A Virginia dairy farm that used to hold Army spies is now a winery - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

A Virginia dairy farm that used to hold Army spies is now a winery

Fauquier County, Virginia, might not be the place you think of when you imagine covert ops training, but that’s exactly what’s happened at an isolated farmhouse and working dairy.

In use since 1803, “Vint Hill,” as it was initially known, had several owners before the Army purchased it in 1942 – just in time to train a group of service members in the fine art of espionage. Reframed and repurposed throughout the years, Vint Hill has served as one of the most essential intel-gathering sites you’ve probably never heard of.


History

Vint Hill is situated near the Signal Intelligence Service headquarters in Arlington but was far away enough from the city that its location and its purpose remained a secret. It was here that the Army housed its Monitoring Station No. 1, a covert spy base.

Established by the Army’s Signal Intelligence Service, the 701-acre farm was built in part because the Army needed a secure location near the SIS and a cryptography school.

The geography of Vint Hill was key in the Army’s decision to train there. Not only did it boast a quiet countryside vibe where trainees could really get into their coursework, but it also provided “quiet electromagnetic geology,” which made it the perfect place for intercepting radio signals. During WWII, that’s exactly what service members stationed at Vint Hill did.

Perhaps the most famous is the interception of a message from a Japanese ambassador to Germany. That message, sent in 1943, described German fortifications, contingency plans, and troop strength information.

Once the message was decoded, the information was instrumental in planning the D-Day invasion of June 6, 1944.

The NSA recently released documents that further detail the influence that Vint Hill had on WWII planning. It was a crucial intelligence-gathering station throughout all of WWII and beyond.

After WWII

After WWII, Vint Hill became the first field station of the Army Security Agency, an arm of the NSA. The facility conducted signals intelligence operations.

Declassified Army intelligence lists Vint Hill as one of the largest intercept facilities in the world.

Not only did it serve as an intercept facility, but Vint Hill was also a signal school, signal training center, and a refitting station for selected signal units returning from or heading to deployments.

During and following the Korean War, the station’s footprint was expanded significantly, making it a major intelligence hub during the Cold War. Vint Hill personnel intercepted key Soviet diplomatic and military communication sent over teleprints that helped form and shape America’s military posture.

In 1961, the Army Electronic Material Readiness Activity moved to Vint Hill and took over the management of signals intelligence and electronic warfare maintenance for the Army Security Agency.

By 1973 however, Vint Hill’s mission had changed to research. Its main goal was to aid and assist in the development and support of intel and electronic warfare info gathering for the Army, DoD, and our partner allies. The EPA took over operations of Vint Hill’s photographic interpretation center from the DIA, and Vint Hill was renamed as the Environmental Photographic Interpretation Center.

However, that didn’t last long. By the late 1979s, Vint Hill was on the list of installations to be closed, and all projects on site were halted. A change in policy in 1981 reversed that decision, and Vint Hill remained open.

Serving as the “giant ear” of the NSA was the core focus of Vint Hill in the early 1980s and eventually became a development and testing site for signal equipment for the CIA and FBI. IN 1993, Vint Hill was once again on the chopping block. This time, the closure stuck. Most personnel were reassigned to Fort Monmouth and Fort Belvoir.

Vint Hill closed officially on September 30, 1997. Now, the site hosts several engineering and tech companies, including the FAAs Air Traffic Control System Command Center. There’s a Cold War museum open on-site, but most notably, the former intel-gathering installation is home to the Vint Hill Craft Winery and the Old Bust Head Brewery. There’s even a dance school and a gymnastics school run on the property. Talk about reinvention after time in service.

MIGHTY TRENDING

WWII veteran to return to Normandy after 75 years

Jake Larson, a World War II veteran, will be returning to Normandy, France June 2019 after 75 years. Jake is the last surviving member of a unit that stormed Omaha Beach. Many men died during World War II, and Jake often questioned why he had survived.

Jake, 96, told the New York Times, “I never thought I’d be alive 75 years later. I’m the luckiest guy in the world.”


He currently lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and had only returned to France in his mind. His humble salary at a printing business never afforded such a luxury.

However, with the help of two women and an online fund-raising campaign, Jake can now return to France for the 75th Anniversary of D-Day.

“I can’t believe people would donate to me — they don’t even know me,” Jake stated.

Jake is planning to write a memoir and calls his trip to France the final chapter.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The NRA helped promote this deadly Russian sniper rifle

The Army released a report in late 2016 that centered on the Russian threat in Ukraine and detailed how the capabilities of Russian snipers have grown, thanks in small part to a deadly new Russian sniper rifle, the ORSIS T-5000.

And it just so happens that the National Rifle Association once helped promote the T-5000, according to Mother Jones.


In 2015, the NRA sent a delegation to Moscow, where they toured the facilities at ORSIS (the Russian company that makes the sniper rifle), test-fired the T-5000 and were even included in an ORSIS promotional video, Mother Jones reported.

