Police officers and the military share a special bond in the United States. Many police officers are former military members themselves, and many of those officers have deployed to support various military operations. But even if they aren’t veterans, no one in America can come close to understanding what it means to serve quite like the people who make up the thin blue line.
Both professions are dangerous and difficult. Police officers all over the country know theirs is a job that could cost them their lives. Who better to understand the courage and sacrifice military members make all over the world? So, when a cop stops his or her duties to take a moment and show respect to a returning troop, it’s meaningful.
When a line of cops stop — and stop traffic — to do it, it’s downright heartwarming.
(Rhea Ramsey Taylor)
A line of police officers on motorcycles stopped their lives and their duties while in uniform to stand and render a sharp salute to buses full of soldiers returning home from Afghanistan. The Colorado Springs cops stood at attention next to their bikes, blocking oncoming traffic, as they saluted.
It was a small gesture, but it allowed the buses carrying the 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division to make and immediate left-hand turn, rather than waiting those excruciating last few minutes to turn before going onto the base and getting the troops back to their loved ones.
It’s not known how long this group of Fort Carson soldiers were away from their families, but the extra time it would have taken for a long line of buses to turn left across a divided highway was ten more minutes longer than necessary. The video above was captured by Coloradan Rhea Ramsey Taylor, who was coming home after helping a friend move. She was overcome with emotion while recording the moment.
“When they got off the bikes and saluted, I was in tears,” she told CBS News. “It’s a great, positive way to recognize our police officers and welcome home our troops.“
The buses of the returning soldiers were also escorted by local police officers, a small indicator of just how important the military is to the relatively close-knit community around Fort Carson.
Everyone has their own opinion of what makes a good war movie. Unfortunately very few can offer anything of substance.
Yes, I’m talking to you, orange grime Cheeto finger-licking video game player in your momma’s basement. You can kick my ass in Call of Duty but in real life, you’d pee your pants in a kill house live-fire training mission.
So lick the cheese off your fingers and take notes, some man stuff coming at you.
Below is my small contribution to the best war movies of all time. I carefully selected my 10 favorites and put them in no particular order other than my #1 of all time, The Great Escape, at the top.
After serving in the SEAL Teams I find it really hard to sit through most action movies without being overly critical of the tactics. For me sitting through a bad action movie is pure torture. Worse than the Notebook. Worse than ingernails on a chalkboard. And like my old chief would say, fucked up as a football bat.
Top War Movie Pet Peeves
Sweeping your own guys with a loaded weapon. Just not cool, and a punishable offense in the SEAL Teams. Find a loud mouth Special Ops guys on social media and chances are he’s not really Special Ops, or worse, was kicked out of the community for a safety violation like this.
Representing the military as unprofessional. Some of the most professional people I’ve met in my life are from the military and it’s crazy to see that scene in American Sniper where the instructors are yelling at students on the firing line like boot camp kids. Not realistic, and doesn’t represent the high level of professionalism at the SEAL sniper program.
Unlimited bullets. Just doesn’t happen outside of video games folks. That ten-round magazine doesn’t last forever, Johnny.
Bad unit tactics. Take your pick… oh yeah, on Zero Dark Thirty the producers had the guys talking on target… not going to happen that way! It’s a squeeze on the shoulder or a hushed communication via inter-squad radio. Just corny…
Poor mission planning. Parachuting onto the roof of a target for example. Not going to happen unless you’re Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible.
The list goes on but you get the idea.
Here’s my top 10.
The Great Escape (1963) Official Trailer – Steve McQueen Movie
If you can get past Charlie Sheen (he hadn’t lost his mind in ’86) this is a great gritty movie about Vietnam. The same kind of movie you can expect to see rebooted with our modern-day Vietnam of Afghanistan. Drugs, stealing cash off-target, war crimes, hookers, this one has it all. I actually wrote a one-page pitch for a similar war movie called, The Reservation, about guys going haywire in Afghanistan post-2004 when it turned into a complete shit show. Stay tuned…
? PREDATOR (1987) | Full Movie Trailer in Full HD | 1080p
Just look at who’s in the movie and enough said. Ex-Special Ops taking on an alien inter-planetary hunter-kill? Fuck me, I’m in! “Head to the chaupper!” Move over Parasite…Que, the Academy award for manliest movie of the year, Predator.
Black Hawk Down (2001) Official Trailer 1 – Ewan McGregor Movie
Based on true events. Great movie but like most great war movies, when you peel it back, usually you find the guys on the ground totally let down by the guys at the top. This time, the name rhymes with “Bill Clinton”… Left our boys hanging in the breeze to fend for themselves in another half-baked country intervention. Fortunately for Delta and the Rangers they did an extremely good job at it while Bill was getting a his daily brief from a White House intern. Epic movie, but I was triggered for sure.
You may ask yourself why a sniper picked this one. Well, before I was a sniper I was an anti-submarine warfare operator and search and rescue swimmer helicopter aircrewman. (Have they now changed it to aircrew person? What the hell is the politically correct version of it? I wrote about this in The Red Circle.) So before I was born again hard in SEAL Training, I geeked out on Russian submarine profiles and harmonic sounds generated by diesel-electric subs. This is a great movie by one of the best military fiction writers ever, Clancy.
Want to know why you shouldn’t ask your military buddy, “How many kills you have bro?” Watch Deer Hunter and then STFU. Great movie. Gives a new meaning to Russian Roulette as well. Look at the cast as well, All Star!
Dirty Dozen (1967) Official Trailer – Lee Marvin, John Cassavetes World War 2 Movie HD
Back when it was ok for men to be men and pronouns weren’t weaponized by the hipster elite. The Dirty Dozen. What’s not to like about Americans kicking Nazi ass?! Plus, take a bunch of guys from the brig and put them on a special ops suicide mission and you have the makings of a great war movie. A lot of great actors in this one as well — A list for sure.
SAVING PRIVATE RYAN Official Trailer (1998) Tom Hanks HD Movie | TrueMovies Trailer
The epic and ultra-realistic D-Day scene won me over from the get-go. Plus some good sniper footage as well. Again, common theme here with allied forces kicking Hitler ass. Doom on you Nazi bastards. Great directing and great acting all around. It kicked off the amazing series, “Band of Brothers” (also a must-watch).
The Hurt Locker (2008) Official Trailer – Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie Movie HD
Jeremy Renner comes out swinging in this gritty movie that showcases the true toll of war. I have several friends who I lost to similar combat addictions. It’s a real thing and one of the reasons I really liked this movie, because it shows the toll it takes at home.
There you have it. I’d also like to hear from you. What are your top 10? Thanks for listening. Out here. – Brandon
Honestly, the military isn’t really what I thought it would be. Most of us, at some point, have moment of clarity in which we realize that what we expected of daily military life doesn’t match up with reality.
