Russia hacked the FBI to stop bureau from tracking Russian spies - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia hacked the FBI to stop bureau from tracking Russian spies

The Russian government hacked into the FBI’s communication system to stop the bureau from being able to track Russian spies working in the US, Yahoo News reported in a bombshell investigation published Sept. 16, 2019.

The US in 2012 became aware of “the full gravity” of Russia’s ability to breach certain types of secure communications and track devices used by FBI surveillance teams, the report said. In addition to fearing that the Russians may have gained access to US intelligence channels, officials also believed that Russian spies could locate undercover FBI surveillance teams and the substance of FBI communications.

That would have not only enabled the Russians to evade surveillance and communicate with human sources, but given them the opportunity to collect information about their pursuers, Yahoo News reported. It also prompted concerns among officials that there was a Russian asset lurking within the US intelligence community.


The Russians first breached the FBI’s communication systems in 2010, after the arrest and exposure of a group of Russian spies in the US, Yahoo News said. That year, the FBI began investigating Russia’s efforts to recruit US assets; one of the foremost targets was Carter Page, who later served as a foreign-policy aide on President Donald Trump’s campaign.

Carter Page.

The FBI informed Page in 2013 that the Russians were trying to cultivate him, but Page ignored their warnings and even publicly boasted about his connections to high-ranking Russian government officials.

The Russians are also said to have breached the backup communication channels the FBI used, something one former senior counterintelligence official told Yahoo News the US “took extremely seriously.”

The investigation found that Russia’s hack of the FBI’s communication systems was a key reason the Obama administration kicked out 35 Russian diplomats and closed two Russian diplomatic facilities in December 2016.

President Barack Obama said the measures were in retaliation for Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, but Yahoo News reported that the US also wanted to close those two compounds because they were critical to Russia’s efforts to intercept FBI communications.

Russia and the US have ramped up their counterintelligence and cybersecurity operations against each other in recent years as tensions between them mount.

(Photo by Markus Spiske)

In particular, the US has recently targeted Russia’s electrical grid and placed “potentially crippling malware” within the Russian system, The New York Times reported in June 2019. Power grids have long been the focus of cyberattacks, but the US’s operation is the most aggressive yet and meant to serve as a warning to Russia, as well as position the US to carry out additional cyberattacks in the event of a conflict with Moscow, the report said.

The Times described two administration officials as saying there was “broad hesitation” to brief Trump in much detail about the operation, in part because of concerns about how Trump would react, or that he would shut down the operation or discuss it with foreign officials.

Trump’s disclosure of classified information to two Russian officials in an Oval Office meeting in 2017 contributed to the US’s decision to extract a top CIA asset in Russia shortly after, CNN reported last week.

Other US media outlets subsequently published key identifying details about the asset, and Russian state-sponsored media later said it had the intelligence operative’s name. Shortly after that, the Russian government filed a request with Interpol for more information about the spy.

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

MIGHTY GAMING

This video game had an economy almost as strong as Russia’s

In late 2001 an economist called Edward Castronova made tsunami sized waves in the world of economics when he published a paper claiming that an isolated place called Norrath had a currency stronger than that of the Japanese Yen — an especially bold claim considering Norrath had less than a million inhabitants, had only existed for about two years and didn’t exist physically. Yes, Norrath was entirely virtual and populated exclusively by players of the video game EverQuest.


Released in 1999, EverQuest is an immensely popular and influential massively multiplayer online role playing gaming (MMORPG). Set in the magical fantasy world of Narroth and boasting an impressive (for the time) near half million subscribers at the apex of its success, EverQuest came to the attention of Castronova at first much in the same way it came to the attention of anyone — he just thought it sounded like a fun game to play.

The original box art for ‘EverQuest’

However, as he became more familiar with the game, he noticed some rather fascinating things about how the virtual economy had developed within the game. This all culminated in him publishing on the Social Science Research Network a humorous but excellently researched, and ultimately groundbreaking, paper titled, Virtual Worlds: A First-Hand Account of Market and Society on the Cyberian Frontier. By his own admission, Castronova stated, “I thought maybe seventy-five people would read it and that’d be great.”

Instead, it quickly received over 16,000 downloads (and today is sitting at closer to 50,000). While this might not seem like much, let’s remember context here — this was an academic paper published on an online academic journal. Needless to say, that number of downloads made it the most downloaded paper in the history of the Social Science Research Network, which at the time featured almost 50,000 academic papers, including many dozens written by Nobel laureates.

Why was this paper so fascinating to the world of economics? As economist Yanis Varoufakis noted, “Economic theory has come to a dead end — the last real breakthroughs were in the 1960s. But that’s not because we stopped being clever. We came up against a hard barrier. The future is going to be in experimentation and simulation — and video game communities give us a chance to do all that.”

