General Dostum and 12 Strong: THE LEGEND OF HEAVY D AND THE BOYS

January 20, 2018

This article on ODA 595, General Dostum, John Walker Lindh and the battle at Qali-i-Jangi was originally published in the March 2002 edition of National Geographic Adventure THE LEGEND OF HEAVY AND THE BOYS  By Robert Young Pelton The Regulators flew in from Uzbekistan at night on a blacked-out Chinook helicopter. They landed near a mud-walled compound in the remote Darra-e Suf valley in northern Afghanistan. As they began unloading their gear, they were met by Afghans in turbans, their faces...

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Syria: Wish You Were Here?

March 29, 2013

By Robert Young Pelton Dirty wars attract a wide variety of odd types: Volunteers, journos, freedom fighters, NGOs, businessmen and even tourists. The traditional concept of war as one group of soldiers battling another until the other side surrenders or is vanquished is long outdated, as are many of the traditional roles associated with such a conflict. Among traditional wars have been the so-called neutrals—journalists, aid workers, NGOs and supposedly civilians protected in battle by The Hague or after capture...

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Matt VanDyke: Filmmaker/Fighter

March 29, 2013

By Robert Young Pelton Thirty-three year old Matt VanDyke is pissed. Mostly at journalists who classify him as a freedom fighter posing as a journalist. “I am not there to observe. I am there to fight.” The irony does not escape Matt who after fighting in Libya decided to return to Syria as a propagandist-documentary maker, and in July, after inviting donors to “join the Arab Spring,” ended up getting kicked off Kickstarter. But not before 60 donors pledged $15,135...

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Eric Harroun: Jihadi or Junketeer?

March 29, 2013

By Robert Young Pelton Eric Harroun is from Phoenix, Arizona. He served in the U.S. military from 2000 until a car accident that left him with a plate in his head. He was discharged with full disability in 2003. Around Christmas of 2010 he visited Egypt and Lebanon. Two years later in September 2012 he returned to Egypt were he got caught up in the celebrations in Tahrir Square. In June of 2012 he was determined to do something with...

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The Taxman Cometh: Tips for Contractors

March 18, 2013

By Will Grant After spending eight and half years in the Marine Corps, like a lot of veterans, the Kansas-born officer took a job contracting. He signed on with one of the big, generic-sounding U.S. contractors as a weapons instructor training Afghans in 2011. Like many contracts, the work is hard, hours are long, and conditions are Spartan, but every sunset means good money in the bank. Our contractor spends almost all of his time overseas to make that $220,000...

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Earning Its Keep: The HK416 Within the US Military

March 02, 2013

By Will Grant After a typically exhaustive five-year process, the Army may be ready to issue a new rifle to infantrymen for the first time in 50 years. Through what’s called the individual carbine competition, the Army is evaluating five rifles for widespread service as a replacement for the M4. The final product of that selection process will likely mean the end of the M16 family of weapons’ streak as the longest-running standard US infantry rifle. Of the five rifles...

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Niger UAV Base Begs Question of Contractor Role

February 24, 2013

With President Obama’s official mention of 100 servicemen heading to Niger to set up the US latest unmanned drone program, BTW couldn’t help but wonder how many contractors will be included in not only the set up but also the servicing, targeting, flying and support of the new, supposedly unarmed program. The drone program pulls from over a dozen contractors and the Air Force estimates it requires 168 personnel to keep a Predator aloft for one hour with over 100...

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Battlground Colorado: The Frontier of Gun Rights

February 24, 2013

By Will Grant DENVER—On Saturday, gun-rights advocates turned out in 120 cities across the nation to rally in support of their Second Amendment rights—rights, they say, are being eroded by politicians presenting ill-founded solutions to problems that have nothing to do with assault weapons, magazine capacity or background checks. Colorado has found itself at the center of the nationwide gun-law debate due to a package of four bills, currently before the state Senate, that proposes some of the nation’s strictest...

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Bikers For Horses: A Documentary from Bosnia

February 22, 2013

By Will Grant On the granite hills over looking Livno, Bosnia, a small band of wild horses ekes out a living in a harsh climate. The winters are punishing and the alpine grass is sparse, but the biggest threat to the horses is that they live in a country where human rights issues, economic slack, and the cultural vestiges of war make life hard for a wild horse. The 250 or so descendants of former work horses have lived in...

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Sandal Stimulus: Afghans Make Combat Flip Flops

February 16, 2013

By Will Grant Exports from Afghanistan are few. Raisins, rugs, opium, wool, other dried fruit, and that’s about it. It is the world’s sixth largest exporter of raisins, according to the Export Promotion Agency of Afghanistan, and it’s in full control of the world’s opium market, but decades of war have all but killed the export business in most of the country. In the last five years, exports of Afghan rugs, which account for 47% of export earnings, have dropped...

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Contractors: Who Needs Them?

February 09, 2013

By Robert Young Pelton The September 2008 photo shows three well-known faces—Chuck Hagel, Joe Biden and John Kerry—standing in front of a Blackhawk helicopter on a snowy mountaintop. As former Massachusetts Senator John Kerry assumes his role as Secretary of State, vice president-elect Joe Biden and current Defense Secretary nominee Chuck Hagel, have an interesting story. After the incident Kerry issued a statement. He inferred that he had been “forced down” and that three key members of the Obama government,...

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Guntopia: Opinions from SHOT Show

February 03, 2013

By Robert Young Pelton LAS VEGAS – Heavyset middle-aged men holding plastic bags loaded down with brochures crowd around the monitors at the trade show watching a silent CNN broadcast. They didn’t need sound to figure out what was going on: It was Jan. 16 and, standing on a stage flanked by schoolchildren, President Barack Obama was proposing a ban on assault-style weapons, tighter background checks and a number of other new gun control measures in the wake of the...

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