It was survival of the fittest at the 2019 CrossFit Games - We Are The Mighty
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It was survival of the fittest at the 2019 CrossFit Games

The sound of cheering carried across the Alliant Energy Center as the top athletes from over 100 countries took the field Aug. 1, 2019, during the 2019 CrossFit Games opening ceremony.

Amongst a sea of U.S. competitors, Lt. Col. Anthony Kurz and Capt. Chandler Smith took it all in as they looked around the crowded North Field. Kurz proudly displayed his Army Special Forces flag as a nod to the Special Forces community. Those cheering included members of the U.S. Army Recruiting Command and Warrior Fitness team who were there to support their teammates and engage with the fitness community.

It took Smith and Kurz years to get to this moment, as they stood ready for the “world’s premier” CrossFit competition. At this level, victory would not come easy, considering each workout would test the limits of their athletic ability and resolve.


Capt. Chandler Smith

Just hours after the opening ceremony, Smith was back on the field for his workout in the men’s individual bracket. He was ranked 40th overall at the start of the games.

It was survival of the fittest at the 2019 CrossFit Games

Capt. Chandler Smith, a member of the U.S. Warrior Fitness Team, competes in the men’s individual competition at the 2019 CrossFit Games in Madison, Wis., Aug. 1, 2019. During the first workout of the day, Smith placed second overall and moved on to the next round of the competition.

(Photo by Devon L. Suits )

There was a lot at stake during the first cut of the competition. Out of the 143 men participating, only 75 would make it to the next round. The first workout was also designed to be a true test of strength and endurance.

Each competitor would need to complete a 400-meter run, three legless rope climbs, and seven 185-pound squat snatches, in under 20 minutes. The field of competitors would then be ranked based on their overall time. For some athletes, the first workout was more than they could handle.

Smith came out strong and maintained his overall pace. In the end, he took second place — 35 seconds behind the leader, Matthew Fraser.

“I knew my competitors were going to come out fast,” Smith said. “I wanted to stay within that top three. By the third set, I wanted to pick up on my squat snatches. This was a good start for the rest of the weekend.”

It was survival of the fittest at the 2019 CrossFit Games

Capt. Chandler Smith, a member of the U.S. Warrior Fitness Team, competes in the men’s individual competition at the 2019 CrossFit Games in Madison, Wis., Aug. 2, 2019. During the fourth round, Smith had to complete a 172-foot sled push, 18 bar muscle-ups, and another 172-foot sled push to the finish line in under six minutes.

(Photo by Devon L. Suits )

Moving into the second cut of the competition, Smith looked loose and determined to continue on his previous success.

Competitors had 10 minutes to complete an 800-meter row, 66 kettlebell jerks, and a 132-foot handstand walk. Like the first round, athletes would be ranked and scored on their overall time.

Smith was not far behind the leader after the first exercise. Sitting in a good position, he moved into the 16-kilogram kettlebell jerks and quickly fell behind after a series of “no-repetition” calls by the judge.

Smith placed 48th overall in the workout and only 50 athletes would move on to compete on day two.

Through it all, he wasn’t overly focused on his position, he said. For the first time in a long time, Smith said he was having fun, and he planned to approach each workout with the same high level of intensity.

It was survival of the fittest at the 2019 CrossFit Games

Capt. Chandler Smith, a member of the U.S. Warrior Fitness Team, competes in the men’s individual competition at the 2019 CrossFit Games in Madison, Wis., Aug. 2 2019. During the fourth round, Smith had to complete a 172-foot sled push, 18 bar muscle-ups, and another 172-foot sled push to the finish line in under six minutes.

(Photo by Devon L. Suits )

“The experience has been phenomenal because I have been around a lot of folks that stayed positive,” he said. “I have learned so much about what it takes for me to perform at my peak. This will hopefully help me in the future in regards to maximizing [my] performance potential.”

On day two of the competition, Smith competed in three events.

The day started with a 6,000-meter ruck with increasing increments of weight. Competitors then moved to the “sprint couplet” event, where they had to complete a 172-foot sled push, 18 bar muscle-ups, and a second sled push back to the finish line. Smith placed fourth in the ruck and 32nd in the sprint couplet.

The last event of the day took place in the arena, where athletes had 20 minutes to complete as many reps as possible. Each rep included five handstand pushups, 10 pistol squats, and 15 pull-ups. Smith placed 13th in the final workout of the day, landing him a spot in the top 20.

It was survival of the fittest at the 2019 CrossFit Games

Capt. Chandler Smith, a member of the U.S. Warrior Fitness Team, takes a rest after completing in the first round of the men’s individual competition at the 2019 CrossFit Games in Madison, Wis., Aug. 1, 2019. Smith placed second overall after the first workout and moved on to the next round of the competition.

(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Robert Dodge)

“I would give my performance a nine out of 10,” he said. “I met my goal of making it to the last day and maintained the right competitive attitude throughout the competition.”

Moving on to day three, Smith had one last workout to try to break into the top 10. During the sprint event, competitors had to complete an out-and-back race across North Field. Upon their return, athletes had to cut through several tight turns before crossing the finish line.

Smith gave his all, but at the end of the workout, he tied for 13th place. Officially cut from the competition, he held his head high as he walked off the field ranked 15th overall.

“I controlled everything I could, and gave my absolute maximum effort on all events,” he said. “I feel like I made significant growth this year. I will try to replicate my training and couple it with my improved mental onset to achieve a better result here at the CrossFit Games next year.”

Overall, Smith is honored to represent himself as both a soldier and an athlete, he said. He feels lucky to represent the force at large, knowing there are so many talented soldiers in the fitness field throughout the Army.

It was survival of the fittest at the 2019 CrossFit Games

Capt. Chandler Smith, a member of the U.S. Warrior Fitness Team, competes in the men’s individual competition at the 2019 CrossFit Games in Madison, Wis., Aug. 3, 2019. During the sprint event, competitors had to complete an out-and-back race across Field. Upon their return, athletes had to cut through several tight turns before crossing the finish line.

(Photo by Devon L. Suits)

“The biggest lesson I can pass on: keep a positive perspective,” he said. “The nature of the Army means our schedules are unpredictable and constant [athletic] training can be hard to come by.”

Soldiers that learn to work past those scheduling conflicts will have a better respect for their journey, Smith said. In the end, there is always an approach a soldier can take to be successful — they just have to find it.

“Leaders in the Army don’t see problems, they see solutions,” he added.

Lt. Col. Anthony Kurz

The men’s master competition started on day two of the CrossFit Games. Kurz, a Special Forces officer assigned to the Asymmetric Warfare Group at Fort Meade, Maryland, was competing in the 40- to 44-year-old age bracket.

