Air-to-air dogfights have been lacking in recent years.
In one sense it is a good thing – it means the United States has been able to take control of the air very quickly. But American pilots still need to be able to practice – and not everyone can get to Red Flag or the Navy’s equivalents.
Recently the Air Force has been using Northrop T-38 Talons to help alleviate the problem. The T-38 Talon is a supersonic trainer that served as the basis for the F-5 “Freedom Fighter” and the F-5E/F Tiger. The F-5s were light, day-time fighters that were very maneuverable, and they have served as Navy and Marine Corps aggressors for the long time.
The Air Force has been using T-38s to supplement F-16s at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada and at Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska.
Aggressor training, developed after the Ault Report showed shortcomings in naval aviation, has helped keep American airmen good, and emerged in the late stages of the Vietnam War. The famous “Top Gun” school, in particular, had a marked effect, sending kill ratios skyrocketing to over 13:1.
The other reason is that some of the private companies can offer planes beyond the T-38 for these missions. A 2016 report from DefenseOne.com noted that one company has a mix of F-21 Kfirs, A-4 Skyhawks, Hawker Hunters, and L-39 Albatross jets. Among the companies getting into the mix is Textron, which makes the Textron AirLand Scorpion.
The final reason. though, maybe the most important.
That is because turning the aggressor training over to contractors could make them even tougher opponents for Air Force and Navy pilots. While many an Air Force pilot has non-flying billets at various points in their career, contractors will be able to just keep flying and dogfighting. This will make the military pilots they face off against sweat more, but it may prove the wisdom behind one old saying: The more you sweat in training, the less you bleed in war.
In a unanimous vote, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that would allow WWII-era Women’s Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs) to be interred at Arlington National Cemetery. The bill was sponsored by Rep. Martha McSally (R-Az.), a former A-10 pilot who flew missions over Iraq.
“The WASPs opened the door for people like me being able to serve,” McSally said.
The women were denied burial rights when the Army reinterpreted a bill from the 1970’s. The decision excluded the WASPs, who ferried combat aircraft and trained male pilots from 1942-1944. The female WWII pilots were not considered active duty troops under the reinterpretation despite having since received the Congressional Gold Medal, as well as benefits under the VA system.
Space at Arlington is becoming increasingly scarce as time goes by. The acting Secretary of the Army Patrick Murphy insists only Congress can change the internment rules. The bill now goes to the Senate, where similar bills have been introduced.
Here at We Are The Mighty, we can understand if people are worried about getting their ass kicked by SEAL Team 6.
So, as a public service, here are some pointers on how to stay off DevGru’s Naughty List:
1. Don’t be a terrorist
SEAL Team 6 is the Navy’s dedicated counter-terrorist group. If you’re not a terrorist, they have no professional interest in giving you an ass-kicking at all. But if you are a terrorist, they will have a very professional interest in ruining your day and going through your stuff.
So, you may ask, “Why might they think I am a terrorist?” Well, if you join a terrorist group, they might think you are a terrorist. Here is a very handy list of groups, courtesy of the State Department, to not hang out with:
Abu Nidal Organization (ANO)
Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG)
Aum Shinrikyo (AUM)
Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA)
Gama’a al-Islamiyya (Islamic Group) (IG)
Harakat ul-Mujahidin (HUM)
Kahane Chai (Kach)
Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) (Kongra-Gel)
Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE)
National Liberation Army (ELN)
Palestine Liberation Front (PLF)
Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ)
Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLF)
Communist Party of the Philippines/New People’s Army (CPP/NPA)
Jemaah Islamiya (JI)
Lashkar i Jhangvi (LJ)
Ansar al-Islam (AAI)
Continuity Irish Republican Army (CIRA)
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (formerly al-Qa’ida in Iraq)
Islamic Jihad Union (IJU)
Harakat ul-Jihad-i-Islami/Bangladesh (HUJI-B)
Revolutionary Struggle (RS)
Kata’ib Hizballah (KH)
al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)
Harakat ul-Jihad-i-Islami (HUJI)
Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP)
Army of Islam (AOI)
Indian Mujahedeen (IM)
Jemaah Anshorut Tauhid (JAT)
Abdallah Azzam Brigades (AAB)
Haqqani Network (HQN)
Ansar al-Dine (AAD)
Ansar al-Shari’a in Benghazi
Ansar al-Shari’a in Darnah
Ansar al-Shari’a in Tunisia
ISIL Sinai Province (formally Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis)
Mujahidin Shura Council in the Environs of Jerusalem (MSC)
Jaysh Rijal al-Tariq al Naqshabandi (JRTN)
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’s Branch in Libya (ISIL-Libya)
Al-Qa’ida in the Indian Subcontinent
2. Don’t support terrorists
If you provide money, supplies, or even a place to stay to a member of a group on the State Department’s list, you’ve supported terrorism. This is bad.
Other activities, like drug trafficking, money laundering, recruiting members of terrorist groups, training new members of terrorist groups, and other forms of facilitating can get you on the official ass kicking list.
If terrorists approach you and ask you for help, mutter an excuse and GTFO.
Once you’ve fled, check out the Rewards for Justice web site; turning a terrorist in could be a way to set yourself up for life. Some terrorists could get you up to $25 million.
Wouldn’t you rather have $25 million than an ass-kicking courtesy of SEAL Team 6?