What Castronova had stumbled upon was essentially an economist’s dream — virtual worlds the researchers could use to analyze in a scientific manner various concepts in their field using large data sets and real people populating those worlds. Or as Washington Post journalist Brad Plumer succinctly stated, in virtual worlds, “The data is richer. And it’s easier to run economy — wide experiments in a video game — experiments that, for obvious reasons, can’t be run on countries.”

In short, economists in academia were intrigued with Castronova’s paper and its implications for future research.

So what did Castronova find? After painstakingly pouring over the available data surrounding the world of Norrath, he was shocked to discover that in real world dollars Norrath had the 77th highest GNP per capita, placing it squarely between Russia and Bulgaria at the time.

The world of Norrath

How was this possible for a virtual world with only virtual currency?

At the height of EverQuest’s popularity, sale of in-game items ran rampant and at one point in time a player could pretty much buy anything they wanted in-game, regardless of how rare or powerful it was, so long as they could flash the cash to make it happen.

Although Sony, who published the game, would make several attempts to quash this practice, claiming amongst other things that all of the items for sale were their intellectual property, as well as outright banning players they caught doing this, the sale of in-game items and avatars became a thriving industry on sites like Ebay.

In fact, former child actor Brock Pierce (perhaps best known as a kid for his roles in Mighty Ducks and First Kid, and as an adult for his work in crypto currency) even started a surprisingly successful company, Internet Gaming Entertainment Ltd (IGE), which dealt in these virtual goods in exchange for real money. The company maintained a rather large staff of low-waged workers who worked in Norrath and the real world, doing things like meeting to exchange goods, as well as building up avatars and acquiring virtual goods for future sale.

In any event, Castronova analysed over 600 illicit sales outside the realm of Norrath on sites like Ebay and then simply compared this to the value of the item in-game in the principle currency of Norrath- Platinum Pieces.

When he did this, Castronova discovered that the relative value of a single Platinum Piece compared to the US Dollar was .01072. While this may not seem all that much, as Castronova pointed out, at the time, “its value exceeds that of the Japanese Yen and the Italian Lira.”

With this value in hand, Castronova was then able to roughly calculate a number of other interesting things about the economy of Norrath. For example, it turned out the average citizen of Norrath earned around .42 per hour (or about an hour today) when taking into account the value of the items and in-game currency they could realistically acquire during normal play per hour on average.

Combining this with the estimated time extreme players sunk into the game (according to data gleaned by Castronova in surveying over three thousands players), Castronova calculated:

Many users spend upwards of 80 hours per week in Norrath, hours of time input that are not unheard of in Earth professions. In 80 hours, at the average wage, the typical user generates Norrathian cash and goods worth 3.60. In a month, that would be over id=”listicle-2633077434″,000, in a year over ,000. The poverty line for a single person in the United States is ,794.

Looking at players of every time commitment level, Castronova determined that, despite the game being extremely new, the average player of EverQuest already had over ,000 worth of sellable goods locked up in the game.

But we’re not done yet because Castronova was then able to roughly calculate the gross national product of Norrath based on the value of the (entirely virtual) goods it produced in 2001. His final number? About 5 million.

While, again, this may not sound like much, divided amongst the estimated total number of Norrath denizens, that meant the GNP per capita of the virtual kingdom was ,266 — a figure that, as previously mentioned, theoretically ranked the computerised state the 77th highest on Earth at the time.

Naturally, this information peaked the interest of Castronova’s fellow economists, as did other observations he made about the virtual world and economy he was studying.

For example, according to Castronova one of the more curious things he noticed during his research was that, despite every effort being made by Sony to give everyone an equal footing when the game began, financial inequality was quickly rife amongst the denizens of Norrath.

Additionally Castronova also observed how, much like in the real world, the wealthiest players would often hoard their wealth and use their vast resources to pay poorer characters to do all of the pointless busy work they didn’t want to waste time with, in effect becoming pseudo-employers who kept the lion’s share of any profits made via the work of the plebeians to themselves.

Anecdotally, Castronova would say of his own time in-game as a low level player with no resources: “My problem is that I am under-equipped. I have been basically naked, carrying only a simple club, a caveman in a world of cavaliers. My poverty is oppressive – no amount of rat fur is sufficient to buy even a simple tunic at the ludicrously high prices of the merchant biots.”

Screenshot from EverQuest featuring a combat involving a sand giant.

Naturally, as the game evolved, the whole “initial equality” thing also died off for some, thanks to those markets where players who had disposable income in the physical world could simply buy whatever they wanted for real money and enter the game vastly more powerful and capable than a player without this option.

