10 legendary heroes of the US Air Force - We Are The Mighty
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10 legendary heroes of the US Air Force

Last week, We Are The Mighty wrote a list of nine of the most legendary heroes of the U.S. Army. This week, we remember some of the Air Force’s heroes.


At 68, the Air Force may be technically the youngest branch of the five services, just a fraction of the Army’s age, but the service’s roots are well over a hundred years old. Here are 10 men who became legends in that time:

1. Eddie Rickenbacker

10 legendary heroes of the US Air Force
U.S. Air Force photo

A race car driver turned self-taught pilot, Rickenbacker joined the military immediately after the United States entered World War I. In less than a year, he earned a promotion to an officer’s rank and shot down his fifth enemy aircraft, earning him the title of “Ace.” A year later, he was in command of his entire Aero Squadron. By the time of the November 11, 1918 armistice, Rickenbacker racked up 26 aerial victories, a record he held until World War II.  His tactic was to charge right at enemy flying squads, whatever the odds, winning every time. Rickenbacker was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross with six oak leaf clusters, the Croix de Guerre with two palms, the French Legion d’Honneur, and was later awarded the Medal of Honor.

2. Billy Mitchell

10 legendary heroes of the US Air Force

General William “Billy” Mitchell is known as the “Father of the Air Force.” He was a turn-of-the-20th-century pilot who advocated for a separate, independent Air Force. He argued that airpower would be a revolution in modern warfare, but was dismissed as a radical by his peers. Mitchell became an Army aviator at a time when he was considered too old to go through pilot training. He paid for lessons himself and led more than 1,400 planes against the Germans during the World War I Battle of St. Mihiel. His experience flying planes in combat led to his idea of a separate Air Force, even demonstrating the power of airplanes against naval battleships. When he criticized the War Department for incompetence and negligence, he was sensationally court-martialed. He resigned his commission instead of accepting a humiliating sentence.

3. Henry “Hap” Arnold

10 legendary heroes of the US Air Force
Major Henry H. Arnold with first Liberty V12 engine completed. (U.S. Air Force photo)

A protégé of Gen. Billy Mitchell’s, Hap is probably the only airman on this list who needed to overcome a fear of flying to reach his legendary Air Force status. Arnold oversaw the expansion of the Army Air Corps in the years between World War I and World War II to its position as the world’s largest Air Force. He oversaw development of intercontinental bombers, radar, airlift capabilities, and the use of nuclear weapons in modern air combat. His wartime job was so stressful, he experienced three heart attacks in three years, but survived to become a five-star General of the Army, which was later changed to General of the Air Force after it became an independent branch in 1947. He remains the only person to ever hold the rank and title.

4. Daniel “Chappie” James, Jr.

10 legendary heroes of the US Air Force

Though Chappie did not see combat until the Korean War, he was one of the original Tuskegee Airmen, training pilots in the Army Air Corps’ 99th Pursuit Squadron, the famous Red Tails.  In Korea, he flew 101 combat missions and then another 78 missions as vice-commander of the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing during the Vietnam War. In the 8th TFW, he served under none other than then-Col. Robin Olds, including during Operation Bolo, the highest single MiG sweep ever. The duo were so successful their men nicknamed the team “Blackman and Robin.” During his command of the U.S. Air Force Base in Libya, he stared down Muammar Qaddafi in a stand-off, admitting later that he almost shot the dictator with his .45. Chappie became the first African-American to reach the rank of four-star General and the third person of African descent to reach the highest ranks in the Western world.

5. Robin Olds

10 legendary heroes of the US Air Force

Olds joined the military through The U.S. military academy at West Point, an all-star linebacker for the football team who was anxious to get into the fight raging in World War II Europe. His legacy was larger than life. He was a triple ace fighter pilot with 16 kills in WWII and married Hollywood actress Ella Raines. He stayed in the Air Force when it became independent from the U.S. Army and then commanded a fighter wing during the Vietnam War. He is remembered by the Air Force today during “Mustache March,” for the distinctive mustache he wore in Vietnam, sported as a way to boost morale among his men and thumb his nose at the media.

6. Curtis LeMay

10 legendary heroes of the US Air Force

LeMay was the youngest four-star general in American military history. He served with four stars longer than anyone ever had — a big deal for a general who didn’t go to a service academy. He earned the nickname “Iron Ass” for his stubbornness and shortness once his mind was made up. When he did speak, the stout, cigar-chomping, stone-faced general had a reputation for his outspoken manner. He is not always remembered fondly by history, as seen through the silver screen depiction of him as Gen. Jack D. Ripper in Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove, but LeMay led the U.S. military through some of its most trying times.

Related: 7 Badass Airpower Quotes From General Curtis LeMay

LeMay’s leadership revolutionized the tactics and effectiveness of the 8th Air Force in World War II Europe, giving the Allies the decisive edge over the Nazi Luftwaffe. In the Pacific Theater, LeMay’s strategic planning crippled the Japanese war effort. He saw the U.S. through the Berlin Airlift and Cuban Missile Crisis. The Soviet Union would not have gone to war with a man who was famous for saying “If I see that the Russians are amassing their planes for an attack, I’m going to knock the shit out of them before they take off the ground.”

7. Chuck Yeager

10 legendary heroes of the US Air Force
Yeager in front of the Bell X-1, which, as with all of the aircraft assigned to him, he named Glamorous Glennis (or some variation thereof), after his wife. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Charles Elwood Yeager began his Air Force career as a private in the U.S. Army Air Forces. His time as an aircraft mechanic probably gave him a good idea of what planes could handle, information he would need later down the line as a USAF test pilot. He entered the enlisted flying program in 1942 and became at test pilot at war’s end. Two days before he famously broke the sound barrier, he broke two ribs and had them treated at a veterinarian’s office rather than risk losing that flight by going to an Air Force doctor.