3. If the SEALs pay a visit, don’t resist
Seen through the greenish glow of night vision goggles, Navy SEALs prepare to breach a locked door in Osama Bin Laden’s compound in the hyper-realistic action thriller from director Kathryn Bigelow, “Zero Dark Thirty.” (Image: Columbia Pictures)
Now, let’s assume that you were dumb enough to attract the professional attention of the SEALs by ignoring Rules 1 and 2. You can still avoid an ass-kicking, but you need to use the common sense you have failed to use up to the point where the SEALs are kicking in the door.
Do not resist. Keep your hands where the SEALs can see them. Do not struggle.
You may get yourself taken to Guantanamo Bay for a while, and yes, the SEALs will take your stuff and look for anything with intelligence value (and some of it may become trophies), but you should be safe from a beating.
Here’s the deal. SEALs are professionals. They’re not gonna kill you just for sh*ts and giggles. But they also intend to go home to their families.
If a SEAL thinks there’s danger present, he’s gonna mitigate that threat.
Don’t threaten Navy SEALs, dude. Just…don’t.
4. Be very cooperative
In addition to not resisting, it would be very helpful to cooperate with the SEALs. Answer their questions. Here are a few phrases to practice:
“I will answer your questions.”
“This is the boss’s laptop and cell phone.”
“I can show you where the booby traps are.”
“Our cash is over there.”
“Our records are in these filing cabinets.”
“My password is [tell them your password].”
“The combination to the safe is [tell them the combo]”
You may still get the all-expenses paid trip to Gitmo, but the SEALs will note that you were highly cooperative. Your stay there will be much more comfortable than if you clam up.
Follow these rules and you might not get your ass kicked by SEAL Team 6.
The federal government invests a lot of time and money into training service members of the armed forces. As a result, it’s to the advantage of the government to retain service members for as long as possible. Retention programs and bonuses incentivize service members to stay in, but if you no longer wish to volunteer for an all-volunteer service, you can leave (provided your contract is up, of course).
After all, skills and certifications acquired in the military are highly sought after in the civilian workforce. Whether you’re a missileer who goes to work for Raytheon, an intel analyst with a secret clearance who gets scooped up by Booz Allen Hamilton or a diesel mechanic who takes a job with Union Pacific, your experience and training in the military makes you a valuable asset to any organization. For those that want to continue serving their country outside of the military, many federal agencies are more than willing to hire vets to fill their ranks.
In 2009, President Obama signed an executive order establishing the Veterans Employment Initiative. Meant to promote the hiring of veterans in the executive branch, the program has also served as a model for companies in the private sector to make hiring veterans a priority. “As the nation’s leading employers, the federal government is in need of highly skilled individuals to meet agency staffing needs and to support mission objectives,” said the director of veteran services at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management and Air Force vet, Hakeem Basheerud-Deen. “Veterans get a lot of training and development during their military service, and their wide variety of skills and experience—as well as their motivation for public service—can help fulfill federal agencies’ staffing needs.” In no particular order, these are some of the best federal jobs for veterans of any background.
(National Park Service)
1. Park Ranger
If you’ve been stationed in Alaska, Colorado, Fort Drum (you have our condolences) or any other location where outdoor activities are plentiful, you may have developed an affinity for open-air recreation. If you have, you might consider a job as a ranger for the National Park Service. As a ranger, you would investigate complaints and violations of park regulations, provide visitors with guidance and information, and generally protect the land set aside for future generations to enjoy. If an office job sounds like a prison sentence, this might be the job for you.
(Fort Bliss Public Affairs Office via DVIDS)
2. Law Enforcement
Looking for a post-military career that will keep you in the action? You might consider a job in federal law enforcement. This is a very broad job field, though. You could work as a federal police officer at a military installation, a park police officer under the National Park Service or even an FBI agent serving as a legal attaché to an overseas embassy.
Another commonly thought of job under this umbrella is Border Patrol Agent. However, under Customs and Border Protection, you can also find CBP Officers. These are the men and women who protect the country at all ports of entry. From screening passengers at passport control to combing through cargo containers for illicit cargo, CBP Officers oversee everything coming into the country. Aside from DEA and FBI agents who train at Quantico, Federal Law Enforcement agents train at specialized Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers. FLETC is headquartered at the former Naval Air Station Glynco in Georgia and operates two other residential training sites in Artesia, New Mexico and Charleston, South Carolina.
(207th Regional Support Group via DVIDS)
3. Human Resources
Paperwork is the lifeblood of the government. It moves information, initiates action, and can mean the difference between you getting paid or owing money. Though many systems have moved online to database or system entries, there is still a plethora of Standard and Agency-specific Forms that the federal government relies on.
Coming from the military, you’ll be familiar with having to fill out paperwork for everything from life insurance and emergency contacts to leave requests and requisition forms. Though more senior positions might require civilian HR certifications (a good time to use that post-9/11 GI Bill), there are still entry-level positions that allow veterans to get their foot in the door with their service experience alone. If it’s not on paper, it didn’t happen.
(U.S. Army Drill Sergeant Academy via DVIDS)
4. Range Tech
Almost everyone who has donned the uniform has been to a range. Even some chaplains hop on the firing line to test their aim (unofficially, of course). You know those civilians who run the computers? You could be one of them! Though some bases contract these jobs out to private companies, there are still jobs that pop up on USAJobs.gov for range tech positions across the country.
As long as you have some experience learning something new and working with your hands (you went to basic training, after all), you’re good to go. Now, there’s a bit more to it than just pressing buttons, laughing at the people who struggle to qualify, and refreshing the ancient program running on Windows 95. But, if you like being on the firing line and you’re willing to learn how to maintain and operate a range, this job could be your perfect fit.
