Here's how bad the Air Force's pilot shortage really is - We Are The Mighty
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Here’s how bad the Air Force’s pilot shortage really is

Gen. Carlton D. Everhart II is commander of Air Mobility Command at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois.


Our nation expects a great deal from its military, but it comes at a cost. Air Mobility Command — the organization responsible for airlift, aerial refueling, aeromedical evacuation, and enroute support — is constantly faced with challenges testing the resilience of our airmen.

Whether airdropping combat supplies, fueling fighters and bombers on the way to destroy terrorist camps, or aiding natural disaster victims around the world, Mobility airmen perform the mission with professionalism and at great personal risk and sacrifice.

I’m painfully aware our airmen have been subject to high operations demand for quite some time. Most are tired, as are their families. They do what we ask them to do, and they are always there, conducting the mission professionally, selflessly and with great effect.

Capt. Michael Kerschbaum, a KC-135 Stratotanker pilot and 1st Lt. Renn Nishimoto, a pilot with the 203rd Air Refueling Squadron, taxi a KC-135 to the runway at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii. | U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Nathan Allen

However, a concern is how much longer they can sustain the pace and whether they will leave our Air Force.

The manning shortage extends beyond fighter pilots. What happens when we face a potential exodus of mobility skill and talent? Consider approximately 1,600 mobility pilots are eligible to leave the military in the next four-plus years. We are already more than 300 total force mobility pilots short of what we need today.

Commercial airlines are projected to be short 16,000 pilots by 2020. The math demonstrates the challenge is not looming, it is here. The time to find solutions is now.

A Pilot Shortage

This is a national problem with real security implications. As a result of new safety regulations, increased experience requirements, and attrition through commercial airline pilot retirement, experienced aviators are in high demand.

Mobility pilots are some of the best in the world and represent a lucrative talent pool for the civilian industry. As a natural feeder system for the airlines, we lose talent as civilian airlines’ needs increase.

This comes at a time when our airmen are feeling the strain. Consider aerial refueling tanker pilots as an example. These professionals flew nearly 31,000 tanker missions in support of operations in Iraq and Syria alone. We ask them to do this with a 60-year-old KC-135 Stratotanker or vintage KC-10 Extender aircraft, relying on the strong backs and tremendous pride and skill of our maintainers.

An F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot, assigned to Detachment 1, 138th Fighter Wing, dons his helmet in preparation of a barnstorming performance for reporters, Feb. 1, 2017, in Houston. (U.S. Air National Guard photo/Tech. Sgt. Drew A. Egnoske)

Many yearn for newer equipment; consistent work schedules; family, personal time; and a homestead. Many believe that commercial pilot life offers the potential to achieve balance.

The need for skilled military and civilian pilots will put us in an unfortunate and natural competition with our industry partners — not a good position for either party.

Pilots departing is a problem, but if they don’t consider serving in the Reserves and Guard, that problem becomes a crisis. If our airmen don’t continue to serve with our total force partners, the active force will face additional strain.

Productive dialogue can help us find great opportunities amidst the challenges, but it requires industry, academia, and airman ingenuity.

Recently, I sat down with some of our airline partners to begin this discussion, and I am confident that this is a start toward better understanding and a collaborative approach to improving circumstances.

We are focused not only on the pilot shortage challenges, but also addressing aircraft maintainer shortages.

Air Mobility Command never fails to deliver rapid global mobility anywhere, anytime. The mobility mission is similar to an offensive line in football. When the capability isn’t there, everyone notices, and scoring — or, in our case, striking a target, delivering relief or helping to save a life — wouldn’t occur.

The value of mobility airmen to national defense is critical.

This issue calls for a national dialogue and understanding before strain becomes breakage, and national objectives and security are at risk.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Here’s why the numbers don’t tell the real story of the coronavirus pandemic

The figures are frightening.

Across the globe, the number of reported confirmed cases of the coronavirus is always higher than the day before, topping 1 million as of April 2.

But what if the true numbers are actually even higher?

Experts say data — and how it is reported, or not reported — can give us an incomplete portrait of the problem.


Testing, Testing, 1, 2, 3

Testing, or lack thereof, is one of the main reasons the true scale of the pandemic is unknown. And that may not be the fault of governments. Many of those infected show no symptoms and thus are not candidates for testing.

But there may be other problems with the data — namely, that some governments may be distorting figures to understate the scale of the problem in their respective countries.

U.S. media reported on April 1 that U.S. officials believe China has concealed the extent of the coronavirus outbreak in its country, with officials calling China’s numbers “fake.”

Like China, Iran has been hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic. And like Beijing, Tehran is also suspected of tampering with its numbers to distort the situation there.

Questions have also been raised by Russia’s relatively low numbers as well.

While some governments minimize the problem at home, they may be behind efforts to maximize the scale of the pandemic elsewhere.

An EU watchdog tracking fake news said on April 1 that pro-Kremlin sources on social media were promoting a narrative that the European Union is failing to deal with the pandemic and is on the verge of collapse.

The more testing, the more likely countries will be able to curb the pandemic, according to the World Health Organization.

Data from the United States shows the number of confirmed coronavirus cases rising sharply as testing has improved.

