Inside the crazy supermax prison where El Chapo just arrived - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Inside the crazy supermax prison where El Chapo just arrived

Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, a notorious drug kingpin of Mexico, has finally arrived in Florence, Colorado. It’s here, at the Administrative Maximum U.S. Penitentiary where he will spend his life sentence (+30 years, according to a judge).

El Chapo escaped Mexican prisons twice, in 2001 and 2014. However, his stay this time around seems to be much more permanent— this supermax prison is nicknamed “the Alcatraz of the Rockies” and has never had a prisoner escape since its founding in 1994.


Inside the crazy supermax prison where El Chapo just arrived

The layout of a traditional supermax cell.

El Chapo, 62, arrived at the facility on July 19, two days after his life sentence. He joined other high profile offenders like the “Unabomber,” an Oklahoma City bombing conspirator, and the 1993 World Trade Center bomber.

All 400 inmates at the ADX spend 23 hours a day in a soundproofed cell, and then have one heavily supervised hour of “rec” time. Their supervised hour of rec time is observed while both handcuffed and shackled. Phones are banned, and there is an extremely “limited” version of television available (meaning: black and white recreational, religious, and educational programming).

Everything in the cell is made of stone, and is structurally attached to the wall or floor. The bed is made of concrete with a small pad as a mattress, a small concrete stool is molded to the ground, and a couple of small shelves jut out from the wall near their in-cell sink.

The design of every cell is centered around eliminating threats. Some cells have a shower, to further limit contact with guards, but they have a timer to eliminate the threat of flooding. The toilet shuts off if blocked. The sink has no tap.

Inside the Supermax Prison Where El Chapo Will Be Housed

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Inmates can earn more daily rec time after a year, depending on their behavior. They don’t remain there forever, the long-term “goal” is a three-year stay, and then a transfer to a less restrictive prison.

However, there is considerable controversy surrounding the impact of extended confinement and isolation on mental health. In 2012, 11 inmates filed a federal class-action suit against the prison, citing alleged chronic abuse and a failure to diagnose mental health properly.

Inside the crazy supermax prison where El Chapo just arrived

The maximum security doors where inmates are confined 23 hours a day.

I spoke with an unnamed corrections officer— to have her speak on the would-be escape attempt that she thwarted in her prison. Her prison is a level 4 (out of 5) and is home to violent prisoners, but none as high profile or as repeatedly violent as the offenders at ADX supermax. This helps give a sense at the futility of an escape plan in a prison that isn’t even as comprehensive as the ADX supermax.

“While walking up to post with no radio, I [saw] an inmate standing in the doorway.” she said, “I observed what appeared to be a water bottle hanging from the roof and when he noticed the look on my face, he took off quickly. I rounded the side of the house (a common term for each individual living complex in a prison) to get a better look, I realized it was a huge braided rope made of sheets, with a weighted water bottle anchored to the end of it. But, it had been caught on razor wire and was dangling.”

“It turned out to be an attempted escape that had gone wrong.” She continued, “There were bags of food and black clothes on top of the house, and a huge foot-long metal rod sharpened to a point hidden underneath the rope.” And that was a level 4.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How to watch Army-Navy Game spirit videos from around the world

Anyone who’s followed the Army-Navy Game for the last few years knows that spirit videos have become an integral tradition in days leading up to the game. While one or two might get traction in the news media, the truth is that military members everywhere make spirit videos to support their service academy. And now there’s a go-to place to upload and watch them.


Some spirit videos are more famous than others, like Rylan Tuohey’s Pro-Navy “Helm Yeah” and “We Give A Ship” videos. Then-West Point Cadet Austin Lachance responded in time for 2017’s Army-Navy Game with the extremely well-produced spirit video masterpiece, “Lead From the Front.”

But they don’t have to be contenders for the GI Film Festival to be good. Now, thanks to DVIDS, they all have a forum.

Even if it’s just a group of First Lieutenants, Army alums all, deciding on who should get to watch the game with them or an entire Stryker Brigade Combat Team poking fun at “Helm Yeah” and getting sick of all the winning, spirit videos are now very much a part of the greater traditions surrounding the annual contest.

