started noticing symptoms after returning from the Gulf War in 1991, and that his symptoms grew worse when he went to Iraq, where he was part of the anti-terrorism team for the California Army National Guard.

The true story behind the recovery of Extortion 17
California Army National Guard troops in training. Photo from California National Guard Flickr.

“The day-in, day-out fighting — getting shot at, shooting back, things blowing up around us — that compounded the issue,” he said.

When Burth came home, he couldn’t sleep. He couldn’t stand being in crowds. He was abusing alcohol. And it was all wearing on his wife and two young sons, he said. He’d been on anti-anxiety medication for years but never noticed much difference, he said.

“I was just really short-tempered. Always go, go, go. Didn’t have time to stop and listen to folks because I was always so anxious,” he said.

There are nearly 8 million Americans like Burth suffering from PTSD, many of them military veterans, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs. PTSD is the third most common psychiatric diagnosis in the Veterans Health Administration.

People can develop PTSD months after they experience a life-threatening event or trauma such as a mugging, sexual assault, or the sudden death of a loved one. Its symptoms are broad because everyone’s PTSD manifests differently, said Dr. David Schafer, acting associate chief of staff for mental health at the Sacramento VA Medical Center.

The true story behind the recovery of Extortion 17
Rick Burth. Photo from Sacramento Bee via NewsEdge.

People can relive a traumatic event such as an ambush or bomb attack in nightmares or flashbacks. They might also avoid places and situations that remind them of the trauma. Feeling anxious, jumpy, and experiencing panic attacks are common symptoms.

Burth, for instance, would become agitated at the smell of hay because he’d been in gunbattles in fields and orchards.

“For many, the easiest and safest thing to do is stay home with the door locked, sleeping on the floor by the closet,” Schafer said. “The challenge with avoidance is that it works.”

Approved treatments of PTSD include reintroducing patients to the people, places, and things they might find distressing. To work through the trauma, they attend therapy sessions for 10 to 15 weeks as they try to understand their reactions to events. Medications may also be prescribed to help take the edge off, Schafer said.

Burth had gone through months of therapy, including a month-long stint in a Texas rehabilitative treatment center, but his PTSD symptoms always returned, he said.

“It was helpful,” he said, “but after you get back home and get back into the same old routine, things pop up again, and you try to remember how to work through it on your own.”

The true story behind the recovery of Extortion 17

 

Burth learned of stellate ganglion block through his mother-in-law, who volunteers with the Global Post Traumatic Stress Injury Foundation, which pays for veterans to receive the $1,600 treatment because it isn’t recognized or covered by the VA. The foundation is having a fundraiser at the Granite Bay Golf Club on Sept. 11.

Chris Miller, a local developer and philanthropist, was moved by the testimonials he heard at a foundation event in Washington, DC, last year, where soldiers and veterans spoke of their symptom relief after receiving the anesthetic treatment. Because there is a large military population in the Sacramento area, he decided to host his own fundraiser for the foundation, he said.

In March, helped by the foundation, Burth went to Lipov’s clinic near Chicago. After the first injection, he said he didn’t feel much different.

If patients don’t feel relief after the first injection, Lipov said, he’ll give them another injection higher in the neck. The second injection has a 90 percent success rate, he said.

After the second injection, “I didn’t feel different physically, but I felt different mentally,” Burth said. “Things slowed down. I didn’t have a million thoughts. I didn’t have that anxious and paranoid feeling, always looking over my shoulder. All of that kind of dissipated.”

The true story behind the recovery of Extortion 17
Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is a consequence of a traumatic experience. It consists of normal responses and reactions to a life-threatening event that persisted beyond what is deemed the normal period of recovery from the event. USAF photo by Tech. Sgt. Nadine Barclay

Lipov said he’s performed stellate ganglion block procedures on 500 veterans with a 70 to 75 percent success rate.

So far, the anecdotal evidence about the procedure is mainly positive, but the scientific data is inconclusive as to whether stellate ganglion block is widely effective at treating PTSD, said Dr. Michael Alkire, an anesthesiologist at the VA Long Beach Healthcare System, who is studying the treatment with Dr. Christopher Reist, a psychiatrist.

The Department of Veterans Affairs has launched studies into the procedure because the long-term side effects remain unknown. One study is being conducted at the VA Long Beach Healthcare System.

In February, the VA Portland Health Care System found there was insufficient evidence to say stellate ganglion block was an effective treatment for PTSD. In trials, at least 75 percent of the subjects reported improvement. But when the treatment was tested against a placebo, a shot of the local anesthetic fared no better than a saline injection.

“The pattern suggests that, while it is possible that some patients benefit, the response rates seen in case series will not hold up in actual practice,” the researchers said. “Substantial uncertainty remains about the potential harms of (stellate ganglion block) as well.”

At VA Long Beach, Reist and Alkire have been performing stellate ganglion blocks to collect better data and understand when it can be effective. Their research has included 17 patients who are selected according to whether they’ve tried medication or psychotherapy without improvement. Of the 17 subjects, 13 reported immediate or gradual relief from their symptoms, the doctors said.