Kurz got into CrossFit shortly after graduating from the Special Forces qualification course. While assigned to the 5th Special Forces Group at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, he received his level-one CrossFit certification and delved deeper into the sport.

Whenever he deployed as an Operational Detachment Alpha, or ODA commander, Kurz and his teammates would often engage in CrossFit-type workouts to keep them fit for the fight, he said.

“In an ODA, everybody is always competitive. We would do our [CrossFit] workout of the day and post them on the board. That healthy rivalry makes you better,” he said.

“We have some phenomenal athletes in the Special Forces community, but they train for something different,” Kurz said. “It was good to represent them [at the CrossFit Games].”

Coming into the Games, Kurz was ranked 4th overall and 1st in the online qualifier. On the floor, he appeared healthy and determined, but behind the scenes, he was quietly recovering from a minor shoulder injury, he said.

During his first timed workout, Kurz completed a 500-meter row and 30 bar-facing burpees. He placed fifth out of 10 athletes in his bracket. Hours later, he was back on the floor for his second event. He maintained an excellent position to move up the ranks.

It was survival of the fittest at the 2019 CrossFit Games

Lt. Col. Anthony Kurz, a member of the U.S. Army Warrior Fitness Team assigned to the Asymmetric Warfare Group in Fort Meade, Md., competes in the Men’s Masters (40-44) Division at the 2019 CrossFit Games in Madison, Wis., Aug. 3, 2019. During the sandbag triplet event, athletes started with a 90-foot handstand walk, then moved to the air bike to burn 35 calories. They then had to carry a 200-pound sandbag for 90 feet to the finish line.

(Photo by Devon L. Suits)

During the second workout, athletes needed to complete five rounds of exercises. Each set included three rope climbs, 15 front squats, and 60 jump rope “double-unders.”

The combination of upper body exercises exacerbated his pre-existing injury, Kurz said. In frustration, he let out a loud yell during the event as he finished in last place.

“I was only pulling with one arm,” he said. “At this level of competition, if something goes wrong, there is nowhere to hide. It is frustrating, but it was also a great learning experience. Everybody wants to be on top of the podium.”

The final event for the day was a 6,000-meter ruck run with increasing increments of weight after each lap. Kurz placed 5th in the workout.

On day three of the games, Kurz had to complete two workouts. The first event was the sandbag triplet. Athletes started with a 90-foot handstand walk, then moved to the air bike to burn 35 calories. They then had to carry a 200-pound sandbag for 90 feet to the finish line. Kurz placed 7th in the event.

The second event of the day, known as the “down and back chipper,” was the most taxing workout thus far. Kurz had to complete an 800-meter run, 30 handstand pushups, 30 dumbbell thrusters, 30 box jump-overs, and 30 power cleans. Competitors had to then go back through the same exercises, finishing the event with the run.

It was survival of the fittest at the 2019 CrossFit Games

Lt. Col. Anthony Kurz, a member of the U.S. Army Warrior Fitness Team assigned to the Asymmetric Warfare Group in Fort Meade, Md., competes in the Men’s Masters (40-44) Division at the 2019 CrossFit Games in Madison, Wis., Aug. 3, 2019. During the sandbag triplet event, athletes started with a 90-foot handstand walk, then moved to the air bike to burn 35 calories. They then had to carry a 200-pound sandbag for 90 feet to the finish line.

(Photo by Devon L. Suits)

Kurz set a deliberate pace, knowing the event would depend on how his shoulder fared on the second set of handstand push-ups. On the last 10 reps, fatigue and a series of “no-reps” bogged him down, he said. Time expired while he was on his last 800-meter run, and judges were calling on him to stop. He kept running and crossed the finish line while the event crew was setting up for the next heat.

“I never quit on a workout, and I wasn’t going to start today,” he said. “You have got to take the small victories. I was once told: ‘Persistence is a graded event.’ It is something that has always stuck in my head.”

Kurz laid it all on the line on the final day, submitting two of his best workouts of the competition. During the two-repetition overhead squad workout, Kurz lifted 280 pounds and placed second in the event. Moreover, he took first place in the final workout, known as the “Bicouplet 1.”

It was survival of the fittest at the 2019 CrossFit Games

Lt. Col. Anthony Kurz, a member of the U.S. Army Warrior Fitness Team assigned to the Asymmetric Warfare Group in Fort Meade, Md., competes in the Men’s Masters (40-44) Division at the 2019 CrossFit Games in Madison, Wis., Aug. 3, 2019. During his second event, Kurz had to complete three rope climbs 15 front squats, and 60 double-unders over five rounds for time.

(Photo by Devon L. Suits)

Kurz placed 9th overall.

“I’m glad I was able to fight back on the last day and go out with an event win. Looking back, 9th isn’t what I expected, but I’m proud of my performance,” he said. “I think I turned in the best performance possible given the limits of my body.”

“We always say that in combat you can have the best plan, but the enemy always gets a vote on how things go. This is no different. I had solid plans going into the WODs, made the right adjustments on the fly, and pushed through the adversity. I capped it all off with an event win — I’ll take it.”

In the end, Kurz was proud to represent the Army and the Special Forces community, he said.

“As I look back at my old [Special Forces] team and I feel like many of them could have done the same thing if given the opportunity and the time to train,” he said. “I feel very lucky. My life led me in a certain way, and I was able to take all this time to get to this level.

“I’m super stoked that people are still excited, given how the weekend has gone for me,” he added. “It has been frustrating and humbling. Even though there were setbacks, I gave everything I had and I’m walking away with my head high.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Daring Navy SEAL dies in CA skydiving accident

A highly-decorated Navy SEAL was killed in a skydiving accident on Sept. 30.


The SEAL, Cmdr. Seth Stone, died after jumping out of a hot air balloon in Perris in Riverside County. The Federal Aviation Administration said his parachute failed to open properly and the agency is investigating.

Stone, 41, of Texas, was most recently assigned to Special Operations Command Pacific in Hawaii, a unit that receives Navy personnel from the Naval Special Warfare Command in San Diego.

“The Naval Special Warfare community is deeply saddened and mourns the tragic loss of one of our best. Seth’s absence will be sorely felt across the staff, command, and the entire special operations community. NSW is a close-knit family and our primary focus is to provide care and support for Cmdr. Stone’s family,” said Rear Adm. Tim Szymanski, commander of the Naval Special Warfare Command.

It was survival of the fittest at the 2019 CrossFit Games
Navy SEAL Lt. Cmdr. Seth Stone speaks to the media about Master-At-Arms 2nd Class (SEAL) Michael A. Monsoor who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Michelle L. Kapica.

Stone earned two silver Silver Stars, the military’s fifth-highest commendation, including one for a well-known firefight in Ramadi, Iraq. On Sept. 29, 2006, Stone and the group of SEALs under his charge were attacked with small arms fire and rockets while they were protecting another unit.

