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The Secret Air Force Program That Hid An Even More Secret Program

The Secret Air Force Program That Hid An Even More Secret Program
MiG-21 over Nevada (Photo: USAF)


During the Cold War air-to-air warfare was alive and well. The Soviets had a huge air force, and their fighters were a viable threat to NATO aircraft. As a result, American fighter crews trained extensively in matters pertaining to shooting down other airplanes.

Also Read: 17 Signs That You Might Be A Military Aviator 

We trained using Top Gun’s “defense in depth” theory that was built around the idea that no matter how many forward-quarter, long-range missiles a fighter was carrying, there was a good chance the threat would make it into the visual arena. This arena had many nicknames – “getting into the phone booth” or “putting the knife in your teeth” – but was (and still is) best-known as “dogfighting.”

The first trick of a dogfight is getting sight of your opponent.  The oft-repeated maxim is “You can’t shoot what you don’t see.” That trick gets trickier when fighting multiple aircraft at the same time, what we call a “many v. many” or “Battle of Britain” scenario.

I was a Tomcat radar intercept officer (the guy in the backseat like “Goose” in the movie “Top Gun”). The problem of dogfighting multiple aircraft at once was made easier in the F-14 because there were two of us in the airplane. Good crew coordination allowed the pilot to go after one bandit while the RIO made sure no other threats were in a position to take a shot.

Dogfighting is the most exhilarating part of tactical aviation.  The hard turns, the crush of the G forces, and the intensity of the comms over the radio between wingmen make it a wild, heart-pounding experience.  And because of the variables – different pilots flying different airplanes in different conditions – every dogfight is unique.

To simulate the threat aggressor squadrons existed at all the major fighter bases. The squadrons flew American assets that supposedly replicated the flying qualities of Russian airplanes. For instance, an F-5’s characteristics were a lot like those of a MiG-23, and the A-4 was somewhat like a subsonic MiG-21.

Those of us in fighter commands at the time – the mid-1980s – dreamed of going up against the real thing. And one day while conducting training out of Naval Air Station Fallon in Nevada we found out that our dream was going to come true – sort of.

We were scheduled to participate in a secret program called “Constant Peg.” In the late ’70s the U.S. Air Force had come into the possession of a few Soviet aircraft that Israel had captured from Syria. Over the years that inventory grew to more than a dozen airplanes acquired from places like Pakistan and China.

The Constant Peg aircraft were assigned to the 4477th Test and Evaluation Squadron – “The Red Eagles” – based at Tonopah in the Nevada desert, a place I’d never heard of until the day of our first missions when pilots from the Red Eagles came to Fallon to brief us.

The Red Eagle reps reviewed the performance characteristics of the aircraft we’d be flying against.  In our case that day we were doing 1 v 1s against a MiG-23 (what they had designated the YF-113 for OPSEC purposes) and a MiG-21 (what Constant Peg designated the YF-110).

As much as the brief focused on the dogfights it emphasized the admin around the mission, specifically the fact that, although we would be dogfighting closer to Tonopah than Fallon, in case of an aircraft emergency in no case were we to consider Tonopah a suitable divert field unless the emergency was so serious that not landing at Tonopah meant we’d crash. And if we would end up landing at Tonopah we were warned that we’d wind up spending at least two weeks there before we’d be allowed to fly back.

These rules struck us as pretty intense, but we figured it was what a secret program like Constant Peg demanded.

A few hours later we launched and flew south until we rendezvoused with the MiG-23. It was surreal to see an airplane we’d only seen in photographs for years before that, and the airplane looked smaller than we’d expected.

The Secret Air Force Program That Hid An Even More Secret Program
MiG-23 (Photo: Bill Paisley)

We went through the choreography of the dogfight as we’d planned, taking advantage of the fact that the MiG-23 was a “bleeder” in terms of turn rate, which meant that the airplane lost a lot of airspeed (compared to the Tomcat) when attempting hard turns.  We also did a speed demo that showed us trying to outrun the MiG-23 was potentially a bad idea.

Then we joined up with the MiG-21 and did another dogfight, this one quicker than the first because we needed to conserve some gas to get back to Fallon. Again, it was surreal to fly formation on an enemy aircraft, studying the details that the Red Eagle pilot pointed out to us (in cryptic terms for OPSEC purposes) over the radio. The MiG-21 wasn’t as fast as the MiG-23, but it had a better turn rate.

When we got back from the flight my pilot and I debriefed over a classified phone with the Red Eagle pilots we’d flown against. After we hung up, we went over the high points with each other, both remarking that it had been very cool to go against the real airplanes for once.

Then my pilot, who was the squadron operations officer and senior to me, said something that struck me as curious: “I’ll bet Constant Peg isn’t the only thing going on at Tonopah,” he said.  “There’s something else there they care about more than MiGs.”

I didn’t give the comment another thought until months later when the Air Force finally admitted that “the secret test aircraft” that had crashed in the middle of the Nevada desert in 1984 killing the pilot who also happened to be a three-star general – too senior for normal test flights – had actually been a MiG-23.

I asked my operations officer what he thought about the Air Force admission, and again he hinted at the idea that there was something else bigger going on a Tonopah. “They would’ve stuck with the original story otherwise,” he said. “I’m pretty sure they offered up the MiGs hoping the press would stop digging beyond that.” I asked him to put a finer point on the thought, but he just shrugged and said he didn’t know anything more.