The delegation included NRA board member Peter Brownell, NRA donor Joe Gregory, former NRA President David Keene, and former Milwaukee County Sheriff and Trump supporter David Clarke, Mother Jones and The Daily Beast reported.

The delegation also met with Dmitry Rogozin, who had been sanctioned by the Obama administration over the invasion of Ukraine and annexation of Crimea, during the trip, which was also partially paid for by a Russian gun-rights organization called the Right to Bear Arms, Mother Jones reported.


Rozogin was Russia’s deputy prime minister who oversaw the defense sector at the time, but was not retained by Russian Prime Minister-designate Dmitry Medvedev in Putin’s new administration, Reuters reported on May 7, 2018.

The US Army report from 2016 described the T-5000 as “one of the most capable bolt action sniper rifles in the world.”

A former Soviet Spetsnaz special forces operator, Marco Vorobiev, said the gun “can compete with any custom-built bolt action precision rifle out there,” according to Popular Mechanics.

“It is well designed and built in small batches,” he said. “More of a custom rifle than mass produced.”

The T-5000 fires a .338 Lapua Magnum round, which is an 8.6 or 8.58x70mm round, that can hit targets up to 2,000 yards away, Popular Mechanics reported.

A .338 Lapua Magnum round is more than two times more powerful than a 7.62x54R round, The National Interest reported in December, adding that there’s no known body armor in the field that can stop the round.

The T-5000 has reportedly been used by Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine, Iraqi special forces operators, and has been spotted being used by Chinese troops and Vietnamese law enforcement officers, Popular Mechanics and thefirearmblog.com reported.

A Virginia dairy farm that used to hold Army spies is now a winery
A Russian-backed separatist in Ukraine with the T-5000.

The Russian military is also beginning to field the T-5000, and it has even been tested with Russia’s “Ratnik” program, which is a futuristic combat system that includes modernized body armor, a helmet with night vision and thermal imaging, and more, The National Interest and Popular Mechanics reported.

The rifle, however, has had problems opening the bolt, The National Interest reported.

Still, the T-5000’s range has helped Russian forces in Ukraine “fix Ukrainian tactical formations by employing sniper teams en masse,” the 2016 Army report said.

The sniper teams “layer their assets in roughly three ranks with spacing determined by range of weapons systems and the terrain” with the “final rank [consisting] of highly trained snipers” with the best equipment, the report said.

They then “channelize movement of tactical formations and then direct artillery fire on prioritized targets.”

“Several sniper teams will work together to corral an enemy formation into a target area making delivery of indirect fire easy and devastating,” the report said. “Russian snipers also channelize units into ambushes and obstacles such minefields or armored checkpoints.”

The “capabilities of a sniper in a Russian contingent is far more advanced than the precision shooters U.S. formations have encountered over the last 15 years,” the report said.

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

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

When coronavirus hits home: How to quarantine the sick

Most people in the U.S. will be exposed to the coronavirus, according to the National Institutes of Health. But not everyone with COVID-19 develops a cough and fever. For every infected person who shows symptoms, five to ten others are asymptomatic, meaning they look and feel just fine for the duration of having the virus, but are spreading the virus fast. This is what social distancing is all about: Stay home, wash your hands often, clean your space and hopefully you’ll be able to avoid the asymptomatic spread. But when someone in your house is showing symptoms or simply knows that they’ve come into contact with someone who has been tested and found to have the virus a different kind of quarantine is required. You need a quarantine within a quarantine. The infected need to isolate within your own home.


In these situations, the goal is to isolate the sick person from the world, and the members of their household, for two weeks. It isn’t easy, but there are steps to take that can give those not infected a fighting chance. Here’s how to proceed.

This Is the Time for a Mask

While there has been much controversy over masks — primarily aimed at those healthy folks hoarding them while hospitals run out — if you have someone sick at home, they should be wearing one while around others in the house. If they don’t own one, you can try making your own out of household materials or cover your mouth with a bandana. “In this critical time we’re having, anything is better than nothing,” says Sophia Thomas, president of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners.

Leave Them Alone

Designate a room in your house where those who are sick can spend the next two weeks, and stay out of it as much as possible. If you don’t have a bedroom they can hole up in alone, keep your distance. “The most important thing is to try to stay six feet away from one another,” says Georges Benjamin, director of the American Public Health Association. Don’t let visitors into the home, especially those at high risk, such as grandparents.

If the sick person does have a room of their own, check up on them several times per day. Ask how they’re doing through the door or give them a video call if they aren’t too ill. If the infected person has more serious symptoms, you may have to venture inside, but take precautions including distance and gloves. If the person feels well enough to bend down, leave their meals outside the door.

Of course, sending a five-year-old to their room for two weeks is basically impossible. Don’t panic. “You do the best you can,” Benjamin says. Reduce your risk of infection by cleaning surfaces kids touch frequently, such as toys. Pay attention to your own cleanliness, too. “The most practical thing for most parents is to simply wash their hands as often as they can,” Benjamin says.

