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Point Arena Air Force Station

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Point Arena Air Force Station
Part of Air Defense Command (ADC)
Point Arena AFS is located in California
Point Arena AFS
Point Arena AFS
Location of Point Arena AFS, California
Coordinates 38°53′23″N 123°33′01″W / 38.88972°N 123.55028°W / 38.88972; -123.55028 (Point Arena AFS P-37)
Type Air Force Station
Site information
Controlled by  United States Air Force
Site history
Built 1951
In use 1951-1998
Garrison information
Garrison 776th Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron
Map all coordinates using: OpenStreetMap 
Download coordinates as: KML · GPX

Point Arena Air Force Station (ADC ID: P-37, NORAD ID: Z-37) is a closed United States Air Force General Surveillance Radar station. It is located 3.7 miles (6.0 km) east of Point Arena, California. It was closed in 1998 by the Air Force, and turned over to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Today the site is part of the Joint Surveillance System (JSS), designated by NORAD as Western Air Defense Sector (WADS) Ground Equipment Facility J-34.

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>> From the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. >> Mary-Jane Deeb: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the African Middle East division. I'm Mary-Jane Deeb, chief of the division, and I'm very happy to see you all here for the program today, which is a discussion on how to make a film under very difficult circumstances. But more about it in a moment. As most of you already know, our division is made up of three sections: the African, the Middle East, and the Hebraic sections. We are responsible for materials from 78 different countries in the Middle East, Central Asia, the caucuses, as well as from the entire continent of Africa, North and South Saharan. Our Hebraic and Judaic collections come from all over the world. We also serve these materials to patrons here and in our reading room, in our reading room, and organize programs, exhibits, and other activities that highlight these collections and that inform our patrons about the countries and the cultures these publications come from. The African section is very active in acquiring and developing collections, briefing visitors coming from the countries of the regions and the regions for which they're responsible. They've organized symposia, workshops and have an ongoing program in partnership with a poetry and literature center at the African Society for the National Summit on Africa, which is the conversations with African poets and writers. And we've had some exceptional people come and talk to us, including Chinua Achebe and Ali Mazrui. We in the African and Middle East Division are reaching out to those who have researched and done work on our countries of responsibility. We ask them to share with us their insights, their findings, and their ongoing work so that all of us attending and participating can learn more about those regions. Today our special guest is J.R. Biersmith who will talk about making a documentary in Somalia, Men in the Arena, and about the challenges two members of the national Somali soccer team faced together as friends on the way to achieving their dreams. And to introduce Mr. Biersmith is our own Abdulahi Ahmed, who has been, himself, a member of the national soccer team of Somali, i.e. that is before he joined the library and who continues to train and supervise young American Somali soccer players here in the United States. So, Abdulahi, will you please introduce the speaker? Thank you. >> Abdulahi Ahmed: Good afternoon, everyone. I was a former soccer player, but I still play on Saturdays. Okay, so, it's a short introduction. Men in the Arena is J.R. Biersmith's first feature-length movie. The three-year journey to make the film in Somalia, Kenya, and the United States has been chronicled in a number of national and international publications including the BBC, Sports Illustrated, and the NPR Radio. Prior to his work on the film, Mr. Biersmith produced and published content for more than ten years across the country, the United States. He started his broadcast journalism work at the Miami Herald. He graduated with a BA in International Business from Bradley University, and he has a MA in broadcast journalism from the University of Miami. And we should welcome Mr. J.R. Biersmith. [ Applause ] >> J.R. Biersmith: Thank you so much. It's great to be here. Move this little microphone. Can everybody hear me okay? Okay. I came by the library yesterday and I met Abdulahi, and I didn't know that you played soccer. I learned the history of all the research that he's been working on in Somalia, and never did he mention himself. A typical Somali way. So, I really appreciate the invitation to come and speak today. It's really an exceptional place. On the way in, there's a, if you're watching via webcast at some point, there's a little map maybe 75 yards from me, not little, a giant map that was made in the 1500s that has maybe one of the first, the first image of the United States, or of North America, which is kind of remarkable. We're surrounded by all of these books and it's just, it's really a beautiful place. And I want talk about another beautiful place that doesn't always get referred to as a beautiful place, and that's Somalia. And journalists often say for years, they've debated about when it started, but journalism is supposed to be a first rough draft of history. And I looked at the world, the world stage and thought about where Somalia fit on the world stage. And it's been a failed state for a long time, it's been a troubled place that was, in 2012, about to seem like it was on the cusp of some kind of comeback. So that's where kind of my journey and look at Somalia was, can we look at it through a new prism? Can we see it through a new light? And I thought, as a storyteller, a documentary might be a good place to try to write a first draft of history about a place that doesn't often get looked at in that way. So, that's why I named it what I did, and why I wanted to talk to you all today. So, we'll scoot through here. I took this image here of Morgan, which is an elephant that has been researched for a very long time. And it was in Kenya, and recently, Morgan made some news because he traversed across -- I don't know if it's a he or she, so don't, if you're a wildlife expert, don't quote me on this, but crossed into Somalia. And it struck me because I -- you very rarely think about Somalia and wildlife, and there's images like this that exist and are happening every day there that rarely find itself inside the news. And to talk about, you know, a living heartbeat, I think that's what I was chasing as a filmmaker is, can we get into Somalia and find something that feels alive? That feels like it's not death and destruction and war and piracy and famine and the single story. So, in 2012, I was in the process of moving from New York City to Los Angeles. And being a -- I started out my career in finance in New York City, and then I took a vow of poverty to be a journalist and went to the University of Miami. And on the way, after a quick stint in New York, I went back to St. Louis and picked up my sister's old 2006 Saturn and made my way to Los Angeles. And while I was in St. Louis, I just happened to catch a story on the radio. And it was NPR's Fresh Air with Terry Gross. Maybe some of you have listened to that show, of course. And Michelle was talking about a book of hers called Decade of Fear. And while she was talking about Decade of Fear, Terry Gross prompted her and said, "You know, there was a story inside your book about a young man from Mogadishu. And he and three of his friends had an encounter with Al-Shabaab that was quite difficult and I'd, you know, appreciate it if you would talk about that." And so, Michelle jumped into this story, and it's one of those where you're driving down the road, and you don't remember driving. You just kind of remember being captivated by something but you got there safely. And I remember getting to my sister's house and taking some notes and thinking, something just happened. I just heard a story about a place that I hadn't thought of in a long time. And the story that she was telling was about this young man, Ismael, he was 16, and he was recruited by Al-Shabaab and he said, "I want to get an education, I don't want to join this proxy terrorist group." And they took matters into their own hands, along with three other boys, and they took them inside the soccer stadium and they publicly amputated his right hand and his left foot. And then they came back two weeks later and got more. And Michelle Shephard told this story to Terry Gross and continued to say, "Hey, inside my book I describe what happens." Well, she wrote a paper, or she wrote an article for the Toronto Star. She's a national security correspondent. And that work emboldened the Somali diaspora that was living in Canada. And they started a project called Project Ismael. And project Ismael was a giant response to, how do we get this young man out of Mogadishu onto safe soil? Like, there's no way he can get, you know, doctor's care. And she wrote the story. Canada didn't take him in, but Norway did. And so, then she flew back to Mogadishu -- well, actually Nairobi because they got him out, met in Nairobi and he ended up in the Arctic Circle and she accompanied him there. And as you can see from this image here, the top right is Ismael inside Mogadishu, and then you can see he's in the Arctic Circle up in Northern Norway. And