Just less than three years later the operations officer’s hunch was proved correct as the U.S. Air Force introduced the F-117 Nighthawk – the first stealth fighter – to the world. It turned out that the Air Force had been developing that amazing new capability since the late 1970s conducting test flights mostly at night out of Tonopah.  Those involved with the program were stationed hundreds of miles away at Nellis Air Force Base outside of Las Vegas and would fly in on a special airliner at the beginning of the work week and fly back home at the end of it. Families had no idea what their service members did during that tour.

The Secret Air Force Program That Hid An Even More Secret Program
F-117s taxi to runway (Photo: USAF)

The F-117 carried the day during Desert Storm in ’91, and the world watched in wonder as DoD released the cockpit footage that showed bombs hitting exactly where the crosshairs were placed while the airplanes penetrated enemy defenses totally unseen by radars.

Even more amazing, especially when considering how information flows in today’s internet age, is how the Air Force managed to keep the Stealth Fighter a secret all those years. (There were a couple of reports of UFOs made by locals over the years, but the Air Force managed to dismiss those.)

Not only was Constant Peg great training for American fighter crews, it provided a cover for the super-secret development of the F-117 – a stroke in sneaky brilliance that saw to the success of a platform that is arguably the most effective and revolutionary in the history of highly classified programs.

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Trump signs law to make VA more accountable for vets’ care

President Donald Trump signed a bill into law on June 23 that will make it easier for the Department of Veterans Affairs to fire employees, part of a push to overhaul an agency that is struggling to serve millions of military vets.


“Our veterans have fulfilled their duty to our nation and now we must fulfill our duty to them,” Trump said during a White House ceremony. “To every veteran who is here with us today, I just want to say two very simple words: Thank you.”

Trump repeatedly promised during the election campaign to dismiss VA workers “who let our veterans down,” and he cast the bill signing as fulfillment of that promise.

“What happened was a national disgrace and yet some of the employees involved in these scandals remained on the payrolls,” Trump said. “Outdated laws kept the government from holding those who failed our veterans accountable. Today we are finally changing those laws.”

The Secret Air Force Program That Hid An Even More Secret Program
Donald Trump speaking at the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland. (Photo by George Skidmore)

The measure was prompted by a 2014 scandal at the Phoenix VA medical center, where some veterans died as they waited months for care. The VA is the second-largest department in the US government, with more than 350,000 employees, and it is charged with providing health care and other services to military veterans.

Federal employee unions opposed the measure. VA Secretary David Shulkin, an Obama administration holdover, stood alongside Trump as the president jokingly suggested he’d have to invoke his reality TV catchphrase “You’re fired” if the reforms were not implemented.

The legislation, which many veterans’ groups supported, cleared the House last week by an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote of 368-55, replacing an earlier version that Democrats had criticized as overly unfair to employees. The Senate passed the bill by voice vote a week earlier.

The Secret Air Force Program That Hid An Even More Secret Program
David Shulkin (right) – DoD Photo by Megan Garcia

Paul Rieckhoff, founder of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, applauded the move, saying, “In a nasty, partisan environment like we’ve never seen, veterans’ issues can be a unique area for Washington to unite in actually getting things done for ordinary Americans.”

The bill was a rare Trump initiative that received Democratic support. Montana Sen. Jon Tester said the bill “will protect whistleblowers from the threat of retaliation.”

The new law will lower the burden of proof to fire employees, allowing for dismissal even if most evidence is in a worker’s favor.

The American Federation of Government Employees, the largest federal employee union, opposed the bill. But the Senate-passed measure was seen as more in balance with workers’ rights than a version passed by the House in March, mostly along party lines. The Senate bill calls for a longer appeal process than the House version – 180 days versus 45 days. VA executives would be held to a tougher standard than rank-and-file employees.

The Secret Air Force Program That Hid An Even More Secret Program
USMC Photo by Sgt. Justin M. Boling

The bill also turns another of Trump’s campaign pledges into law by creating a permanent VA accountability office, which Trump established by executive order in April.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican, called the bill signing “a significant step to reform the VA with a renewed purpose and ability to serve our veterans.”

“The ultimate goal is nothing less than a transformation of the culture within the VA so that our veterans receive the best care possible,” McCarthy said.

The VA has been plagued for years by problems, including the 2014 scandal, where employees created secret lists to cover up delays in appointments. Critics say few employees are fired for malfeasance.

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11 best-ever nicknames of military leaders

A lot of people get nicknames in the military, usually something derogatory. But not these guys. These 11 military leaders got awesome nicknames by doing awesome stuff.


Here’s what they are and how they got them:

1. Group Capt. Sir Douglas “Tin Legs” Bader

The Secret Air Force Program That Hid An Even More Secret Program
(Photo: Royal Air Force photographer Devon S A)

Group Capt. Sir Douglas Bader was a Royal Air Force hero of the second World War known for his exploits in the air and frequent escape attempts as a prisoner of war in Nazi Germany. He did all of this despite the fact that he lost his legs in 1931 in an air show accident. He was drummed out of the service due to disability but returned when Britain entered World War II. He wore two prosthetic legs and earned his insensitive but inarguably awesome nickname.

