US Navy destroyer's crew caught in bizarre gambling and fireworks scandal - We Are The Mighty
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US Navy destroyer’s crew caught in bizarre gambling and fireworks scandal

US Navy destroyer’s crew caught in bizarre gambling and fireworks scandal
The guided-missile destroyer USS Bainbridge (DDG 96) is assisted by a tug boat as it pulls away from the pier at Naval Station Norfolk. (Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Amber O’Donovan)


An investigation into events that led to the reliefs of the commanding officer, former executive officer and command master chief of the guided missile destroyer USS Bainbridge earlier this month implicated 15 other officers and senior leaders on the ship in the scandal.

Cmdr. Sean Rongers, Cmdr. Brandon Murray, and Command Master Chief Richard Holmes, were relieved April 7 by Destroyer Squadron 28 commander Capt. Richard Brawley after an investigation found fireworks were being stored aboard the Bainbridge in violation of Navy instructions and unlawful gambling was taking place among officers, officials said.

A 149-page preliminary inquiry report released to Military.com through a Freedom of Information Act request found the ship’s leaders also failed to get a pregnant officer transferred off the ship in keeping with Navy policy, conducted certain ship maneuvers that endangered gear, and encouraged relaxed uniform guidelines under long underway periods with the sale of “no-shave chits.”

A command climate survey also obtained by Military.com dating from February also found that the ship’s top officers presided over a command marked by exeptionally poor trust in leadership and leadership and organizational cohesion.

According to the February investigation, Rongers, the commanding officer, directed the purchase of just under $1,500 worth of fireworks for a July 4 display aboard the Bainbridge, using funds from the ship’s morale, welfare and recreation account. In April 2015, Rongers directed a subordinate to purchase the fireworks, knowing that the ship had conducted a similar fireworks display in 2013.

The subordinate, whose name is redacted in the report, negotiated a deal with the company Phantom Fireworks to buy the pyrotechnics. An overnight trip was made to purchase the goods, which included fireworks with names like “The Beast Unleashed” and “Swashbuckler 72-shot.”

Some of the fireworks purchased were not available for sale in Virginia, the investigation shows. Then, while the ship was operating in the Virginia Capes area, near Virginia Beach, Rongers dispatched rigid-hulled inflatable boats to pick the fireworks up at Rudee Inlet in a late-night operation.

Rongers told investigators that the fireworks were brought aboard via late-night boat operations in order to avoid force protection measures or other regulations that might have prohibited them coming through the main gate when the ship was pierside in Norfolk, Virginia. He also said he checked with another officer about the legality of using MWR funds for fireworks and got the all-clear. The officer, whose name is redacted in the investigation, denied that Rongers had checked with her.

The fireworks were stored in black trash bags in the ship’s pyro locker, near its barbershop. Ultimately, however, officials from Destroyer Squadron 28 got wind of the fireworks plan when a prospective weapons officer from the Bainbridge raised concerns, saying he had already confronted Rongers and Murray, the executive officer about having them stored aboard ship.

Rongers had the fireworks removed from the ship and loaded into his own car. The MWR funds used to purchase them were never reimbursed, however.

Investigators found that Rongers and Murray failed to do the research needed to ensure the fireworks purchase and display were legal. They violated MWR policy prohibiting funds from being used to pay for “hazardous activities,” according to the report, and Rongers “rationalized” his actions because a fireworks display had taken place before, even though Navy policy prohibits fireworks being stored aboard ship and transported the way that they were.

Rongers did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Military.com.

The gambling accusations stem from a weekly Friday night officers’ poker game that took place in the Bainbridge officers’ wardroom with Rongers and Murray’s consent and participation during the ship’s 2015 deployment. There was a $10 buy-in, and participants played with chips in lieu of money and kept scores and money owed written on a piece of paper.

Concerns arose after an officer was asked to pay a buy-in fee she claimed she was never informed about. A legal officer approached Rongers and Murray with doubts about the legality of the command-sanctioned game, according to the report, but they dismissed these concerns, saying no one was forced to play.

Ultimately, the game was temporarily closed down and replaced by a non-gambling game night with activities like Uno and Risk. However, the game started up again later in the deployment, investigators found.

The investigation also revealed a booming business: the purchase of “no-shave chits” which allowed Navy personnel to grow facial hair or, if female, to wear their hair in a ponytail during long periods underway. At $30 a pop, the MWR raised nearly $12,700 on a single deployment from sale of the chits, the investigation found. The ship’s leaders sanctioned this practice, and Rongers even purchased a chit at one point, documents show. While the practice of selling the chits is fairly common, investigators found, it is not permitted by policy.

Bainbridge leadership also fell afoul of policy when an officer became pregnant. Though regulations stipulate that pregnant sailors need to be transferred off-ship by the 20th week of pregnancy, she was not transferred until some five weeks after that deadline, even though the report shows she repeatedly brought the matter to the attention of her chain of command. Moreover, Murray waited until January 2016 — past the pregnancy’s 20-week point — to inform the ship’s placement officer of the need to transfer the officer, even though he was aware of the situation in November, the investigation found.

Finally, Rongers’ handling of the Bainbridge on breakaways following underway replenishment caused alarm among sailors and led to the loss of some gear, the investigation found. On multiple occasions, witnesses testified, Rongers would conduct the breakaways at high speed, before personnel and gear were secured. In one case, sailors ordered to clear the deck could hear items tumbling around as the ship broke away. Two aluminum drip pans were lost over the course of the deployment, and one “killer tomato” or inflatable naval gunnery target, was struck loose by the wind, but was ultimately recovered.

Investigators faulted many other officers for failing to take appropriate action in light of the improper behavior taking place aboard the Bainbridge. While Rongers and Murray were advised they were suspected of violating articles 92 and 133 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, violation of a general order and conduct unbecoming of an officer and gentleman, respectively, 16 others were cited on suspicion of dereliction of duty or violation of a general order.

These include the ship’s chief engineer, the supply corps officer, the weapons officer, the force protection officer, the recreational services officer, the Tomahawk leading chief petty officer and others, though the names of these individuals were redacted.

Investigators recommended that Rongers face non-judicial punishment for directing a subordinate to illegally transport and store fireworks. They also recommended that the ship’s chief petty officers ensure sailors are taught lessons on “misplaced loyalty” with regards to the fireworks incident, since many aboard ship were found to have covered for leadership, rather than adhered to policy.

While the investigation does not cover how problems with the ship’s command affected the rank-and-file, a command climate survey from the time reveals troubling trends. Fifty-three percent of sailors on the Bainbridge rated their trust in leadership unfavorably, according to the survey. On leadership cohesion, 63 percent of sailors gave unfavorable ratings, and 47 percent of sailors rated organizational cohesion unfavorably. Organizational processes received a 52 percent unfavorable rating, and 42 percent of sailors rated their job satisfaction unfavorably.

