It's the end of the line for the F-4 . . . really this time - We Are The Mighty
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It’s the end of the line for the F-4 . . . really this time

It’s the end of the line for the F-4 . . . really this time
Look Ma! No pilot! (Or RIO, for that matter.) (Photo: U.S. Navy)


Phantom Phanatics have loved the F-4, even though the legendary fighter has been out of United States service for two decades. But that may not be an accurate way to think of it. Because theF-4 actually has still been serving – and still has about two months of life left with the United States Air Force.

According to an Air Force release, these Phantoms that have been serving just haven’t been manned – for the most part. QF-4 Phantoms (the Q standing for “drone”) have been providing “live” targets for the testing of air-to-air missiles (like the AIM-9 Sidewinder and AIM-120 AMRAAM), usually by simulating an enemy aircraft during those tests. Any number of pilots who have used air-to-air missiles in combat can thank those target drones for helping make sure those missiles worked.

How did the Phantom provide two decades’ worth of target drones? Well, it’s not hard when you realize that almost 5,200 were built by McDonnell-Douglas. Now, that includes those that were exported, but even with combat losses in Vietnam (73 for the Navy, 75 for the Marine Corps, and 528 for the Air Force). The Air Force arranged for 324 airframes to become QF-4s. The Navy also used the QF-4 after retiring its last F-4 from USMC service in 1992 – getting another 12 years of service from the “Double Ugly” until the last airframe retired in 2004.

The QF-4s were not the first planes to serve as target drones. The QF-86 Sabre, QF-80 Shooting Star, QF-100 Super Sabre, and the QF-106 Delta Dart have been among former fighters that provided additional service beyond their “official” retirement date by serving as target drones. Even the legendary B-17 had a version that served as a target drone. In fact, just as the F-4 Phantom was replaced in active service by the F-16 Fighting Falcon, the QF-4 Phantom will be replaced by QF-16 Fighting Falcons.

The surviving QF-4 Phantoms at White Sands Missile Range will get one more round of maintenance, mostly to remove hazardous materials, and then they will serve as ground targets.

Here’s a video of QF-4s taking a few for the team:

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This shocking video illustrates the huge number of WWII fatalities

A new data-driven video produced by Neil Halloran illustrates the massive number of fatalities of Second World War like never before.


The video, which was released on Memorial Day, “uses cinematic data visualization techniques to explore the human cost of the second World War, and it sizes up the numbers to other wars in history, including recent conflicts,” according to a press release. “Although it paints a harrowing picture of the war, the documentary highlights encouraging trends in post-war battle statistics.”

The video features a number of eye-opening insights, such as the relatively small number of German losses during the initial invasions, or the huge numbers lost — both civilian and military — by the Soviet Union during the war. At one point, the chart showing Soviet deaths continues to grow higher, leaving the viewer to wonder when it will ever stop.

“As the Soviet losses climbed, I thought my browser had frozen. Surely the top of the column must have been reached by now, I thought,” a commenter wrote on Halloran’s fallen.io website.

From Fallen.io:

The Fallen of World War II is an interactive documentary that examines the human cost of the second World War and the decline in battle deaths in the years since the war. The 15-minute data visualization uses cinematic storytelling techniques to provide viewers with a fresh and dramatic perspective of a pivotal moment in history.

The film follows a linear narration, but it allows viewers to pause during key moments to interact with the charts and dig deeper into the numbers.

Now watch:

The Fallen of World War II from Neil Halloran on Vimeo.
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Retired A-10 crew chief discusses his relationship with the Thunderbolt II

It’s the end of the line for the F-4 . . . really this time


In the heart of the Sonoran Desert lies a 2,600-acre piece of land, a “boneyard,” where it is commonly understood a unique bond exists between an Airman and his aircraft.

Since the days shortly after World War II, this particular piece of land, located on Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, has been the final resting place for tens of thousands of military aircraft, many of which have played a significant role in shaping the world since the early 1940’s.

The boneyard is home to the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group. It’s where 600 technicians, from dozens of specialties, ensure the preservation or perform the “cannibalization” of the sleeping fleet. Most of the technicians have decades of experience, both military and civilian, spanning multiple generations of airframes. However, not many have the level of relationship Richard Brunt has with the A-10 Thunderbolt II, which pilots and crews lovingly refer to as the “Warthog.”

Those who come across Brunt in the boneyard, may assume he’s just another mechanic. He has that seasoned maintainer demeanor, sun-scorched skin, roughly calloused hands, and sarcasm perpetuated by thousands of hours of knuckle-busting wrench turns.

It’s the end of the line for the F-4 . . . really this time
Richard Brunt cleans the windscreen of an A-10 at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, circa 1988. | Photo by Richard Brunt

Nevertheless, Brunt is far more than a junkyard part puller.

“I joined the military in 1975, but it wasn’t until my second tour of active duty that I worked as an aviation crew chief,” said Brunt. “I always had a passion for all things aviation, so I was excited.

“Initially I worked five years on F-4 (Phantoms), F-111 (Aardvarks), and as a quality assurance inspector. But, in 1987, after a three-year tour at Osan Air Base, Korea, that’s when I was struck by the Thunderbolt.”

Brunt joined a “hodge-podge of crew chiefs and pilots” from all over the world who were tasked with activating the Air Force’s first OA-10 forward air controller (FAC) airborne unit.

