The newspaper Stars and Stripes has an interesting little niche in its place in American journalism. Wherever the Armed Forces of the United States may go, Stars and Stripes reporters might just go along with them. The idea of such a paper can be traced back to the Civil War, the reporting as we know it dates back to World War I. While the paper is a government-funded entity reporting on military operations, you might find it full of the hardest-working most objective staff in the world.
And if their movie is to be believed, maybe the craziest staff in the world to boot.
The documentary film The World’s Most Dangerous Paper Route is the story of the unsung heroes who deliver the news to the front lines of Iraq, Afghanistan, and anywhere else the U.S. military gets the newspaper – and everywhere they’ve been for the past 100 years. The film includes never-before-seen imagery from the Stars and Stripes archive of photographers and writers who were in the war zones with the fighting men and women from Verdun to Saigon.
The list of correspondents and contributors to the legendary newspaper include Andy Rooney, Bill Maudlin, Steve Kroft, Shel Silverstein, and Pulitzer Prize-winner Pete Arnett, to name just a few. Even the civilians working on the staff used to see combat – one civilian in Vietnam even saw action with every major combat unit to go through the country during the war.
How does one news outlet get so much access to the United States military while still retaining their credibility, you might ask. The answer is that even though Stars and Stripes is funded by the Department of Defense, its creative and editorial direction are protected from the Pentagon by Congress. It is something that the readership of the paper looked forward to receiving every time they could, so says Gen. David Petraeus, interviewed for The World’s Most Dangerous Paper Route.
“It is, in a way, the hometown newspaper of the U.S. military,” Petraeus says.
This is an organization that not only knew what was happening back home, as a matter of course, but also was embedded with the troops on the ground, and knew what was going on in-country. The reporters at Stars and Stripes put their lives on the line to produce a newspaper for the troops – and anyone who might pick up a copy.
In The World’s Most Dangerous Paper Route, the viewer goes on a journey downrange to the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan to see what it’s like to cover the United States military and its operations in today’s Global War on Terror. In places like Afghanistan, picking up the computer and getting a wifi signal isn’t as easy as it may be anywhere else in the world. Here, physical newspapers that provide unquestioned reporting are all American forces have to read and understand the world around them and the world which continues to go on without them back home.
Find out how important the newspaper has been to American troops, see the unparalleled access and legendary images captured by the Stars and Stripes staff, and feel the nerve-wracking stress of seeing an unarmed camera operator out in combat, carrying only a camera.
The World’s Most Dangerous Paper Route can be watched free with an Amazon Prime subscription.
Love them or hate them, military balls are a right of passage for each member and their significant other. Dressing up, eating the food (and then grabbing McDonalds on your way home) and awkwardly making small talk with those at your table — this is a sacred and honored tradition that still reigns throughout military branches today. Whether you embrace each ball and plan it for months in advance, or show up last minute, kicking and screaming, it’s a common tradition we know all too well.
Take a look at these memes that outline just how the night will likely play out.
When being voluntold gets pricey.
Don’t forget about the cash bar.
Be on the lookout for cadets, errr ummm, privates at all times.
When their jam comes on, get OUT of the way.
Spouses are thankful to get their glam on.
Tomorrow, back to look one.
The crew who should’ve double checked their look.
But the people watching is excellent.
As are the conversations overheard in the bathroom.
For their sake, you’re hoping that’s true.
And then there’s things that make you say, “But whyyy??”
Also, is this legal?
The crew who takes tipsy to a whole new level.
Bless them and their Sunday hangovers.
You might not be sure about your choice of dinner.
Snack before you go. No matter what.
It’s a look.
We aren’t sure if he likes it or not.
But you’re sure to have good stories in the morning.
Just remember, on Monday, they never happened.
Military balls are bound to be a night for the books. Whatever your favorite part about the event, remember to keep it classy. While technically it’s a party, it’s also a work party, with bosses in tow.
What’s your most memorable event about a past military ball? Let us know below.
Britain is planning to almost double its number of troops in Afghanistan, Prime Minister Theresa May has announced.
May on July 10, 2018, said the British military will deploy an extra 440 troops, bringing the country’s total to about 1,100, as it looks to assist Afghan forces in their battle against Taliban and Islamic State (IS) insurgents.
The move comes a day before the start a potentially contentious NATO summit in Brussels on July 11, 2018, with U.S. President Donald Trump demanding that members contribute more to the alliance’s efforts and their own national defense.
Trump has called on allies to send reinforcements to Afghanistan to help deal with the security situation the country, where a NATO-led mission is assisting the Western-backed government in Kabul.
“In committing additional troops to the Train Advise Assist operation in Afghanistan, we have underlined once again that when NATO calls, the U.K. is among the first to answer,” May said.
The additional troops will not be in a combat role and will instead take part in NATO’s Resolute Support mission to train and assist Afghan forces.
British troops, like the bulk of Western forces, ended combat operations in 2014, handing battlefield duties mainly over to Afghan forces.
About half of the British troops will arrive in August 2018, with the rest coming in February 2019. They will be based in Kabul.
Trump in 2017 announced that the United States would send thousands more troops to Afghanistan and has asked other NATO countries to send reinforcements as well.
Citing U.S. officials, Reuters reported on July 10, 2018, that the U.S. administration is planning another major review of its strategy in Afghanistan “in the next few months.”
