When Iraq War veteran Omar Gonzalez jumped the fence of the White House on Sunday, Sept. 19, and rushed the building, the Secret Service reported that he was stopped at the door. But on Monday, the Washington Post revealed that he actually made it well into the East Wing before being overpowered by Secret Service agents.
As brazen as the incident was, raising concerns about White House security, it pales before the spectacle of an Army private landing a stolen helicopter on the White House lawn amid a hail of gunfire over 40 years ago.
A little past midnight on Feb. 17, 1974, Pfc. Robert K. Preston stole an unarmed UH-1 Iroquois, better known as the “Huey,” from Tipton airfield in Fort Meade, Maryland. Twenty-year-old Preston, who had a private fixed-wing pilot’s license, had washed out of the Army’s helicopter pilot school the previous year.
After buzzing drivers on the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, he reached the White House and briefly touched down, with the Secret Service initially not firing on him. After he took off from the lawn, the arrival of two Maryland State police choppers led to an aerial chase.
He was “one hell of a pilot,” a Maryland state police later said.
Preston briefly hovered near the Washington Monument, at one point nearly colliding with it while under fire from the state police. He then returned to the White House and hovered 100 meters away on the South Lawn, coming under a fusillade of shotgun and submachine gun fire.
Slightly wounded by buckshot, he set the Huey down and after a short foot chase, was tackled by the Secret Service. President Richard Nixon, who was deeply embroiled in the Watergate scandal, was not in the White House at the time.
At his court martial, Preston admitted stealing the chopper, saying that the Army had unjustly extended his term of enlistment after he had failed flight school.
Despite an escapade that would have any sergeant major suffering a rage-induced stroke, Preston got off relatively light. After serving six months in a military stockade, he was released with a general discharge for unsuitability.
U.S. Army General Jospeh Votel, head of Central Command, visits an airbase at an undisclosed location in northeast Syria, February 18, 2019. REUTERS/Phil Stewart
AIRBASE IN NORTHEAST SYRIA (Reuters) - The commander of U.S.-backed forces in Syria called on Monday for about 1,000 to 1,500 international forces to remain in Syria to help fight Islamic State and expressed hope that the United States, in particular, would halt plans for a total pullout.
Let's talk about love – and not the type of love that results in sailors getting an injection of antibiotics after a port call in Thailand. I'm talking about a deeper, spiritual kind of love: The Pentagon's passionate love affair with great power competition.
Nearly a decade ago, the Defense Department was betrothed to an idea called "counterinsurgency;" but the Pentagon ditched COIN at the altar after a Jody named Afghanistan ruined the romance. Now the U.S. military is head over heels in love with countering Russia and China – so much so that the Pentagon has named a cockroach "The Global War on Terrorism" after its ex so it could be fed to a Meerkat.
Homes at Fort Benning undergo lead paint removal as the U.S. Army mobilizes to protect residents against lead poisoning hazards in Fort Benning, Georgia, U.S., September 10, 2018. (Reuters/Andrea Januta)
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Deeply troubled by military housing conditions exposed by Reuters reporting, the U.S. Army's top leadership vowed on Friday to renegotiate its housing contracts with private real estate firms, test tens of thousands of homes for toxins and hold its own commanders responsible for protecting Army base residents from dangerous homes.
In an interview, the Secretary of the Army Mark Esper said Reuters reports and a chorus of concerns from military families had opened his eyes to the need for urgent overhauls of the Army's privatized housing system, which accommodates more than 86,000 families.
The secretary's conclusion: Private real estate firms tasked with managing and maintaining the housing stock have been failing the families they serve, and the Army itself neglected its duties.