“We all had to learn a new aircraft; none of us had touched an A-10 … it made us a close-knit group,” Brunt said. “All of us worked together, the mechanics and the pilots. We had one goal in mind: get qualified.”

From 1987 to 1990, Staff Sgt. Brunt and the 23rd Tactical Air Support Squadron trained day in and day out, traveling throughout the country. They were also tasked with providing heavily armed airborne FAC to support the Army’s renowned and battle-tested 82nd and the 101st Airborne Divisions.

After two years of intense training, the Davis-Monthan AFB OA-10 unit was called upon to support Operation Desert Storm. The unit would formally usher in the new era of close air-support and give rise to a new term – “tank-plinking.”

It’s the end of the line for the F-4 . . . really this time
An A-10A Thunderbolt II aircraft takes part in a mission during Operation Desert Storm. The aircraft is armed with AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles, AGM-65 Maverick missiles, and Mark 82 500-pound bombs. | Air Force photo

The sight of the group’s hard work and preparation finally being utilized during Desert Storm is as vivid for Brunt as if it were yesterday.  He calls it the fondest memory of his career.

“I remember the night we caught the (Iraqi) Republican Guard moving south along the Highway of Death (Highway 80, which runs from Kuwait City to Basra, Iraq),” Brunt said. “The first group of A-10s I launched came back and the pilots were all pumped up. They had spotted a whole convoy that spanned many miles.

“That night, we launched nearly 600 jets. Our pilots did a typical tactical attack; they knocked out the front, then knocked out the back, boxing them in. Each jet carried 1,150 pounds of (high-explosive incendiary), the 30 millimeter cannon, four bombs, and two to four air-to-ground missiles … each one came back empty. It was a great day.”

Although missions like that night were filled with adrenaline and affirmation, those moments were always short-lived. Most days were filled with nonstop sortie generation, harsh conditions and constant angst from the surrounding dangers.

Still, it was never just a job for Brunt, it was a sense of pride; it was never just his name on the side of the plane that connected him to the machine, it was much deeper.

“Every day, multiple times a day, that was my plane heading into danger, my pilot relying on my machine to respond accurately and protect his life,” Brunt said.

It’s the end of the line for the F-4 . . . really this time
Richard Brunt, left, and Captain Patrick B. Olson stand in front an OA-10, number 197, in Saudi Arabia during Operation Desert Storm in 1991. | Photo courtesy Richard Brunt

Unfortunately, one of the most defining moments in Brunt’s love affair with the A-10 was the loss of a dear friend and colleague.

“His name was Lt. Patrick Olson,” Brunt said. “We called him Oly. He was a great officer. I was his crew chief; it was our names on the side of aircraft 77-197.

“I remember it clear as day. There was a light drizzle and as we prepared for launch; Oly was talking about how he heard the war may end really soon. I got him in the plane, buckled him up and he took off up north toward the Republican Guard.”

That day, Feb. 27, 1991, Olson was directing fire toward Iraqi tanks when he was spotted and immediately engaged. He quickly yanked the A-10′s vertical to the ground, banked sharply and instead of disengaging, went directly for the Iraqi tanks. Olson’s aircraft took critical damage.

“He was hit with (anti-aircraft artillery), they disabled his rudder and elevator,” said Brunt. He was told to bailout… but he said ‘No, I’m going to land this thing.'”

Because of the damage sustained by the aircraft, as he was preparing to land, the gear in his wing broke through the skin, the plane slide sideways, flipped over and burst into flames.

“I took it very hard,” explained Brunt, “When the expediter pulled me aside and told me that Oly wouldn’t be coming back, I burst into tears; it was hard for me to process.”

It’s the end of the line for the F-4 . . . really this time
Richard Brunt touches a memorial plaque, located in Heritage Park at Davis-Monthan AFB, Tucson, Ariz., Mar 5, 2016, which honors Captain Patrick B. Olson. | Photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.

The war ended the next day.

After an emotionally charged six months in Saudi Arabia, Brunt spent the next five years traveling the world with the A-10, supporting multiple operations. Then, in 1996, after 17 years and 10 months in the service, Brunt was the subject of the Air Force’s reduction in force efforts; he retired as a technical sergeant with full benefits.

Following retirement, Brunt looked for ways to stay with the A-10. It wasn’t until 2002, after six years of working multiple jobs in aviation, that he was finally reunited with the aircraft.

“For years I had been trying to get back to the plane that I knew the best, the one I spent 11 years with,” Brunt explained. “The wait had been too long.”

It’s the end of the line for the F-4 . . . really this time

While the Thunderbolts were the same, Brunt’s new involvement with them was exactly the opposite of what it used to be. Instead of repairing them, he was tearing them apart.

“It’s a shame going through the save list and striping them down,” Brunt said. “It’s hard to imagine that the very aircraft that took me to all ends of the world would soon be crushed up, salvaged and probably turned into beer cans.

“At least for now, the A-10 will live on for a few more years and the parts I pull will keep the aircraft flying and save the tax-payers millions of dollars. When the A-10 is finally taken out of commission, it will not be forgotten. It has given me some of the greatest moments of my life. For that I owe it a great deal of gratitude.”

For those traveling to Davis-Monthan that get a chance to tour the boneyard, look for Brunt. You’ll find him hard at work, carefully stripping down the birds he once repaired. Ask him about his time with the A-10 and you’ll see a subtle grin and a sparkle in his eye…he’ll begin to point out his favorites starting with the NF (Nail FAC) Desert Storm aircraft.