A spokesman for Naval Surface Force Atlantic, Lt. Cmdr. Myers Vasquez, said Rongers, Murray and Holmes remain assigned to SURFLANT in Norfolk. Vasquez said the administrative process was still ongoing for the sailors named in the investigation and declined further comment.

Articles

Israel is buying copter drones bristling with machine guns

The Israeli military has bought some copter drones that can carry some serious firepower – up to and including 40mm grenade launchers.


According to a report from DefenseOne.com, the Israeli Defense Forces are buying a number of TIKAD drones from Duke Robotics. The company, founded by Raziel “Razi” Atuaran — an Israeli special forces veteran who still serves as a reservist — is also pitching this drone to the U.S. military.

US Navy destroyer’s crew caught in bizarre gambling and fireworks scandal
(Photo from Malloy Aerospace)

“You have small groups [of adversaries] working within crowded civilian areas using civilians as shields. But you have to go in,”Atuar explained. “Even to just get a couple of guys with a mortar, you have to send in a battalion and you lose guys. People get hurt.”

Sick of seeing civilians and fellow Israeli troops get killed, Atuar sought a way to deal with enemy forces in urban areas that would greatly reduce the risks. One way to do that is not to send a person in to clear a building, but to instead send a robot.

This has been done before. Last year, the Dallas Police Department used a modified bomb disposal robot to take out a mass shooter who had killed five police officers. The Marines have also begun to use robots to replace humans as “door kickers” in urban operations.

US Navy destroyer’s crew caught in bizarre gambling and fireworks scandal
An armed tracked drone with 40mm grenade launchers and a machine gun. (Photo from Qinetiq)

The use of a helicopter drone to carry firepower isn’t a new idea. A viral Youtube video showed how a typical drone one buys from Amazon can be rigged to carry a pistol.

But accuracy from such a platform is dubious at best. Payload from a drone can be an issue. The Israelis have used an off-the-shelf drone to haul a sniper rifle that had a maximum of five minutes of flight time. That’s not very useful in a pitched urban fight.

The TIKAD drone, though, fixes those problems by setting up a gimbaled platform that can hold up to 22 pounds. This provides a stable platform that ensures accurate fire.

The Israelis have not revealed how many TIKAD drones they are buying. The company, though, has moved to Florida, where U.S. Special Operations Command and Central Command are both headquartered.

You can see a jury-rigged armed drone using a pistol — an example of how not to arm a drone — below.

Humor

4 of the top reasons Chuck Norris is dead to me

Why do we worship Chuck Norris anyway? What has he ever done besides getting whopped by Bruce Lee in a bad sequel to Enter the Dragon?


When, exactly, did he become downright holy? I wish I could give you all the answers because he really grinds my gears!

Here are my top 4 reasons why Chuck Norris is dead to me:

Disclaimer: I am an Air Force veteran who spent the entirety of his 13 years in uniform as a Security Forces member. The following is written — and intended to be taken — in jest. I love Chuck Norris and I’ve actually been to his first Tae Kwan Do school. Also, we share a common duty unit (Osan, ROK).

US Navy destroyer’s crew caught in bizarre gambling and fireworks scandal
Pictured: The last ass-whipping Chuck Norris ever took. (Image from Golden Harvest’s Return of the Dragon).

Related: 5 of the best moves from Air Force Combatives

4. The Chuck Norris meme phenomenon

Where did this come from? Did he start them himself? Who decided he was so cool? He’s literally the master of life, according to the internet and I need answers!

I just don’t understand it, and we all hate things we don’t understand, right?

US Navy destroyer’s crew caught in bizarre gambling and fireworks scandal
Don’t forget to look away — Chuck Norris once beat the sun in a staring contest.

3. Total Gym? Yeah… it bites!

Have you ever actually tried to use a Total Gym?

Did you pinch parts of yourself in the nest of cables and pulleys all while getting exactly no workout from the supposed ‘gym,’ too? If so, then you know what I’m talking about.

It supposedly offers 80 different exercises, but you’d have to be a pretty clever f*cker to figure out more than three.

US Navy destroyer’s crew caught in bizarre gambling and fireworks scandal
Pictured: Chuck Norris doing all 80 of the proposed exercises available on the Total Gym. (Image from Total Gym Direct)

2. He thinks he’s a Marine

I guess, he is a Marine — technically. He was made an honorary Marine back in 2007. That’s fine and dandy, but there’s one problem with that… he was already a veteran of the U.S. Air Force!

If you happen to be one of those few people who knew Chuck Norris was a veteran going into this article, it is likely that you thought he was a Marine. Just based on the sheer number of photo ops, he seems to love having wearing Marine Corps uniforms!

US Navy destroyer’s crew caught in bizarre gambling and fireworks scandal
Chuck Norris sharing a laugh with his fellow Marine. (USMC photo by Sgt. Sheila Brooks).

Also read: 5 best reasons why the Air Force doesn’t need warrant officers

1. Chuck Norris is omnipotent

If you believe everything you read on the Internet, then Chuck Norris is all-powerful and unstoppable — where’s the fun in that?

In fact, Chuck Norris is actually controlling my hands to write this piece because… well, Chuck Norris.

US Navy destroyer’s crew caught in bizarre gambling and fireworks scandal
Chuck Norris never takes no for an answer. (Image from Cannon Films’ Invasion U.S.A.).

Articles

Think tank wargame shows Russia would win opening battles against NATO

US Navy destroyer’s crew caught in bizarre gambling and fireworks scandal
Photo by Senior Airman Kenny Holston | U.S. Air Force


The current NATO force structure in Eastern Europe would be unable to withstand a Russian invasion into neighboring Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, a new think tank study has concluded.

After conducting an exhaustive series of wargames wherein “red” (Russian) and “blue” (NATO) forces engaged in a wide range of war scenarios over the Baltic states, a Rand Corporation study called “Reinforcing Deterrence on NATO’s Eastern Flank” determined that a successful NATO defense of the region would require a much larger air-ground force than what is currently deployed.

In particular, the study calls for a NATO strategy similar to the Cold War era’s “AirLand Battle” doctrine from the 1980s.  During this time, the U.S. Army stationed at least several hundred thousand troops in Europe as a strategy to deter a potential Russian invasion. Officials with U.S. Army Europe tell Scout Warrior that there are currenty 30,000 U.S. Army soldiers in Europe.

The Rand study maintains that, without a deterrent the size of at least seven brigades, fires and air support protecting Eastern Europe, that Russia cold overrun the Baltic states as quickly as in 60 hours.

“As currently postured, NATO cannot successfully defend the territory of its most exposed members. Across multiple games using a wide range of expert participants in and out of uniform playing both sides, the longest it has taken Russian forces to reach the outskirts of the Estonian and/or Latvian capitals of Tallinn and Riga, respectively, is 60 hours. Such a rapid defeat would leave NATO with a limited number of options,” the study writes.