A Virginia dairy farm that used to hold Army spies is now a winery

p1.pxfuel.com

Clean the House Like You Mean It

If a surface is visibly dirty, first clean it with a detergent and water. Then, disinfect it with a product that can kill viruses, such as bleach. Even if they look clean, wipe down high-touch surfaces with detergent and water often, including doorknobs, counters, tables, light switches, remote controls, cabinet handles, and sink handles. “The more frequently, the better,” Thomas says, but at least once daily. Use disposable gloves while cleaning, and don’t reuse them.

Appoint a bathroom for those who are ill, or, if you only have one, make sure it has good airflow. If the whole family must share a bathroom, immediately clean and disinfect after the sick person uses it.

Family members should not clean the room of someone who is ill, though the sick person may clean their own room if they’re up to the task. The sick person should use their own lined trash can, and family members should wear disposable gloves while disposing of the bag. Household members should also use gloves while doing the sick person’s laundry and washing their dishes.

Holy Crap, Is It Ever Time to Wash Your Hands

Wash your hands often, for at least twenty seconds after using the bathroom, before eating, and after sneezing, coughing or blowing your nose. Don’t share towels to dry your hands on. In fact, don’t share anything, including unwashed dishes and eating utensils. Avoid touching your face and wash laundry thoroughly, particularly if it is soiled by bodily fluids.

A Virginia dairy farm that used to hold Army spies is now a winery

Hopefully Your Dog’s Loyalty Lies With the Quarantined

“We want to keep all of our family members healthy, and that includes our furry family members,” Thomas says. Though there are no cases of pets contracting COVID-19, sick family members should avoid petting their cats and dogs and should ask a different household member to care for them. If the sick person must pet a pup, they should wash their hands before and after contact and wear a facemask while interacting. They should also avoid sharing a bed with their fur baby.

How to Feed Yourself 

If you’re anything like the rest of the country, you probably have a sufficient stockpile of snacks. If you do run out of food, don’t go to the grocery store. Stock up your pantry using an online grocery service or order delivery from a restaurant. Pay online beforehand and ask the deliverer to leave the package outside your front door. You can also ask a neighbor or relative to deliver a care package to your door.

5 Signs You Need to Go to the Emergency Room

Before you go to the ER, call ahead. Let them know if you have suspected or confirmed COVID-19 and any other symptoms you may be experiencing.

  • Difficulty breathing: If breathing is painful or hard to do, seek immediate help.
  • Blue around the lips: A blue tint to the lips, tongue, and skin of the face means you may not be getting enough blood flow to your head.
  • Fever that won’t come down: If medications such as Tylenol can’t bring down your fever, seek help.
  • Chest pain: Though many people with COVID-19 may feel chest pain, significant pain deserves an emergency call.
  • Worsening of other conditions: The virus can exacerbate pre-existing conditions such as asthma.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

Humor

3 ways Marines say they will deal with a zombie apocalypse

All military personnel talk on deployment. It helps pass the time. You’ll find yourself chatting with your peers for days, which turn into weeks, and then months, and before you know it, you’re back in the arms of your loved ones.


The topics of these conversations vary greatly. They range from the absurd, such as buying a Lamborghini up returning home, to the downright crazy, like debating if “nothing” is considered “something.” Some topics that arise while on deployment are even downright criminal, like how to pull off a successful bank heist worthy of a motion picture.

But there is one topic that reigns supreme when on deployment: The “zombie apocalypse.”

When talking about this horrific nightmare scenario, Marines discuss the three different possible routes to take, and each has its own consequences — and each one definitely has a Marine mentality behind it.

1. The hunter-killer team

The first path is the hunter-killer team. Marines train in the art of war. They study it, breathe it, and live it. And yet, for many Marines, it’s not the first option when discussing the hypothetical end of the world.

This team sets out to hunts down the zombie menace. All of them.

A Virginia dairy farm that used to hold Army spies is now a winery
Fun fact: zombies never zigzag.

These Marines stop at towns or settlements along the way, lending a helping hand in exchange for food and currency. After dingo a circuit in their area, they go to the nearest military base for ammo and fuel (if they have vehicles).

2. The endurant

Other Marines think of survival — how to outlast the apocalypse. These Marines get very intellectual about it, too, considering all angles. The first idea they come up with is that zombies can’t swim. Knowing this, they decide to head towards a Naval station. From there, they want to commandeer a floating city – a Navy aircraft carrier. They think using this will keep their family safe and out of harm’s way.

A Virginia dairy farm that used to hold Army spies is now a winery
Chinooks make everything slightly easier. But only slightly.

They wait until the plague is gone and then return to help rebuild. The major flaw here is that it’s not so easy to get to an aircraft carrier. But hey, Marines dream big.