It’s the end of the line for the F-4 . . . really this time

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The 13 Funniest Military Memes This Week

Welcome to 2015! The holidays are over and, for some of us, the shine is already coming off the New Year. If you need a boost to face the next 52 weeks, try these 13 military memes that made us laugh.


The dog jumped; paratroopers just fall

It’s the end of the line for the F-4 . . . really this time
Hey, the dogs get parachutes too.

No loitering or soliciting

It’s the end of the line for the F-4 . . . really this time
The only bum fights with national security repercussions

The best air shows require ordnance

It’s the end of the line for the F-4 . . . really this time
Why set down the controller? Can’t you pilot with those now?

It’s alright, you’ll sweat it out

It’s the end of the line for the F-4 . . . really this time
As long as you wear a reflective belt

No s–t, there I was…

It’s the end of the line for the F-4 . . . really this time
…it had been hours since lunch, and I was at the back of the line.

If they were equal, the Marines couldn’t spend so much time bragging

It’s the end of the line for the F-4 . . . really this time
Nope, just paid the same.

Dress for the job you want

It’s the end of the line for the F-4 . . . really this time
Pretty sure those toys are wearing their helmets though. Proper PPE, fellas, Proper PPE.

ENDEX, ENDEX, ENDEX

It’s the end of the line for the F-4 . . . really this time
Best feeling in the military is, right before you have to admit you screwed up, hearing ENDEX.

The miracle of birth

It’s the end of the line for the F-4 . . . really this time
Jets, the only babies that throw their own showers

Overly manly man has a sweet tooth

It’s the end of the line for the F-4 . . . really this time
No. They don’t share them either.

Lock the door, leave the lights off

It’s the end of the line for the F-4 . . . really this time
It’s always the duty. ALWAYS.

At least they included a spot for the helicopter

It’s the end of the line for the F-4 . . . really this time
Kind of surprised they settled for only one hole

Military service is steeped in tradition

It’s the end of the line for the F-4 . . . really this time
Worst time for a negligent discharge
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The 10 most useless GI Joes of all time

GI Joe is a national treasure and the doll that has made red-blooded American males tough for decades. But not all GI Joes are created equal once the shooting starts. Here are the 10 most useless among them:


1. Altitude

Altitude’s special abilities include making quick sketches while skydiving. It may or may not be relevant that he’s a full-blooded Apache. After the failure of syndicated cartoons, he joined the military. His photographic memory helps his sketches be as accurate as possible. According to his official filecard, he’s the first Joe ever to combine two totally different specialties – Reconnaissance and Combat Artistry.

It’s the end of the line for the F-4 . . . really this time

2. Dee-Jay

Once the “baddest, hottest disc jockey in Boston,” Dee-Jay is a Communications expert who can work “complicated sound equipment… and coax strange sounds out of it with an infectious beat.” The only person more useless would be Cobra’s Falconer, but at least he knew how to dodge tax laws.

It’s the end of the line for the F-4 . . . really this time

3. Metalhead

Metalhead is from the short-lived GI Joe EXTREME series. His specialty is computer communications and playing loud rock music in battle. He also has an “in-your-face attitude” (aka “being an asshole”).

It’s the end of the line for the F-4 . . . really this time

Also, a leather vest and peace symbol necklace aren’t intimidating anyone, least of all Cobra Commander.

4. Bullhorn

GI Joe’s hostage negotiator, Bullhorn is an “intervention specialist… an extremely calm individual, possessing an open and compassionate personality.” He “has the looks of a choirboy and is a good listener!”

It’s the end of the line for the F-4 . . . really this time

5. Colonel Courage

The Colonel whose military specialty is “administrative strategist,” his filecard quotes him as saying “I’ll never surrender when I’m wearing a tie ’cause I can’t be beat when I’m neat!” His skills include organization and an efficient work ethic.

It’s the end of the line for the F-4 . . . really this time

Colonel Courage’s filecard even says he rides a desk. Colonel Courage seems like the kind of Colonel who would deny Gung-Ho a promotion because his mustache was out of regs. Also I can’t take him seriously with a name like that.

6. Ice Cream Soldier

I don’t understand why he’s not just called “Ice Cream.” They don’t call Leatherneck “Leatherneck Marine.” Anyway, this seems like a bet between some Hasbro execs to see if they could just sell anything. Ice Cream Soldier is a Fire Operations Expert and BBQ Chef. His filecard says his name is designed to make Cobra underestimate him, but his filecard quote makes that seem like a dodge: “Eating ice cream without hot fudge is like fighting without ammunition!”

It’s the end of the line for the F-4 . . . really this time

7. Sci-Fi

His card specifically states Sci-Fi “lives in a slow-motion world. He takes everything real easy and is never in a hurry to get anywhere or do anything.” It sounds like Sci-Fi is the biggest Blue Falcon in the whole Joe organization. Also, his specialty is shooting a laser. Forget that everyone shoots lasers, Sci-Fi’s laser takes much longer to be effective so he shoots it miles away from the battlefield.

It’s the end of the line for the F-4 . . . really this time

Neon green is obviously the go-to color to wear in any small arms situation.

8. Chuckles

Chuckles, with maybe the least threatening name of any GI Joe (keeping in mind that Ice Cream Soldier still has the word “soldier” in his name), is a former insurance investigator whose greatest skill is “likeability.” He works criminal investigations, in case any Joes violate the UCMJ. No one is really sure who Chuckles works for, but he shows up every day in his Hawaiian shirt, “grinning, cracking jokes, and punching Cobras in the shoulders.”

