That time an F-16 pilot saved ground troops with a sonic boom - We Are The Mighty
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That time an F-16 pilot saved ground troops with a sonic boom

America’s F-16 multi-role fighters are some of the most advanced aircraft on the planet, carrying precision weapons and using them to kill bad guys around the world.


But in March 2003, two F-16 pilots were called to assist 52 British special operators surrounded by 500 Iraqi troops — meaning the friendlies were outnumbered almost 10 to 1.

Worse, there was essentially no light on the battlefield. It was so dark that even the pilots’ night vision goggles weren’t enough for the F-16s to tell where forces were on the ground.

That time an F-16 pilot saved ground troops with a sonic boom

But the pilots could hear through the radio as the situation on the ground went from bad to worse. The Iraqi troops were pressing the attack, pinning the Brits down and preparing to overrun them.

Thinking fast, Lt. Col. Ed Lynch climbed to altitude and then went into a dive, quickly building up sonic energy around his plane as he approached the speed of sound.

As he neared the ground with the massive amount of sound energy surrounding his cockpit, he broke the sound barrier and pointed the bulk of the energy at the ground where he believed the Iraqi troops to be. Lynch pulled up a mere 3,000 feet from the ground, sending the massive sonic boom against the troops below.

That time an F-16 pilot saved ground troops with a sonic boom

The energy wave struck with enough force that the Iraqi troops thought the F-16s were dropping bombs or firing missiles. The Iraqi troops broke apart and the British special operators were able to get out during the chaos.

Lynch had to wait to find out his run was successful, though. He was targeted with a missile as he came out of the dive and was forced to take evasive maneuvers. He wouldn’t learn about his success until he returned to base.


Humor

6 differences between machine gunners and riflemen

Contrary to what your higher-ups probably wanted you to believe, not every Marine is a rifleman. That’s just a bedtime story they tell POGs so they stop crying about the mean grunts on the other side of sh*t creek.


But, when it comes to rivalries, there’s none greater than the one between the different infantry jobs — namely between machine gunners and riflemen. Their jobs may seem similar to civilian or POG eyes but, realistically, they’re very different.

The Marine Corps infantry rifleman is the centerpiece for combat operations, and machine gunners, essentially, exist to directly support riflemen so they can move around the battlefield without being overwhelmed by enemies.

Here are just a few of the major differences that riflemen and machine gunners fight each other over.

Related: 6 ways to be successful in the Marine infantry

6. Machine gunners have to carry the heavy stuff

While riflemen just have to carry their puny rifles and tiny bullets, machine gunners have to lug around a 24-pound (when unloaded) machine gun on top of their big bullets.

That time an F-16 pilot saved ground troops with a sonic boom
This one does NOT look happy. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Isaac Ibarra)

5. Machine gunners have bigger muscles

Riflemen are generally skinny guys because, as you probably guessed, they don’t have to carry such large weaponry most of the time. Machine gunners, on the other hand, carry the big guns, and they have the big guns from lugging them around.

Make no mistake, there are some skinny machine gunners out there who do the job just as well as their bodybuilding brothers, but they usually end up becoming just as bulky over time.

That time an F-16 pilot saved ground troops with a sonic boom
The brain of a machine gunner can be found in their arms.

4. Riflemen have bigger brains

A rifleman’s job may not be extremely physically demanding all the time but it can certainly be mentally demanding, so they can’t eat their brains for protein like some machine gunners might.

That time an F-16 pilot saved ground troops with a sonic boom
They need those brains to read those maps. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Tommy Bellegarde)

3. Machine gunners get to sit on a hill somewhere

Since the job of a machine gunner is to directly support the rifleman, they don’t always have to be embedded within a rifle squad. They can just sit on a hill with a vantage point and shoot from afar while the rifleman runs around and clears trenches.

This gives a machine gunner the opportunity to catch their breath momentarily, whereas riflemen get to catch theirs as they wait to move from one objective to the next.

That time an F-16 pilot saved ground troops with a sonic boom
Meanwhile, the tiny riflemen are running around. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Luke Kuennen)

2. Machine gunners have the most pride in their job

Most riflemen only choose to be such because, when the time came, they decided they wanted the easiest possible life in the infantry. The job isn’t as physically demanding and you don’t have to memorize all the separate parts of the Browning M2 .50 caliber machine gun in order to graduate from the School of Infantry.