3. The outlanders

Finally, we’ve got the Marines that say they’d go and live a life of solitude in the middle of nowhere — usually a mountaintop. They’ll stock up on food and water to last them through the plague and live far removed from the zombie threat. But this approach has some major logistical problems: Running out of supplies is the foremost issue. Depending on the duration of the plague, post-apocalyptic Marines would need to go out a few times to restock. With that comes the off-chance that zombies discover the mountaintop getaway. Now, they must fight off the horde to make it through.

This topic is easily one of the most discussed topics while on a deployment. This is because a deployment can feel like a survival-horror flick, where Marines must band together take on their own deadly enemy horde that lies in wait outside the gates.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This professor received a commission into the modern Monuments Men

“You can wipe out an entire generation, you can burn their homes to the ground and somehow they’ll still find their way back. But if you destroy their history, you destroy their achievements and it’s as if they never existed…that’s what Hitler wants and it’s the one thing we simply can’t allow,” said George Clooney as Frank Stokes in the 2014 film Monuments Men. While the movie portrayed a single team, the real Monuments Men actually consisted of around 400 service members and civilians. During the war, their mission was to safeguard historic and cultural monuments from war damage. The Monuments Men also located art and treasure that was stolen by the Nazis. After the war, they worked to return the valuable properties to their rightful owners. Though the program was disbanded in 1946, the Army recently restarted it and is actively recruiting experts to continue the work of the Monuments Men on the modern battlefield.

A Virginia dairy farm that used to hold Army spies is now a winery
The Monuments Men recover the Ghent altarpiece in the Altaussee mine, 1945 (National Archives and Records Administration)

James Bezjian is a professor at The Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina and former officer in the South Carolina State Guard. He specializes in entrepreneurship and cultural preservation. In March 2020, Bezjian was notified that he had been selected to receive an Army Reserve commission to serve with the revived Monuments Men. As a lover of history, Bezjian was thrilled by the opportunity to perform such a crucial job. “It’s so vitally important to preserve as much of history as possible so that the narrative of history doesn’t get lost or twisted in the process,” Bezjian said. “Once this stuff is gone, it’s gone.”

The Pentagon officially announced the revival of the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives program this past fall at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. Like their forebearers, the new Monuments Men and Women will be composed of both Army Reserve officers and civilians with valuable academic specialties. “They wanted to create this group of military government specialists, such as people trained in preservation, curation and protection techniques, to get them commissioned as the new monuments officers unit,” Bezjian said. More than 30 academics and officers will make up the unit which will be based at the Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

A Virginia dairy farm that used to hold Army spies is now a winery
Monuments Men pose with recovered art at Neuschwanstein Castle (National Archives and Records Administration)

The program’s members will serve as advisors to war-torn nations and help them to preserve their historical and cultural artifacts in the midst of conflict. Additionally, they will advise the U.S. Department of Defense and its allies on operations like airstrikes to safeguard important sites. “In conflict, the destruction of monuments and the looting of art are not only about the loss of material things, but also about the erasure of history, knowledge and a people’s identity,” said Richard Kurin, an anthropologist with the Smithsonian. The team will not be deployed full-time, but on a case-by-case basis as their expertise is required.

Bezjian has also been sharing his love of preservation with The Citadel’s Corps of Cadets. In February 2020, he traveled with two students to Fort Bragg at the request of the U.S. Army Airborne & Special Operations Museum. Bezjian and his students used 3D scanning technology to create digital replicas of historic artifacts. Fittingly, once piece that they preserved was an M1 helmet worn by original Monuments Man Walker Kirtland Hancock.

Bezjian plans to continue teaching at The Citadel while serving as a modern day Monuments Man. He hopes to inspire his students with his passion for history and preservation. “My goal is to eventually create a training program at The Citadel where we can directly commission students into this unit,” Bezjian said. “I want to create a pipeline for students to these types of preservation jobs.”

A Virginia dairy farm that used to hold Army spies is now a winery
CPT James Bezjian, Ph. D. (SCSG) (The Citadel)
MIGHTY TRENDING

Iran executes man convicted of giving U.S. information on Soleimani

Iran’s judiciary says the country has executed a man convicted of providing information to the United States and Israel about a top Iranian commander later killed by a U.S. drone strike in Iraq.

“Mahmud Musavi-Majd’s sentence was carried out on Monday morning over the charge of espionage so that the case of his betrayal to his country will be closed forever,” the judiciary’s Mizan Online website reported on July 20.


Iranian authorities in June said Musavi-Majd passed on information about the whereabouts of Qasem Soleimani, commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’ (IRGC) elite Quds Force, who was killed in a U.S. air strike near Baghdad in January.

The judiciary said last month that Musavi-Majd’s death sentence had been upheld by the Supreme Court and would be carried out “soon.”

The execution came a day after three men linked to anti-government protests last November received stays from the death penalty amid a massive social-media campaign calling for Iran to halt state executions.