2. Capt. Michael “Black Baron” Wittmann

The Secret Air Force Program That Hid An Even More Secret Program
Capt. Michael Wittman was an evil Nazi with an awesome nickname. (Photo: German military archives)

 

Michael Wittman was an SS-Hauptsturmführer, the SS equivalent of an army captain, in command of a tank crew in World War II. From his time as a young enlisted man to his death as a captain, he was known for his skill in tanks and scout cars. As the war ground on, Wittman became one of the war’s greatest tank aces, scoring 138 tank kills and 132 anti-tank gun kills.

He was recognized with medals and a message of congratulations from Adolph Hitler. He was giving the nickname “The Black Baron” as an homage to the World War I flying ace, “The Red Baron,” Manfred Von Richtofen.

3. General of the Armies John “Black Jack” Pershing

 

The Secret Air Force Program That Hid An Even More Secret Program
(Photo: US Army)

General of the Armies John “Black Jack” Pershing led the American Expeditionary Forces through World War I and became one of America’s highest ranked officers in history, second only to President George Washington.

Pershing’s nickname was originally a horrible epithet given to him by students while he instructed at West Point. They angrily called him “[N-word] Jack” in reference to his time commanding a segregated unit. The name was softened to “Black Jack” and has become a part of his legacy.

4. Gen. Norman “The Bear” Schwarzkopf

The Secret Air Force Program That Hid An Even More Secret Program
(Photo: US Army)

 

Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf is probably best known for his leadership of Desert Storm. He sported two colorful nicknames. He didn’t like the most famous one, “Stormin’ Norman,” probably because it alluded to his volatile temper. But he seemed to have a fondness for his second, “The Bear,” an allusion to his 6ft., 4in. height and nearly 240-pound size.

In his autobiography, he described his wife as “Mrs. Bear” and he named one of his dogs “Bear” as well.

5. Lt. Gen. James “Jumpin’ Jim” Gavin

 

 

The Secret Air Force Program That Hid An Even More Secret Program
U.S. Army

Lt. Gen. James Gavin is probably best known for the same achievement that gave him his nickname, commanding one of America’s first airborne units and literally writing the book on airborne operations, FM 31-30: Tactics and Technique of the Air-Borne Troops.

Even after he rose to the rank of general officer ranks, he kept conducting combat jumps with his men. He landed in Normandy as a brigadier general and jumped in Operation Market Garden as a major general, earning him another nickname, “The Jumping General.”

6. Gen. Sir Frank “The Bearded Man” Messervy

The Secret Air Force Program That Hid An Even More Secret Program
Imperial War Museum

Gen. Sir Frank Messervy was a successful cavalry officer in the British Indian Army in both World Wars and later served as the first commander of the Pakistan Army. In garrison, he had the appearance of a stereotypical, well-groomed Englishman. But he famously neglected to shave during battles, leading to a thick beard when he was engaged for more than a few days.

7. Lt. Gen. Lewis “Chesty” Puller

The Secret Air Force Program That Hid An Even More Secret Program
U.S. Marine Corps

 

One of the greatest heroes of the Korean War, Lt. Gen. Lewis “Chesty” Puller tried to join World War I but the conflict ended just before he could ship out. Instead, he fought in anti-guerilla wars, World War II, and the Korean War. But for all of his battlefield exploits, he received a nickname for his physical appearance. His impeccable posture and large frame made him look “chesty,” so that became his name.

8. Maj. Gen. Smedley “The Fighting Quaker” Butler

 

The Secret Air Force Program That Hid An Even More Secret Program
U.S. Marine Corps

Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler was born into a Quaker family in Pennsylvania in 1881. Despite the Quakers’ aversion to violence, Butler lied about his age to become a Marine Corps second lieutenant in 1898, developed a reputation for being fierce in a fight, and made his way to major general while receiving two Medals of Honor in his career.

Butler also received a brevet promotion to captain when he was 19 for valorous action conducted before officers were eligible for the Medal of Honor. In recognition of his huge brass ones, his men started calling him “The Fighting Quaker.”

9. “The Constable” Gen. Charles de Gaulle

The Secret Air Force Program That Hid An Even More Secret Program
Wikimedia Commons

Gen. Charles de Gaulle was the highest ranking member of France’s military in World War II and led Free French Forces against the Nazis after the fall of France.

De Gaulle gained the nickname “The Constable” on two occasions. First, in school where he was known as the “Grand Constable.” After the fall of France, the nickname was bestowed anew when British Prime Minister Winston Churchill called him “The Constable of France,” the job title of ancient French warriors who served Capetian Kings until the 10th century.

10. Staff Sgt. William “Wild Bill” Guarnere

The Secret Air Force Program That Hid An Even More Secret Program
Photo: US Army

Staff Sgt. William Guarnere fought viciously against the Germans as a paratrooper in Europe and gained a reputation for it, leading to his nickname “Wild Bill” and his portrayal in Band of Brothers.

Because of his exotic last name, he also gained the unfortunate nickname of “gonorrhea.”

11. Francis “The Swamp Fox” Marion

The Secret Air Force Program That Hid An Even More Secret Program

 

Brig. Gen. Francis Marion was best known for leading guerilla fighters through the woods and swamps of the southern colonies during the American Revolution. After repeatedly being harassed by Marion and his men, the British sent Col. Banastre Tarleton to hunt him down.

Marion evaded Tarleton over and over again. When a 26-mile chase through the swamps came up empty, Tarleton complained that he would never find that “swamp fox” and the name stuck.