It’s the end of the line for the F-4 . . . really this time

9. Ozone

An environmental health specialist, Ozone cleans up dangerous chemicals while fixing the holes in Earth’s Ozone layer. “Yo Joe! Ozone is here!” said no Joe ever.

It’s the end of the line for the F-4 . . . really this time

“Hey, Ozone, buddy… we’re gonna need that Napalm back.”

10. Hardball

Hardball is a failed minor league baseball player who still dresses like he’s going to play baseball at any moment, as if he just can’t accept the fact that he couldn’t make it to the big leagues and joined the military instead. His specialties include being able to judge distances quickly and his ability to be a team player.

It’s the end of the line for the F-4 . . . really this time

I mean, come on man, let it go. It’s time to move on.

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These high-tech Long Johns could protect you from a mustard gas attack

With threats of a mustard gas attack on U.S. troops re-emerging in ISIS-infested Iraq, a leading clothing technology company has developed an ingenious way to protect troops from the horrors of chem-bio warfare.


Known more for its waterproof and breathable coating for rainwear and other outdoor equipment, W.L. Gore — the folks who make Gore-Tex — has developed a next-to-skin clothing system that protects against both chemical and biological warfare agents with just a thin layer of its so-called “Chempak” material.

So, say goodbye to that hot, bulky, carbon-impregnated MOPP suit.

“The big thing you think about with chem-bio suits is the thermal burden,” said Gore’s Mike Merrick. “You want to make sure you’re keeping that user as effective as possible which means you have to relieve heat stress and reduce that mobility restriction. That’s how we’ve designed this garment — to address that mobility restriction and range of motion and thermal burden.”

The new Chemical/Biological Protective Clothing System developed by Gore is light, stretchy and thin, so it allows the operator unrestricted movement when things go kinetic. Gore also claims it 20 percent cooler than the current chem-bio suit.

The best part is most observers would have no idea a soldier is wearing it, so for public events where security is worried about a potential terrorist attacks, the crowd won’t freak out seeing troops or police wearing bulky chem-bio space suits.

It’s the end of the line for the F-4 . . . really this time
The two-piece chem-bio protection system developed by Gore gives troops a high level of protection from attack while remaining covert. (Photo from We Are The Mighty)

“The benefits of this is it’s very concealable you could be wearing it under your clothes right now and I’d have no idea,” Merrick said during an interview at the annual Association of the U.S. Army conference in Washington.

“Think of something like the Olympics where you don’t want to alert a stadium full of people that their could be a threat — you don’t want to walk around there in a big chem-bio suit,” he added. “But in the event something happens, you have a backpack, you pull a mask on you put gloves on and you’re good to go.”

Another advantage of the Chempak material, Merrick says, is that it protects against both vapor-based chemical warfare agents as well as liquid-based biological weapons which the current MOPP suit does a poor job repelling.

Gore has also developed a more robust system that includes a one-piece Union-Suit-like undergarment and a thin coverall. The advantage with this option is that it can be doffed and donned over a trooper’s uniform and can be configured for different missions depending on the environment. The inner protective layer can be worn under a coverall that matches the camo pattern of the service or agency, for example, rather than forcing units to buy entire suits in one color or pattern.

It’s the end of the line for the F-4 . . . really this time
The CPSU-2 developed by Gore allows operators to tailor their outer garment to a specific mission while delivering both chemical and biological protection at a fraction of the bulk and heat of today’s MOPP suit. (Photo from We Are The Mighty)

“The benefit is that it’s got this removable outer shell. So that’s good for tailorability to the unit,” Merrick said. “If they want to change that outer garment for a jungle uniform or you’re Coast Guard and you’re doing a drug interdiction mission — its’ one chem-bio suit with two different outer garment coveralls, so the logistics burden is reduced and you don’t have to carry two different chem-bio suits.”

American special operations units are already wearing the two-piece chem-bio undergarment on some missions, but Gore is gunning for the Pentagon’s replacement for the dreaded MOPP suit.

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Founder of organization that assists families of the fallen receives Presidential Medal of Freedom

It’s the end of the line for the F-4 . . . really this time
(Photo: Andrew Harnik, Alaska Dispatch News)


Bonnie Carroll, the founder of the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama at a ceremony held in the East Room of the White House on November 24. The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the Nation’s highest civilian honor, presented to individuals who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.

Carroll founded TAPS after her husband, Brigadier General Tom Carroll, died in an Army C-12 plane crash in 1992, TAPS provides comprehensive support to those impacted by the death of a military family member. The organization’s programs like Good Grief camps and National Military Survivor seminars have brought effective comfort and care to families of the fallen since 1994, most acutely in the years since 9-11.

“This is a tremendous honor,” Carroll told WATM immediately following the ceremony. “It’s a recognition of American respect and reverence for all of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice and the families they loved and left behind.”

Sixteen others were recognized by President Obama during the event including entertainers James Taylor, Gloria Estefan, and Barbara Streisand, baseball legend Willie Mays, lawmakers Shirley Chisholm and Lee Hamilton, NASA mathematician Katherine G. Johnson, composer Stephen Sondheim, and filmmaker Steven Spielberg.