Since Castronova’s paper, and partially as a direct result of his work studying virtual economies, the one time self professed “academic failure” and “schmo at a state school” managed to leverage this to level up in real life — securing a tenured position at Indiana University Bloomington as a professor of Telecommunication and Cognitive Science, as well as coming to be known as the “founder of the field of virtual economics”.

And as many other virtual worlds with complex virtual economies have likewise sprung up, economists and other scientists continue to study them, as they make great petri dishes to observe how various variables result in changes in economy and human behavior.

Going the other way, gaming companies like Valve have taken to hiring economists to help them manage their virtual worlds. As economist Robert Bloomfield notes, “If you’re creating a game with 100,000 users, with things that they can buy and sell, you need an economist just to help you tweak that system so that it doesn’t spin out of control.”

As for Castronova, he concluded his ground breaking paper by waxing poetic about the potential virtual worlds could have with the application of new technology, stating

The impact on Earth society is hard to overestimate. With the development of voice technology, communication in Virtual Worlds will move from cumbersome chat to telephone-like conversation, thus greatly enhancing the Virtual World as a place of social interaction. Families living thousands of miles apart will meet every day for a few hours in the evening, gathering their avatars around the virtual kitchen table and catching up. And the day of driving to the store may well be over. Earth roads will be empty because, instead of using them, everyone will be sailing across the azure heavens on their flying purple horses, to shimmering virtual Walmarts in the sky.

Bonus Facts:

  • To trade items they’d bought illegally via Ebay and the like, Castronova observed that players would generally sell the item online first and then agree to meet in a designated place in-game, at which point the seller would then trade the item to the buyer for an item of trivial value they had in their possession. Castronova was amused to learn that, much like in real life, many of these illicit trades took place in abandoned buildings and dark alleys.
  • In 2017, the value of Venezuelan bolivar sank so low that it was quite literally worth half that of the principal currency of Azeroth, the kingdom the game World of Warcraft takes place in.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russian power in Europe is more dangerous than ever

The former top U.S. Army commander in Europe said Russian battlefield tactics in eastern Ukraine show sophisticated integration of drones, electronic warfare, and mortar and artillery, posing major challenges for Ukrainian forces.


Retired Lieutenant General Ben Hodges also said on Jan. 24 that U.S. and European allies should do more to publicize Russia’s capabilities on the ground in eastern Ukraine, including the region historically known as the Donbas.

Hodges, who retired as commander of the U.S. Army’s European forces last year, made the comments in Washington, at the Helsinki Commission, a U.S. government agency charged with monitoring human rights in Europe and elsewhere.

Commanding General of U.S. Army Europe, Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, shares a toast after receiving an award from the Hungarian Defense Force. (Image from DoD)

The United States and its NATO allies have helped train and supply the Ukrainian armed forces since the outbreak of fighting in eastern Ukraine in April 2014. About 250 U.S. soldiers are helping in the training, Hodges said, plus Canadians and other NATO allies.

‘Diplomatic solution’

In all, more than 10,000 people have been killed and more than 1 million displaced in the conflict pitting Ukrainian forces against Russia-backed separatists.

Russia has repeatedly denied its forces have been involved, or that it has supplied weaponry or equipment, assertions that independent observers and journalists have largely debunked.

Hodges said the recent U.S. decision to supply Ukraine with more sophisticated weaponry, including Javelin anti-tank weapons, was important for persuading the Russians to negotiate an end to the conflict.

“There has to be a diplomatic solution to this,” he said. “Russia has to, at some point, agree to stop supporting the separatists or pull out to allow the re-establishment” of Ukrainian control of its border with Russia.

Also Read: Finland once snuck inside the Soviet air force to bomb Russia

Electronic warfare capability

In eastern Ukraine, Hodges said, there are about 35,000-40,000 Russia-backed fighters, and around 4,000-5,000 are actual Russian military officers or commanders.

He said many of the tanks and vehicles operated by both Ukrainian and Russia-backed forces are now covered with reactive armor, a specialized type of plating designed to protect against rocket-propelled grenades and weapons other than small arms.

He also said Russia-backed commanders have honed tactics that include using drones, artillery, and electronic warfare. That’s allowed Russians forces, for example, to eliminate Ukrainian mortars and artillery units. He said one Ukrainian unit that was using a U.S.-supplied radar was taken out by Russian rocket fire with surprising speed.

Quadcopter drones are readily available to both military and civilian buyers and may play a large role in future conflicts. (USAF photo by Kenji Thuloweit)

“The [Russian] electronic warfare capability; again that’s something we never had to worry with that in Afghanistan and Iraq. The Ukrainians live in this environment,” he said. “So you cannot speak on a radio or any device that’s not secure because it’s going to be jammed or intercepted or worse, it’s going to be found and then it’s going to be hit.”

“Certainly we have the capability to show everybody what Russia is specifically doing in the Donbas, that would be helpful to keep pressure on Russia, to live up to what they’ve said they’re going to do,” he said.