But, on the other hand, within the standard infantry, machine gunners take the most pride in their jobs. You gotta love what you do.

That time an F-16 pilot saved ground troops with a sonic boom
Why wouldn’t they? They have a tough job. (image via Armchair General)

Also read: 5 things service members hate on that are actually useful

1. Machine gunners make better riflemen

Because handling a fully automatic machine gun takes a lot of marksmanship and the job requires extensive physical and mental conditioning, machine gunners can make great riflemen. They’re used to taking a much harsher physical beating, so the job of the puny riflemen is not challenging to them in the least. In fact — they find it extremely fun.

That time an F-16 pilot saved ground troops with a sonic boom
They don’t care about diving into the mud. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. James R. Skelton)

Articles

SecNav loves Mattis but thinks Congress is right to debate the ‘7 year rule’

The Navy’s top civilian leader told reporters Jan. 11 that while he respects the career and leadership abilities of President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for secretary of defense, he thinks Congress should take a hard line on its mandate to keep civilians in charge of the nation’s defense.


That time an F-16 pilot saved ground troops with a sonic boom
(Photo: U.S. Navy Chief Mass Communications Specialist Shawn P. Eklund)

Outgoing Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus said Congress had a good reason to require former military leaders be out of uniform for at least seven years before they may take the top leadership positions at the Pentagon — including the roles of secretary of defense and deputy secretary of defense — adding that the time out of uniform had recently been reduced from 10 years.

Trump’s pick to lead the Pentagon, former Marine Gen. James Mattis, retired from the Corps in 2013 after 44 years in the military. His appointment would require a waiver from Congress to skirt the seven-year mandate.

“I have worked very closely with Jim Mattis almost the whole time [in office] and I have an enormous amount of respect for him,” Mabus told defense reporters at a breakfast meeting in Washington, D.C. “I think that civilian control of the military is one of the bedrocks of our democracy and there was a reason that was put in place.”

That time an F-16 pilot saved ground troops with a sonic boom

Top lawmakers in the Senate held a meeting with experts on military affairs Jan. 10 to debate the restriction, with many arguing the rule should be kept in place but that Mattis’ experience and intellect warrant a one-time waiver.

“I would hesitate to ever say … that there is any indication that dangerous times require a general,” said Kathleen Hicks, a former Pentagon official in the Obama administration, according to the Washington Post. “I don’t think that’s the issue. I think dangerous times require experience and commitment … which I think Gen. Mattis can bring.”

So far one member of the Senate Armed Services Committee has spoken against granting a waiver. New York Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand has said she’d oppose a waiver and hasn’t “seen the case for why it is so urgently necessary.”

Former Army Gen. George Marshall is the only Pentagon leader to be granted a waiver under the 10-year rule, and he served only one year during the hight of the Korean war.

“It was done for George Marshall but it shouldn’t be done very often,” outgoing SecNav Mabus said. “So I think [Congress] is right to raise that issue.”

“This is nothing to say about Jim Mattis, I think he was a great Marine and a great general officer and a great CoCom,” he added.

Mattis is set for a confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee Jan. 12. Both chambers are expected to vote on a service waiver before Trump’s inauguration Jan. 20.

Humor

6 reasons airmen hate on Marines

There’s no best way to describe the rivalry between the branches of the American military to an outsider. It’s kinda like an inventive d*ck measuring contest mixed with elements of the Stanford Prison Experiment. Everyone talks about how they’re somehow the best while acknowledging their shortcomings.


We hate on each other for whatever reasons, but at the end of the day, we’re still on the same side.

That time an F-16 pilot saved ground troops with a sonic boom
For example, the Air Force’s Maj. Jeremiah Parvin and the Marine Corps’ Master Gunnery Sgt. Richard Wells here. Parvin received the Distinguished Flying Cross with Valor for actions that saved the lives of Wells’ team during a 2008 deployment to Afghanistan. That’s how we do in real life.

And the rivalry doesn’t stop just because a veteran gets a DD-214. If anything, it gets worse. Just look at the Army-Navy Game. Are you ready to watch two irrelevant college football teams talk shit for weeks leading up to a game whose disappointment starts with ugly uniforms and usually ends with the Navy blowing out Army?