5. Postal Service
As of February 2020, the USPS employs more than 97,000 veterans and is one of the largest employers of veterans in the country. Don’t want to be a letter carrier or work customer service? Contrary to popular belief, Postal Service careers extend beyond the aforementioned positions. USPS offers careers in accounting and finance, operations, marketing and sales, human resources and admin, processing and delivery, and many more. If you’ve deployed overseas, you know just how valuable mail is. Especially during the COVID-19 timeframe, the personal touch of a physical letter can be just what someone needs to brighten their day. Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night…
Whether you’re retiring from the military or separating after your first contract, your service and experience in the armed forces sets you apart from people that haven’t served. A federal job allows you to continue that service. A steady paycheck and maintaining your TSP aren’t bad perks either.
Air Force F-35A Joint Strike Fighters coordinated close air support with Navy SEALs, trained with F-15Es and A-10s, dropped laser-guided bombs and practiced key mission sets and tactics in Idaho as part of initial preparations for what will likely be its first deployment within several years, senior service officials said.
“We are practicing taking what would be a smaller contingent of jets and moving them to another location and then having them employ out of that location,” Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian, former Director, F-35 Integration Office told Scout Warrior in an interview several months ago.
Harrigian said the Air Force plane would likely deploy within several years and pointed to mini-deployments of 6 F-35As from Edwards AFB in Calif., to Mountain Home AFB in Idaho as key evidence of its ongoing preparations for combat.
“They dropped 30-bombs – 20 laser-guided bombs and 10 JDAMS (Joint Direct Attack Munitions). All of them were effective. We are trying to understand not only how we understand the airplane in terms of ordnance but also those tactics, techniques and procedures we need to prepare,” Harrigian explained.
During the exercises at Mountain Home AFB, the F-35A also practiced coordinating communications such as target identification, radio and other command and control functions with 4th-generation aircraft such as the F-15E, he added.
The training exercises in Idaho were also the first “real” occasion to test the airplane’s ability to use its computer system called the Autonomic Logistic Information System, or ALIS. The Air Force brought servers up to Mountain Home AFB to practice maintaining data from the computer system.
A report in the Air Force Times indicated that lawmakers have expressed some concerns about the development of ALIS, which has been plagued with developmental problems such as maintenance issues and problems referred to as “false positives.”
“This is a new piece of the weapons system. It has been challenging and hard. You have all this data about your airplanes. We learned some things that we were able to do in a reasonable amount of time,” Harrigian said.
F-35A “Sensor Fusion”
The computer system is essential to what F-35 proponents refer to as “sensor fusion,” a next-generation technology which combines and integrates information from a variety of sensors onto a single screen. As a result, a pilot does not have to look at separate displays to calculate mapping information, targeting data, sensor input and results from a radar warning receiver.
Harrigian added that his “fusion” technology allows F-35A pilots to process information and therefore make decisions faster than a potential enemy. He explained how this bears upon the historic and often referred to OODA Loop – a term to connote the Observation Orientation, Decision, Action cycle that fighter pilots need to go through in a dogfight or combat engagement in order to successfully destroy the enemy. The OODA-Loop concept was developed by former Air Force strategist Col. John Boyd; it has been a benchmark of fighter pilot training, preparation and tactical mission execution.
“As we go in and start to target the enemy, we are maximizing the capabilities of our jets. The F-35 takes all that sensor input and gives it to you in one picture. Your ability to make decisions quicker that the enemy is exponentially better than when we were trying to put it all together in a 4th generation airplane. You are arriving already in a position of advantage,” Harrigian explained.
Also, the F-35 is able to fire weapons such as the AIM-9X Sidewinder air-to-air missile “off boresight,” meaning it can destroy enemy targets at different angles of approach that are not necessarily directly in front of the aircraft.
“Before you get into an engagement you will have likely already shot a few missiles at the enemy,” Harrigian said.
The F-35s Electro-Optical Targeting System, or EOTS, combines forward-looking infrared and infrared search and track sensor technology for pilots – allowing them to find and track targets before attacking with laser and GPS-guided precision weapons.
The EOTs system is engineered to work in tandem with a technology called the Distributed Aperture System, or DAS, a collection of six cameras strategically mounted around the aircraft to give the pilot a 360-degree view.
The DAS includes precision tracking, fire control capabilities and the ability to warn the pilot of an approaching threat or missile.
The F-35 is also engineered with an Active Electronically Scanned Array Radar which is able to track a host of electromagnetic signals, including returns from Synthetic Aperture Radar, or SAR. This paints a picture of the contours of the ground or surrounding terrain and, along with Ground Moving Target Indicator, or GMTI, locates something on-the-move on the ground and airborne objects or threats.
F-35A Joint Strike Fighter Deployment
Once deployed, the F-35 will operate with an advanced software drop known as “3F” which will give the aircraft an ability to destroy enemy air defenses and employ a wide range of weapons.
Full operational capability will come with Block 3F, service officials said.
Block 3F will increase the weapons delivery capacity of the JSF as well, giving it the ability to drop a Small Diameter Bomb, 500-pound JDAM and AIM 9X short-range air-to-air missile, Air Force officials said.
As per where the initial squadron might deploy, Harrigian said that would be determined by Air Combat Command depending upon operational needs at that time. He did, however, mention the Pacific theater and Middle East as distinct possibilities.
“Within a couple years, I would envision they will take the squadron down range. Now, whether they go to Pacific Command or go to the Middle East – the operational environment and what happens in the world will drive this. If there is a situation where we need this capability and they are IOC – then Air Combat Command is going to take a hard look at using these aircraft,” he said.