“It was wonderful to meet [the other awardees],” Carroll said. “Gloria Estefan lost her dad in the Army, so she’s kind of a TAPS kid. And Steven Spielberg was telling me about a project he’s working on to bring awareness to those dealing post traumatic stress and veteran suicide. So this was a tremendous opportunity to meet those who’ve made a difference in the county and also take our work forward.”

Carroll is also a retired major in the Air Force Reserve. She serves on the Defense Health Board and co-chaired the Department of Defense Task Force on the Prevention of Suicide in the Armed Forces.

“From public servants who helped us meet defining challenges of our time to artists who expanded our imaginations, from leaders who have made our union more perfect to athletes who have inspired millions of fans, these men and women have enriched our lives and helped define our shared experience as Americans,” President Obama said during the ceremony.

For more about the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors go here.

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These are the best pictures from the military this week

Military photographers in all the branches of the armed forces are constantly taking awesome shots of training, combat, and stateside events. We looked among the military’s official channels, Flickr, Facebook, and elsewhere and picked our favorites over the past week. Here’s what we found.


AIR FORCE:

An F-22 Raptor, from the 43rd Fighter Squadron, takes off in Savannah, Ga., during Sentry Savannah 16-3, Aug. 2, 2016. The F-22 is a fifth-generation fighter aircraft.

It’s the end of the line for the F-4 . . . really this time
U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Solomon Cook

A B-52 Stratofortress, B-1B Lancer and B-2 Spirit sit beside one another on the flightline at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, Aug.10, 2016. The occasion marked the first time in history that all three of Air Force Global Strike Command’s strategic bombers were positioned to simultaneously conduct operations in the U.S. Pacific Command region.

It’s the end of the line for the F-4 . . . really this time
U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Richard Ebensberger

ARMY:

A U.S. Army paratrooper drags his parachute toward a target during Leapfest 2016 in West Kingston, R.I., Aug. 4, 2016. Leapfest is an International parachute training event and competition hosted by the 56th Troop Command, Rhode Island Army National Guard to promote high level technical training and esprit de corps within the International Airborne community.

It’s the end of the line for the F-4 . . . really this time
U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Brady Pritchett

U.S. Army Spc. Mariah Ridge, a military working dog handler assigned to Joint Task Force-Bravo’s Joint Security Forces, laughs at her military working dog, Jaska, during K9 hoist evacuation training at Soto Cano Air Base, Honduras, Aug. 15, 2016. Although the MWDs and their handlers were training in 90 degree, 100 percent humidity weather, they managed to stay in good spirits.

It’s the end of the line for the F-4 . . . really this time
U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Siuta B. Ika

NAVY:

YOKOSUKA, Japan (Aug. 18, 2016) Deck Department Sailors haul in mooring lines during a sea-and-anchor evolution aboard the Navy’s only forward-deployed aircraft carrier, USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), after returning from Board of Inspection and Survey (INSURV) testing at sea. The lines are used to secure the ship to the pier. Ronald Reagan provides a combat-ready force, which protects and defends the collective maritime interests of the U.S. and its allies and partners in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.

It’s the end of the line for the F-4 . . . really this time
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Jamaal Liddell

EDITERRANEAN SEA (Aug. 11, 2016) A Sailor signals an AV-8B Harrier pilot assigned to the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (22nd MEU) to stop aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1) Aug. 11, 2016. The 22nd MEU, embarked aboard Wasp, is conducting precision air strikes in support of the Libyan Government of National Accord-aligned forces against Daesh targets in Sirte, Libya, as part of Operation Odyssey Lightning.

It’s the end of the line for the F-4 . . . really this time
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Nathan Wilkes

MARINE CORPS:

Marines and sailors with Battalion Landing Team, 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, participated in a Teufel Hunden, or Devil Dog, challenge August 12, 2016, on Camp Lejeune North Carolina. Companies competed against each other in sprint relays, pugil stick fighting, a pull-up and push-up competition, ground fighting and a high-intensity tactical training course. The field meet was organized to build camaraderie among the Marines and sailors.

It’s the end of the line for the F-4 . . . really this time
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Melanye Martinez

Marines and sailors with Battalion Landing Team, 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, participated in a Teufel Hunden, or Devil Dog, challenge August 12, 2016, on Camp Lejeune North Carolina. Companies competed against each other in sprint relays, pugil stick fighting, a pull-up and push-up competition, ground fighting and a high-intensity tactical training course. The field meet was organized to build camaraderie among the Marines and sailors. BLT 3/6 is a part of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

It’s the end of the line for the F-4 . . . really this time
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Brianna Gaudi

COAST GUARD:

July 13, 2013 — U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Brendon Ballard, left, checks the dive rig of Petty Officer 2nd Class Dylan Baker prior to entering a diver decontamination station pier side at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam during Rim of the Pacific 2016.

It’s the end of the line for the F-4 . . . really this time
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer Thomas McKenzie

Sunset review is a graduation tradition at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. The incoming second class lower the national ensign in honor of the first classes graduation and promotion from cadet to Ensign in the U.S.C.G.

It’s the end of the line for the F-4 . . . really this time
U.S. Coast Guard photo

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This Marine helicopter pilot says a wingsuit is the best way to fly

He’s piloted an AH-1W Super Cobra helicopter gunship in combat, but Marine Capt. Kyle Lobpries is still chasing that next adrenaline rush.


On Memorial Day, wearing a high-performance Jedei II wingsuit, Lobpries stepped off an airplane at 36,215 feet over northern California. For more than eight minutes, he flew like a bird.