8. William H. “Pits” Pitsenbarger

10 legendary heroes of the US Air Force
Airman 1st Class William Pitsenbarger with an M-16 outside the HH-43. (U.S. Air Force Photo)

“Pits” was a U.S. Air Force Pararescue Jumper from Piqua, Ohio during the Vietnam War. He joined the Air Force right after high school and became a Pararescueman right after basic training. Less the a year after receiving orders to Vietnam, he set out on a mission to extract Army infantry casualties in the jungles near Cam My. He dropped into the trees, tended to some wounded and then loaded them onto his helicopter. When it came time for Pits to be extracted, his helicopter was hit by small arms fire and had to leave. Instead of leaving with the helo, Pits stayed with the infantry. For an hour and a half, he tended to the wounded, built improvised stretchers, and redistriubuted ammo. When everyone was set, Pitsenbarger joined the firefight. He was killed by a VC sniper during the night.

9. John L. Levitow

10 legendary heroes of the US Air Force
U.S. Air Force photo

Levitow was a Loadmaster on board an AC-47 “Spooky” Gunship during the Vietnam War. In an engagement with Viet Cong guerillas in February 1969, Levitow and the plane’s gunner started deploying flares during an bank when the gunship was hit by VC mortar fire. The entire crew was wounded by shrapnel and the gunner dropped a flare inside the gunship. Its fuse burned next to 19,000 rounds of ammunition which would surely take out the gunship when it exploded. Levitow, despite not being able to walk and fighting the plane’s 30-degree bank, crawled over to it, hugged the flare close to his body, and crawled to the rear toward the cargo door, dropping it out just before it ignited. He received the Medal of Honor for his actions and now the top graduate of all Air Force Enlisted Military Education courses receive the “John L. Levitow Award” for exceptional performance.

10. George Everett “Bud” Day

10 legendary heroes of the US Air Force

Though he retired an Air Force Colonel, Day started his military career as an enlisted Marine, joining in 1942 at age 17. After World War II, he went stateside to earn a law degree. At the onset of the Korean War, he joined the Air National Guard and was activated the next year. He flew combat sorties as an Air Force fighter pilot throughout the Korean War. He stayed in the Air Force through 1967, flying combat missions over North Vietnam. He was shot down, captured, tortured, beaten, and sent to the infamous “Hanoi Hilton.” A year later, he was sent to “The Zoo,” a punishment camp for the most defiant POWs. At his most defiant, he would stare down his guards, singing the Star-Spangled Banner in their face. He was released in 1973, and returned to a flying status a year later.

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These 3 steps are crucial if you want to transition into your own business

10 legendary heroes of the US Air Force
Former Army Rangers Donald Lee, left, and Matthew Griffin launched Combat Flip Flops in 2011. (Screenshot courtesy of CNBC.)


Are you ready to start the business you’ve always wanted? Do you have a million dollar idea but are not sure what to do first, second and third? Are you excited to leave military service behind and earn a living through your own entrepreneurial drive?

Military service is a wonderful background for business ownership, however there is a difference between military service and startup business management. A key factor that affects startup viability is how fast entrepreneurs adapt to their new job description as a business owner.

Many entrepreneurs say they started their companies for the opportunity to pursue their heart’s desire. New bakery owners like to bake. Fitness coaches like to train clients. Contractors like to build. But successful entrepreneurship is not defined just by how well you bake or coach, but how well you manage your overall business.

You can direct a brilliant film, but if you don’t make money at it, you may not get a second chance to make another film. Besides your specific passion, other skills are required to succeed.

New business owners who assume that entrepreneurship is all about the freedom to do “whatever I want, whenever I want,” are also at high risk of business failure. Being the boss of a prosperous business involves focus and careful decision-making. In contrast, too much managerial spontaneity and freewheeling fun cost more than a young company can typically handle.

Here are three strategies to help you make the mental shift to money-making self-employment with precision.

1. Pay attention to cash.

Businesses close when they run out of cash. It’s that simple. As the boss of your startup enterprise your top priority is to make sure your company always has enough cash to operate. This means that you have to embrace numbers and money issues; take full ownership of financial projections and understand what kinds of business decisions can drain cash faster than others.

You don’t need an MBA to manage cash well, just a desire to do it. Check out some accounting books or take an accounting class to boost your money management skills.

2. Plan to achieve

It’s not enough to hope to succeed; you have to plan to succeed. Hoping for customers, won’t get them to your website. Hoping to raise money from investors won’t get you in front of top check writers. Hoping the check is really in the mail is not the best way to collect past due invoices. Successful startup entrepreneurs set specific goals and then lay out practical day-by-day strategies to secure their first paying customers and profits.

3. Get help

Just because you are the boss of your new enterprise doesn’t mean you will always have all the right answers. You will across a lot of issues and decisions that you never encountered before in your military career. It’s only natural that beginner’s mistakes will be made, sometimes costly ones.

When you face business unexpected problems in product development, product packaging, sales, marketing, customer service, or finance, don’t guess the answer. Find someone who has already “been there and done that” and ask for help. Remember, every mistake you make now comes out of your pocket.

Here’s one last tip. It’s not enough to just get by in business; your managerial objective is to get ahead in business by using your head. You have a background of excellence in your military career; now just apply it to your new business.

You can do it!