“AirLand” Battle was a strategic warfighting concept followed by U.S. and allied forces during the Cold War which, among other things, relied upon precise coordination between a large maneuvering mechanized ground force and attack aircraft overhead.  As part of the approach, air attacks would seek to weaken enemy assets supporting front line enemy troops by bombing supply elements in the rear. As part of the air-ground integration, large conventional ground forces could then more easily advance through defended enemy front line areas.

A rapid assault on the Baltic region would leave NATO with few attractive options, including a massive risky counterattack, threatening a nuclear weapons option or simply allowing the Russian to annex the countries.

One of the limited options cited in the study could include taking huge amounts of time to mobilize and deploy a massive counterattack force which would likely result in a drawn-out, deadly battle. Another possibility would be to threaten a nuclear option, a scenario which seems unlikely if not completely unrealistic in light of the U.S. strategy to decrease nuclear arsenals and discourage the prospect of using nuclear weapons, the study finds.

A third and final option, the report mentions, would simply be to concede the Baltic states and immerse the alliance into a much more intense Cold War posture. Such an option would naturally not be welcomed by many of the residents of these states and would, without question, leave the NATO alliance weakened if not partially fractured.

The study spells out exactly what its wargames determined would be necessary as a credible, effective deterrent.

“Gaming indicates that a force of about seven brigades, including three heavy armored brigades—adequately supported by airpower, land-based fires, and other enablers on the ground and ready to fight at the onset of hostilities—could suffice to prevent the rapid overrun of the Baltic states,” the study writes.

During the various scenarios explored for the wargame, its participants concluded that NATO resistance would be overrun quickly in the absence of a larger mechanized defensive force posture.

US Navy destroyer’s crew caught in bizarre gambling and fireworks scandal
NATO

“The absence of short-range air defenses in the U.S. units, and the minimal defenses in the other NATO units, meant that many of these attacks encountered resistance only from NATO combat air patrols, which were overwhelmed by sheer numbers. The result was heavy losses to several Blue (NATO) battalions and the disruption of the counterattack,” the study states.

Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia could be likely Russian targets because all three countries are in close proximity to Russia and spent many years as part of the former Soviet Union

“Also like Ukraine, Estonia and Latvia are home to sizable ethnic Russian populations that have been at best unevenly integrated into the two countries’ post-independence political and social mainstreams and that give Russia a self-justification for meddling in Estonian and Latvian affairs,” the study explains.

While the Pentagon’s European Reassurance Initiative calls for additional funds, forces and force rotations through Europe in coming years, it is unclear whether their ultimate troop increases will come anywhere near what Rand recommends.  Pentagon officials would not, at the moment, speculate as to whether thoughts and considerations were being given to raising forces levels beyond what is called for in the initiative.

At the same time, the Pentagon’s $3.4 Billion ERI request does call for an increased force presence in Europe as well as “fires,” “pre-positioned stocks” and “headquarters” support for NATO forces.

Officials with U.S. Army Europe tell Scout Warrior that more solidarity exercises with NATO allies in Europe are also on the horizon, and that more manpower could also be on the way.

“We are currently planning the future rotations of units through Europe. The heel-to-toe concept will increase how often they’re here for the Armored BCT mission, but it won’t increase how many are here at once — that will remain just one at a time. We currently have some aviation assets on a rotation here but plans aren’t yet firm on what that looks like going forward. We’ve requested additional funding for National Guard and Reserve manpower which may come in the form of full or partial units or even individuals,” Cathy Brown Vandermaarel, spokeswoman for U.S. Army Europe told Scout Warrior in a statement.

Increased solidarity exercises would be designed to further deter Russia by showing allies cooperation along with an ability to quickly deploy and move mechanized forces across the European continent, Vandermaarel added.

The Rand study maintains that, while expensive, adding brigades would be a worthy effort for NATO.

Buying three brand-new ABCTs and adding them to the U.S. Army would not be inexpensive—the up-front costs for all the equipment for the brigades and associated artillery, air defense, and other enabling units runs on the order of $13 billion. However, much of that gear—especially the expensive Abrams tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles—already exists,” the study says.

The Russian Military

Russia’s military maneuvers and annexation of the Crimean peninsula have many Pentagon analysts likely wondering about and assessing the relative condition of the former Cold War military giant’s forces, platforms and weaponry.

Russia has clearly postured itself in response to NATO as though it can counter-balance or deter the alliance, however expert examination of Russia’s current military reveals it is not likely to pose a real challenge to NATO in a prolonged, all-out military engagement.

Russia’s economic pressures have not slowed the countries’ commitment to rapid military modernization and the increase of defense budgets, despite the fact that the country’s military is a fraction of what it was during the height of the Cold War in the 1980s.

While the former Cold War giant’s territories and outer most borders are sizably less than they were in the 1980s, Russia’s conventional land, air and sea forces are trying to expand quickly, transition into the higher-tech information age and steadily pursue next generation platforms.

US Navy destroyer’s crew caught in bizarre gambling and fireworks scandal
Wikipedia

Russia’s conventional and nuclear arsenal is a small piece of what it was during the Cold War, however the country is pursuing a new class of air-independent submarines, a T-50 stealth fighter jet, next-generation missiles and high-tech gear for individual ground soldiers.

During the Cold War, the Russian defense budget amounted to nearly half of the country’s overall expenditures, analysts have said.

Now, the countries’ military spending draws upon a smaller percentage of its national expenditure. However, despite these huge percentage differences compared to the 1980s, the Russian defense budget is climbing again. From 2006 to 2009, the Russian defense budget jumped from $25 billion up to $50 billion according to Business Insider – and the 2013 defense budget is listed elsewhere at $90 billion.

Overall, the Russian conventional military during the Cold War – in terms of sheer size – was likely five times what it is today.

Overall, the Russian military had roughly 766,000 active front line personnel in 2013 and as many as 2.4 million reserve forces, according to globalfirepower.com. During the Cold War, the Russian Army had as many as three to four million members.

By the same 2013 assessment, the Russian military is listed as having more than 3,000 aircraft and 973 helicopters. On the ground, Globalfirepower.com says Russia has 15-thousand tanks, 27,000 armored fighting vehicles and nearly 6,000 self-propelled guns for artillery. While the Russian military may not have a conventional force the sheer size of its Cold War force, they have made efforts to both modernized and maintain portions of their mechanized weaponry and platforms. The Russian T-72 tank, for example, has been upgraded numerous times since its initial construction in the 1970s.

Analysts have also said that the Russian military made huge amounts of conventional and nuclear weapons in the 80s, ranging from rockets and cruise missiles to very effective air defenses.

In fact, the Russian built S-300 and S-400 anti-aircraft air defenses, if maintained and modernized, are said to be particularly effective, experts have said.