“The mortar fire, machine gun fire randomly sprayed the patrol, who were contacted by the enemy about 75 percent of the time,” Stone told National Public Radio in 2008.

According to the citation for the medal, Stone led them through the firefight to wounded SEALs, and helped evacuate the wounded.

One SEAL under Stone, Petty Officer Second-Class Michael Monsoor, was killed after he threw himself on top of an enemy grenade. He was credited with saving several lives and was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

It was survival of the fittest at the 2019 CrossFit Games
In an undated file photo provided by the US Navy, Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael A. Monsoor participates in a patrol in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Monsoor has been awarded the Medal of Honor.

“He recognized immediately the threat, yelled grenade, and due to the fact that two other SEAL snipers, our brothers, could not possibly escape the blast, he chose to smother it with his body and absorb the impact and save the guys to his left,” Stone told NPR.

Stone, who died one day after the tenth anniversary of Monsoor’s death, was on an adjacent rooftop during that battle and later said the petty officer’s bravery inspired him to re-enlist after the end of that deployment.

Besides the two Silver Stars, Stone also received a Bronze Star with a “V” insignia for valor, and the Navy Marine Corps Commendation Medal. Commissioned through the Naval Academy in 1999, he was a surface warfare officer and was assigned to a cruiser before he trained to become a SEAL.

It was survival of the fittest at the 2019 CrossFit Games

The FAA said it typically looks into whether parachutes were properly packed when it investigates accidents that occur during skydiving. The accident is being investigated by civilian authorities since it occurred off-duty.

According to the Naval Safety Center, a command that tracks on- and off-duty accidents involving sailors and Marines, the last fatal skydiving accident involving a member of the Navy outside of training or a mission was in June 2010 when a petty officer first class died after he attempted to jump from a cell phone tower in southeast Virgina.

Regulations require that the main parachute must be packed within 180 days by a certified parachute rigger, a person under the supervision of a parachute rigger, or the person making the jump. The reserve parachute must have been packed by a certified rigger within 180 days if it’s made of synthetic materials.

The United States Parachute Association held the National Skydiving Championship in Perris over the last two weeks, but the accident was not related to that event, the organization said. The Army’s skydiving team, the Black Knights, participated in the competition.

Articles

The Soviet conspiracy that almost started World War III will blow your mind

In 1967, a Soviet submarine armed to the teeth with a deadly payload of nuclear missiles mysteriously disappeared off the coast of Hawaii.


During the Cold War, it was not unusual for Soviet and American subs to patrol each other’s coasts for months at a time waiting for orders to pull the trigger in case the war went hot.

“The Soviets called these patrols: ‘war patrols,’ ” said Red Star Rogue author Kenneth Sewell in the video below. “To them, we were at a state of war, and they took this very, very seriously.”

Related video:

Although no one knows for sure what happened to the sub, a conspiracy has emerged painting the captain as a hero for sacrificing his ship and crew to divert the apocalyptic scenario.

According to Sewell, Soviet sub K-129 was hijacked by a band of rogue KGB commandos to provoke a war between America and China by making it appear like China attacked Hawaii á la Pearl Harbor.

“They did that to weaken the United States, to strengthen the Soviet Union. Get your two enemies to fight and you pick up the pieces,” Sewell said.

But when the captain realized the mutiny wasn’t authorized by the Soviet government, he gave the KGB operatives the wrong launch codes to his missiles, Sewell alleges.

“When you had an attempted launch with the wrong code it would detonate the warhead, which would cause the missile to explode, which sank the submarine,” Sewell said. “We owe him a really big debt of gratitude. He’s one of these unsung heroes of history that will never really get credit.”

This American Heroes Channel video portrays how the conspiracy would have played out.

Watch:

American Heroes Channel, Youtube

MIGHTY SPORTS

Usain Bolt stopped an interview for the US National Anthem

It seems like nothing can stop Usain Bolt, the world’s fastest man — except for respect. It would be easy to expect the most dominating runner to ever race across the Earth to be the kind of prima donna athlete that keeps us from wanting to meet our heroes.

Jamaican athlete Usain Bolt just isn’t that way.


It was survival of the fittest at the 2019 CrossFit Games

Usain Bolt is a triple world-record holder, an 11-time world champion, an eight-time Olympic champion, and a four-time Laureus Sportsman of the Year. In 2017, at just 31 years old, he retired from the track after a short but illustrious career but can still be found having fun with the sport. At Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta, he casually tied the NFL record for the 40-yard dash while wearing sneakers and sweatpants.

He’s a guy who likes to have fun with the sport, but never enjoyed the intense training, interviews, or day-long photoshoots required of athletes of his stature. He does like the competition and the showmanship expected of a man who still owns the world record for the 100-meter, 200-meter, and 4×100-meter competition. He even has an infectious wry smile that often spreads to his competition.

But it looks like he takes sportsmanship seriously when it comes to respect for a national anthem, as shown when he stopped in the middle of an interview to stand for the ‘Star-Spangled Banner.’

In 2012, Bolt competed in the London Olympics to defend his record. He would ultimately take home three more gold medals from the event but what caught many people’s attention was an interview he did with Television Espanola. During the live interview, the U.S. National Anthem began playing in the stadium. Bolt asked if it was live but turned to face the music anyway, standing silently as the loudspeakers played the ‘Star-Spangled Banner.’

The reporter interviewing Bolt followed suit. As soon as the anthem was over, Bolt turned back to the reporter, respectfully apologized, and continued the interview.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia needs more mercenaries to go fight in Syria

After a massive battle that multiple reports cite as resulting in hundreds of dead Russian military contractors, Russian job listing websites are reportedly offering more high-paid work in the “security” field.


A Ukranian website posted several screenshots from Russian job listing websites offering high-paid but vague jobs for those willing to work on “security” projects abroad, and reported that such listings have spiked sharply in February 2018, when the battle took place.

More reading: Thousands of Russian private contractors are fighting in Syria

The ads seek recruits with good physical fitness who can go on “business trips” to Ukraine or Syria for about three months. Russia stands accused of sending “little green men” or military contractors without proper Russian military uniforms or affiliation, to wage war in those two countries.

Multiple reports state that Russia’s reason for using military contractors in Syria, where it is fighting against insurgents who oppose Syrian President Bashar Assad, is to conceal the true cost of the war to Russian servicemen.

It was survival of the fittest at the 2019 CrossFit Games
Vladimir Putin and Bashar al-Assad. (Image Kremlin)

But the conditions for the contractors are reportedly bleak. Hundreds of Russian mercenaries were reportedly routed in a battle with US airpower, against which they were defenseless. Alleged leaked audio from Russian paramilitary commanders captures them lamenting the unwise battle, and expressing humiliation at their sound defeat.