Army and Navy units stationed all over the world may not be able to make the big game, but they can still be a part of the fun, making and uploading videos to DVIDSHub, the military’s multimedia imagery database. It’s a collection of photos, video, and other multimedia gathered by members of the U.S. military, made available to the public on DVIDSHub.net. It’s a searchable collection of official and unofficial multimedia collected every day by military members everywhere.

Going to DVIDSHub and doing a video search of “#ArmyNavy2018” will reveal all of this year’s spirit videos so far. The collection is dominated by Army units slamming Navy Athletics over and over. Special Forces, tankers, and even doctors and nurses at Fort Irwin all have their own takes on the GO ARMY BEAT NAVY theme.

Some are modeled to be commercials for the game. Others are just showing what they do every day and announcing their support to the guys who will take the field in Philadelphia on Saturday, Dec. 8. The 3rd Cavalry Sapper Troop, currently deployed to Iraq, just showcased a cardboard Navy ship sealed with Duct Tape, rigged to explode.

Of course, you can still find fantastic videos from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard on DVIDS. The site is a public affairs site, meant to make all the imagery captured by U.S. troops in the course of their duties available to the American taxpayer. If a military event is unclassified and was captured by a military journalist, chances are good you can find it on DVIDS.

But Army-Navy Game spirit videos are a good break from the continuous mission. Show your spirit appropriately and never blow up a Navy effigy without trained Army explosives experts or artillery fire mules on site.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Dennis Rodman might attend the world’s most important meeting

Former NBA star Dennis Rodman will reportedly be in Singapore when President Donald Trump is scheduled to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in a landmark summit on June 12, 2018, according to sources cited in a New York Post report on June 5, 2018.

“No matter you might think about his presence. One thing’s for sure the ratings will be huge,” a source said in the report. “A lot of times in situations that involve complex diplomacy, countries like to identify ambassadors of goodwill and whether you agree with it or not Dennis Rodman fits the bill.”


Rodman has developed a rapport with Kim over the last several years, so much so that he made two trips to the reclusive nation and is one of the few American citizens to have met with its leader. Kim is widely believed to be a fan of the 1990s Chicago Bulls. Rodman was on the team from 1995 to 1998, playing alongside the legendary Michael Jordan.

Rodman has a connection to Trump, who hosted NBC’s reality TV show, “The Apprentice.” In 2013, Rodman was fired by Trump on the show, after misspelling Melania Trump’s name on a promotional poster as “Milania.”

Inside the crazy supermax prison where El Chapo just arrived
President Donald Trump
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

Rodman will reportedly arrive in Singapore on June 11, 2018, and could have some role in the upcoming negotiations, sources told the Post, but it’s unclear what that role could be.

Rodman, who fancies himself a sports ambassador to North Korea, said that he did not “want to take all the credit” for laying the groundwork for the summit.

“I don’t want to sit here and say, ‘I did this. I did that.’ No, that’s not my intention,” Rodman told the celebrity gossip outlet TMZ in April 2018. “And I’ve always asked [Kim] to talk to me because he wants the people of North Korea — and the government over there asked me to talk to Donald Trump about what they want and how we can solve things.”

The meeting between Trump and Kim will be held at the Capella Hotel in Singapore. It will be the first such dialogue between a sitting US president and a North Korean leader.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

China admits army had no idea what to do with fancy new tanks

China is developing a lot of new and advanced weaponry, but a recent state media report suggests the Chinese military may not be entirely sure what to do with these new combat systems.

During a mock battle held in 2018, an “elite combined arms brigade” of the 81st Group Army of the People’s Liberation Army was defeated, despite being armed with superior weapons, specifically China’s new main battle tank, the Type 099A, the Global Times reported Jan. 20, 2019, citing a report last week from China’s state broadcaster CCTV.


China is “on the verge of fielding some of the most modern weapon systems in the world,” Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley explained in a recent assessment of China’s military power.

