Articles

17 things you didn't know about the US Air Force

Happy 69th BRRRRRRRRRRThday, U.S. Air Force! In a very special episode of "things you didn't know," Team Mighty decided to give a shout out to the youngest branch of the U.S. military and fill in the blanks to help people, civilians and non-Airmen alike, learn a few things about those who live in fame or go down in flame.


1. The Air Force tracks Santa.

On December 24, 1955 a newspaper ad told kids that they could call Santa at an included phone number. The number listed called the U.S. Air Defense Command. The colonel on duty ordered his team to give all kids Santa's "current location." This tradition now handles calls from over 200 countries.

2. The Air Force shares its birthday with the CIA.

Both were founded on September 18, 1947.

3. The Air Force used to be in the Army.

On Aug. 1, 1907, the U.S. Army Signal Corps formed the Aeronautical Division, which later evolved into the U.S. Army Air Force. The National Defense Act of 1947 created an independent Air Force.

4. An Airman first broke the sound barrier.

In 1947, then-Air Force Capt. Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier in his Bell X-1 rocket-powered aircraft, kicking off a race of pilots who competed to do the next big thing, eventually leading to outer space and a man on the moon.

5. Airmen welcome their new commander by stomping on his or her roof.

A "roof stomp" is an Air Force tradition where airmen welcome a new commander or celebrate a special occasion by climbing up on the commander's roof and making noise while others are banging on the windows and doors. Kind of like an episode of "The Walking Dead" but without the zombies.

6. The Air Force built a supercomputer out of Sony Playstations.

The Air Force Research Lab built a supercomputer called the Condor Cluster to analyze HD satellite imagery. The supercomputer is made up entirely of 1760 Playstation 3's. It's the 33rd most-powerful computer in the world.

Looks like they're watching Terminator 2. Appropriate.

7. Airmen get hairier every spring.

Every year, Airmen participate in a Mustache March, a tradition where airmen grow mustaches throughout the month of March to honor Air Force legend, WWII and Vietnam veteran, and triple ace Brig. Gen. Robin Olds.

8. An Ace isn't just a good pilot. They're the best combat pilots.

An "ace" is a pilot who has shot down five or more enemy aircraft. The top jet ace in U.S. Air Force history is Joseph C. McConnell, a "Triple ace" who shot down 16 MiG fighters during the Korean War over a four month period, bagging three on his last combat mission of the war. His record still stands.

That's a lot of stars. (U.S. Air Force photo)

9. Airmen respect North Dakota.

At the height of the Cold War, North Dakota was home to so many USAF nuclear weapons that if it seceded from the Union, it would have been the third largest nuclear power in the world.

That's not North Dakota, that's South Dakota, but you probably didn't notice because we're not in a nuclear war.

10. Some Airmen took the "Live in Fame" part of the Air Force song to heart.

Johnny Cash, George Carlin, Willie Nelson, Morgan Freeman, Hunter S. Thompson, and James Stewart are just a few celebrities who were Airmen. Stewart flew missions in World War II and Vietnam and rose to the rank of Brigadier General while still working in Hollywood.

11. An Air Force tour in Korea made Chuck Norris the man he is today.

While Chuck Norris was stationed in Korea, he realized he wasn't physically able to do his job as an Air Policeman (now called Security Forces) and developed an interest in martial arts. This is also where he earned the nickname Chuck.

And he still drops in for visits.  (U.S. Air Force Photo by Staff Sgt. Tia Schroeder)

12. The Air Force boasts two Presidents.

Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush served as airmen. Reagan served in WWII when the branch was still the Army Air Forces. Bush served in the Texas Air National Guard before transferring to the Air Force Reserve during the Vietnam era.

13. "Air Force One" isn't a plane.

It's not Nelly's shoes either.

It's the radio call name for any U.S. Air Force plane carrying the President of the United States. The same as the Marine helicopter carrying POTUS is Marine One.

14. The Air Force's F-117 fighter uses aerodynamics discovered from bumblebee flight.

Pictured: USAF Honeybee

15. Air Force weathermen are special forces.

They go through Army Airborne School at Fort Benning, Georgia, Air Force Basic Survival School, Air Force Water Survival Training, Air Force Underwater Egress Training, Combat Control School at Pope Field, North Carolina, and Special Tactics Training at Hurlbert Field. They work primarily with Air Force and Army Special Operations Forces but can also be attached to Marine MARSOC and Navy SEAL teams.