And that’s okay.
I think it’s safe to say that most of us also had (or continue to have) a pretty decent military experience, all things considered. But what if the branches decided to be honest for a moment and give potential recruits a real vision of what their daily lives might be like?
Feel free to suggest some of your own.
How the Air Force checks the weather.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Basic Nathan H. Barbour)
1. Air Force
Current Slogan: “Aim High, Fly-Fight-Win”
The aiming high (actually, the aiming in general) begins and ends at the recruiter’s office for most airmen. Most new airmen will neither fly nor fight. If you consider eating chicken tendies winning, then this slogan 25 percent spot-on.
Honest Slogan: “Come in, have a seat.”
This covers everything from office jobs to the few pilots that haven’t yet left the Air Force for a cushy civilian airline. It also manages to forget the maintainers and other airmen who work on the flightline as well as Air Force special operations — just like most of the rest of the military.
More importantly, it’s the phrase you’ll hear from your supervisor every time you make the slightest mistake.
Whoa! Two women in this photo. Slow down, Navy.
Current Slogan: “Forged by the Sea”
The more accurate version of this slogan is, “Because of the Sea.” The Navy didn’t crawl out of the ocean. It was made to tame the ocean. But “Because of the Sea” doesn’t sound nearly as cool.
Honest Slogan: “5,000 dudes surrounded by water.”
This will be your life, shipmate. The Navy wants 25 percent of its ships’ crews to be composed of women, but, in reality, that number is still a distant dream. Meanwhile, the port visits to exotic lands that you dreamed about will be few and far between. Going outside, all you’ll see is water. Terrible, undrinkable, watery death. If you ever actually go outside, that is.
All I’m saying is that if all you can be is a cook, then you might as well get the pay, benefits, and serious uniform upgrade by being all you can be in the Army.
Current Slogan: “Army Strong”
Even the Army came around to realizing this one wasn’t doing it any favors in the recruiting department.
Honest Slogan: “A sh*tty job for anyone and everyone.”
That’s not to say the Army sucks, it doesn’t have good gigs, or isn’t worth the time and effort, but let’s face it: It’s huge, it’ll take almost anyone, and there are so many jobs that you just can’t find anywhere else, in or out of the military. Got a bachelor’s in microbiology but you suddenly want to fly a helicopter? Army. Tired of the workaday grind and selling insurance to people who hate you? Army. Do currently flip burgers for terrible pay and then have to top it off by cleaning a toilet? You can literally do that in the Army.
Yeah, this is not for everyone.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo)
Current Slogan: “The Few, The Proud“
This is actually a pretty great and accurate recruiting slogan. The Marines put it on hold in 2016, only to reactivate it the next year – probably because this is actually a great and accurate recruiting slogan. The handfuls of people who do the crummiest jobs in the military using next to nothing are proud of it.
Honest Slogan: “Marines for-f*ucking-ever.”
The only thing more honest is telling recruits how long the decision to join the Marines will affect them. I’ve only ever known one former Marine who refers to himself as an “ex-Marine”. Meanwhile, old-timers at Springfield, Ohio, VFW post 1031 used to tell 6-year-old me that the only ex-Marine is Lee Harvey Oswald.
The USCG Cutter “Get Out and Push”
(U.S. Coast Guard photo)
5. Coast Guard
Current Slogan: “Born Ready”
The Coast Guard motto is “Semper Paratus,” but “Born Ready” was the nearest I could find to a recruiting slogan — and it’s a pretty good one, too. Still, it’s a few years old and could probably use an update.
Honest Slogan: “Find a way.”
Besides opening up possibilities to have Jeff Goldblum as a spokesman, this is a much more accurate depiction of life in a Coast Guard plagued by budget cuts and Congressional apathy. Meanwhile, the resourceful Coasties somehow pull off drug busts, ice breaking, and daring sea rescues. The Army, Navy, and Air Force are getting lasers on vehicles while 50-year-old Coast Guard cutters are breaking down 35 times in 19 days.
Often, there comes a point when people decide to give their Facebook friends list an overhaul.
They completely change their social landscape online by avoiding accepting friend requests from certain types of people, and they give their current friends list a good, hard scrub.
Everyone has their reasons. Maybe they’re doing it for security purposes, or because a handful of people’s posts drive them crazy or they want to keep a more professional profile. Military spouses in particular might do so because they want to focus on positive, stress-free relationships – that is, the ones that bring wine, wear sweat pants, and check judgment at the door.
If you’re a military spouse considering an overhaul, these 10 characters are some of the folks who might not make the cut…
1. The Gossip
At first, reading The Gossip’s witty quips about annoying moms at Starbucks or fashion faux pas might be hilarious. Scrolling through The Gossip’s posts could be an easy way to burn an hour outside baseball practice… until you find yourself the subject of one of The Gossip’s posts.
For The Gossip, everything is fair game. When people listen to The Gossip, or “like” or comment on The Gossip’s posts, the rumor mill churns. And every milspouse knows that the rumor mill is pretty damaging – especially if you live on base. So, if you receive a friend request from The Gossip, think twice before clicking “Accept.”
2. The Negative Nancy
Sometimes we might like seeing The Negative Nancy in our feed. If we’re already down, her critical gaze on life’s horizon validates our own low feelings. But this is dangerous – beware! The more you read her negative posts, the more you’ll feel negative, depressed and weary. In fact, research shows that negative thoughts and emotions can reduce your brain’s ability to function effectively and even weaken your immune system.
That is the LAST thing you need when you’re holding down the home front during a deployment or a long TDY! Do yourself a favor: if The Negative Nancy’s posts are breeding the blues in your life, make the call: hit “Unfriend,” lift your chin up, and notice the sun rising on the horizon.
3. The Stranger
The Stranger piques your interest. Coming out of nowhere, The Stranger has something in common with you and might need help. Maybe The Stranger claims to be stationed at the same installation and needs help finding counseling for marital troubles. Since your profile says you work at Family Advocacy, The Stranger thinks you can help…
At this point, revert to every OPSEC (Operational Security) commercial you’ve ever seen and don’t respond (and tighten up your profile privacy). The Stranger is up to nothing but finding out military-related information or stealing money; you don’t want to take part in either one of those nightmares!
And, don’t be so sure that this scenario is far-fetched. A woman in Pensacola impersonated a military wife to trick service members and spouses into giving her money for supposedly sick children. It could happen on Facebook, too, and if it does, tuck your sympathy away and save it for a real friend who truly needs it.
4. The Selfie Addict
The Selfie Addict manages to capture herself (okay, or himself) in the most attractive poses, accentuating her most beautiful features, against the most impressive landscapes. And remarkably, she captures said images ALL. THE. TIME.