Susan Schreter is a devoted Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program workshop presenter and founder of Start on Purpose, a service organization that empowers business owners anywhere in America to find and manage business funding with confidence. Connect with her at Susan@StartonPurpose.

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This is what happens when a SEAL helps you with your lady problems

After a full season of plunging into the high-octane, post-service worlds of veterans like Russell Davies, Mike Glover and Jacqueline Carrizosa, Oscar Mike host Ryan Curtis was feeling understandably uneasy about the state of his own manhood.


After all, over the span of 9 episodes, he’d been out-driven, out-paddled, out-shot, out-jumped, and, well, knocked out — not to mention the emotional pasting he took in Navy SEAL-turned actor David Meadow’s acting class.

Each of these vets has taken some slim notion of a civilian future, paired it with the skills and discipline he or she learned in the military, and then proceeded to kick ass with nary a backward glance.

Curtis, however, found himself in need of some help.

Luckily for him, he had a team of “Oscar Mike” vets ready and willing to support their brother, starting with Meadows. Of course, it didn’t go smoothly.

10 legendary heroes of the US Air Force
Self-reliance is important but sometimes you gotta squad up. (Go90 Oscar Mike screenshot)

In the season one finale, Curtis learns the most important lesson of all: Lean on your mates. Be there for them to lean on you. Do that, and we’ll all be “oscar mike” together.

Watch him limp toward enlightenment in the video embedded at the top.

Watch more Oscar Mike:

This Green Beret will make you a mental commando

The Marine Rapper will make you shake your Citizen Rump

This is why the future of motocross is female

This is what happens when a Navy SEAL becomes an actor

This Iraq vet kayaker will make you rethink PTSD

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Time is running out to help thousands of American allies who’ve been left behind

UPDATE: On Jan. 27, President Donald Trump signed an executive order suspending the entry of immigrants from seven countries he said were “of particular concern” for terrorism, including Iraq. It is unclear how the immigrant ban — which is mandated to last 90 days pending a review of the visa issuing process — will affect Iraqis who have applied or been awarded Special Immigrant Visas for their service with U.S. troops during OIF. But No One Left Behind’s CEO Matt Zeller tells WATM: “This action imposes a lifetime moral injury on our Afghan and Iraq war veterans. … President Trump’s order permanently harms our national security.”


It was April 2008 during a patrol in Waghez, Afghanistan, and Army intelligence officer Matt Zeller was in big trouble.

Pinned down in an ambush outside the small village, he found himself outflanked by a group of Taliban fighters about to overrun his position. Rushing to his side, Zeller’s Afghan ally and interpreter Janis Shinwari raised his weapon and fired.

“I wouldn’t be alive today without my Afghan translator,” Zeller said during an interview with WATM. “My life was saved by a fellow veteran.”

10 legendary heroes of the US Air Force
An Afghan man talks with Cpl. William Gill and his interpreter in a village in southern Uruzgan. (DoD Photo by CPL (E-5) Chris Moore Australian Defence Force /Released)

Five years later, Zeller decided he’d apply his warrior ethos to “leave no one behind” and established a non-profit to help relocate Afghan and Iraqi allies who worked alongside U.S. forces to the safety of America. So far Zeller and his partners have helped more than 3,200 allies obtain so-called “Special Immigrant Visas” to resettle in the United States and avoid being target by jihadists who are targeting them for helping American troops.

Since the SIV program began, more than 43,000 allies from Iraq and Afghanistan — along with their families — have been resettled in the U.S.

But advocates claim there are still about 30,000 Afghan and Iraqi citizens whose lives are at risk for helping U.S. forces, but Congress has so far refused to help in their return. Zeller and his colleagues, like Chase Millsap of the Ronin Refugee Project, are pushing lawmakers to authorize 6,000 more visas for Afghan allies left behind and to commit to keeping the visa program for them open “for as long as the United States commits military forces in Afghanistan and Iraq.”

“We made these people a fundamental promise that we would protect them,” Zeller said. “If we don’t do this now, it will haunt us in the future.”

 

But renewing the program is facing strong opposition for influential lawmakers who Zeller claims are running with an anti-immigrant political tide.

Some lawmakers claim the Obama administration’s refugee policy, and the SIV program specifically, puts Americans at risk for terrorism.

In an Aug. 10 statement, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s immigration subcommittee, Alabama Republican Jeff Sessions, claimed since 2001, 40 people admitted to the United States as refugees have been implicated in terrorism. Sessions claims 20 of those, including one SIV program recipient from Iraq, have been indicted or implicated for terrorist acts in the last three years.

“Instead of taking a sober assessment of the ‎dangers that we face, and analyzing the immigration histories of recent terrorists so that we can more effectively safeguard our immigration system from being infiltrated, the Obama Administration leads the United States down a dangerous path – admitting as many refugees as possible from areas of the world where terrorists roam freely,” Sessions said. “There is no doubt that this continuous, dramatic increase in refugees from areas of the world where terrorists roam freely will endanger this nation.”

Sources say Sessions and his staff have been instrumental in hollowing out the SIV program through parliamentary procedure in the Senate, and that House lawmakers have been powerless to stop it. Opponents point to the dangers of ISIS — which has claimed responsibility for several high-profile terrorist attacks by immigrants in European countries — and the Syrian refugee crisis, which they claim allows potential jihadis into the U.S. without a thorough background check.

Zeller says the Syrian refugee policy and the SIV program are two distinct programs, arguing Afghan and Iraqi partners who qualify for an SIV go through years of investigations and vetting before they’re admitted to the U.S. And that’s on top of the vetting they were subject to simply to work with U.S. forces overseas.