The Kabul government has struggled in the past year against resurgent Taliban fighters, along with IS, Al-Qaeda, and other militants, some 17 years after a U.S.-led coalition drove the Taliban from rule in Afghanistan.
A Russian cruise missile that the country touted as having “practically unlimited” range appears to be falling short, sources with knowledge of a US intelligence report told CNBC.
The cruise missile, which Russian President Vladimir Putin unveiled at a Russian Federal Assembly in March 2018, only flew for around two minutes and traveled 22 miles before it lost control and crashed, CNBC reported May 21, 2018. Another missile test reportedly lasted just four seconds with a distance of five miles.
Russia tested the missile four times between November 2017, and February 2018, at the behest of senior officials, even though engineers voiced doubt over the program, according to CNBC’s sources.
Putin previously touted a new generation of weapons in a presentation that displayed missile trajectories going from Russia to the US. In addition to the cruise missile, Putin teased unmanned underwater drones purportedly capable of carrying a nuclear warhead, and a hypersonic glide vehicle.
“I want to tell all those who have fueled the arms race over the last 15 years, sought to win unilateral advantages over Russia, introduced unlawful sanctions aimed to contain our country’s development: All what you wanted to impede with your policies have already happened,” Putin said in a speech. “You have failed to contain Russia.”
Russia’s cruise missile capabilities may have missed the mark, but sources said it succeeded in other aspects. The hypersonic glide vehicle, which is believed to be able to travel five times the speed of sound, would render US countermeasures useless and could become operational by 2020, according to CNBC.
“We don’t have any defense that could deny the employment of such a weapon against us,” US Air Force General John Hyten, the commander of US Strategic Command, said at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing in March 2018.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Do you have that buddy who scratches messages into his M4 rounds? Or maybe you’re the sailor who Sharpies “This one’s for you” onto JDAMs destined for a flight over the Gulf. Regardless, it turns out that you’re part of a tradition that dates back to a few hundred years before Jesus.
Yeah, we’re all comedians.
(Air Force Master Sgt. Dave Nolan)
Writing messages on bombs, missiles, and other munitions is a common and long-standing tradition. After the 9/11 Attacks, messages of solidarity for New York and vengeance against al Qaeda and the Taliban started popping up on bombs headed for Afghanistan. Hussein and the Ba’ath party were favorite targets for graffiti over Iraq in the early 2000s.
More recently, bombs headed for Iraq and Syria have had messages for ISIS and Baghdadi, and messages supporting Paris were popular after the attacks in 2015.
Obviously, there’s about zero chance in Hell that anyone on the receiving end will actually read the messages. After all, the bomb casings will get obliterated when they go off. But it’s fun for the troops and lets them get a little steam out. Most service members will never fire a weapon, drop a bomb, or throw a grenade in anger.
(Imperial War Museum)
So it can sometimes be hard for support troops to connect their actions to dismantling ISIS, defeating Saddam, or destroying al Qaeda. It helps the ordnance crews reinforce their part of the mission, and they can imagine their Sharpie-soaked pieces of shrapnel shredding enemy fighters.
But this tradition really dates back. In World War II, British troops designated bombs to destroy the German battleship Tirpitz. And these Americans were hoping their bombs would be great party favors for the Third Reich.
When President Donald Trump threatened to send missiles at Syria — despite Russia’s promises to counterattack— all eyes turned toward the US Navy’s sole destroyer in the region. But that may have been a trick.
Pundits openly scoffed at Trump’s announcement early April 2018, of the US’s intention to strike, especially considering his criticism of President Barack Obama for similarly telegraphing US military plans, but the actual strike appeared successful.
In April 2017, two US Navy destroyers in the eastern Mediterranean steamed into the region, let off 59 cruise missiles in response to gas attacks by the Syrian government, and left unpunished and unpursued.
But this time, with the US considering its response to another attack against civilians blamed on the Syrian government, Russian officials threatened to shoot down US missiles, and potentially the ships that launched them, if they attacked Syria. A retired Russian admiral spoke candidly about sinking the USS Donald Cook, the only destroyer in the region.
When the strike happened April 14, 2018, local time, the Cook didn’t fire a shot, and a source told Bloomberg News it was a trick.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Edward Guttierrez III)
Instead, a US submarine, the USS John Warner, fired missiles while submerged in the eastern Mediterranean, presenting a much more difficult target than a destroyer on the surface. Elsewhere, a French frigate let off three missiles.
But the bulk of the firing came from somewhere else entirely: the Red Sea.
Near Egypt, the USS Monterey, a Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser, fired 30 Tomahawk cruise missiles, and the USS Laboon, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, shot seven, accounting for about a third of the 105 missiles the US said were fired.
Combined with an air assault from a US B-1B Lancer bomber and UK and French fighter jets, the attack ended up looking considerably different from 2017’s punitive strike.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Peter Reft)
Photos from the morning of the attack show Syrian air defenses firing missile interceptors on unguided trajectories, suggesting they did not target or intercept incoming missiles.
“No Syrian weapon had any effect on anything we did,” Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie told reporters of the strike on April 14, 2018, calling the strike “precise, overwhelming, and effective.”
Syria said it shot down 71 missiles, but no evidence has surfaced to back up that claim. The US previously acknowledged that one of the Tomahawks used in last year’s attack failed to reach its target because of an error with the missile.
When Poto Liefi awoke on September 11, 2001 he wasn’t thinking about being a soldier or going to war. He was a 38-year-old commercial artist working in Los Angeles, and he had just helped launch a new Sketchers shoe campaign for Target.