Danielle Green learned how to be tough while growing up on the mean streets of Chicago. That outlook served her well during her intercollegiate basketball career at Notre Dame in the late ’90s where she fought to win and racked up enough points to become the Fighting Irish’s sixteenth leading scorer of all time.
But it wasn’t until Green enlisted in the Army that she was made to discover just how tough she really is. She deployed to Iraq in January of 2004 with the 571st Military Police Company. Shortly into that tour she was hit by shrapnel from an RPG that exploded next to her while she was pulling sentry duty on a rooftop in Baghdad.
“That pain was like nothing else,” Green said. “It was so painful I wanted to die.”
Green lost her left arm halfway between the wrist and elbow. After extensive surgeries and rehab, she had to face the reality that her military career was over. “I gave all I could give,” she said. “I realized I wanted to serve in a different way.”
She attended graduate school and studied to be a school counselor, and at some point between getting her degree and her job search a friend suggested she focus on helping service members with the issues that surround the move back to civilian life. “That’s my purpose,” she said. “That’s my mission.”
Green now works for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs as a readjustment therapist at the Veterans Center in South Bend, Indiana. “It’s how I can continue serving my fellow veterans,” she said.
Last week Green was honored with the 2015 Pat Tillman Award for Service at ESPN’s Espy Awards held in Los Angeles.
Marie Tillman, president and co-founder of the Pat Tillman Foundation and Pat Tillman’s widow, said Green was selected for the award because of her resilience and personal efforts that have made her “a voice and advocate for this generation of veterans.”
“Not all of us are Pat Tillman,” Green said during her acceptance remarks in front of a packed house of sports greats and celebrities broadcast to a national TV audience. “But we can all find ways to serve our community. We can all find ways to support the people around us. We can all find a purpose on this earth larger than ourselves.”
Mark Bowden is one of the greatest investigative reporters of our age.
“Black Hawk Down,” his exhaustive work on the experience of U.S. troops in Mogadishu, brought renewed attention to the oft-forgotten story. It also resulted in the film, which remains a favorite of the military-veteran community.
His most recent book, “Hué 1968: A Turning Point of the American War in Vietnam,” is just as exhaustive and compelling. The book is a master work, five years in the making.
The Battle of Hué was the longest and costliest fight of the entire Tet Offensive. On the morning of Jan. 31, 1968, a coordinated attack from 8,000 North Vietnamese Army Regulars, Viet Cong infiltrators, and Vietnamese civilians quickly captured much of the city in a single night.
American and South Vietnamese troops were woefully outnumbered in Hué. Facing the Communist forces there were the ARVN 1st Infantry Division and 200 of their American and Australian advisors at the MACV compound. By the time the sun came up that day, the Communists controlled the city south of the Huong River – except the MACV compound.
A view from a Marine machine gun position on the outer Citadel wall of Hué City during the 1968 Tet Offensive.
The Marines from MACV would have to go on the offensive, fighting their way across the river to rescue the brilliant and highly-respected ARVN General Ngô Quang Truong and what remained of his 1st Infantry. Then they had to expel the Communists from the area.
Hué would become a case study in urban combat, the first time since the Korean War the Marines would fight in a city like that. The battle lasted almost a month, turning 40 percent of the city’s buildings to rubble and costing the lives of 380 ARVN troops, 147 Marines, 74 U.S. Army soldiers, 8,000 Communists, and more than 5,800 civilians.
It was also the turning point in American popular support for the war.
Bowden’s book covers the history of the war until that point, especially from 30,000-foot view from the White House and General William Westmoreland’s MACV Headquarters. What’s truly unique and fascinating about Bowden’s style is the personal narratives that drive the history of the story.
“Hué 1968” is a gripping tapestry of nonfiction storytelling, with personal stories of people on the ground woven into the history and politics of the war. The enemy is no longer a nameless, faceless mass of targets; the NVA and VC are characters in the story of the war in Vietnam, with names, families, and lives. With these stories comes the understanding of why the McNamara doctrine of “limited warfare” would never have worked against the Vietnamese.
The book gives the eyewitness account of a young Vietnamese girl who turns on the southern regime and becomes a Viet Cong operative just as much as it follows the junior enlisted Marine radio operator Jim Coolican, who was stationed at the MACV compound. Personal narratives from every side of the conflict continue like this throughout the book.
Bowden traces the details of a young VC as he traverses the Ho Chi Minh trail and moves to infiltrate the city. He even painstakingly documents the “logistics miracle” – as one U.S. Navy captain called it – of the Tet Offensive’s movement of men and weapons into South Vietnam.
NVA and VC soldiers assault the city of Hué in South Vietnam, January 1968.
If you know the history of the Vietnam War, you know what’s coming in the Tet Offensive and it keeps you turning pages. No matter how familiar you are, you get to see the war from all sides – the NVA, the VC, ARVN leadership, American troops, American leadership, even Ho Chi Minh and North Vietnamese General Vo Nguyen Giap’s points of view are covered in remarkable detail.
The fall of Hué was the most successful attack of the entire Tet Offensive and even then the city was retaken by Feb. 24. Both sides bought into their own propaganda. The Communists believed that the South was ready to rise against the despotic Thieu regime and expel the Americans — they just needed a hand to get started.
Viet Cong forces climb on an abandoned U.S.-built Marine Armored Vehicle during the Battle of Hué.
The north came to depend on that uprising for the long-term success of the Offensive. The Americans and South Vietnamese were caught off guard because they thought the enemy was weak and could not launch an attack on that scale, let alone capture a city like Hué.