Looking through her series of carefully crafted selfies, you might start to believe (erroneously) that her whole life is perfect; worse, you might make comparisons to your own life and decide it’s pretty dull. Research shows that these comparisons can chisel away at your self-esteem and it’s all for nothing! Perfection is an illusion, after all. Hit “Unfriend,” and focus on relationships that are real and meaningful instead.
5. The Soapboxer
The Soapboxer can’t stop ranting. Whether it’s something going on in the local community, the government, the war or the nation, The Soapboxer has an opinion and feels compelled to share the details. What’s worse, if you post a comment that disagrees just a bit, The Soapboxer will drill into it and make you feel like complete mush for sharing your voice. There’s no room for respectful debate here!
Much like Negative Nancy, The Soapboxer has a way of creating unnecessary stress and frustration. If that’s what The Soapboxer is doing in your life, it’s a signal to end your virtual relationship. After all, you’ve got a PCS to plan for, a deployment on the horizon, and a surprise visit from Murphy – there’s no time to waste stressing over The Soapboxer.
6. The Ex
Friending The Ex might be tempting. Perhaps Facebook recommended The Ex in “People You May Know,” so, out of curiosity, you skimmed unsecured photos and posts. And now you’re inclined to send a friend request. We’re all adults, so it couldn’t hurt, right? Wrong!
Distance has a way of magnifying worries. If your service member is deployed or TDY for a long time, he or she doesn’t need the added worry or stress of seeing The Ex’s comments on your posts or photos. Even if you think the connection is totally harmless, think of your service member and nix the virtual friendship.
7. The Acquaintance
It’s become common practice to meet someone briefly at a party or barbeque, only to find a friend request hours later. Regardless of whether or not The Acquaintance knows a friend of yours, pause before accepting the friend request.
Honestly, what do you really know about The Acquaintance? How will a Facebook relationship deepen your relationship? Odds are, it’s only going to invite snooping – snooping from a person you barely know. Would you invite a mere acquaintance to come into your home and dig through your photo albums and drawers containing other personal information while you’re not home? No? Didn’t think so. Friending The Acquaintance on Facebook isn’t much different. So, wait till you meet The Acquaintance a few more times before you are comfortable enough to leave him or her in your “home” unsupervised.
8. The Judge
If there’s one thing military spouses know, it’s that time is important. When our service members are about to deploy, all of our focus is directed at spending meaningful time with them. That usually comes at the expense of time spent with others, and it can mean declining invitations from close friends.
Most friends understand this, but The Judge does not. If you decline an invitation and later post a selfie of your family relaxing at home, The Judge might comment, “Looks like you weren’t so busy after all.” Or, if you opt out of a lunch date so that you can FaceTime with your deployed service member, only to post later that you’re “feeling sad” because you never got to talk to him, The Judge will comment, “You should have just come to lunch!”
Military spouses are under enough pressure to hold down the home front, keep day-to-day operations running smoothly and support our service members who endure high-stakes careers; we don’t need the added stress of feeling the need to please The Judge. Unfriend!
9. The Drama Queen
When you think of The Drama Queen, think of one word: Perception. Virtual relationships with The Drama Queen could reflect poorly on you, too, because her personal drama might end up appearing on your Facebook page. The Drama Queen might comment on your posts with inappropriate gifs or memes, tag you in photos that depict you in an unfavorable light, or write posts on your wall that are better suited for a private message or phone call.
Everyone else can see these posts, and they associate them with you and possibly your service member, as well. If that’s not how you want to be perceived, then keep your Facebook feed Drama Queen-free.
10. The Boss
When you arrive at a new assignment, your service member’s commander and commander’s spouse might offer a genuinely warm welcome. In some situations, their commander and commander’s spouse might welcome you, too.
This is all well and good, and it’s appropriate to accept their welcome kindly, but be sure to respect the professional line that exists between your service member and The Boss… and The Boss’ Boss. Friending The Boss can cross the line of professionalism, inviting The Boss into your personal world and asking if you can enter his or hers. Generally, people need to maintain their personal space, so while it’s perfectly fine to enjoy friendly conversation at unit barbeques, allow everyone some breathing room on Facebook.
The Russian military will be replacing its standard issue AK-74M rifle with the AK-12 and AK-15, according to Military Times, citing Russian state-owned media.
The “5.45mm AK-12 and 7.62mm AK-15 are officially approved and recommended by Russian Ministry of Defense for issue to Infantry, Airborne and Naval infantry troops of Russian Armed Forces,” the Russian defense manufacturer, Kalashnikov Concern, which also made the AK-47 and AK-74M, said in a press statement in January 2018.
The AK-12 and AK-15 have 30-round magazines and can shoot 700 rounds per minute, the Kalashnikov statement said. They’re also equipped with “red dot, night and IR sights to underbarrel grenade launchers, forward grips, lasers and flashlights, sound suppressors and more.”
The two new weapons will be part of Russia’s “Ratnik” program, a futuristic combat system that includes modernized body armor, a helmet with night vision and thermal imaging, and more.
The first-generation Ratnik suit was reportedly given to a few Russian units in 2013, and some pieces of the suit were spotted on Russian troops in Crimea.
Russia claims the second-generation suit will be operational in 2020, and the third-generation suit will be operational in 2022.
See more about the AK-12 and AK-15 in the short Kalashnikov video below:
The U.S. Army loves robots and wants its soldiers to love them, too. The U.S. Army Joint Modernization Command recently conducted its annual Joint Warfighting Assessment in the Pacific Northwest, with most of the testing at the Yakima Training Center. From late April to May 11, 2019, troops from Joint Base Lewis-McChord’s 2-2 Stryker Brigade and 2nd Ranger battalion, along with U.S. Marines from Camp Lejune and Camp Pendleton, tested new weapon concepts for a Pacific war scenario set in 2028.
One of the concepts they were testing was the “optionally manned vehicle,” which would allow leaders in the field to decide to switch their systems to remote operating systems instead of putting their troops on the line.
“The idea is that the robotics could be available, so when they pick that platform you can put the robotics on it, and now you can do the manned (or) unmanned team and push the robotics out on the battlefield,” explained Lieutenant Colonel John Fursmo, the officer commanding the opposing force for the exercise.
The Assault Breacher Vehicle.
(Photo by Kevin Knodell/Coffee or Die)
Some of the vehicles that have been brought out for testing are actually quite old, brought back to life and stuffed with robotic capabilities by engineers tinkering with them like Frankenstein’s monster. Troops and engineers explain that it’s all about testing, experimentation and soldier feedback. “These are concepts, these are not necessarily the pieces of equipment we would actually use,” said Fursmo. “The Army still has to decide what it wants for this new combat vehicle that will replace some tanks and other armored vehicles.”