US Navy destroyer’s crew caught in bizarre gambling and fireworks scandal
Wikipedia

In the air, the Russian have maintained their 1980s built Su-27 fighter jets, which have been postured throughout the region by the Russian military.

Often compared to the U.S. Air Force’s F-15 Eagle fighter, the Su-27 is a maneuverable twin engine fighter built in the 1980s and primarily configured for air superiority missions.

While many experts maintain that NATO’s size, fire-power, air supremacy and technology would ultimately prevail in a substantial engagement with Russia, that does not necessarily negate the Rand study’s findings that NATO would be put in a terrible predicament should Russia invade the Baltic states.

Articles

7 tips for getting away with fraternization

So, you’ve got a fever and the only cure is a consensual adult relationship that violates the Uniform Code of Military Justice? It happens.


And by the way, it can happen among friends, but for this article, we’re going to talk about sexual or romantic relationships.

Related video:

Paraphrasing here from the Manual for Courts Martial: Fraternization in the military is a personal relationship between an officer and an enlisted member that violates the customary bounds of acceptable behavior and jeopardizes good order and discipline.

US Navy destroyer’s crew caught in bizarre gambling and fireworks scandal

That’s a mouthful, but it boils down to the intent of guidelines for any relationship among professionals: The appearance of favoritism hurts the group, and, with the military in particular, could actually get someone killed.

Also read: 13 Hilarious Meme Replies To Our Article About Dating On Navy Ships

But we’re only human, right? It’s natural to fall for someone you work with, so here are a couple of tips that can help keep you out of Leavenworth:

1. Don’t do it

US Navy destroyer’s crew caught in bizarre gambling and fireworks scandal

Seriously. Cut it off when you first start to feel the butterflies-slash-burning-in-your-loins. Flirting is a rush and it’s fun and NO.

Hit the gym. Take a break. Swipe right on Tinder. Do whatever you have to do to nip it in the bud before it gets out of control.

2. Be discreet

US Navy destroyer’s crew caught in bizarre gambling and fireworks scandal

Okay, fine, you’re going for it anyway. We’ve all been there (nervous laughter…).

People are more intuitive than you think. Don’t give them any reason to suspect you and your illicit goings-on. Be completely professional at work. Don’t flirt in the office. Don’t send sweet nothings over government e-mail (yes, it is being monitored).

3. Keep it off-base

US Navy destroyer’s crew caught in bizarre gambling and fireworks scandal

Don’t be stupid, okay? Get away from the watchful eyes all the people around you who live and breathe military regulations.

4. Square away

US Navy destroyer’s crew caught in bizarre gambling and fireworks scandal

The thing about military punishment is that you are usually judged by your commander first. If you do get caught, you want people to really regret the idea of punishing you.

Be amazing at your job — better yet, be the best at your job. Be irreplaceable. Be a leader and a team player and a bad ass. Set the example with your physical fitness and your marksmanship and your ability to destroy terrorism.

Be beloved by all and you just might get away with a slap on the wrist…

5. Plausible deniability

US Navy destroyer’s crew caught in bizarre gambling and fireworks scandal

I would never tell you to lie because integrity and honor are all totes important and stuff, but…

If lawyers can’t prove beyond reasonable doubt that you were actually engaged in criminal activity, you could be spared from a conviction.

Maybe it was just a coincidence that you both happened to be volunteering at the same time. It was for the orphans…

How could you have known that you both like to spend Christmas in Hawaii?

It’s not your fault Sgt. Hottie wanted to attend a concert in the same town where your parents live, right?

6. Talk it out

US Navy destroyer’s crew caught in bizarre gambling and fireworks scandal

If you can’t have a mature conversation with this person about how to conduct yourselves in the workplace or how you’d each face the consequences of being discovered, you really shouldn’t be getting it on.

You are both risking your careers and livelihoods because of this relationship — don’t take it lightly.

And whatever you do, treat each other with honesty and respect — you’re all you have right now.

7. Don’t go to the danger zone

US Navy destroyer’s crew caught in bizarre gambling and fireworks scandal

I know you know this, but here’s the thing: REALLY DON’T DO IT (PUN INTENDED) WHILE IN A COMBAT ZONE.

This is life and death. Remind yourself why you chose to serve your country. Pay attention to the men and women around you who trust you and rely on you to protect them.

LOCK IT UP. You’re a warrior and you have discipline.

Did we leave anything out? Leave a comment and let us know.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Legendary pilot will be honored by all-female flyover

Nine female pilots at Naval Air Station Oceana, Virginia, say they feel privileged to be selected as volunteers to perform the “missing woman” formation Feb. 2, 2019, for an aviator who paved the way for their success: U.S. Navy Capt. Rosemary Mariner, who died last week at 65.

“We’re fortunate to be chosen,” said Cmdr. Leslie “Meat” Mintz, executive officer of Strike Fighter Squadron 213 (VFA-213). Mintz, a career weapons system officer on the Super Hornet, spoke to Military.com on Jan. 31, 2019, ahead of the flyover.


The tribute, announced by the Navy, will take place as Mariner receives a full military graveside service at New Loyston Cemetery in Maynardville, Tennessee.

The pilots have performed other flyovers, Mintz said. But “it’s certainly the first time I’ve done this for a female aviator. Everyone is truly humbled to be a part of it.”

Mariner was one of the first eight women selected to fly military aircraft in 1973, according to her obituary. A year later, she became the Navy’s first female jet pilot, flying the A-4E/L Skyhawk and the A-7E Corsair II. She died Jan. 24, 2019, after a years-long battle with cancer, the service said.

US Navy destroyer’s crew caught in bizarre gambling and fireworks scandal

Rosemary Mariner is shown in the 1990s when she was commanding officer of a squadron on the West Coast.

(U.S. Navy photo)

She was also the first female military aviator to command an operational air squadron, and during Operation Desert Storm, commanded Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron 34 (VAQ-34), the Navy said.

Among other achievements, she executed 17 arrested carrier landings in her career, and, as an advocate for the pilot community, helped pave the way for those who came after. Mariner retired in 1997.

“She shaped generations of people with that confidence in them and helping them find their path,” said Katherine Sharp Landdeck.

Landdeck, an expert on the Women Airforce Service Pilots of World War II (WASPs) and a professor at Texas Woman’s University, told NBC News on Thursday she saw her friend Mariner as a brave “and badass” pilot.

US Navy destroyer’s crew caught in bizarre gambling and fireworks scandal

Lt. Emily Rixey, left, Lt. Amanda Lee, middle, and Lt. Kelly Harris, right, talk to each other in a hangar bay on Naval Station Oceana.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Raymond Maddocks)

“Landing on carriers? That’s pretty badass. You’re not just landing a jet. You’re landing a jet on a runway that’s rising up and down in the seas, and I think, as a woman doing it, you’ve got everybody on deck watching. Very cool under pressure,” Landdeck said in the NBC News interview.