Until the Tet Offensive, a majority of Americans believed the war was going well and believed government officials who used statistics and body counts to insist that American involvement could soon come to an end. Body counts weren’t the metric used by the Communists. For the north, their success was defined by killing or wounding as many Americans as possible, destroying the ARVN, and inciting a popular uprising in the South.
Marines hold a Viet Cong flag they ripped down from the provincial headquarters in Hué.
The United States claimed a military victory in Hué but Hanoi would never be intimidated by a limited war. The prolonged violence and media bias against the war after the Tet Offensive eroded public support for it as well.
The U.S. began a strategic withdrawal from Vietnam the next year and left completely in 1973. South Vietnam fell to the Communists just two years later. Hué was just the beginning of the end.
Mark Bowden is an award-winning author and correspondent for The Atlantic. He is also a contributing editor for Vanity Fair. Filmmakers Michael Mann and Michael De Luca (who produced the 1995 heist movie “Heat”) purchased the rights to “Hué 1968” and plan to turn the book into a miniseries.
Captain Wild Bill Wichrowski of the Cape Caution. Photo courtesy of Discovery.
Capt. Wild Bill Wichrowski’s year started tragically.
A Navy veteran, Wichrowski is one of the captains on “Deadliest Catch,” a Discovery Channel series about Alaska’s crab industry. He was close friends with two of the five men who died when the Scandies Rose, a 130-foot crab boat, went down in icy, turbulent conditions in the Gulf of Alaska on New Year’s Eve. Two crew members survived.
The Coast Guard’s 20-hour search for survivors will be featured on “Deadliest Catch” at 8 p.m. Tuesday (Eastern time).
“It’s hard to drum all this up again, really,” Wichrowski said. “You lose friends. You lose family. And the part that sticks is that any time, it could be you.”
Captain Wild Bill Wichrowski is in the wheelhouse at the helm of the Summer Bay.
The episode of the long-running reality series follows the Coast Guard’s role from the time it received a distress call until the search, which covered 1,400 square miles, was suspended.
Although Wichrowski was not in contact directly with the Coast Guard during that time, he followed the rescue mission’s progress closely.
“They’re our lifeline,” Wichrowski said. “Some of the stuff they do with the helicopters and the C-130s and the ships and the hard-bottom inflatables [boats] is truly amazing. The Coast Guard’s our last chance for survival when we’re having trouble.”
The investigation into the Scandies Rose disaster is ongoing and could last “many months,” said Scott McCann, the Coast Guard’s public affairs officer for the 17th District.
Captain Wild Bill Wichrowski stands proudly on deck of his boat.
Wichrowski’s own ties to the military began early.
His father, Charles Thomas Wichrowski, was a drill instructor at Parris Island in South Carolina during the Korean War. The youngest of three brothers, Wichrowski said he did not always appreciate his strict upbringing in Pennsylvania.
“I probably didn’t really like [my father] that much at the time, but he was training me to be a leader from Day One,” Wichrowski said. “In his eyes, there was only one place to be, and that was in charge.”
Wichrowski’s tour in the Navy happened almost by accident.
Before he wrecked his father’s new car on homecoming night, he had planned to go to school and study business administration. The cost of the repairs, along with other financial constraints in his family, prompted Wichrowski to enlist in 1975.
Armed with a love of the ocean, he headed West. He served as an electrician’s mate at naval stations in California, Idaho and Washington State.
Wichrowski enjoyed the camaraderie and travel in the military and proved to be invaluable in stressful situations. He recalled one time a typhoon in Taiwan knocked out a generator. Wichrowski ran to the other end of the tossed ship on a wall, hurdling people along the way, to work on it.
On another occasion in San Diego, Wichrowski was about to go on liberty when a transformer caught fire. He was not on duty, but he restored the power anyway, then left suddenly to meet his girlfriend before other potential issues arose.
“When I got back, the XO [executive officer] on the bridge, he had seen the whole thing,” Wichrowski said. “And I’m thinking, ‘Oh, I’m going to get my butt reamed.’ But he said he was pretty amazed about how quickly I reacted.”
Wichrowski said the bonds of boat crews are similar to those in the military. Photo courtesy of Discovery.
Wichrowski, who served for four years, said what he learned in the Navy resonates today.
“It’s the whole reason why I’m successful,” he said.
The bonds formed among boat crews are not unlike those developed in the military. That’s why the sinking of the Scandies Rose hit Wichrowski hard. He knew the boat’s captain, Gary Cobban Jr., and engineer, Art Gacanias, well, but thankfully the loss of life was not worse.
Landon Cheney, Wichrowski’s No. 2 man on the Summer Bay, used to work on the Scandies Rose and considered returning before it sank.
“I’m pretty certain that if he was on board, he wouldn’t have made it,” Wichrowski said.
As painful as the loss of the Scandies Rose remains, Wichrowski intends to watch Tuesday night.
“I hope to,” he said. “… It should never be forgotten, but it’s still tough to review over and over.”
Tommy Prince was a member of the Ojibwa, one of Canada’s First Nations tribes (what the United States calls Native Americans or American Indians), who tried many times to join the Canadian Army during WWII.
Prince became a sapper first, then a paratrooper, and a member of the 1st Canadian Special Service Battalion. Eventually, he was sent to a special forces unit, the 1st Special Service Force — a combined special forces operation with the United States known to the enemy as “the Devil’s Brigade.”