But does that mean infections are rising? Not necessarily. Experts say more testing could explain, at least in part, the higher number.

As The Atlantic magazine put it in an article published on March 26:

“Is the U.S. currently experiencing rapid growth in coronavirus cases, or rapid growth in coronavirus testing, or both? The answer should sound familiar: We don’t know yet, and it will be a while before we do.”

While the United States has ramped up testing, India has taken a different tack.

New Delhi has refused to expand coronavirus testing, despite criticism that limited testing could leave COVID-19 cases undetected in the world’s second-most populous country.

As Al-Jazeera reported on March 18, Indian officials have said the WHO guidance on more testing didn’t apply in India because the spread of the virus was less severe there than elsewhere.

Balaram Bharghava, who heads the Indian Council of Medical Research, said more testing would only create “more fear, more paranoia, and more hype.”

As of April 3, India — a country of nearly 1.4 billion people — had just over 2,500 reported confirmed coronavirus cases and 72 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.

Silent Spreaders

But even if governments have the means and are eager to test, it may not always be clear whom should be tested.

That’s because not everyone reacts the same way to the coronavirus.

Jarmila Razova, the Czech Republic’s head hygienist, told Czech media on April 2 that up to 40 percent of people infected with the coronavirus may show no symptoms at all.

These so-called silent spreaders are feared to be fueling the coronavirus pandemic.

“Stealth transmission” is not only real but a “major driver” of the epidemic, said Columbia University infectious diseases researcher Jeffrey Shaman, who led a study published on March 16 in the journal Science. Its contribution to the virus’s spread “is substantially undetected, and it’s flying below the radar.”

But even when the data may be as close as possible to giving a true picture of the coronavirus problem, some governments may be opting to distort it.

China, where the outbreak began in late December, has reported only about 82,000 cases and 3,300 deaths as of April 3, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

By comparison, the United States has reported more than 245,000 cases and more than 6,000 deaths as of April 3.

Doubts that the Chinese numbers are accurate have been fueled in part by stacks of thousands of urns outside funeral homes in Hubei Province, where the coronavirus was first detected.

U.S. intelligence concluded in a classified report that was handed over to the White house that China covered up the true extent of the coronavirus outbreak, officials said on April 1.

U.S. officials refused to disclose details of the report, saying only, according to a Bloomberg report, that “China’s public reporting on cases and deaths is intentionally incomplete.”

In the Middle East, no country has been harder hit than Iran. The Islamic republic has reported more than 50,000 cases and more than 3,100 deaths as of April 3, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. However, many suspect the numbers being reported by Iran, notorious for its censorship and lack of transparency, are low.

Since the start of the crisis, members of parliament and local officials in some of the major centers of the coronavirus in the country have said the real number of dead and those infected is being grossly understated by the clerical regime that rules Iran.

Satellite images from mid-March appeared to show mass graves being dug in the area around the city of Qom, where the country’s outbreak is believed to have begun.

Faulty Russian Testing Tool?

With a population of over 144 million, Russia has reported some 3,500 confirmed cases and just 30 deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

While Russia has been lauded for carrying out testing early and on a relatively large scale, some experts say the low numbers may be explained in part by the testing tool developed by a state-funded laboratory in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk, known by its shorthand name Vektor.

A Russian science blog called PCR News, which said it had reviewed the specific protocols of the lab’s test, said it only detects the virus if it is over a certain threshold in a sample. The test also appeared to give a higher than expected number of “false positives.”

On March 23, Moscow’s coronavirus task force said the testing protocol would be changed, but it is unclear if the move will win over skeptics.

Within Russia itself, the Kremlin has moved to shut down domestic naysayers, accusing them of spreading disinformation on social media.

In early March, Russia’s Federal Security Service and Internet watchdog moved to take down a viral post claiming the real number of coronavirus cases had reached 20,000 and that the Russian government was covering it up.

Shortly after the move, Facebook and Instagram users in Russia started to see coronavirus awareness alerts linking to Rospotrebnadzor’s official website.

While the Kremlin has been quick to downplay crisis at home, it appears eager to promote it abroad.

According to an analysis released on April 1 by the EU’s East StratCom Task Force, “claims that the EU is disintegrating in the face of COVID-19 are trending on social media in all analyzed regions,” including EU states and Eastern Europe.

It also said RT and Sputnik — Kremlin-funded media — were peddling conspiracy theories that the virus was man-made or intentionally spread, while portraying Russia and China as “responsible powers.”

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

Articles

Disabled Navy vet faces down turtle torturers

Police arrested three men Tuesday in Daytona Beach, Florida, for beating up a disabled Navy veteran after he told them to stop torturing a turtle to death.


A woman spotted a group of men “smashing up a turtle” while walking her toddler around a pond and immediately went home to tell her husband and disabled Navy vet, Gary Blough, who then came out of their apartment to see what was going on, WKMG reports.

He spotted two men and a teenager hitting the turtle.

“The one had it over his head and he was smashing it down on the sidewalk,” Blough said. “I asked them to please leave it alone, just let it go to the lake.”

Blough told his wife to call the police, and immediately two members of the group started punching and kicking him in the back of the head.

“They started hitting the back of my head and started punching me. I was able to fend off a little bit but I mean three of them, got the better of me,” he said.