“It’s not like they just walked up to the gate and got a job,” Zeller says. “This is one of the most arduous security reviews of anyone.”

And the SIV program allows allies who directly aided U.S. forces in combat to get the “veteran” status through the immigration system advocates say they deserve.

“Granting more visas during this year specifically means the Afghan allies that we know are threatened will have a chance to be saved,” The Ronin project’s Millsap says. “Unless Congress increases this quota, these trusted Afghans will at best be at the mercy of a broken international refugee system, and at worst, they will be killed.”

The future of the SIV program is unclear as the National Defense Authorization Act languishes in committee and the clock is running out on the fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30. If Congress doesn’t act in the next few weeks to re-instate the SIV program, thousands of Afghans — and their families — will be at risk, Zeller says.

“I’m not optimistic, but I’m going to keep fighting until my last dying breath,” Zeller says. “I believe that no one should be left behind on the battlefield.”

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This is the best Navy life at sea video you’ll see today

A new YouTube channel dubbed “White Scope Media” shows what life is like for sailors in an EA-18G Growler squadron.


But it’s not like your typical Discovery Channel documentary or MTV “Cribs” special.

These Navy videos don’t have voice over narration. With only music and footage, they paint an intimate, true-to-form sailor experience.

Related: 37 Awesome photos of life on a US Navy carrier

While this is everyday life for active-duty sailors, veterans will get a prideful sense of nostalgia — especially after watching the second one, “Chapter 2: Meet the Patriots.”

It’s the type of intimate footage you’d expect from a family gathering. It’s why some veterans consider their shipmates their second family.

Like family, these sailors do everything together, from washing the birds, to relaxing, to preparing for war. But unlike family, this is every day, not just during a family picnic or reunion.

Life on a carrier is not the same as life on a cruise liner. Sailors don’t get the awesome hotel-style living quarters. Instead, they live in berthings with up to 100 other sailors — sometimes even more. But that’s okay because the friendships forged on deployment are way deeper than any cruise liner could ever deliver.

Watch:

White Scope Media, YouTube
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This botched air strike on Lebanon changed Naval Aviation forever

10 legendary heroes of the US Air Force
A-7E Corsair II aircraft line the bow of the aircraft carrier USS Independence (CV 62) about the time of the air strike against Syrian gun emplacements in Lebanon. (Photo: U.S. Navy)


American air power going against targets in the Middle East didn’t start with Operation Enduring Freedom or even Desert Storm. The first significant strike was conducted in December of 1983 by carrier-based assets against Syrian anti-aircraft positions in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, and it was in many respects a disaster, one that radically changed the way the U.S. Navy conducted strike warfare.

The Bekaa Valley strike was supposed to be in direct retaliation for the Beirut barracks bombing that killed 241 Marines on October 23, but the mission was delayed for months by lawmakers in Washington and the operational planners at the European Command in Germany. Finally Syrians firing SAMs at F-14 reconnaissance flights over Lebanon compelled decision-makers to action.

The strike planning process was cumbersome and not tactically agile.  Pentagon and EUCOM higher-ups made the call on strike composition, weapons loadouts, ingress and egress routes, and times on target. As a result, aviators who would ultimately fly the mission had little say in how it would be carried out.

The 28-plane strike package launched from two carriers – Kennedy and Independence (both decommissioned now) – on the morning of December 4, which proved to be the perfectly wrong time as the metrological conditions made it hard for the attack aircraft to see their targets (remember, these were the days before smart bombs, when pilots had to actually maneuver their airplanes toward the ground and pickle their bombs with a high level of skill). At the same time the weather and sun angle highlighted the American airplanes in the sky for Syrian anti-aircraft gunners. The strike package also flew toward their targets along the same route, which made it easy for gunners to train their weapons.

The Syrians managed to shoot down two A-7E Corsairs and an A-6E Intruder.  One of the A-7 pilots and the A-6 pilot were killed.  The other A-7 pilot – who also happened to be the Air Wing commander aboard the Independence – managed to get his jet over the Mediterranean before he ejected.  He was picked up by Lebanese fisherman and eventually returned to the Americans unharmed.

The A-6 bombardier/navigator, Lt. Robert Goodman, was captured by Syrian troops and taken as a hostage. The month-long stalemate between governments on his release was finally broken by Jesse Jackson, who took an interest in the young aviator because he was an African-American.

10 legendary heroes of the US Air Force
Lt. Robert Goodman in the back of a car with a Syrian soldier after being shot down during an air strike against targets in Lebanon. (AP photo)

As a result of this fiasco the U.S. Navy established the Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center at the air station in Fallon, Nevada, basically taking a page from the Top Gun playbook a decade or so earlier when that school was created to fix the problem of fighters getting shot out of the skies over North Vietnam because of inferior tactics. The staff at NSAWC studied better ways of getting bombs on target while surviving intense SAM environments, and their research yielded more thorough mission planning processes (including streamlining strike coordination up and down the chain of command), off-axis attack profiles, and the improved use of jammers to better suppress the SAM threat.

Although times have changed in recent years with the advent of stealth technology and precision-guided munitions, many of the lessons learned from Bekaa Valley are still relevant today.

Now: Top secret files detail how drone strikes target terrorists — and how they go wrong 

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The 13 funniest military memes of the week

Memes, memes, memes! Here are the 13 funniest ones from around the military:


1. When the crew is tired of MREs, but first sergeant doesn’t understand:

10 legendary heroes of the US Air Force
Maybe drive through some mud on the way back.

2. The platoon isn’t scared of getting a little wet, are they?

10 legendary heroes of the US Air Force
What’s a 50-foot drop, then 50-foot climb among buddies?