Fursmo pointed to an old M58 mobile recon vehicle that’s been retrofitted with remote control capabilities. “It’s a tracked vehicle, it’s been in the Army a very long time, [and] essentially the Army stopped using it several years ago because the mission itself was so dangerous that it was just decided it wasn’t worth it,” he explained. “But make it a robot and now it’s at least conceptually worth looking at it again.”
Robotics and digital tech are already changing the way wars both big and small are being fought around the world every day. What were once science fiction dreams (or nightmares) aren’t as far away as some might think. Some are already here.
An experimental quadcopter mounted on a Stryker during JWA 19.
(Photo by Kevin Knodell/Coffee or Die)
Eyes in the Sky
Cavalry scouts often call themselves the ninjas of the U.S. Army. Though considered combat troops, their job is more often to scope out the enemy without drawing fire and to report their findings. “A big problem we have is seeing without being seen,” explained Major Dave Scherke, a cav scout squadron leader with the 2-2 Stryker Brigade.
A scout team might move with three troops aboard a Stryker and three dismounted on the ground. They use maps, rulers, and measuring tape to take down mission critical information while conducting route reconnaissance. “It’s very time consuming and, from a security standpoint, can leave you exposed,” Scherken said.
However, at Yakima Training Center, Scherke’s men have been testing the Sensor Enabled Scout Platoon concept. They’ve tested the “Instant Eye” quad copter, an aerial drone surveillance system. “We have that all the way down to the squad level. So instead of just having one of these for each one of my cav troops, now I have six of them, and that massively increases our ability to see over the ridge and see the enemy first,” Scherke explained.
The quad copter itself isn’t particularly unique — you can buy similar models at Best Buy. Drones have already become part of the new normal for warfare. In Iraq and Syria, ISIS militants have used store-bought drones to help them target mortars and have even modified them to drop grenades and other improvised explosives. During the battle of Mosul, frustrated Iraqi troops started purchasing commercial drones of their own to fight ISIS. Robots are everywhere.
However, the small drones the scouts are testing are equipped with the Instrument Set Reconnaissance and Survey (ENFIRE) system that uses software and algorithms that can help measure terrain features, roads, and even calculate how much weight a bridge is capable of supporting. “There’s a bridge classification app that tells you the whole bridge classification,” said Colonel Chuck Roede, the deputy commander of JMC. “It really allows the scouts to do the job we expect them to do.”
ENFIRE connects directly to systems in the Stryker itself, which connects to a larger network. “It takes all that information, aggregates it into a computer, and creates a route overlay,” Scherke explained. “[Plugging] into our mission command systems to send very rapidly [means] our logistics planners and our other maneuver planners can get that information right away. So it speeds up what our scouts can do, and now instead of having six scouts on the ground just doing this while other guys are securing them, you can put fewer scouts on the ground to do that mission.”
Deep purple, the drone utilized by chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear specialist, prepares to lift off on an NBC reconnaissance mission at the Joint Warfighting Assessment 19 training exercise at Yakima Training Center, Yakima, Washington, April 29, 2019.
(Photo by Pfc. Valentina Y. Montano/302nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, U.S. Army)
The Instant Eye has night vision, infrared, and powerful zoom and camera clarity features for checking out targets, as well as signal tracking. “We can get some eyes on there without exposing our scouts and then bring indirect fires down to win that fight first because we want to be fighting an unfair fight,” said Scherke.
Cav scout Sergeant Joseph Gaska, who was in the field operating the prototype, told Coffee or Die that he was impressed with it. “As long as you’re high enough, you won’t hear it, so it’s not going to be that buzzing sound above your head,” he said of small, nimble drones’ ability to move nearly undetected. It has other ambitious features, too, Gaska noted. For instance, he said that if they were to somehow lose their connection to the drone, it’s programmed to remember where its handlers are and will return to them.
The Joint Warfighting Assessment JWA19 WA, UNITED STATES 04.28.2019
One of the most difficult things ground troops are asked to do is breaching operations against enemy strongholds. The defending side nearly always has the advantage. Good defenders lay out layers of defense that can include walls, barbed wire, ditches, minefields, and countless other hazards and traps. “It’s a very challenging task because you have to imagine your opponent on the far side of that position ready to destroy you with every weapon system that they have,” Fursmo said. “If you can take humans out of that, you’re going to have fewer casualties — it’s really the most dangerous thing a ground force does.”
Troops in the field trained with various aerial drones for detecting chemical threats and minefields, but more of the efforts focused on ground-based systems. One of the key systems they were testing was the Assault Breacher Vehicle. Their ABV working prototype was built around the hull of an M1A1 Abrams tank armed with mine charges and a .50-caliber machine gun and equipped with plows and dozer blades.
“Basically, the concept of this vehicle is that this one vehicle with two operators can do what an entire platoon of engineers would be required to do in a breach,” U.S. Marine 1st Lt. David Aghakhan explained. “It’s not taking anything away from my capabilities — I can still manually operate it — but it gives me the option of saying ‘I don’t want to expose my Marines in this obstacle belt because it’s too dangerous,’ and I can pull them out and we can robotically operate it.”
A soldier remotely operates a humvee from inside another humvee.
(Photo by Kevin Knodell/Coffee or Die)
Working from remote controls in command vehicles, soldiers and Marines could also remotely control other vehicles to move in and provide suppressing fire for the ABV as it worked to clear mines, smash berms, and deal with other obstacles. Captain Nicole Rotte, an Afghanistan veteran and commander of the 2-2’s engineer company, said that she was impressed with it.
“The challenge that I have is my planning factor for moving through a breach is 50 percent loss,” said Rotte. “So all these concepts, to be able to take an unmanned vehicle and bring them down the battlefield, to be able save soldiers from being lost in the breach, that’s awesome for me.”
Rotte said they only had minor technical issues that were easily solved by turning the systems off and on again. She added that if anything, she’s excited for the prospect of having more robots available to her and seeing what they can do.
Unmanning the Battlefield?
Some futurists have envisioned a world in which war was waged entirely by robots. The U.S. military and CIA have already used drones with operators in Nevada pulling the trigger to kill enemies as far away as Afghanistan, Yemen, and Somalia. However, while the vehicles are referred to as “unmanned,” they require regular maintenance — and usually have a human operator somewhere.
At times, U.S. military commanders have underestimated the strain on personnel in regard to upkeep and the long hours of operation. “The explosion in demand had created a snowball effect that never allowed the […] staff to take a pause and say, ‘Let’s normalize all the processes that we should be doing,'” the Air Force reported in one of its official annual histories from 2012. “Instead, normalization was put off to some future date after the pace of combat operations slowed down.”