“In some areas, it already leads the world,” he added.

While the DIA assessment called attention to China’s advancements in anti-satellite capabilities, precision strike tools, or hypersonic weapons, China appears particularly proud of achievements like the Type 099A battle tank, the J-20 stealth fighter, and the Type 055 guided-missile destroyer, arms which advance the warfighting capabilities of China’s army, air force, and navy respectively.

Inside the crazy supermax prison where El Chapo just arrived

The J-20 stealth fighter.

But the Chinese military is apparently still trying to figure out what these developments mean for modern warfare.

In the interview with CCTV, two senior officers reflected on why Chinese troops armed with the new tanks lost in 2018’s simulated battle. “We rushed with the Type 099A too close to the frontline, which did not optimize the use of the tank’s combat capability,” Xu Chengbiao, a battalion commander, explained. “We only studied the capabilities of older tanks, but have not completely understood new ones,” Zhao Jianxin, a second battalion commander, reportedly told CCTV.

A Beijing-based military expert told the Global Times that weapons alone cannot win wars.

David Axe, a defense editor at The National Interest, argued that the Chinese media report indicates that China struggles with “inadequate” military doctrine due to the country’s lack of combat experience. The Chinese military has not fought a war since the late 1970s.

China is focusing more on the navy, air force, rocket force, and strategic support force than it is on the army, which his experienced a major reduction in personnel. This shift, according to some analysts, highlights an interest in power projection over home defense.

As the warfighting capabilities of the Chinese military grow, it will presumably need to adapt its military doctrine to emerging technologies to maximize capability, but that process may take some time.

The Chinese military is undergoing a massive modernization overhaul in hopes of achieving Chinese President Xi Jinping’s stated goal of building a world-class military that can fight and win wars by the middle of this century.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How an F15-E shot down an Iraqi gunship with a bomb

America’s F-15 Eagle has long since secured a position in the pantheon of the world’s greatest fighters. With an incredible air combat record of 104 wins and zero losses, the fourth generation powerhouse we call the F-15 remains America’s fastest air superiority fighter, beating out even the venerable F-22 Raptor. But the F-15E Strike Eagle, the F-15’s multi-role sibling, was never really intended to serve as a dedicated air-to-air platform. Instead, the F-15E’s goal was to leverage the speed and payload capabilities of an F-15 for ground attack missions — making it one of the most capable multi-role fighters of its generation.

In 1993, Air Force Capt. Tim Bennett was serving as a flight leader for the 335th Tactical Fighter Squadron out of Al Kharj AB in central Saudi Arabia, in support of Operation Desert Storm. He and his F-15E would fly a total of 58 combat missions through the deployment, but one stands out as particularly exceptional: The time Bennett and his weapons officer, Capt. Dan Bakke, managed to shoot down an Iraqi helicopter using a 2,000 pound laser guided bomb.


Inside the crazy supermax prison where El Chapo just arrived

(USAF photo courtesy of Master Sgt. Lance Cheung)

February 14, 1993: Valentine’s Day

On Valentine’s Day of 1993, Bennett and Bakke were conducting an early morning Scud combat air patrol — flying around northwest Iraq looking for mobile Scud missile platforms that could pose a threat to American forces. They were flying above the cloud cover, waiting to receive targeting coordinates from a nearby AWAC, when they received a different kind of call: An American Special Forces team had been operating secretly more than 300 miles from the border identifying Scud launchers for engagement, and they’d been discovered by the Iraqi military.

As the AWAC relayed that there were five Iraqi helicopters closing with the Green Beret’s position, Bennett diverted toward the special operators. He and his weapons officer called back in to the AWAC as they spotted the helicopters on their radar, traveling west to east.

Inside the crazy supermax prison where El Chapo just arrived

(U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Aaron Allmon)

“We don’t have any friendlies in the area. Any helicopters you find, you are cleared to shoot,” Bennett was told over the radio.