Also read: Russian mercenaries want revenge after getting whooped in Syria

Russian officials admit to only a few Russian nationals dying in battles, and several dozen wounded, but all other reporting of the battle portrays severe losses for the pro-government side, which many say was mostly Russian.

A Russian paramilitary official recently told France24 that he had 150 men in freezers in Syria as “minced meat,” and that their mortal remains won’t even be returned to their family until after Russia’s presidential election in March 2018. The official, however, said that now Russian men were volunteering not for money, but for revenge.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Alleged Benghazi plotter convicted for terrorism, not murder

A Libyan militant was convicted Nov. 28 of terrorism charges stemming from the 2012 Benghazi attacks that killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans. But a federal jury found him not guilty of murder, the most serious charge associated with the rampage he was accused of orchestrating.


The attack became instant political fodder in the 2012 presidential campaign, with Republicans accusing the Obama administration of intentionally misleading the public and stonewalling congressional investigators, though officials denied any wrongdoing. Some were particularly critical of then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s handling of the conflict, which dogged her during her presidential campaign.

It was survival of the fittest at the 2019 CrossFit Games
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testified before the House Select Committee on Benghazi. (Image under Public Domain)

But the seven-week trial of Ahmed Abu Khattala was largely free of political intrigue.

Jurors convicted Khattala on four counts, including providing material support for terrorism and destroying property and placing lives in jeopardy at the U.S. compound, but acquitted him on 14 others. Even with the mixed verdict, Khattala, 46, still faces the possibility of life imprisonment for his conviction on a federal firearms charge.

Prosecutors accused Khattala of directing the attack aimed at killing personnel and plundering maps, documents and other property from the U.S. mission in Benghazi. But defense attorneys said their evidence against him was shoddy.

Ambassador Chris Stevens was killed in the first attack at the U.S. mission, along with Sean Patrick Smith, a State Department information management officer. Nearly eight hours later, at a CIA complex nearby, two more Americans, contract security officers Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty, died in a mortar attack.

It was survival of the fittest at the 2019 CrossFit Games
The United States Air Force Band plays the national anthem during the dignified transfer of the remains J. Christopher Stevens, U.S. ambassador to Libya, and three other Americans, Sept. 14, 2012, at Joint Base Andrews, Md. (USAF photo by Senior Airman Perry Aston.)

“Today, a small measure of justice was meted out,” CIA Director Mike Pompeo said in a message to CIA employees. Of Khattala he added: “It took intelligence to find him, soldiers to assist in capturing him, law enforcement to interview him, and a legal team to put him away. Khattala’s sentencing is to follow; but no term in prison will bring our people back.”

Prosecutors acknowledged they lacked evidence to show Khattala personally fired any gunshots, but argued he orchestrated the violence out of his hatred for U.S. freedoms and his suspicion that Americans were operating a spy base in Benghazi. They said Khattala led a group of militia “hitmen” who could be seen on surveillance footage toting weapons and a gas can the night of the attack. Their case relied heavily on the testimony of informants, including one who was paid $7 million to befriend Khattala, help the government gather information on him, and arrange his capture.

Related: US bodyguard gives harrowing account of Benghazi attack

Defense attorneys sought to discount the informants as liars who were paid for their stories. Federal public defender Michelle Peterson said in closing arguments that prosecutors were playing to jurors’ emotions to make up for shoddy evidence, including blurry surveillance video and cellphone records she described as inconclusive. Khattala is a deeply religious man who believes in conservative sharia law as outlined in the Quran, which “is not the same thing as terrorism,” Peterson said.

But prosecutors argued the evidence was enough to convict Khattala on all counts.

“He was there to kill Americans, and that is exactly what he and his men did,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael C. DiLorenzo told jurors.

It was survival of the fittest at the 2019 CrossFit Games
A man rallies in front of a burning vehicle in Benghazi, Libya (Image via website of Congressman Mike Bost)

The trial, which opened Oct. 2, was one of the most significant terrorism prosecutions in recent years in a U.S. civilian court, even though the Trump administration had argued such suspects are better sent to the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The mixed verdict could revive that debate, even as newly captured terror suspects — including a second man charged in the Benghazi attacks — are instead brought to federal court.

Supporters of the military commission system argue valuable intelligence is lost when suspected terrorists are afforded protections of the American legal system. But prosecutors said Khattala, who was interrogated at length during 13 days aboard a Navy transport ship headed to the U.S., provided information about other members of the Islamic extremist militia group blamed for the Benghazi attack. Among the men he pegged was Mustafa al-Imam, who was captured last month and awaits trial in the same federal courthouse in Washington.

Jonathan Hafetz, a senior attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union who has handled terrorism cases, said the Khattala trial showed federal courts are capable of handling terror cases, even with his acquittal of murder charges.

“No court system can pretend to protect due process if it only achieves the resolution the government wants in every case,” he said.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Terrorist leader behind 2017 ambush of green berets killed

A senior official with the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara was killed in a strike on a terrorist camp in Mali involving French warplanes and commandos, the French defense ministry confirmed Aug. 27, 2018.

The lifeless body of Mohamed Ag Almouner, a senior leader for the ISIS affiliate that claimed responsibility for a deadly ambush that left four American Green Berets dead in Niger in 2017, was found on the battlefield by a French-led unit after an airstrike by two Mirage fighter jets Aug. 26, 2018, according to a report from Stars and Stripes, which cited a statement from the French military.


An unidentified member of the group was also killed.

In October 2017, armed Islamic State in the Greater Sahara militants ambushed US and Nigerien troops. Five Nigeriens and four Americans were killed while another ten people were wounded. During the firefight that ensued, US and Nigerien forces managed to kill nearly two dozen terrorists.

The four American special operations soldiers who lost their lives in the fight were: Sgt. La David Johnson, Staff Sgt. Dustin Wright, Sgt. 1st Class Jeremiah Johnson, and Staff Sgt. Bryan Black. The US Army Special Forces team leader Capt. Michael Perozeni, who was singled out for blame in an investigation into the ambush during which he was wounded, is reportedly being considered for a silver star, the military’s third-highest valor award for gallantry.

It was survival of the fittest at the 2019 CrossFit Games

Staff Sgt. Bryan C. Black, Sgt. La David T. Johnson, Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright, Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson.

(US Army photos)

The US military maintains a presence in Niger to “provide training and security assistance to the Nigerien Armed Forces, including support for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance efforts, in their efforts to target violent extremist organizations in the region,” US Africa Command spokesman US Navy Lt. Cmdr. Anthony Falvo told CNN after the incident in 2017.

France has deployed thousands of troops to West Africa for Operation Barkhane, an effort to eradicate Islamist militants in the region.

