The Russians have a strange history with the Unidentified Flying Objects. While 99 percent of the UFOs encountered by Russia and the Soviet Union over the years were probably American spy planes, they insist that one of them actually landed and its crew decided to step out and stretch their legs.
And then they shot a bunch of children.
In the late 1980s, The New York Times quoted Soviet police Lt. Sergei A. Matveyev, who swore he saw the spaceship, saying that lanky, three-legged creatures landed in a park in the Russian city of Voronezh on Sept. 27, 1989. Some 300 miles from Moscow, citizens of Voronezh reported a deep red ball, around 10 feet in diameter, landing in a park.
“It was not an optical illusion,” he told the Russian TASS News Agency. “It was certainly a body flying in the sky. I thought I must be really tired, but I rubbed my eyes and it didn’t go away.”
A hatch opened and out stepped a three-eyed creature that stood nine feet tall and was dressed in silver overalls and bronze boots. It left the ship with a companion and a robot. After taking a triangle formation around the robot, the robot came to life. A boy began to scream in terror. That’s when the stuff hit the fan. With a look, the boy was paralyzed.
The aliens disappeared briefly and returned with “what looked like a gun” and shot the boy, who disappeared. He reappeared later, after the spacecraft had departed. Citizens of the town reported multiple sightings of the ship between Sept. 23 and Sept. 27, but when Soviet investigators came to the scene, their only abnormal finding was elevated levels of radioactive Cesium-23.
As for the children who witnessed the landing in the park, they were all separated. When asked to draw what they saw that day, they all drew “a banana-shaped object that left behind in the sky the sign of the letter X.” The boy who was abducted could remember nothing about the craft.
The local interior minister said that if the craft appeared again, they would dispatch the Red Army to investigate the event. If the aliens had returned in full force to invade the Soviet Union, they would have met the joint capability of the Soviets along with the United States, as President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev agreed at the 1985 Lake Geneva Summit to join forces against any extraterrestrial invader.
When you’re in the military, every bit of civilian life is broken out of you. When a veteran returns to civilian life, there are plenty of habits that get dropped like a bag of bricks. Slowly, we learn to sleep in a bit more and not get upset if someone in our new office has a bit of stubble. Some habits, however, aren’t turned off because of how much of an edge it gives us over civilians.
8. Calling people “sir” or “ma’am”
Respect is a two-way street. Start a conversation with someone with respect and they’ll look at you better for it.
Even if it hurts our soul, we’ll still use “sir” and “ma’am.” (Image via GIPHY)
7. Scheduling and being 15 minutes early
Every hour of every day is planned. Routes are checked well beforehand to see how long it’ll take to get somewhere and departure times are planned accordingly. Even with the planning, veterans still make it there before the given time, just in case.
Admittedly, it’s a pain when nobody else gets it and we have to find something to occupy our time while we wait.
Eh. We’ll find something else to do. (Image via GIPHY)
6. Preplanning every detail (with backups)
When veterans arrive, we have a game plan — with an alternate plan, and a contingency plan, and an emergency plan…
In that one-in-a-hundred time where we don’t have a plan, our “winging it” skills are on point.
The typical “Plan D” is to say, “f*ck it” and leave. (Image via GIPHY)
5. Eating fast
While we all need food to survive, it just takes too much damn time to consume it. Veterans cut the fat and use that extra fifteen minutes each meal to wait in front of wherever we’re going next.
This doesn’t stop when a veteran gets out of service. Take speed eating and eliminate the need to stay fit and you quickly get an idea why some vets get fat.
Every vet during their first week at Fort Couch. (Image via GIPHY)
4. Driving aggressively
We drive recklessly and safe at the same time. We’ll swerve in and out of traffic like it’s nothing and yet our driving records are spotless.
Some people might view this as us “driving like assholes.” We call it “I didn’t like that cardboard box / White Toyota Helix on the side of the road.”
That’s basically the reason why we always drive in the middle of the road. (Image via GIPHY)
3. Not complaining about weather
Ever hear a veteran complain that it’s too cold, too hot, too wet, or too snowy? Hell no.
Whatever the weather, at least we’re not enduring it in the field.
PCSing to nearly every base on the planet does that to you. (Image via GIPHY)
2. Using more accurate terminology
The English language is fascinating. While most civilians make up some onomatopoeia and call it a “thingy,” troops and veterans will usually default to whatever we called it in the service.
A bathroom is a “latrine” or “head” because you’re not going in there to bathe. If something is “ate-up” or a “charlie foxtrot,” we can point out how much of a clusterf*ck something is without letting everyone know someone’s a dumbsh*t.
Vet-specific terms are mostly insults though, which leads us to… (Image via GIPHY)
1. Pointing out peoples’ flaws in a polite and effective manner
In the military, troops need to be able to tell the person who outranks them by a mile that something’s wrong.
Troops can tell a General — in a polite way — that their boot is untied. Troops can also tell a Private that they’re a friggin’ idiot for showing up to PT formation only 9 minutes early.
We’re quick to point out the flaws. (Image via GIPHY)
*Bonus* Morning workout routine
Many vets still work out. The rest either embrace Fort Couch or lie about it — but we know the truth.
WWC Global is a leading women and military spouse owned small business that supports the management and operational needs of government agencies. WWC was also one of the first businesses to focus on military spouse employment, over a decade before it became a hot topic.
In 2004, Lauren Weiner found herself living in Italy and unemployable, despite an impressive resume. She left her position with the White House to follow her husband on his Department of Defense civilian assignment in Italy, when she quickly discovered spouses were not eligible for most government civilian positions. A few weeks after her arrival in Italy, she signed up for a bus tour to the Amalfi Coast. She had no clue that tour would change the trajectory of her entire life.