Mintz will be flying alongside Cmdr. Stacy Uttecht, commander of Strike Fighter Squadron 32 (VFA-32); Lt. Cmdr. Paige Blok, VFA-32; Lt. Cmdr. Danielle Thiriot, VFA-106; Lt. Cmdr. Jennifer Hesling, NAS Oceana; Lt. Christy Talisse, VFA-211; Lt. Amanda Lee, VFA-81; Lt. Kelly Harris, VFA-213; and Lt. Emily Rixey, Strike Fighter Weapons School Atlantic.

On Feb. 2, 2019, like any mission, the women will brief the plan before four F/A-18F Super Hornets and a single F/A-18 E-model launch from Oceana, roughly 400 miles from Mariner’s burial site. One of the jets will act as a backup in case something in the flight plan gets reshuffled, Mintz said.

US Navy destroyer’s crew caught in bizarre gambling and fireworks scandal

Female Aviators, Flight Officers, and aircraft maintainers pose for a group photograph.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Raymond Maddocks)

The jets will hold until the signal is given for the missing formation “so that the timing is perfect,” she said.

Uttecht will lead the formation. Mintz will be backseat in a jet on the flank as Thiriot pulls up thousands of feet into the sky.

The crew appreciates “the outpouring support, the text messages, the Facebook messages, for what we’re doing,” Mintz said.

“It’s truly an honor to do this … for Capt. Mariner. I’ve been in this business for 19 years. I really haven’t thought about male vs. female gender issues because it’s strictly merit-based. ‘Can you fly? Can you perform?’ [but] really I owe that to her,” she said.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Leaked audio of Russian mercs describe beat down by US artillery

Leaked audio recordings said to be of Russian mercenaries in Syria capture expressions of lament and humiliation over a battle in early February 2018 involving US forces and Russian nationals.


Published by Polygraph.info — a fact-checking website produced by Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, news organizations that receive funding from the US government — the audio recordings paint a picture of Russian mercenaries essentially sent to die in an ill-conceived advance on a US-held position in Syria. Polygraph says the audio recordings are from a source close to the Kremlin.

Also read: Russia’s explanation about drone attacks keeps getting stranger

The Pentagon has described the attack as “unprovoked” and started by forces loyal to the Syrian government that crossed over the Euphrates River, which functions as a border between US-backed troops and Russian-backed ones.

The Pentagon says that about 500 men began to fire on the position and that the US responded with air power and artillery strikes. The audio from Polygraph seems to confirm that while giving some insight into the feelings of the defeated forces.

Also apparent in the audio is displeasure with how Russia has responded to the situation. Initially, Russia denied that its citizens took part in the clash. Later, a representative said five may have died. Last week, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the fight left “several dozen wounded” and that some had died.

US Navy destroyer’s crew caught in bizarre gambling and fireworks scandal
The Kremlin in Moscow, Russia.

The audio recordings, in which voices can be heard saying 200 people died “right away,” appear to back up reports from Reuters, Bloomberg, and the Pentagon that roughly 100 — if not more — Russians died in the fight. Reuters has cited sources as saying the advance’s purpose was to test the US’s response.

Related: Putin personally just launched 4 ballistic missiles

Russia is thought to use military contractors in Syria rather than its military — experts speculate it’s to maintain deniability for acts of war and conceal the true cost of fighting from the Russian people. The Washington Post reported last week that US intelligence reports with intercepted communications showed that a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin told a senior Syrian official he “secured permission” from the Kremlin before the advance on the US forces.

The accounts in the audio also align with reports of how the battle went down, depicting an unprepared column of troops meeting an overwhelming air response before helicopter gunships strafed the remaining ones.

Here are the translated transcripts from Polygraph:

First clip:

“The reports that are on TV about … well, you know, about Syria and the 25 people that are wounded there from the Syrian f— army and — well … to make it short, we’ve had our asses f— kicked. So one squadron f— lost 200 people … right away, another one lost 10 people … and I don’t know about the third squadron, but it got torn up pretty badly, too … So three squadrons took a beating … The Yankees attacked … first they blasted the f— out of us by artillery, and then they took four helicopters up and pushed us in a f— merry-go-round with heavy caliber machine guns … They were all shelling the holy f— out of it, and our guys didn’t have anything besides the assault rifles … nothing at all, not even mentioning shoulder-fired SAMs or anything like that … So they tore us to pieces for sure, put us through hell, and the Yankees knew for sure that the Russians were coming, that it was us, f— Russians … Our guys were going to commandeer an oil refinery, and the Yankees were holding it … We got our f— asses beat rough, my men called me … They’re there drinking now … many have gone missing … it’s a total f— up, it sucks, another takedown … Everybody, you know, treats us like pieces of s— … They beat our asses like we were little pieces of s— … but our f— government will go in reverse now, and nobody will respond or anything, and nobody will punish anyone for this … So these are our casualties.”

Second clip:

“Out of all vehicles, only one tank survived and one BRDM [armored reconnaissance vehicle] after the attack, all other BRDMs and tanks were destroyed in the first minutes of the fight, right away.”

Third clip:

“Just had a call with a guy — so they basically formed a convoy, but did not get to their f— positions by some 300 meters. One unit moved forward, the convoy remained in place, about 300 meters from the others. The others raised the American f— flag, and their artillery started f— ours really hard. Then their f— choppers flew in and started f— everybody. Ours just running around. Just got a call from a pal, so there are about 215 f— killed. They simply rolled ours out f— hard. Made their point. What the f— ours were hoping for in there?! That they will f— run away themselves? Hoped to f— scare them away? Lots of people f— so bad [they] can’t be f— ID’d. There was no foot soldiers [on the American side]; they simply f— our convoy with artillery.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

This B-1 pilot says UFOs in Arizona didn’t look like airplanes

A former B-1 bomber pilot who now works as a commercial aviator for American Airlines has spoken out about his recent UFO encounter over the Arizona desert.

Blenus Green and his co-pilot were flying an American Airlines Airbus A321 over Arizona in February 2018, when they were told by Albuquerque-based air traffic controllers that a flight ahead of them had reported a flying object not on radar. The controllers asked him to radio them if he saw anything similar.


Shortly afterwards, Green saw an object, according to recordings of his conversations with the controllers.

“It’s American 1095. Yeah, something just passed over us,” Green said. “I don’t know what it was, but at least two-three thousand feet above us. Yeah, it passed right over the top of us.”

Green was recently interviewed about his experience by a local Texas TV station. “Albuquerque Center asked us if we could look and just be on the lookout and see if we see anything, and I’m like ‘okay,'” Green said.

“So, sure enough, I was looking out the windscreen because I wanted to see if it was there and yeah, I did. I saw it,” Green said.

Green said that the object “was very bright but it wasn’t so bright that you couldn’t look at it,” and that “it didn’t look anything like an airplane.”