"Tonight's forecast calls for Death from Above. Back to you in the studio."

16. The Air Force is the only branch to directly fight the Soviet Union.

The U.S. and the Soviet Union fought one pitched battle — a dogfight during WWII over the Serbian town of Niš. The outcome wasn't clear and both governments classified details of the incident.

17. The Air Force has an official band.

They do more than Souza marches, they drop singles and shoot music videos.

NOW: 32 Terms only Airmen understand >

OR: 9 Reasons you should have joined the Air Force instead >

Humor

The truth about cell phones in Basic Training

Thank god you got out when you did! The moment you received your DD-214, it was officially an end of an era. Hopefully, your branch won't fall victim like all those other, weaker branches did. It's Lord of the Flies in here.

New recruits are arriving in droves and they're pulling out their cell phones to record themselves talking back to their drill sergeants. If the drill sergeants have a problem with it, they whip out their stress cards, go back to eating their Tide Pods, and continue listening to their music (which, coincidentally, has gotten progressively worse since your generation, too).

Keep reading... Show less
Articles

How R. Lee Ermey's Hollywood break is an inspiration to us all

While there have been many outstanding actors and celebrities who have raised their right hand, there has never been a veteran who could finger point his way to the top of Hollywood stardom quite like the late great Gunnery Sergeant R. Lee Ermey.

Keep reading... Show less
Military Life

5 reasons your troops are more important than promotion

If there's one complaint common across the military, it's that commanders too often care more about their careers than the well-being of their troops. It's problematic when higher-ups are willing to put lower enlisted through hell if it means they look good at the end of the day.

Keep reading... Show less
Military Life

'Operation Cure Boredom' is a funny, unrepentant look back at life in the 1990s Air Force

The following is an excerpt from the first book by Air Force veteran and Hollywood writer Dan Martin. Titled Operation Cure Boredom, it's a hilarious collection of short stories chronicling the adventures of Martin's 1990-1994 enlistment in the world's best Air Force.

This chapter, called "Guest on the Range," is about the extraordinary lengths Martin went to in order to qualify on the firing range as a junior enlisted Crew Chief.

Keep reading... Show less
Military Life

The top 6 reasons people decide to join the infantry

Deciding to join the military is a huge step for anyone looking to make a life-altering change. One of the most appealing aspects of becoming a member of the armed forces is the vast array of professional opportunities the service offers.

You can sign up, ship out, and, within a few short months, be guarding a military installation as your newfound brothers- and sisters-in-arms sleep.

Keep reading... Show less
GEAR & TECH

These high-tech glasses could change how sailors train

Training has evolved over the years but the core elements have always remained the same. There's an instructor and a bunch of students. They go over material, both in theory and in practice, mastering the skills required by the job. But no matter how good the teacher, students will always need a refresher from time to time. So, that means it's time to go back to school — or does it?

Now, mixed-reality technology — including smart glasses — could change the way sailors learn the skills they need to serve.

Keep reading... Show less
Entertainment

6 US conflicts that would (probably) make terrible video games

When developers set out to make video games, their focus should always primarily be on crafting a fun and engaging experience. Oftentimes, you'll see video games set far in the future so that developers can place an arsenal of advanced, sci-fi weaponry in the hands of the player — because it's fun. Other times, they'll take cues from real wars and toss the player directly into the heat of a historical battle — because that's fun, too.

Keep reading... Show less
Tactical

How to start a fire with only one hand

Heading out into the wilderness for a camping trip is exhilarating and refreshing. Starting a campfire and roasting some marshmallows under the stars is a great way to get in touch with Mother Nature. Although the idea of spending a night in the great outdoors sounds incredible, campers should always remember to bring specific tools and learn important survival skills in the event they sustain an injury and help is far, far away.

It gets cold out there at night, so it's important to know the basics of starting a fire to keep warm — even in the dire circumstance that you've been injured. Do you know how to start a fire with just one hand? You never know — this skill might just save your life.

Keep reading... Show less