that story really struck me. Because it was the first time I realized that I'd thought about Somalia through the eyes of a young person. And I remember somewhere in one of the articles that she wrote, he mentioned wanting to kick a soccer ball. And I spent the next nine months after listening to that story in a deep dive. It's one of those where, if you've ever been on, you hear music on the radio maybe, and then you have to Wikipedia it and see who sang that song, and then three hours later you're down some rabbit hole of research? That was what happened with me for Somalia and it took me nine months. And there was a show on, I don't know if you've ever seen the Showtime show Home Front or Homeland, rather. And you know, she's -- Carrie, the figure in the film or in the TV show, she's always pegging things up to a board and sticking them up and getting images and trying to get her plan together. Well, I did the same thing. I got a board together and I started taking all these images of Somalia, trying to figure out, what was the story that I wanted to tell? And it just so happens that FIFA had put some AstroTurf inside the main soccer stadium in Mogadishu. And that story was making its way through, you know, Twitter and the internet and various places. And I thought, uh-oh, this is something. This is the first time that there is a turf in a lot of years that young men can go and women can go play soccer. And the national soccer team seems like it's reassembling and it's going to try to play in this annual tournament. So, I put this Black Hawk Down image here because in this nine-month journey of trying to make sense of Somalia, I read a lot of books. And one of them, of course, was Black Hawk Down. And the significance of it, as I thought of a lot of the young people of Mogadishu, and they were born the same year that Black Hawk Down happened in that October of 1993. And so, when you think about the seminal battle and kind of US foreign policy, the idea that young people were being born just down the street, and now we're on the national soccer team potentially really fascinated me. Like, there was this big gap in history, like a lost generation, and I thought maybe this was an opportunity to tell that story. So, I want to play something for you real quick, because this will take you inside of, I think inside of my head a little bit, and why listening to the foreword of Black Hawk Down ended up being a big therapeutic moment for me. So, this is about a minute-thirty. I'm going to let this run for a second. It's Mark Bowden introducing the foreword of his book, Black Hawk Down. Oop, that didn't work. We'll try this again. Uh-oh. I preloaded all this stuff, there it is. >> The Battle of the Black Sea, or as the Somalis call it, Maalintii Rangers, the Day of the Rangers, is one that America has preferred to forget. The images it produced of dead soldiers dragged by jeering mobs through the streets of Mogadishu are among the most horrible and disturbing in our history, made all the worse by the good intentions that prompted our intervention. There were no American reporters in Mogadishu on October third and fourth of 1993, but after a week or so of frenzied attention, the world events quickly summoned journalists elsewhere. President Clinton's decision, just days after the fight, to end Task Force Ranger's mission to Somalia, accomplished what he intended, to slam the door on the episode. In Washington, a whiff of failure is enough to induce widespread amnesia. There was a [inaudible] investigation and two days of congressional hearings that produced the partisan report blaming the president and Secretary of Defense Les Aspin, who resigned two months later. But that was it. I began working on this story about two and a half years after the battle was fought. I've been intrigued by the early accounts of the fight, both as a citizen and as a writer. But the undertaking intimidated me. I had no military background or sources. Nevertheless, I remained curious enough to read whatever stories I saw about the incident. I was especially intrigued by President Clinton's subsequent struggles to deal with it. >> J.R. Biersmith: So that's it. And, I wanted to play that and share that with you because, first he's talking about why he was introduced to the book. And then he says, "I've been a journalist for a long time," this is Mark Bowden speaking, you know, inside this piece, "and I had no foreign correspondent experience." Well, I was laying up, many a nights, thinking, I don't either. And when I heard him say that, I suddenly felt this, okay, I can do this. Like, I think that, if he did it, I can do it. And for me, it was, in a similar way, akin to what Michelle Shephard's storytelling did for me. It kind of lit this spark of, and why I think story is so important. And their rough draft of history was a link for me to say, I think I want to try to understand a piece of the storytelling that's going on there. And so, when Mark Bowden said that, and I told him personally a few weeks ago, it really, it emboldened me and I felt like I can go do this. And not too soon after, I had touched base with the Somali Football Federation in Mogadishu. Football, soccer here in the US. And I got an email shortly after I said, "I want to make a documentary, and I want to do it about the Somali national soccer team." And I don't think he really understood what I wanted to do. So, I was put in the process of putting together a big draft trying to explain to him in basic language why I wanted access to the team and why I wanted to come to Mogadishu. Because keep in mind, very rarely does a Western journalist, especially in a war-torn space like this, want to come tell a story about soccer. So, I think he was a little bit like, "Why are you doing this? Who's paying you? Are you the CIA? Like, are you some kind of counter-intelligence guy? What's happening here?" So, I got an email, which I have lit on the screen here and it says, it's from the secretary general's assistant saying, "My secretary general is in Tahiti for the beach soccer world cup as he is a member of FIFA's beach soccer committee. It's the first time in nearly ten years that a member from Somalia is doing a FIFA work at a world event since Farr Ado [phonetic] was banned by FIFA." That was a gentleman that was a part of the Somali Football Federation. "You can now meet him if you interest face to face. You can have a meeting." So, it's a little bit of a broken English, but that's the email I got on a Sunday, and three days later, I used some airline points and I flew down to Tahiti, and I met the soccer federation president, and it took six days to convince him to let me have access to the team. And I think it was just a bridge-building thing. I think he just wanted to fully understand why I wanted to do it and what my intent was, so I just wanted to share that picture. And there, you see there, Abdiqani is the Somali Football Federation president. So that's where it started, and he told me that there was a soccer tournament starting a month later that the Somali was going to participate in. Well, the Somali community in Nairobi, Kenya was having a little bit of trouble. Because there had just been a terrorist attack at the Nairobi mall called Westgate. And inside the Westgate Mall in September 2013, a number of people were wounded and maybe 60 or 70 were injured. And a month later, the Somali national team was coming to town to Nairobi to play soccer. So it felt kind of like, on the world stage, that something was happening, and all these young boys were going to come coalesce and try to play some soccer. That's where our film begins. So, when I get there, I had no idea who I was meeting. I had done all of this research. I showed you the pegboard that I created. I put all these faces on it, and there was one kid that I saw on the internet whose information I could find and it was this young man named Saadiq. And Saadiq, you could see here, it's a picture of he and his little brother in Mogadishu as kids, and then he's got the soccer ball on his head, and another photo that you see is my co-producer sitting around a table with Saadiq and Sa'ad. And Sa'ad is his best friend from this small village called Afgoye that's just outside of Mogadishu. And we had handed out a questionnaire, because we didn't know anything about the boys, handed out this questionnaire, there was an English and Somali, and Saadiq came up to me while we had handed out the questionnaire and said, "J.R., you know, my friend has a really hard story that he doesn't really feel comfortable talking about. I was wondering if you, if he had to write it all on this piece of paper." And I said, "No, he can tell us later. Like, we're going to be here all week, you know, like for a couple weeks frankly." And, it turns out that Sa'ad was captured by Al-Shabaab in 2010, and they went and they grabbed everyone in his village. After seven days of being captured, he was told he was going to be killed. The village elders worked to get him released, but they had gone around all his village, told all the people to come out and watch, that he was going to be publicly whipped. And as he was trying to share the story through Saadiq, inside this moment, I realized there's 20, you know, maybe 18 kids on this team. But something's happening here. Like there's a kid that knows a little bit of English that's living in Nairobi because a lot of Somalis get pushed out and are, you know, there's a big Somali community in Kenya. But I felt like there was this like brotherhood thing that was happening. This humanity thing that I was chasing in Somalia, seeing one