As Bennett closed with the helicopters, he and Bakke noticed that they were flying and stopping at regular intervals, and it seemed as though they were dropping off ground troops to continue engaging the Special Forces team. In effect, the helicopter and ground troops were coordinating to herd the American Green Berets into an unwindable engagement.

Inside the crazy supermax prison where El Chapo just arrived

Polish Mi-24 Hind (WikiMedia Commons)

“By this time, we were screaming over the ground, doing about 600 knots–almost 700 mph. The AAA [Anti-Aircraft Fire] was still coming up pretty thick. Our course took us right over the top of the Iraqi troops to the east of the team. We didn’t know exactly where our team was, but it was looking to us like things were getting pretty hairy for the Special Forces guys,” Bennett later recalled.

Bennett decided to engage the lead helicopter, but not with his Aim-9 Sidewinders which were designed for air-to-air engagements. Instead, he planned to lob a 2,000 pound bomb in its direction. Chances were good, he knew, that it wouldn’t hit the helicopters, but it would kill the troops on the ground and likely startle the Hind pilots, allowing his wingman to get a clear shot with a Sidewinder.

Inside the crazy supermax prison where El Chapo just arrived

Polish Mi-24 Hind (WikiMedia Commons)

Because they were moving so quickly, the unpowered bomb actually had a greater range than the Sidewinder missile. Bennett released the bomb 4 miles out from the Hind-24 Bakke was carefully keeping his laser sighted on.

“There’s no chance the bomb will get him now,” Bennett thought as the Hind-24 lifted off the ground and began to accelerate.
“I got a good lock with my missile and was about to pickle off a Sidewinder when the bomb flew into my field of view on the targeting IR screen.”
“There was a big flash, and I could see pieces flying in different directions. It blew the helicopter to hell, damn near vaporized it.”

Of course, scoring the F-15E’s first air-to-air victory might be a point of pride for Bennett and Bakke, but they still had a job to do. They moved on to engage a mobile Scud on a nearby launchpad before heading home.

“The Special Forces team got out OK and went back to Central Air Forces headquarters to say thanks and confirm our kill for us. They saw the helicopter go down. When the helos had bugged out, the team moved back to the west and was extracted.”

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


Articles

This is the new guy in charge of finding America’s missing in action and prisoners of war

The US Department of Defense announced today the selection of Kelly McKeague to be the Director of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency. McKeague was sworn in this morning during a ceremony at the Pentagon.


McKeague, who retired from the US Air Force in 2016 at the rank of major general, served as the DPAA Deputy Director and as the Commander of the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, one of the entities merged in 2015 to form the Department’s newest defense agency.

“I know the importance of the agency’s mission and I look forward to working with DPAA’s team of dedicated professionals,” said McKeague.

Fern Sumpter Winbush, who has been serving as Acting Director, will resume her role as Principal Deputy Director for the agency, responsible for formulating policy, overseeing business development, and increasing outreach initiatives.

Inside the crazy supermax prison where El Chapo just arrived
Maj. Gen. Kelly K. McKeague (left). USAF photo from Don Peek.

“My time serving as the Acting Director has been challenging and rewarding as I worked to move the agency forward in our mission of providing the fullest possible accounting of US personnel missing from past conflicts to the families and the nation,” said Winbush. “As an agency, we have accomplished much over the last two years, and I am confident the incoming Director will take over an agency postured for continued success.”

McKeague, who served as an independent business consultant since his military retirement, says he is looking forward to this opportunity.

“I am humbled and blessed to serve on behalf of the families whose loved ones served our country,” he said. “The fulfillment of this agency’s solemn obligation is my honor to endeavor.”

A native of Hawaii, McKeague began his military career in 1981 as a civil engineering officer, serving in a variety of assignments at base, major command and Headquarters US Air Force levels. In 1995, he entered the Maryland Air National Guard and served on active duty as a civil engineer.