One of the attackers reportedly yelled that he didn’t care if he went to jail, but the attackers soon scattered after bystanders approached the scene. Police caught up with the three alleged assailants, who were then immediately charged with aggravated battery and animal cruelty.

Blough later informed Daytona Beach police that the turtle was attempting to crawl away, but couldn’t move, due to its injuries.

Blough himself sustained a broken skull, internal bleeding, broken facial bones and a concussion, horrifying his wife.

“My husband, who is disabled, tried to save a poor animal’s life and he gets beaten up,” Jennifer Blough told Fox 35.

The turtle was later found dead in a pool of blood.

Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.

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11 ways the military can build a stronger, more modern force

The U.S. military personnel system is badly outdated and must be reformed dramatically to allow the armed services to recruit and retain men and women with the skills needed to deal with today’s vastly different threats and technology, a high-profile panel of defense experts said March 20.


Experts want to reform a military personnel system that hasn’t been changed significantly since 1947. (Photo: U.S. Army)

A new report developed by 25 former military and civilian defense officials — including top enlisted leaders, former generals and lawmakers on defense committees — for the Bipartisan Policy Council emphasized giving the armed services much greater flexibility to manage their personnel than they’re allowed to do now.

The existing personnel system “is outdated. The last time it was changed was in 1947, coming out of World War II,” said former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, one of the four co-chairmen of the study.

“We’re at a time that if we don’t reform our personnel system, we will begin to undermine our defense,” Panetta warned.

To increase flexibility, the report recommended:

1. Letting people stay longer

Everyone knows chiefs run the Navy. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

The experts recommend replacing the traditional “up-or-out” structure and its rigid timelines for promotion with a “perform to stay” model for advancement.

2. Entering as a staff officer or NCO

Instead of coming in as a buck private or 2nd lieutenant, the report suggests allowing lateral entry at advanced rank for individuals with critical skills, such as those with cyber and information technology expertise.

3. Going back and forth

The experts suggest letting service members more easily move between active and reserve status and allowing temporary breaks in military service for education or family reasons.

4. Reform military compensation

The authors suggest replacing the current military pay table — which provides increases for longevity and increased rank — to “ensure compensation is commensurate with increased responsibility and performance.”

5. Kick malingerers out

The experts say the services need to institute annual involuntary separate boards to “remove low performers in over-manned specialties.”

6. Reform TRICARE

The authors suggest increasing TRICARE enrollment fees for military retirees to cover 20 percent of coverage cost, and waiting until 2038 to grandfather all current service members.

They also suggest offering a new TRICARE option for dependents that would leverage a private employer’s contributions and reduced TRICARE cost.

7. Healthcare reform

The military experts recommend establishing pilot programs to test use of commercial health insurance benefits for reservists and their family members, military retirees and family members.

The report also suggests increasing access to higher quality of Defense Department-provided child care.

8. Help the spouses

The study authors recognize how important it is for the military to maintain a strong work-life balance. (Photo: U.S. Military)

The study authors also want to improve ways to help military spouses get and keep jobs, including giving service members more say in duty station changes.

9. Boost the force

And to reduce the stress on families from the high operational tempo, the report recommends adding military personnel.

The report also calls for greater efforts to expand the military’s outreach to a broader segment of Americans, including:

10. More ROTC

Army ROTC cadets attempt the Ranger obstacle course. (Photo: U.S. Army)

Expand Reserve Officer Training Corps program to all levels of higher education, including post-graduate and community college.

11. Women in the draft

Require women, as well as men, to register with the Selective Service and make all registrants take the military entrance examination.

To enable the services to increase end strength and provide the training and tools service members need, the report’s authors emphasized the need to repeal the 2011 Budget Control Act, with its arbitrary limits on defense spending, and return to a regular budget process that would enable defense leaders to plan ahead for the forces and equipment they need.

The committee that conducted the study and drafted the report included five retired flag or general officers, a retired Marine Corps master sergeant, former high-ranking officials from the Defense Department and other federal agencies, former members of Congress who served on the Armed Services Committees and the chief executive of Blue Star Families, a support organization.

The report is titled “Building a FAST Force,” with the initials standing for Flexible, able to Adapt and to Sustain the force and to be Technology oriented.

MIGHTY TRENDING

We became zombies to be part of this Marine veteran’s new show

Mark Tufo wrote Zombie Fallout, a nine-book series that follows Marine Corps veteran and family man Mike Talbot as he tries to keep his family safe in a world overrun by zombies.


Like the character Talbot, Tufo served in the Marine Corps before returning to civilian life, starting a family, and adopting an English bulldog. The similarities end when Talbot’s neighborhood is taken over by flesh-eating and brain-hunting zombies, forcing him and his family to fight their way out.

Now, Talbot and his family might be getting their own TV series. Brad Thomas, a television producer and fan of the series, has teamed up with Tufo to bring the zombie epic to the masses. WATM got to spend a day with them and some military veteran fans on the set as the crew filmed a teaser for the show.

WATM’s Weston Scott interviewed special effects artist Michael Spatola (known for his work on Predator 2, Terminator 2: Judgement Day, and numerous zombie flicks) and got a chance to experience firsthand what it’s like to sit in the chair and transform into one of the walking dead.