After overhearing Donna Huneycutt asking the tour guide if she could get coffee before the bus departed, she decided to follow her to get some too. “We started talking on the way over there and became fast friends within five minutes,” Weiner shared. She quickly discovered that Huneycutt had left her job in corporate law to follow her husband to Italy, who was a Naval officer. She too was struggling with the lack of opportunities.
The pizza place in Italy where many meetings took place.
“We jokingly say that the company was started over coffee,” Weiner shared with a laugh. Huneycutt echoed her sentiment and added that “we owe MWR for the founding of the company” since they provided the tour where the two met.
“The initial mission of the company was to provide employment for Lauren and enough employment for me so I could get some child care assistance. Shortly after that, the mission of the company was to find as many talented military spouses as possible and match them with the critical needs within the Department of Defense,” said Huneycutt. “Then it evolved to finding qualified and outstanding people in different, under-tapped labor pools such as veterans, retirees and State Department spouses, aligning them with critical needs of the government. That mission still hasn’t changed in the 15 years we’ve been doing this.”
When Weiner was asked if they had ever anticipated their company growing as large as they have, she laughed and quickly said, “Definitely not!” Weiner explained that Huneycutt initially just planned to incorporate the company for her and then go on to write a novel, but they received their first contract and then another came along. They found themselves hiring their first military spouse, a Harvard trained lawyer, Jeanne McLaine. She was only being offered paralegal positions at the base, despite her background and extensive experience. McLaine still works for the company today.
“I was told I could be a secretary. There was actually a policy against anyone who was a dependent applying for a position above a GS-9 at the base at the time … I was told I could not have a GS-13 or GS-14 job because I was a trailing spouse,” shared Weiner. “It was eye-opening and it was rough.”
By the end of their first year in business, they had seven employees. Weiner shared that she actually never wanted to grow over 50 employees, thinking it could cause them to “lose who we are.” But after a few years, they were well over that number. “The military spouse community is what built us in the first place and what supported us and sustained us,” shared Weiner.
Currently, over 74% of their employees are military spouses and/or veterans.
With their continued success, they are often asked what their next big plan or idea is. “We never want to lose sight of the things that led to our success. Our commitment to honesty and credibility have continued to open doors for us. We measure our accomplishments by the success of our clients and our staff. We will continue to do this in the future,” said Huneycutt.
Their firm is dedicated to leverage their expertise to serve their customers in various stages of policy design, exercise training, financial management, IT support and strategic management. Some of their clients include the Department of State, the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy and the United States Agency for International Development.
“Our mission is and has always been to help make government more effective and efficient, because it impacts our own lives,” explained Weiner.
Initially, the response to their firm successfully obtaining and running these large government contracts was one of disbelief. Disbelief in the fact that they were awarded the work and that they could do it. Weiner and Huneycutt were often asked if they were “doing this as a side business” until they became mothers to children. Or, it was assumed their husbands had established the company, although their husbands have absolutely no role in it. “We changed the dynamic and the conversation, very quickly,” Weiner shared.
When Weiner was asked what advice she would give military spouses who want to start their own businesses, she offered, “Put your head down and do it. People are going to tell you that you shouldn’t and give you every reason why it won’t work. Do not believe them. It is really hard work and you have to work harder than anyone else, but you can do it,” she said.
Their hard work has paid off. They now boast over 24 locations and their employees span four continents and 13 time zones. In the last two years alone, their operations have tripled. All of that growth led to their newly announced name change from WWC to WWC Global. They’ve also redesigned their logo to incorporate their history of its founding in Italy and their first client: the U.S. Navy.
“There have been many milestones that have made me pause and reflect. One of my favorites is the work we have done to provide meaningful employment to 170 military spouses,” said Huneycutt.
“We were able to build this and we are going to continue to build it further,” said Weiner. “Every once in a while, I stop and go… wow.”
To learn more about WWC Global and what they do, click here.
The White House responded publicly on Oct. 4, 2018, to a heated confrontation between the Chinese navy and a US destroyer in the South China Sea.
“China wants nothing less than to push the United States of America from the Western Pacific and attempt to prevent us from coming to the aid of our allies,” Vice President Mike Pence said at the Hudson Institute. “They will fail.”
He explained that China prioritizes the erosion of American military power.
“China’s aggression was on display this week,” he said, referring to a dangerousencounter between the People’s Liberation Army Navy destroyer Lanzhou and the US destroyer USS Decatur in the hotly-contested South China Sea Sept. 30, 2018. “A Chinese naval vessel came within 45 yards of the USS Decatur as it conducted freedom-of-navigation operations in the South China Sea, forcing our ship to quickly maneuver to avoid collision.”
“Despite such reckless harassment, the United States Navy will continue to fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows and our national interests demand,” Pence explained. “We will not be intimidated; we will not stand down.”
Highlighting the Trump administration’s focus on renewed great power competition with China and Russia, the vice president insisted that the US will employ “decisive action to respond to China.”
China has accused the US of endangering regional peace and stability.
“The U.S. side has sent warships into waters near China’s islands and reefs in South China Sea time and again, which has posed a grave threat to China’s sovereignty and security, severely damaged the relations between the two militaries, and significantly undermined regional peace and stability,” the Ministry of Defense said in response to the latest clash.
“The Chinese military resolutely opposes such actions,” the ministry added.
The latest incident in the South China Sea comes amid heightened tensions between Washington and Beijing, and the situation could soon worsen, as the US military is reportedly considering a proposal for a major show of force as a warning to the Chinese, which perceive American actions moves to contain Chinese power.