young man have a friendship with another and look after him. And there was, I remember vividly that Sa'ad had beads of sweat that were falling down his head as he tried to recount the story to Saadiq and then Saadiq told my co-producer, and I was kind of listening from afar, and I was just taking his photo. And so, I thought that was maybe the first thing that would get me a window into this team and the humanity and maybe something that might be here. And it just so turned out that Sa'ad and Saadiq were the two best players on the national team. So, as the story and the weeks would progress with this team, that's the storyline we ended up following. A few more slides, and I'll tell you, and we'll open it up for questioning. Here's the thing about Somalia, which, when you're doing all your research, you know, for a Mark Bowden, he flew in the back of a cot plane. And cot is the, you know, a leafy substance that gets chewed on and gives you a small little high if you chew enough of it. And that's how he got into Mogadishu. Well, I got into Mogadishu because Michelle Shephard, the same woman who I heard on the radio back in 2012 -- I was nervous to contact her, but I waited a full year, I said, "Hey, I'm making a documentary. I've been to Kenya. I've spent all this time with this team. I need to get back to Mogadishu. And I need to know how." And she said, "Well, it's complicated. Asymmetric warfare," meaning an attack can come from anywhere at anytime, "has made reporting in Mogadishu quite difficult. Even though Al-Shabaab, this terrorist group, has kind of been pushed out of the city and is on the run, they still do targeted attacks. So, it is, it is difficult, but I can help you. I can help you get back in. And so, when you go back to Mogadishu, you're on the ground, and as a white Western journalist, you have a -- or storyteller, you go in an SUV, a blacked-out SUV, you have a truck in front of you, and you know, four guys sitting on the back of it, and that's how you navigate through the city. And I'll show you a clip of that in a second. But it got to this realization of, in the planning to go to Mogadishu, that access to my subjects was the biggest challenge. And further got me pushed towards like, I have to tell this story because these kids can't tell their own story. Because if they speak out, you know, as public soccer players, everybody knows who they are, if they try to speak their truth and just talk, it's going to get suppressed. Or they'll become targets. They will get attacked. So, there was a real reluctance when we first met them to even say the word. Like they wouldn't even utter the word. And so that was the most difficult challenge about trying to make a film about Somalia was, how do you even get access to your subjects when you have to travel around in this car, or you can only talk via Skype? So, I'm going to show you how I kind of navigated getting access to my subjects. This is the young man Saadiq that I showed you, and he and I, over the, before I went to Mogadishu, like six to eight months later, he and I would talk on Skype once a week, and I was just going to show you a quick clip of one of our conversations. >> Saadiq: I'm not feeling good for football because, well, I just train and I hope to see some change in the future. >> J.R. Biersmith: Okay. Well, keep your head up. You'll be okay. >> Saadiq: Yeah. >> J.R. Biersmith: You're a good player, man. You're young, don't forget that. You'll get your opportunity. >> Saadiq: I know, but, you know, what I'm thinking is, you know, football, I'm playing football because I want to, you know, to play to beat, to get better. >> J.R. Biersmith: Mm-hmm. >> Saadiq: That's why I'm playing football, but you know, people laughing at me a lot, so if I don't get the option of football, you know, life would be hard for me. >> J.R. Biersmith: Yeah. >> Saadiq: That's why I want to change, I want to change my life. >> J.R. Biersmith: So, if you could tell there, I wanted to put subtitles on there for you, because you probably struggled to understand what some of what he was saying. There's a rule in journalism: you don't record your subjects without their permission. Well, every time I would have a Skype call with Saadiq I would record the conversation. And I recorded the conversation because I would often struggle, I got very good at understanding him speak, you know, when he was speaking and getting through. And he knew English, It was one of four languages that he had taught himself and he taught himself English by listening soccer games and watching clips on YouTube while he was in Kenya. And by the way, Saadiq was supposed to be born in Mogadishu, but his mother fled at the start of the war and he was born in Kenya. And he lived in 13 different cities until he got noticed, he went back to the Somalian national soccer team when he was 16. Had played one summer back in Mogadishu in 2012, right before I had come. And he got a bunch of death threats because he spoke out on the radio about, "Hey, I'm, you know, I would like for there to be peace here so that I can play soccer." And he went back to Kenya, and they picked up this really good team. So, inside of this conversation that I had recorded, I realized that maybe this was how some of the story was going to get told. That these conversations that I'd had been having with him might be my access to subject. And as I start building the film I would go back and reference these clips all the time. And at one point, when I did the first cut of the film, that was the opening scene. And it was the opening scene, and I, of course, built around and put subtitles, and did all kinds of other things to it. But it was the opening scene because I thought it was Saadiq at his most vulnerable. It was him being fully human saying that "I want the opportunity to change my life," which was the thread that I had been, the narrative thread that I had been looking for, which is that universality of every kid, if given the opportunity, would like to make their dreams come true. That's all something that we all can relate to. And so, that clip for me really epitomizes the journey that we were on and where we were trying to go. And so now, before I went back to Mogadishu, I made a quick little video about going in; it's about 30 seconds. Actually, this is the one that we had when we got there. Let's see if it plays. Come on. Oh, codec unavailable. So we'll show it later. So, what happened inside that video, it's a drive through Mogadishu, and it gives you a window into, you know, what it's like to try to have a camera in your hand, and have blacked-out tinted windows, and you can only shoot through the front. And you have pre-determined routes where you can get out and access your subject and turn a camera on. Which if you think about that, having access to character, how do you just roll camera and get the moments that feel just authentically there for you to try to tell a story around? So, when we got there, and a big piece of the film is this place called Mogadishu stadium. And funny enough, inside Mark Bowden's Black Hawk Down, the film adaptation of it, our American troops go running back to what is called Mogadishu stadium. And Abdulahi, maybe you played in that stadium, I can't remember. Yeah, so, Mogadishu used to have this soccer stadium that was the crown jewel of the region, of Central and Eastern Africa. I mean, everyone wanted to play at this place. And it turned into the war place. It turned into the most strategic spot in the city to be, and if you wanted to control Mogadishu, you controlled the soccer stadium. And it was protected, it was elevated, and this ends up being the war place. It's like this symbol of, if soccer could actually come back here -- well, while we were in Mogadishu, an invitation was extended to some of the soccer players to come visit the stadium. So, these are some images from -- Bonadir Stadium is where the turf is, but then that, it looks like a gun, but it's actually an old clock tower, and that's looking onto the field that is now quite barren and where our troops went running back to. And these are the boys. Sa'ad, was still in Mogadishu, that's the other young man that I built the film around, and then that's his friend Ahmed in the truck with him. And Ahmed, we had called the day before, and said, "Hey, Saadiq couldn't come back to Mogadishu. Would you like to come visit Mogadishu Stadium with us?" It was a, you know, a very nice invitation from, and we feel like a really, a big first step in the right direction, getting invited back. Because AMISOM is the military wing that controls the peacekeeping forces. And they keep trying to push back Al-Shabaab, so there's kind of this back and forth between peacekeeping and they make this argument they have to keep the stadium. So what's striking and I don't include in the film is that Ahmed was terrified, because if he's caught riding in this car to the stadium, it has major repercussions. So, I edited the entire film to keep that out, and then you just see this scene inside of the stadium. And so, I think that that's interesting only because you have to make these editorial choices that you don't want to, because at every turn we had to think about the safety of our subjects. So, if I can skip forward, and hopefully this one plays, after I was in Mogadishu and did some filming and we caught up with Sa'ad, we went to Mogadishu stadium, I went back to Kenya, and Saadiq had gotten a tryout offer to come to the United States from a university. And he had got a, he had applied for his visa, and he equivocated it to standing in the line at the embassy and just waiting, you