That time an F-16 pilot saved ground troops with a sonic boom
That’s what happens to the Army without air support.

Also: 6 reasons why Marines hate on the Air Force

It’s usually all in good fun. But if you didn’t serve, don’t join in – veterans from every branch will turn on you immediately. That being said, let’s take a look at few good reasons airmen hate on Marines.

6. Those stupid haircuts.

Nothing says “motarded” like a Marine’s haircut. You know those memes where a guy with a stupid haircut asks a barber to f*ck up his shit? You could make a book of those memes just walking around Camp Pendleton.

That time an F-16 pilot saved ground troops with a sonic boom
Seriously, wtf is that? An inverted Mohawk?

5. They take everything so seriously.

Look, I get it. A lot of Marines are going to see combat. Every Marine is a rifleman, sure. But don’t wait til you’re in the barracks drinking cheap beer, hanging with even cheaper locals to lighten up.

That time an F-16 pilot saved ground troops with a sonic boom
You don’t have to marry the first stripper you see in Jacksonville is all I’m saying.

4. Calling us the “Chair Force.”

If you’re a Marine Corps legal clerk, maybe slow your roll on calling anyone “Chair Force.” On an Air Force base, you’d still be derided as a nonner, which is as close to POG as the Air Force gets.

That time an F-16 pilot saved ground troops with a sonic boom
Sometimes we roll the same way, it just doesn’t take an airman 13 weeks to get there.

Also, the Chair Force crack is so old, Marines are probably going to honor it with a plaque or memorial of some kind.

3. Their damn uniforms.

Look, no one is going to argue about Marine Corps dress blues — we acknowledge they’re pretty damn cool, but let’s talk about the MARPAT. There was nothing wrong with BDUs. We all wore them and they worked for 20 years. Then the Marines had to have their own cammies, because optics and whatnot.

That time an F-16 pilot saved ground troops with a sonic boom
Look at all our Afghan enemies’ optics.

Okay, say we get into a war with China or something, then those might be useful. Hopefully we never find out. The real beef with the uniforms is that they led to every service getting their own uniform, and the Air Force ended up in these:

That time an F-16 pilot saved ground troops with a sonic boom
Cool tiger stripes — at least we’re not the Navy.

2. And what’s with celebrities wearing Marine uniforms?

That time an F-16 pilot saved ground troops with a sonic boom
Way to represent the Air Force, Chuck. You’re dead to me. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Staff Sgt. Tia Schroeder)

1. Complaining about superior Air Force facilities.

We hear you. Marine Corps facilities are garbage compared to the Air Force. The truth is that most facilities are garbage compared to the Air Force, even civilian facilities are garbage compared to the Air Force.

But Marines should be complaining to the Navy about facilities. After all, it wasn’t an airman that put Mackie Hall next to Sh*t Creek. You either get indoor plumbing or the F-35, but you can’t have both.

That time an F-16 pilot saved ground troops with a sonic boom
And the Air Force didn’t make that call for your leadership, either. Yut.

As for our chocolate fountains, I don’t know where that meme came from and I don’t care. If I wanted to eat from the garbage, I’d visit a Marine Corps chow hall.

That time an F-16 pilot saved ground troops with a sonic boom
Look at him. He either loves it or is just trying to struggle through another meal. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

There’s only one thing I won’t hate on the Corps for though: Those recruiting commercials. F*cking epic.

(TheMilitaryProject | YouTube)
MIGHTY TRENDING

Trump says there’s no plan to withdraw from Iraq

During a surprise trip to Iraq, his first such visit with US troops in a combat zone, President Donald Trump says he has “no plans at all” to withdraw US forces from the country, where they’ve been present since the 2003 invasion.

Trump had not previously said he would pull US troops from Iraq, but the trip comes after he abruptly announced the withdrawal of some 2,000 US troops from Syria — a decision that reportedly prompted Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’ resignation — and reports emerged of plans to remove about half of the 14,000 US troops in Afghanistan.


Mattis, who will leave office at the end of 2018, signed an order to withdraw troops from Syria on Dec. 24, 2018.