In retaliation for Soleimani’s killing in the early hours of January 3, an Iranian ballistic-missile strike on an Iraqi air base left some 110 U.S. troops suffering from traumatic brain injuries.

Hours later, Iranian forces shot down a Ukrainian passenger airliner taking off from Tehran, killing all 176 people on board. Iran blamed a misaligned missile battery and miscommunication between soldiers and superior officers.

Iranian officials did not say whether Musavi-Majd’s case was linked to Iran’s announcement in the summer of 2019 that it had captured 17 spies working for the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

It said some of them had been sentenced to death.

The report comes after Iran’s judiciary announced on July 14 that a former Defense Ministry worker convicted of selling information to the CIA had been executed.

Judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili said on July 14 that Reza Asgari had been in touch with the CIA during his last years serving at the Defense Ministry and sold the agency information about Iran’s missile program.

Esmaili said Asgari was executed a week earlier, adding that he had worked in the aerospace department of the Defense Ministry and retired four years ago.

A recent online protest against executions has been joined by many Iranians — including ordinary citizens as well as intellectuals, former politicians, and prominent artists.

In the face of the protest, Iran’s judiciary ordered a retrial for Amir Hossein Moradi, 25, Said Tamjidi, 27, and Mohammad Rajabi, 25.

Their lawyers said they were maintaining hope that the sentences could be reversed.

But the head of Iran’s judiciary, hard-line cleric Ebrahim Raisi, downplayed that possibility.

“You should listen to protests, but unrest and riots that endanger the country’s security are our red line,” Raisi said on July 20.

The three were among many who were arrested in a brutal crackdown against demonstrators who took to the streets in dozens of cities and towns across Iran in November 2019.

Analysts said the social-media campaign was unprecedented in its scope and the level of participation of Iranians both within and outside Iran.

Amnesty International recorded 251 executions in Iran during 2019, making Iran second to China in state executions.

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

MIGHTY MOVIES

New John Wick trailer calls for ‘guns – lots of guns’

In the year of highly-anticipated sequels, there’s no franchise we’re more excited to see return to the big screen than John Wick, as the dog-loving former hitman is returning for a third round of ass-kicking with John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum. And based on the latest trailer for Chapter 3, it looks like Keanu Reeves may be borrowing a bit from his other leading role in a major action franchise: Neo from The Matrix.

While the trailer reveals a bit more about the plot and characters, including highlighting the tense relationship between Wick and Sofia (Halle Berry), the real takeaway is the several references made to The Matrix trilogy. Most notably, Wick visits Winston (Ian McShane), the evil owner of the Continental Hotel, and when Winston asks what he needs, Keanu redelivers one of the most iconic lines of his storied action career.


“Guns,” Wick tells Winston. “Lots of guns.”

Immediately following this interaction, the trailer seems to further acknowledge Keanu’s action roots by having Wick take on a bunch of faceless assassins in room that has green-tinted lighting that is unmistakably Matrix-esque. All that is missing is Wick declaring he knows Kung-Fu, though don’t be surprised if they’re saving that for the movie.

John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum (2019 Movie) New Trailer – Keanu Reeves, Halle Berry

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Besides the Matrix references, the trailer also features The Director giving Wick an ominous warning.

“There’s no escape for you,” She tells Wick. Later in the trailer, she also wonders why Wick is willing to go through all of this for just a puppy but Wick quickly lets her know Daisy “wasn’t just a puppy.”

John Wick has become perhaps the most beloved action franchise of the last decade, with the first and second films both being a hit with audiences and critics alike. And it looks like the third chapter is kicking the action up a notch, with the trailer showing Wick kicking ass while riding a motorcycle and a horse.

John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum comes to theaters on May 17, 2019.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

Articles

‘The White Rose of Stalingrad’ was a female pilot who terrorized the Nazis

The actual translation of Lydia Vladimirovna Litvyak’s epic nickname might be “The White Lily of Stalingrad,” depending on the language you speak. Considering the Lily’s association with death and funerals, it’s rather fitting for such an incredible pilot.


Litvyak was only 20 years old when Hitler launched Operation Barbarossa, the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union. The young girl rushed to the recruiter and tried to join to be a fighter pilot. The recruiters sent her packing. In their minds, she was just a small, young girl.

In truth, she was flying solo at 15 and was an experienced pilot. A biographer estimated she trained more than 45 pilots on her own. She knew she could do this. So instead of giving up, she went to another recruiter and lied about her flying experience, by more than a hundred hours. That did the trick.

A Virginia dairy farm that used to hold Army spies is now a winery
Good for Russia.

The Soviets, probably realizing that this fight was going to kill a lot of Soviet people (and it did, to the tune of 27 million), were foresighted enough to consider gender equality when it came to their military units. Where American women pilots were only allowed to transport planes, Stalin was forming three fighter regiments of all-female pilots.