These are the unbelievable missions that helped Tommy Prince become one of Canada’s most celebrated soldiers, the country’s most decorated indigenous veteran, and the most decorated member of the Devil’s Brigade:
5. Attacking an impenetrable mountain fortress.
The Italian Campaign was young in 1943, but the Special Service Force was assigned to go behind the enemy lines at the Battle of Monte La Difensa. It was a steep, mountainous fortress that already repelled three full-scale Allied assaults.
The Devil’s Brigade changed the situation in a hurry.
Prince walked across the entire front line near the village of Majo, infiltrated every single machine gun bunker, and killed everyone inside. Without making a sound. When the Allies advanced the next morning, the machine guns were silent.
4. Reporting on German movements right in front of them.
In 1944, Prince was in Italy running a communications line. He was reporting enemy movements back to the Allied forces near Littoria. As a Nazi artillery position fired on his allies, Tommy Prince was about 200 meters away, watching every move the Nazis made and reporting it to his command.
The comms wire was accidentally cut during the battle. Prince disguised himself as a farmer and began to work the land. He shouted curses at both Axis and Allied troops.
When his work took him to the cut in the wire, he bent over to “tie his shoe,” repaired the wire, and pressed on with his 24-hour long watch.
3. Walking three days to fight an entire enemy camp, then capturing everyone.
Just after the start of Operation Dragoon, the Summer 1944 invasion of Southern France, Prince was assigned to locate an enemy camp in the nearby mountains. He walked across the terrain for three days with little food or water to find it. Once he did, he walked back to the Allied lines only to lead the assault force on the camp.
The small assault team captured some 1,000 enemy prisoners. He was called to Buckingham Palace, where King George VI presented him with the Military Medal and the American Silver Star.
2. Rescuing the French Resistance along the way.
As Prince hiked around Southern France, he ran into resistance partisans in a firefight with some Germans. To level the playing field, the Canadian started to pick off as many Nazis as he could with just a rifle and his elevated position.
The young Native was an expert marksman from childhood, so the Nazis were easy pickings.
They quickly broke off the fight and ran. When Prince came down to talk to the Frenchmen, they told him his fire was so intense, thought they were rescued by an Allied infantry company.
1. Using Moccasins to sneak into German barracks…just to show them he could.
His compatriots in the Devil’s Brigade knew Prince carried moccasins in his kit bag. Using these instead of his boots allowed Prince to sneak into anywhere he wanted, including enemy barracks.
At night, he would enter Nazi barracks as they slept, steal their shoes (sometimes off their feet), and slit the throats of every third soldier.
Iran has debuted a new, locally built long-range missile system as it continues its defiant stance against the United States amid heightened tensions between the two countries.
Iranian President Hassan Rohani said in a speech on Aug. 22, 2019, during the unveiling of the mobile air-to-surface missile system that since Iran’s “enemies don’t accept logic, we cannot respond with logic.”
“When the enemy launches a missile against us, we cannot give a speech and say: ‘Mr. Rocket, please do not hit our country and our innocent people. Rocket-launching sir, if you can please hit a button and self-destruct the missile in mid-air,'” Rohani added in the speech from Tehran.
Rohani’s speech and the missile system are the latest volley in a war of words between Tehran and Washington that many worry will escalate into armed conflict.
The United States withdrew from a 2015 international accord to limit Iran’s nuclear ambitions and instead reimposed sanctions on the country.
The ministers of foreign affairs and other officials from the P5+1 countries, the European Union and Iran while announcing the framework of a Comprehensive agreement on the Iranian nuclear program, April 2015.
Iran’s economy has suffered under the sanctions, which target its oil and financial sectors.
Iran’s oil production has plummeted to 300,000 barrels a day or less while its economy will shrink by 6 percent this year, the International Monetary Fund projects. Unemployment remains high, at 12 percent.
A series of recent attacks on international ships, which the United States has blamed on Iran, and the seizure of a British tanker, have added to volatility in the region and on the global shipping industry.
Iran shot down a U.S. military surveillance drone in the Persian Gulf with a surface-to-air missile in June 2019. It says the drone was over its territory, but the United States says it was in international airspace.
Despite the increased rhetoric and animosity, Tehran maintains that it does not seek confrontation with Washington that U.S. moves against it are tantamount to bullying.
“Will there be a war in the…Gulf? I can tell you that we will not start the war…but we will defend ourselves,” Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said on Aug. 22, 2019, at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs.
By the time Nate Ellis reached the sixth grade he knew there were two things he wanted to do with his life: make movies and fly airplanes for the military.
Ellis was raised in a family with military experience. His father had joined the Coast Guard during the Vietnam era as a way to avoid the draft and his older brother had joined the Air Force ROTC program as a way to pay for college. He says he was the first among them to go in actually motivated to serve.
“All I wanted to do was Army aviation,” he said.
Ellis attended Austin Peay State University in Tennessee on a ROTC scholarship and wound up the top-ranked cadet nationwide among aviation selectees. Three days after graduation he found himself at Fort Rucker ready to start flight school. A year or so later he was a Blackhawk pilot.
In time he found himself in Afghanistan, stationed at Shindand Air Base in the western area of the country as part of the 4th CAB contingent there. He was assigned as the “battle captain,” overseeing all of the unit’s air operations, a position of great responsibility.
He was also flying Blackhawk sorties, and one night he launched as part of an air assault package comprised of three Blackhawks and two Chinooks. The helicopters carried a total of 99 troops — Italian special operators and Afghan National Army regulars — for a raid to capture a “high-value target,” one of the Taliban’s bad guys.