While the vice president stressed the threats posed by China to American interests, he emphasized that the US desires a productive relationship with Beijing. “But be assured, we will not relent until our relationship with China is grounded in fairness, reciprocity, and respect for our sovereignty,” he said.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The Air Force announced April 23, 2019, new rules on Operational Camouflage Pattern uniforms that aim to better fit the needs of airmen and the jobs they do while also holding fast to tradition.
The changes highlighted include authorization of the two-piece Flight Duty Uniform in garrison and updated patch guidance for the OCP uniform.
“During the initial rollout of the OCP, we originally matched our sister services regarding patch configurations as we sought to emphasize our role as a joint warfighting force,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein.
“In response to overwhelming feedback received from airmen, we will make an easy ‘sleeve swap’ of the patch configuration to further elevate our focus on honoring the heritage of squadrons as the war-fighting units of the world’s greatest Air Force. We will now place the squadron patch on the right sleeve along with the U.S. flag and move the higher headquarters patch to the left sleeve of the OCP.”
OCP uniform guidance.
Additionally, to provide commanders with expanded uniform options to fit myriad missions, on April 15, 2019, the two-piece flight suit, otherwise known as the 2PFDU, will be authorized to be worn in both garrison and deployed locations. The 2PFDU continues an effort to provide airmen with improved form, fit and function to perform their duties in any environment.
The traditional flight duty uniform will also continue to be an option. Squadron commanders will now have the flexibility to make combat uniform decisions based on what is best for their airmen to meet mission requirements.
“The new unit patch configuration of the OCP and 2PFDU also aligns with the traditional FDU, elevating the significance of squadron focus and identity, which supports CSAF’s intent to revitalize squadrons,” said Lt. Gen. Mark D. Kelly, Headquarters Air Force deputy chief of staff for Air Force operations.
In May 2018, Air Force leaders decided to transition to the OCP following feedback from airmen that it is the best, battle-tested utility uniform available. It will also eliminate the need to maintain two separate uniforms – one for in-garrison and one for deployments.
The service expects to fully transition to OCPs by April 1, 2021.
The US Naval Academy (USNA) Midshipmen mascot, Bill the Goat, waves to the fans in the Poinsettia Bowl, during the pre-game show.
Bill the Goat is one of college football’s most-loved mascots. For more than 100 years, a version of Bill has been on the sidelines to support the Midshipmen from the United States Naval Academy as they have literally tackled big time opponents like Army, Air Force and more.
Somewhere along the way, vicious fans of opposing teams, especially service academy teams, decided their chances of winning would be better if Bill the Goat wasn’t there, or if the opposing team was worried about where Bill might be held hostage. This of course led to a series of goat kidnappings.
College football rivalry isn’t what it once was, but nowhere was rivalry better and more entertaining than between service academies. There’s something about the combination of youth, guts and billions of dollars of military training, hardware and vehicles that takes rivalry to a whole new level.
The best of all college rivalry pranks has to be mascot theft. The more intricate and complex, the better. While there have been some epic mascot thefts in college football history, only the service academy thefts ever required intervention from the President of the United States.
The Naval Academy’s mascot, Bill the Goat, is by far the most popular target for a heist. Since the three major service academies signed an agreement against mascot theft in 1995, Bill the Goat has been stolen at least three times, once ending up outside the Pentagon.
Goatnapping missions from the United States Military Academy at West Point are the stuff of legend, with the first documented instance occurring in 1953 using an inside man and a boat. A “prisoner,” a West Pointer studying at the Naval Academy, let three cadets onto the ground at Annapolis who sailed the goat to West Point.
That theft was ended with an order from President Eisenhower himself. Seven years later, it was the Air Force Academy who did the goat grab all the way from Colorado.
In 1960, a full month before the Air Force-Navy Game, three Air Force cadets infiltrated the grounds at the Naval Academy and took Bill. He was flown to the Air Force Academy in the bomb bay of a B-26 Marauder.
In response, the Navy allegedly used its intelligence assets to track the movements of Bill the Goat aboard the Air Force bomber, eventually tracing him to a farm in Colorado. When the Superintendent, Maj. Gen. William S. Stone found out, he brow beat his cadets into returning the goat to Annapolis.
Ten years later, Midshipmen were able to get the goat of the Air Force Cadets during the Navy-Air Force game of 1970. The game was held at Washington, DC’s RFK Stadium and before the game started, a long motorcade flying Air Force General flags drove onto the field on the Air Force side. The Air Force cadets stood at attention for their general, as did the Midshipmen.
When the door opened, out came Bill the Goat, along with two Mids dressed as cadets.
These days, Navy has increased the security around its mascot, as everyone from the service academies to other Maryland universities has made an attempt at goatnapping. Bill the Goat’s location is a closely-guarded secret, as is the security around him.
Flight deck operations on an aircraft carrier have often been compared to a ballet. Sailors at work on a flight deck wear an assortment of colored jerseys to specify their job. The yellow shirt is one of the most coveted.
The aviation boatswain’s mates who work on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz are directly responsible for the handling and maneuvering of aircraft as well as the safety of all personnel during flight operations. Any mistake or lack of better judgment can cause damage to equipment or injury to personnel on the flight deck.
“At first being a yellow shirt was scary, but now that I have some confidence, I would say there is a sense of pride,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Melanie Cluck, an aviation boatswain’s mate. “On the flight deck, we are not only responsible for directing aircraft, but also for directing people. Normally, anyone who needs guidance on the flight deck looks for a yellow shirt. Safety of all the personnel on deck is a big part of our job as well. So we don’t only need to know our job, but everyone else’s as well.”