You can also check out the music video teaser for Zombie Fallout.

Articles

World War II Combat Cameraman and Hollywood animation legend dies

He is widely known as a Hollywood animation legend who worked at the studios that created Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse. But Hal Geer also flew 86 combat missions as a combat cameraman in World War II.


B-24 Liberators over Ploesti on Aug. 1, 1943. (U.S. Army photo)

According to a report by the Hollywood Reporter, Geer died Jan. 26 at the age of 100. According to IMDB, his credits included the movies “Daffy Duck: Fantastic Island,” “Bugs Bunny: All-American Hero,” and “The Bugs Bunny Mystery Special” as well as over twenty short cartoons.

Nose art Hal Geer would have loved. Bugs Bunny nose art from an FB-111 with the 380th Bombardment Wing. In World War II, the 380th used B-24 Liberators, and Geer worked on a number of cartoons featuring the wascally wabbit. (USAF photo)

Geer’s World War II service took him over the China-Burma-India Theater, flying in Consolidated B-24 Liberator heavy bombers and North American B-25 medium bombers assigned to the 14th Air Force under Major General Claire Chennault, who founded the legendary Flying Tigers of the American Volunteer Group.

According to a 2007 report in the Ventura County Recorder, Geer made the documentary film “China Crisis” while serving. Geer told the Recorder that this World War II film was the one he was the most proud of.

In a 2005 interview with China Youth Daily, Geer discussed more about his time with the 14th Air Force. “China Crisis” discussed how the United States supported the 14th Air Force, getting supplies over what was called “The Hump.”

Today, it’s better known as the Himalaya Mountains. The film also covered the Japanese Army’s 1944 offensive in China (which doesn’t get as much press when compared to how America advanced in the Pacific that year). Thirteen combat cameramen shot over 300 hours of footage to make a film that was less than an hour long. Five cameramen were killed in action.

“China Crisis” had been slated to be shown along as part of a 1946 War Bonds drive. That drive would not take place, as Japan surrendered in August 1945 after atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Perhaps, someday, DOD will find a way to make that film, and many others, available online for Americans to view.

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Here’s how the team behind ‘John Wick: Chapter 2’ made reloading cool

Professional pain-factory John Wick (Keanu Reeves) is back for a sequel. And once again, there’s a whole cadre of well-dressed people who want him dead.


In anticipation of the film’s release on Feb. 10, We Are The Mighty talked to director Chad Stahelski and stunt coordinator and Army vet J.J. Perry about John Wick’s gunplay style, and how they made mag changes cool.

Watch the trailer for “John Wick: Chapter 2” here.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Special Tactics combat controller laid to rest at Arlington

Known for his grit, loyalty, unwavering character, and the author of quick-witted military cadences, often referred to as “jodies,” Staff Sgt. Dylan Elchin was tough, dedicated, and easy going — often making light of difficult situations.

He was a good teammate, a selfless friend and a true patriot who expressed a willingness to lay down his life for what he believed in — God and country.


Elchin, a Special Tactics combat controller assigned to the 26th Special Tactics Squadron, was honored as hundreds gathered in the rain and he was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery, Jan. 24, 2019.

A Special Tactics combat controller with the 24th Special Operations Wing pounds a flash into the casket of Air Force Staff Sgt. Dylan Elchin.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joseph Pick)

“The boy had a deep-seeded love for his country, and I think early on he decided he wanted to do something with that,” Elchin’s grandfather, Ron Bogolea said. “Somewhere along the line, he apparently made the decision that he was willing to give his life for the country.”

As a Special Tactics combat controller, Elchin was specially trained and equipped for immediate deployment into combat operations to conduct global access, precision strike, and personnel recovery operations. He was skilled in reconnaissance operations, air traffic control and joint terminal attack control operations.

Foundation of morals, discipline

Growing up in rural Beaver County, Pennsylvania, Elchin’s love for camping, hiking, and swimming led him to cub and boy scouts, where his grandfather, Bogolea, believes he acquired his moral compass.

Dawna Duez, mother of Air Force Staff Sgt. Dylan Elchin, receives a flag from Air Force Lt. Gen. Brad Webb, commander of Air Force Special Operations Command, during a ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery, Va., Jan. 24, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joseph Pick)

“He loved the whole aspect of boy scouts,” said Bogolea. “I think as a boy scout, it did a lot to instill in him some of the better moral things in life that people need, and it filled him with patriotism.”

Alongside three brothers, Dylan grew up doing “boy things,” often resulting in minor scrapes and bruises. A trip to the hospital at the age of four showcased a trait that would establish the foundation for Elchin’s success in Special Tactics.

As Bogolea recalls, Dylan’s horseplay on a bunkbed resulted in a laceration above his eye that required stitches, but with the location of the cut, the medical team wasn’t able to apply any medication for the pain. What happened next amazed Dylan’s grandfather and showcased how Dylan was different from other children.

An Air Force bugler plays taps during the military funeral honors of Air Force Staff Sgt. Dylan Elchin.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joseph Pick)

“The boy never whimpered, never whined, never cried, and I was just amazed.” Bogolea said. “From that point on, I just knew there was something a little different about this child. He could take things and kind of brush them off.”