Aug. 26, 2018’s airstrike also ended the lives of two civilians. “The French criteria for opening fire are particularly strict and aim at avoiding civilian casualties,” the French military said in a statement, “The proven presence of civilians near the target would have led to the cancellation of the mission. An investigation is underway to determine how civilians were hit during this strike.”

US Africa Command said that it “routinely works with our French partners in the Sahel region, who provide a bulk of the force with more than 4,000 military forces,” adding that the US remains ” committed to assisting the French-led operations to degrade violent extremist organizations and to build the defense capacity of … Mali and its neighbors.”

Featured image: A French Air Force Mirage F1CR.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Xbox is helping VA medical centers support veterans

For active duty military members, playing video games can help release stress, build camaraderie and offer comforting familiarity in foreign environments. For veterans returning from combat, gaming can reduce isolation, renew connections with fellow service members and provide therapeutic benefits.

Recognizing the unique value of gaming for the military community, Microsoft is partnering with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to provide Xbox Adaptive Controller units to 22 initial VA rehab centers across the U.S.

Launched in 2018, the Xbox Adaptive Controller was created to make gaming accessible to players with limited mobility by enabling them to customize their setups and connect with external devices like buttons, switches and joysticks that accommodate their playing. The controller, which can be used to play Xbox One and Windows 10 PC games, was developed after extensive consultation with gamers, accessibility advocates and nonprofits that work with gamers with limited mobility, including veterans.


Ken Jones, the founder of Warfighter Engaged, a New Jersey-based nonprofit organization that provides gaming devices to wounded vets, says the Xbox Adaptive Controller makes gaming accessible to a broader range of veterans.

“People just want to participate, and it’s going to allow them to do that,” he says. “It allows for a much bigger population of people to be included in gaming.”

Microsoft and VA partner to bring Xbox Adaptive Controller to Veterans with limited mobility

www.youtube.com

Gaming is a popular activity among the military community, but navigating a traditional controller can be difficult or impossible for injured veterans. The inability to game can mean the loss of connection to veterans’ military communities and to an activity that was a significant part of their lives during service.

The partnership with Microsoft aims to give veterans with limited mobility the opportunity to game again, get them more involved with their rehabilitation and increase social interaction, says Dr. Leif Nelson, director of National Veterans Sports Programs Special Events for the VA.

“We’re looking for platforms for veterans to interact with each other, and the Xbox Adaptive Controller can be that access point to get involved in this world and in the gaming community,” Nelson says. “Gaming is now everywhere in the world, and while people tend to think of it as isolating, we’re finding that it actually has the opposite effect and can increase interactions with other veterans and folks who are non-veterans. I think this can be a tool in the rehabilitation process to achieve a lot of different goals.”

For Jeff Holguin, gaming was a way to cope with the depression and post-traumatic stress disorder he experienced after being discharged from the U.S. Coast Guard in 2003 following an injury. He’d planned on a career in the military, but that identity was suddenly gone. Facing a series of surgeries and feeling adrift in the civilian world, Holguin isolated himself. He turned to gaming, an activity he’d enjoyed since childhood, and found the sense of inclusion he was craving.

“It gave me an outlet, a virtual efficacy within a world that I didn’t feel like I had a place in anymore,” says Holguin. “I made a lot of social connections and friends through that virtual space.”

Holguin went back to school, studying clinical psychology with a focus on trauma and PTSD. He has designed research for Microsoft around mixed-reality devices and learning outcomes and is also a clinical psychology doctoral intern at the Northern Arizona VA Health Care System in Prescott, Arizona. For Holguin, gaming provided a space where he could gradually reintegrate into post-military life.

“It was a sense of belonging and a sense of safety,” he says. “When you have trauma and you’re depressed, sometimes even just a little bit of stimulation is too much and you just don’t have the cognitive or emotional resources to deal with other people’s well-meaning interactivity.

“Gaming gives you what we might call exposure therapy, meaning you get a little bit of socialization, but when you’re ready to turn it off you can turn it off,” Holguin says. “Gaming provided some significant therapeutic value for me.”

Jamie Kaplan, a recreation therapist at James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital in Tampa, Florida, has been using gaming as therapy with his patients — about 25 percent of whom have had traumatic spinal injuries — for seven years.

Kaplan, himself an avid gamer, says gaming provides a range of therapeutic benefits. Manipulating a controller and pressing buttons, for example, can help with motor skills. Decisions made throughout a game, from choosing which character to play to which moves to make, requires cognitive processing and visual processing, he says.

“It’s fine motor skills, gross motor skills, decision-making ability, information processing, cognitive processing,” Kaplan says. “We can assign a number of therapeutic values to gaming.”

Introducing the Xbox Adaptive Controller

www.youtube.com

Kaplan used various gaming systems and consoles with patients before getting an Xbox Adaptive Controller last fall. He particularly likes the Copilot feature, which was developed for Xbox One and links two controllers as if they were one, allowing players to team up on a game and share controls. The feature quickly became one of Xbox’s most popular ones and was built into the Xbox Adaptive Controller.

One of his patients, Kaplan says, was able to play with his brother for the first time in three years by using Copilot. “It’s amazing,” Kaplan says. “It allows me as the therapist to make up for whatever deficit the patient has in utilizing a regular controller or the adaptive controller.”

Kaplan uses games ranging from sports and racing games to virtual reality games and programs that allow veterans with limited mobility to try activities such as scuba diving, fishing or hiking. VR is useful for helping amputees work on balance, Kaplan says, and VR guided relaxation and meditation programs can help veterans reduce stress and anxiety — and potentially reduce reliance on pain medications such as opioids.

“I see chronic pain patients every day and tell them, ‘I’m not going to cure your pain; we’re just hoping to trick it for a little while,'” he says. “You’re distracting them from the pain by engaging them in gaming.”

Gaming has been part of Mike Monthervil’s life since his childhood growing up in Carrefour, Haiti, a suburban area southwest of Port-au-Prince. Monthervil’s family was one of the only ones in the neighborhood with a gaming system, but electricity was only available for part of each day. When the lights would come back on, Monthervil recalls, “every kid would be banging on our door to come and play a game.”

For Monthervil, gaming was a passion that also provided an escape from a challenging environment. “It was a very tough place to live. Kids don’t have a lot to do there,” he says. “Gaming made my childhood better. It took a lot of stress out for me.

“To this day, I still talk to the guys who are over there that I grew up with, that are still going through the hardship of being there,” he says.

Monthervil continued gaming after moving to the United States and later enlisting in the U.S. Army. Stationed in Afghanistan, he passed time playing games with his fellow soldiers between missions. But in July 2014, Monthervil sustained a serious spinal cord injury after falling backward into a ditch during a training session, leaving him unable to use his legs. He underwent surgery and spent nine months at James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital in Tampa, Florida. There he met Kaplan, who helped him adapt his gaming to accommodate the dexterity limitations caused by his accident.