Poto was good at what he did and enjoyed the work.
After Poto pivoted from fine arts to commercial arts – a few years out of art school – he went from working on clothing and backpack lines to designing shoes.
“I learned how to create a product line,” he said. “And I also learned where my work fit relative to the entire product line.”
He followed his work for Sketchers with a line of hiking boots that, in turn, turned into Taos footwear, a women’s shoe company.
Then the World Trade Center towers fell, and the Pentagon was hit.
He decided to join the Army. Most of his colleagues in the designer world thought he was crazy. Even his recruiter – after visiting his expansive glass office – asked why he was leaving a comfortable world behind.
“I wasn’t satisfied with work anymore,” Poto said. “I had the news going all the time, and I felt a sense of responsibility to do something.”
The maximum age for recruits had just been upped from 34 to 42 when Poto showed up to Fort Jackson for basic training as a 38 year-old recruit. “I lucked out big time,” he said.
After boot camp he was given a 25M Multimedia Illustrator designation. “At first I thought it was stupid to get paid peanuts for the same job I was doing on the outside,” he said. “But after I did the research I saw there was a lot more to it.”
Poto was assigned to 304th Psychological Operations Company, and in 2008 he deployed to Fallujah, Iraq. He immediately put his skills to work on posters, billboards, and web content.
“I was surprised at what we were able to do with the proper messaging,” he said. “We actually had campaigns, branding the Iraqi Security Forces. We were getting a good, consistent message on the streets, and getting locals to rally around an ideology.”
He returned to the U.S. at the end of 2008. Less than a year and a half later he was deployed again, this time to Afghanistan with the 344th Psychological Operations Company.
“Just as I’d sold Iraq to the Iraqis I had to sell Afghanistan to Afghans.”
Part of the time Poto worked with the Australian Army based in Uruzgan, and there he realized they needed to deviate from the standard Army playbook to be effective.
“We had to take our military goggles off,” he said. “We weren’t the only media outlet the locals were exposed to.”
But in spite of the challenges Poto believes they accomplished their mission. He sums up his experience at war with a simple thought: “Pride shows.”
He returned home in March of 2011, a 43-year-old corporal ready to transition back to the civilian workforce. But it was anything but a smooth process. Reintegration was tough in spite of his pre-military work experience, a circumstance he blames on his age and the stigma of post traumatic stress. It took him three years to find a full-time job.
He finally landed a job as a supply chain manager at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Corona, California.
Poto’s transition advice to veterans following him back to the civilian side is straightforward: “Never feel entitled,” he said. “Be thankful, be respectful, and be real still.”
At the same time he held fast to his creative side. One day he took the image of a soldier who’d fallen in Iraq – PFC Corrina Lau – and superimposed it into a classic war poster. The result was powerful and immediate.
“I got very emotional reactions from the first people I showed the artwork to,” Poto said. “They said things like, ‘This is alive.'”
Poto did similar artwork for the families of other fallen warriors, and the response compelled him to brand the effort “Freedom’s On Me.”
“Freedom’s On Me is a way to keep the legacies of these service members alive,” Poto explains. “These are people that were in the military, not a bunch of robots.”
The Marine Corps is adopting a new precision sniper rifle to increase the lethality and combat effectiveness of scout snipers on the battlefield.
The Mk13 Mod 7 Sniper Rifle is a bolt-action rifle that offers an increased range of fire and accuracy when compared to current and legacy systems. It includes a long-action receiver, stainless steel barrel, and an extended rail interface system for a mounted scope and night vision optic.
The Mk13 is scheduled for fielding in late 2018 and throughout 2019. Units receiving the Mk13 include infantry and reconnaissance battalions and scout sniper schoolhouses. This weapon is already the primary sniper rifle used by Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command, or MARSOC.
Fielding the Mk13 ensures the Corps has commonality in its equipment set and Marine scout snipers have the same level of capability as North Atlantic Treaty Organization forces, said Master Sgt. Shawn Hughes from III MEF.
“When the Mk13 Mod 7 is fielded, it will be the primary sniper rifle in the Marine Corps,” said Lt. Col. Paul Gillikin, Infantry Weapons team lead at Marine Corps Systems Command. “The M40A6 will remain in the schoolhouses and operating forces as an alternate sniper rifle primarily used for training. The M110 and M107 will also remain as additional weapons within the scout sniper equipment set.”
The Marine Corps identified a materiel capability gap in the maximum effective ranges of its current sniper rifles. After a comparative assessment was conducted, it was clear that the Mk13 dramatically improved scout sniper capabilities in terms of range and terminal effects.
The 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines Scout Sniper Platoon used the weapon for over a year (including during a deployment) in support of the 2025 Sea Dragon Exercise. Feedback from MCSC’s assessment, MARSOC’s operational use, and 3/5’s testing of the weapon system led to its procurement of the Mk13 for the Corps.
The Mk13 increases scout snipers’ range by roughly 300 meters and will use the .300 Winchester Magnum caliber round, a heavier grain projectile with faster muzzle velocity — characteristics that align Marine sniper capability with the U.S. Army and Special Operations Command.
“The .300 Winchester Magnum round will perform better than the current 7.62 NATO ammo in flight, increasing the Marine Sniper’s first round probability of hit,” said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Tony Palzkill, Battalion Gunner for Infantry Training Battalion. “This upgrade is an incredible win and will allow snipers to engage targets at greater distances.”