Military Life

9 reasons you should have joined the Navy instead

Every day, young men and women walk into a recruiter’s office with the prospect of serving their country. While some decide against joining, others sign their name on the dotted line and ship off to boot camp.


Most people didn’t take the time to think about what the military branch can do for them — they were just eager to join.

If you didn’t pick U.S. Navy, you freakin’ missed out, and here are nine reasons why.

Alternate opinion: 9 reasons you should have joined the Air Force instead

1. We have rating badges, so there’s no confusion of what the sailor’s job title is. So you always know who is walking around with the silver bullet or a spatula.

 

2. Navy Corpsman has the most Medal of Honor recipients than any other job title in the entire military — 23 and counting (including Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator Edward Byers).

3. We have the most elite combatants in the world: the U.S. Navy SEALs…need we say more?

4. We have nuclear powered floating cities that can sail to ends of the earth — and back.

5. Duh, we have Top Gun. It’s really called the Naval Fighter Weapons School, but you get the point.

6. We freakin’ use trained dolphins to mark bombs and other hazardous crap under the water.

7. We have subs that can survive underwater for days without resurfacing.

Also Read: 9 reasons why you should have joined the Army instead

8. Navy football dominates the Army’s in this historic rivalry…and also in life in general. Zing!

9. We can serve alongside every branch of the military to any location that needs us because we’re highly trained and well-respected.

So join the f*cking Navy if you want to better yourself.

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 reasons why soldiers and Marines get along so well

There’s a never-ending pissing contest between all of the branches of the U.S. Military but, at the end of the day, we’re all still one big, happy, dysfunctional family. We’ll always throw barbs at our brothers while we work with them because we expect the same jokes to be thrown our own way.

No two branches better demonstrate this love/hate relationship than the Marines and the soldiers. Yeah, the Marine Corps falls under the Department of the Navy and yes, the Air Force was once a part of the Army, but — sorry, sailors and airmen — it’s the soldiers and the Marines who inevitably become the closer friends in the end.


Train. Go to the field. Deploy. Clean. That’s about it for both branches…

(U.S. Army)

1. Our missions are similar

Marines and soldiers often share the same FOBs, the same areas of operation, the same interpreters, and the same objectives. It’s bound to happen when both branches pride themselves on being Uncle Sam’s premier door kickers.

Hell, both branches even share the same joke about one another. You’ll hear both Marines and soldiers talk about how “we’re the first ones in and it’s up to those guys to clean up the mess!” And no matter who says it, there are historical examples of it being true.

“Locker room talk” has nothing on “deployed smoke pit talk.”

(U.S. Marine Corps)

2. We get each other’s low-brow humor

When life gets rough, the only thing you can do is joke it off — the more stressful the situation, the raunchier the humor.

Don’t get me wrong. Sailors can tell some pretty dirty, messed-up jokes, but leave it to the Marines and the soldiers to find the line you shouldn’t cross… and then go a few clicks past it.

There’s a certain finesse required to kicking in a door that only our brothers would find admirable.

(U.S. Marine Corps)

3. We share the same values

Can you shoot well? Can you max your PT test? Can you insult the boot/FNG to the point that they have to pull out a stress card? Can you and your boys drink an entire bar dry in a single evening? Awesome! You’re one of us.

We also both value our ability to speak with our fists over “soft skills,” like reasoning and negotiation. Don’t believe me? Just watch as either group shows up to a new FOB and there’s an open bunk in the back corner. Someone will get choked out and the winner will get a year in the best spot.

And we both want to smack the ever living sh*t out of that one person who always jokes, “if it ain’t rainin’, we ain’t trainin’!”

(U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. Henry Chan)

4. We understand each other’s pain

Jokes about how much it sucks to be stuck in the motor pool until 2130 because the some butter-bar misread the serial number on a pair of NVGs are universal — because it happens all the friggin’ time to all of us.

But the empathy runs much deeper than that. Both groups also left in the field for a few weeks just to come back to the monotony of garrison life, where we spend most of our time cleaning things as we wait for the totally-going-to-happen-this-time visit from a general.

Here’s to you, you glorious bastards!

(U.S. Army)

5. We both mock our brother’s branch viciously

It’s beautiful when Marines and soldiers sh*t-talk each other. You poke fun at the Navy, and sailors will get defensive. You mock the Air Force, and airmen will probably just agree with you, sucking the fun right out of the joke.

When soldiers and Marines go at it, you’d be surprised by how even the lowest blow is matched by another vicious, hilarious comment… that gets laughed off just as quickly.

Humor

11 hand salutes that are just plain bad

We greet superior officers, pay homage to the American flag, and show respect to fallen comrades by rendering the powerful, non-verbal gesture known as the hand salute.