He noticed that the object was bright in areas where the sun was not reflecting off the metal. “Normally, if you have an object and the sun is shining this way, the reflection would be on this side, but this was bright all the way around,” he said.

US Navy destroyer’s crew caught in bizarre gambling and fireworks scandal
A B-1B Lancer
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman James Richardson)

“It was so bright that you really couldn’t make out what shape it was,” Green said.

With 20 years of flying experience, much of which was spent as a B-1 Lancer pilot in the US Air Force, Green said he wasn’t scared, but interested.

“I was just really fascinated by it. Just trying to figure out what it was because it was so out of the ordinary,” Green said.

Bob Tracey, the vice president of the company that owns the jet that first reported the object, said that his pilot also told him that the object was extremely bright after he was debriefed.

“Like you woke up in the morning and stared at a bright light,” Tracy said. “He said that it passed him at maybe a similar speed that an airliner would.”

Articles

Here are the best military photos for the week of Apr. 29

The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:


Air Force:

An A-10 Thunderbolt II departs after receiving fuel from a 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron KC-135 Stratotanker during a flight in support of Operation Inherent Resolve April 19, 2017. The 340th EARS, part of U.S. Air Forces Central Command, is responsible for delivering fuel for U.S. and coalition forces, enabling a persistent 24/7 presence in the area of responsibility.

US Navy destroyer’s crew caught in bizarre gambling and fireworks scandal
U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Trevor T. McBride

The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds and Patrouille de France fly together over Death Valley, Calif., April 17, 2017. The Thunderbirds and Patrouille de France are two of the oldest aerial demonstration teams in the world.

US Navy destroyer’s crew caught in bizarre gambling and fireworks scandal
U.S. Air Force Photo/Tech. Sgt. Christopher Boitz

Army:

U.S. Soldiers with the 20th CBRNE Command conduct a 7.5 mile ruck march for their German Armed Forces Proficiency Badge (GAFPB) at the Yakima Training Center, Wash., April 22, 2017. The ruck march is one of five events in the Military training portion of the GAFPB that requires participants to wear a 35-pound ruck and complete it in one to two hours or less depending on the distance.

US Navy destroyer’s crew caught in bizarre gambling and fireworks scandal
U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Kalie Jones

U.S. Vice President Michael R. Pence shakes hands with South Korean Gen. Leem Ho-Young, deputy commanding general of Combined Forces Command, near the demilitarized zone in South Korea, April 17, 2017. Pence is making his first trip to South Korea in order to receive a strategic overview of the peninsula.

US Navy destroyer’s crew caught in bizarre gambling and fireworks scandal
U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Sean K. Harp

Navy:

NORFOLK (April 27, 2017) Quartermaster 1st Class Jose Triana, assigned to the Pre-Commissioning Unit aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), attaches signal flags to a line. Ford’s “over the top” lines are being weight tested by the ship’s navigation department.

US Navy destroyer’s crew caught in bizarre gambling and fireworks scandal
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Elizabeth A. Thompson

PHILIPPINE SEA (April 28, 2017) The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer JS Ashigara (DDG 178), foreground, the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Wayne E. Meyer (DDG 108) and the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Champlain (CG 57) transit the Philippine Sea. The U.S. Navy has patrolled the Indo-Asia-Pacific routinely for more than 70 years promoting regional peace and security.

US Navy destroyer’s crew caught in bizarre gambling and fireworks scandal
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Z.A. Landers

Marine Corps:

U.S. Marines with the 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment are transported by a CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter assigned to Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron (HMH) 466 during an exercise as part of Weapons and Tactics Instructors course (WTI) 2-17 near Yuma, Ariz., April 20, 2017. WTI is held biannually at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Yuma, Ariz., to provide students with detailed training on the various ranges in Arizona and California.

US Navy destroyer’s crew caught in bizarre gambling and fireworks scandal
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Trever A. Statz

U.S. Marines with Bravo Battery, 1st Battalion, 10th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division provide security during a CH-53 day battle drill in support of Weapons and Tactics Instructors course (WTI) 2-17 at Fire Base Burt. Calif., April 8, 2017.

US Navy destroyer’s crew caught in bizarre gambling and fireworks scandal
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Clare J. Shaffer

Coast Guard:

The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Rollin Fritch Sector North Carolina comes alongside the 43-foot sailboat Tuesday, April 26, 2017, 13 miles south of Hatteras, North Carolina. Several Coast Guard assets came together to tow the Nanette through storms to moor up in Morehead City, North Carolina.

US Navy destroyer’s crew caught in bizarre gambling and fireworks scandal
USCG photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Joshua Canup

An aircrew member from Air Station San Diego is being hoisted up to a Coast Guard MH60 Jayhawk helicopter at Point Vicente Lighthouse in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif. April 26, 2017. Consistently training helps the aircrews stay adept for situations where they will have to perform an actual cliff side rescue.

US Navy destroyer’s crew caught in bizarre gambling and fireworks scandal
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class DaVonte’ Marrow

MIGHTY TRENDING

Pacific Steel helps troops get more lethal with larger weapons

The 9th Mission Support Command is conducting its first-ever Operation Pacific Steel involving Soldiers from around the Pacific at Schofield Barracks from Oct. 3 through Dec. 5. The purpose of this exercise is for Soldiers to train on crew-served weapons and pass down their knowledge to their units as well as serving as a prerequisite to attend Operation Cold Steel.

The overall planner of this operation, Staff Sgt. Wes Liberty, who works with planning and exercises at the 9th MSC said, “Pacific Steel is ground mount (training) for heavy weapons, i.e., M240 (machine gun), Mk 19 (grenade launcher) and M2 .50 cal. (heavy machine gun).


US Navy destroyer’s crew caught in bizarre gambling and fireworks scandal

Gunner, Staff Sgt. Gerald Orosco, 322nd Civil Affairs Brigade, engages targets with his protective mask while assistant gunner, Staff Sgt. Collin Miyamoto, 322nd Civil Affairs Brigade, provides assistance at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, during Operation Pacific Steel on Nov. 10, 2018.

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Edwin T. Basa)

“This is an operation that is actually trickled down from USARC (U.S. Army Reserve Command), he added. They conduct Operation Cold Steel where Soldiers who have qualified on ground-mounted weapons can be trained to operate on vehicle-mounted weapons,” said Liberty.

Soldiers go through an eight-day training period. During that time, they attend various courses to ensure confidence on the weapon systems they are training on. Among these courses include virtual battlespace 3, gunnery skills training, preliminary marksmanship instructions and engagement skills trainer.

The Virtual Battlespace 3 course utilizes a first-person, three-dimensional, tactical mounted machine gun training software program which allows Soldiers to operate in a virtual reality environment using virtual mounted weapons. This in turn, prepares them when they operate real weapons during a live-fire training environment.