Kaplan gave Monthervil an adaptive controller to try several years ago, but it was cumbersome and difficult for him to use. After getting an Xbox Adaptive Controller, Kaplan created a custom set-up for Monthervil by adding a few additional buttons. Monthervil recently got one of the controllers at home and says it works better for him than any device he’s tried since his injury.

“Of all the adaptive stuff I’ve tried, it’s by far the best one,” says Monthervil, who’s 26.

It was survival of the fittest at the 2019 CrossFit Games

Photo of Mike Monthervil gaming with the Xbox Adaptive Controller.

(Microsoft)

The Xbox collaboration is part of a strategic partnership between Microsoft and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs dating back more than 20 years. Recent efforts under the partnership have focused on equipping VA employees with productivity and collaboration technologies, migrating VA legacy systems to the cloud and using advanced analytics in VA call centers to give veterans better information to make decisions about their benefits and medical care.

Toni Townes-Whitley, president of U.S. Regulated Industries at Microsoft, says the Xbox Adaptive Controller collaboration is part of a broader effort to improve therapeutic and clinical care for veterans. But its fundamental goal is to harness technology to improve veterans’ lives, she says.

“It’s an example of using technology as a means to a much more significant end, which is a sense of belonging, being part of a team, a sense of reconnection, a sense of family,” she says.

Phil Spencer, executive vice president of gaming at Microsoft, sees the collaboration as an ideal pairing of Microsoft’s efforts to increase diversity and inclusion in gaming with the vast reach of the VA, which serves more than 9 million veterans nationwide in its health care system.

“Everyone can play games, and we really focus on that as an organization,” he says. “With the VA being the largest integrated health care provider in the U.S., we thought it was a perfect opportunity to bring our focus on gaming and the great work that the VA is doing together.”

Microsoft will use feedback and data collected by the VA centers to determine how effective the Xbox Adaptive Controller is in serving veterans and how the device might be improved going forward, Townes-Whitley says. Nelson believes the initiative will serve not just existing gamers, but also veterans who weren’t previously into gaming.

“If we do our job well and we’re able to expose veterans to (the Xbox Adaptive Controller) as a possible tool or intervention in their rehab process, I expect to find successes even in those folks who have never gamed before in their lives,” he says.

A 2018 study found that gaming can relieve stress for veterans, help them cope with moods and provide a way to connect. Kaplan also sees the Xbox Adaptive Controller as an equalizer for veterans and others with disabilities.

“One of the biggest things kids and adults with disabilities face is the stigma of being different. Online, we’re all the same,” he says. “I could be missing my arms or my legs and you wouldn’t know it. Gaming really helps to promote that feeling of normalcy and feeling of belonging.

“I have a lot of respect for Xbox seeing and filling a need for making something that allows military members and anyone who has a disability to be able to game,” Kaplan says.

“I think it’s great for a mainstream company like Microsoft to be the one to take the first step. I hope it encourages other companies to do that.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

10 details you should know about the Bergdahl case

On Oct. 16, 2017, Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl pleaded guilty to Desertion and Misbehavior Before the Enemy.


Following the plea, a military judge has heard testimony from numerous witnesses who either knew Bergdahl or were involved in the search to find him. Soon the military judge is expected to issue Bergdahl’s sentence based on his actions, his time in captivity and the impact on the soldiers who spent weeks searching across Afghanistan. We are the Mighty has been in the courtroom since the plea and has heard many details that haven’t been released before.

Here’s a list of ten things you should know before the Judge issues his sentence.

10. Bergdahl was a waiver Soldier

It was survival of the fittest at the 2019 CrossFit Games
Bowe Bergdahl.

Bergdahl entered the Army in 2008 with a waiver after being discharged from the Coast Guard nearly two years earlier. The Army has yet to confirm if his waiver was related to mental health issues, but upon his release from captivity, Bergdahl was diagnosed with schizotypal personality disorder. Some symptoms of this disorder include difficulty adjusting to social situations and a distrust of others. During the pre-trial hearings, the Army did rule that despite his diagnosis, Bergdahl did understand his actions when he walked away from his post in 2009.

9. He was described as “Squared Away”

During the trial testimony, some fellow soldiers — including his former leaders — have described Bergdahl as “squared away.” Numerous witnesses have said Bergdahl was always in the designated uniform, on time and in the right place. During his free time, he even read field manuals and philosophy books. This is one of the most interesting turns in the case and begs the question: “How did Bergdahl go from a squared away soldier to a deserter?”

Also read: This is why Bowe Bergdahl says he pleaded guilty

8. He deployed late

While the rest of Bergdahl’s unit, 4th Brigade 25th ID, deployed to Afghanistan in early 2009, he stayed behind with a staph infection. After recovering, Bergdahl finally deployed as an individual augment and was with his Platoon in Afghanistan for less than two months before he walked off.  When asked by the military judge during the trial if he knew that his service in Afghanistan was important, Bergdahl responded, “At the time, it was hard for me to understand.”

7. There were some red flags

It was survival of the fittest at the 2019 CrossFit Games
Bowe Bergdahl in a photo after his capture by Taliban insurgents. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

In the days and weeks before he walked off, Bergdahl displayed some behavior that might have seemed normal until strung together by investigators, revealing that he may have planned his desertion in advance.

First, he sent his computer home, which to many other soldiers would been weird since writing emails and watching movies is a great way to pass the down time of deployment.

Second, he went to finance and asked for a cash advance before he rotated back to his outpost and subsequently walked off.

Lastly, he left all his serialized gear (weapon, night vision, etc.) at his outpost. One soldier testified that when he found the gear in a neat pile he knew Bergdahl had left on his own.

6. His outpost was “Hell on Earth”

It was survival of the fittest at the 2019 CrossFit Games
Observation post Mest-Malak, where Bergdahl was stationed before leaving his post. (Photo from Reddit user OnlyBoweKnows.)

Bergdahl’s platoon was assigned to OP Mest, a small checkpoint in Paktika province close to the Pakistani border. OP Mest guarded a road intersection and was located literally right next to the village of Mest. The outpost was built in a dry river bed that often flooded during the spring rains. As a result of the poor weather and living conditions, many soldiers in the Platoon suffered from bad cases of dysentery. Additionally, the outpost was built over an Afghan cemetery; some soldiers even found bones as they were digging their fighting positions.

5. His platoon searched for 10 days straight

After Bergdahl was found missing, the other soldiers in his platoon took it upon themselves to find him.

In the first few hours and days, the platoon conducted a nearly constant rotation of patrols in the area to try and find Bergdahl. At one point, they stretched themselves so thin that only a Fire Team of three was left at the outpost to man the radio. Many of the soldiers describe the initial days of searching as a “complete hell.”