SEE ALSO: These 8 TV characters would never survive in the real military

3. Elsa created an actual, functioning snowman (via Team Non-Rec).

10 legendary heroes of the US Air Force
You really thought she would never build an army?

4. Don’t be jealous, he had to turn the wrench a lot of times for those (via Sh-t my LPO says).

10 legendary heroes of the US Air Force
Sure, it was mostly because he turned it the wrong way the first dozen times, but still.

5. Remember to always keep your weapon pointed downrange and away from the cat (via Devil Dog Nation).

10 legendary heroes of the US Air Force
And don’t aim at your mom.

6. Next time a paratrooper calls someone a leg …

10 legendary heroes of the US Air Force
… remind them that the rest of the Army can’t get drug around by silk.

7. “Oh yeah? You ready to show me your life jackets now!?”

(via Coast Guard Memes)

10 legendary heroes of the US Air Force

8. Marines do more with less, rah?

10 legendary heroes of the US Air Force
If you wanted armor, you should’ve joined the Army.

9. Reflective belts are always coming through in the clutch (via Air Force Nation).

10 legendary heroes of the US Air Force
They keep away bears, bullets, and now thieves, apparently.

10. The Air Force demands excellence of every recruit (via Air Force Memes Humor).

10 legendary heroes of the US Air Force
She can also do a better pull up than you, but maybe that’s why she joined the Marines.

11. Whenever the next Engineer Ball is held, I’d like tickets.

10 legendary heroes of the US Air Force
Not to the actual event, just the closing fireworks.

12. It’s chief’s least favorite dish (via Sh-t my LPO says).

10 legendary heroes of the US Air Force
Try it today with a side of sadness.

13. “You still have another foot before you hit the tree.”

10 legendary heroes of the US Air Force

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How a pilot in one of America’s least stealthy aircraft saved a downed pilot from one of the stealthiest

In March 1999, NATO announced that coalition forces would begin a massive air war and bombing campaign against Serbia. Within hours after the first round of strikes, an A-10 squadron received an urgent call that one of America’s stealthiest aircraft had been shot down — the F-117 Nighthawk.


It was reported the stealth pilot managed to bail out in time but was trapped deep behind enemy lines.

As rebel forces assembled to hunt down the American pilot, allied forces gathered and quickly began designing a search and rescue mission to locate their missing brother.

“One of the things I have to do as the on-scene commander is figure out if he’s ready to be picked up,” Air Force pilot John Cherrey explains.

Related: 5 countries that tried to shoot down the SR-71 Blackbird (and failed)

Since landing an A-10 in enemy territory was impractical, using Black Hawks to pick up the missing pilot was the only option. But with Serbian missiles on high alert, there was no way helicopters could outrun enemy defenses.

The rescue mission must be handled with extreme caution or risk losing more men, so developing a clever plan was in order.

The Warthog’s commanders decided to create a diversion that would prompt Serbian anti-air missile radar to look in one direction, while the slower Black Hawks swooped in through the enemies’ back door.

Also Read: That time American POWs refused a CIA rescue mission in Vietnam

Their plan worked as the two Black Hawks managed to sneak their way to the downed pilot and egresses out of the Serbian air space. Once the A-10s were notified the pilot was safe, they bugged out and went home. No additional casualties were reported.

Mission complete.

Check out the Smithsonian Channel‘s video to see how Allied forces went on this daring rescue mission for yourself.

(Smithsonian Channel, YouTube)
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Afghan interpreters are still in danger and need America’s help

I enlisted in the Army in 2007 as a combat correspondent/videographer. During my time in the Army, I traveled all over the world and was allowed to do missions that gave me a sense of purpose and earned me two Emmys, three DOD Military Videographer of the Year awards and a handful of military decorations.


I also deployed to Afghanistan with the 4th Brigade Combat Team 25th Infantry Division (Airborne) for a year. I covered dozens of different types of stories there including Black Hawk medic evacuations, combat hospitals, combat aviation, engineers and EOD technicians and K-9 units. But I spent most of my time with the Infantry.

10 legendary heroes of the US Air Force

During my time on the ground, I worked very closely with an Afghan interpreter (who I’ll leave anonymous because of ongoing concerns for his safety as well as that of his family). He was one of the kindest and most courageous men I’ve ever met, and we couldn’t have done our mission without him.

This interpreter would commute secretly from his village to our base every day until finally it became so dangerous that he had to move on base with us while at the same time he moved his family to Kabul. He and I weathered many mortar and rocket attacks together in those days.

He had submitted his visa three times during his service. He is now unemployed because the base he worked at is closed. He is now in hiding from the Taliban and in grave danger. Every day he has to wait for a visa it gets worse. If he doesn’t get it he will have no choice but to attempt the treacherous journey to India through Pakistan with his family. If he survives the journey it will cost him most of the money he made with the Army.

INTERPRETER NEEDS VISA OUT OF AFGHANISTAN NOW!!

youtu.be

INTERPRETER NEEDS VISA OUT OF AFGHANISTAN NOW!!

There is a government program for giving visas to Afghan nationals, but the process is taking too long and too few visas are being issued. Because of this reality and because I know the power of creating awareness through storytelling, I’m part of a team producing a short narrative film called The Interpreter.

The Interpreter is a short film that functions both as a stand alone piece to assist advocacy efforts, and also as a proof of concept for the feature film currently in development. The Interpreter is being produced by Her Pictures in Los Angeles in association with USC Media Institute for Social Change and Interpret America with most of the film’s proceeds going to the non-profit No One Left Behind. I’m directing the film, Jenna Cavelle wrote the screenplay and is producing, with Michael Taylor executively producing. Our technical advisory team consists of Afghan interpreter, Fahim Fazli, the founders of No One Left Behind, Matt Zeller and Jason Gorey, and the founders of Interpret America, Barry Olsen and Katharine Allen.