Though there’s no real written record of how or where the worldwide tradition started, saluting dates back in history to a time when troops would raise their right hand (their weapon hand) as a signal of friendship.

Today, recruits learn how to properly hand salute in boot camp and demonstrate the act countless times before heading out to active service. After a while, muscle memory kicks in and the gesture becomes second nature. But many civilians use the salute as a form of celebration — and they get it so, so wrong.

Related: 5 awful military haircuts that would fail inspection

1. When Michael Cutler, son of a truck-driving arm wrestler, returns home from military school. (Over the Top)

2. That time Cousin Eddie felt super patriotic during Christmas. (National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation)

3. Some dude watching wrestling and drinking a beer. (USA Network)

4. After that former TV president gave a motivational speech. (House of Cards)

5. No clue where this is from, but it’s funny as hell.

Also read: 7 ways you know you’re an officer

6. When that little kid who turned out to be Darth Vader found out his dad was into superhero cosplay. (Jingle All the Way)

7. An unsat salute from a guy who once played a Marine in a movie. (Some award show on MTV)

8. So, we’re not exactly sure what she was trying to accomplish with her initial type of salute… but at least she ended it with a solid pointing performance.

9. At least Ms. Kaushtupper correctly mounted the American flag on the wall… (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt)

Don’t forget: 5 common movie mistakes veterans can spot right away

10. Even though his salute is off, it’s still pretty funny. (M*A*S*H)

11. There’s nothing wrong with this troop’s salute, but Dmitry Medvedev epically failed.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is why grunts should keep a journal

Grunts may not pass literacy tests with flying colors, but it definitely isn’t any indication they’re not intelligent creatures. The infantry is full of different types of people with different ideologies and perspectives. Collectively, we can even develop philosophies based on our experience with the job. But what some of us don’t think about is recording the thoughts and ideas that bounce around inside our heads.

Keeping a journal is more than just a method of remembering events that go on in your life. Writing down your thoughts and ideas could actually help you develop your mental strength as a warrior. Additionally, there are other benefits that come with doing this, beyond just keeping track of the one thing your First Sergeant did today that really pissed you off.

Here’s why grunts should keep a journal:


It might help to write about a day like this.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Devon Burton)

A tool to fight stress

You may just want to chain smoke some cigarettes and trash talk your command with your friends, and that may work. But conversations can be cut short, and you may not even say 100% of what you’re thinking. Writing down your thoughts as they are, without a filter, can help relieve you of the stress you’re feeling on day 12 of a 10-day field op.

You felt a certain way about this. Why not write it down?

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Matthew Callahan

Recording your thoughts

You may not feel like sharing everything that goes on in your head with your friends. That’s okay. Write it down. This may be useful if you have a good idea regarding tactics or standard operating procedure that you feel you may not remember later. This is like taking notes but in a way that ties into the rest of your thoughts and feelings.

If you miss some shots on the range, you should record it to look at later so you can figure out how to avoid making the same mistakes in the future.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Reba James)

Tracking your growth

At the end of the day, it helps to go over the events in your head and think about the positives and negatives. Additionally, writing these things down and writing your thoughts on how to improve yourself can help you track your personal growth. Even something like recording your physical fitness test results can help you see what you can improve on.

Even the worst memories are worth recording.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Amaia Unanue)

Memory improvement

Writing things down is always a good idea when you have to remember them later on. But doing something as simple as writing down the day’s events and your thoughts on them can help you keep your memory sharp which is a valuable skill no matter where you go.

Maybe the next time you’ll remember how you solved that problem.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Sarah Anderson)

Improve problem-solving skills

While writing your thoughts and feelings about the day’s events, you may find that there was a problem you couldn’t solve earlier, but while writing it down, you discovered the solution. It’s like thinking back on an argument and thinking of the perfect response that didn’t occur to you in the moment.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why this Soldier was nicknamed the ‘popcorn colonel’ in Vietnam will make you laugh

When Lt. Colonel Richard J. Shaw arrived in Vietnam, he had already proven himself a valorous Soldier by fighting the Germans in WWII, going toe-to-toe with the Chinese in Korea, and now he was looking to go up against the Viet Cong.


Once he had made it to the jungle, Shaw was assigned as an advisor to a Vietnamese regiment consisting of around 3,000 troops. Shaw had his work cut out for him — his troops were spread out across three different locations within his area of observation.

After getting embedded with his Vietnamese counterparts, Shaw adapted the local lifestyle and ate the indigenous foods. His daily diet consisted of three cold rice bowls, wrapped in leaves and served with some fried fish. He did this every day for 11 straight months… holy sh*t.