know, to see if your number would be called. He said it was like soccer because you would get a red card or you would get a green card, you know, like a yellow card or a red card, and if you got, you know, the green one, that meant you got to go. And he saw all these people standing in line before him, you know, trying to get in or trying to get their case heard or whatever. And you only get like a minute or two to present your case; they ask you a bunch of questions. And he said the first three people in front of him all went and they got red cards. So, he was praying that he didn't get those two ladies or the guy or whoever it was that gave them, and he got in the other line. And he got a guy that knew who his soccer team was. And he said, "Oh, you played soccer? You get the chance to go to America?" And a minute and a half later, he was approved. And he was going to be coming to the US. And when I went, he was supposed to go back with us to Somalia, and he didn't get to go because his passport was hung up. Well, we got back to DHL, and it'd been shipped and this is kind of a minute and a half of him finding out that he, he was indeed going to get to come. Sorry, we're trying to -- I had all this pre-done and it's actually not working, sorry. I had preloaded all these and they weren't converting over, but basically what happens is that he drops his head and realizes that his passport has been stamped for a year, and that he gets to come to the United States for a full year. So, then we get to America. There he is, he's in Miami Beach, we're recording him there, and then the young man that you see here is actually sitting in the back of the room right now, that's Liban, that's one of Saadiq's closest friends here in the US. And he had called me when I first got back from Nairobi and said, "Oh, you have clips of Saadiq playing soccer? He wants clips put together!" Clips meaning, images because they very rarely get seen on TV. So, they put some clips together and Liban put them all together, sent them to Saadiq and that video, that they put together, was how he got to America. Because coaches got to see like, "Oh, there's this dynamic talent. Maybe if we offer an invitation, maybe he [inaudible] one in a million chance get to come." And that's what happened. And so we had came up to Washington D.C., we interviewed Liban, and he's a central part of how this journey really happened. So Saadiq, after a week of being in the US, kind of blows everyone away, but he's not eligible to play college soccer. He missed too much school in Kenya. So the coaching staff made a quick phone call over to FC Dallas which is a professional MLS team, and they had an academy down in Dallas. And he went down there, and of course blew everyone away, and ran with the pro team the very first day. But he had to enroll in high school because he still needed college credit, and he really wanted to go to school, and keep in mind he's on a one-year visitor visa. So, this is an image of him down at FC Dallas inside the stadium. And we took a selfie one day because we went to the rodeo for fun. I thought a rodeo might be kind of fun for two Somali guys that never really had exposure to that before, so we went to the rodeo, threw some cowboy hats on, and that's the selfie that you see there. And then, you know, the entire year that Saadiq was down in Dallas, we kept flying in my family; my sister, her husband, and my mom, grandparents all live in St. Louis, Missouri so we'd fly him back during, you know, Thanksgiving and Christmas break and just to get a sense of some kind of family, you know, structure and, you know, love for lack of a better word. So that's a picture of Saadiq with my brother-in-law. So, when I was in Mogadishu, I knew when we jumped inside of the -- AMISOM escorted us out to the soccer stadium. And when we got there, this is the image of Sa'ad standing next to me, Saadiq's, you know, friend. And we're standing inside Mogadishu stadium. I had this acute realization that my need to get Sa'ad out of Mogadishu was stronger than ever. I knew that there was, I really worried about his safety. And just so I can quickly explain that, we got about three more slides, by the way, and then we'll open it up for questions. But Sa'ad came from this town of Afgoye, he had previously been captured by Al-Shabaab and just repeating that story in the film, if we really wanted to use that story, and if we really wanted to use all the footage and follow his storyline, I knew that he couldn't really stay in Mogadishu, because if he stays in Mogadishu and the film comes out, he doesn't have the money to protect himself. A lot of people that can stay in Mogadishu -- and I don't want to misrepresent. A lot of people are coming in the Diaspora, coming back to Mogadishu, making their homes there, it's a beautiful place, but it's not secure because of these targeted attacks that happen all the time. So, for the next year, we started coming up with ideas to try to figure out how we could get Sa'ad out of Mogadishu. And from a journalistic perspective or a storytelling perspective, yeah, it was crossing the line, you know, I cared too much about my subjects, but I realized that this was our first draft, that I felt, of human history inside of Mogadishu with a bend towards sports. All the archives had been destroyed in 2010. And so, I owed it to the boys, I owed it to everybody, the next generation that could be empowered by their journey and see people that looked like them, talked like them, and walked like them from their neighborhoods, they could see them on a big screen, or see them on their mobile phones. And so, we spent the next year trying to come up with a way to get Sa'ad out of Mogadishu. And given the immigration crisis, there's a line 20 years long to try to get a meeting with UNHCR; in fact, they're not even taking meetings in Kenya. Well, Saadiq came up with this idea that Sa'ad needed to come visit his old doctor back in Kenya. And I don't even know if there is a really -- doctor exists but Sa'ad told his team, they bought him a ticket, his passport had been stamped by the Kenyan government to come visit, because they were supposed to have an Olympic Cup qualifying game. You know, all the -- regionally you play a qualifying match, and then you try to, you know, come out of Africa and be represented in the Olympics. And they had their first-round game in Kenya, and they didn't get to go, they went to Djibouti instead. Well, he had 15 days left on his passport. So we devised this idea to get him out of Mogadishu into Kenya legally, then he got his passport renewed, and we started the process of trying to get him a meeting with UNHCR. And he lived in Kenya, on a friend of Saadiq's floor for eight months. And waited very impatiently, but he was arrested eight different times. Eight different times just because he was Somali, just because he was a kid that didn't speak the language that was trying to figure out how to exist and be human and play soccer and try to adapt to a new city while we he waited. And this gentleman who's a parliament member named Usef [phonetic] had also been attacked by Al-Shabaab and was living in Nairobi, and he became a huge ally and Sa'ad's, you know, biggest asset, I would say to figuring out, every time he would get arrested, how to get out. There were just chasing -- it was just police, corrupted police chasing bribe money. So, this went on for a year, and then Sa'ad came to the US in March of this past year. And he was reunited with Saadiq in St. Louis, Missouri. And he's doing quite well. He's working at a pizza place, he's making $11 an hour. He wants to play pro soccer. I don't know if it's going to happen. We've been, you know, struggling to figure out, you know, how you get him English. It's the first time in his life since he went to a little bit of Koran school as a kid in Afgoye. It's the first time he's been inside a classroom and put a pen to paper. And that in itself feels like a pretty amazing accomplishment to me. So, Sa'ad and Saadiq are together in St. Louis, Missouri. And they're now living with my sister and her husband. And I think it's pretty remarkable because, one, the St. Louis community has really embraced both of them. A lot of people have heard about the story, and given, you know, the conversation around immigration and what it means to have a kid that's 19, 20, and then his friend be from Somalia, I mean, hey, let's be honest: that fits the terrorist profile right? You're from Mogadishu, Somalia; you're 19, 20, 21 years old. You fit the profile. You might come here to do something bad. They're athletes. All of a sudden, they get looked at through a different prism. Here domestically. They were on the front page of the St. Louis Post Dispatch. They're going out to the St. Louis soccer park, and kids can't get enough of them. They show them how to do little African dances before they do their warm-ups. And all of a sudden, you have a little bit of infusion of culture that you never dreamed of finding its way into St. Louis, Missouri and into kids' lives that I never expected that they would touch in that way. And so, our journey to make Men in the Arena, which is a Teddy Roosevelt speech that was given at the Sorbonne in 1910 that talked about being engaged in democracy, and it's the critic -- it's not the critic who counts, but it's the man in the arena, It's the people that are in there, giving their blood, sweat, and tears, simply participating. And that's what the Somali national soccer team represented for me, was a bunch of young people with impossible stories committing to their national soccer team and