Before donning the sought-after yellow jersey, aviation boatswain’s mates wear blue jerseys to indicate that they are in a more junior status. These sailors are normally newer airmen who have yet to acquire all of the necessary qualifications. Their main responsibilities during flight operations include chocking and chaining, running elevators, and tractor operation.
“Being a blue shirt is hard work, but it makes you tough,” said Seaman Michael Lothrop. “It’s hot up there right now, and we work long days, but you have to be on alert at all times and ready to get the job done whenever you are needed.”
Blue shirts are normally covered in grease and always carrying something heavy, whether it be a chain, tractor bar, or chock. They play a big part in the maneuvering of aircraft on the flight deck because they do most of the hands-on work. During their time wearing blue, they learn the ins and outs of properly directing aircraft, which helps build the foundation of a high-performance yellow shirt.
The job requires attention to detail and an extreme amount of knowledge to be performed well. The training and the number of hours a sailor needs to put in to become a yellow shirt is impressive.
“There are two main qualifications you get as a blue shirt, but from there, it’s all about if your chain of command sees you have the initiative to take on being a yellow shirt,” Cluck said.
Earning the Yellow Shirt
Sailors must qualify as flight deck observers and learn directing and handling in addition to the qualifications all sailors are required to attain when they report to Nimitz. The requirements take roughly 12 weeks to complete. Sailors then take a written and oral test administered by the flight deck leading petty officer, assistant LPO, and any other yellow-shirt-qualified chief petty officers or first class petty officers who decide to attend.
Once sailors earn the right to wear the yellow jersey on the flight deck, they enter an apprenticeship period called “under inspection.” This means they need an experienced yellow shirt to help them along the way toward becoming an expert at their new job on the flight deck.
UI yellow shirts are always accompanied by a seasoned mentor who is observing every signal and decision they make.
“It’s a case-by-case basis on how long the UI process takes,” Cluck said. “The process is just there to make sure you fully understand what you are doing on the flight deck. It’s extensive work to say the least, but it helps you build character. The goal of the process is just to build you up to be the great yellow shirt you are supposed to be.”
Yellow shirts have to communicate through hand signals with pilots and other personnel working on the flight deck to safely move aircraft onto the catapults and off of the landing area.
“You have to be able to really get control of your aircraft and understand the pilot,” Cluck said. “It’s a gut feeling that you develop during your training. If you feel you need to slow the aircraft down, you can, and you start to learn when exactly to turn it. We have hundreds of hand signals we can use to take control of the aircraft on deck. The people in the pilot seats are officers, so you have to be professional, and every motion you make has to be crisp and precise to prevent accidents.”
The working environment of a yellow shirt is unlike anywhere else on the ship. The yellow shirt locker, or crew area, is on Nimitz’ flight deck. The tight-knit group of men and women spends their time out of the scorching heat joking, laughing, and preparing to launch multi-million dollar aircraft into the sky. It is here where the instructors of the world’s most dangerous ballet reside. It is here where the yellow shirts dwell, mentally preparing themselves to launch aircraft as their ship sits at the tip of the spear.
Before the FBI or any other federal law enforcement agency locked criminals behind bars in the United States, the most important crime fighting squad was the US Postal Inspection Service. From the 18th century to present day, surveyors, special agents, and inspectors investigated the nation’s most newsworthy crimes. They investigated mail train robberies committed by notorious outlaw “Billy the Kid,” were amongst the first federal law enforcement officers to carry the Thompson submachine gun (commonly known as the “Tommy Gun”) to fight 1920s mobsters, and even had an integral role in capturing Ted Kaczynski, sensationalized in the media as the “Unabomber,” bringing an end to one of the most sophisticated criminal manhunts in US history.
The US Postal Inspection Service is the most storied federal law enforcement agency in the country, and since widespread crime is often connected by mail, their jurisdiction to investigate any related crime from anywhere around the world is unrestricted. This freedom began from one of America’s Founding Fathers, and since its establishment, the agency has participated in the largest criminal investigations of each century.
After the American Civil War, “snake oil salesmen” and “scalp tonic salesmen” used the mail to con unsuspecting victims. Screengrab from YouTube.
In 1737, Benjamin Franklin, the newspaper printer known for historic contributions to the nation, was also appointed by the British Crown as postmaster of Philadelphia. In addition to his day job, he had duties and responsibilities to regulate and survey post offices and post roads. As the first Postmaster General under continental Congress, Franklin abolished the British practice that determined which newspapers traveled freely in the mail and established foundational mandates of the “surveyor” position to ensure the organization could grow beyond a one-man show.
Franklin recognized the task was too much to handle alone and appointed William Goddard as the first surveyor of the new American Postal Service. His first day in office — Aug. 7, 1775 — became known as the birth of the Postal Inspection Service. The surveyors investigated thefts of mail or postal funds committed by writers, innkeepers, and others with access to the mail or post offices. The frequency of mail crimes became such a nuisance, Congress approved the death penalty as a viable punishment to enforce the serious offenses.
At the turn of the 19th century, surveyors became known as special agents, and among the first three was Noah Webster, the man responsible for compiling the dictionary. During the War of 1812, special agents observed and reported activities of the British Fleet along the Potomac River, and during the 1840s and 1850s, their roles magnified to coexist with western expansion in the United States. Special agents were needed across Texas, Oregon, and California to ensure new postal services were completed, as well as to keep order amongst mail carriers on horseback, railroads, or traveling by steamboats or stagecoaches.
During World War II, 247 US Postal Inspection Service inspectors established a mailing system that is still in use to this day. Photo courtesy of worldwarphotos.info.