Trump, accompanied by his wife, Melania, traveled to Iraq late on Christmas night, flying to Al Asad air base in western Iraq and delivering a holiday message to more than 5,000 US troops stationed in the country. He is expected to make two stops on the trip, according to The New York Times.

That time an F-16 pilot saved ground troops with a sonic boom

President Trump and the First Lady visit troops at Al Asad Air Base, Iraq.

The trip was kept secret, with Air Force One reportedly making the 11-hour flight with lights off and window shades drawn. Trump said he had never seen anything like it and that he was more concerned with the safety of those with him than he was for himself, according to the Associated Press.

The president said that because of gains made against ISIS in Syria, US forces there were able to return home. US officials have said the militant group holds about 1% of the territory it once occupied, though several thousand fighters remain in pockets in western Syria and others have blended back into local populations.

Trump said the mission in Syria was to remove ISIS from its strongholds and not to be a nation-builder, which he said was a job for other wealthy countries. He praised Saudi Arabia this week for committing money to rebuild the war-torn country. The US presence there was never meant to be “open-ended,” he added.

Trump told reporters traveling with him that he wanted to remove US forces from Syria but that Iraq could still be used as a base to launch attacks on ISIS militants.

If needed, the US can attack ISIS “so fast and so hard” that they “won’t know what the hell happened,” Trump said.

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

Articles

This battle decided which cuss words you use

William the Conqueror defeated King Harold in the Battle of Hastings in 1066, changing the way Englishmen would speak — and cuss — for all of time.


That time an F-16 pilot saved ground troops with a sonic boom
Actors participate in a reproduction of the Battle of Hastings. Photo: Antonio Borrillo CC BY-SA 3.0

Before the war William was the Duke of Normandy, the area of western France that the Allies would invade almost 900 years later to defeat the Nazis. William had ambitions beyond the continent though, and sought out an audience with King Edward the Confessor of England. Edward had no children and no obvious heir.

William claimed that Edward promised him the throne during this conversation in 1060, but on his deathbed Edward named an English noble as his successor. Harold Godwine ascended to the throne in 1066 but William immediately called bull-scheisse and contested Harold’s claim.

For obvious reasons, Harold wasn’t eager to give up his throne. So William crossed the English channel with 7,000 soldiers. Harold had just finished fighting off a Norwegian invasion and was forced to face this new threat with a diminished number of troops.

About two weeks later, Harold and William met with their armies near Hastings. The battle raged all day Oct. 13, 1066, and Harold was killed at the end of the fighting.

That time an F-16 pilot saved ground troops with a sonic boom

The Normans marched to London and William was crowned king. Once he ascended, William declared French, his native language, the official language of the court. This left the Germanic language spoken by the Anglo-Saxons, Old English, as a “lower” language.

According to the Oxford Dictionary blog, this created a two-tiered language that evolved into modern English. Words for things connected to the ruling class, like large homes and prepared meat, drew from French. So noblemen lived in mansions and ate buef (beef) and porc (pork), while an Anglo-Saxon lived in hus (houses) and raised cus (cows) and picg (pigs).

When it came to the lowest and most vulgar of words, like those for poop, butts, and sex, the Old English words with German roots, scheissearsch, and ficken, became terms of profanity. It shouldn’t be too hard to guess which words those evolved into.

(h/t Alex Schmidt of Cracked)

Articles

The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (July 17 edition)

Now: This ill-fated PR flight kept the B-70 Valkyrie from changing Air Force history

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is what it would take to clear out North Korea’s nukes

A top Pentagon official has said the only sure way of eliminating North Korea’s nuclear weapons capabilities would be by putting US boots on the ground — a move that some worry could prompt Pyongyang to use biological, chemical, and even nuclear weapons against Japan and South Korea.


“The only way to ‘locate and destroy — with complete certainty — all components of North Korea’s nuclear weapons programs’ is through a ground invasion,” Rear Adm. Michael J. Dumont, vice director of the Joint Chiefs of Staff wrote in a blunt assessment to US lawmakers on the realities of reining in Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions.

Dumont’s letter came in response to questions by US Reps. Ted Lieu of California and Ruben Gallego of Arizona in regards to military planning and casualty estimates in the event of conflict with the nuclear-armed North.

That time an F-16 pilot saved ground troops with a sonic boom
Rear Adm. Michael J. Dumont, pictured above, is convinced that the only way to completely disarm North Korea would be to put Troops in harm’s way. (Photo courtesy of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.)