A Virginia dairy farm that used to hold Army spies is now a winery
Seriously though, good for Russia.

During her two years of wartime service, she racked up 12 solo kills and four shared kills over 66 combat missions.  She scored her first two kills over Stalingrad three days after her arrival in the area.

Young Lydia Litvyak flew a few missions with the all-female unit before transferring to a mixed-gender unit — over Stalingrad. It was here she earned her illustrious moniker, “The White Rose of Stalingrad.” She flew around a hail of anti-aircraft fire to engage an artillery observation balloon from the rear. She shot it down in a blaze of hydrogen-fueled mayhem — a notoriously difficult task for any pilot.

A Virginia dairy farm that used to hold Army spies is now a winery
Good thing Lydia Litvyak wasn’t just any pilot.

Litvyak wasn’t finished; she later became one of two women to be crowned “first female fighter ace” as well. She wasn’t flawless — she was shot down more than once and bled more than her share over Russian soil.

But even when forced to make belly landings, she hopped right back into the closest cockpit.

She was so good, the Russian command chose her to be Okhotniki, — or  “free hunter” — a new tactic that involved two experienced pilots who were free to hunt the skies on seek and destroy missions. She terrorized German pilots all over the Eastern Front.

A Virginia dairy farm that used to hold Army spies is now a winery
The Yakovlev Yak-1, a plane flown by Soviet fighters, including Lydia Litvyak.

“The White Rose of Stalingrad” was last seen being chased by eight Nazi ME-109 fighters on an escort mission south of Moscow. Her body was lost until 1989 when historians discovered the unmarked grave of a female pilot in the Russian village of Dmytrivka.

The next year, Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev awarded Lydia Vladimirovna Litvyak the title “Hero of the Soviet Union,” the USSR’s highest military honor.

MUSIC

That time Elvis’ combat training took down Alice Cooper

It’s a well-known fact that the King of Rock n’ Roll enjoyed practicing karate. What might not be so well-known is that he was pretty good at it, too. After starting his training while in the Army in Europe in 1958, Elvis Presley studied martial arts until his death in 1977 — when he was a seventh-degree black belt.

This talent came in handy one night when rocker Alice Cooper pulled a gun on him.


Elvis earned his black belt after a rigorous six-week-long training regimen and test. Though his fighting style wasn’t “pretty,” the King still passed the test. Elvis would even eventually start his own dojo, the Tennessee Karate Institute, and write books about how he trained for real-life dangers — including meditations on how to prepare for attackers with real guns.

A Virginia dairy farm that used to hold Army spies is now a winery
Elvis (left) in a karate demonstration.
(YouTube)

He was so serious about the art that he was ready to be promoted beyond the level of his trainer much faster than anyone could’ve anticipated. He was as bold in the studio as he was in real life: Presley once even got out of his limo at an intersection in Madison, Wisconsin, to stop a fight at a gas station. The then-42-year-old walked up to the fight, told the two men, “I’ll take you two on,” and assumed a karate stance. The two men stopped fighting.

“Is everything settled now?” he said.

Despite not being considered “pretty” when he first earned his black belt, Elvis’ karate improved greatly over the next 15 years. Wayne Carman, who trained with Elvis under their master, Kang Rhee, said this about Presley’s karate:

“His technique was crisp and powerful and his movements were graceful.”

It was a good thing, too. One night in Las Vegas, Elvis was in the penthouse of a hotel when a young Alice Cooper (along with Liza Minelli and Linda Lovelace) came into his room. He wasn’t just looking for an audience with the King. After they were all frisked by Elvis’ security, Elvis took Cooper into the kitchen and took out a .32 snub-nose revolver. He told the kid to put it to his head.

Cooper recounted the story to the UK’s Mirror:

“I had this gun in my hand and was expecting one of his security to come in any second, see me holding a weapon, and shoot me dead… A little voice in my left ear was telling me, ‘Go on, this is history, kill him, you’ll always be the guy who killed Elvis.’ In my other ear was another voice saying, ‘You can’t kill him, it’s Elvis Presley – wound him instead, you’ll only get a few years!’.

A Virginia dairy farm that used to hold Army spies is now a winery
You come at the King, you best not miss.

That’s when Elvis did a flying kick at the gun, knocking it out of Cooper’s hand. He then tripped Cooper and pinned him to the ground by his neck.

“That’s how you stop a man with a gun,” he said.
MIGHTY TACTICAL

The mythical origin of the sniper’s ghillie suit

The two men crawl stealthily through the Panamanian jungle. Their faces are painted with hues of black, brown and green. Their bodies are covered by the burlap strands and interwoven foliage of their ghillie suits. The sniper and his spotter reach a vantage point overlooking the village and search for their target, a Panamanian rebel leader. Camouflaged against the jungle by their ghillie suits, the two men spot their target. As the rebel leader bites into his apple, a single shot pierces the stillness of the jungle and a 7.62x51mm NATO round pierces his heart.