Following the American Civil War, Congress imposed two new statutes still in use today. The first was the Mail Fraud Statute of 1872, which enforced a crackdown against swindles including the infamous “snake oil salesman” or the “scalp tonic salesman.” The second was the Postal Obscenity Statute of 1873, which made it illegal for anyone to “to sell, give away, or possess an obscene book, pamphlet, picture, drawing, or advertisement.” Special agents assumed the name of “Post Office Inspectors” in 1880 to differentiate from other special agents privately employed by railroad and stagecoach companies.
During the 20th century is when the US Postal Inspection Service earned its reputation for bringing down the hammer on gangs, mobsters, and armed robbers. The most scandalous criminal outfit was the organized secret society operating in New York City known as the Black Hand. They terrorized the public, the police force, and especially Italian immigrants, all frequent targets of murder, extortion, assassination, child kidnapping, and bombings. The bombing attacks were so frequent that the police referred to the Italian neighborhood as “The Bomb Zone.” Police reports indicated that there were more than 100 bombings in 1913 alone.
The Black Hand wrote menacing letters to their victims. “De Camilli, from one of our secret spies, we have learned that you have informed the police, contrary to our warnings,” Salvatore Lima, the Black Hand’s leader wrote. “Therefore, it is time to die. And on the first occasion, you will feel a bullet in your stomach, coward. You have willed it, and you will die like a dog. The terrible Black Hand.”
Post Office Inspector Frank Oldfield tracked 14 members of the Black Hand and nabbed and convicted the vicious and violent gang by targeting their paper trail through the mail. Elmer Irey, one of the great detectives of the 20th century and former post office inspector, used similar methods to nab Chicago Outfit’s Al Capone through tax fraud. Post office inspectors also captured and convicted Charles Ponzi — the mastermind and father behind the infamous pyramid “Ponzi Scheme” — and brought Gerald Chapman — America’s first “Public Enemy Number One” — to justice. After a three-year manhunt, forensic science put away the DeAutremont brothers, a trio who used dynamite to blow open mail train cars to scoop the cash inside.
Inspectors were also instrumental in the delivery and protection of over billion worth of gold transported along the “Yellow Brick Road” from New York City to Fort Knox, Kentucky, to establish the Fort Knox Bullion Depository in 1937. During World War II, 247 post office inspectors helped create Army Post Offices (APOs) and Fleet Post Offices (FPOs). Through their efforts, soldiers, airmen, sailors, and Marines could communicate with their loved ones back home. This system remains in effect to this day.
Later in the century, as their investigations adapted with the times, they received newer challenges through the security of commercial aircraft and the threats of mail package bombs aboard airplanes. In 1963, Postal Inspector Harry Holmes interviewed Lee Harvey Oswald to investigate the mail-order rifle he used to assassinate President John F. Kennedy. Only minutes after Oswald left Holmes’ office, he was gunned down — furthering the conspiracy theories of suspected involvement.
A laboratory technician holds the anthrax-laced letter addressed to Senator Patrick Leahy after safely opening it at the US Army’s Fort Detrick bio-medical research laboratory in November 2001. Photo courtesy of FBI.gov.
The Postal Inspection Service remains just as important today as when it was created, and with the increase in funding in other federal agencies, their prestige has emboldened their legacy as more than what was once perceived as “The Silent Service.” Days after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the Silent Service investigated the Anthrax biohazard letter attack — the worst biological attack in US history — and has since increased their efforts against illegal drug trafficking, suspicious mail, mail and package theft, money laundering, cybercrime, and child exploitation.
In the 1920s, Charles Ponzi scammed his investors out of an estimated million during his time as a conman and swindler — some 90 years later, just as the Postal Inspector Service had before, they nabbed Allen Stanford, a fraudster who convinced investors to buy certificates of deposit from his offshore Stanford International Bank with the promise of high returns. Stanford’s two-decade-long, billion Ponzi scheme was discovered through exhaustive investigations by a task force comprised of the IRS, the FBI, and the Silent Service. Stanford was convicted in 2012 and sentenced to serve 110 years in prison.
As long as there is mail to be delivered, there are inspectors who stand ready to ensure the safety of the American citizens.
Russia is getting a lot of attention lately for things like hypersonic missiles and nuclear doomsday weapons but all that is just old hat to the Pentagon. The United States has been working with doomsday weapons for years; we just never went around bragging about it.
Or blowing up our own nuclear reactors.
The Cold War was a pretty good time for America, especially where defense is concerned. Even though we may have thought of ourselves as trailing the Soviets with ridiculous things like “missile gaps,” the truth was we were often further ahead than we thought. Hell, we were going to nuke the moon as a warning but decided the PR would be better if we landed on it instead. If the Russians wanted to impress us, they could have taken a photo next to our flag up there.
When it came to weapons, the U.S. had no equal. We built horrifying, terrifying, and downright unbelievable devices that were an excellent show of force at best and – at worst – absolutely batsh*t crazy. Project Pluto was one of the latter.
Simply put, Pluto was a cruise missile that flew at a low altitude with a nuclear payload. Sound pretty Cold War-level simple, right? The devil is in the details. The actual acronym for the weapon was SLAM – supersonic low altitude missile. This meant a giant missile that flew around below radar, around treetop height, faster than the speed of sound, so it could penetrate enemy territory without anyone seeing it or being prepared for what came next.
Which was about 16 hydrogen bombs dropping on Russian cities. But that’s not all!
The SLAM Jet’s ramjet engine.