His assignments include the Air National Guard Readiness Center, followed by legislative liaison tours at the Office of the Secretary of the Air Force and the National Guard Bureau. He also served as the Chief of Staff, National Guard Bureau and Assistant to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for National Guard Matters.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

NASA is putting a base on the moon with 4G

On December 14, 1972 at 5:55pm ET, astronauts Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt lifted off from the lunar surface in the ascent stage of their Lunar Module. They were the last people to set foot on the moon. However, NASA plans to return to the moon within the decade.


Inside the crazy supermax prison where El Chapo just arrived

The Artemis Plan includes putting a woman on the moon (NASA)

NASA’s Artemis program is intended to establish a sustainable lunar base by 2028 that could serve as a stepping stone to Mars. The plan calls for the Space Launch System rocket to be paired with an Orion spacecraft. An unmanned test flight called Artemis I is scheduled for 2021. Artemis II is scheduled to be a manned flight to fully test Orion’s navigational abilities in 2023. Artemis III will lay the groundwork for lunar missions and extended surface exploration with the delivery supplies and scientific equipment to the lunar surface in 2024.

In order to facilitate sustained operations, the planned lunar base will feature an extensive infrastructure. Consider the evolution of Bagram from tent city on a dirt field in 2001 to the mega facility with Subway, Pizza Hut, and Green Beans that it is today. While we probably won’t see those establishments on the moon for quite some time, the luxury that most troops today consider to be the most important will be coming to the moon—cell service.

Inside the crazy supermax prison where El Chapo just arrived

Putting a Pizza Hut on the moon should be a metric of success (U.S. Army)

NASA has made over 0 million in contract deals with several companies to support the planned lunar base. One of these companies is Nokia. The Finnish phone company will be building a 4G LTE network on the moon by late 2022. In addition to voice communication and data transmission, the mobile network could be used to power lunar navigation, stream the biometric data of astronauts, and wirelessly control robots and sensors on the moon.

Nokia plans to build the network using mostly off-the-shelf commercial technology like lightweight 4G base stations. According to Nokia, the lunar network will be “ultra-compact, low-power, space-hardened, end-to-end LTE.” The network will also be upgraded to 5G over time.

The prospect of a sustainable lunar base is an exciting one as NASA sets its sights on the moon and beyond. The promise of being able to binge-watch your favorite shows on the moon is arguably even more exciting to some people. Let’s just hope that the cell service is better and more reliable than some of the FOB Wi-Fi networks down range.


MIGHTY TRENDING

This is how many US troops are in Syria

After suggesting in late March 2018, that the US would be pulling out of Syria “very soon,” President Donald Trump reportedly told his national security team that he is open to keeping troops in the country for the time being, but wants to look to pull them out sometime soon, a senior administration official told CNN.

The US has now been involved in Syria for about three and a half years, having started its military intervention there as part of Operation Inherent Resolve in September 2014. The military has carried out numerous operations in Syria against ISIS and other targets, according to the Department of Defense, and members of the US Marines, Navy, Air Force, and Army are active in the country.


As of December 2017, there are approximately 2,000 US troops in the country. Four US soldiers have been killed in action in Syria.

The US has carried out over 14,989 airstrikes in Syria since 2014, according to the Pentagon.

While it is difficult to ascertain exactly how much the US military spent in Syria specifically, Operation Inherent Resolve as a whole has cost over over $18 billion as of February 2018, according to the Pentagon. The majority of these funds were spent on Air Force operations.

Since the US mission began, ISIS has seen its territory dwindle in Syria, and now almost all of its holdings have been conquered by local forces on the ground with US support.

US forces are fulfilling a variety of roles in the fight against ISIS

The US mission in Syria is aimed at defeating ISIS and its offshoots, providing coordination between air assets and troops on the ground and the anti-ISIS coalition. So far, this mission has largely been a military success — the group has reportedly lost over 98% of its territory since it stormed across Syria and Iraq in 2014.

Inside the crazy supermax prison where El Chapo just arrived
(US Army photo)

The US has also been supporting Syrian Kurds in Syria’s north, bolstering a coalition of forces led by the Kurds called the Syrian Democratic Forces by deploying coalition advisers to train, advise, and assist the group. The SDF has conquered swathes of territory from ISIS in northeastern Syria with support from US airstrikes and special forces and, according to the Pentagon, is leading the fight against the remnants of the Islamist group in the country.