The true story behind the recovery of Extortion 17
Anti-anxiety medications, like Prozac, are sometimes used to treat the symptoms of PTSD. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

While the sample size is small, Reist and Alkire have found the blocks are most successful for patients who have symptoms of hyperarousal, which is like being in a constant state of fight or flight. The stellate ganglion block eases the patients’ tension and anxiety so they can engage in traditional therapies for PTSD, Reist said.

Alkire said it’s important to note that the treatment doesn’t work for everyone. He recalled the case of one patient who wanted it to work so badly that, when it didn’t, he spiraled into a deeper depression.

No treatment erases the memory of trauma, Schafer said. “Part of trauma-focused work is walking through the trauma and putting it in context, expanding people’s understanding of what happened.”

Burth agreed. “This is not a be-all, cure-all,” he said. “This is something that calms your mind and allows you to deal with the memories that are always there.”

“Since the injection, I can look at things in a different light and deal with it. I had someone ask me if this is a miracle, and I said, I don’t know if it’s a miracle, but it’s working for me.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

How Joker fighting the evil within resonates with veterans

Most people don’t think about evil. The force of evil is certainly out there, but it’s on a different street, a different city or across the ocean. Evil is something we see as a plot in Hollywood, in movies like Joker. It isn’t something most people give much thought to.

But for veterans, it’s different.


I sat at a table with a veteran friend of mine, sipping coffee in a local cafe. He looked around as we talked about where we’d been and things we’d done. “They’ll never know,” he said. “I mean, how could they?” Our fellow patrons were having conversations a million miles away from ours, talking about things like kids, yoga and groceries, not darkness or things that haunt us. “I suppose it’s better that way,” he added.

Maybe it is, I thought, but maybe not.

The recent depiction of The Joker has become the highest grossing R-rated release in box office history. Joaquin Phoenix’s performance is now an Oscar front-runner for his personal dive into villainy. For a society that doesn’t understand or talk about evil, The Joker has clearly found an audience. Phoenix’s rendition of Arthur is not the villainous story you might guess though, instead, it’s a man driven by his quest for love and entertainment; he hardly seems like a villain.

Phoenix said he prepared for this role by identifying with “his struggle to find happiness and to feel connected. To have warmth and love.” It’s an interesting juxtaposition: how does one end up being evil if all they want is love? This is the question and the genius of Joker. The same question haunts many veterans today. What is the difference between the pursuit of love and evildoing? Seems obvious, right? Maybe not, if evil never seems to be the aim. Yet, somehow people end up there – doing things that destroy the world around them. Even Hitler, a real life villain, once said, “I can fight only for something that I love.”

People want to believe that evil is something they can spot, as if it wears an enemy’s uniform and is clearly recognizable as “the bad guy.” The reality is, evil isn’t just lurking in a dark alley, waiting to sneak up on you when you least expect it. For some veterans, evil isn’t only external, although it certainly may have started that way. Evil isn’t something in a far-off land for us. It’s something we’ve carried home and something with which we have to deal. Carl Jung once said, “Knowing your own darkness is the best method of dealing with the darkness of other people.” What most veterans don’t know, but soon find out, is that facing evil out there means facing it inside of ourselves, too.

I have witnessed this realization many times in veterans, sitting next to them as they struggle with how the world could be this way. How could it be? Where is the good? As a chaplain and a social worker, I have seen, even been part of, people losing their hold on a world that they can picture themselves living in. The feelings of helplessness and sadness are overwhelming when facing a world with all its deficiencies.

It can be horrifying to think that we have something in common, even sharing the air, with the Jokers of the world. The genius of Phoenix’s performance is that most of us can see parts of ourselves in his character. This is what makes coming back from war so difficult; there is no shutting your eyes. Facing the realities of evil post-war is harder in a society that also wants nothing to do with it.

Service in the military shocked my own naiveté, forcing me to grasp with my own encounters with evil around me, even in me. War, more than any other environment, is the great tester. It reveals all of the little cracks and strengths. It is the great kiln of life. Perhaps facing these demons is a reason for the stubborn rising suicide rate and extreme isolation we see in veterans post-war. It also explains why veterans so often take roles in protecting people from it — serving in law enforcement and security.

For those who haven’t served, who has not felt the pain of betrayal, neglect or helplessness at an abuse of power? Allowing ourselves to experience the abyss of evil is “fearless”, as one critic said of Phoenix’s performance. Who has not found themselves filled with thoughts of revenge? Perhaps a better question then is: Why aren’t all of us Jokers? Why don’t we all go mad? Maybe we are. Maybe there’s a little villain in all of us.

Not all veterans can face their demons. Not facing the villain, outside and in, leads to a space you can’t share, a place where you join the Jokers of the world. This would explain why some veterans think of suicide as an honorable thing, saving the world from the Joker they have become. Some just drive faster, drink more, turn up the music and close their eyes when these evils start to appear.