10 legendary heroes of the US Air Force

The costs of war are multi-fold and unforeseen at the outset, and the plight of Afghan interpreters is one such element. For years these brave men saved the lives of American service members while hazarding their own. America now needs to accelerate the process of doing right by them.

Robert Ham is an Army veteran and a frequent contributor to The Mighty TV, We Are The Mighty’s video channel.

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The top 10 militaries of the world in 2017

Everyone wants to know who’s carrying the biggest stick. While everyone has their own measurements for how to judge the size of a nation’s military, these 10 militaries are easily some of the best equipped and trained in the modern world:


10. United Kingdom

10 legendary heroes of the US Air Force
A British sniper sights down his L115A3 sniper rifle. (Photo: Ministry of Defense)

The United Kingdom has one of the world’s newest aircraft carriers, the HMS Queen Elizabeth. It also has nearly 900 aircraft and an active duty military of over 150,000 people. But it has a small overall navy for an island nation at 76 total ships and its total armored vehicles, counting its 250 tanks, is just a hair over 6,000.

9. Germany

10 legendary heroes of the US Air Force
German army Upper Cpl. Andre Schadler scans the battlefield for threats with a thermal sight during the first day of training at the Great Lithuanian Hetman Jonusas Radvila Training Regiment, in Rukla, Lithuania, June 10, 2015. (Photo: U.S. Army Sgt. James Avery)

With almost 700 aircraft and over 6,000 armored vehicles as well as 180,000 well-trained active troops, Germany is well-positioned for a defensive war. Why only defensive? Because it lacks most significant power projection platforms like carriers and has few troop transports and submarines.

8. Italy

10 legendary heroes of the US Air Force
A member of the Italian Special Forces participates in small unit tactics at the King Abdullah II Special Operations Training Center in Amman, Jordan, during Eager Lion 2017. (Photo: U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Christopher Lange)

Italy has two smaller aircraft carriers, lots of helicopters, and almost 250,000 active troops, allowing it to push significant force around the world. Those service members are equipped with over 800 aircraft and 7,000 armored vehicles. Unfortunately, a shortage of tanks (about 200) and ships (less than 150 for a peninsular nation) hurts its ranking.

7. France

10 legendary heroes of the US Air Force
A French paratrooper watches other airborne soldiers descend from a C-130. (Photo: U.S. Army Spc. Lloyd Villanueva)

The French military has 204,000 active military personnel and 183,000 in reserve. Those are relatively small numbers, but its forces are equipped with capable equipment produced by a homegrown defense industry — think of the Mirage fighter and the Mistral-class amphibious assault ship.

It relies more heavily than most on armored fighting vehicles as opposed to tanks with almost 7,000 of the former and just over 400 of the latter. The nuclear-powered Charles de Gaulle is the only non-American nuclear carrier in the world. Its foreign legion is one of the most famous combat forces in the world.

6. South Korea

10 legendary heroes of the US Air Force
U.S. Soldiers assigned to Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment and Republic Of Korea Soldiers (ROK) with 8th Division,137th Battalion conducts an urban breaching at Rodriguez Live Fire Range, South Korea, March 9, 2016. (Photo: U.S Army Staff. Sgt Kwadwo Frimpong)

With over 624,000 troops; 2,381 tanks; and 1,412 aircraft ready to go, South Korea is anything but weak. It also boasts over 5 million reserve service members. Most of its equipment is on the newer side and some of it is homegrown. But, it’s important to remember why Korea keeps so much firepower at hand.

It’s most likely enemy is North Korea, which has one of the largest artillery stockpiles in the world stacked within range of the South Korean capital. And while the huge North Korean military is too badly equipped, trained, and prepared to make this list, it’s still likely that an invasion from the north would cripple South Korea and level its capital before the aggressors could be beat back.

5. Japan

10 legendary heroes of the US Air Force
Japan’s JS Atago, a guided-missile destroyer. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Jennifer A. Villalovos)

Japan maintains a “Self-Defense Force” that is very capable on both offense and defense. With the fourth largest submarine force and four small aircraft carriers — often called “helicopter carriers” — as well as homegrown tanks and aircraft and imported weapons like the U.S. Apache, Japan has a varied and capable collection of military hardware.

Still, the country suffers from a significant size issue. It has less than 1,600 aircraft, 4,000 armored vehicles, and only about 130 ships. All of that is manned by a little over 300,000 troops. In a protracted war, Japan will keenly feel every loss of a submarine or other high-value asset.

4. India

10 legendary heroes of the US Air Force
IAF Garud Commandos in an Indian Air Force training video (IAF Video Still)

India has a large number of troops, but those are largely reserve personnel (2.8 million reserve vs. almost 1.4 million active). It boasts a large number of armored vehicles at over 11,000, but has a relatively small air force and navy and relies on more prosperous allies for much of its defense development.

But some of those joint ventures are paying off. While India’s Sukhoi planes purchased from Russia have repeatedly ran into problems, the country is also working with Russia to perfect a fifth-generation fighter and a supersonic cruise missile that could be carried by submarines, planes, and vehicles.

3. China

10 legendary heroes of the US Air Force
A Chinese ZBD-04 infantry fighting vehicle. (Chinese Defense Ministry photo)

China has the world’s largest population at 1.4 billion and its largest military population at 3.7 million with 2.2 million of those being active troops. Those millions of men and women are equipped with almost 3,000 aircraft, 13,000 armored vehicles, and 714 ships.