But the incredibly fractured nature of the conflict lends itself to additional challenges, Pentagon spokesman Eric Pahon told Business insider.

“It’s the most complex battlefield in modern warfare,” he said, explaining that there are active lines of communication open between US forces and other actors in the conflict like Turkey and Russia, which serve to avoid accidental military engagements and as deconfliction hotlines.

Pahon said that now that the active fight against ISIS is drawing down, the US is pivoting to civilian reconstruction efforts, clearing IEDs, and rebuilding civilian infrastructure.

“That’s a big challenge for getting people back into their homes, especially in populated areas like Raqqa,” Pahon said, citing numerous ways in which fleeing ISIS fighters have booby-trapped abandoned homes with explosives.

Pahon said part of the US civilian effort is training people on the ground on how to de-mine former urban battlefields.

He also pointed out that in addition to the military aspect of US operations in the country, other parts of the US government like the State Department and USAID are also active in reconciliation efforts, recovering water access, and rebuilding the power grids in destroyed towns and cities.

“It’s more than a military effort, it’s a whole of government effort,” he said.

MIGHTY TRENDING

U.S. Navy veteran detained in Iran freed, on his way home

U.S. Navy veteran Michael White, who has been detained in Iran for nearly two years, is returning home as part of a prisoner swap between Washington and Tehran.

White’s release on June 4 is part of a back-channel deal involving the release of an American-Iranian doctor prosecuted in the United States, U.S. and Iranian officials said.


U.S. President Donald Trump said on Twitter he had spoken by phone with White, who took a Swiss plane to Zurich on his way to the United States.

“Thank you to Iran, it shows a deal is possible!” Trump wrote, in an apparent olive branch to Iran.

White was sentenced to 13 years in prison last year for allegedly insulting Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and posting private information online.

In March, he was temporarily released on medical grounds amid the coronavirus pandemic to the Swiss Embassy, which represents U.S. interests in Iran.

The navy veteran was detained in July 2018 while he was visiting a woman he had met online and fallen in love with.

White’s mother, Joanne White, said in a statement that “the nightmare is over, and my son is safely in American custody and on his way home.”

The AP news agency quoted U.S. officials as saying his release was part of an agreement involving Majid Taheri, an Iranian-American physician prosecuted by the Justice Department.

Taheri served 16 months for violating U.S. sanctions against Iran and on June 4 a federal judge released him to go see family in Iran.

The developments follow the deportation to Iran this week of Sirios Asgari, an Iranian scientist detained in the United States.

U.S. and Iranian officials have denied that Asgari’s release was part of a prisoner swap.

Switzerland, the intermediary between the U.S. and Iranian governments, has facilitated months of quiet negotiations over prisoners, reports said. Qatar, which has good relations with both the United States and Iran, reportedly also facilitated the prisoner swap.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Twitter he was pleased the two Iranians and White will join their families.

“This can happen for all prisoners. No need for cherry picking. Iranian hostages held in — and on behalf of — the U.S. should come home,” he said.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Iranian authorities had been “constructive” on freeing White but urged the release of three other U.S. citizens, all of Iranian descent, who are detained in Iran.

Observers have speculated that prisoner swaps can offer a rare opportunity for back-channel diplomacy between the two adversaries to start official dialogue, but few see any serious progress before the U.S. election in November.

Relations between Washington and Tehran have become increasingly hostile since 2018, when Trump withdrew the United States from a landmark nuclear deal between Iran and world powers.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This Iraq War interpreter joined the Army and is now a US citizen

“I didn’t have a normal and safe childhood,” Pvt. 1st Class Yasir Kadhum said woefully. “I did this so my kids could live, and be safe.”

Kadhum was born and raised in Baghdad, Iraq. Growing up, he never considered the life he lived was anything out of the ordinary, until he was an adult and attending his first year of college in 2003, when U.S. forces entered Iraq.