Joining the nation’s elite warriors

By age 14, Dylan began reading accounts of various historical conflicts — Vietnam, the Gulf War, and others — that involved the expertise of special operations.

“A spark ignited, the spark that most of us don’t have,” Bogolea said.

At the end of high school, Dylan visited the local Air Force recruiter and expressed his desire to perform more high-risk activities.

A casket team folds an American flag during the military funeral honors of Air Force Staff Sgt. Dylan Elchin, a Special Tactics combat controller assigned to the 26th Special Tactics Squadron, at Arlington National Cemetery, Va., Jan. 24, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joseph Pick)

“Dylan wanted to jump out of airplanes, scuba dive and do all that fun stuff,” his grandfather said.

The recruiter was able to fulfill Dylan’s desires and offered him an opportunity to serve his nation as a Special Tactics combat controller. While the desire and passion were there, Elchin needed to focus on the physical aspects of the job to best prepare him for what lay ahead.

“For a year, the recruiter took Dylan under his wing and brought him to the YMCA…swam him, lifted weights with him, ran him, ran him and ran him.” Bogolea said. “The whole year this recruiter got him in shape; otherwise he wouldn’t have made it.”

A casket team removes the casket of Air Force Staff Sgt. Dylan Elchin, a Special Tactics combat controller assigned to the 26th Special Tactics Squadron.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joseph Pick)

On Aug. 7, 2012, the Hopewell High School graduate would come one step closer to his goal as he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and arrived in San Antonio, Texas for basic military training. Upon graduation, he immediately began the two-year Special Tactics combat control training program.

As Dylan progressed through one of the most strenuous military training programs, his teammates began to notice one of his most valued characteristics, his quick-witted humor.

“He was a hilarious human, he was probably one of the funniest people that I’ve ever encountered in this job,” said a Special Tactics officer with the 720th Special Tactics Group and Dylan’s teammate in the pipeline. “His quick wit, his ability to draw the most hilarious comics and just provide levity to the worst situations made him an unbelievable teammate that everybody wanted to help carry along and be carried by.”

A caisson carries the casket of Air Force Staff Sgt. Dylan Elchin.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joseph Pick)

However, it wasn’t only his humor his teammates noticed. They saw the same spark Bogolea did.

“He just had that grit…He just kept driving through and he would always do whatever it took to get the job done. That definitely stood out to me,” said a Special Tactics officer and Elchin’s teammate throughout the pipeline and his team leader at the 26th STS. “His never quit, no-fail attitude carried him, and that’s what he took to everything he did, even post-pipeline, as an operator.”

When it came time for Dylan and his team to graduate from combat control school at Pope Field, North Carolina, and don their scarlet berets for the first time, he invited his family down to attend the graduation ceremony.

Air Force Maj. Amber Murrell, left, and Air Force Capt. Christopher Pokorny, both chaplains, lead a caisson carrying the casket of Air Force Staff Sgt. Dylan Elchin.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joseph Pick)

“I go down there and I meet up with him; and I look across the field and I see a half a dozen guys jogging through a field with a telephone pole on their shoulders,” Bogolea said. “I said to (Dylan), ‘what’s that?’, he said ‘that’s Andy’, I said, ‘what are they doing?’, and he replied, ‘well, if you screw up, you get to carry Andy. If you don’t screw up, you get to carry Andy’.”

The ability to smile and laugh gave Dylan and his team a comradery that would fuel them through combat control school and their next stop — Advanced Skills Training at Hurlburt Field, Florida. Following graduation of AST, Special Tactics operators are sent to their respective units deployment ready and prepared to be force multipliers on the battlefield.

The family of Air Force Staff Sgt. Dylan Elchin.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joseph Pick)

When Dylan arrived to the 26th STS in October of 2015, his new unit was set to deploy in the upcoming months. Unfortunately, he didn’t have the time required to earn his joint terminal attack controller rating, and he was unable to go with his unit on the deployment.

For many special operators, this situation would be disheartening.

“His attitude with it the whole time was great,” said Master Sgt. TJ Gunnell, a Special Tactics tactical air control party specialist with Air Force Special Operations Command headquarters and Dylan’s team sergeant at the 26th STS. “We came back and they were like, ‘man, Dylan was crushing it here the whole time you guys were gone,’ and they put him right back on a team and he immediately went to work.”

A casket team removes the casket of Air Force Staff Sgt. Dylan Elchin.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joseph Pick)

In August of 2018, the 26th STS deployed and this time Dylan joined his unit in Afghanistan serving as a JTAC embedded with a U.S. Army Special Operations Force Operational Detachment-Alpha team. His role was to advise the ground force commander, direct close air support aircraft, and deliver destructive ordnance on enemy targets in support of offensive combat operations.

“As soon as they got overseas on this trip, he was there two weeks and immediately into it, just crushing it as a JTAC,” Gunnell said.

Gunnell was referring to Dylan’s actions Aug. 12, 2018, when he repeatedly disregarded his own personal safety and exposed himself to enemy fire while coordinating life-saving, danger-close, air-to-ground strikes, killing enemy fighters who had pinned down their friendly forces convoy. Dylan’s timely and precise actions were credited with saving the lives of his Army Special Forces and Afghan Commando brethren, and he was awarded an Army Commendation Medal with Valor.