Sticky rice with black beans and coconut. A standard Vietnamese dish. This is more than what the colonel ate.
(Authenticworldfood.com)

Nearly a year later, Shaw’s weight had dropped dramatically due to light diet and all the physical activity required by fighting the enemy. The determined colonel was eventually pulled out of the jungle by his superiors and sent back to the rear to “fatten him up.”

Before taking time off for R&R, Shaw had sent a letter home asking his wife to send him some popcorn. Soon enough, a railroad cart arrived at Da Nang, where he was currently stationed — the goods had arrived. Shaw divided the popcorn kernels up between the three regiments and had them shipped to his friendly counterparts to be enjoyed.

Before Shaw headed back home for some much-earned time off, he befriended one of the regimental commanders, Capt. Tang. Shaw saved him three smaller bags of popcorn so he could take it back and share it with his family.

UH-1B helicopters were commonly used for resupplying troops on the frontlines during the Vietnam War.

Eventually, Shaw returned to his troops and was surprised to meet a pissed-off Capt. Tang.

Apparently, the regimental commander took the popcorn kernels home and boiled them in water instead of cooking them in oil. Shaw just laughed at what he heard from his counterpart, who was still fuming in anger.

On that day, Shaw taught the loyal captain the proper way of cooking popcorn. The event earned Shaw the nickname of “popcorn colonel.”

Later, Lt. Colonel Shaw returned home from his Vietnam deployment and retired from honorable service in 1968.

Watch the American Heroes Channel‘s video below to hear the colonel’s humorous story for yourself.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Say goodbye to the EA-6B Prowler with these fun facts

In March 2019, the Marine Corps stood down its last squadron of EA-6B Prowlers. This stand down marked the end of the Prowler’s active service in the U.S. military. The tactical electronic warfare jamming bird first started its career in 1971, making it one of the oldest airframes still flying. Well, until Mar. 8th. 2019, it will be.

It will be replaced by the advanced capabilities of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, just like the F-35 replaced the F/A-18 Hornet and the AV-8B Harrier.


#BabyPictures

It fought everyone from Ho Chi Minh to ISIS

First introduced to southeast Asia in 1972, the Prowler has been there with the Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps through thick and thin, deploying more than 70 times and flying more than 260,000 hours.

Its victories were flawless

Not one Prowler has ever been lost to enemy action. Many have tried; North Vietnam, Libya, Iraq (a few times!), Iran, the Taliban, Panama, no one has been able to take down any of the 170 Prowlers built to defend America. Unfortunately, 50 of those were lost due to accidents and mishaps.

An EA-6B Prowler at Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan.

Its job was to jam enemy radar

But what to do when there’s no enemy radar to jam? It still blocks radio signals and weapon targeting systems. The Prowler was a perfect addition to the Global War on Terror, as it also could block cell signals and garage door openers, keeping troops on the ground safe from many remotely-triggered improvised explosive devices.

It’s the longest serving tactical jet

F-16? Never met her. The service life of the Prowler beats that of even the F-16, making it the longest-serving tactical fighter jet in the history of the U.S. military.

For now.

The Prowler helped ice Bin Laden

Sure, the SEALs had a specially-built top-secret helicopter to help them sneak into Pakistan. But it was an EA-6B Prowler that made sure the area around Osama bin Laden’s compound was free and clear of any pesky radar or electronic signals that might give the operation away.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is the Air Force’s lowest ranking Medal of Honor recipient

In the Air Force, few names ring as many bells as John L. Levitow. He’s had awards named after him, as well as dorm halls and roads. Levitow’s name is about as close to U.S. Air Force royalty as you’ll get.


Oddly, even though his name is emblazoned across every corner of every Air Force base in the world, many airmen have scant knowledge of Levitow’s actions. Many are more well informed of his mysterious separation than of his heroic actions. The legend of his separation is still shared by many higher-ups during various briefings as a cautionary tale, but I digress.

As the Air Force leads the way into the future, it’s important to remember who paved the way and how exactly they did it. This is how John L. Levitow became the lowest ranking Medal of Honor recipient in Air Force history.

Related: This hero was so deadly, they called him “Black Death”

Loadmaster

Airman First Class Levitow cross-trained into the Loadmaster career field after a couple of years in the Air Force. This cross-train is what ultimately placed Levitow on board the Spooky 71, an AC-47 gunship, during that fateful night.

The man, the myth, the legend.

A legend born

On Feb. 24, 1969, Levitow was aboard the Spooky 71 AC-47 gunship flying missions in South Vietnam. During the flight, a mortar round struck the side of the aircraft, ripping holes all across the plane, including an approximately two-foot puncture in the wing.

After impact, Levitow, while suffering from over 40 fragment wounds, helped a fellow wounded airman away from the now-open cargo door. As he moved his comrade to relative safety, he spotted a Mark 24 flare that was seconds from igniting.