He floated to Earth before his parachute deployed at 3,003 feet and carried him onto a field nearly 19 miles away and nearly set a distance record for wingsuit flight.

Thrilling enough? Yes and no.

Next month, Lobpries will compete in speed skydiving. Goal? Maximum velocity.

Don’t people, like objects, descend at 120 mph?

It’s the end of the line for the F-4 . . . really this time
Photo courtesy Kyle Lobpries Facebook

Generally, yes, but freefall speed increases by reducing friction. Tuck yourself in from the belly or spread-eagle position and fall head-first, for example, and a skydiver could reach 180 mph, according to the Federation Aeronautique Internationale, the World Air Sports Federation. Get into a tight, lean position – think slender torpedo – and a skydiver could hit 300 mph or more.

That’s Lobpries’ goal.

So far, he’s hit 297 mph in training. At such speeds, the 33-year-old is flying nearly twice that of his own helicopter. Straight down.

“It’s pretty scary,” he admitted. “When you go that fast, everything is vibrating and shaking and kind of blurry.”

Next month, he’ll compete in speed skydiving at the FAI World Parachuting Championship in Chicago, Sept. 10-21. Speed diving is the newest recognized discipline by FAI, which will crown champion whoever tallies the “fastest speed possible over a given distance.”

Last year, the top speed over a 1-kilometer descent was 317.5 mph, according to SkyDive magazine.

(Speed skydiving shouldn’t be confused with the recent jump by skydiver Luke Aikins, who leapt from 25,000 sans parachute into a big net and the Guinness Book of World Records for highest skydive without a parachute. And it’s not the same speed record adventure-skydiver Felix Baumgartner got when he reached 833.9 mph and broke the speed of sound falling 127,000 feet to Earth in 2012, still the highest skydive.)

As a kid in Texas, Lobpries saw wingsuiters on TV and thought, that’s cool. He made his first jump, a tandem ride, as a 19-year-old college freshman and since has amassed various parachute ratings and qualifications and some medals, even as his military flight career took off. He got the requisite 200 jumps before jumping with his first wingsuit, in 2010.

“I remember my heart beating very fast. I was very nervous,” he recalled of that jump from 12,500 feet.

It’s been his great passion ever since and between overseas deployments. “I think this is the more truer way to fly, to actually use your arms to support yourself in the air,” he said.

Wingsuiting to a layperson seems like a complex feat of science and physics. With his grounding in aviation and aeronautics, Lobpries pores over jump and flight data and calculations. He’s working on designing the most efficient and fast wingsuit design.

Lobpries lives near San Diego and is the Marine Corps liaison officer with Tactical Air Control Squadron 12 at San Diego Naval Base. It’s a non-flying billet. Outside of work, chances are good he’s in the air or somewhere maybe riding his Ducati 1199 Panigale S.

Every one of his jumps requires a lot of thought and study to ensure safety and solid performance. Lobpries spent months planning and preparing for the May wingsuit flight near Davis, California. He slimmed down to 172 pounds, building strength and stamina through a clean diet and strength conditioning that include core exercises and yoga, despite nagging lower-body injuries from a 2014 bad landing. His May 28 training jump, at 30,000 feet, went well.

Two days later, Lobpries and several skydivers boarded the Cessna, sucking on oxygen before they parachuted from 30,000 feet. Lobpries stayed behind when they jumped. “My plan was to go as high as possible,” he said.

It’s the end of the line for the F-4 . . . really this time
Courtesy Kyle Lobpries Facebook

Lobpries had FAA clearance, a GoPro camera, three GPS devices and a potential world record in mind as the Cessna climbed to 36,215 feet. (That’s cruising altitude for a commercial jet.) Frost covered the windows as the Cessna pushed beyond its ceiling limits. “It was definitely rocking and rolling up there,” he said.

With heaters tucked into his gloves and breathing apparatus on his face, Lobpries stepped off into thin, -62 degrees Fahrenheit air. “I had trouble breathing. I couldn’t exhale,” he recalled, but he managed to clear a frozen exhale valve. He listened to audible altimeter readings and focused on his micro movements. “I just continuously thought about body positioning,” he said.

Lobpries jumped with no specific landing zone in mind. “I asked the pilot to drop me off 18 miles north of the drop zone, and I would fly south as far as I could,” he said. A straight path gave him the best shot to maintain the proper glide slope. A slight tailwind took him over farmland, a small town and “one guy that waved” as he flew over. An FAI judge tracked the 8:27 flight and took the GPS devices for verification.

If FAI-verified, Lobpries thinks it’s the longest distance and highest duration wingsuit jump to date. “I want to set a bar,” Lobpries said, “and if someone breaks it, that’s fine.”

“The draw is just the goal. Just like somebody wanting to run a marathon … or become a lawyer,” he said.

He hopes his record “will inspire people to accomplish” their goal. He’s recently taken up BASE jumping. But for now, he’s focused on Chicago and reaching 300 mph and, perhaps eventually, a speed skydiving record.

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This vet taught himself to play the piano in Saddam Hussein’s bombed out palace

In December 2003, Michael Trotter, Jr. was a soldier stationed in Baghdad, Iraq. His unit was camped out in one of Saddam Hussein’s bombed-out palaces when his commanding officer discovered a piano and suggested Trotter, who enjoyed singing, check it out.


“You had to crawl over soot and rut and rock and rubble from the war to get to this piano; it was like one of those dramatic movie scenes,” Trotter told Real Clear Life.