But the wars continued, as did the extreme hours. Airmen working six days a week were constantly asked to work extra hours while leave got cancelled. They were never “deployed” but remained almost constantly on duty, remotely fighting wars in several countries that were continents away. “It’s at the breaking point and has been for a long time,” a senior Air Force official told The Daily Beast in 2015. “What’s different now is that the Band-Aid fixes are no longer working.”
A remotely operated humvee with a robotic firing turret.
(Photo by Kevin Knodell/Coffee or Die)
Even without the logistical hurdles, many commanders (even those that fully embrace a robotic future for war) don’t believe grunts will ever become obsolete. “It’s technologically feasible to fly a drone from Nevada and have it circling over Iraq or Afghanistan. But the demands of the terrain, as Army soldiers we are so tied to the terrain — you need to have leaders on the ground to see and understand the terrain,” Roede said.
Col. Christopher Barnwell, head of the field experimentation division at JMC, said that while he could see a future where commanders could run a war without ever going to the field — adding that at this point communications are advanced enough that senior officers already don’t have to — he doesn’t think a good leader would choose to stay home while war is raging elsewhere.
“No commander I know would do that,” he said. “I feel like I need to be on the ground and see things with my own eyes and get a feel for what’s going. Technically possible? Yes. Likely? I don’t personally think so.”
An Alabama Army National Guard Soldier with the 690th Chemical Company inspects a “deep purple” drone at YTC at Joint Warfighting Assessment 19, May 4, 2019.
(Photo by Pfc. Valentina Y. Montano/ 302nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, U.S. Army)
While they don’t see human judgement being removed from the equation, some military planners are excited by the prospect of artificial intelligence to allow vehicles to move on their own on the battlefield.
“As the concept matures, as we bring in elements of AI, as we bring in some measures of autonomy, the ratio of operators to vehicles will drop so that eventually you’ll have one operator who can control maybe a squad or platoon’s worth of vehicles,” said Roede. He suggested that AI could allow vehicles to autonomously navigate terrain and even rally into formations as they haul supplies and weapons.
Barnwell suggested it potentially going even further — he can foresee a day in the future when leaders can delegate to robotic weapons systems in combat and allow them to autonomously pick and engage targets.
“You tell these robotic vehicles, ‘You’ve got this part of the engagement area, and you are free to shoot at enemy vehicles; anything north of the niner-niner grid line is enemy and you are free to shoot it,'” Barnwell said. “And because these vehicles have AI, they know what to shoot […] on their own.”
However, the prospect of robots that can autonomously kill enemies based on algorithms or pre-programmed targets sets has potentially serious ramifications. The recent battles for Mosul and Raqqa proved incredibly bloody. House-to-house fighting and heavy bombing and artillery strikes led to untold deaths of civilians trapped in the cities, and the work of rebuilding the infrastructure since the battles ended has been slow.
Military strategists believe that urban fighting could be the norm for the 21st century. More than half of the world’s population now lives in cities, and that’s expected to grow. In particular, there are concerns about the challenges posed by potentially fighting in massive megacities like Seoul, Shanghai, Tokyo, or Lagos. Army Chief of Staff Mark Milley has pointed out that the entirety of Mosul — Iraq’s second largest city — isn’t equal to a neighborhood in Seoul.
Conceptual prototypes at Yakima Training Center.
(Photo by Kevin Knodell/Coffee or Die)
Heavily armed robots combing the streets of a densely populated megacity picking targets based on algorithms have the potential to cause a lot of unintended collateral death and destruction. Machines feel neither remorse nor pity.
Barnwell said that they’re already considering these potential problems. “Through programming, we would be able to figure out what are appropriate targets, what are not. What is the ROE (rules of engagement), what are we going to allow these things to shoot at by themselves, and what are we not going to allow them to shoot at by themselves,” he explained. “In a megacity, for example, we may not even employ this sort of thing — or we may, depending on what the intelligence tells us the enemy is out there.”
But Roede stressed again that fighting wars is going to remain a fundamentally human endeavor, adding, “I don’t think we’ll ever be at a place where we’ll let the machine make the final decision on anything.”
U.S. Marine Corps veteran James LaPorta is “nervous as hell” for season four of the critically-acclaimed NBC drama This is Us because for him, the story couldn’t be more personal.
An infantry Marine with multiple Afghanistan deployments, LaPorta understands the impact of war. He also has some strong opinions about Hollywood’s depiction of it, which he shared for Newsweek when This is Us explored the Vietnam War during season three.
“While Hollywood has improved upon its depiction of military veterans in recent years, the majority of characters produced are still one dimensional. Usually, the audience is delivered a stereotype of either the incredibly heroic service member or the tragically broken veteran who is unable to function. In reality, these are plot vehicles for lazy writing that garner cheap emotional responses and that can contribute to the civilian-military divide that is already occurring,” he wrote.
Many in the military community agree and are quick to condemn military stories in film and television, but it was the Vietnam storyline that first caught LaPorta’s attention. In his opinion, This is Us had figured out the right way to tell veterans’ stories — though he couldn’t have predicted that he would sign on to be part of the team that would tackle the war in Afghanistan.
A war that, in LaPorta’s own words, is “being forgotten even as it’s being fought.”
LaPorta, already a fan of This is Us, was impressed by the Vietnam storyline and its depiction of how our veterans of that war were treated when they came home. LaPorta reached out to This is Us creator Dan Fogleman, who told Newsweek that the story was “not just about combat in war—[it was] about what veterans, and in particular, veterans of that generation, kept from their families, from significant others. Things they may have even kept from themselves at certain times.”
Fogleman invited LaPorta to visit the set and talk with the staff writers, which lead to LaPorta’s involvement on the show. He was hired as a military advisor for season four, which introduces the character of Cassidy Sharp (played by Jennifer Morrison), a soldier who struggles to return home from Afghanistan.
The story comes with pressure to “get it right.” LaPorta didn’t want to depict another military caricature, but the balance between telling an entertaining story and showing what it’s truly like for veterans is a tricky one. For LaPorta, it’s not only personal in that he shares his own experiences, but he also wove the stories of people he served with into this season.
Late post from last night’s @NBCThisisUs premiere. Actor Rich Paul is also a @USMC veteran. His character is Sgt. Lasher, which is also an homage to another #Marine I served with in Afghanistan. Lance Cpl Jeremy Lasher was killed in combat on July 23, 2009
LaPorta not only provided guidance about uniforms and weapons, but he was intent on getting every detail right, down to the proper tourniquets for the military units or the red dye in the beards of Afghan locals. He wanted it to be visually authentic at a minimum.