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WWII vet running across the country to honor the fallen

The Secret Air Force Program That Hid An Even More Secret Program


Veterans and staff members at the Biloxi VA Medical Center hosted a special visitor earlier this year. Ernest Andrus stopped by the hospital at the end of January, one of his days off, to attend a reception in his honor.  These days it’s not so easy to get on Andrus’ calendar as the 92-year-old WWII Veteran runs across the country four days a week to raise awareness of the sacrifices the men and women of the military made during World War II and the many conflicts since that time.

“Freedom isn’t free,” Andrus said.  “We can’t forget our comrades that were injured or killed serving and protecting our country.  That’s what I hope I can achieve with this run.  Plus I always wanted to do this.”

Once Andrus made up his mind to run across the country, he spent several months planning the trip.  In October 2013 he touched the Pacific Ocean near San Diego, turned east and began jogging.  He’s been running ever since, and in January, as he ran along the Mississippi Gulf Coast, VA staff jumped at the chance to invite him over.

“As you can see from this large turnout,”  said Anthony Dawson, the director of the Gulf Coast Veterans Health Care System, “we are all in awe of what you are doing and honored to have you here today for a visit. If we switched the numbers of your age making you 29 it would still be an amazing accomplishment.  But at 92, wow!”

Here’s how Andrus came to running across the country at age 92.

Ernest Andrus was a corpsman in the Navy, joining at the start of the war.  He left the Navy when the war ended in 1945, and enrolled in college on the VA GI Bill, found a job and went on with his life.  He didn’t spend a lot of time dwelling on his experiences during the war, as some did. He said it was too hard to do.

“I wasn’t right in the middle of the action,” Andrus said, “but I saw enough. I found it easier to just not spend a lot of time thinking about those that didn’t come back. Not like some of my crewmates did. Not for a long time.”

As a corpsman aboard a LST (Landing Ship, Tank), Andrus said he stayed busy tending to the wounds and illnesses associated with war.  He assisted in surgeries, and to this day recalls an amputation that was performed aboard his ship.  As the surgeon began the procedure, the patient needed blood.  Andrus was the same blood type so he rolled up his sleeve, while he was holding the IV bag (they didn’t have a pole), and gave blood.  He had to do this several times throughout the night.  He remembers feeling light headed and weak.

“We all did what we had to do,” Andrus said.  “I didn’t do anything that any other man in our crew wouldn’t have done.”

Andrus’ life ticked along at a normal pace for the next 60 years or so.  One day he received a phone call from some of his former crew members, to include the skipper, and nothing was ever the same after that.

“We were at a point in our lives when our families were grown, our careers were over and now we had time to think.  So we began reminiscing about our time in the service.  And one thing we all agreed on was we wanted the younger generations to understand the sacrifices so many made which made America the country it is today,” he said.

“We wanted the younger generations to understand the sacrifices so many made which made America the country it is today,” Andrus said.

So the group of about 30 got together and decided they could preserve the memories of life aboard a Navy LST by finding and refurbishing a decommissioned ship and turning it into a floating memorial.  They located the USS LST-325 in Greece, got it back to America and it now is available for tour in Indiana.  The refurbishment took years of red tape, fundraising and countless hours of coordination, but the group persevered.  The effort serves as a testimony to Andrus’ sheer grit and determination as he treks across the country to share the message that America should acknowledge and appreciate all that Veterans have done to preserve freedom.

“We have a great country,” Andrus said.  “We can’t forget how we got here.”

If all goes as planned, Andrus will arrive on the east coast of Georgia, near Brunswick, on Aug. 20, 2016, one day after his 93rd birthday.

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This helicopter ship landing during a storm will make you squirm

Helicopter pilots have it easy in some ways — they do not need runways to take off or land — just a clearing. Well, one look at this video taken on Oct. 26, 2016, showing a Royal Danish Navy Sikorsky MH-60R landing on one of that navy’s Thetis-class oceangoing patrol vessels, will how just how tough a landing can be sometimes.


In this video, the Thetis-class patrol vessel is in the midst of a storm. Note the very expert technique the Danish pilot uses to match the vessel’s speed, and the very deft touch used to keep from slamming the helicopter into the pitching deck.

The MH-60R is a multi-role maritime helicopter capable of carrying Mk 46, Mk 50, or Mk 54 lightweight torpedoes. It also can carry AGM-114 Hellfire air-to-surface missiles. According to the official MH-60 website, it has a crew of three, a top speed of 140 knots, and can stay up for over two and a half hours.

According to Naval-Technology.com, the Thetis-class ocean patrol vessels displace 3,500 tons, have a top speed of 20 knots, hold 60 crew, and are 369 feet long. The Danish Navy has four of these vessels in service. Two entered service in 1991, two entered service in 1992.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ptem1zpHD_s
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This Army officer beat cancer twice while going through Ranger School

The Secret Air Force Program That Hid An Even More Secret Program
Army 2nd Lt. Michael Janowski, a Ranger School graduate and cancer survivor, told recent Infantry Basic Officer Leadership Course graduates and future Ranger students at Fort Benning, Ga., to attack every second of the Ranger course, Oct. 2, 2015. Courtesy photo by Danielle Wallingsford Kirkland


FORT BENNING, Ga., October 20, 2015 — Speaking to a room-full of infantry lieutenants at the 2nd Battalion, 11th Infantry Regiment Headquarters here Oct. 2, Army 2nd Lt. Michael Janowski sought to motivate recent Infantry Basic Officer Leader Course graduates with his story of resilience as they prepared to begin the Ranger course in a couple of days.