“It was a complicated feeling then,” Kadhum remembered. “We were happy, but it was also scary, because during the Saddam regime we had nothing. In 2003, we had hope.”


Iraq had become a warzone right in front of his eyes.

“When the coalition forces had come to Iraq to free us from Saddam, I was in college and decided I needed to help.”

Kadhum was hired by a U.S. contractor and used the time to establish himself and work on his English. When the request for translators was made from the U.S. Army, he knew he could do more.

Kadhum learned immediately that his job as an interpreter could have either a negative or positive effect based on his translations.

“If I missed one word when translating, then something could have happened,” he said.

Kadhum started his job as an interpreter working with a Military Transition Team. His team worked directly with the Iraqi army, training them and providing guidance on how to use equipment, clear rooms and other necessary tactical skills.

Being in the position he was in, Kadhum was sometimes the only connecting piece between the Iraqi forces and U.S. forces. Eventually, he would become a target of the enemy and had to start concealing his identity whenever traveling outside of his job.

“Our people think we aren’t good people because we help the U.S. Army,” he said. “They started threatening us and following us many times. They would threaten us either directly or indirectly.

Inside the crazy supermax prison where El Chapo just arrived

Pvt. 1st Class Yasir Kadhum, an 88M (truck driver) assists in fueling vehicles during a driver’s training class, July 26, 2018.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Jessica DuVernay)

I had to move my family with me from place to place. “

As a result of the threats, Kadhum felt pressured to leave the Military Transition Team and started working at a prison, still as an interpreter.

“This was another challenge for me,” he said. “To help the prisoners, and most of them were terrorists. But it was their human right.”

Kadhum said he gained experience in the proper and fair treatment of prisoners, despite the crime they committed. Ensuring the imprisoned received the right food and water in accordance with their rights was, at times, difficult for Kadhum, but despite his struggle, he continued to help facilitate the standard.

In 2007, Iraq had become a more dangerous place. Enemy forces were relentless with their attacks on the government, U.S. forces and the people of Iraq.

Kadhum’s main purpose for working with U.S. forces was to benefit the country and people of Iraq. Unfortunately, others did not feel that was the purpose of the interpreters.

“I felt like I was serving my country more than I was serving the U.S. Army,” Kadhum said. “I don’t feel like I did something wrong in my country, but other people did.

“All the time I must hide everything, even the ID I had, I had to hide in my boot. We had to travel together [the interpreters] to go home to make sure we were safe.”

Kadhum continued his support to the American forces until he determined it was no longer safe to stay in Iraq.

“I was scared for my son when he went to school,” Kadhum explained. “My wife would go with him and wait because maybe someone would kidnap him; every time he went to school my wife stayed with him.”

With the help of the program established for interpreters who assist the U.S., he was able to get a Special Immigration Visa and come to America with his wife and two children in August 2016.

“I feel like at first when I came here I felt safe,” he said. “My oldest is almost ten and my daughter is now three. Now I feel safe.

“If my son wants to go to the playground, I’m not scared someone will kidnap him. I’m not scared someone will be threatening me through him,” Kadhum continued. “Now I feel like my kids can grow up normal.”

A few months later, Kadhum was in a U.S. Army recruiter’s office looking for a way to give back to the very institution that he had already given so much.

“Right now for me the Army is not a job, it’s not a career,” he started. “I’m serving. This is what I feel because at least I can pay back what the U.S. Army did for me.

I came here and the first thing I thought was I needed to serve; because this Army has worked to help people to do better in their life. I believed it at the time even when I was an interpreter.”

In early July 2018, Kadhum recited the Naturalization Oath of Allegiance to the United States, and became an official U.S. citizen with more than 15 other soldiers during a ceremony on Fort Hood.

“I’m really happy but at the same time it is a big responsibility,” he said. “While serving in the Army it is a responsibility, but even if I get out of [the] Army as a civilian I still have more responsibility.

When you choose to get that citizenship it is different from the people who are born with the citizenship. When it’s harder to get it, it is a big commitment. I have more appreciation for it.”