bringing all kinds of pride to a country that just eats up soccer. Coming out to games any way they can to see them play. And then Sa'ad and Saadiq kind of taking this huge sacrifice to share their story, and now they're in America. And it'll be a good six or seven years before they could ever dream of going back home. But only because of technology were we able to make this film, and only because of technology are they able to communicate with their families and not feel as lonely as they would've if, maybe when you came over and you probably have to get that phone card and make that super difficult phone call once every two weeks. So now they can Whatsapp and talk to their families on a pretty consistent basis. That doesn't mean it's not hard. They have lots of days where the trauma brings itself back up, where they miss home. But I think their journey is really beautiful, and I think that's why I talk about this being a first rough draft of Somali history, because I think they're emblematic of what it means to be a young person chasing your dreams inside of a super complicated world. So, I'll end with what I hope is the trailer if it actually plays. End of slideshow. Okay, well, you can find the trailer at I would love to show it to you. Maybe if we just take a second. Yeah, I could. I could do that. That's a good idea. So I'll bring up the trailer for you real quick just so you can, you've had all this back-story now, and it's weird to be able to not let you see the film first, right? You know, I think if you'd seen the film, you'd probably have more questions about individual storylines, but the reason that it's so fun to share all this back-story is because, when you do get a chance to check out Somalian material. [ Inaudible ] Yes, if YouTube works. Okay. Men in the, and now if I could type, that would be great. The Arena. It says "full movie"; I hope it hasn't been pirated already. Whoa! Okay. So, let me make this full-screen for you. I'm glad you're here. Alright. So here we go. >> For the last 20 years, Somalia has built a solid reputation as the world's most failed state, a base for pirates and radicalism [inaudible] now aligned with Al-Qaeda. It is one of the key security nightmares for the world. [ Music ] >> If the world gave up on you, would you give up on yourself? If all you knew was war, could you survive on hope? If you got the chance to make your dreams come true, would you be ready? [ Music ] >> Wow! I used to see it in the movies. Now it's real! >> I was, and so was my friend. >> Somalia, hoo! >> Things are way, way different here than there. [ Music ] >> J.R. Biersmith: So that's it. Thanks for the idea. That worked out good. So that's a little window into, you know, the back-story of how we made Men in the Arena. And I hope the next time you hear the word Somalia, maybe Sa'ad or Saadiq's image is what pops into your head first versus all the other images that we see, because there's no doubt that there's brilliant journalism that's going on and people risking their lives to tell stories in super complicated places. And I don't want to say that that's not happening. But at the same time, there's young people all over the place trying to figure out how to chase dreams like Sa'ad and Saadiq. And if we think about what bullying looks like, you know, if the whole world looks to you in a light that feels like fear, what does that mean? There's social media now. That's how these kids communicate. They know how the world looks at them. How do you take that on? They have passports that can't be, it's a license to go nowhere. Like they literally cannot travel. No one's going to take a Somali passport. They can maybe go to Turkey, maybe. So, Sa'ad and Saadiq, for me, and I hope for a lot of other people, and an entire generation back in Somalia represent that if you do the best that you can with the situation that you're given, you never know when your shot to get your dream to come true will happen. And I think the fact that they chose education, they chose to try to play soccer, I hope that that empowers a bunch of young people back in Mogadishu and, frankly, who are Somalis and immigrants and anybody that's trying to chase their dreams in different parts of the world. So, any questions? >> Thank you. >> Yeah, of course. [ Applause ] >> I'll ask the first question. >> J.R. Biersmith: Sure. >> What about their families? Their parents? Did you have to contact their parents? >> J.R. Biersmith: Do you know that the young lady behind you is not happy that you asked the first question? Because she's the woman in the room. Say again about their families. What was the question? >> Were they aware of the movie? Were they involved with making the movie? >> J.R. Biersmith: Yeah, so both of -- yeah, Sa'ad and Saadiq, both Sa'ad and Saadiq, both of their mothers are in the film. I didn't interview the mothers. I hired folks in Mogadishu to do those interviews for me. When we went out to Sa'ad's village to interview his mother, I wanted to do it myself, but I couldn't. Because of Sa'ad's prominence and being from this small village, if a cameraman goes with him to his village, and you look like I do, he stands out. It's like, "Oh, what are those guys doing here? What's the story they're trying to tell?" So, we sent a guy that had worked for Reuters from Nairobi, he went out to Sa'ad's village and got the interview with his mother. And there's a really powerful moment in the film where she talks about -- he was born in 1993, five months before Black Hawk Down. And it was just coming off of the famine in 1992, and so she was pregnant during that time. And she said she'd go to the river water, the Shebelle River to, just to get drink, you know, to get anything and she had nothing to feed him. So, like she couldn't even produce breastmilk. So, to think about just being born and surviving is, to me, is a statement in itself. And now to think he's in St. Louis trying to navigate this complicated world, complicated society that we live in, and that's what I think is so, you know, I'm going more, I'm expanding more on your question, but I get excited about his journey, because I'm learning a lot as well. Like I've learned a lot about my trajectory as an American citizen and what I expect from the world because they're in my presence. And when they're around you, you get this sense of simplicity and what matters, you know. And we make these busy schedules. And Sa'ad, for the life of him, cannot figure out why everyone's so busy. Like just why are you running around all the time and so much stress and now you got these bills coming from all these different places and -- you know, and that complexity. Or Saadiq will say, "There's a woman at the bus stop. Like why -- and it's raining. Why didn't anybody pick her up?" We just drive, you know, like we don't think about it anymore like it's a feared thing. We don't just pick somebody up and set them in the car anymore. That doesn't happen. So how they challenge me to see the community that I grew up in as a result of these mothers that somehow got them raised and on their own two feet is pretty remarkable to me. Of course, I've worried about both of their safety, both of the mothers, like anybody that appears in the film I worry about on some small level. But I think, Sa'ad and Saadiq were the, you know, they're the central figures of the film. And they've both said that, and this one is what breaks my heart, is that, you know, "Both of our moms, like their journey was to raise us, and I hope that they're okay, but they did what they were supposed to do. Like, they raised us." Like, that's what they're most proud of. And I don't know how to take that. I don't know what that means. Other than, we hope that they're okay. And certainly, I do too. So, yes? >> Well, I just wanted to say thank you very much. >> J.R. Biersmith: Thank you. >> And about two years ago, in 2014, you showed Scoring for Peace, which was a film about the people in East Africa, Burundi, [inaudible] and Uganda. And so the filmmaker donated the film to the library, and we hope that we'll get Men in the Arena, too. But I also have a question, and that is, as a journalist myself, I know that doesn't pay. How did you fund this? All the travel -- >> J.R. Biersmith: Oh, that's a good question. I left all of that out. That whole part, all that struggle. I did, I worked on a project when I first moved to LA, and then I got to, I did a lot of, when that project was over and I went to Tahiti, I spent that next six months kind of just on surviving on the money that I had saved. And then I did a bunch of freelance, like some random freelance projects just to get some supplemental income, and -- but this has really been my life for three years. And it's been my life because it's so incredibly complicated. I mean, in the middle of night, you're calling Ethiopia, asking for footage of one game. Like I wasn't even sure if I was going to use it in the film, and I had to track down a journalist, figure out how to get a hold of the guy that might have the footage that, you know, holds it, you know, for the dictatorship that's in charge of media that like chooses to license things, so the journey of trying to make this was just that every single turn felt impossible. And that's why I extended way longer than I ever expected. So after I went to Somalia, we did a Kickstarter campaign, and we got $39,000 on the Kickstarter campaign. That was tough. Like I thought I'd just send some social media emails around, like, "Hey, if you like what we're doing, give us $10." You know? Nobody was giving $10. Like, they were sharing it like crazy, like, "Oh, this is super