The Mk13 will also be fielded with an enhanced day optic that provides greater magnification range and an improved reticle.
“This sniper rifle will allow Marines to reengage targets faster with precise long-range fire while staying concealed at all times,” said Sgt. Randy Robles, Quantico Scout Sniper School instructor and MCSC liaison.
“The new day optic allows for positive identification of enemies at greater distances, and it has a grid-style reticle that allows for rapid reengagement without having to dial adjustments or ‘hold’ without a reference point,” he said. “With this type of weapon in the fleet, we will increase our lethality and be able to conceal our location because we are creating a buffer between us and the enemy.”
MCSC completed New Equipment Training for the Mk13 with a cross section of Marines from active-duty, Reserve and training units in early April 2018.
“The snipers seemed to really appreciate the new capabilities that come with this rifle and optic,” said project officer Capt. Frank Coppola. “After the first day on the range, they were sold.”
In a time where technology, ammunition and small arms weapon systems are advancing at an increasingly rapid rate, it is extremely important to ensure the Marine Corps is at the forefront of procuring and fielding new and improved weapon systems to the operating forces, said Gillikin.
“Doing this enables the Corps to maintain the advantage over its enemies on the battlefield, as well as to secure its trusted position as the rapid crisis response force for the United States,” he said.
The United States fielded a number of famous fighters in World War II. The P-40 Warhawk, the P-47 Thunderbolt, the F4F Wildcat, the F6F Hellcat, the P-38 Lightning, the F4U Corsair, and the P-51 Mustang all made huge marks. There was one plane, however, that did a lot of damage to the Axis but didn’t enjoy the same fanfare.
And it makes sense — because the Bell P-63 Kingcobra never saw action with the United States.
The P-63 Kingcobra did most of its fighting for the Soviet Air Force, where it served as a tank-buster, armed with a 37mm cannon (about 25 percent bigger than the A-10’s gun), that could also hold its own in the air.
The Kingcobra also packed four M2 .50-caliber machine guns — two in the nose (with 200 rounds per gun) and two in the wings (with 900 rounds per gun). These guns proved more than enough to take out German fighters. The Kingcobra also was able to carry up to three 500-pound bombs or drop tanks. And, with a top speed of 410 miles per hour, this plane was no slowpoke.
The P-63 packed a single 37mm auto-cannon and four .50-caliber machine guns.
Nearly 2,400 Kingcobras were provided to the Soviet Union under the provisions of the Lend-Lease policy. Despite its solid performance, the Soviets never gave this plane much credit for what it did to the Nazis, preferring to highlight the Ilyushin Il-2 Sturmovik, a Russian design, for propaganda purposes.
Some P-63s did serve in the American military – as training aids for pilots headed overseas.
The P-63 also saw some service with the French, who got 112 planes and used them in Indochina until they got second-hand F8F Bearcats from the United States.
In a way, the Kingcobra did serve in the United States — mostly as either aerial targets or target tugs to help American pilots practice their gunnery. Some were even slated to become (but were never used as) target drones.
Learn more about this forgotten fighter in the video below.
It is a dangerous and unpredictable time, and the United States must reverse any erosion in its military capabilities and capacities, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said at the Military Reporters and Editors conference Oct. 26, 2018.
Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford is confident the U.S. military can protect the homeland and fulfill its alliance commitments today, but he must also look at the long-term competitive advantage and that causes concern.
He said the competitive advantage the U.S. military had a decade ago has eroded. “This is why our focus is very much on making sure we get the right balance between today’s capabilities and tomorrow’s capabilities so we can maintain that competitive advantage,” Dunford said.
Strategic alliances provide strength
The greatest advantage the United States has — the center of gravity, he said — is the system of alliances and partners America maintains around the world.
“That is what I would describe as our strategic source of strength,” he said.
This network is at the heart of the U.S. defense and security strategy, Dunford said. “We really revalidated, I think, what our threat assessors have known for many years, is that that network of allies and partners is truly unique to the United States of America and it is truly something that makes us different,” the general said.
Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, describes the global strategic environment during a presentation at the Military Reporters and Editors Conference in Arlington, Va., Oct. 26, 2018.
(DOD photo by Jim Garamone)
A related aspect is the U.S. ability to project and maintain power “when and where necessary to advance our national interests,” Dunford said.
“We have had a competitive advantage on being able to go virtually any place in the world,” he said, “and deliver the men and women and materiel and equipment, and put it together in that capability and be able to accomplish the mission.”
This is what is at the heart of great power competition, the general said. “When Russia and China look at us, I think they also recognize that it is our network of allies and partners that makes us strong,” he said.
Challenges posed by Russia, China
Broadly, Russia is doing what it can to undermine the North Atlantic Alliance and China is doing what it can to separate the United States from its Pacific allies. Strategically, Russia and China are working to sow doubt about the United States’ commitment to allies. Operationally, these two countries are developing capabilities to counter the U.S. advantages. These are the seeds to the anti-access/area denial capabilities the countries are developing. “I prefer to look at this problem less as them defending against us and more as what we need to do to assure our ability to project power where necessary to advance our interests,” Dunford said.
These are real threats and include maritime capabilities, offensive cyber capabilities, electromagnetic spectrum, anti-space capabilities, and modernization of the nuclear enterprise and strike capabilities. These capabilities are aimed at hitting areas of vulnerability in the American military or in striking at the seams between the warfighting domains.