More than 350 family members, friends and teammates of Air Force Staff Sgt. Dylan Elchin gather for a ceremony at Fort Myer Memorial Chapel, Arlington, Va., Jan. 24, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joseph Pick)

This was just the start of a consistent battle rhythm Dylan and his teammates pursued throughout their deployment; but unfortunately on Nov. 27, 2018, Elchin and three of his teammates paid the ultimate sacrifice for their nation.

Elchin, along with U.S. Army Capt. Andrew Ross and U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Eric Emond, were killed in action when their vehicle hit an improvised explosive device in Ghazni Province, Afghanistan while deployed in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel. Army Sgt. Jason McClary died later as a result of injuries sustained from the IED.

For his outstanding courage and leadership over the course of his deployment, Dylan was posthumously awarded a Bronze Star Medal.

“I implore you to honor (Dylan’s) service and sacrifice by picking up your sword and shield and continuing the righteous fight, that each one of us might make this world a better and safer place,” said Air Force Lieutenant Col. Gregory Walsh, 26th STS commander, in a letter addressed to Dylan’s teammates. “Although heartbroken at the loss of Dylan, I am extremely proud of him, and every one of you as we carry on in defense of our great nation. Together we must continue the mission, honor his legacy, and never forget what Dylan gave that we might be free.”

A casket team secures the casket of Air Force Staff Sgt. Dylan Elchin.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joseph Pick)

Staff Sgt. Dylan Elchin is the 20th Special Tactics Airman to be killed in combat since 9/11. In the close-knit Special Tactics community, the enduring sacrifices of Elchin and his family will never be forgotten.

Elchin was a qualified military static line jumper, free fall jumper, an Air Force qualified combat scuba diver, and a qualified JTAC. His awards and decorations include the Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart, Army Commendation Medal with Valor, Air Force Commendation Medal, Air Force Combat Action Medal, Air Force Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Afghan Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Air Force Longevity Service Award, Air Force noncommissioned Professional Military Education Graduate Ribbon, Air Force Training Ribbon and NATO Medal.

“Dylan knew the freedom and lifestyle we enjoy here must be protected from evil people wanting to destroy our life. Such love a man must have to lay down his life for his friends and his country, but this is who he was,” Bogolea said. “He truly died a noble death. Dylan was a man who had dreams and the guts to make those dreams come true.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

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Jimmy Kimmel gave train hero Spencer Stone a brand new Chevy Camaro

The heroic airman who helped subdue a terrorist on a high speed train in France last month got some awesome surprises during his visit to the Jimmy Kimmel show on Tuesday.


Airman Spencer Stone, 23, appeared on the show and talked about what happened on Aug. 21, when a terrorist attempted to attack a high speed train traveling from Amsterdam to Paris. Stone, along with his friend Anthony Sadler and Army National Guardsman Alek Skarlatos, subdued the gunman and thwarted a potential massacre.

“I hit the ground with him [and] I was kind of reaching for the gun, I couldn’t find it,” Stone told Jimmy Kimmel. “So I just put him in a rear naked choke just to protect myself … Right away he pulled another handgun, pointed at the back of my head, click, pulled the trigger. It didn’t work either. So God was with me on that one for sure.”

After retelling the story of the train attack, Kimmel noted that Stone was a fan of the Golden State Warriors. “We have a visitor outside who wants to say hello,” Kimmel said, as video cuts to Warriors guard Klay Thompson. He drove up in a Chevy Camaro and made his way to the studio, presenting Stone with a jersey and his hat.

And then, he gave him the keys.

Watch:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R-W5iVj3b_w

NOW: Here’s how the Air Force would defend against Godzilla

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These wounded Marines hunted the Taliban in Afghanistan. Now they hunt child predators online.


The fist bump was their thing in Afghanistan, where both Marines lost legs in the same attack, and the fist bump is still their thing in the hunt for child predators under a special law enforcement program to train and hire medically retired veterans.

Cpl. Justin Gaertner and Sgt. Gabriel Martinez in their dress blues bumped fists at an event earlier this year in Florida, just as they bumped fists while recovering from their wounds.

Gaertner, 26, of Tampa, Fla., has been partnered for the last two years with retired Army Special Forces Staff Sgt. Nathan Cruz, 42, executing the computer forensics to track down sex traffickers in the ICE/HERO program.

Working out of the Tampa, Fla., Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office, Gaertner and Cruz use their newly-acquired computer skills to determine probable cause and go on raids to seize evidence hidden in computer hard drives, software programs and cell phones, much of it involving disturbing images of young children.

Martinez has just committed to training for the same job that falls under the Department of Homeland Security’s mandate in a program that began two years ago.

He was expected to start the year-long training in the fall for the program that was initially limited to U.S. Special Operations Command veterans but now is open to medically retired vets from all the services, said Tamara Spicer, an ICE spokeswoman.

Martinez and Gaertner were both wounded while on a route clearance mission outside Marjah in Afghanistan’s southwestern Helmand province on Nov. 26, 2010.

An improvised explosive device went off and “my best friend blew up right in front of me,” Gaertner said. He was wounded when he stepped on a mine while trying to clear a medevac landing zone.