moving!" But nobody was giving money. Like I thought it would just roll, but it didn't. Like it didn't just roll. I made a lot of phone calls, and thankfully to my sister, my brother-in-law, they started calling friends and saying, "Are you in for this amount?" "Are you in for this amount?" and all of a sudden, you know, weeks went by, and we got that money that we needed. And that helped a little bit, but just going to Somalia for the five days that I was there, not to mention the countless other filming trips that we did there, was like $10,000 just for that five days. Because it's extremely expensive to go out into the field because you have to have all these security teams and everything else. So that's how, and I borrowed a lot of money; I owe a lot of money. That's the short answer to the question. I just never, I just never dreamed that it'd take as long as it did. And I think some people would say, "Well, why did it take so long?" Well, it took so long because we spent a year trying to figure out like, literally every single night trying to figure out, what do I do now to get this kid out of Mogadishu? And that's not a, like a heroic thing. That's like being human. Seriously, like when you meet these kids, and you talk to these kids, and you hear, like, the sacrifice that they're making, you don't have another choice. Like, it feels like your kid. You know? Like I got to make sure that he's safe. And so you just don't stop until you get that done. And so, that's the long answer to, how do you figure out how to survive making a film like this? But now we hope to distribute it, and, you know, it should be released in April, and you know, hopefully it gets picked up by some networks and it'll be on Amazon, iTunes, etc. But you know, and as far as donating it to the library, I said it's a first draft of history, that's how I look at it, and this place is the epitome of taking care of rough drafts and original drafts and original prints. So hopefully it finds its way here. >> And then it's a copyright issue. In other words, when you -- >> J.R. Biersmith: Right, do we license the coverage? We sent that in a few weeks ago, so if somebody would like to approve that, that would be great. [Inaudible] Yeah, it's like $20, right? >> Exactly. >> J.R. Biersmith: Yeah, we applied. We're just waiting on the response. >> For the copyright? >> For the copyright. [ Inaudible ] >> J.R. Biersmith: I've already applied. [Inaudible] Yeah, so we went down that road. Yeah. Yeah. [Inaudible] I would like to. It's funny because this one just, there's a part of me that, because I'm so buried and mired in the weeds on this one, that the journey that you don't see on film is interesting for me from a chronicling perspective is I'd really like to write a book, and that's going to require picking up some of Sa'ad and Saadiq's story and even Liban. I mean, if I can just say -- Liban's sitting at the back of the room, so I hope you stick around for a second, and I know you're not going to want to do this, I'm speaking directly to him. But you know, Liban was, I'm not going to give your whole life story, but what he does for his family is unbelievable. And he would call me nearly every other day on his break, if not every day, because I would say, "Hey, I need to talk to this person; I need help with translation." And he would take his 15-minute breaks at Home Depot, or his lunch hour, and we would call people in Somalia, Ethiopia, wherever, and he was like, my guy, he did everything for me for a year and a half. And I think that's really remarkable. Like that's like, talk about selflessness. I mean, all he did was call me one day and say, "J.R., can I get Saadiq's clips?" And then, three years later, he's been, you know, he's almost been like a father figure to Sa'ad and Saadiq too along the way. I mean, not only just a friend, but you know, a real source of, how do I handle this? And I think, his journey, and now he's driving Uber cars and doing whatever he can, but he really wants to do cyber security and he's just waiting for his passport to come in. And I just think that, like, I didn't do this alone. You know? I didn't write this, I didn't do this, and my co-producer, myself, Liban, like, we did this because terrorism can find its way in your backyard at any point in time. And unless you start to try to understand or go at it a different way -- like everyone's trying to approach Somalia and these failed states in a war way. What if we approach it with a storytelling way? I'm not naive enough to think it's going to change everything, but what if people have heroes to look up to and that's why I think that, I'd like to write a book. But making another film, it's kind of, maybe I should do something lighter? Like maybe something a little, I'm fascinated by Cuba; it's just which story do I want to tell? >> Mary-Jane Deeb: Well, first of all, thank you very much. It was a very moving and very inspiring story. >> J.R. Biersmith: Thank you. >> Mary-Jane Deeb: I wanted to ask you something. You know, sometimes tragedy is overwhelming, and you had to focus on something that you as an individual can help. What is it, what was it about those two young men, what was the quality that you saw in those two young men that made you say, "I'm going to help them"? They'll be able [inaudible] accomplish their dreams with some help [inaudible]? >> J.R. Biersmith: Yeah. >> Mary-Jane Deeb: Why those two, and not, you know -- >> J.R. Biersmith: The other kids. >> Mary-Jane Deeb; Other kids? What is it that you saw [inaudible] that you were able to identify, because they actually lived up to what you were expecting? >> J.R. Biersmith: Yeah, I mean, I think that's why that clip is interesting that I showed you. Well, it's interesting for me because I feel like I'm a bit of a motivator on a personal level, and I've been that for Saadiq. You know, so in moments where he gets really sad, you know, and feels like the world's against him and he can't, doesn't know what to do -- not to mention, like, his best friend tried to leave Nairobi on a boat and died at sea right before he came to the US. So, the tragedy that he continuously has to face -- the first day that I met him, he called himself the grandfather, a grandfather because at 17, he had already seen enough that he gave himself that, you know, "J.R., my grandfather hadn't seen that much stuff." So, There's something about him. There's something about, like, his energy when he, I mean, Liban can speak to it. There's something about it's tucked away; he's really shy. He doesn't really like, I mean, he's going to come out here tomorrow, and he was hesitant about it. He gets, you know, he's just like, "I've told my story now. Do I have to talk more?" You know? But every time I, he'll participate in a Q and A, he'll say something that just blows me away. I'll give you an example, and I'll try to make this really quick. We were at a screening and somebody raised their hand, and they were from Britain or something, somewhere in Europe. And they said, "Hey, how about that team that just won in Europe? They weren't expected. And they had that great guy, and they weren't, they were supposed to be like at the bottom of the premier league, and they won the whole thing! What'd you think of that?" And I'm like, and I was thinking, "How's he going to answer this?" You know, because he loved that team, he was so surprised that they won. And he said, "You know, that's a great question, because that team reminds me of Somalia. Like, they were from the bottom, and they were just there. And then they were trying to, it's like what we were trying to do when we went to the tournament. Like we just wanted to show up and give everything we had." And I'm like, "How did you just do that? Like, that was a PR spin. Like you just brought the question back to you." And so that's what he does, like he has that subtlety, but that doesn't mean that he's still not a 19-year-old that doesn't struggle to make his way, he's a college kid making his way through the world. But I think that's what it was, and it was really that first night too, of when I saw the bead of sweat. And that's what I'm chasing, like I'm chasing moments that aren't just moments. Like moments that reveal real character that show you exactly who that person is. And through that first two weeks that we were with both of those boys, we got these moments that, if somebody shows you who they are, believe them, and I believed them. And it was a leap of faith, because along the way, there's just societal things that are different. And I think that, there's been like a teaching process, and that's why I'm so proud of the St. Louis community even, of trying to wrap their heads around the story, because now it's a village type thing. You know, people are coming and offering them rides, you know, different people, my co-producer and his girlfriend were just in St. Louis two weeks ago, and they're like, "Oh, Sa'ad has a stick-shift car that he doesn't know how to drive; it's a used car." And so, they took him out driving. You know, so, there's all these people that are stepping in now to help get them acclimated because what they represent is bigger than themselves. And so that's, I hope that's what your question was, but that's kind of what I saw. And I did, it was a leap of faith. But you can spend two weeks with somebody, and you wake them up out of their beds every morning, you get it, you get it. Any other questions? >> Abdulahi Ahmed: Well, thank you, J.R., for coming. [ Applause ] >> J.R. Biersmith: Thanks again. I appreciate it. >> This has been a presentation of the Library of Congress. Visit us at