After 10 days, the platoon was allowed to rest and refit. Many soldiers had to buy new socks and uniforms that had literally rotted of their bodies. According to the Army lawyers, the official search for Bergdahl would last another 45 days.

4. SEAL Team 6 went after Bergdahl and the enemy killed their dog

During the first week of the search, SEAL Team 6 was ordered to find Bergdahl given their unique and specialized training in hostage recovery missions. When one of the SEALs testified at the trial, he remembered saying that “someone is going to get hurt or killed looking for this kid.” A few nights later, the SEALs raided a house where they suspected Bergdahl was being held. During the mission one of the SEALs was shot 7 times and his military working dog was killed by the enemy.

Related: Bowe Bergdahl just apologized to those hurt searching for him

3. The Afghan elections ended the search

The summer of 2009 was a critical point in the war in Afghanistan. The Afghan elections were scheduled for August and a major mission of U.S. forces was to protect the polling sites from attack and corruption. When Bergdahl walked off in late June, the timing couldn’t have been worse.

For weeks, thousands of soldiers across Afghanistan were ordered to shift their focus from counterinsurgency missions to search recovery operations to find Bergdahl. So many soldiers were flooded into the area where Bergdahl went missing that the Commanders on the ground created a second unit to coordinate the search effort.

By August, the focus shifted away from Bergdahl to the elections and the future of Afghanistan.

2. He’s been an Intel source since his return

It was survival of the fittest at the 2019 CrossFit Games
A clip from a video released during Bergdahl’s captivity.

When Bergdahl returned to U.S. forces in 2014, he was immediately questioned about his time in captivity. During the trial, some of intelligence officers testified that Bergdahl was a “gold mine” of information.

Bergdahl’s intelligence value has been defined in two ways. First, a DOD representative of the group that runs Survival, Evasion, Resistance Escape (SERE) school stated that Bergdahl’s detailed description of his captivity will help “prepare forces in the future.” Secondly, the lead intelligence analyst who follows the Haqqani Network, the group that held Bergdahl for nearly 5 years, told the military judge that the information from the debrief helped “build [an understanding] of the capture network like it’s never been done before.”

1. His charges were reduced before he pleaded guilty

The Army initially charged Bergdahl with Desertion and Misbehavior Before the Enemy during Combat Operations in Afghanistan. However, after months of arguments by the lawyers on both sides, Bergdahl finally pleaded guilty to Desertion and Misbehavior Before the Enemy during guard duty at OP Mest and a possible convoy patrol scheduled for the following day.

While this change may seem minor, the distinction is critical during the sentencing phase of the trial. The military judge will now only consider Bergdahl’s actions for the first few hours before he was captured by the enemy instead of the nearly five years Bergdahl was missing.

Articles

Afghanistan commander says new rules allow U.S. troops to go on the offensive

The commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan revealed July 12 he’s been using new rules of engagement that allow his command to deploy American and NATO forces to aid Afghan troops who are on the attack.


The new policy marks a sharp departure from previous authorities for the use of force that restricted U.S. and allied combat power to last ditch efforts to save Afghan troops from defeat.

Afghan mission commander U.S. Army Gen. John Nicholson said in a press briefing in Kabul that now U.S. and NATO forces can use airpower and other troops “so that the Afghan Army can assume the offensive against the enemy.”

“As we focused on it this year, we used our in-extremis authorities that we had at the time to help prevent a strategic defeat. … It was in a defensive, reactive kind of manner,” Nicholson said. “With the new authorities that we have now, as of June, we’re able to then provide combat enablers to assist the Afghans … taking the initiative against the enemy and their staging areas.”

The new authority comes on the heels of a stinging Pentagon report that showed special operations forces trying to help Afghan troops fight off a Taliban takeover of Kunduz in 2015 were hamstrung over rules of engagement that left them confused over when they could fight.

According to the report obtained by Reuters, commandos who radioed back for clarification of the ROEs were left hanging by superiors in the rear.

“Sadly, the only sounds audible were the sounds of crickets … though those were hard to hear over the gunfire,” one special operator said in the Pentagon report, according to Reuters.

Nicholson launched a reassessment of the Afghanistan operation, dubbed “Resolute Support Mission,” when he assumed command in February. And in June he was given new authority to help Afghan troops on offense.

In one battle, Nicholson explained he was able to sortie F-16s to strike Taliban positions outside Tarin Kowt to help Afghan forces clear roads cut off by insurgents.

“Since that operation … we’re using our new authorities so that the Afghan army can assume the offensive against the enemy in Maiwand District, Band-e-Timor area, which is a well-known staging area. So it’s offensive,” Nicholson said.

President Obama announced last week he would keep about 8,500 American troops assigned to Afghanistan to fight the continued Taliban insurgency and fight terrorist groups.

Nicholson said during his press conference that about 3,000 U.S. troops would be assigned to continue training and advising Afghan troops, with another 3,300 “enablers,” including helicopter and fixed wing aircraft crews, assigned to give the Afghans a little extra combat punch.

The force also includes about 2,150 troops dedicated to the counterterrorism mission and about 400 troops based in other countries but helping with the Resolute Support mission.

MIGHTY HISTORY

3 historic wars that are still technically alive today

International diplomacy is a sort of constantly evolving, tangled mess. So much so that, in some cases, we could technically still be at war with a country that we’re now allied with. For instance, America never ratified the treaty that ended World War I, but invading Germany to finally settle the century-old grudge match would get fairly complicated since it’s now a NATO member. Here are three wars that we never bothered to wrap up on paper (but please don’t try to go fight in them):


It was survival of the fittest at the 2019 CrossFit Games

U.S. Army infantrymen fight during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive of World War I.

(U.S. Army)

America never agreed to the final terms of World War I

Yup, we’ll just go ahead and knock out this one that we hinted at in the intro. America signed, but never ratified, the Treaty of Versailles that ended World War I.

Oddly enough, though, this wasn’t because of issues with the lay of the land in Europe as the war closed, or even land claims or military restrictions around the world. The actual issue was that American President Woodrow Wilson wanted to establish the League of Nations, the precursor to the United Nations, and he used the treaty to do it.

But isolationists in Congress didn’t want America to join the league, and so they shot down all attempts to ratify the treaty at home. And America only officially adopts treaties when ratified, not signed, so America never actually agreed to the final terms of World War I.

It was survival of the fittest at the 2019 CrossFit Games

Gurkha troops march to escort Japanese prisoners of war at the end of World War II in 1945.

(Imperial War Museums)

Japan and China never made peace after World War II

There are a number of still-simmering tensions between combatants from World War II, including the Kuril Islands Dispute between Russia and Japan.

(This author even once made the error of saying that Russia and Japan were still at war, which is only sort of right. While the two countries never agreed to a treaty ending the conflict, they did agree to a Joint Declaration in 1956 that had a similar effect. Essentially, it said they couldn’t yet agree to a treaty, but they were no longer fighting the war.)