The weapon isn’t unique because of the number of weapons it carried. Intercontinental ballistic missiles, the weapons that would eventually make SLAM jets obsolete, carried multiple warheads that could be targeted at multiple cities. No, the unique part of the SLAM jet weapon is what it is. The missile is designed around a single, nuclear-powered jet engine which is sent aloft by rocket boosters but soon becomes indefinitely sustainable via the power of the nuclear jet engine’s intake.
So, the weapon could drop its payload and then keep flying forever, creating sonic booms above the treetops, murdering anyone on the ground. The fact that the engine is just an unshielded nuclear reactor meant its exhaust would spew radioactive material all over any area unlucky enough to have it pass by overhead.
Luckily for everyone on the planet, this project was dumped with the invention of ICBM technology. So the United States and the Soviet Union could kill each other more directly, rather than leave a path of destruction as it went to destroy another country en masse.
If there was one single place that could be called the front lines of the clandestine Cold War, Berlin was it. The city, like the rest of Germany, was divided. It was a bastion, deep inside the heart of the Eastern Bloc, where Westerners could roam relatively freely within their sector by day and sneak into enemy territory under the cover of darkness.
A divided Berlin was the setting for so many stories, many of which are just now coming to light. And many of those stories are about Detachment-A, a Special Forces unit so secret, many in Special Forces couldn’t even know about it.
If World War III broke out, their mission was not to win — they were 110 miles behind enemy lines and couldn’t possibly win a pitched battle. Their mission was to just buy time for NATO. Along the way, their training helped develop the units and tactics used by American special operations the world over.
Retired Special Forces soldier and former CIA agent James Stejskal was among among the members of Detachment A. He served in it for nine years and just wrote a book on the recently-declassified unit, called Special Forces Berlin: Clandestine Cold War Operations of the U.S. Army’s Elite, 1956-90. Working behind enemy lines in an unconventional conflict is one of the foundational duties of the U.S. Army’s Special Forces, but Detachment A had no misconceptions about what would happen in a war with the Soviet Union. They would operate as small teams inside and outside of Berlin, tripping up the Red Army in any way they could.
“We were going to, basically, break out of the city. Two of the six teams would stay behind and cause trouble inside the city. Four of the teams would go outside the city,” James Stejskal told WATM. “A railway network, basically called the Berliner Ring, would carry the majority of the Russian forces from east to west. Our mission was to report on and sabotage the railway, communications… to cause as much havoc as possible.”
Stejskal grew up with the military. His father was drafted for World War II in 1941, before Pearl Harbor. He would earn a commission during the war as a combat engineer in Patton’s XII Corps. His father even went to Germany during the Korean War. The younger Stejskal was always interested in intelligence, commando, and what he calls the “darker arts.” He read about the British Special Operations Executive and the Office of Strategic Services during WWII and it captivated him. So when it came time for him to join the Army, the Green Beret called to him. He joined with Special Forces on his mind. But Det A was so secret, he didn’t know it existed even after he earned his place among the elite.
“I only found out about it on one of my exercises in Germany,” he recalls. “We jumped into it, into Southern Germany for our annual winter warmer exercise and one of the guys on the ground that met us was a civilian-clothes guy, speaking German. Only later on in the exercise did he start to speak in English to us and, before too long, I figured out that he was actually American. He told us he’s from a unit Berlin and he couldn’t really talk about it.”
That piqued Stejskal’s interest. He continued to dig into it and, as one thing led to another, he found himself in Berlin. Detachment A was the closest unit to the old OSS that a soldier could get in to. Speaking German, the men of Det A wore their hair long, civilian clothes, and worked with soldiers from other countries. Their commander was a Czech officer and their Sergeant Major was a German who was in the Bundeswehr, both veterans of World War II.
“It’s a strange feeling. We were 110 miles behind the East German border, with about 12,000 allied troops inside West Berlin surrounded by close to a million Russian and Warsaw Pact soldiers,” He says. “Oddly enough, I think most of us were very energized to be where we were.”
This would be an Emmy-winning TV show today. Mad Men, eat your heart out.
During peacetime, they performed protection duties for VIPs and – most importantly – they trained. Detachment A trained with the British Special Air Service, who taught them to watch how the Germans and Israelis performed anti-terror operations, like clearing a hijacked aircraft. They soon became the U.S. Army’s first counter-terrorism team, long before Delta Force or SEAL Team Six. Charlie Beckwith, Delta’s first commander, came to Berlin to see Detachment A for himself.
“He came over to Berlin to see how we were doing things and took a lot of our training techniques and tactics and exported them back to Fort Bragg, about 1980,” Stejskal says. “The commander of SEAL Team Six, Marcinko, he also came over and observed. We did our operability training with Delta Force later on in the 1980s. We also trained a lot of the SEALs in the city.”
Aside from forming the foundations of modern Special Forces and SEAL Team operations, veterans of Detachment A also took their knowledge back home, joining police departments as local SWAT teams popped up around the United States. They trained law enforcement and military alike in building assault tactics, urban combat, and clearing buildings. But if war broke out, these soldiers had no illusions about their fate.
“I never thought about it being certain death, but it could have,” says Stejskal. “I think we would’ve been hard-pressed to survive more than 72 hours, but you never can tell. You’re anticipating you’re going in to a very bad situation, but you got the best tools, the best cover, and everything else. You have a confidence level that you can do it, but you, there’s always that element of uncertainty that you don’t have everything under control, so that’s part of the energy that fuels you when you’re there.”
Massive explosions at an in central have prompted the evacuation of more than 30,000 people and the closure of airspace over the region, the country’s emergency response agency has said.