The gunnery skill test evaluates the crew member’s ability to perform gunnery-related skills.

The Preliminary marksmanship instructions introduces Soldiers to the weapons they are training on and teaches them how to maintain, operate and corrects malfunctions.

Engagement skills trainer simulates weapons training for Soldiers and prepares them for live-fire qualifications for individual or crew-served weapons.

The weapons the Soldiers train on depends on when they in-process during Pacific Steel. From the beginning to the end of training, all Soldiers are paired up to operate weapons as a team. The first portion of Pacific Steel trains Soldiers on the M240 machine gun. The middle and final portion focus on the M2 .50 caliber heavy machine gun and MK 19 grenade launcher, respectively.

Liberty said Operation Pacific Steel required a lot of planning and preparation.

“This is the first time I’m doing this of this magnitude, so I had some help. I had a lot of help from Schofield, getting the barracks, getting the range, weapons,” said Liberty.

“We’re not doing too bad. Soldiers are coming, they’re getting qualified, they’re getting fed, they’re getting rooms,” he added.

Some Soldiers have already operated these weapons before coming to Pacific Steel, so this has been more like a review course for them.

US Navy destroyer’s crew caught in bizarre gambling and fireworks scandal

Sgt. Kenny Tabula, 411th Engineer Battalion, fires his MK 19 grenade launcher while safety officers, Sgt. Angelyn Cayton and Sgt. Valentino Sigrah provide guidance at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, during Operation Pacific Steel, Nov. 17, 2017.

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Edwin T. Basa)

Staff Sgt. Collin Miyamoto, 322nd Civil Affairs Brigade, came to Pacific Steel to train on the M2 .50 cal. heavy machine gun even though he had trained on it before. However, he stressed how in-depth the classes were on how to properly operate the M2 as a team.

“We learned PMI, disassemble, assemble, and how to do a functions check, but safety is always first,” Miyamoto said.

His M2 partner, Staff Sgt. Gerald Orosco, 322nd Civil Affairs Brigade, who also trained on the M2 previously, emphasized that Soldiers not only should know how to operated a weapon, but also how to handle a weapon should it ever malfunction.

“Especially the malfunction part. Most people know how to shoot, but do you really know the weapon?”

Moreover, to reemphasize what his partner stated earlier,” Safety is number one,” Orosco said.

For Soldiers like Spc. Alika Jacang-Buchanan of Bravo Company, 100th Battalion, 442nd Infantry Regiment, it’s his first time operating these types of weapons.

He came to Pacific Steel and was fortunate to get hands-on training on multiple weapons. He especially likes engaging targets with the MK 19.

“I like the MK 19 because there’s a boom at the end,” said Jacang-Buchanan.

Soldiers felt that participating in Pacific Steel is a good program and hopes that it will continue in the future. This exercise provides proper training and preparation for Soldiers to employ weapons that they would otherwise not have been likely to use.

Spc. Abraham Salevao of Bravo Company, 100th Battalion, 442nd Infantry Regiment, said, “It’s a learning experience for not only combat MOSs, it’s for everyone to learn. It’s exciting, being behind that weapon, getting that rush. It’s always good to learn, especially these weapons.”

“I’d recommend everyone out there to try Pacific Steel,” he added.

MIGHTY MOVIES

10 of the best ‘Full Metal Jacket’ memes ever made

In 1987, Stanley Kubrick released one of the most acclaimed feature films that created a stir within the Marine Corps community — Full Metal Jacket. The movie was an instant hit and, suddenly, veterans and active-duty service members of all ages started memorizing the film’s dialogue and working it into their daily conversations.

Although the film debuted more than 30 years ago, its epic storyline and unique characters contribute to today’s popular culture. Full Metal Jacket still manages to engage audiences, even after we’ve seen it a dozen times. Now, in the age of memes, Full Metal Jacket lives on.


US Navy destroyer’s crew caught in bizarre gambling and fireworks scandal

Why isn’t he standing at the position of attention?

US Navy destroyer’s crew caught in bizarre gambling and fireworks scandal

We, of course, choose Animal Mother.

US Navy destroyer’s crew caught in bizarre gambling and fireworks scandal

Taking jabs at Pvt. Pyle never gets old.

US Navy destroyer’s crew caught in bizarre gambling and fireworks scandal

Too bad his vacation didn’t end well…

US Navy destroyer’s crew caught in bizarre gambling and fireworks scandal

“Ain’t war hell?”

US Navy destroyer’s crew caught in bizarre gambling and fireworks scandal

See!

US Navy destroyer’s crew caught in bizarre gambling and fireworks scandal

He was the guest of honor.

US Navy destroyer’s crew caught in bizarre gambling and fireworks scandal

So that’s what Animal Mother’s problem was. We were way off!

US Navy destroyer’s crew caught in bizarre gambling and fireworks scandal

Neither game has a winner…

US Navy destroyer’s crew caught in bizarre gambling and fireworks scandal

Now that’s a war face.

MIGHTY TRENDING

ISIS is staging attacks to send a message: We’re back

An ISIS attack on an Iraqi oil field checkpoint that killed at least two members of the Iraqi security forces sends a clear message: ISIS sees itself making a comeback, and it wants the world to know.

Earlier this week, ISIS attacked security forces at a check point near Allas oilfield, in Iraq’s Salahuddin province — a site that was one of the terror group’s main sources of income during the territorial caliphate.

“The important thing to note here is that ISIS attacked a checkpoint near the oil field,” said Brandon Wallace, a counterterrorism researcher at the Institute for the Study of War, who said it’s an indication that ISIS is going after symbolic or economically vital targets likely to be guarded by security forces.


The group is also trying to disrupt the social fabric in Iraq by going after village leaders, Wallace told Insider.

US Navy destroyer’s crew caught in bizarre gambling and fireworks scandal

Iraqi army soldiers.

(Public domain)

“If you take out the right guy in a village in one area, that can have much longer-lasting impact on the stability of the community,” he said, creating an environment in which ISIS is actually a viable alternative.

The group seeks to do the same across the porous border in Syria.

Over the past month, ISIS has made or attempted attacks in Raqqa, the former capital of its caliphate. Raqqa was liberated by the SDF and coalition forces in 2017, but ISIS could be attempting to destabilize the area, according to The International Crisis Group.

“The group is thought to have more sophisticated clandestine networks in al-Raqqa and al-Hasaka provinces, where it perpetrates relatively complex and ambitious attacks,” according to a report titled, “Averting an ISIS Resurgence in Iraq and Syria.” Alleged attacks in Raqqa city, the report says, indicate that Raqqa’s security situation is declining, which could be further precipitated by the Turkish incursion.

US Navy destroyer’s crew caught in bizarre gambling and fireworks scandal

Destroyed neighborhood in Raqqa, August 2017.