But China struggles with modernization and organization problems as decades of power struggles between the army and navy hollowed out sections of the force. But with increased military spending that puts it behind only the U.S., it’s quickly closing the technological and equipment gaps, especially in strategically important areas like Taiwan, the South China Sea, and Africa.

2. Russia

10 legendary heroes of the US Air Force
Russian special forces. (Photo: The Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation)

When it comes to countries punching above their weight, it’s hard to find an example better than Russia. Despite a relatively small economy (data differs, but it’s typically ranked 10th or lower in the world), it manufactures a large amount of military hardware and is the second largest exporter in the world after the U.S.

This allows it to field about 3,800 planes, 5,600 armored vehicles including tanks, and 282 warships (counting everything from its aircraft carrier to small logistics vessels). It’s currently trying to develop the T-14 Armata. If successful, that would be the world’s most advanced tank, boasting active protection systems, an auto-loader, and nearly unbeatable armor.

1. United States

10 legendary heroes of the US Air Force
(Photo: U.S. Army Sgt. Shiloh Capers)

If you were surprised, you shouldn’t be. The U.S. spends the most on its military, both per capita and total. Its Navy has the largest and most aircraft carriers in the world with 11 full-sized carriers (counting the new USS Gerald R. Ford) and 8 “helicopter carriers” in service. Its Air Force flies the largest and most technologically advanced air fleet in the world which is just a little larger than the U.S. Navy’s air fleet.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Army and Marine Corps aren’t the largest of their respective groups worldwide, but they are some of the most capable. Both forces enjoy very high spending per service member compared to rival forces, and that allows them to bring their artillery and aircraft to the fight.

All four U.S. Department of Defense branches are trained to work together on a battlefield, combining their powers into one joint team.

Articles

French trawler catches a Portuguese submarine

10 legendary heroes of the US Air Force
Portuguese Type 214 submarine. (Photo: PN)


A French fishing trawler had a larger haul than normal, catching the NRP Tridente, a Portuguese Type 214 submarine, in its nets off the coast of Cornwall, England.  Despite the Tridente hitting the trawler as it surfaced, no casualties on either vessel were reported in the incident. The sub was in British waters as part of a NATO exercise.

The Type 214, one of two Portugal purchased from Germany, is not the first to have been caught by a trawler. In April, 2015, a similar incident off Northern Ireland involving the British trawler Karen being dragged backwards at 10 knots was initially blamed on a Russian submarine before the Royal Navy accepted responsibility for the incident. The Karen suffered substantial damage to its deck but made it back to port.

A March 2015 incident off the coast of Scotland was blamed on a Russian sub. That time, the sub not only came close to dragging the fishing boat Aquarius down as it tried to free itself from the net, it also made off with the trawler’s two-ton catch of haddock and skate, according to The Daily Mail. The Aquarius survived the close call.

The Type 214 sub displaces just over 2,000 tons when submerged. It is armed with eight 21-inch torpedo tubes that can fire IF-21 Black Shark torpedoes or Harpoon anti-ship missiles, and can reach speeds of up to 20 knots. The Type 214 also has air-independent propulsion, which enables it to re-charge its batteries without having to use diesel engines and a snorkel, albeit it does maintain that capability.

Fishing trawlers are not the only vessels that have caught subs. In 1983, the frigate USS McCloy (FF 1038) caught a Soviet Navy Victor III nuclear-powered submarine K-324 with its towed-array sonar. The submarine was disabled, forced to surface, and had to be towed to Cuba for repairs. In 2009, a Chinese submarine also got caught in a towed array cable. The AN/SQR-19 system of USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) snagged the sub’s propeller as well. While the submarine was not damaged, the John S. McCain needed to repair its towed array sonar system.

Such incidents have high stakes for the submarines. Most submarines only have a single propeller and shaft, and damage to either can leave the submarine stranded a long way from home. In this case, the Tridente was able to make it back to port.

Articles

These are the top ISIS leaders killed by the coalition (so far)

The life expectancy of a known jihadi fighting the U.S. and its allies is not very long. If they aren’t killed as Iraqis retake towns and cities, then they are likely to be killed or captured in night raids conducted by special forces or in a drone strike.


ISIS leaders are in the crosshairs more than any other bad guy group these days. Here’s a list of leaders that coalition attacks have helped shuffle off this mortal coil:

1. Fadhil Ahmad al-Hayali (aka “Haji al-Mutazz,” aka Ned Price)

10 legendary heroes of the US Air Force

This righthand man to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed in August 2015. The IS deputy was the top weapons procurer and logistician for the terror group. His death sparked off a number of internal reprisals against those the terror group suspected of leaking important information to Western intelligence.

2. Omar al-Shishani (aka “Omar the Chechen”)

10 legendary heroes of the US Air Force

Of all the ISIS leaders killed in action, he’s the most ISIS. He  was widely considered to be the terror group’s minister of war. He was killed as a result of an American airstrike in March 2016, near the Syrian border city of Shadadi. He survived the initial strike, but later died of his wounds. It’s not known why they called him “the Chechen,” because he is from Georgia.

Shishani also headed the terror group’s main prison in Raqqa, Syria. The U.S. State Department once offered $5 million for information leading to the capture of Shishani. Shishani was also called “Abu Meat” by detractors, because he had a reputation of staying in the rear with the gear while ordering others into battle.