Last year, Janowski graduated from Ranger School and beat cancer twice in the process.

“Hopefully, I can give you a new perspective today,” Janowski said.

Janowski told the lieutenants that he began Ranger School on July 21, 2014, but during the Ranger Training Assessment Course he began to have medical concerns.

“I didn’t want to go to the hospital, because I didn’t want to lose my Ranger slot. I was too naive, too stubborn. So I went to Ranger School anyway,” he said.

Janowski didn’t tell the course medics about his medical concerns. Instead, he confided in a fellow student who happened to be a Special Forces medic.

“After a few days, he pulled me to the side and was like, ‘It’s not getting better and I’ve had this idea of what it might be, but I didn’t want to scare you. I think it’s cancer. You should go to the medics,'” Janowski said.

Testicular Cancer

That night, Janowski went to the medics and was rushed to the hospital, where he learned that he had stage-one testicular cancer.

He underwent surgery and returned to the Infantry Basic Officer Leadership Course, or IBOLC, the next day, where he said he wanted to return to Ranger School.

Janowski waited two weeks to find out if the surgery worked.

“During those two weeks I was extremely fearful, not knowing the road ahead, and those are some of the feelings you are going to feel when you’re at Ranger School,” he said. “You’re going to be afraid. You’re not going to know what’s next. You’re not going to know if you’re going to recycle. My fight with cancer was the best training I got for Ranger School.”

At the end of the two weeks, Janowski learned that the surgery worked, and he was cancer free. He returned to the Ranger course Sept. 5, just five weeks after his surgery.

“Everyone in this room, I guarantee, is better physically than I am,” he said. “I’m not very big, not very strong and not very fast, but I went through Ranger School five weeks after [having] cancer and made it through [Ranger Assessment Phase] week.”

Janowski told the lieutenants that if they want their Ranger tabs bad enough, they will get them.

“RAP week is too easy. Ranger School is too easy. You don’t have to be a physical stud to get through. It’s literally all mental,” he said. Janowski made it through RAP week and then took a blood test to make sure the cancer had not returned.

Cancer Returns

“During my eight-hour pass, I got pulled aside and they [told] me the cancer is back,” he recalled, noting the disease had spread to his lungs and abdomen and had become stage four.

Janowski was medically dropped from the Ranger course again and he began to question whether or not he would survive.

“So, now I’ve wasted a bunch of time. I just got the hell beat out of me for no reason and I’m still losing. Trying to pick myself up after that was impossible,” he said. Janowski went to his hometown for medical leave and spent three months going through chemotherapy.

Getting Treatment

“It was five hours a day of just sitting in a chair, getting poison pumped into your body. It doesn’t hurt in the moment, but those days as it goes on and on it just beats you down,” he said.

During his treatment, Janowski said he lost all of his hair and watched himself physically deteriorate.

“Near the end of it I was at the bottom of the stairs trying to get up and I couldn’t stand up. I couldn’t walk up the stairs. And there were moments when I was in Mountain Phase when I was sitting there at 3 a.m. on a long walk, looking up to the top of the mountain and thinking there’s no way I’m getting up this mountain. Then I thought back to those days, where I sat at the bottom of the stairs,” he said.

He told the lieutenants they will have moments in Ranger School when they feel like they can’t possibly complete the task at hand.

“I can tell you from my experience, the body will go forever. Your mind will shut off before your body does,” he said.

Janowski said every Ranger student should push themselves beyond their limits.

“Trust me, your body will not fail you. You’re going to feel like you have nothing left in the tank, but I’ve seen what it’s like to be on the edge of death when the chemo completely broke me down to where I couldn’t stand on my own two feet without somebody helping me — and the body still had more to give,” he said.

When Janowski finished his chemotherapy treatments, he began looking for alternative ways to serve his country. He thought he would be medically discharged, but he realized that he truly wanted to complete the Ranger course.

Determined to Complete Ranger School

“I didn’t want to be older and telling my kids how to get through tough times and then look back at my own track record and realize that I let Ranger School get away, to realize that the cancer beat me,” he said.

Janowski returned to the 2nd Battalion, 11th Infantry Regiment and began IBOLC.

“I came back two weeks after chemo and suffered through IBOLC,” he said. “Guys were trying to get me to do hill sprints and I thought I was going to have a heart attack. I was pathetic. Doing 10 push-ups was awful.”

Despite the difficulty, Janowski made it through IBOLC and prepared to return to Ranger School for the third time.

But on June 10, 11 days before the course was to begin, he received a phone call from his doctor, who said the cancer had returned.

“At this point, I’ve done surgery. I’ve done chemo. There’s nothing you can do for me. It’s just a time bomb. I’m going to die at some point,” he said.

Janowski said he went to his apartment that day and wept.

“I just sat there on the ground crying, so broken there was nothing anyone could have done for me,” he said.

False Positive

Luckily, that test had a false positive. Janowski was still cancer-free and he went to Ranger School as planned, June 21.

Janowski said his battle with cancer taught him to “attack,” because when you’re diagnosed with cancer there is no alternative.

“So, I’ll go into chemo and I’ll sit in the chair all day. I’ll do whatever it takes. I’ll attack all day,” he said.

Janowski said soldiers should have that attack mentality when they enter the Ranger course.