There is good reason to avoid looking – we might not be prepared to fight the evil we see. Heath Ledger’s plunge into the character of evil may have led him to places that he could not find his way out from. Encountering true evil and the thin veil that separates us leads most to question our own capacity to overcome it.

Evil hides in omission — our lack of doing as much as our acts of doing. Stopping evil does not mean that we weaken or blind ourselves. Instead, as many veterans do, they choose to see the enemy, even if it’s within, rather than hide. The confrontation is fraught; not just with evil’s existence but in the failure to do good when they can. Veterans who find their way back home learn this. Veterans like Chase Millsap who saw local nationals murdered after working with U.S. soldiers and created a way for them to be safe with nooneleft.org. Veterans like Noel Lipana, who couldn’t make sense of his actions and has found a way to tell his story and shape others through an art performance piece. They could not omit. They decided that the way back is to do good. To exert agency over their helplessness in the face of evil. Is this not the only way? To do good, in the face of evil.

The last decade has brought new thinking on this as well, rethinking post-traumatic stress disorder toward a term called Moral Injury because it tracks better to veterans’ experience of war — that evil, sometimes our own, shocks our worldview. To see evil and the ugliness of humankind can shake you to your core and leave you with lingering questions. An abbreviated definition of Moral Injury refers to the lasting impacts of actions that violate a service member’s core moral values and expectations of self or others. Perhaps another definition is that Moral Injury is the impact of coming face to face with evil, even if it’s our own. Facing evil in the world can leave you with more questions than answers. Fortunately, these questions aren’t new, they just aren’t often talked about. Maybe that’s why evil and veil are just letters rearranged differently; both are thinly seen.

The story of the Joker is the story that veterans know all too well. Today’s society leaves most willfully blind to the struggles and evils in the world, leaving many veterans grasping for answers to questions that their neighbors are not asking. At first glance, it does seem easier to omit them, but closing our eyes to them will not save us. Perhaps the reason the Joker has garnered so much international attention is because it’s telling a story we all know, but don’t like to look at. A story that needs to be told.

We don’t say things we should. We don’t look at injustice if we can avoid it. We avoid confrontation when possible. We choose to close our eyes, rather than see.

The Joker invites all of us, not just veterans, to manage our own shadows by doing the good we know to do. Veterans don’t have the market cornered on this, most just signed up for it and are learning how to live with the evil around us.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Here’s everything that went down at the Korean peace talks

South Korean President Moon Jae-in met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on April 27, 2018, in a historic summit that observers have viewed with both trepidation and optimism.

April 27, 2018’s summit is the latest development in a fast-moving march toward diplomacy on the Korean Peninsula, following what had been a tumultuous year for the region.


Shaking hands in front of a crowd of journalists and photographers, Kim and Moon made history as they greeted each other in what was the first meeting between leaders of North Korea and South Korea in 11 years.

Moon is the third South Korean president to meet with North Korea’s leader. Presidents Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun held meetings with North Korea in 2000 and 2007, respectively.

Kim and Moon paused for photographs at the concrete steps of the military demarcation line before making their way into South Korea’s portion of the demilitarized zone. It marked the first time since the end of the Korean War in 1953 that a North Korean leader crossed the border into the South.

The two also stepped across the border into North Korean territory after Moon asked Kim when he would “be able to cross over,” to which Kim replied, “Then shall we cross over now?”

The true story behind the recovery of Extortion 17
South Korean President Moon Jae-in met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Arriving at the Peace House, a conference building in South Korea’s part of the border village of Panmunjom that will host the talks, Kim signed a guest book, writing: “A new history starts now, an age of peace, from the starting point of history.”

Amid a flurry of camera flashes in the Peace House, the two leaders gave brief statements and exchanged pleasantries, while Kim called for “frank” discussions.

“I say this before President Moon and many journalists here that I will hold good discussions with President Moon with a frank, sincere, and honest attitude and make a good outcome,” Kim said, according to South Korea’s Yonhap News.

Moon echoed the sentiment.

“The moment [Kim] crossed the military demarcation line, Panmunjom became a symbol of peace, not a symbol of division,” he said, according to Yonhap News.

Later in the day, the two leaders planted a commemorative pine tree, using soil and water from mountains and rivers in their respective countries, according to a statement from South Korea’s presidential Blue House.

In a joint statement in the afternoon, Moon and Kim agreed to achieve “complete” denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and work toward officially ending the Korean War with a peace treaty; the war is technically ongoing because it ended in an armistice agreement.

“The two leaders declare before our people of 80 million and the entire world there will be no more war on the Korean Peninsula and a new age of peace has begun,” the joint statement said.

Though the statement was broadly worded, it outlined some plans to address lingering issues between the two nations, including the reunification of families divided during the Korean War and a goal to end the antagonizing propaganda broadcasts at the border.

How the two Koreas got here

The journey to the Peace House has been fraught with uncertainty, particularly after heightened provocations from North Korea in 2017.

In addition to firing at least 23 missiles in 2017, North Korea put the progress of its nuclear weapons program on full display, testing a miniaturized hydrogen bomb in September 2017.