But he took his role as military advisor further by truly bridging the divide between the military and civilians in the cast and crew. One of the more meaningful ways he did this was by making and gifting memorial bracelets to honor the memories of fallen service members.
Among those who received bracelets were Fogleman and Morrison, the writing team, Executive Producer and Director Ken Olin, and Milo Ventimiglia, who plays a Vietnam War veteran in the show (and whose father was an actual Vietnam War veteran).
It was quite powerful and important to us my friend. Our North Star for her story this season. #ThisIsUshttps://twitter.com/JimLaPorta/status/1176714723280244736 …
When I asked what he was most excited about with this season’s story, LaPorta mentioned that female veterans in particular are underrepresented on-screen. “We’ve seen my story before, in terms of the male infantryman. We’ve seen it. But we haven’t really seen what women go through,” he insisted.
While Cassidy Sharp isn’t based on Kent or any one veteran in particular, she is a character who is serving in a combat zone, which many Americans are surprised to discover is the reality of post-9/11 wars. Female service members are risking their lives every day and their experience is unique.
“As we’re making this storyline, there are actually people fighting these wars,” LaPorta shared. “It’s something I’ll never forget, and I wanted to give the memorial bracelets so the cast and crew can remember that fact, too. It was a way to thank them for telling this story.”
This is not how we expected Cassidy to cross paths with the Pearsons…pic.twitter.com/dVtxFAVwws
In high school, Jordan Way played football and lacrosse, as well as participating in ballroom dancing. He worked with the school’s Best Buddies program, partnering with special needs students in a mentoring capacity. “One of our nicknames for him was ‘Adventure,'” said his father, Dana Way. “Hiking, fishing, shooting, bow and arrows — he did not turn down a challenge.” Jordan was devoted to his family and devoted to his role as a U.S. Navy corpsman.
Yet only four years into his time in the Navy, Jordan was dead from opioid toxicity following shoulder surgery at the military hospital at Twentynine Palms Base. His parents were shocked to discover that a longstanding legal precedent known as the Feres Doctrine prevented them from suing the government for medical malpractice.
“My son never left the United States,” said Suzi Way, Jordan’s mother. “He was not in a war situation. He was having routine surgery, and he died. And he has no voice because of the Feres Doctrine.”
U.S. Navy sailor Jordan Way died following shoulder surgery and while under the care of military medical professionals.
(Photos courtesy of Suzi Way.)
Jordan was one of thousands affected by the Feres Doctrine in the 70 years it has been in effect. But as of Dec. 20, 2019, active duty military personnel will finally have legal recourse in cases of medical malpractice. President Donald Trump signed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for 2020, which includes a new mechanism holding the Department of Defense accountable for medical malpractice in military medical facilities. It was a hard-fought battle, but one that has potentially far-reaching consequences for service members who suffer from negligent care.
In 1950, the case Feres v. United States was heard and decided by the Supreme Court. The court held that the United States cannot be sued by active duty personnel under the Federal Torts Claims Act for injuries sustained due to medical negligence. As clarified four years later in United States v. Brown, “The peculiar and special relationship of the soldier to his superiors, the effects of the maintenance of such suits on discipline, and the extreme results that might obtain if suits under the Tort Claims Act were allowed for negligent orders given or negligent acts committed in the course of military duty, led the Court to read that Act as excluding claims of that character.”
Natalie Khawam, the lawyer representing the Way family as well as other families that have been affected by Feres, saw this as a fundamental insult to the civil rights of active duty service members and has been fighting to change the precedent through an act of Congress. “We consider ourselves a superpower, but our military has less rights than our civilians, and less rights than other countries, our allies,” Khawam said. “Shame on us.”
Dana Way vociferously agreed. “Our active duty servicemen who volunteer by signing that line — where in that document does it say, ‘I give up my Constitutional rights’?”
In eighth-grade Pop Warner football, Jordan Way severely broke his wrist. “His hand was hanging almost 180 degrees off his arm,” said his mother Suzi. She added that he was a longtime “fitness nut” and injured his shoulder in 2017. His parents wanted him to return home to see the surgeon who had fixed his wrist years earlier. But as a corpsman, Jordan trusted in the team of military medical professionals who would be overseeing his care.
This proved to be a mistake. Following the shoulder surgery, Jordan was left in agony. Five hours after the surgery, he went to the emergency room and lost consciousness from the pain. ER doctors increased his oxycodone dosage and sent him home. The next day, when nothing had improved, his surgeon increased the dosage again. But the doctors had all failed to see what was happening.
“He was getting the physical effects of the opioids; he was not getting the analgesic pain relief,” explained Dana. As a result, the high dosage of oxycodone left his body unable to move food through his digestive tract — he was not processing any nutrients. He became hypoglycemic and his organs began to shut down. In the end, he fell asleep and never woke up.
Jordan Way, back row center, with his family.
(Photo courtesy of Suzi Way.)
“These doctors, they didn’t maliciously kill our son,” Suzi said. “I pray for them all the time because I know they have to go to bed at night with the woulda, coulda, shoulda. But they also didn’t help Jordan. They were negligent. They were complacent. They didn’t do their jobs.”
After a long and arduous process of trying to determine what exactly had happened to their son, Army Colonel Louis Finelli, Armed Forces Medical Examiner System Director, admitted to the Ways that Jordan’s case was a “preventable and avoidable death.”
Dana Way sees the Feres Doctrine as a roadblock to quality medical care within the military. “The people in power know ultimately nobody’s going to get held responsible for it,” he said. “If you’re active duty military, you’re essentially a piece of equipment. You are a typewriter, you’re a calculator. If you break, you get thrown into a pile and they move on to the next one. To me, that’s wrong.”
Although Feres has not been overturned, it will be substantially diminished in scope by the NDAA signed last week. Service members will still be unable to sue in federal court for damages caused by medical malpractice, as was originally proposed in the Richard Stayskal Military Medical Accountability Act. That act was part of the House of Representatives’ version of the bill, named after another of Khawam’s clients who is battling terminal stage 4 lung cancer. Instead, active duty military personnel will be able to submit claims to the Department of Defense itself.
Rich Stayskal and lawyer Natalie Khawam in Washington.
(Photo courtesy of Natalie Khawam.)
Khawam sees this as an unmitigated victory. “I don’t think anybody will be upset that they can’t go to federal court if they have the remedy, the recourse, of federal court decisions,” she said. “It’s the best of both worlds.” As specified in the NDAA, the Department of Defense will be held to the same standards as those outlined in the Federal Torts Claims Act, and Khawam hopes that it will actually lead to much faster resolution of claims than if the cases were to be seen in federal court.