“In order for us to be successful as the U.S. military, we’ve got to be able to project power to an area … and then once we’re there we’ve got to be able to freely maneuver across all domains … sea, air, land, space, and cyberspace,” the chairman said.
This requires a more flexible strategy, he said. During the Cold War, the existential threat to the United States emanated from the Soviet Union and strategy concentrated on that. Twenty years ago, this was different. The National Security Strategy of 1998 didn’t address nations threatening the U.S. homeland.
“To the extent that we talked about terrorism in 1998, we talked about the possible linkage between terrorism and weapons of mass destruction,” Dunford said. “For the most part, what we talked about were regional challenges that could be addressed regionally with coherent action within a region, not transregional challenges.”
Transregional threats are a fact of life today and must be addressed, the general said. “What I’m suggesting to you, is in addition to the competitive advantage having eroded, the character of war has fundamentally changed in my regard in two ways,” he said. “Number one, I believe any conflict … is going to be transregional — meaning, it’s going to cut across multiple geographic areas, and in our case, multiple combatant commanders.”
Another characteristic of the character of war today is speed and speed of change, he said. “If you’re uncomfortable with change, you’re going to be very uncomfortable being involved in information technology today,” the general said. “And if you’re uncomfortable with change, you’re going to be uncomfortable with the profession of arms today because of the pace of change. It’s virtually every aspect of our profession is changing at a rate that far exceeds any other time in my career.”
U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
(DoD Photo by U.S. Army Sgt. James K. McCann)
He noted that when he entered the military in 1977, the tactics he used with his first platoon would have been familiar to veterans of World War II or the Korean War. The equipment and tactics really hadn’t changed much in 40 years.
But take a lieutenant from 2000 and put that person in a platoon “and there’s virtually nothing in that organization that hasn’t changed in the past 16 or 17 years,” Dunford said. “This has profound impacts on our equipment, our training, the education of our people.”
This leads, he said, to the necessity of global integration. “When we think about the employment of the U.S. military, number one we’ve got to be informed by the fact that we have great power competition and we’re going to have to address that globally,” he said.
The Russian challenge is not isolated to the plains of Europe. It is a global one, he said.
“China is a global challenge” as well, Dunford added.
American plans have historically zeroed-in on a specific geographic area as a contingency, the general said. “Our development of plans is more about the process of planning and developing a common understanding and having the flexibility to deal with the problem as it arises than it is with a predictable tool that assumes things will unfold a certain way in a contingency,” he said. “So we’ve had to change our planning from a focus on a narrow geographic area to the development of global campaign plans that actually look at these problem sets in a global context. When we think about contingency planning, we have to think about contingencies that might unfold in a global context.”
This has profound implications for resource allocation, Dunford said. Forces are a limited resource and must be parceled out with the global environment in mind. “The way we prioritize and allocate forces has kind of changed from a bottom-up to a top-down process as a result of focusing on the strategy with an inventory that is not what it was relative to the challenges we faced back in the 1990s,” he said.
In the past, the defense secretary’s means of establishing priorities came through total obligation authority. The secretary would assign a portion of the budget to each one of the service departments and the services would develop capabilities informed by general standards of interoperability. At the time, this meant the American military had sufficient forces that would allow it to maintain a competitive advantage.
“Because the competitive advantage has eroded, in my judgment, the secretary is going to have to be much more focused on the guidance he gives,” Dunford said. “He not only has to prioritize the allocation of resources as we execute the budget, but he’s got to five, seven or 10 years before that, make sure that the collective efforts of the services to develop the capabilities that we need tomorrow are going to result in us having a competitive advantage on the backside.”
This fundamentally changes the force development/force design process, he said. “This is not changing because of a change in personalities. It’s not changing because different leaders are in place,” the general said. “It’s changing because the character of war has changed, the strategic environment … within which we are operating today and expect to be operating in five to seven years from now, will change. Frankly, were we to not change the fundamental processes that we have in place inside the department, we would not be able to maintain a competitive advantage five or seven years from now.”
The Blackhawks are one of the lesser-known superheroes in the DC Comics pantheon today, but from the 1940s to the 1960s, they were big names. The only hero who outsold them during the early years of their run was Superman.
Part of the appeal was their planes. In the 1950s, their primary mount was the Lockheed F-90, which they used to fight off their monster and alien foes.
But here’s the kicker – the plane they flew has some origin in fact, but it never got past the flight test stage.
Dubbed the “XF-90,” the experimental plane’s tale is one of the few real failures that came from Lockheed’s legendary Skunk Works.
According to aviation historian Joe Baugher, the Air Force was looking for a long-range jet fighter to escort bombers to targets. Lockheed went with the F-90, and proceeded to build it in a very sturdy fashion.
The good news was that this was one tough plane, and had six 20mm cannon (enough to blast just about any plane out of the sky), but it weighed 50 percent more than its competitor, the XF-88 Voodoo from McDonnell.
From the get-go, the XF-90 had problems. The plane was underpowered and was outperformed by the F-86A — even when afterburners were added to the plane’s two XJ34 jet engines. The Air Force chose the XF-88 Voodoo to be its penetration fighter, but that never went into production.
Only two XF-90s were built.