“When you go to your PT test on Monday, don’t ever tell yourself it’s only 49 push-ups. Hell no, get out there and be like ‘I’m going to do 1,000 push-ups,” he said. “I’m going to make this Ranger instructor count to a thousand because I know he is going to make my life hell for 62 days. Do not ever play defensive. Attack every second of Ranger School. Always maintain that aggressiveness, and you’re going to crush it.”

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Israel recently buried Ran Ronen, an ace few ever heard of

Early last month, Israel buried an ace who had seven kills — more than twice as many as John Glenn — and hundreds of operational missions under his belt. He was known as Ran Ronen.


According to a report by the Jerusalem Post, Ronen, whose real name was Ran Pekker, was buried on Dec. 4, 2016, following his death after a long struggle with blood cancer. Ronen was best known for flying the Mirage III and F-4 Phantom during the Six-Day War, the War of Attrition, and the Yom Kippur War.

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An Israeli Mirage III at a museum. Giora Epstein scored the first of his 17 kills, a Su-7, in a Mirage III. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Ronen notably gained publicity from the History Channel series Dogfights, providing interviews in two episodes, “Dogfights of the Middle East” and “Desert Aces.” In the former, he described his involvement in both escorting a defecting MiG-21 to Israel and his involvement in the attack on Ghardaka Air Base in Egypt. The latter episode, best known for relating Giora Epstein’s legendary 1-vs.-11 fight, featured Ronen’s encounter with a Jordanian Hawker Hunter.

The Secret Air Force Program That Hid An Even More Secret Program
A U.S. Air Force McDonnell Douglas EF-4C Phantom II aircraft (s/n 63-7474) of the 67th Tactical Fighter Squadron, 18th Tactical Fighter Wing over North Vietnam in December 1972. | U.S. Air Force photo

Ronen later became a diplomat and founded the Zahala project for youth, according to a web site outlining the reasons he received the Moskowitz Prize for Zionism in 2008.

Below are the Dogfights episodes Ronen appears in. His missions are discussed from 13:12 to 32:12 in the first video, and in the first 12:30 in the second video.

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Army JLTV armed with lethal 30mm cannon

Army and Marine Corps may add a more-lethal 30mm cannon to its new JLTV to improve lethality for the emerging high-tech platform and better prepare it for large-scale, mechanized force-on-force warfare.


The Army’s new Joint Light Tactical Vehicle is a new fast-moving armored vehicle engineered to take bullets, drive over roadside bombs and withstand major enemy attacks; the vehicle was conceived and engineered as a high-tech, more survivable replacement for large portions of its fleet of Humvees.

Also read: The US Army is testing a faster and more lethal variant of the Abrams tank

While the Army remains focused on being needed for counterinsurgency possibilities across the globe and hybrid-type wars involving groups of terrorists armed with conventional weapons and precision-guided missiles — the service is identifying, refining and integrating technologies, such as its emerging Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, with a specific mind to attacking enemies and protecting Soldiers in major-power war, service officials said.

As evidence of this approach, Lt. Gen. Michael Williamson, Military Deputy to the Assistant Secretary of the Army, Acquisition, Logistics Technology, said the multi-year developmental effort of the new Humvee replacement has been focused on engineering a vehicle able to help the Army win wars against a large, near-peer adversary.

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US Army photo

As part of this effort, the Army is looking at options to up-gun JLTV with more lethal weapons such as a 30mm cannon. JLTV maker Oshkosh recently unveiled a 30mm cannon-armed JLTV at the Association of the United States Army Annual Symposium last Fall.

In a special exclusive interview with Scout Warrior, Williamson pointed to some of the attributes of the Army’s new Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, or JLTV, as a platform well-engineered for large-scale mechanized warfare. Communications technologies, sensors, computers and extra add-on armor protection are, by design, some of the attributes intended to allow the vehicle to network the battlefield and safely deliver Soldiers to a wide-range of large-scale combat engagements.

Several reports, from Breaking Defense and Military.com, have said that the Army is preparing to use its JLTV for missions previously slated for a Light Reconnaissance Vehicle, or LRV. The LRV mission sets, can be met by a better armed JLTV, allowing the Army to forgo construction of a new lightweight vehicle and therefore save money.

The Army has received the first 7 “test” vehicles from by Oshkosh Defense at different sites around the force.

A total of about 100 of the JLTV “production vehicles” will be provided to the Army and Marine Corps for testing over the next year, at a rate of about 10 per month, officials said. The vehicles will undergo maneuverability and automotive testing at Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona, and other sites around the country. In addition to testing at Yuma, the vehicles will undergo testing for cyber integration of command, control, communications and intelligence at the Electronics Proving Ground on Fort Huachuca, Arizona, an Army statement said.  The vehicles will also be tested for automotive performance at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland and the Cold Regions Test Center on Fort Greely, Alaska.

“It’s on schedule,” Scott Davis, program executive officer for combat support and combat service support, said in an article from Army.mil. “It’s doing everything we ever expected it to. It’s just incredible.”

JLTV-Prepared for Major Power War

Major, great-power war would likely present the need for massive air-ground coordination between drones, helicopters and ground vehicles, infantry and armored vehicle maneuver formations and long-range weapons and sensors. The idea is to be ready for enemies equipped with high-end, high-tech weapons such as long-range rocket, missile and air attack capabilities.