Mind you, the Mark 24 flare is a three-foot metal tube weighing roughly 27 pounds that, once ignited, generates the light of 2,000,000 candlepower and burns at 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

Levitow dragged himself towards the flare, which was rolling to and fro as the Spooky 71 pilots fought to regain control, hurled himself atop of it, pushed the flare towards the cargo door, and flung it out into the Vietnam sky just before ignition.

This really happened. It is not an exaggeration or poorly documented folk tale. Levitow literally placed his body atop a flare powerful enough to turn the Spooky 71 into a crisp with no real idea of how long he had until the flare ignited. This is one of the most selfless acts ever documented.

After the amazing feats he accomplished that night, he would return to Vietnam after recuperating to fly another 20 missions.

Awarded the Medal of Honor

Levitow was awarded the nation’s highest military honor on May 14, 1970 by President Richard Nixon. Levitow separated from the Air Force in 1970.

Also Read: This is why Killmonger is the most operator villain in the MCU

On May 14, 1970, Armed Forces Day, John L. Levitow was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Richard Nixon
(White House photo)

Following his separation, Levitow worked diligently with the veteran community, showing up to events that honored or featured veterans. On Nov. 8, 2000, John Lee Levitow passed away after a year-and-a-half battle with an unspecified cancer. He was 55 years young.

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(Photo by Airman 1st Class Stacy Hughes)

MIGHTY TRENDING

Coalition bombings spike in Afghanistan, but stalemate drags on

The US and its coalition partners have dropped more bombs on Afghanistan in the first ten months of 2018 than any year in the past five years, the US military revealed Nov. 29, 2018.

Between January and October of 2018, the US-led coalition dropped 5,982 bombs in support of Operation Freedom Sentinel and Operation Resolute Support, significantly more than the previous years.

Coalition strike aircraft flew 6,584 sorties during that time, 783 of which involved the release of a weapon, the US Air Forces Central Command’s Combined Air Operations Center disclosed in its monthly Airpower Statistics report.


The Trump administration made airpower a priority for the war in Afghanistan. With the relocation of Air National Guard KC-135 refueling tankers from Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar to Kandahar last fall, the US-led coalition has been able to increase the number of airstrikes against the Taliban and other enemy combatants.

In addition to the refueling tankers, a number of A-10C Thunderbolt attack aircraft, HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters, and MQ-9 Reaper drones were also shifted to Kandahar, Military.com reported Nov. 28, 2018.

A U.S. Air Force MQ-9A Reaper.

The US and its coalition partners have made progress in the fight against ISIS, but while the number of bombs falling on Afghanistan is on the rise, the coalition continues to struggle to secure victory against a surging and brutal Taliban foe.

The Afghan government’s control of the country has been slipping over the past few years, falling from 72 percent in 2015 to just over half in the third quarter of 2018. In that period, Afghanistan lost 28,529 security force personnel, the Afghan president said in November 2018.

The US continues to suffer losses as well.

Five US troops were killed in November 2018, one to an insider attack, one to accidental friendly fire, and three to an improvised explosive device. Thirteen US service members have died fighting in Afghanistan in 2018, as US forces have largely shifted to advise, assist and training missions.

The Taliban “are not losing right now, I think that is fair to say,” Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said. “We used the term stalemate a year ago and, relatively speaking, it has not changed much.”

Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

(DOD photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Dominique A. Pineiro)

“We do believe the Taliban know that at some point they do have to reconcile,” Dunford added, stressing that the key is to pressure the Taliban, which has also suffered heavy losses, to eventually negotiate.

Reporters from the Washington Post recently questioned President Donald Trump on America’s presence in Afghanistan. “We’re there because virtually every expert that I have and speak to say if we don’t go there, they’re going to be fighting over here. And I’ve heard it over and over again,” he replied.

He further remarked that there is talk of peace, but added that he was unsure if that is a real possibility.

Speaking to reporters at the Pentagon Nov. 28, 2018, Mattis said the peace process is “picking up momentum,” but did not go into additional detail.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Sen. Tammy Duckworth says she will block military promotions until Trump’s defense secretary explains the ‘disgraceful situation’ that led Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman to retire

A Democratic senator and veteran is demanding an explanation from President Donald Trump’s defense secretary of the “disgraceful situation” that saw a key impeachment witness retire from the military in response to what his lawyer described as presidential “bullying,” and she will block over 1,000 senior military promotions until she gets it.

Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman requested retirement from the military Wednesday in response to a White House “campaign of bullying, intimidation, and retaliation” led by the president, his lawyer said in a statement first reported by CNN.


Vindman, an Iraq War veteran and Purple Heart recipient who served on the National Security Council as a Ukraine expert, testified against Trump in House impeachment hearings, characterizing some of his actions as “improper.”