STUNNED AT THE SCOPE

In phone interviews last week, Gaertner, who served five years in the Marines, and Cruz, a 15-year Army veteran, said they were both channeling the discipline and determination they brought from the military into going after child predators and pornographers. Despite their training, both admitted they were stunned at the scope of the problem.

“I don’t think we ever realized fully what we were getting into or the nature of the suspects we were going after,” Gaertner said. “We don’t really understand them. There’s no character to the people who do these crimes.

“We’ve seen schoolteachers to daycare workers to sports photographers to diplomats – there’s really no face to these crimes,” Gaertner said. “It’s been hard and it’s been a long road but luckily Nathan and I are in the same office and we have each other to fall back on.”

Cruz also said “I didn’t know what I was going to get into” at the start. “I wasn’t working, I wasn’t doing anything,” but “I heard from some SOCOM buddies about this so I thought I’d give it a shot.”

Now, as the father of three children, “I think there’s nothing better I should be doing,” Cruz said. “Kids are being victimized over and over. They need someone to get their back. We just want to put the guys that are hurting them behind bars.”

Cruz and Gaertner were part of the first HERO Corps (Human Exploitation Rescue Operations Corps) in 2013 working with Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) to meet the growing backlog of sex trafficking cases.

2,300 CHILD PREDATORS

Last year, ICE seized more than 5.2 million gigabytes of data related to child exploitation and pornography and arrested more than 2,300 child predators on criminal charges.

“The HERO program, and the resulting hiring of Nathan and Justin, has paid great dividends for HSI Tampa across the board,” said Susan L. McCormick, special agent in charge of HSI Tampa. “We gained skilled employees with valuable experience and training.”

In October 2013, the first class of 17 HEROs graduated from the initial training as computer forensic analysts and in October 2014 a second class of 13 HEROs graduated. In August, ICE was expected to begin training another 50 candidates for the HERO Corps.

In May, Congress passed a bill to make the ICE/HERO program a permanent part of Homeland Security and its budget. The bill was quickly signed into law by President Obama as the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015.

The program had been partly funded by a five-year, $10 million contribution from individuals and foundations through the non-profit National Association to Protect Children.

At a Washington ceremony last month, Homeland Secretary Jeh Johnson and ICE Director Sarah Saldana swore 22 new vets into the HERO Corps designed “to allow wounded, ill or injured warriors the chance to continue serving their country on a new battlefield – the fight against child predators.”

“These heroes have all served their country with honor and distinction and, despite the traumas of war they all have endured, they have answered the call yet again,” Johnson said.

“The main thing we’re focusing on is child exploitation,” Cruz said. “I’d say maybe 80 percent of our cases are child pornography.” The average suspect might have about 1,000 images but “we’ve seen cases with more than 40,000 images. They trade them with their buddies so they can get more – that’s how it works. The more I find, the more years you’re going to get.”

RESCUING CHILDREN

Once they have zeroed in on an offender, the hardest, and most rewarding, part of the job begins – finding and rescuing those children in the images, Cruz said.

“We try to save that kid, try to see where he or she is from. That brings more satisfaction, knowing those kids are not going to be harmed anymore.”

Gaertner said that a recent case in which a suspect had 28,000 images led to the rescue of 130 children nationwide.

Cruz and Gaertner also said that part of the job was focusing on themselves and the potential effects of constantly dealing with the worst of society and the images of exploited children. “Luckily, Nathan and I are in the same office and we have each other to fall back on,” Gaertner said.

“We cannot bring work home, we were taught that during our military careers,” Cruz said. “I tell everybody that when I went to SERE school (Survival Evasion Resistance Escape), the one thing they stress the most is ‘stay in the circle.’ I stay in the circle. Work stays at work, when I go home it’s Nathan the dad.”

While partnering with Gaertner, “we talk about it all the time,” Cruz said of the potential psychological effects. “He knows what I do, I know what he does. Me and Justin, we’re lucky that we’re here together.”

— Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@military.com

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This article originally appeared at Military.com Copyright 2015. Follow Military.com on Twitter.

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These soldiers are the Army’s FBI and Secret Service

The Army has its own criminal investigation service filled with special agents that investigate major crimes, protect VIPs, and maintain criminal records.


The Criminal Investigation Command is often known as CID and its special agents carry CID badges. This is a tie to the unit’s history as the command was originally formed as the Criminal Investigation Division in 1918 by the commander of the American Expeditionary Force, Gen. John “Black Jack” Pershing.

Agents from the CID go in anytime the Army is — or might have been — a party to a major crime. This includes violent crimes like murder and rape as well as white-collar infractions like computer fraud.

Approximately 2,000 soldiers are assigned to CID, 900 of which are special agents. These soldiers investigate the crime on their own or in conjunction with other law enforcement agencies. Agents can build cases, request arrest warrants, and detain suspects the same as other federal law enforcement officers.

The Army CID gives commanders an option for investigating major crimes on their installations or at deployed locations, but the agents do not fall under their installation’s chain of command. The CID units report up the chain to the CIC commanding general who, in turn, reports directly to the Army Chief of Staff and the Secretary of the Army.

This allows CID agents to conduct their investigations with less fear of repercussions from senior leaders on base.