In its original form as the Richard Stayskal Military Medical Accountability Act, all claims would have been seen in federal court, but that proposal faced a roadblock from Lindsey Graham, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Graham was a staunch opponent of any changes to the Feres Doctrine, stating that such changes would be like “opening Pandora’s Box.” Despite a concerted effort among Stayskal and his advocates, any attempt to contact Graham was met with “crickets,” according to Khawam.
In an innovative tactical maneuver, by taking the process out of federal courts and into the Department of Defense itself, the proposal was approved by the far-more-amenable Senate Armed Services Committee. By doing an end-run around Graham, the act, in its new form, made it into the final reconciled version of the NDAA and was signed into law by the President.
Jordan Way’s funeral.
(Photo courtesy of Suzi Way.)
Fittingly, Trump was revered by Jordan Way, who was buried with a Trump/Pence button on his dress uniform. Given their struggle to get answers about their son’s death from the military, Suzi Way is wary that claims will now be handled by the Department of Defense. “I know how exhausting it has been for my husband and I to find out how and why our son died. That took hundreds of phone calls, hundreds of emails to our elected officials, hundreds of emails to DOD from the very top of the food chain down. How can one ensure the standards are being upheld if they are standards that are privileged to the DOD’s eyes only?”
Khawam, however, is “on cloud nine,” she said. “I feel like it’s been Christmas every day. 70 years of this awful injustice — I felt like it was this locked-up vault that everybody kept saying, ‘It’s never going to change, it’s never going to change.’ And we finally unlocked that vault and cracked it open.”
Of course, “now the work starts from here,” Khawam added. The next step is actually pursuing the claims for Stayskal, Way, and others who have been denied legal recourse because of the Feres Doctrine.
Even Suzi Way, despite her hesitance about the final form of the bill, is glad that there has been momentum. “I went to bed last night,” she said, “and for the first time in almost two years, I didn’t hear Jordan in my mind saying, ‘Mom, I did nothing wrong. I did everything the doctors told me to do, let people know!’ My son’s voice is being heard that was once silenced due to Feres, and this is balm to my grieving soul.”
Decades ago, a father took his two young sons to the aviation museum at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. Although the father might have known it would be a great vacation for his family, he had no way of knowing the impact the trip would have on his sons’ future decision to join the Air Force.
“I remember that one of the airplanes we stopped at, our dad was like, ‘look it’s a Hercules,'” said Staff Sgt. Jeremy Putnam, a 94th Maintenance Squadron jet engine mechanic here. “We were like that’s really cool and they let us in and we climbed around in it. I just remember it being so big! And then, lo and behold, later I’m an engine guy that works on them. We’ve always been around aircraft and drawn to it.”
Jeremy’s older brother, Joel Putnam, is a 94th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief at Dobbins Air Reserve Base. The Putnam brothers come from a family legacy of military aviators.
“Our dad was in the U.S. Army air cavalry and he worked on airplanes,” said Jeremy. “That was a big inspiration for both of us to work on airplanes. We come from a long line of military aviators. Our grandfather on our dad’s side was in the Air Force. On our mom’s side, our grandfather was a helicopter crew chief in the Marines and then Army.”
The brothers’ camaraderie growing up continued into their adult lives as they worked in the military. Joel and Jeremy deployed to Qatar and recently participated in Exercise Swift Response together. Exercise Swift Response is an annual U.S. Army Europe-led multinational exercise featuring high-readiness airborne forces from nine nations.
The brothers spoke about their unique experience of partnering with each other in real world scenarios of exercises and missions.
Tech. Sgt. Joel Putnam, a 94th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, left, and his brother, Staff Sgt. Jeremy Putnam, a 94th Maintenance Squadron aerospace propulsion technician, pose for a photo in front of a C-130H3 Hercules at Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Ga.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Justin Clayvon)
“We were doing some reconfigurations for the Swift Response exercise, changing from one layout in the cargo department to another,” said Joel. “We were setting up seats for the Army paratroopers to jump out, and I look up and Jeremy is there helping me — tag teaming.”
“Yeah, I didn’t have anything engine related, so I jumped on the airplane to help him set up for the configuration,” Jeremy added.
Joel highlighted that between the two brothers they can take care of a whole plane. “We can go on TDY together and he can do the engine work and I can do the crew chief stuff,” said Joel.
“We can run the plane, we can get it serviced up, gassed and go, or handle any major issues,” added Jeremy.
Joel spoke about completing inspections at Dobbins ARB. When a plane comes in and is jacked up, as Jeremy works on the motor, Joel will be over in the flaps.
Jeremy works as an Air Reserve technician full time at Dobbins ARB. Joel serves as a traditional reservist, frequently working on orders at Dobbins ARB.
The bond between the brothers carries into their civilian life as well. The airmen live as roommates and even produce electronic music and disc jockey together. But their favorite experience is working together in the military.
“Going out and doing real world missions together is really cool,” Jeremy said. “When we grew up playing in the backyard together trying to accomplish something, or helping dad work on the cars, it was together, and now being on a much bigger scale, in a bigger family in the Air Force, still being and working together towards the mission is awesome.”
Watches can be incredibly personal—after all, they’re worn every day throughout many of life’s ups and downs. Why shouldn’t you have one that serves as a reminder of all the hard work you’ve done and the things you’ve accomplished? For veterans and first responders, NFW watch company allows them to do just that.
NFW was started by George Fox, who left a 10-year career at Timex to focus on making watches in his vision, without compromising quality or price point. He accomplishes this goal by spending money on what really matters — the watches — instead of high-priced marketing. For 13 years, his company has been growing steadily with a supportive fan base, especially among the military. He also believed that he could do good with his craft, which has been realized through NFW’s partnerships with charities that support veterans and first responders.
The first partnership started in 2011, when George was approached by a Special Forces Unit to create a special watch for them, with their insignia engraved on the face. He met with unit representatives in Fort Bragg, N.C., and broached the idea of allowing the public to buy the watches as a way to show support and raise funds for the Special Forces Association. This idea was enthusiastically received and the watch was a success.
This first collaboration between military and small business was the start of a series of charity watches that celebrate Operation Enduring Warrior, the Chris Kyle Frog Foundation, Honor Flight, and first responders. Fifty dollars from each sale goes to the charities and nonprofits that support veterans. These watches do more than just advertise the organization. They also serve as a constant reminder to the wearer of the qualities that are endemic to the men and women who served and continue to serve under that symbol. Taya Kyle, Chris Kyle’s widow, said, “It’s great that the watches raise money for CKFF. But the best thing these watches do is every time someone wears one, sees one, or comments on one, it helps keep Chris’ spirit alive.”
To showcase these watches, NFW relies on the men and women who served in the honored units and wear their timepieces with pride. By not using the traditional watch marketing techniques, such as hiring celebrity endorsers, they are able to keep the watch costs down, allowing more people to wear this reminder of their service every day.