The helicopters touched down at the LZ around 3 AM, and after the troops jumped out they immediately came under fire. The helos took off and held nearby.
“We were at the holding point listening to the chaos, waiting, burning gas,” Ellis said. “It was the worst.”
There were two Apache attack helicopters on station, but one ran out of ammo and the other took an enemy round through the cockpit. The ground force, facing overwhelming numbers, wanted to get out of there immediately. But, by the helicopters’ operating procedures, it was too hot for them to fly back in to pick them up.
The mission commander, a lieutenant colonel, made the call to go in, but only after taking a quick survey of his fellow pilots over the radio to see what they thought about the risk.
“We went up and down the line, and all aircrews said they wanted to go in,” Ellis remembered. “But everyone was concerned at the same time. Everyone knew what they were getting into.”
The LZ was in the middle of a valley, what Ellis described as “the worst place to fly into.”
He saw the gunner in the Blackhawk ahead of him return fire on a group behind a wall as his own gunner froze, unable to pull the trigger. Sixty of the troops came running at them trying to load up. The Blackhawk only had room for 12 of them, so Ellis’ crew chief heroically jumped out and sorted the situation out as the bullets landed around them. After “the longest 3 minutes of my life,” they lurched back into the air at the Blackhawk’s maximum takeoff weight.
“Because we were heavy we couldn’t yank and bank,” Ellis said. “We had to fly straight ahead. My missile warning gear was going off the whole time.”
Once he was out of harm’s way, he had an epiphany.
“I was more present than I ‘d ever been in my life,” he said. “It was like all of the bullshit in my life came to the surface and skimmed off. I heard my inner voice: ‘Life is short. Live with a purpose. Do what you love.'”
And Ellis realized — along with flying Army helicopters — that he loved making movies, something he’d continue to dabble in even during the most demanding parts of his military life.
“I was always working on something while I was in,” Ellis said. “Short films — writing and directing. I’d edit them on my computer and post them to YouTube or wherever.”
After his war tour, he was stationed in South Korea while his marriage to another Army helicopter pilot came apart. “Long story short, we were separated for 18 months,” he said.
He was ready for a change in his life. So after 7 years of active duty, he resigned his commission and entered USC to get a master’s degree in filmmaking. While he immersed himself in the curriculum, he also found himself processing a lot of anger.
“I’d lose my temper if somebody jumped in front of me at a bar or cut me off in traffic,” he admitted. “I felt this sense of entitlement, like, who are they to treat me like that? Don’t they know who I am and what I’ve done?”
By his own account, it took him three years of grad school to process his emotions.
“I don’t want to be that person,” he said. “I don’t want to feel that way. Now it’s more like who cares? That guy, that girl, they have their own thing going on. They have their own path.”
He made a name for himself among the talented grad students at USC. He created five short films, including “10,000 Miles,” his thesis film that had a $30,000 budget plus a $350,000 Panavision grant.
Ellis also made “The Fog,” which he describes as “very personal,” another short that won a faculty screenwriting award and “Best Narrative Short” at the 2016 GI Film Festival. “The Fog” was also a semi-finalist for the student Academy Awards.
Ellis left USC with an impressive body of work, and an effective Hollywood network that included his USC-assigned mentor who also happened to be the president of a major studio. With his master’s degree in hand, he’s wasted little time in making some things happen. He wrote a screenplay based on “Chickenhawk,” the classic Vietnam-era story about a helicopter pilot, and he said Harrison Ford is “interested.”
At the same time, he worked as a production assistant on “The Wall,” directed by Doug Liman (who also directed “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” and “Bourne Identity”), wrote another screenplay targeting both Chinese and American audiences, and co-created an animated web series called “Thrift Video” that he described as “‘Adult Swim’-type humor.”
And, somewhat ironically, Ellis’ work in Hollywood placed him behind the controls of a helicopter again.
“My USC mentor introduced me to the president of Studio Wings, Steve Stafford, a Marine vet,” he explained. “I’ve been flying a Huey, one of the types of helicopters I flew during my time in the Army.”
And the Studio Wings Huey is owned by one Vince Gilligan, the creator of the hit series “Breaking Bad.” Ellis and Gilligan have co-piloted the Huey on several occasions.
“Vince is a super-nice guy and very interested in my active duty experience,” Ellis said. “He’s also interested in my screenplay.”
Ellis is quickly learning that success in the movie business is about two things: who you know and how much talent you have.
“All this stuff is just coming out of the blue,” Ellis said. “But I love the non-linear aspect of Hollywood. You’re thrown into the big mix with everybody. How do you set yourself apart?”
Ellis has also learned when and where to leverage his military experience and the limits of it.
“The whole reason I’m flying helicopters with Vince Gilligan is because I flew helicopters in the Army,” he said. “But after that, it’s about the quality of my work.”
The suspect behind several suspicious letters that were sent to the White House and the Pentagon in early October 2018 has reportedly been taken into custody.
Authorities took the suspect, previously identified as a former Navy sailor, into custody Oct. 3, 2018, CNN first reported, adding that a crew has started clearing the suspect’s residence.
The envelopes, which were intercepted by the Secret Service and the Pentagon’s mail room staff, reportedly tested positive for ricin, a potentially deadly substance, especially in a pure, powdered form. The letters sent to the Department of Defense were addressed to Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson. The letter sent to the White House was addressed to President Donald Trump.
The White House.
(Photo by Daniel Schwen)
The suspect was identified by a return address on one of the letters sent to the Pentagon, Fox News reported on Oct. 3, 2018.