Kadhum is looking ahead to the future for himself and his family.

“The best thing is because of the naturalization, I can do anything now,” he said. “My hopes are for my kids that they get to live a normal life and every thing will be perfect for them.”

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

Articles

General Mattis told a touching story about his 94-year-old mother at his confirmation hearing

In his opening statement at his confirmation hearing Thursday, retired Marine Gen. James Mattis said it would be an honor to serve again, mentioned myriad challenges in the world, and brought up a touching personal story about his mother — showing how his family’s military ties and career have come full circle.


“Finally, on a personal note, I’ve worked at the Pentagon twice in my career,” Mattis told the Senate Armed Services Committee. “A few people may know I’m not the first person in my family to do so, when, in the wartime spring of 1942, my mother was 20 years-old and working in military intelligence. She was part of the first government employees to move into the still unfinished Pentagon.”

He continued:

“She had come to America as an infant and lives today on the banks of the Columbia River in the Pacific Northwest. Little could she imagine in her youth that more than 90 years after she immigrated to this country and 75 years after she first walked through the doors of the War Department, one of her sons would be sitting here in front of you today.”

Mattis is right about that. A neighbor and close friend of his mother in Richland, Washington told a reporter in December that she was amazed at what he had accomplished in his career, and apparently his mother said “I can’t even believe he’s my son.”

Neither his mother nor other family members made the trip to Washington, D.C. to see the 66-year-old retired general testify. When asked by Republican Sen. John McCain whether he wanted to recognize any family members in the audience, Mattis quipped: “Thank you Senator. They are safely west of the Rockies.”

Before Mattis spoke, former Secretary of Defense William Cohen testified in support of the general and also mentioned his 94-year-old mother, who he said he was a “devoted son” to. Cohen also mentioned Mattis remains a member of a local food bank in the area.

There were many other big takeaways from the roughly three-hour hearing, which included Mattis’ strong views on Russia, his insistence on being more aggressive against ISIS, and the need for a clear cyberwarfare doctrine.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why Robert E. Lee wore a colonel’s rank during the Civil War

When Robert E. Lee left the Union Army to command the Army of Northern Virginia, he was just a colonel – a far cry from being the military leader the Confederate forces needed him to be. Despite his promotion in the army of the Confederacy and his rise to prominence as the most able leader the southern states had, he still wore the rank conferred upon him by his former country.


Even as he negotiated the surrender of his new country.

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Judging just by ranks, the guy holding Robert E. Lee’s chair almost matches his rank.

Every time we see the leader of the Confederate army in photos or paintings, he’s wearing the rank we’ve come to know as Lieutenant General, a design of three gold stars in the Union Army. But when the Confederacy broke away from the Union, they didn’t just adapt every American military custom and design. Much of the Confederate leadership, especially in the military, were men from West Point who had devoted their lives to military customs and courtesies. Of course, they’re going to change things up.

That was especially true for military uniforms. They took on the color gray for their uniforms in general and did keep a lot of customs held by the Union Army, but they completely revamped the officers’ rank symbols.

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A general of Robert E. Lee’s stature in the Confederate Army would still be wearing gold stars, but his gold stars would have a golden wreath around them and would have a different sleeve design. Instead, the three gold stars he wore every day in Confederate uniform were the equivalent of his last rank in the Union Army, a colonel, despite being named one of the Confederacy’s first five general officers. But Lee didn’t just want to be conferred to a General’s rank.

Instead, Lee had hoped that he could be properly promoted after the Civil War, assuming the Confederacy won its independence. He wanted to be promoted to full General during peacetime, presumably so he could celebrate his new promotion properly, instead of having to push McClellan back from within six miles of Richmond, Va. though some speculate at first it was the highest rank he felt qualified to wear.

Strange reasoning for the man who would essentially take command of the entire war for the South. It’s more likely the man just preferred the simple design of the colonel’s uniform and chose to wear that because he could. Who’s going to argue with Robert E. Lee?