But there was an Allied country that never reached peace with Japan: China. And China arguably suffered the worst under Japanese aggression. But, because of the civil war in China at the time, there were two rival governments claiming to represent China, and no one could agree on which government to invite. So China didn’t take part in the peace process at all.

So China and Japan never technically ended their hostilities, and Japan’s almost-peace with Russia is not quite finished either.

It was survival of the fittest at the 2019 CrossFit Games

Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, visits the Demilitarized Zone on the Korean Peninsula in 2015.

(Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique A. Pineiro)

The Koreas are, famously, still at war.

The ongoing state of conflict on the Korean Peninsula is probably the most famous issue on this list. The Korean War sort of ended on July 27, 1953, when the United Nations and the Delegation of the Korean People’s Army and the Chinese People’s Volunteers signed the Korean Armistice Agreement which instituted a truce between North and South Korea.

But, importantly, no national government agreed to the armistice or the truce. The militaries involved essentially agreed to stop killing each other, but the larger governments never came together to hash out the real peace. And this is a problem since the two countries have a much more tense relationship than any other group on this list.

America and Germany are not suddenly going to revert back to 1918 and start killing each other again. But South and North Koreans at the border still sometimes shoot at one another, and people have died in border clashes.

popular

The daring sabotage raid that kept Nazis from getting The Bomb

For much of the Second World War, German engineers and scientists were at the top of their game in developing nuclear fission. As early as 1939, the best minds in Germany were put to work on splitting the atom. They were attempting to use heavy water to control the fission process. Their main source of heavy water production was in occupied Norway, which was a devastating mistake.

They would never get the chance to develop an atomic bomb because Norwegian resistance fighters would blow up the heavy water facilities rather than help the Nazis win World War II.


It was survival of the fittest at the 2019 CrossFit Games
Their objective, the Vemork Heavy Water facility in Norway. (Wikimedia Commons)

British commandos tried to destroy the Vemork heavy water facilities in 1942 but were unsuccessful. Operation Grouse planned for Norwegian scouts to recon the area and provide intelligence for British commandos, who would land in gliders and assault the facility under Operation Freshman. But the gliders carrying the Freshman commandos crashed in the local area. One hit a mountain, killing everyone aboard. The other crashed, and some of the commandos survived, but were summarily executed by the Gestapo.

But the Grouse Norwegians were still operating in the area, living off the land, waiting for further instructions.

It was survival of the fittest at the 2019 CrossFit Games
These are Norsemen we’re talking about, after all. (Wikimedia Commons)

With the Norwegians still in position, the plan was given a second go-ahead. The Grouse scouts were now called Operation Swallow and the second raid on Vemork was dubbed Operation Gunnerside. The Gunnerside assault team would be an all-Norwegian squad, parachuting in to rendezvous with the Swallow team. Gunnerside launched on Feb. 16, 1943 – and immediately, things went wrong.

Though not as catastrophic as the first raid on Vemork, these problems caused major delays. The infiltrating Norwegians were dropped into Norway under the cover of snowfall, but they were accidentally dropped miles away from their target. It took the team five days to get to Vemork. They made it, though, and were able to connect with the Swallow group.

It was survival of the fittest at the 2019 CrossFit Games
Reconstruction of the Operation Gunnerside team planting explosives (Wikimedia Commons)

Unfortunately for the new raiders, the failure of the previous raid on Vemork prompted the Nazis to improve the facilities defenses. All the direct routes into the facility were now heavily guarded or mined. The raiders were forced to climb down into a gorge, cross a frozen river, and then climb a 500-foot cliff wall to access the building. There was a piece of luck for the Norwegians, however. A railroad line in the gorge led to the facility and was relatively unguarded.

After cutting into the facility’s fence, the group split into two teams: a four-man explosives unit and a five-man cover unit. The explosives team was accidentally split up after two men entered the facility through an access tunnel. The two others, presumably lost, broke in through a window. Each team set their explosives independently, cut their timing cord from two minutes to thirty seconds, and bolted.

Operation Gunnerside
Members of the team for Operation: Swallow meeting King Haakon VII in 1948

The successful saboteurs fled on skis toward the town of Rjukan, where they split up. The four men in the explosive unit skied in full British uniforms the entire 200 miles to the border with Sweden. The cover team spread out to draw the Germans away. The Nazis launched a full search for their infiltrators, but none were captured or killed in their pursuit.

The commanding officer of all German forces stationed in Norway called the damage caused by Operation Gunnerside as “the most splendid coup.” The facility was up and running again soon after, but an American bombing raid would force the Germans to move their heavy water production to Germany. All the heavy water from the plant was moved to a ferry for safekeeping in Germany.

That ferry was sunk by Norwegian saboteurs on its way back to the Reich.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The key to conversation: Vulnerability is not a weakness

Have you ever been lost for words in how to approach a serious conversation? As military spouses, we may feel vulnerability is a bad thing, but it’s crucial to have meaningful, heartfelt conversations. Have you ever shared legitimate fears, hoping for a safe space to find relief, and were met with jokes or platitudes? Here are a few ways we weave vulnerability into our conversations.


Please, Sir, can I have some more?

Asking for what you need might sound demanding, but this request allows the other person to know what you’re looking for to support you better. Ideas for phrase starters could look like: “I’m looking for encouragement…advice…a reminder I’m not crazy and can do this,” Sometimes as listeners, we advise because we want to help when the other person is just looking to vent or verbally process. Knowing this information beforehand gives the listener insight into how to respond in a way that nourishes each of you.

Let’s take it to the next level

What do you do when you want to have a serious conversation and do not want to be brushed aside or met with sarcasm? Using this ‘level’ tool, you can set the tone for discussion beforehand.

  • Level 1 is everyday chat, light-hearted fun.
  • Level 3 is, ‘I want you to take me seriously and hear me out; please don’t make light of this.’
  • Level 5 is divorce talks or a year-long unaccompanied tour announcement. A high stakes all-hands-on-deck conversation.

By stating the level, you give the person you are hoping to talk with an understanding of where you are mentally.

Hurry Up and Wait

Be prepared to wait if you ask for a level 3+ conversation. If they are in the middle of a project, they may need to get back to you later to give you proper attention. Adding more care to our conversations is a gift. Providing clarity on the topic helps them mentally prepare as well. For example: “Hey, hun, I’d love to have a level 3 about your deployment next week, we need to make a plan,” or, “Hey, mom, level 5, I’m four months into a one-year deployment, with three kids. I’m not okay. I need help.”

When we share the topic of conversation and use an easy tool like levels, we can let people know the seriousness of our feelings before the discussion even starts. Using these tools can change the conversation from one of frustration to one of vulnerability and met hearts.

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.

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