One shot, one kill.


Alerted to the threat, the rebels frantically spray the jungle with automatic fire. Unable to see their enemy, they fire their weapons haphazardly and pray not to be the sniper’s next victim. Invisible to the rebels, the sniper ejects the spent cartridge from his M40A1 rifle and hands it to his spotter. As civilians in the village take cover, the rebels continue to pour gunfire into the jungle with no specific target. When no shots return from the trees, they cease fire. Still unseen, the sniper and his spotter melt back into the jungle and disappear. The only evidence of them having been there is the dead body of the rebel leader, a single hole through his heart.

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Sniper and spotter take up an overwatch position (Credit TriStar Pictures)

The 1993 film Sniper, starring Tom Berenger as the titular and aforementioned sniper, introduced many viewers to the ghillie suit. An integral part of a sniper’s kit, the ghillie suit allows the sniper to blend in with their surroundings and evade detection. This is key to accomplishing their mission since a sniper’s primary functions on the battlefield are conducting covert reconnaissance and delivering precision fires.

A ghillie suit is typically made of a net or cloth garment and covered in burlap strips, cloth, or twine. It has an irregular shape which breaks up a sniper’s outline and makes them more difficult to spot. Additionally, snipers can weave local flora into their ghillie suit in order to better blend with their surroundings. If done properly, this additional camouflage will even sway in the wind to match the environment it is replicating. Today, ghillie suits are used by snipers all around the world in foliage, sand, and even snow. Their origin, however, can be traced back to the game attendants and folklore of the Scottish Highlands.

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Scottish ghillies in Highland Perthshire. (Photo from tour-scotland-photographs.blogspot.com)

Derived from the Scottish Gaelic word “gille,” meaning lad or servant, a ghillie (the English misspelling) is a man or boy who serves as a game attendant and specializes in fishing, stalking, and hunting. In Scottish folklore, the Gille Dubh was a timid but wild male fairy who roamed the Highlands. Like the suit that bears his name, the Gille Dubh was clothed in leaves and other vegetation which allowed him to camouflage in the Highlands and evade capture.

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Lovat Scouts wear two variations of the ghillie suit. (Photo from the Imperial War Museum)

Scottish ghillies created the ghillie suit in the turn of the 20th century as a wearable hunting blind that would allow them to more stealthily stalk and hunt their game on the Highlands. These first ghillie suits were made primarily of burlap which were irregularly torn and cut to break up the ghillie’s silhouette. Almost immediately, the ghillie suit saw military application with the British Army during the Second Boer War (1899-1902). The Lovat Scouts, the British Army’s first sniper unit, were initially recruited from Scottish Highland estate workers. This included the ghillies who brought their burlap camouflage suits with them.

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Two British snipers during a demonstration for Their Majesties in May 1944. (Photo from captainstevens.com)

The ghillie suit went to war again in WWI where other nations took notice of its effectiveness and adopted it for themselves. As a concept, the ghillie suit has remained largely unchanged since its inception. One notable upgrade came in June 2003 when the U.S. Army introduced a new ghillie suit made of a lightweight, fire-resistant, and self-extinguishing fabric instead of the heavier and flammable burlap.

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A U.S. Army sniper wears the Flame Resistant Ghillie System. (U.S. Army photo/Released)

Today, snipers around the world continue to carefully craft their ghillie suits in order to camouflage themselves and evade detection by the enemy. Meanwhile, in the Scottish Highlands, professional ghillies continue to preserve their legacy as gamekeepers. They cull game herds and lead hunting expeditions, sometimes with the added camouflage of their iconic burlap suit.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Now US-backed forces in Syria are on the hunt for ISIS fighters

The U.S.-led coalition to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria continues to support Syrian Democratic Forces as they pressure ISIS by advancing toward the confluence of the Kabul and Euphrates River valleys, said Army Col. Ryan S. Dillon, spokesman for Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve, on Nov. 14.


More than 1,500 square miles of formerly ISIS-held territory has been liberated since the beginning of operations in September, Dillon said from Baghdad during a teleconference with reporters in the Pentagon.

“The coalition continues supporting our Syrian partners through surveillance and combat advice, as well as more than 40 precision strikes in the past week targeting ISIS fighters, weapons, logistics, and command nodes,” Dillon said.

He added, “We will continue to deprive ISIS remnants of their resources in safehavens and continue our defeat-ISIS mission so long as they pose a threat.”

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U.S. Army paratroopers, deployed in support of Combined Joint Task Force — Operation Inherent Resolve and assigned to the 37th Engineer Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, pose for a photograph at a demolition site after conducting annual demolition training near Qayyarah West Airfield, Iraq, July 23, 2017. (U.S. Army photo by Cpl. Rachel Diehm)

The fielding and training of police and security forces, such as the Raqqa Internal Security Force, “will grow in importance as ISIS’ conventional force continues to face defeat and reverts to its terrorist roots,” Dillon said.