Williamson explained how the JLTV, for instance, is engineered with additional armor, speed, suspension, blast-protection and ground-clearance in order to withstand enemy fire, mines, IEDs and roadside bombs. These same protection technologies would also enable the vehicle to better withstand longer-range attacks from enemy armies far more capable than those encountered in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The vehicle is being built to, among other things, replace a large portion of the Army’s Humvee fleet.

The JLTV represents the next-generation of automotive technology in a number of key respects, such as the ability to design a light tactical, mobile vehicle with substantial protective ability to defend against a wide range of enemy attacks.

The vehicle is designed from the ground up to be mobile and operate with a level of underbody protection equivalent to the original MRAP-ATV (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected — All Terrain Vehicle) vehicle standards. Also, the vehicle is being designed with modular armor, so that when the armor is not needed we can take it off and bring the weight of the vehicle down to drive down the operating costs, Army officials have explained.

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Oshkosh Defense

The modular armor approach gives the vehicle an A-kit and B-kit option, allowing the vehicle to integrate heavier armor should the war-threat require that.

With a curb weight of roughly 14,000 pounds, the JLTV will provide protection comparable to the 25,000-pound M-ATV, thus combining the mobility and transportability of a light vehicle with MRAP-level protection. The vehicle can reach speeds greater than 70-MPH.

The vehicle, made by Oshkosh Defense, is also built with a system called TAK-4i independent suspension designed to increase off-road mobility in rigorous terrain – a scenario quite likely should there be a major war. The JLTV is equipped with next-generation sensors and communications technologies to better enhance Soldiers’ knowledge of a surrounding, fast-moving dynamic combat situation.

TAK-4i can be described as Variable Ride-Height Suspension, explained as the ability to raise and lower the suspension to meet certain mission requirements such as the need to raise the suspension in high-threat areas and lower the suspension so that the vehicles can be transported by Maritime preposition force ships.

Also, the JLTV will be able to sling-load beneath a CH-53, C-130 or CH-47 under standard conditions. Sling-loading the vehicle beneath a large helicopter would give the Army an ability to conduct what they called Mounted Maneuver – an effort to reposition forces quickly on the battlefield in rough terrain which cannot be traversed another way.

Oshkosh, based in the Wisconsin city of the same name, last summer won a $6.7 billion Army contract to begin to produce about 17,000 of the light-duty JLTVs for the Army and Marine Corps beginning in the first quarter of fiscal 2016, which began Oct. 1.

The services plan to buy nearly 55,000 of the vehicles, including 49,100 for the Army and 5,500 for the Corps, to replace about a third of the Humvee fleets at an overall estimated cost of more than $24 billion, according to Army officials.

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Oshkosh Defense

When compared with earlier light tactical vehicle models such as the HMMWV, the JLTV is being engineered with a much stronger, 250 to 360 Horsepower engine (Banks 6.6 liter diesel engine) and a 570-amp alternator able to generate up to 10 kilowatts of exportable power. In fact, due to the increase in need for on-board power, the vehicle includes the integration of a suite of C4ISR kits and networking technologies.

The JLTV, which can be armed with weapons such as a grenade launcher or .50-cal machine gun, has a central tire inflation system which is an on-the-fly system that can regulate tire pressure; the system can adjust tire pressure from higher pressures for higher speed conditions on flatter roads to much lower pressures in soft soil such as sand or mud, JLTV engineers explain.

Also, instead of having a belt-driven alternator, the vehicles are built with an integrated generating system that is sandwiched between the engine and transmission in order to increase efficiency.

Army Future Strategy

As a high-level leader for the Army’s weapons, vehicle and platform developmental efforts, Williamson explained that some technologies are specifically being engineered with a mind toward positioning the service for the prospect of massive great-power conflict; this would include combat with mechanized forces, armored vehicles, long-range precision weapons, helicopter air support and what’s called a Combined Arms Maneuver approach.

Combined Arms Maneuver tactics use a variety of combat assets, such as artillery, infantry and armored vehicles such as tanks, in a synchronized, integrated fashion to overwhelm, confuse and destroy enemies.

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A Joint Light Tactical Vehicle production model is displayed by Oshkosh on the floor of the AUSA Annual Meeting and Exhibition in the Washington Convention Center Oct. 4, 2016. | US Army photo by Gary Sheftick

While the Army naturally does not expect or seek a particular conflict with near-peer nations like Russia and China, the service is indeed acutely aware of the rapid pace of their military modernization and aggressive activities.

As a result of its experience and skill with counterinsurgency fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Army’s training, doctrine and weapons development is sharpening its focus on armored vehicles, long-range precision weapons and networking technologies to connect a force dispersed over a wide area of terrain.

Another key aspect of the Army’s future strategy is called Wide Area Security, an approached grounded in the recognition that large-scale mechanized forces will likely need to operate and maneuver across much wider swaths of terrain as has been the case in recent years. Having a dispersed force, fortified with long range sensors, armor protection, precision weapons and networking technologies, will strengthen the Army’s offensive approach and make its forces a more difficult, less aggregated target for enemies. This strategic emphasis also incorporates the need for combat forces to operate within and among populations as it seek to identify and eliminate enemies.

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Here’s what it’s like to fly attack missions in the A-10

Known for an ability to keep flying after taking multiple rounds of enemy machine gun fire, land and operate in rugged terrain, destroy groups of enemy fighters with a 30mm cannon and unleash a wide arsenal of attack weapons, the A-10 is described by pilots as a “flying tank” in the sky — able to hover over ground war and provide life-saving close air support in high-threat combat environments.