Recently, NFW was chosen to make watches for Medal of Honor recipients, further cementing the company’s relationship with our service men and women, and exemplifying the integrity that George Fox based his company on. He believes that his work with veterans had been more than repaid tenfold, as he has learned from their grit, ingenuity, and spirit. He also feels that it has helped him become a stronger father to his children, allowing him to model strength and integrity. In his spare time, George volunteers with the organizations, such as helping World War II veterans on Honor Flights and running with Operation Enduring Warrior in Spartan Races.
A US soldier critically injured by a roadside bomb that killed three US service members in Afghanistan last week died of his wounds over the weekend.
Army Sgt. Jason Mitchell McClary, a 24-year-old native of Export, Pennsylvania, died Sunday in Landstuhl, Germany from injuries sustained from the improvised explosive device in Andar, Ghazni, Afghanistan on Nov. 27, the Department of Defense said in a statement Monday.
McClary was assigned to 1st Battalion, 38th Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Carson, Colorado. That blast also killed three special operations troops — Army Capt. Andrew Patrick Ross, Army Sgt. 1st Class Eric Michael Emond, and Air Force Staff Sgt. Dylan J. Elchin.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Just after noon on Jan. 8, 2005, the USS San Francisco, U.S. Navy nuclear-powered Los Angeles-class submarine collided with an undersea mountain while moving at maximum speed. The crew, most of them injured, one of them killed, fought for their lives to get the ship afloat. Someone messed up big time.
The ship was moving at its top submerged speed, anywhere from 20-25 miles per hour. While this may not seem like much, it was more than 6,000 tons of nuclear-powered ship ramming into a mountain, enough to cause significant structural damage, ground the boat, and heavily damage its ballast tanks and sonar dome.
The USS San Francisco in drydock after the collision.
(U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Mark Allen Leonesio)
To say that the collision injured 98 people and killed one is somewhat misleading. That is what happened. With a complement of 118 and 12 officers, the ship had 98 injured, 80 of whom were seriously injured and/or bleeding significantly. One sailor, 24-year-old Machinist’s Mate Second Class Joseph Allen Ashley was killed by his injuries. The sailor who was able to pull the “chicken switches” (handles that force the submarine to immediately surface – an “emergency blow”) did it with two broken arms.
Once the switches are pulled, the submarine’s ballast tanks are supposed to fill with high-pressure air, making the sub positively buoyant (up to two million pounds lighter) and pop above the surface of the water.
You’ve definitely seen this before.
But the San Fransisco didn’t immediately pop up. For a full 60 seconds, she waited before moving to the surface. That may not seem like a lot of time, but it probably felt like forever while waiting to see if your boat was also going to be your underwater tomb. But she did surface. Later, the boat’s engineers were able to rig the auxiliary diesel engine to use the exhaust to keep the damaged ballast tanks full, and after making temporary repairs in Guam, she was able to move to Pearl Harbor.
A Navy investigation found the ships crew were not using the most up-to-date charts to plot their course. The charts it did use, however, noted the presence of “discolored water,” which was indicative of a seamount. The latest charts did indicate the mountain, though, and the commander should have had the latest charts. Further, when operating in stealth, Navy submarines don’t use active sonar, and the sub was going too fast for the passive sonar to be effective.
The Los Angeles-class submarine USS San Francisco shown in dry dock is having repairs made on its damaged bow. A new large steel dome about 20 feet high and 20 feet in diameter was put in the place of the damaged bow.
The ship was still salvageable. After being moved to Puget Sound, her bow was replaced with that of the USS Honolulu, which was being retired later that same year. The San Francisco is now a training ship for the Navy nuclear engineering school in Charleston, South Carolina. The captain, Cmdr. Kevin Mooney was relieved of his command following the collision, and six other sailors were reprimanded with him, receiving reductions in rank.
For the rest of the crew, their quick response to accidentally ramming a mountain at sea and saving the ship along with their own lives while heavily injured, earned them medals from on high.
In the days after the September 11th attacks on the United States and the subsequent invasion of Afghanistan, the Taliban leader known as “Mullah Omar” fled the state he’d helped form after fighting to liberate it from the Soviet Union. The CIA believed he’d fled to Pakistan and the U.S. military issued a reward of $10 million for his capture.
His real hiding place was just three miles from the U.S.’ FOB Wolverine in Siuray. He was never more than 80 miles from Kandahar, the site he fled when the U.S. invaded Afghanistan.
The governing body of the Taliban operated out of Quetta, Pakistan after being forced out of Afghanistan in 2001. Afghanistan’s Defence Ministry, the Pentagon, and the CIA all agreed that until his death in 2013, Mohammed Omar was there with them all. But what international intelligence agencies didn’t know about Omar could fill a warehouse. Very few photos of the man were ever taken, and he let very few people into his inner circle. Foreign intelligence services didn’t even know that Omar had died for two years following his death from Tuberculosis in 2013.
A new report from the Zomia Center, a think tank dedicated to studying ungoverned spaces, says that Omar died just three miles from FOB Wolverine, a base full of hundreds of American troops.
Omar in 1992.
Bette Dam, a Kabul-based journalist, working in Afghanistan between 2009 and 2014, traveled around the country trying to find a more complete picture of Omar. She spoke with friends, relatives, bodyguards, drivers, and other insurgent leaders, many of whom had fled and lived with Omar in the days following the U.S. invasion. Mullah Omar never left Afghanistan. The man who refused to give up Osama bin Laden renounced his leadership of the Taliban and then disappeared.
He found himself in two remote villages, each house close to an American military forward operating base. The first was in Qalat, near FOB Lagman. He hid there for four years, coming close to capture by U.S. troops only twice. The next village was Siuray, three miles from FOB Wolverine. Mullah Omar lived behind a larger family home in the traditional mud hut that is often found in rural Afghanistan. He lived there until his death in 2013.
Omar spent much of his time alone or with his bodyguard, Jabbar Omari, who provided journalist Bette Dam with much of the information she would later corroborate. The Taliban’s leader ate and prayed alone, and even cooked for himself much of the time. The two men were always afraid of being found out and took great pains to stay indoors and speak very softly, if at all. In the evenings, Omar would listen to BBC Pashto while his bodyguard listened to Voice of America’s Dari service on the radio.
Omar never mentioned Osama bin Laden or why he refused to hand the al-Qaeda leader over to the U.S. Even when bin Laden was killed in 2011, Omar didn’t say anything in response, he only ever criticized al-Qaeda’s view of Islam. When Omar died, his bodyguard buried him in the sand without a coffin, though he would later be dug up and given an Islamic funeral at a nondescript location. He died without appointing a successor to the Taliban movement and without leaving a message to his family or followers. He just died.