Point Arena AFS was one of twenty-eight stations built as part of the second segment of the Air Defense Command permanent radar network. Prompted by the start of the Korean War, on July 11, 1950, the Secretary of the Air Force asked the Secretary of Defense for approval to expedite construction of the permanent network. Receiving the Defense Secretary’s approval on July 21, the Air Force directed the Corps of Engineers to proceed with construction. The station was originally located at Hill Peak Road (now Eureka Hill Road). Its Air Force Callsign was "Madam", designated as Lashup-Permanent site LP-37, operating an AN/TPS-1B radar.

The 776th Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron was activated on 27 November 1950 and operated AN/FPS-3 and AN/FPS-4 radars, and initially the station functioned as a Ground-Control Intercept (GCI) and warning station. As a GCI station, the squadron's role was to guide interceptor aircraft toward unidentified intruders picked up on the unit's radar scopes. In 1955 the 776th received an AN/FPS-8 that subsequently was converted to an AN/GPS-3. In 1958 AN/FPS-20 and AN/FPS-6 radars had replaced the original sets. An AN/FPS-6B joined the site in 1960.

In late 1960 Point Arena AFS joined the Semi Automatic Ground Environment (SAGE) system, feeding data to DC-18 at Beale AFB, California. After joining, the squadron was re-designated as the 776th Radar Squadron (SAGE) on 15 January 1961. The radar squadron provided information 24/7 the SAGE Direction Center where it was analyzed to determine range, direction altitude speed and whether or not aircraft were friendly or hostile. In August 1963, with the closure of the San Francisco Air Defense Sector, Point Arena was transferred to the SAGE Data Center (DC-13) at Adair AFS, Oregon.