(Public domain)

“The ISIS attacks in Raqqa, you could think of them destabilizing the security forces in that area because ISIS is intending to destabilize Raqqa,” Wallace told Insider. “A stable Raqqa is a political alternative to ISIS” — something the group seeks to eliminate. Vehement protests against regime troops, now making their way into the area around Deir Ezzor and other former SDF-held areas, could also open up potential for ISIS recruitment, according to Jason Zhou, the Hertog War Studies Fellow at the Institute for the Study of War.

But while ISIS attacks may be growing in sophistication, “the operational environment has changed,” Wallace told Insider. Less sectarian fighting in Iraq and a stronger security environment there — not to mention the visceral memories of people living under the caliphate — would make it harder for the group to resurge.

But continued chaos in Syria — demonstrated by Syria envoy James Jeffrey’s admission on Oct. 23, 2019, that more than 100 ISIS prisoners had escaped since the Turkish incursion and that the US has no idea where they are — will inevitably affect Iraq, too.

One thing is for certain, Wallace told Insider.

“ISIS absolutely intends to rule terrain again.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is what Vladimir Putin looked like when he was a KGB spy

 


The Cold War is long finished, but Russian intelligence has been all over the American news.

Russia is accused of hacking the DNC’s emails and engaging in other forms of cyber subversion in order to throw the race in favor of now-US President Donald Trump. A series of politically charged social media groups and advertising campaigns have been traced back to Russia, and special counsel Robert Mueller is reportedly investigating former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, allegedly for potential collusion with Russia.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has denied that his country is involved in a cyber war with the US.

At the same time, he’s also expressed his pride in the “unique people” of Russia’s intelligence community, according to the AFP. Putin’s soft spot for spies comes as no surprise: His previously was a KGB operative.

Here’s a look into Putin’s early career as a spy:

As a teenager, Putin was captivated by the novel and film series “The Shield and the Sword.” The story focuses on a brave Soviet secret agent who helps thwart the Nazis. Putin later said he was struck by how “one spy could decide the fate of thousands of people.”

US Navy destroyer’s crew caught in bizarre gambling and fireworks scandal
The Shield and the Sword allegedly influenced Putin to join the KGB. (By Source (WP:NFCC#4), Fair use)

Putin went to school at Saint Petersburg State University, where he studied law. His undergraduate thesis focused on international law and trade.

US Navy destroyer’s crew caught in bizarre gambling and fireworks scandal
Putin studied law at Saint Petersburg State University. (image)

After initially considering going into law, Putin was recruited into the KGB upon graduating in 1975.

US Navy destroyer’s crew caught in bizarre gambling and fireworks scandal
Known as the Lubyanka Building, this was the headquarters for the KGB. (image)

After getting the good news, Putin and a friend headed to a nearby Georgian restaurant. They celebrated over satsivi — grilled chicken prepared with walnut sauce — and downed shots of sweet liqueur.

US Navy destroyer’s crew caught in bizarre gambling and fireworks scandal
Georgian dish of chicken – satzivi. (image)

He trained at the Red Banner Institute in Moscow. Putin’s former chief of staff and fellow KGB trainee Sergei Ivanov told the Telegraph that some lessons from senior spies amounted to little more than “idiocy.”

US Navy destroyer’s crew caught in bizarre gambling and fireworks scandal
School 101, also knows as the Red Banner Institute in Moscow, is where Putin trained in counter intelligence. (image)

Putin belonged to the “cohort of outsiders” KGB chairman Yuri Andropov pumped into the intelligence agency in the 1970s. Andropov’s goal was to improve the institution by recruiting younger, more critical KGB officers.

US Navy destroyer’s crew caught in bizarre gambling and fireworks scandal
Yuri Andopov recruited Putin into the KGB. Moving from running the KGB until 1982 into running the Soviet Union, Andropov’s career was cut short by his death. (image)

Putin’s spy career was far from glamorous, according to Steve Lee Meyers’ “The New Tsar.” His early years consisted of working in a gloomy office filled with aging staffers, “pushing papers at work and still living at home with his parents without a room of his own.”

US Navy destroyer’s crew caught in bizarre gambling and fireworks scandal
As a student, Putin lived with his parents. (image)

He attended training at the heavily fortified School No. 401 in Saint Petersburg, where prospective officers learned intelligence tactics and interrogation techniques, and trained physically. In 1976, he became a first lieutenant.

Saint Petersburg is the home of School 401. (image) Saint Petersburg is the home of School 401. (image)

Putin’s focus may have included counter-intelligence and monitoring foreigners. According to Meyers, Putin may have also worked with the KGB’s Fifth Chief Directorate, which was dedicated to crushing political dissidents.

The 33rd Anniversary of the KGB in 1987. (image) The 33rd Anniversary of the KGB in 1987. (image)

In 1985, Putin adopted the cover identity of a translator and transferred to Dresden, Germany. In “Mr. Putin,” Fiona Hill and Cliff Gaddy speculate his mission may have been to recruit top East German Communist Party and Stasi officials, steal technological secrets, compromise visiting Westerners, or travel undercover to West Germany.

US Navy destroyer’s crew caught in bizarre gambling and fireworks scandal
Putin spent time in the mid 80s in Germany, under cover as a translator. (image)

Hill and Gaddy conclude that the “most likely answer to which of these was Putin’s actual mission in Dresden is: ‘all of the above.'”

US Navy destroyer’s crew caught in bizarre gambling and fireworks scandal
Dresden, Germany. (image)

Putin has said that his time in the KGB — and speaking with older agents — caused him to question the direction of the USSR. “In intelligence at that time, we permitted ourselves to think differently and to say things that few others could permit themselves,” he said.

US Navy destroyer’s crew caught in bizarre gambling and fireworks scandal
Putin gives a news conference. (image)

At one point, crowds mobbed the KGB’s Dresden location after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Putin has claimed to have brandished a pistol to scare looters from the office.

US Navy destroyer’s crew caught in bizarre gambling and fireworks scandal
Berlin Wall, 1989. (image)

The future Russian president didn’t return home till 1990s. It’s believed that Putin’s tenure in the KGB, which occurred during a time when the USSR’s power crumbled on the international stage, helped to shape his worldview.

US Navy destroyer’s crew caught in bizarre gambling and fireworks scandal
Putin returned to Russia in 1990. (image)

“It was clear the Union was ailing,” Putin said, of his time abroad. “And it had a terminal, incurable illness under the title of paralysis. A paralysis of power.”

US Navy destroyer’s crew caught in bizarre gambling and fireworks scandal

Putin ultimately quit the KGB in 1991, during a hard-liner coup against Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev. He became an official in Boris Yeltsin’s subsequent administration, took over for him upon his resignation, and was ultimately elected president for the first time in 2000.

US Navy destroyer’s crew caught in bizarre gambling and fireworks scandal
Putin’s inauguration, 2012. (image)

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