Lockheed had tried a number of other options, including the use of a single J47 engine to boost the F-90s performance, but there was too much re-design work involved. The first F-90 version the Blackhawks used, the F-90B, did feature a single engine. The second version, the F-90C, was said to be lighter version of the F-90B.
The Blackhawks eventually faded — partially due to some bad 1960s storylines — and the super hero team was eventually eclipsed by Batman and many of the superheroes who are familiar today.
And as for the XF-90 prototypes? One was tested to destruction by the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, and the other was banged up in the nuclear tests of the 1950s.
That second plane is currently in storage at the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio.
Chief Kuryla being promoted on the Glienicke Bridge, aka the “Bridge of Spies”. Photo credit Kuryla.
Steve Kuryla spent a lifetime serving in the intelligence community and in the U.S. Army. He was stationed in West Berlin and other hot locales around the globe. He has written a book titled “Six to Days to Zeus: Alive Day” that has been optioned in a screenplay and film production by two heavyweights in the Hollywood industry. A Deadline article in April of this year covers the production and is titled “Phillip Noyce To Direct Secret Iraq Mission Thriller ‘Alive Day;’ Mike Medavoy Producing.” He currently runs a program called Tier One Tranquility Base that helps veterans transitioning home where more information can be seen at https://tieronebase.org/index.html.
1. Can you share about your family and your life growing up?
I was born into a very poor Catholic family in Upstate New York, the Finger Lakes region. The house was a single travel trailer that we added onto as more kids came along. The house was built from recycled ammunition boxes as my dad drove explosives for the U.S. Army Depot. He’d bring the boxes home, then take the truck back to the owner. Our job was to have the boxes stripped and nails straightened before he got home. Eventually, there was enough lumber to build the house, but the floors were hardwood and dirt until I was in my teens.
2. What made you want to become a soldier and what was your experience like?
The only other option I had was to go work at a foundry, putting green sand into boxes so pump parts could be poured in “sand castings.” By 14 years old, I was living in the woods, showering in the school gym. Playing lacrosse, football and wrestling meant I was a year-round athlete. I joined the service as a way to get away from home. Suffice it to say, steel toed boots and Jack Daniels had a lot to do with my motivation to leave.
3. What are you most proud of from your service in the Army?
At this point in time, I’m not really proud of anything. We played “Whack-a-Mole” against the terrorists of the world, as far back as The Baeder-Meinhof Gang, Abu NIdal, the Red Army, PLO, Hamas, Hezbollah, etc……and I assumed our impact would be greater and bring peace. This is a hard question to answer that I am still pondering. The ripples go away from us. But maybe the one thing that I reflect on and “smile” about, not really pride…is the good we did in places that were hell holes. Srebrenica, Somalia, Bosnia, Bogota and some Central and South American places…….. we brought light to some very dark places.
Chief Kuryla received a Meritorious Service Medal (center) while stationed in West Berlin. The left patch is the Intelligence and Security Command (INSCOMM) patch. The right patch is the Berlin Brigade. Photo credit Kuryla.
4. What values have you carried over from the Army back into the civilian world?
Values I brought back into my civilian life: Never quit. “Life is about what you do to other people”…. do five meters, even when it sucks, just keep moving forward. Integrity is everything. Honor is a lost concept in the civilian world, but that doesn’t mean you should give up yours. Fighting for those who can’t fight for themselves is a way of life, not just a bumper sticker.
5. What was one of the toughest lessons to learn coming from the service to Hollywood?
One of the toughest lessons I learned coming from the military to Hollywood: Not everyone has a moral compass. There are those who are in it for the money only, others for fame and they’ll stab you in the back in two seconds and step over your corpse just to get two seconds of limelight. In the military, I was in a place where soldiers HAD TO climb through the filters of Ranger School, BUDS, Airborne Training…and when they finally got to my unit, or like units, they stood for something: those filters don’t exist in Hollywood. Eventually, you can find like-minded souls and “your tribe” and I am very lucky to have found Phillip Noyce and Mike Medavoy.
My respect for their character and what they’ve accomplished runs deep, so I’m very proud to know them and be working with them. They stand for the same moral compass I have lived my entire life. They make movies that resonate, make people think and it’s not just about “entertainment or money!” They make movies that are about the human condition and the SOUL…and that’s what I write about. Anyone can make a military recruiting movie that makes kids “wannabe” a SEAL, or Green Beret, but the people I’m involved with currently go way past the box office. They go straight to the soul and make people think, reflect and hopefully motivate the viewers to become better human beings. It would be very easy to have changed what I wrote in “Alive Day” and make it into some action movie that made a lot of money. But they stuck to the spirit of the story, the journey of Warriors and the consequences of a lifetime of war on the soul. I’m very, very lucky that Karma and Synchronicity came together, and I get to be among these Hollywood giants.
Steve’s book. Photo credit Amazon.com
Director Phillip Noyce on set for the filming of The Saint. Photo credit IMDB.com.
Mike Medavoy receiving his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Photo credit UPI.