It’s common for troops to play the easier-to-transport guitar while deployed, but not many get the chance to tickle the ivory. Trotter didn’t know how to play piano, but he began to teach himself. Music became an outlet and an escape from the stress of combat.

When his friend, Army Captain Robert C. Scheetz, Jr., was killed by an IED, Trotter wrote a song called “Dear Martha,” which he then performed at Scheetz’s memorial service. Trotter would go on to sing at many more memorials, providing solace for those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

“Dear Martha” is about the letters written between loved ones divided by war. Trotter recorded the song with his wife, Tanya Blount, as part of their musical duo, The War and Treaty, which explores the concept of creating music out of darkness and despair to find peace, tranquility, and a higher purpose.

While this video doesn’t include any visuals, you can hear their tranquil notes and haunting harmonies by clicking play below — and you really, really should:

(The War and Treaty | YouTube)
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This hard-working pup won the Coast Guard’s annual photo contest

A photo of Piper, the famous bird-chasing dog who keeps the runways clear at Michigan’s Cherry Capital Airport, won the 2016 Shutter Shootout and claimed the top prize as the U.S. Coast Guard’s Photo of the Year.


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Drumroll please! After thousands of votes, we’re pleased to announce the 2016 #USCG #ShutterShootout photo of the year: U.S. Coast Guard Great Lakes’s Wildlife Control from Air Station Traverse City!

Posted by U.S. Coast Guard on Tuesday, April 5, 2016

 

Piper and his handler, Airport Operations Supervisor Brian Edwards, work as a K9 Wildlife Control team at Traverse County’s Airport. The pup works in all conditions and recently returned to the job after a foot injury.

The Coast Guard’s Shutter Shootout is a social media-driven online competition to showcase Coast Guard men and women from around the world who captured remarkable photographs of rescues, patrols, operations and training days. The contest is a March Madness-type bracket competition. You can see other entries and previous winners on the Coast Guard’s Shutter Shootout blog.

Piper and Edwards’ work keeping the runways clear is documented on Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram.Piper even has his own website: http://www.airportk9.org/

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Now that Snowden claimed his ‘whistleblower’ crown, 3 outstanding questions come into focus

It’s the end of the line for the F-4 . . . really this time


Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden’s first leak is coming full circle.

Last month a US appeals court ruled the NSA’s post-9/11 dragnet of millions of Americans’ phone-call records is illegal, noting that a secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) order “leaked by former government contractor Edward Snowden” and published by The Guardian served as the catalyst for the decision.

The FISC order directed Verizon to produce to the NSA “on an ongoing daily basis … all call detail records or ‘telephony metadata’ created by Verizon for communications (i) between the United States and abroad; or (ii) wholly within the United States, including local telephone calls.”

The US government had justified the program by saying it was covered under Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act, but the court ruled that “the bulk telephone metadata program is not authorized by § 215.”

On Monday, Section 215 and two other provisions of the Patriot Act expired — at least temporarily.

So for the first time since 9/11, partly thanks to Snowden, 31, the phone records of US citizens are not being scooped en masse under a law ruled illegal.

But the order comes from just one of as many as 1.77 million NSA documents Snowden allegedly stole while working at two consecutive jobs for US government contractors in Hawaii between March 2012 and May 2013. And he gave only an estimated 200,000 documents to American journalists Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras.

On June 9, 2013, four days after The Guardian published the Verizon order, Snowden revealed himself in a video before going underground to seek asylum.

Snowden’s epic heist and search for asylum spans more than 10,000 miles, and there are a lot of blanks to fill in after Snowden decided to expose NSA spying.

Now that Snowden’s first leak is vindicated, here’s a look at three of the outstanding questions about his journey:

Whom did Snowden contact when he arrived in Hong Kong?

Snowden says he “clearly and unambiguously acted alone, with no assistance from anyone” — at least until Hong Kong.

“When Mr. Snowden came to Hong Kong from Hawaii in late May, he looked up a person whom he had met on a previous vacation here,” The New York Times reported on June 24, 2013, the day after Snowden flew from Hong Kong to Moscow.

Albert Ho, one of Snowden’s Hong Kong lawyers, told The Times the person was a well-connected Hong Kong resident and became Mr. Snowden’s “carer.”

Snowden told The Guardian that after the “very carefully planned and orchestrated” theft of NSA information, he didn’t cover his traces in Hong Kong.

“I only tried to avoid being detected in advance of travel … on the other side I wanted them to know where I was at,” Snowden said. “I wanted them to know.”

In his book, Glenn Greenwald wrote that Snowden “arrived in Hong Kong from Hawaii on May 20, checking into the Mira Hotel under his own name.”

It’s the end of the line for the F-4 . . . really this time

Where did Snowden spend the first 11 days?

Edward Jay Epstein of The Wall Street Journal, however, went to Hong Kong and reported that Snowden didn’t check into the Mira Hotel until June 1, a couple of days before he met Poitras and Greenwald.

“Mr. Snowden would tell Mr. Greenwald on June 3 that he had been ‘holed up’ in his room at the Mira Hotel from the time of his arrival in Hong Kong. But according to inquiries by Wall Street Journal reporter Te-Ping Chen, Mr. Snowden arrived there on June 1,” Epstein reported.

“I confirmed that date with the hotel’s employees,” Epstein wrote.” A hotel security guard told me that Mr. Snowden was not in the Mira during that late-May period and, when he did stay there, he used his own passport and credit card.”