Dumont said that a detailed discussion of US capabilities “to counter North Korea’s ability to respond with a nuclear weapon and to eliminate North Korea’s nuclear weapons located in deeply buried, underground facilities,” would be best suited for a classified briefing.

The military, Dumont wrote, “would be happy to join the Intelligence Community to address these issues in a classified briefing.”

His letter also noted that the North “may consider the use of biological weapons as an option, contrary to its obligations under the Biological and Toxic Weapons Convention,” adding that it continues to bolster its research and development capabilities in this area.

North Korea, the letter went on, “has a long-standing chemical weapons program with the capability to produce nerve, blister, blood, and choking agents and it likely possesses a CW stockpile.”

That time an F-16 pilot saved ground troops with a sonic boom
High-ranking US military officers are concerned that Kim Jong Un, pictured here during a visit to Germany early in 2017, wouldn’t hesitate to use chemical weapons in a combat situation. (Image from Driver Photographer.)

The country “probably could employ CW agents by modifying a variety of conventional munitions, including artillery and ballistic missiles, though whether it would so employ CW agents remains an open question,” Dumont said, again noting that a detailed discussion would need to be held in a classified setting.

The Pentagon also said it was “challenging” to calculate “best- or worst-case casualty estimates” for any conventional or nuclear attack, citing the nature, intensity, and duration of any strike, as well as how much advance warning is given.

In a joint statement in response to the letter, 16 US lawmakers — all veterans — called the prospect of a ground invasion “deeply disturbing.”

“The Joint Chiefs of Staff has now confirmed that the only way to destroy North Korea’s nuclear arsenal is through a ground invasion,” they wrote. “That is deeply disturbing and could result in hundreds of thousands, or even millions of deaths in just the first few days of fighting.”

That time an F-16 pilot saved ground troops with a sonic boom
South Korean soldiers stand guard within the Joint Security Area of the DMZ, day and night, ready for anything. (Army Photo by Edward N. Johnson.)

These estimates echoed a report by the Congressional Research Service released late last month that said renewed conflict on the Korean Peninsula could kill hundreds of thousands of people in the first few days alone, a figure that excluded the potential use of nuclear weapons.

Even if North Korea “uses only its conventional munitions, estimates range from between 30,000 and 300,000 dead in the first days of fighting,” the report said, citing North Korea’s ability to fire 10,000 rounds per minute at Seoul.

Related: This is what would happen if North Korea popped off an H-bomb in the Pacific

More pressingly for Japan, the report noted is that “Pyongyang could also escalate to attacking Japan with ballistic missiles, including the greater Tokyo area and its roughly 38 million residents.

“The regime might see such an attack as justified by its historic hostility toward Japan based on Japan’s annexation of the Korean Peninsula from 1910 to 1945, or it could launch missiles in an attempt to knock out US military assets stationed on the archipelago,” the report said. “A further planning consideration is that North Korea might also strike US bases in Japan (or South Korea) first, possibly with nuclear weapons, to deter military action by US/ROK forces.”

That time an F-16 pilot saved ground troops with a sonic boom
South Korean Soldiers in the 631st Field Artillery Battalion, 26th Mechanized Infantry Division Artillery, coordinate fires from a battery of six K9 Thunder 155 mm self-propelled howitzers. North and South Korea have a huge amount of artillery pointed at one another, waiting to inflict massive, mutual harm.

US President Donald Trump, who kicked off his first trip to Asia as president with a visit to Japan on Nov. 5, has regularly noted that all options, including military action, remain on the table.

The global community has been ramping up pressure on North Korea after it conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test so far on Sept. 3. In September, the UN Security Council strengthened its sanctions, including export bans as well as asset freezes and travel bans on various officials.

For his part, Trump, together with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, has taken an approach of “maximum pressure” in dealing with Pyongyang.

But Trump, known to derisively refer to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as “rocket man,” has also variously threatened North Korea with “fire and fury” and to “totally destroy” the country of 25 million people if the United States is forced to defend itself or its allies, including Japan.

That time an F-16 pilot saved ground troops with a sonic boom

This possibility of military action has stoked alarm among allied nations and within the US Congress, including questions about planning and the aftermath of such a move.