Supporting Partners

“The coalition will continue to support our partners’ needs for effective forces tailored to meet the needs of the Syrian and Iraqi people,” he added.

As war debris is carefully cleared, residents can begin to return home, the spokesman said. This week, with coalition-enabled efforts, nearly 8,000 civilians were returned to their homes in Meshlib, Syria, after the SDF declared the area clear, he added.

Additionally, the inclusive and locally governed Raqqa Civil Council has led the way in public health, safety, economic, and educational efforts in the area, with ongoing support from the coalition, Dillon said.

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SDF fighters among rubble in Raqqa. (Photo from VOA)

“Many of these stabilization efforts in Syria are coordinated through the U.S. State Department’s Syrian Transition Assistance and Response Team — or START — in support of these locally led civil councils,” he said.

Iraq Operations

Moving to Iraq, Iraqi security forces continue in their clearance of western Anbar province, targeting ISIS in their final remaining holdouts in that nation, Dillon noted.

In the past week, the ISF completed back-clearance operations in Qaim, eliminating ISIS weapons caches, including improvised explosive devices and mortars, he said.

“As the ISF secure and hold these recently cleared areas, they also continue their advance against ISIS in the city of Rawah,” Dillon said. “As with all these operations, planned and executed by the capable ISF, the coalition continues to provide intelligence, advice, and support.”

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Iraqi security forces walk to a checkpoint training area at Camp Taji, Iraq, Oct. 7, 2017. (Army photo by Spc. Alexander Holmes.)

The coalition conducted six strikes against ISIS in Rawah in the past week, targeting tactical units and fighting positions, he added.

“As with Syria, areas liberated of ISIS [in Iraq] still require attention to ensure lasting security, and to set conditions for long-term stabilization,” Dillon said. “Therefore, we continue supporting development of our ISF partner forces. At the same time, the global coalition is working with the government of Iraq to support various economic and education initiatives.”

Across Iraq, the coalition sees progress and stabilization, the spokesman said.

“To consolidate and secure these gains, we must remain committed to ensuring long-term security which will require the united efforts of our Iraqi security forces partners and the global coalition,” Dillon said.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Air Force test launches Minuteman III missile

A team of Air Force Global Strike Command airmen from the 341st Missile Wing at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana, launched an unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile equipped with a test reentry vehicle at 1:13 a.m. PST Oct. 2, 2019, from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.

The test demonstrates that the United States’ nuclear deterrent is robust, flexible, ready and appropriately tailored to deter 21st century threats and reassure our allies. Test launches are not a response or reaction to world events or regional tensions.

The ICBM’s reentry vehicle traveled approximately 4,200 miles to the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands. These test launches verify the accuracy and reliability of the ICBM weapon system, providing valuable data to ensure a continued safe, secure and effective nuclear deterrent.


“The flight test program demonstrates one part of the operational capability of the ICBM weapon system,” said Col. Omar Colbert, 576th Flight Test Squadron commander. “The Minuteman III is nearly 50 years old, and continued test launches are essential in ensuring its reliability until the mid-2030s when the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent is fully in place. Most importantly, this visible message of national security serves to assure our partners and dissuade potential aggressors.”

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An unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile launches during an operational test at 1:13 a.m. PST, at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., Oct. 2, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Michael Peterson)

The test launch is a culmination of months of preparation that involve multiple government partners. The airmen who perform this vital mission are some of the most skillfully trained and educated the Air Force has to offer.

Airmen from the 341st Missile Wing at Malmstrom AFB were selected for the task force to support the test launch. Malmstrom is one of three missile bases with crew members standing alert 24 hours a day, year-round, overseeing the nation’s ICBM alert forces.

“It’s been an incredible opportunity for Malmstrom (AFB’s) team of combat crew and maintenance members to partner with the professionals from the 576th FLTS and 30th Space Wing,” said Maj. Kurt Antonio, task force commander. “I’m extremely proud of the team’s hard work and dedication to accomplish a unique and important mission to prepare the ICBM for the test and monitor the sortie up until test execution. The attention given to every task accomplished here reflects the precision and professionalism they — and our fellow airmen up north — bring every day to ensure the success of our mission out in the missile field.”

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An unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile launches during an operational test at 1:13 a.m. PST, at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., Oct. 2, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Michael Peterson)

The ICBM community, including the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy, and U.S. Strategic Command uses data collected from test launches for continuing force development evaluation. The ICBM test launch program demonstrates the operational capability of the Minuteman III and ensures the United States’ ability to maintain a strong, credible nuclear deterrent as a key element of U.S. national security and the security of U.S. allies and partners.

The launch calendars are built three to five years in advance, and planning for each individual launch begins six months to a year prior to launch.

This article originally appeared on United States Air Force. Follow @USAF on Twitter.