But amid North Korea’s ratcheting up its missile program, US President Donald Trump displayed no qualms about lobbing equally provocative rhetoric back at the North, threatening “fire and fury” and dropping less-than-subtle hints about retaliation from Washington should Pyongyang hit a US target with one of its missiles.

The back-and-forth stoked fears that a conflict on the Korean Peninsula might be inevitable.

And at the beginning of 2018, it looked as though Kim was ready to keep the action going. He said in an address on New Year’s Day: “The entire United States is within range of our nuclear weapons, and a nuclear button is always on my desk. This is reality, not a threat.”

The true story behind the recovery of Extortion 17
Moon (center, in the gray suit) talks with Kim Yong Nam, North Korea’s nominal head of state, and Kim Yo Jong, Kim Jong Un’s sister, in Seoul in February 2018.
(Government of South Korea photo)

The North warms up to its neighbors and the US

The aggressive posture didn’t last.

Kim soon dispatched an envoy of North Korean athletes and performers to the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, in February 2018. His sister also attended and met with Moon during the festivities, delivering a message that helped pave the way for April 2018’s summit.

North Korea’s conciliatory tone has extended beyond its southern neighbor. Following a meeting between South Korean and North Korean intelligence officials in Pyongyang, South Korea delivered a message to the US from Kim: He would like to meet with Trump.

Trump accepted the request, and preparations for a meeting have been underway. Trump, who would be the first sitting US president to meet with a North Korean leader, said the gathering with Kim could happen as early as May 2018, though the location has not been announced.

In a statement after Moon and Kim’s initial meeting, the White House called the summit in South Korea “historic.”

“We wish the Korean people well,” the White House said. “We are hopeful that talks will achieve progress toward a future of peace and prosperity for the entire Korean Peninsula. The United States appreciates the close coordination with our ally, the Republic of Korea, and looks forward to continuing robust discussions in preparation for the planned meeting.”

In March 2018, Kim visited Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing, marking Kim’s first meeting with a world leader since he assumed power in 2011.

The true story behind the recovery of Extortion 17
Kim Jong Un and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Moon and Kim’s meeting has critical implications for the future of the Korean Peninsula.

North Korea had already made some concessions ahead of the summit, including a declaration that it would stop missile and nuclear tests and drop its previous demands for US troops to withdraw from the peninsula.

Among some symbolic gestures, such as formally ending the Korean War, one of Moon’s priorities will be to reach a consensus on denuclearization.

“It’s going to take a lot of time and negotiation to see how flexible North Korea will be on this question,” Mintaro Oba, a former US State Department diplomat involved in Korean affairs, told Business Insider.

“That should be something to probe for after the summit rather than the summit itself. There’s many more meetings, many more talks, to find out common ground and see where there can be flexibility.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

How the Air Force pits a military working dog against a ‘downed pilot’

“Hide!”

Four crashed aircrew members scatter into knee-high desert brush searching for a spot to blend-in with the environment. There’s nothing but a dying, desolate landscape as far as the eye can see. And yet, they need to disappear. These aircrew are being hunted.

Rustling through the brush downwind of the pilots is a man and his dog.

“Find them!”

The duo presses on with the hunt, despite being at a disadvantage. The dog puts his nose to the air and takes in short, quick breaths, but an unrelenting mist keeps the aircrew’s scents from being carried by the wind. They traverse miles of mud and brush, stopping every-so-often to stare out into the seemingly endless tan and brown canvas laid out before them.


No matter how this ordeal ends, both sides will be better for it.

Staff Sgt. Antonio Padilla, 336th Security Forces Squadron military working dog trainer, and Alf, 366th SFS military working dog, acting as opposition forces, hunt down pilots to enhance the combat readiness of both parties during a search and rescue operation as part of a Gunfighter Flag exercise at Saylor Creek Range Complex, Idaho.

The true story behind the recovery of Extortion 17

Staff Sgt. Antonio Padilla, 366th Security Forces Squadron military working dog trainer, gives Alf, 366th SFS military working dog, a water break while acting as opposition forces to hunt down “crashed” pilots during a combat search and rescue exercise April 2, 2019, at Saylor Creek Range near Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman First Class Andrew Kobialka)

Gunfighter Flag concentrates on preparing airmen to be ready to overcome obstacles that may appear in a deployed environment. Padilla plays a unique role in that preparation.

“When we are at the range, scouting for pilots, we are not only testing the survival skills of our pilots, but also honing the capabilities and teamwork between MWDs and their trainers,” Padilla said.

To effectively enhance readiness this training has to be exactly like the real deal.

“Finding a way to simulate stress is important,” said Staff Sgt. David H. Chorpening, 366th Operation Support Squadron noncommissioned officer in charge of survival, evasion, resistance, escape operations.

“AHHH!”

Screams riddled with anguish and anxiety filled the air as each aircrew member suffered a bite from Alf.