Epstein also cited a source familiar with the Defense Intelligence Agency report on the Snowden affair, writing that “US investigative agencies have been unable to find any credit-card charges or hotel records indicating his whereabouts” between May 20 and June 1.

What exactly happened to the documents Snowden didn’t give to journalists?

After checking out of the Mira Hotel on June 10, Ho said, Snowden accepted an invitation to stay in the home of one of his carer’s friends.

On June 12, Snowden showed The South China Morning Post (SCMP) an unknown number of documents revealing “operational details of specific [NSA] attacks on [Chinese] computers, including internet protocol (IP) addresses, dates of attacks, and whether a computer was still being monitored remotely.”

Snowden told Lana Lam of SCMP that he possessed more NSA intel.

“If I have time to go through this information, I would like to make it available to journalists in each country to make their own assessment, independent of my bias, as to whether or not the knowledge of US network operations against their people should be published.”

Eleven days later, Snowden got on a plane to Moscow.

It’s the end of the line for the F-4 . . . really this time

In October 2013, James Risen of The Times reported that Snowden told him over encrypted chat that “he gave all of the classified documents he had obtained to journalists he met in Hong Kong.” (ACLU lawyer and Snowden legal adviser Ben Wizner subsequently told me that the report was inaccurate.)

Snowden would later tell NBC that he “destroyed” all documents in his possession before he spoke with the Russians in Hong Kong.

“The best way to make sure that for example the Russians can’t break my fingers and — and compromise information or — or hit me with a bag of money until I give them something was not to have it at all,” he told Brian Williams of NBC in Moscow in May 2014. “And the way to do that was by destroying the material that I was holding before I transited through Russia.”

More to come

Snowden, who appears via video conference semi-frequently, has not explained these discrepancies yet.

In the meantime, as the effects of Snowden’s leaks reverberate in the US and the world, the saga continues.

SEE ALSO: Everyone should see these powerful images of wounded vets

More from Business Insider:

This article originally appeared at Business Insider Defense Copyright 2015. Follow BI Defense on Twitter.

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This is how the remains of a WWII hero made it home after 75 years

A New York military aviation researcher got more than she bargained for on a dream trip to a battle-scarred South Pacific island — the chance to help solve the mystery of an American soldier listed as missing in action from World War II.


Donna Esposito, who works at the Empire State Aerosciences Museum in upstate Glenville, visited Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands this spring and was approached by a local man who knew of WWII dog tags and bones found along a nearby jungle trail. The man asked if Esposito could help find relatives of the man named on the tags: Pfc. Dale W. Ross.

After she returned home, Esposito found that Ross had nieces and nephews still living in Ashland, Oregon. A niece and a nephew accompanied Esposito on her late July return to Guadalcanal, where they were given his dog tags and a bag containing the skeletal remains.

It’s the end of the line for the F-4 . . . really this time
Marines rest in this field during the Guadalcanal campaign. (Photo under Public Domain.)

Although it’s not certain yet the remains are the missing soldier’s, the nephew who made the Guadalcanal trip is confident they will be a match.

“It’s Uncle Dale. I have no doubt,” said Dale W. Ross, who was named after his relative.

The elder Ross, a North Dakota native whose family moved to southern Oregon, was the third of four brothers who fought in WWII. Assigned to the Army’s 25th Infantry Division, he was listed as MIA in January 1943, during the final weeks of the Guadalcanal campaign. He was last seen in an area that saw heavy fighting around a Japanese-held hilltop.

When the Japanese evacuated Guadalcanal three weeks later, it was the first major land victory in the Allies’ island-hopping campaign in the Pacific.

It’s the end of the line for the F-4 . . . really this time
Members from Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point and the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency transfer a case of unidentified remains believed to be military personnel onto a Coast Guard HC-130 Hercules airplane to be transferred to Oahu from the Solomon Islands, Aug. 9, 2017. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Tara Molle.)

Ross’ relatives handed the remains — about four dozen bones, including rib bones — to a team from the Pentagon agency that identifies American MIAs found on foreign battlefields. On August 7, the 75th anniversary of the start of the Battle of Guadalcanal, an American honor guard carried a flag-draped coffin containing the bones onto a US Coast Guard aircraft.

The Pentagon said the remains were taken to Hawaii for DNA testing.

“Until a complete and thorough analysis of the remains is done by our lab, we are unable to comment on the specific case associated to the turnover,” said Maj. Jessie Romero of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency.

The other three Ross brothers made it back home, including the oldest, Charles, who served aboard a Navy PT boat in the Solomons and visited Guadalcanal in the vain attempt to learn about his brother Dale’s fate.

It’s the end of the line for the F-4 . . . really this time
Gen. Robert B. Neller lays a wreath during the 75th Anniversary of the Battle for Guadalcanal ceremony. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Armando R. Limon, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division.)

Ross’ niece and nephew made their trip last month with Esposito and Justin Taylan, founder of Pacific Wrecks, a New York-based nonprofit involved in the search for American MIAs from WWII. They met the family whose 8-year-old son found the dog tags and remains. They also were taken to the spot on a slope in the jungle where the discovery was made.

“I never met this man, but I was a little emotional,” Ross, 71, said of the experience.

For Esposito, 45, finding evidence that could solve a lingering mystery in an American family’s military history is the most meaningful thing she’s ever done in her life.

“I can’t believe this has all happened,” she said. “It has been an amazing journey.”

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