6. What has it been like working on your book and soon to be feature film “Six Days to Zeus: Alive Day?”
Cathartic. Therapeutic. Had anyone told me I would be writing; I would have called them nuts. This started out to be a chronological document so a shrink and I could sort through my trauma closet and start working on my nightmares and PTSD. That turned into “The Observing Ego” template and I hit my stride and was able to start working on my issues. I came home with a rage syndrome that scared the hell out of people. Combined with my “adrenaline seeking behaviors,” I was socially unacceptable and targeted routinely by Law Enforcement as a possible “ax murderer.” And I loved it. It kept people away from me. I didn’t have to talk to anyone. I self-isolated, and was taking way too many narcotics and other meds from the VA. After 39 spinal reconstructions and surgery to repair my body from a T.O.W. missile strike, “Friendly Fire,” I found myself climbing back out of the crab bucket, living in a wheelchair as a homeless veteran in a park in N.C. to coming to California to see a Dr. G in Daly City who eventually got me out of the chair, surgically implanted a “Dorsal Column Stimulator” in my spinal cord, fused my pelvis and spine finally the correct way and turned my life around.
Photos of the surgery completed on Kuryla’s back. Photo credit Kuryla.
Photos of the surgery completed on Kuryla’s back. Photo credit Kuryla.
Broken screws and items removed after failed surgeries to repair Kuryla’s back. Photo credit Kuryla.
My wife has been a rock-solid warrior as well, sticking with me through thick and thin, when others simply walked away to preserve their own comfort zone. I was still in a chair most of the time when I met her, so she was either so very desperate that she’d marry a cripple guy with a brain injury and baggage from hell, or there is something about this woman that America missed. I often tell her she’s a SEAL that didn’t go active duty. She wrestles large animals every day as an Equine Veterinarian….. so wrestling with me is right up her alley.
Working on the book has been like peeling an onion. I had NO IDEA how deep I was into the Intel World. We never had time to reminisce. We just went to the next mission, sometimes having six or seven missions going at the same time in differing phases of “pre-deployment” to “planning” to active operations and then post mission BDA and assessments….. Everything from Non-combatant Evacuation (NEO) Operations to combat support missions to High Value Target (HVT) take downs, to Embassy clearing and hostage rescue, the Cold War, the War on Drugs and the Global War on Terrorism all blended together.
Pictures from Chief Kuryla’s time in West Berlin. Photo credit Kuryla.
Over a 30 year period, the mission tempo was pretty active at points that you just never kept up with it all. You just went to the next mission. So, taking the time to go back in time, from 1976 to 2006 and reconstruct the chronology has been very cathartic. Fleshing out the writing, changing names and dates to get through the Pentagon Pre-Publication Review process has been a hurdle, but I firmly believe in the process and signed the “non-disclosure agreements” with full honor and intent. This is a nine book series now…and future endeavors include a TV series as well as several other movies. T
here are 180 covert missions and seven combat tours to write about. Simple things like a 10 year war in Bosnia, Islam against Christianity, led to 9/11 the same day (in 1683 or there abouts) September 11th, for Bin Laden to hit the towers. No one in America seems to understand that the 10 year war in the Balkans led directly to 9/11. “The Asset” was a singular chapter, now a separate book will document American Intelligence, success and failures that led to the 20 year war we are currently in. As well as a look into future wars based on American Foreign Policy and future intent.
The night the wall came down in Berlin. Photo credit Kuryla.
A guard tower from Berlin. Photo credit Kuryla.
Before the Wall came down in Berlin. Photo credit Kuryla.
7. What leadership lessons in life and from the Army have helped you most in your career?
Listening more than talking… learning all the facts, not just those I want to hear, evaluating and taking the time to look at other perspectives were “leadership” skills that I emulated from some of the great men in uniform that I got to work with. Henry Shelton, David Patraeus, William B. Caldwell, Colin Powell, Stormin Norman Schwartzkopf, Keith Alexander, “Buck Kernan,” Kellog, Keene and a list of names no one would know… my mentors and those I tried to emulate are great Americans.
And those around me who were aware, conscious, watched me and recognized my potential are the ones I credit with my success in life. I never knew I could write. Didn’t know I had anything to say. “Talking about it” was contrary to everything I knew as honorable in the military. Compartmented Intelligence was just that. Compartmented with a “Must Know” caveat. When I got out, I was shocked at what American Society didn’t know about the rest of the world and what our soldiers were doing. Not just the TS/SCI stuff, but the basic foreign policy that put men and women in harm’s way. America, especially Congress, seem to be completely unattached, uninvolved in sending troops to war. I found a new mission in life, writing about soldier stories, explaining the chaos in a way that resonates at the human “vulnerability” level. When you connect with another human at the soul, then you’re doing something worth doing. Then you’re communicating, educating, making a difference. And that’s what the “Six Days to Zeus” series is doing. Connecting at the soul and revealing the journey of Warriors in a modern age.
Teufelsberg, German for Devil’s Mountain, in West Berlin during the Cold War. Photo credit Kuryla.
Book one, Alive Day is about “what happened.” Book two, “Please don’t call me Hero” is about the consequences of War on our bodies, brains and families back at “Fort Livingroom.” It’s a glimpse into the problems, but the unconscious damage we do to our families. They pay the consequences of the US going to war, but they never signed up for it. They get to pay anyway… even when we bring muddy boots back into Ft. Livingroom. Book three, “Walking off the War” is a glimpse into the awakening, the move to conscious intentional living and the medical miracles that got me out of a wheelchair and back on my feet.
The series continues for six more books going back to Berlin in 1976 and Covert Operations against Soviet Illicit Agents and Soviet Special Operations personnel, Spetsnaz working the Morse Code problem for NSA and other US Intelligence Agencies including the Potsdam mission and Field Station Berlin at “Devils Mountain” or Teufelsberg! Operation Elsa, stealing a brand-new Soviet T-72 Tank, Operation Porch Light that broke a Russian cypher and tore down 14 terrorist networks throughout Europe and the US, and many, many more.