The true story behind the recovery of Extortion 17

U.S. Air Force Alf, 366th Security Forces Squadron military working dog, acts as opposition forces and hunts down “crashed” pilots during a combat search and rescue exercise April 2, 2019 at Saylor Creek Range near Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman First Class Andrew Kobialka)

The aircrew was protected by a bite-suit, but the stress they experienced was almost tangible, and not easily forgotten.

Incorporating stress into these scenarios helps ingrain the survival process and procedures into the minds of airmen to ensure they will be able to act on it in the field, Chorpening said.

Padilla and Alf bring a dose of stressful realism to the exercise through Alf’s vicious bite and undying loyalty that, consequently, often inflicts fear into whoever they pursue.

However, to be frightening is one thing, to be ready for deployment is another. That requires MWDs to be well-trained, obedient and skilled. Developing that in a MWD, like Alf, takes time and dedicated trainers.

Padilla said that there is a process of building rapport with new dogs, solidifying their commands, and exposing them to realistic situations like bite-work and detection that has to take place before they are cleared for deployment.

Ultimately, MWDs are tested in exercises like scouting for aircrew members in a vast environment with endless hiding places. This serves as a great preparation tool for MWDs and their trainers.

The true story behind the recovery of Extortion 17

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Antonio Padilla, 366th Security Forces Squadron military working dog trainer, and Alf, 366th SFS military working dog, act as opposition forces and hunt down “crashed” pilots during a combat search and rescue exercise April 2, 2019 at Saylor Creek Range near Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman First Class Andrew Kobialka)

As an MWD and its trainer work together, they understand each other better and are able to work cohesively, Padilla said.
“On a scout, the dog leads the way, but we are a team,” Padilla said. “Alf’s senses are a lot better than a human’s. Alf will often see, hear or smell a potential target before I do. Then I am able to decipher whether or not it is what we are looking for or if we should move on.”

It is a rigorous journey to become a MWD but in the end they are able to save lives in real-world situations and through readiness exercises like Gunfighter Flag.

“This training is so beneficial for trainers and their dogs to gain the experience of realistic training,” Padilla said. “What is even better is the dualistic nature of the exercise that enables pilots to improve their survival and evasion tactics simultaneously.”

The search and rescue exercise at Saylor Creek Range Complex may be a single piece of Gunfighter Flag, but is vital nonetheless because of the life saving potential it holds. Padilla and Alf continue to diligently work towards enhancing the readiness of themselves and the aircrew they hunt.

This article originally appeared on United States Air Force. Follow @USAF on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

America’s legendary gun maker will file for bankruptcy

Remington Outdoor Co., the oldest gunmaker in America, is reportedly planning to file for bankruptcy protection.


The company has reached a deal to give lenders ownership over the firearms maker, Bloomberg reported on Feb. 12. On Feb. 8, Reuters reported that Remington had reached out to banks and credit investment funds in an attempt to acquire the funding necessary to file for bankruptcy.

In recent years, Remington has faced serious backlash after accidents and violent incidents related to the company’s guns.

In 2014, Remington settled a class-action lawsuit, agreeing to replace the triggers on 7.5 million allegedly defective guns free of charge. While Remington maintains that the guns are safe, the lawsuits linked the guns “to hundreds of serious injuries and at least two-dozen deaths,” CNBC reports.

Also Read: US Army simulation will prep teachers for school shootings

The company also faced backlash after a Remington rifle was among the weapons in the arsenal used in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012. Twenty-six people were killed in the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.

Bloomberg reports that a final nail in Remington’s coffin may have been a counter-intuitive one: the election of President Donald Trump.

Trump’s candidacy was supported by the National Rifle Association, and his two eldest sons are hunting enthusiasts. However, firearms sales fell after Trump’s election.

“Hillary Clinton’s defeat meant customers became less worried about losing access to weapons,” Bloomberg reported. “Sales plummeted, and retailers stopped re-ordering as they found themselves stuffed with unsold inventory they’d built up in anticipation of a Clinton presidency.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Our trainer will make you want to play Ruck Ruck Goose

In Los Angeles, a staple of the genteel fitness regime is what practitioners unironically refer to as “going for a hike,” but which, to the veteran eye, more closely resembles a Zoolanderian walk-off between sweat-averse yoga pant models.


The true story behind the recovery of Extortion 17
It’s this, but with sneakers. (Photo from pixabay, gerneth, CCO)

Catching wind of this lunacy, Army vet and elite trainer Max Philisaire advanced on Runyon Canyon and surveilled the Hollywood hiker in his/her habitat. The rumors, he found, were all too true. Crushing an unripe avocado in each furious fist, Max declared that “this soft hipster fitness tourism will not stand!”

Because this is Max. Max doesn’t hike — he rucks. Max signs his autographs “Good Night and Good Ruck.” If Max were an action star? He’d be goddamned Ruck Norris.

The true story behind the recovery of Extortion 17
In all sincerity, Max would like you to go ruck yourself. (Go90 Max Your Body screenshot)

Suffering in good company is a furnace in which pride — and great big useful slabs of muscle — are forged. Max doesn’t want to be rucking Runyon Canyon alone. So he’s extending an invite. To you.