Related: US special operators show off the gear used against ISIS

3. Abd al-Rahman Mustafa al-Qaduli (aka “Hajji Imam”)

10 legendary heroes of the US Air Force

In a March effort to capture this senior IS commander, U.S. special operators originally planned to disable his vehicle from the air, land a helicopter, and then take him into custody. Instead, they lit up the vehicle, killing al-Qaduli. He was the group’s top financier.

4. Fathi ben Awn ben Jildi Murad al-Tunisi (aka “Abu Sayyaf”)

10 legendary heroes of the US Air Force

British SAS and American Delta Force elements raided the house of Abu Sayyaf, ISIS’ chief oil minister and a high-ranking commander in Deir-ez-Zor, Syria. Abu Sayyaf was shot twice in the chest as he went for a weapon. His wife, called Umm Sayyaf by the Daily Mail, claimed to be a Yazidi sex slave. (Sayyaf and his wife ran ISIS’ sex slave network.) His actual Yazidi sex slave was freed by the operators. His wife was captured.

5. Tariq al-Harzi

10 legendary heroes of the US Air Force

Also known as the “Emir of Suicide Bombers” he was killed in June 2015 by coalition airstrikes in Syria. He was another logistics expert for ISIS, managing the movement of men and materiel between Iraq and Syria and the support and recruiting for ISIS operations in North Africa.

6. Junaid Hussein

10 legendary heroes of the US Air Force

A British citizen, Hussein was the critical operative in the Garland, Texas cartoon contest attack in 2015 and an effective ISIS recruiter. He was killed in Raqqa, Syria by a coalition airstrike. Raqqa is supposed to be a safe haven for the fighters. He was hit by a missile fired from a drone. Hussein was central to the plot of attacking the homes of U.S. service members after ISIS hackers posted their home addresses.

7. “Abu Maryam”

Called an ISIS enforcer and senior leader of their extortion network, Maryam was killed in a December 2015 airstrike. Since extortion is one of the top ways ISIS raises money, the death of Maryam was likely a blow to that revenue stream. He was killed in an air strike near the Iraqi city of Tal Afar.

Related: Sex, drugs, and Bitcoin: The 10 ways ISIS pays the bills

8. Muwaffaq Mustafa Mohammed al-Karmoush (aka “Abu Salah”)

As part of the apparent effort to disrupt the group’s fundraising and ability to use those funds, the U.S. also hit ISIS’ chief accountant. Abu Sarah (Abu is not his real first name. “Abu” means “father of” in Arabic, and is often used as a nickname) was responsible for paying fighters’ salaries in Northern Iraq, where they are fighting a mixture of Kurdish Peshmerga, Iraqi Army, and Shia militias backed by Iranian Quds Force operators.

9. Wissam Najm Abd Zayd al-Zubaydi (aka “Abu Nabil”)

10 legendary heroes of the US Air Force

Abu Nabil was killed in an F-15 strike in the Libyan coastal city of Derna. He was an Iraqi who one fought for al-Qaeda but turned to spearheading ISIS operations in Libya. He was the first ISIS leader killed by Western strikes in Libya. His December 2015 death hampered the terror group’s ability to recruit and establish bases in Libya.

10. Sleiman Daoud al-Afari

Afari is unique on this list because he was the only one captured, interrogated, and handed over to the Iraqi government, instead of being outright killed. Afari was ISIS chief chemical weapons engineers. He learned the trade under the regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq. He told officials about ISIS efforts to develop everything from mustard gas to Sarin nerve gas.

11. Mohammed Emwazi (aka “Jihadi John”)

10 legendary heroes of the US Air Force

Emwazi was a significant ISIS operative because of his command of English led him to be the voice of the terror group’s propaganda efforts. Jihadi John was killed in a drone strike in Raqqa, Syria. Starting in August 2014, he appeared in ISIS beheading videos and was a celebrity in the group. He played no important spiritual or military role.

12. Abu Rahman al-Tunisi

10 legendary heroes of the US Air Force

An IS executive officer who coordinated the movement of arms, money, people, and information. Hitting al-Tunisi likely significantly disrupted ISIS’ command and control capabilities.

13. Charaffe al-Mouadan

10 legendary heroes of the US Air Force

Central to the ISIS attacks in Paris in November 2015, Moudan was killed in an airstrike in Syria the following December.

14. Fayez al-Shaalaan (aka “Abu Fawz”)

Shaalaan was the ISIS leader in the Arsal region of Syria, near neighboring Lebanon. In the northern areas of Lebanon, fighting between ISIS and the al-Qaeda allied Nusra Front fighter spills into Lebanese territory. The Lebanese Army routinely engages these fighters.

BONUS: Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (maybe)

10 legendary heroes of the US Air Force

The “Caliph” of ISIS, the overall leader of the terror group was the target of an Iraqi airstrike. It’s unknown whether or not Baghdadi was killed in the October 2015 strike. (CNN reported the leader was taken away in a vehicle to an unknown location.)

Articles

A Russian engineer tricked out his car with tank tread

A Russian engineer put his tiny Lada Riva car on tank treads and called it the “Wolverine.”


Shavrin spent six months and 100,000 roubles — roughly $1,300 — to make his hybrid tank-car. At 31 mph, the vehicle isn’t fast, but it does its job of getting around snowy mountains.

Related: Russia’s new all-terrain vehicle looks like a life sized Tonka truck

Pavel Shavrin built the all-terrain vehicle to save his chickens and rabbits. He came up with the idea after some of his animals died when he couldn’t reach them one Winter. The snowy countryside of Magnitogorsk, Russia, make it difficult to travel during the season.

Behold, this Sputnik video shows the tank-car hybrid in all its glory.

Sputnik, YouTube