The blasts late on Sept. 26 sparked a blaze at the depot near Kalynivka in the Vinnytsya region, some 270 kilometers west of Kyiv, the September 27 statement said.
military prosecutor’s office said investigators were treating the explosions and fire as an act of sabotage, Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) spokeswoman Olena Hitlyanska said on September 27.
National Police chief Vyacheslav Abroskin said in a statement on September 27 that hundreds of police officers from the Vinnytsya, Zhytomyr, Khmelnitskiy, Kyiv, and Chernivtsi regions were providing security and safe evacuation of people at the site.
Prime Minister Volodymyr Hroysman, who arrived in Vinnytsya hours after the blast, said that “external factors” were behind the incident.
Zoryan Shkiryak, an adviser to the head of the Interior Ministry, said on Facebook that he was “convinced that this is a hostile Russian sabotage,” and said it was the seventh fire at military warehouses in Kalynivka.
He said a state commission of inquiry will be set up to investigate the cause of the explosions.
Some 600 National Guard troops were deployed to the area to assist with the evacuation of the residents and to ensure the protection of their property from looters, the National Guard said in a statement. Some 1,200 Ukrainian firefighters were working to contain the blaze, UNIAN reported.
Witnesses said that after an initial loud explosion, bright flashes were visible in the night sky. Some residents said they feared the smoke and fire from the explosion might produce toxic gases.
Local media reported that the explosive wave knocked out the windows in the Kalynivka district state administration, where an emergency headquarters for teams seeking to put out the explosions and fire was later gathered.
Witnesses said the sound of explosions could be heard as far away as Kyiv. Local media said that in Kalynivka, officials turned off the lights and disconnected gas and electricity supplies.
Shortly after the explosions, the chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of , General Viktor Muzhenko, arrived in Vinnytsya, authorities said.
A volunteer of the Avtoevrozile organization of Vinnytsya, Ihor Rumyantsev, told RFE/RL that he saw about 10 buses arrive to evacuate people. He said he was helping to evacuate residents, giving priority to women and children.
Early on September 27, Rumyantsev said the explosions started to increase, doubling in size, prompting people to hide in their cellars.
Rumyantsev said the railway connection in the area had completely stopped. Ukrzaliznytsya reported a change in railroad routes due to the explosions.
An employee of the Vinnytsya Oblast Council, Iryna Yaroshynska, confirmed the rerouting of trains going through Kalynivka.
Ukraerocenter closed the airspace within a radius of 50 kilometers from the zone of explosions in the military warehouses, Ukrainian Deputy Minister of Infrastructure Yuriy Lavrenyuk said on Facebook.
Residents posted video online showing what appeared to be a fire burning, lights flashing, and smoke billowing into the night sky.
Airman Alex Orquiza of the 71st Security Forces Squadron wears the next generation of ballistic helmet during a door breaching exercise at Vance Air Force Base in Oklahoma Sept. 15. The Air Force Security Forces Center is rolling out the new helmets to security forces units. (Senior Airman Taylor Crul/Air Force)
The Air Force has been busy this summer. From providing the latest class of recruits to Space Force to issuing better fitting body armor to women airmen, it seems like the protectors of the sky are really looking to expand and develop on its commitment to its force. This comes after the push in 2018 for Air Force defenders to get updated weapons, along with revised training and fitness standards.
Now, security airmen are next in line to receive a uniform upgrade. Soon, they’ll be issued new special ops-like helmets. This next generation of ballistic helmet is just the latest initiative that the Air Force is taking to ensure its personnel remains safe.
This new helmet is going to replace the older and far less-adaptable Advanced Combat Helmet. The ACH is what security forces currently wear, and many airmen have complained about its bulk and weight. Adding to the challenges is that the ACH is designed for ground units, so airmen have struggled with it, and in some cases, have had to outfit and modify it with bulky additions to accomplish different mission sets.
Not only will the new helmet come with better padding, built-in railings to easily attach accessories, but they’ll also be lighter and cooler. The Air Force Security Forces Center is now sending out new ballistic helmets as it phases out the ACH.
The 71st Security Forces Squadron, located at Vance Air Force Base in Oklahoma, was the first squadron to receive the helmet. Soon airmen everywhere will receive the upgrade.
An Air Force press release said that the initial response to the new helmet has been positive. Master Sgt. Darryl Wright, 71st SFS logistics and readiness superintendent, said that the new version is the “most agile helmet” he’s worn in 19 years.
The helmets are part of the Air Force Security Forces Control initiative to modernize not just weapon systems but also individual protective gear. Included in this refresh is contingency support equipment and deployable communications systems, both of which will be paramount to successfully defeating the enemy in future conflicts. In the future, the Air Force plans to roll out a newly revised M18 modular handgun system, M4A1 assault rifle, M110A1 semi-automatic precision engagement rifle, M320A1 grenade launcher, and modular, scalable bests.
“We’re identifying salient characteristics of the best individual equipment industry has to offer at the best value to achieve standardization across the force,” said Lt. Col. Barry Nichols, AFSFC director of Logistics. “This effort is instrumental in keeping Defenders throughout the security forces enterprise ready and lethal with procurement of the most cutting-edge and innovative equipment available in order to accomplish missions safely and effectively.”
These changes all come after the Air Force’s Year of the Defender 2019 exercises, where the service conducted a detailed and extensive review of all security forces. This review explored areas that could be improved upon, both in terms of equipment and gear to tactics, training, and general morale boosts. To date, the Air Force has successfully worked through over 900 specific items that needed to change and has spent almost 0 million to update their gear.