Don’t have 50 lb weights for your ruck sack? Use avocados. It’s LA. You know you can ethically source 100 of them. Don’t have a ruck sack, you say? A blue IKEA tote on each shoulder should more than get you to muster.

The point is, once you finish Max’s workout, no ruck march on earth will feel hard to you again. Because marching ain’t sprinting. And if you make it through the inclined lunges, that’s what you’re doing next. Eating Max’s ruck dust all the way to glory.

The true story behind the recovery of Extortion 17
If Max was a child’s loveable plush toy? He’d be Teddy Ruck-Sprint. (Go90 Max Your Body screenshot)

Watch as Max trains for his new movie, The Hud-Rucker Proxy , in the video embedded at the top.

Watch more Max Your Body:

This elite veteran trainer will make you aim true

This elite veteran trainer is why your ammo shows up on time

This is how squats can open doors for you

This trainer will make you a card-carrying member of the log-carrying elite

This is how to beat the rope-a-dope

Articles

The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (July 3 edition)

Here are the stories you need to know about as you get ready for the 4th of July long weekend. (And if you’ve got the duty . . . thank you for your service.)


  • The false alarm at the Navy Yard was triggered by a ‘loud boom.’ The Washington Post has the story here.
  • The Pentagon has released a new national military strategy. Make sure you’re using the right playbook here.
  • Fireworks bother dogs and veterans. The Toronto Blade fuels the narrative here.
  • Military recruits are still not issued American-made sneakers. ABC News tees up the outrage here.
  • No military, no 4th of July. Philly.com reminds us of what all ‘Mericans should already know and respect here.

Now read this: 7 post-9/11 heroes who should have received the Medal Of Honor — but didn’t

MIGHTY CULTURE

6 countries Rambo needs to visit in the new movie

John Rambo changes lives. Not just in movies, but in the real world. From the flawed antihero of First Blood to the immortal god of death and destruction in 2008’s Rambo, Sylvester Stallone’s action-hero prototype isn’t just the forerunner of modern, big-budget action stars, he’s a real-life game-changer. A cinematic visit from John Rambo has historically been an omen of big changes to follow in the real world.

Stallone just announced the production of a new Rambo movie — and it couldn’t come at a better time. He’s definitely going to take on Mexican drug cartels in the film, which is a good move, but there are many other places that need the help. Call it the “Rambo Effect.”


Related: 10 worst armies in the world 2018

For the uninitiated, Vietnam veteran John Rambo goes off to find some personal peace after the war, meeting up with old Army friends and traveling the world, looking for meaning. What he ends up finding is a personal war everywhere he goes. He fights the bad guys in the movies and wins – but in the real world, something always happens in the country he visits, often within a year of a film’s release, changing them for the better.

Anyone who’s a big fan of Sylvester Stallone’s Rambo series knows the sequels are a far cry from the story and intent of the first film. In First Blood, he was a flawed Vietnam veteran who became a rallying cry for a generation of vets who were all but ignored by society. Seriously, this is a really great, thoughtful movie with a good message.

The Vietnam War took a toll on America in a way the country still hasn’t fully recovered from. It was the first time Americans learned to distrust the President of the United States and this fostered a general mistrust of the government ever since. First Blood takes America to task about things Vietnam veterans still talk about today: Agent Orange, public indifference toward veterans, public perception of “crazy” Vietnam veterans, veteran unemployment, post-traumatic stress, and more.

The true story behind the recovery of Extortion 17

The 80s were a crazy time for everyone.

What people really noticed while watching First Blood is how awesome that Green Beret stuff really was, so by the time First Blood Part II came about, Rambo was a full-on action hero — the mold for the Bruce Willises, Arnold Schwarzeneggers, and the Steven Seagals yet to come. The real message was lost amid big-budget explosions and fight sequences.

The true story behind the recovery of Extortion 17

Crewmen of the amphibious cargo ship USS Durham (LKA-114) take Vietnamese refugees from a small craft, April 1975

(U.S. National Archives)

The second installment of the Rambo series was released almost ten years to the day after the fall of Saigon. In the real-world, reunified Vietnam under Communist rule, chaos ensued. Thousands were herded into reeducation camps, a crippled economy suffered from triple-digit inflation, the state went to war with Cambodia and then China. Thousands of refugees took to fleeing by boat to anywhere else.

The true story behind the recovery of Extortion 17

Still, some things just don’t age well.

The year after First Blood Part II had Rambo return to Vietnam, the Vietnamese government began implementing massive reforms to move away from the strict Communist structure that dominated it for the previous decade. In the intervening years, the economy began to recover as the government moved to a more socialist form.

In 1988’s Rambo III, John Rambo sets off to rescue Colonel Trautman after he’s taken captive in Soviet-dominated Afghanistan. Of course, Rambo goes right into Afghanistan, destroys every Soviet in his wake and rescues his old friend in a blaze of fiery glory. That same year, the Soviet Union began its final withdrawal from Afghanistan, a war that was a major contributing factor to the fall of the Soviet Union.