A U.S. Army reserve agent practices clearing a corner as part of responding to an active shooter training during Guardian Shield, Aug. 1, 2016. (Photo: U.S. Army Sgt. Audrey Hayes)

During times of war, CID can be called upon to investigate war crimes. Massacres, the use of illegal weapons like chemical and biological agents, and many crimes against humanity would fall within their purview.

But CID agents do more than just investigate crimes. The 701st Military Police Group (CID) contains the U.S. Army Protective Services Battalion. The Protective Services Battalion is tasked with guarding key Army leaders, the Secretary and Deputy Secretary of Defense, and the Joint Staff.

They also provide security for other leaders when tasked, including the senior leaders of allied militaries.

Agents for all CID positions are recruited largely from within the Army, though there is a direct accessions program that allows civilian college graduates to join.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is what the 400 US troops in Somalia are actually up to

The U.S. military dramatically escalated its military presence in Somalia in recent months to nearly 400 troops, the Pentagon confirmed Monday.


The troop escalation marks an increase of four-fold since President Donald Trump took office and reflects growing U.S. concern over the robust al-Qaida affiliate Al-Shabab in Somalia. Trump has similarly escalated aerial operations against al-Shabab since taking office by designating the country an “area of active hostilities” which allows U.S. military commanders greater latitude in deciding which targets to strike.

The U.S. military’s confirmation of the troop increase comes just days after Al-Shabab killed nearly 300 civilians in twin truck bombs, marking the deadliest attacks in the country’s history.

The US military confirmed a June strike killed eight al-Shabab militants in Somalia. (AP photo via News Edge)

The U.S. troops in Somalia are both engaged in operational support missions and train, advise, and assist for the Somalian National Army. They also provide planning and assistance in intelligence operations. Approximately half of the U.S. forces are special operators accompanying the Somalian army outside the capital on missions to provide advice and some assistance.

A U.S. Africa Command spokesman speaking of the U.S. mission in April characterized the mission as “various security cooperation and/or security force assistance events in Somalia in order to assist our allies and partners.”

A U.S. Navy SEAL was killed in May during a mission with the Somalian army becoming the first U.S. casualty in the country since 1993 during the Black Hawk Down incident.

MIGHTY SPORTS

WATCH: NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace skydived into the Daytona 500 with the Air Force

The Daytona 500 is known as the Great American Race.

Well, the Great American Race just had a driver make a Great American Entrance.


The United States Air Force has had a partnership with Richard Petty Motorsports for several years now. As part of their partnership, they decided that they were going to make a mark this weekend in Daytona.

One way was a little skydiving.

The other was one of the best paintjobs a racecar has ever had.

Bubba Wallace is a fan favorite among NASCAR fans. He finished second at the Daytona 500 in 2018 and 3rd at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2019. While he has had ups and downs in his short career, he is talented and a lot of people are rooting for his success. He is young, personable, and just an overall nice guy. He also does some pretty cool things.

The Air Force Wings of Blue demonstration team decided to help him make a grand entrance at the legendary racetrack on the days before the race. Wallace did a tandem jump out of a C-17 Globemaster and landed about 50 yards from the start/finish line of the 2.5 mile track.

After his lap, Wallace said, “I guess I can now say that was the coolest thing I’ve done. I’ve been able to go with the United States Air Force a couple of times in a fighter jet, F-15 F-16, and I didn’t think that could be beat. I’m still trying to decide if skydiving beat that, but jumping with the Wings of Blue was incredible.”

He continued, “I wasn’t nervous at all, which was kind of surprising because I’m about to jump out of a perfectly good C-17 aircraft, and that was cool, by the way; that thing is awesome. I didn’t get nervous. I went straight to scared crapless when we just walked off the back of the airplane. I wanted to back out right then and not do it then. The adrenaline rush that I got at that moment. I don’t know another feeling, another moment in my life that can describe that. Incredible. I couldn’t really see coming down, I had to hold my goggles. Once I did that, it was incredible; pulled the chute, super quiet ride. (Instructor) Randy did awesome, gave me the ride of my life.”

Wallace then tweeted video of the jump.

Talk about an entrance! Just your typical Thursday leading into the #DAYTONA500. Grateful for @USAFRecruiting, @RPMotorsports and @USAFWingsofBlue for knocking this off my bucket list!pic.twitter.com/LYGcfmZNIC

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Now let’s get to the beautiful machine Wallace is driving.

Rain postponed the race after the 20th lap on Sunday until Monday, but the weather wasn’t the only thing that stopped the show.

Dale Earnhardt had his black #3, Jeff Gordon had his #24 rainbow car, and Richard Petty had the #43 STP with its iconic paint job.

Wallace will be racing the #43 too, but with a serious Air Force twist.

You know that A-10 Warthog? The one that makes that beautiful sound?

The paint job on Wallace’s #43 honors that plane.

While the pictures look great, to see it in motion shows the true beauty of this magnificent racing machine.

pic.twitter.com/YNIZlSQTbs

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Wallace added a few personal touches honoring recently deceased driver John Andretti and the victims of the recent helicopter crash in LA including one of his heroes, Kobe Bryant.

Awesome job to the Air Force, Richard Petty Racing, and Bubba!