The Air Force currently field about 25,000 active-duty security forces airmen. There are an additional 13,000 in the Air National Guard and Reserve components. Of the forces 38,000 airmen, about 98 percent are enlisted. This aligns the entire branch of the Air Force with the Army’s lightest light infantry unit.
Brig. Gen. Andrea Tullos, career security forces officer, said that the Air Force has “expeditionary roots,” and that the branch is “a blend between light infantry and a military police company.”
Collectively, these big changes are helping the service gain air superiority over the peer adversary that could potentially pose a big threat to the military. As the Air Force continues to look toward the future and the likelihood of conflicts with either Russia or China, the Air Force needs to be able to pick up the slack safeguarding forward-deployed squadrons instead of relying on ground forces. This new helmet upgrade is yet another step to making sure that can happen.
The military is known for its clever vocabulary. If you cut out the obscenity, you’re left with a collection of terms that are either more accurate (i.e. it’s not exactly a ‘shovel,’ it’s an “entrenching tool”) or overly sarcastic (i.e. it’s not “beating the crap out of someone,” it’s “wall-to-wall counseling”).
This overly sarcastic way of referring to things that generally suck is a coping mechanism. It’s a way to add color to the typical monotony that comes with military service. The following terms might sound exciting on the surface, but there’s a general understanding among troops to not get hyped over any of them — but it’s always a good laugh when the new guy doesn’t get it.
Cleaning connexes… Just as much fun as getting drunk in the barracks.
(U.S. Army Photo by Spc James C. Blackwell)
Out of context, this one sounds like a couple of guys within the company getting together, having a good time, and maybe accomplishing a few things in the process — and, to be honest, that’s how it almost always turns out when the NCOs turn their back for longer than two seconds.
In actuality, a “working party” is four or five lower enlisted and two NCOs. The troops will do most of the heavy lifting while the NCO that still has a spine remembers what it was like to be a private joins in. The other supervises while pretending to do work. The moment the lazy NCO turns away, three of the original lower enlisted will start slacking until the motivated NCO says something like, “the faster this gets done, the sooner we can go.” But that never happens. Ever.
There are always more pointless details to be done.
Want a real force multiplier? Why not boost morale or, you know, add more troops?
(Meme via The Salty Soldier)
“The Good-Idea Fairy”
It almost sounds whimsical. It’s as if, out of the blue, a good idea was magically sprinkled into the heads of the chain of command and logic reigned supreme.
In practice, this term is used when a lieutenant gets a wild hair up their ass after coming to an agreement in the echo chamber that is staff meetings. Suddenly, that lieutenant can’t wait to implement the newest and best “force multiplier” that has never been thought of before.
These force multipliers never really have an end-game, though, so it’s basically just a fancy way of saying, “I wonder how the troops would react if we did this?”
You can typically tell if someone earned their stuff or if they’re just really good as ass kissing by checking their ribbons rack. If they have multiples of lesser awards that are common among the lower ranks, you know they’ve worked hard from the beginning.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Paris Maxey)
Certain awards, medals, and badges confer the highest amount of respect. In some cases, a highly-decorated troop commands greater respect from those around them than the unproven leaders above them.
When the awards, medals, and badges are referred to as “chest candy,” however, it’s basically saying that none of those awards have any real substance. Take the airborne wings in the Army, for example. They look nice and say that the person is airborne qualified — but don’t, by any stretch of the imagination, think that means that “five jump chumps” are actual paratroopers. Same goes for many other awards that are handed out like it was Halloween to troops — typically anything given to staff officers who found that week’s “force multiplier” without doing a fraction of the work their subordinates did.
Chances are high that your training room clerk is dealing with more secret information than you ever will.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Gina Randall)
“Some secret, squirrel-type sh*t”
There’s nothing wrong with being in the conventional military, and yet troops will jump at any conceivable chance to play the “if I told you, I’d have to kill you” card at the bar. If it’s labelled confidential, you know they’re going to see “some secret, squirrel-type sh*t!”
In actuality, unless you’ve got CIA operatives coming into your S3 and demanding confidentiality agreements, the red stickers are actually really f*cking boring. The closest any regular military troops are ever going to get to secret information are personnel records. They’re confidential because they could realistically be used against someone. “Secret squirrel” is almost entirely used for this kind of mundane crap that is technically classified.
If you honestly think the General nothing better to do than to inspect every single room in the barracks for lint, you’ve lost your mind.
(DoD Photo by Gloria Montgomery)
“Dog and pony shows”
The military is all about prestige and perfectionism when it comes to general officers swinging by to “inspect the troops.” Everyone will spend days getting ready to impress the two-star and get the nod of approval.
Nine times out of ten, the general won’t come to the barracks. They’ll meet at the company area and talk for thirty minutes before they go on their way. That one time they do inspect the troops, the chain of command will try to guide the general to the room that they know is spotless — typically an empty room that was quickly converted to look like it’s actually occupied.
This drawn-out procedure is known as putting on a “dog and pony show” and, unfortunately, neither dogs nor ponies are typically involved.
Even worse is when troops get reprimanded for speaking to the Chaplain. Which, unfortunately, does happen in some of the toxic units…
(U.S Marine photo by Lance Corporal Tayler P. Schwamb)
You’ll often hear the commander or first sergeant tell you that their door is always open if you need to talk. When this policy works the way it should, it’s fantastic. It gives the little guy in the formation a strong ally when it comes to personal or professional issues.
Unfortunately, although their door may indeed always be open, it doesn’t mean you’re safe from reprimand. There are those in the chain of command who take it way too personally when a troop goes directly to the commander. They feel like the troop “jumped” the chain of command to fix something.
The hurt feelings are doubly potent if the problem is “toxicity in the troops’ leadership.”