While the FBI has been spearheading the investigation, the Pentagon has been providing regular updates to reporters.
On Oct. 1, 2018, the Pentagon Force Protection Agency detected a suspicious substance during mail screening at the Pentagon’s remote screening facility,” DoD spokesman Col. Rob Manning told Business Insider in an emailed statement, further explaining that “all USPS mail received at the Pentagon mail screening facility yesterday is currently under quarantine and poses no threat to Pentagon personnel.”
Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White provided additional information on Oct. 3, 2018, revealing that at least one of the letters sent to the DoD contained castor seeds, from which ricin is derived.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
There are more rumors and myths floating around about the Central Intelligence Agency then there are actual facts. “The Agency” or “The Company” is charged with preempting threats and furthering national security objectives by collecting and analyzing intelligence and conducting covert action while simultaneously safeguarding our nation’s secrets. It’s a broad mission, and a lot of trust has been granted to them by the American people to carry it out.
But it takes a special kind of person to thrive in the CIA.
Who, or what, are they looking for? And do those who served at the tip of the spear while in the military have a competitive advantage? If so, is a U.S. Navy SEAL better than a U.S. Army Ranger? Or does a Green Beret’s experience hold more weight when competing for one of the few spots available as a gray man?
The CIA doesn’t publicly answer any of those questions, instead opting to keep their ideal candidate’s qualifications vague. So we reached out to a few veterans of the Agency to see if they noticed any trends.
Hafer while deployed to Africa.
(Photo courtesy of Evan Hafer)
Evan Hafer, former CIA contractor
Evan Hafer is in the coffee business these days, but he started out as a U.S. Army Special Forces NCO (noncommissioned officer) before transitioning to contracting for the CIA. He’s deployed dozens of times around the world on their behalf, and he even assessed and trained those who were trying out for the Agency’s elite high-threat, low-visibility security force toward the end of his career.
“It all depends on what kind of officer you’re looking for,” Hafer said. “When you look at paramilitary operations, they have a wide variety of objectives. A good portion is working by, through, and with foreign nationals while conducting covert action. For a long time, Special Forces did a lot of covert action, so they made for the best agents in that respect.”
Hafer while deployed to Afghanistan.
(Photo courtesy of Evan Hafer)
Hafer went on to explain that there are different types of jobs at the Agency that require different skill sets. “Typically a good Ranger NCO will make a great guy for on-the-ground, high-threat, low-visibility security work. And Marines across the spectrum are pretty good at a lot of different things.”
Hafer made sure to note the difference between conducting direct action (DA) in the military’s special operations units and gathering intelligence for the CIA. “If you like blowing doors down, intel will bore the fuck out of you,” Hafer said. “It’s a lot of writing, and regardless of background, guys who enjoy DA might not like the intel job.”
“If you’re a hammer and every problem is a nail, then you won’t like being the pen.”
(Photo courtesy of Bob Baer)
Bob Baer, former CIA case officer
You may recognize Bob Baer from his work hosting investigative shows on the History Channel or delivering commentary on CNN, but before that he spent 21 years as a CIA case officer. He deployed around the world, speaks eight languages, and even won the CIA’s career intelligence medal.
“It’s almost always Special Forces,” Baer said about the ideal background for working operations in the CIA. “These guys are out in places training locals. I found the SF guys, especially the ones who have experience working in strange places, to be most effective.”
(Photo courtesy of Bob Baer)
He even went so far as to say that elite Tier 1 operators (that many would assume to be perfect for the job) often don’t work out. “For them, it’s so low-speed — there’s not as much excitement as they’re used to. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Delta or SEAL Team Six guy make the adjustment.”
Baer echoed Hafer’s sentiment toward the U.S. Marines, saying, “It seemed the Marines did a good job adjusting.” And admitted that he usually preferred a military background over a straight academic: “All in all, people who were in the military were best because they learned about dealing with government BS, while the least equipped were always the academics.”
Robyn, like Baer, was a case officer for the CIA and spent years running sources around the world — to include active combat zones. She asked that we not use her last name but was happy to offer her thoughts on not just the ideal military resume, but also what it actually takes to be a successful case officer regardless of background.
“At the end of the day, you’re selling a lemon. You’re convincing someone to commit espionage and provide intel against their country in exchange for whatever is valuable to them,” Robyn explained. “You have to convince them that you care, that their life matters — whether it does or not.”
“So the guys that do well are the guys that understand the human factor,” she continued. “They have to understand what makes someone tick and pretend to be concerned. People are not going to put their lives at risk for someone who doesn’t care. You have to care.”
Robyn recalled a former state trooper who she worked with that did well, noting that a law enforcement background laid a solid foundation for talking to people who can be difficult to extract information from, such as witnesses and victims.
“The militant guys don’t do well,” Robyn said, noting that there’s a difference between being militant and being from the military, and that it takes a unique person to operate in the gray for months or even years at a time. “They’ve gotta operate without mental, emotional, or personal boundaries. There’s no commander’s intent, and the mission isn’t always clear. A renaissance man will do better than the fire-breather, even if they both come from Special Forces. We need the guys who can jump between philosophy and tactics while maneuvering in all different environments.”
The one thing that Hafer, Baer, and Robyn all agreed on is that no single bullet point on a resume qualifies someone for the difficult work of the CIA. They all emphasized that it takes a special person, and the best people at the Agency often have certain intangibles that you either have or you don’t. It seems it takes much more than a trident or a tab to make it into the nation’s most elite intelligence agency — and that’s a good thing.
Trojan Footprint: Embedded with Special Forces in Europe