“It is our intent to have a full public accounting of the potential cost of war, so the American people understand the commitment we would be making as a nation if we were to pursue military action,” the 16 lawmakers wrote in their statement.

Related: Here’s the kind of damage North Korea could do if it went to war

The Trump administration, the lawmakers said, “has failed to articulate any plans to prevent the military conflict from expanding beyond the Korean Peninsula and to manage what happens after the conflict is over.”

“With that in mind, the thought of sending troops into harm’s way and expending resources on another potentially unwinnable war is chilling,” they said. “The President needs to stop making provocative statements that hinder diplomatic options and put American troops further at risk.”

That time an F-16 pilot saved ground troops with a sonic boom
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and South Korean Minister of Defense Song Young-moo look to the north from the Demilitarized Zone between the Koreas. You can almost see the tactical wheels turning in Mattis’ head. (DoD photo by US Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith.)

The United States has roughly 50,000 troops stationed in Japan and 28,500 based in South Korea.

“Invading North Korea could result in a catastrophic loss of lives for US troops and US civilians in South Korea,” the lawmakers said. “It could kill millions of South Koreans and put troops and civilians in Guam and Japan at risk.

“As Veterans, we have defended this nation in war and we remain committed to this country’s security. We also understand that entering into a protracted and massive ground war with North Korea would be disastrous for US troops and our allies,” they said. “The Joint Chiefs of Staff, it appears, agree. Their assessment underscores what we’ve known all along: There are no good military options for North Korea.”

Articles

7 gifts for the moto veterans in your life

Christmas is right around the corner and time is running out to get something great. Here’s a quick primer for anyone still shopping for that special veteran.


1. Toys

That time an F-16 pilot saved ground troops with a sonic boom
GIF: Youtube/RCSparks Studio

You can take a second to pretend your grown, bad-ss service member doesn’t love toys if you need, we’ll wait. All done? Cool. On the upper end of the price spectrum there are remote-control tanks that fire pellets while on the lower side model A-10 Warthogs are available.

2. Vintage gear

That time an F-16 pilot saved ground troops with a sonic boom
Any World War II gear could be cool, but a motorcycle would win Christmas. Photo: Wikipedia/Terry Whalebone

Most vets embrace the history of their unit, making vintage military items a great gift. Soldiers and Marines may appreciate this antiqued compass or sailors could go for a telescope. Airmen can try the classic bomber jacket.

3. Military movie memorabilia

That time an F-16 pilot saved ground troops with a sonic boom
Photo: Youtube screenshot/MBS-MoviesBestScenes

Speaking of bomber jackets, Maverick’s jacket from Top Gun is available for movie buffs and movie weapons can be fun. Of course, getting the actual movies can be a great gift too.

4. Rucks and other bags

That time an F-16 pilot saved ground troops with a sonic boom
Photo: US Army National Guard Master Sgt. Paul Wade

Former soldiers and Marines hate their heavy rucksacks while they’re marching around the desert, but love gear bags for everything from camping to running around town.

Surplus stores will usually have the real deal while good military-inspired bags are available all over the place. Make sure to match camouflage patterns to the service member. Marines don’t want to wear Army digital, soldiers don’t want to wear MARPAT, and no one wants to wear aquaflage.

This is especially important if the veteran is still in the service. The military branches usually only allow black bags or those with matching camouflage to be worn while in uniform.

5. Books

That time an F-16 pilot saved ground troops with a sonic boom
Photo: Courtesy Adam and Brian Makos

Bookworms always have a lot of great options from the military. The new novel “Ghost Fleet: A Novel of the Next World War” generated a lot of buzz this year, and Marine Phil Klay’s “Redeployment” is a brilliant collection of short stories. Former paratrooper Michael MacLeod’s memoir, “The Brave Ones” follows a 41-year-old enlistee in the War on Terror from recruitment through two deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.

WATM has previously covered quadruple amputee and 82nd Airborne Division veteran Staff Sgt. Travis Mill’s new book, “Tough as they Come” as well as history writer Adam Makos’ “Devotion,” the true story of a Medal of Honor recipient who crashed his plane behind enemy lines in Korea to try and save his best friend.