The true story behind the recovery of Extortion 17

Coming to theaters of war near you.

In 2008’s Rambo, the former Green Beret joins a group of missionaries headed to Myanmar. 2008 Myanmar was a brutal totalitarian dictatorship scarred by rampant human rights abuses — both on screen and in the real world. In the film, a warlord is brutalizing the Burmese people and the missionaries become victims. A team of mercenaries goes back into Myanmar with Rambo. Rambo kills everyone who isn’t a good guy.

Two months after the film’s release, the actual Myanmar government suddenly held a real constitutional referendum intended to guide the country down the path away from the military junta and into democratic reforms. By 2010, Myanmar held contested, multiparty elections. The military government was fully dissolved in 2011 and, by 2015, there were serious elections held in the country.

I’m not saying John Rambo had anything to do with any of this, all I’m saying is that John Rambo could be the harbinger of positive change in the world. Which is good, because there are a few place that really need a change.

1. Syria

Even though this is hardly the world’s longest ongoing conflict, it has to be one of the most intense and well-attended. Anyone who’s anyone is sending troops to Syria, and soon Germany may even join the party. All joking aside, this is a conflict that has, so far, killed more than a half-million people in seven years by moderate estimates, but no one really knows for sure.

A war this intense should end sooner rather than later. Even though Richard Crenna (the actor who portrayed Col. Trautman) died in 2003, maybe Rambo can be sent to Syria to rescue Trautman’s son? I’ll leave that for Stallone to decide, but he’s got to get Rambo there somehow.

The true story behind the recovery of Extortion 17

Just one North Korean parade and it’s all over.

2. North Korea

While the intensity of this conflict peaked more than 70 years ago, the ongoing human rights abuses and detainment of North Koreans in prison camps is exactly the kind of thing John Rambo would hate to see.

And if there’s anyone who could reach Kim Jong Un on his own, it’s John Rambo.

The true story behind the recovery of Extortion 17

Pictured: Rambo sneaking back into Burma.

3. Back to Myanmar

Even though his first visit to Burma (Myanmar) foretold the coming of democratic reforms, an argument could be made that they didn’t exactly reach what anyone would call true quality before the law. In fact, a number of civil conflicts are ongoing in Burma, including the Rohingya slaughter and insurgency read so much about in the news lately, but there are others — at least 18 different insurgent groups operate in Burma to this day.

4. Yemen

If ever a war needed to end, it’s the ongoing Saudi-led coalition’s war against Houthi-dominated Yemen. If ever any single country needed a John Rambo to finish things off, it’s this devastating embarrassment. For three years, Saudi Arabia and its 24 coalition partners have been hammering away at little Yemen and the Houthis who took it over, killing tens of thousands of people — many civilians — and are no closer to winning right now than they were three years ago.

The true story behind the recovery of Extortion 17

Name a more iconic duo. I’ll wait.

5. The Philippines

The Moro people of the Philippines have pretty much been resisting invaders since the beginning of time. For at least 400 years, the Moro have resisted Spanish, American, Japanese, American, and Philippine dominance over their traditional area of the country.

If there’s a world leader that would make an excellent Hollywood villain, it’s Rodrigo Duterte, current president of the Philippines. He’s not crazy, he thinks he’s doing the world a favor, and his methods are shocking. After a few centuries, this conflict should be ready to end and who better to bring that about than Rambo and a giant hunting knife?

6. Somalia

Somalia has been in the throes of civil war since the 1980s and it has never even begun anything close to a recovery. After the fall of the Barre dictatorship, no one has held a controlling area of the country, including the United States, the United Nations, and even Ethiopia, who invaded Somalia not too long ago, crushing just one more in a long line of Islamic Insurgents who want to control the Somali people.

More than half a million people from all over the world have died in this conflict and it has displaced more than 1.1 million Somalis. It is time for this conflict to end — that’s your cue, Rambo.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This nuclear explosion was nearly 3 times the size anyone predicted

In the early 1950s, the U.S. and Russia got into a race to develop the first aircraft-deliverable nuclear bomb. But the Americans accidentally created a much more powerful bomb than they anticipated.


What they thought would be a 5-megaton explosion generated a 14.8-megaton blast.

The Castle Bravo test at the Bikini Atoll in 1954 was the first dry hydrogen explosion that the U.S. attempted and it used lithium deuteride as the fusion fuel. But lithium deuteride is much stronger than the scientists thought.

So the Americans set up the islands and the safe zones for an explosion of 5-6 megatons. The immediate area was evacuated, they checked the wind speeds to limit the spread of contamination, and they positioned all of their facilities in safe areas.

But the 14.8-megaton explosion in Castle Bravo rendered many of these preparations moot. The small strip of land that the device was tested on was wiped out and became a crater 6,510 feet wide and 250 feet deep.

All the soil that had been an atoll flew into the atmosphere along with disintegrated coral reef. These later fell as a powdery ash on unsuspecting Japanese fishers and Pacific Islanders.

One of the Japanese fishermen soon died of acute radiation poisoning while the rest of the victims affected suffered dramatically increased rates of cancer and other diseases.