Point Arena AFS replaced its AN/FPS-20 with an AN/FPS-24 radar in 1961 (the first production model). By 1963 the 776th Radar Squadron (SAGE) had replaced its AN/FPS-6 height-finder radars with AN/FPS-26A and AN/FPS-90 models. On 31 July, the site was re-designated as NORAD ID Z-37.

In addition to the main facility, Point Arena operated an AN/FPS-14 Gap Filler site: Laytonville, CA (P-37A) 39°41′13″N 123°34′56″W / 39.68694°N 123.58222°W / 39.68694; -123.58222 (P-37A).

The 776th held additional responsibilities during the 1960s as Point Arena was designated as a Backup Intercept Control site for both the BUIC I and BUIC II programs. The AN/FPS-24 was replaced with an AN/FPS-93A model c. 1976. Over the years, the equipment at the station was upgraded or modified to improve the efficiency and accuracy of the information gathered by the radars. In 1979 Point Arena AFS came under Tactical Air Command (TAC) jurisdiction with the inactivation of Aerospace Defense Command and the creation of ADTAC.

Later in 1979 the station began operating AN/FPS-91A and AN/FPS-116 radars under the Joint Surveillance System (JSS) program. The 776th subsequently was inactivated on 30 September 1980 and an element of the 26th Air Defense Squadron continued operations. A reorganization in 1987 placed the site under the Southwest Air Defense Sector of the 25th Air Division. The site is now closed, replaced by FAA/USAF JSS site at Rainbow Ridge, CA (J-83A), with an ARSR-4 radar."

The road leading to the site was originally known as Hill Peak Road but at some point changed names to Eureka Hill Road. In addition to the site's radars, it also supplied ground-to-air communications to aircraft within its operating area. The radio equipment was located at the GATR (ground air transmitter and receiver) site, located at the crest of Eureka Hill Road, a few miles from the actual radar site. The GATR site was remotely located from the radar site to minimize interference from the radars into the radio gear.

The GATR site ground-air communications equipment used single frequency UHF AM transmitter/receiver pairs, AN/GRT-3 and AN/GRR-7, covering frequencies between 225-400mHz. AN/GRC-27 transceivers were used to temporarily replace defective equipment or for periodic maintenance. Additionally, a AN/KWT-6 transceiver provided communications to a gap-filler aircraft. A AN/GKA-5 Time Division Data LInk and AN/FRT-49 data link amplifier transmitted data from the SAGE direction center back to any military aircraft in the coverage area. All equipment operated 24/7 and the site was manned 24/7. This equipment list reflects what was in-service around 1968-69.


Since the late 1990s the DoD has tried to give away the property to various local government agencies, however the cost of environmental cleanup (lead paint and asbestos) have limited interest in the property. The remote location from major population centers also hurts its "marketability."

See also


 This article incorporates public domain material from the Air Force Historical Research Agency website

This page was last edited on 27 July 2018, at 07:03
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