6. Swag

That time an F-16 pilot saved ground troops with a sonic boom
Photo: NavyChief.com

Troops love them some stickers, t-shirts, and other swag so that everyone knows how cool they are. Nearly all units and branches are represented at shops like cafepress.com, but check first to see if the service member’s unit sells items directly.

Purchases made from a unit typically support that unit’s morale fund, helping them pay for events at home and overseas. There are also vet-owned companies that make awesome military gear like Grunt Style, Ranger Up, and Article 15.

7. Weapons

That time an F-16 pilot saved ground troops with a sonic boom
Photo: Public Domain/Nicolas von Kospoth

Uncle Sam’s gun clubs love their weaponry, both in the professional sphere and at home. Obviously, match the gift to the vet. If they don’t already have a knife or gun, maybe get something else off the list.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is the death cult the FBI says is spreading among drug cartels

The drug war has been going on for so long, the inward, secret lives of narcotics traffickers are beginning to take on a life all of their own, separate from the national borders we know as their homes. They have their own rituals, coded languages, technology, and now, even a secret religion has sprung up around their lives.

It’s called the cult of Santa Muerte – “Holy Death” – and it’s more intense and deadly than anything that came before it.


That time an F-16 pilot saved ground troops with a sonic boom

A Santa Muerte follower announces its adherence.

(FBI)

Since Mexican President Felipe Calderon upped the ante on the Drug War in 2006 by taking down the highest-ranking members of certain cartels, violence in the country has increased exponentially. Since then some 45,000 people have died in the drug war. The level of violence and death without warning has spurred the spread of the Santa Muerte religion in Mexico and beyond. Santa Muerte, in turn, spurs the narcos to become more and more violent.

The worshippers of Santa Muerte are primarily disenfranchised, poor Mexicans who turn to the cartels as a means of employment but soon begin the same cycle of murder and torture as those who came before them. The activities they’re forced to conduct aren’t accepted by pure Catholicism, so they turn elsewhere for comfort.

That time an F-16 pilot saved ground troops with a sonic boom

And now, you can buy the figurines on Amazon.

Santa Muerte has developed as a belief system for over 50 years or more. According to the FBI, “The Santa Muerte cult could best be described as [following] a set of ritual practices offered on behalf of a supernatural personification of death…she is comparable in theology to supernatural beings or archangels.” Unlike Death or the Virgin of Guadalupe, as she is often represented, her scales don’t actually work, a reflection of her amoral nature. Since many narco foot soldiers will end up dying a brutal death, the appeal of worshipping a death-like figure is obvious. In the meantime, Santa Muerte advocates are enjoying the world’s earthly pleasures.

While the FBI stops short of calling the worship of Santa Muerte a full-blown religion, it does have its own belief system, as well as priests, temples, and shrines, along with all the rituals associated with religion – including ritual killings.

That time an F-16 pilot saved ground troops with a sonic boom

A statue of Santa Muerte in a practitioner’s home.

Ritualistic Santa Muerte killings are abundant in Mexico and South America amongst narco-traffickers, but the killings are now making their way into the United States, albeit, primarily close to the border cities already struck by violence that has become the signature of the War on Drugs, and only four have been confirmed as related to Santa Muerte.

Border agents and local police have been thoroughly trained on the ins and outs of the religion and its followers, but luckily very few have been seen on the U.S. side of the border.

MIGHTY TRENDING

U.S. says terrorist threats persist, citing Iran’s rising support for extremists

The administration of U.S. President Donald Trump says “dangerous terrorist threats persisted” in 2019 even as Iran, the Islamic State (IS) extremist group, and Al-Qaeda suffered setbacks.

In its annual report on terrorism issued on June 24, the State Department also said that white supremacist attacks were on the rise.


Iran, which the report calls “the world’s worst state sponsor of terrorism,” and its proxies continued to “plot and commit terrorist attacks on a global scale.”

Tehran also continued to allow an Al-Qaeda “facilitation network” to operate in Iran, “sending money and fighters to conflict zones in Afghanistan and Syria, and it still allowed [Al-Qaeda] members to reside in the country.”

“Finally, the Iranian regime continued to foment violence, both directly and through proxies, in Bahrain, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen,” the report added.