Items that came with the Russian T-72 that Chief Kuryla “acquired”. Photo credit Kuryla.
Items that came with the Russian T-72 that Chief Kuryla “acquired”. Photo credit Kuryla.
Items that came with the Russian T-72 that Chief Kuryla “acquired”. Photo credit Kuryla.
Items that came with the Russian T-72 that Chief Kuryla “acquired”. Photo credit Kuryla.
8. As a service, how do we get more veteran stories told in the Hollywood arena?
Veterans have to be willing to talk. There is a syndrome where veterans don’t think they did anything special. It’s part of the problem that comes with honor and the “code” we live by. I am working to get a section on my author site for soldiers to write in, tell me their story and see if it’s worth pursuing. When guys like me don’t think they did anything special and are willing to bury it….they get shocked (like me too!) when they begin to tell their story and find out the world wants to know. The ripple effect of me telling my story has affected so many veterans and so many civilians, that it’s truly humbling. For some reason, after they read the book and the two weeks of silence goes by, (digesting time), they now have permission and they come tell me their story. Their trauma and how my writing has affected them, allowed them to heal and talk about what happened. And then I get to help them learn what I have learned: It’s no longer about what happened…it’s about what you do NEXT that counts!!!
A picture of one of the patches they took of Manuel Noriega (pictured). Photo credit Kuryla.
9. What would you like to do next in your career?
Make more movies, learn as much as I can about financing, producing, and getting the stories out there. Tour and talk to our next generation. We need to teach the lessons we’ve learned as soldiers, teach critical thinking skills, make them aware that “Freedom isn’t free” and engage our young minds in active communication. Our children are being hijacked…with our permission, by our silence and preoccupation and our lack of parenting involvement. The America we all fought for is being sliced and diced, subverted and our children’s minds are being targeted. We all need to influence that change, through writing, movies, plays, music and active communication and engagement! Our veteran population are some of the most gifted humans on the planet. I hope to be a part of that change.
More pictures of the morning they took Noriega and the patches removed from his uniform. The center photo is a breakfast with Noriega the morning of. Photo credit Kuryla.
10. What are you most proud of in life and your career?
Pride is not a luxury I indulge in. I am more grateful than anything else. I can’t say I’m proud of anything, but I am the luckiest man on the planet that I got to live the life I did. That I got to meet the people I love and fought with. Even the disasters, the trauma and the adversity….it all made me a better human being. After all this reconstruction and medical miracles, I truly am coming to a place of PEACE now…finding my inner strength again, counting my blessings and realizing just how lucky I have been. How blessed I have been to have worked with and fought beside some of the finest human beings God ever put on this planet. And that’s not a bumper sticker. I truly believe that “All evil needs to succeed is for good men to sit back and do nothing.”
I don’t mourn the loss of those I served with, I thank God that such men lived.
It doesn’t matter what it is, somebody wants to be the best at it. For as long as time, competition has driven people to learn new skills and improve on the ones they know in order to rise to the top of their field. This desire to be best is what has baseball players at the batting cage long after the sun has set. It’s what keeps runners sprinting down the track, shaving milliseconds off of their personal best.
This same competitiveness is what drives some medics within the United States Army. In one recent competition, 283 medics entered to see if they could earn the Expert Field Medical Badge. Only 17 — just six percent — met the requirements to be awarded the EFMB in a June 2018 test held at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
U.S. Army Spc. Austin Braussard-Rangel, a platoon medic assigned to 1st Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, assesses and prepares a mock casualty with a neck injury to be removed from a vehicle during the Expert Field Medic Badge testing.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Christopher Gallagher)
So, what does it take to earn this badge? The requirements are many. The easy part, if you could call it that, is passing the Army Physical Fitness Test with scores of at least 60 in all three areas— earninga cumulative score of 180 or more. Of the other ten requirements, five are completed under simulated combat conditions.
Communications skills are also tested among candidates trying to earn the Expert Field Medical Badge — after all, that MEDEVAC won’t call itself.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Christopher Gallagher)
Among the myriad skills tested is communication. Candidates for the EFMB must be able to prepare and transmit a MEDEVAC request correctly and be familiar with both communication procedures and the operation of field radios.
U.S. Army Sgt. Alex Pickens (left), a lab technician assigned to the Brigade Support Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, passes a mock casualty over a barrier with his litter team during the Expert Field Medic Badge testing at the Medical Support Training Center on Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Christopher Gallagher)
During the competition, candidates must also negotiate an obstacle course while carrying a litter (under simulated combat conditions, of course) with three other candidates. There are eight obstacles to overcome, including an upstairs/uphill carry, a downhill/downstairs carry, a barbed-wire obstacle, and a trench obstacle.
Handling a chemical attack is also part of the EFMB evaluation. After all, a casualty can’t wait for the poison gas to dissipate.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Christopher Gallagher)
Candidates also face a 100-question test — on which they need to get at least 75 questions right. Marksmanship (EFMB candidates much achieve the rating of Marksman or better), evacuation skills, and even cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) techniques are also tested. As many as 25 percent of candidates can pass a given course, but rates of as low as five percent are not unheard of.
The Expert Field Medical Badge is reserved for only the fiercest competitors — those who strive to be the very best at helping others in even the most dire of circumstances.