Trump was impeached by the House but acquitted by the Senate earlier this year, and in the aftermath, the president swiftly fired Vindman before moving on to target other senior US government officials considered disloyal.

Vindman, who has served in the armed forces for more than two decades, remained in the military after he was removed from the NSC, and Pentagon leaders said he would not be subject to retaliation.

But in recent weeks, questions have been raised about his future in the military and his expected promotion to colonel.

Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper approved Vindman’s promotion after a Pentagon inspector general inquiry looking at Vindman and allegations of “inappropriate behavior”— conducted at the request of the White House — did not find any reason to block his promotion, Politico reported Wednesday.

Reuters reported that the recommended promotion had not yet been sent to the White House when Vindman abruptly decided to retire.

“Lt. Col. Vindman’s decision to retire puts the spotlight on Secretary of Defense Mark Esper’s failure to protect a decorated combat veteran against a vindictive Commander in Chief,” Sen. Tammy Duckworth, a US Army veteran who lost her legs because of injuries she sustained during the Iraq War, said in a statement Wednesday afternoon.

She said: “Secretary Esper’s failure to protect his troops sets a new, dark precedent that any Commander in Chief can interfere with routine merit-based military promotions to carry out personal vendettas and retaliation against military officers who follow duly-authorized subpoenas while upholding their oath of office and core principles of service.”

Last Thursday, the Illinois senator tried to shield Vindman’s promotion from retaliation by blocking 1,123 senior military promotions until she received a written assurance from Esper saying that he would not block Vindman’s promotion to colonel, which she said she still has not received.

The senator said in statement Wednesday that she would continue to put a hold on these promotions until Esper provides a “transparent accounting” of what her office described as a “disgraceful situation.”

While Vindman confirmed that he was retiring from the military, he has not personally explained the reasons for his departure. His lawyer, however, said Vindman “did what the law compelled him to do; and for that he was bullied by the President and his proxies.”

He added: “Vindman’s patriotism has cost him his career.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Military leaders talk about diversity in the armed forces

The House Armed Services Committee’s military personnel subcommittee heard testimony from Defense Department personnel chiefs on diversity in recruiting and retention.

Testifying were: Army Lt. Gen. Thomas C. Seamands, deputy chief of staff for personnel; Navy Vice Adm. John B. Nowell Jr., chief of naval personnel; Air Force Lt. Gen. Brian T. Kelly, deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel and services; and Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Michael A. Rocco, deputy commandant for manpower and reserve affairs.


Army diversity efforts

“People are the starting point for all that we do. Today, the total Army is more diverse — the most talented and the most lethal force in our nation’s history,” said Seamands.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Shawn Weismiller)

An important tool the Army has is the new talent management system, which amplifies diversity, he said.

Trends are pointed in the right direction, he noted. For example, in the last five years, the percentage of Hispanic soldiers went from 12.5% to 14.6% and female representation went from 16.6% to 18.8%.

Also, the first female graduate of Ranger School went on to become the first female infantry company commander, and she then deployed to Afghanistan.

“We want our Army to look like our nation and to reflect what’s best of our citizens,” he said. “As the country has become more diverse, so has the Army.”

He added that service members are not only diverse in race and gender, but they’re also diverse in thought, talent, knowledge, skills and experience.

Navy diversity efforts

The Navy is promoting diversity and inclusion, said Nowell. “We have increased participation in diverse talent and outreach events and marketing materials.”

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Spencer Fling)

Nineteen percent of the recruiting media budget focuses on multicultural and female prospects, he said. Navy ROTC scholarships are also offered to minorities, he said.

More than 25% of this year’s U.S. Naval Academy accessions were female or minority, he said.

Air Force diversity efforts

“The Air Force considers diversity a warfighting imperative,” said Kelly. “As such, the Air Force set a goal for our force to mirror and be representative of the population of Americans eligible to serve by race, gender and ethnicity.”

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Amanda Dick)

The Air Force currently consists of 22% women; 15% African Americans — including 6% in the officer corps; and 13% Hispanics — including 7% in the officer corps. Those demographics have increased over the last 10 years, he added.

Marine Corps diversity efforts

“Diversity remains critical to the Marine Corps,” said Rocco. “It is our responsibility to ensure the Marine Corps is comprised of the best and brightest from every segment of the diverse society.

(Official Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Brian A. Tuthill)

“Diversity must be included in meaningful ways in order to take advantage of a wide array of aptitudes and perspectives necessary to maintain our current and future warfighting excellence,” he continued.

Diversity in the Marine Corps is increasing, he said. In 2010, 30% of Marines identified as minorities. Today, that number is more than 40%. “We expect these numbers to continue to rise.”

In 2010, 6.7% of the Marine Corps was female. It’s now almost 9%. These numbers should also continue to rise, he said.