Despite the costs, the Castle Bravo test did lengthen America’s lead of the nuclear arms race, but it didn’t keep the top spot for nuclear explosions.

The largest ever nuclear explosion was Russia’s Tsar Bomba, a 50-megaton device that was tested in 1961.

Articles

These are the 6 worst carriers (or classes) to ever set sail

Some aircraft carriers are legends – either from long service like that of USS Enterprise (CVN 65) or with an unmatched war record like that of another USS Enterprise (CV 6).


They have either heroic sacrifices, the way USS Yorktown (CV 5) did at Midway, or they simply take a ton of abuse as USS Franklin (CV 13) did.

The true story behind the recovery of Extortion 17
The aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65) transits the Arabian Sea during her last deployment. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jared King)

But some carriers just stink. You wouldn’t wish them on your worst enemy… or maybe you would, simply to make the war easier. There’s arguments on both sides of that. Here are the carriers that would prompt such an internal debate.

6. USS Ranger (CV 4)

When America was down to one carrier in the South Pacific in 1942, re-deploying America’s first purpose-built carrier, the USS Ranger (CV 4) was not considered as an option.

That tells you something about the ship. Her combat career was relatively brief, and she eventually was relegated to training duties. Still, she had a decent air group (mostly fighters and dive-bombers), so she is the best of this bad lot.

The true story behind the recovery of Extortion 17
USS Ranger (CV 4) at sea. (US Navy photo)

5. Admiral Kuznetsov Class (Kuznetsov, Liaoning, and unnamed Type 001A)

If you’ve read a lot of WATM, then you know about the Kuznetsov Follies. The crappy engines (the Russians send tugs along with her in case of breakdown), the splash landings, and the fact the Russians ended up using her as a glorified ferry all speak to real problems. In her favor, though, is the presence of 12 long-range anti-ship missiles on the lead ship, and she can fly MiG-29K and Su-33 Flankers off her deck. China’s versions carry J-15 fighters, but not the missiles.

The true story behind the recovery of Extortion 17
‘Admiral Kuznetsov’ in her natural habitat, a dry dock, in July 2015. | Christopher Michel/Flickr photo

4. Kiev class (Kiev, Minsk, Novorossiysk)

The Russian Kiev and her sisters are on here for a crap air wing.

The Yak-38 Forger was one of the worst planes to ever operate from a carrier. The Kiev gets a higher ranking largely because she had a lot of firepower, including eight SS-N-12 Sandbox missiles as well as a lot of SA-N-3 Goblets and point-defense systems, which were arguably more of a threat to the enemy than the planes she carried.

Yeah… that kinda has the whole purpose backwards. Now, a modern version with F-35Bs or even AV-8B+ Harriers and the Aegis system could be interesting.

The true story behind the recovery of Extortion 17
The Soviet aircraft carrier Kiev, showing off elements of the crap air wing, including the Yak-38 Forger. (US Navy photo)

3. HTMS Chakri Naruebet

The Chakri Naruebet from the Thai navy is on the list not so much for inherent problems, but because of substantial air wing neglect during the reign of King Bhumibol Adulyadej (aka Rana IX). Worse, the Thais officially call her an “offshore patrol helicopter carrier.”

They did buy some second-hand AV-8S Matadors from Spain. But most flunked the maintenance, and soon Thailand had one flyable jet. At least the Kievs had heavy firepower to make up for their crap air wing!

That said, his successor, King Vajiralongkorn, was a former fighter pilot, and hopefully will be able to turn things around.

The true story behind the recovery of Extortion 17
Photo: PH3 Alex C. Witte/US Navy

2. Ise Class battleship/carrier hybrid conversions

Okay, in some ways, this is understandable. After the Battle of Midway, Japan needed carriers in the worst possible way. Ise and Hyuga are perfect examples of getting those “carriers” — in the worst possible way.

Initially built as battleships with a top speed of 23 knots, they got turned not into full carriers, which might have been useful. But a half-battleship/half-carrier holding 22 seaplanes (okay about 50 percent more than Hosho) that they could launch and recover wasn’t totally awful.

Remember that’s seaplanes, not Zeroes for fighter cover or strike planes. Granted Japan had the A6M-2 Rufe, a seaplane Zero, but this was a rush job, and it showed. At least they each had eight 14-inch guns.

The true story behind the recovery of Extortion 17
The HIJMS Ise was a failed battleship/carrier hybrid. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

 

1. HIJMS Hosho

This was the world’s first purpose-built aircraft carrier. But let’s be honest, the Japanese boat was a dog. It had a top speed of 25 knots, and it carried all of 15 planes. During the Battle of Midway, it had eight biplanes.

By comparison, USS Langley (CV 1), America’s first aircraft carrier, could carry 36 planes. Even with a top speed of 15 knots, she would have been useful escorting convoys in the Atlantic – if America hadn’t turned her into a seaplane tender to satisfy an arms-control treaty Japan violated anyhow.

Are there any bad carriers we missed? Let us know in the comments!

 

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