Despite losing territory in Iraq and Syria, as well as its leader, the IS extremist group “adapted to continue the fight from its affiliates across the globe and by inspiring followers to commit attacks,” according to the report.

But it also said that Iran, the IS group, and Al-Qaeda suffered serious setbacks last year, including the killing of several top leaders and the imposition of “crippling” sanctions against Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, the Tehran-backed Lebanese Hizballah movement, and supporters and financiers of both.

According to the State Department, attacks committed by white nationalists are of particular concern and “a serious challenge for the global community.”

The report noted numerous such attacks in 2019, including in New Zealand, Germany, and the United States.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is how background checks are starting to hurt US national security

The Defense Department is pledging to improve the way background investigations are done, according to Garry Reid, DoD’s director for defense intelligence and security.


There is currently an enormous backlog in the investigations, Reid said. Some personnel have been waiting up to nearly two years for a top secret security clearance, he said, explaining the goal for completing a top secret investigation is 80 days.

That time an F-16 pilot saved ground troops with a sonic boom
There are a lot of secrets in that building. (National Security Agency Headquarters in Fort Meade, Maryland.)

The delays are impacting readiness, he explained to DoD News.

“Units are deploying without a full complement of cleared intelligence analysts and technical experts,” Reid said.

Read: How hurricane relief is stalling US troops’ Afghanistan deployment

“Service members competing for positions that require top level clearances are held in check,” he said. “Our research and development programs are not operating at capacity due to shortage of cleared defense industry contractors.”

The long delays in processing clearances result in loss of talented people, particularly those just entering the workforce who have highly desired technical skills but cannot afford to wait a year or more before starting the job, he said.

“We are prepared to take this matter in hand and aggressively develop better approaches that can deliver quality investigations, at sustainable cost, within acceptable timelines,” he said.

Changes in Procedures

The fiscal year 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, Section 951, Enhanced Security Programs for Department of Defense Personnel and Innovation Initiative, directed the defense secretary, to provide the following to the DoD committees:

— An implementation plan, by Aug. 1, 2017, for the Defense Security Service, or DSS, to conduct, after Oct. 1, 2017, background investigations for DoD personnel, whose investigations are adjudicated by the DoD Consolidated Adjudications Facility.

— A report, by Aug. 1, 2017, on the number of full-time equivalent employees of the DoD management headquarters that would be required by DSS to carry out the transfer plan.

— A plan, by Oct. 1, 2017, along with the Office of Personnel Management, to transfer government investigative personnel and contracted resources to the DoD from OPM, in proportion to the background and security investigative workload that would be assumed by DoD if the implementation plan were executed.

That time an F-16 pilot saved ground troops with a sonic boom
The Defense Department requires security clearances for service members and civilians, allowing them to be mission ready for deployment around the globe for DoD missions. (Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Jeremy Graham)

Backlog Impacts Readiness

DoD does not plan to assume the cases the OPM is already investigating, according to Reid. The pending cases are in various stages of completion and the department has already paid OPM’s National Background Investigation System to conduct those investigations.

“The enormity of the backlog is staggering,” Reid told members of Congress last month.

The backlog hurts readiness, erodes warfighting capacity, debilitates development of new capabilities, and wastes taxpayer dollars, he explained to the House Oversight and Government’s Subcommittee on Government Operations.

He said 93,000 DoD cases were waiting in a queue for a top secret investigation, and the prices for the investigations continue to rise at a “staggering rate.”

“In 2015, after promising to provide credit monitoring to 22 million government employees and federal contractors whose personal data was compromised, OPM retroactively passed on these costs on to its customers — resulting in an additional $132 million bill for DoD,” he said.

Read More: Army reports lack of training as biggest setback to readiness

DoD to Reset Process and Procedures

Reid said the situation is “unacceptable and must be remedied through immediate mitigation measures and a long-term reformation of the personnel vetting system.”

He said that is why Congress directed DoD in 2017 to develop plans for assuming control of the background investigations.

In August, the defense secretary approved the plan and notified Congress, the director of national intelligence, the director of OPM, and the director of the Office of Management and Budget of his intent to execute the plan over a three-year period, according to Reid.

“The DoD plan goes far beyond a transfer of personnel and resources associated with the legacy process at OPM; this will be a full resetting of process and procedures in desperate need of modernization and system reform,” he said.

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