“It is built to withstand more damage than any other frame that I know of. It’s known for its ruggedness,” A-10 pilot Lt. Col. Ryan Haden, 23rd Fighter Group Deputy, Moody AFB, told Scout Warrior in an interview.

Also read: Pentagon advances F-35 vs A-10 Close Air Support testing

The pilot of the A-10 is surrounded by multiple plates of titanium armor, designed to enable the aircraft to withstand small-arms fire and keep flying its attack missions.

“The A-10 is not agile, nimble, fast or quick,” Haden said.  “It’s deliberate, measured, hefty, impactful calculated and sound. There’s nothing flimsy or fragile about the way it is constructed or about the way that it flies.”

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A U.S. Air Force A-10C Thunderbolt II, with the 51st Fighter Wing, Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, sits on the flight line of Clark Air Base, Philippines. | U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Benjamin W. Stratton

A-10 Thunderbolt II, affectionately known as the Warthog, has been in service since the late 1970s and served as a close air support combat aircraft in conflicts such as the Gulf War, Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Allied Force in Kosovo, among others.

Having flown combat missions in the A-10, Haden explained how the aircraft is specially designed to survive enemy ground attacks.

“There are things built in for redundancy. If one hydraulic system fails, another one kicks in,” he said.

If the aircraft loses all of its electronics including its digital displays and targeting systems, the pilot of an A-10 can still fly, drop general purpose bombs and shoot the 30mm cannon, Haden explained.

“So when I lose all the computers and the calculations, the targeting pod and the heads up display, you can still point the aircraft using a degraded system at the target and shoot. We are actually trained for that,” he said.

Unlike other air platforms built for speed, maneuverability, air-to-air dogfighting and air-to-air weapons, the A-10 is specifically engineered around its gun, a 30mm cannon aligned directly beneath the fuselage. The gun is also called a GAU-8/A Gatling gun.

“The 30mm cannon has 7 barrels. They are centered the way the aircraft fires. The firing barrel goes right down the center line. You can point the aircraft and shoot at the ground. It is designed for air to ground attack,” Haden explained.

Armed with 1,150 rounds, the 30mm cannon is able to fire 70-rounds a second.

Haden explained the gun alignment as being straight along the fuselage line without an upward “cant” like many other aircraft have. Also, the windows in the A-10 are also wider to allow pilots a larger field of view with which to see and attack targets.

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US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Aaron Allmon

The engines of the A-10 are mounted high so that the aircraft can land in austere environments such as rugged, dirty or sandy terrain, Haden said. The engines on the A-10 are General Electric TF34-GE-100 turbofans.

“I’ve seen this airplane land on a desert strip with the main gear buried in a foot of sand. On most planes, this would have ripped the gear up, but the A-10 turned right around and took off,” he added.

There have been many instances where A-10 engines were shot up and the pilots did not know until the returned from a mission, Haden said.

These aerodynamic configurations and engine technology allow the A-10 to fly slower and lower, in closer proximity to ground forces and enemy targets.

“The wings are straight and broadened. The engines are turbofan. They were selected and designed for their efficiency, not because of an enormous thrust. We have a very efficient engine that allows me to loiter with a much more efficient gas-burn rate,” Haden said.

Close Air Support

By virtue of being able to fly at slower speeds of 300, the A-10 can fly beneath the weather at altitudes of 100 feet. This gives pilots and ability to see enemy targets with the naked eye, giving them the ability to drop bombs, fire rockets and open fire with the 30mm cannon in close proximity to friendly forces.

“We shoot really close to people. We do it 50-meters away from people. I can sometimes see hands and people waving. If I get close enough and low enough I can see the difference between good guys and bad guys and shoot,” Haden explained.

The aircraft’s bombs, rockets and cannon attack enemies up close or from miles sway, depending on the target and slant range of the aircraft, Haden added.

“We deliver the munitions by actually going from a base position – then pointing the jet at the ground and then pulling the trigger once we reach the desired range,” he explained.

The A-10 uses both “Lightning” and “Sniper” pods engineered with infrared and electro-optical sensors able to find targets for the pilot.

“The aircraft uses the same targeting pod as F-15E and F-16. However, most of the fighters can’t transition between the two targeting pods and we can, based on our software,” Haden said.

The A-10 carries a full complement of weapons to include Joint Direct Attack Munitions, or JDAM GPS-guided bombs; its arsenal includes GBU 38s, GBU 31s, GBU 54s, Mk 82s, Mk 84s, AGM-65s (Maverick missiles), AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles and rockets along with illumination flares, jammer pods and other protective countermeasures. The aircraft can carry 16,000 pounds of mixed ordnance; eight can fly under the wings and three under-fuselage pylon station, Air Force statements said.

A-10 Avionics Technology

Pilots flying attack missions in the aircraft communicate with other aircraft and ground forces using radios and a data-link known at LINK 16.  Pilots can also text message with other aircraft and across platforms, Haden added.

The cockpit is engineered with what is called the CASS cockpit, for Common Avionics Architecture System, which includes moving digital map displays and various screens showing pertinent information such as altitude, elevation, surrounding terrain and target data.

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A-10A Thunderbolt II cockpit | US Air Force Museum

A-10 pilots also wear a high-tech helmet which enables them to look at targeting video on a helmet display.

“I can project my targeting pod video into my eye so I can see the field of view. If something shoots at me I can target it simply by looking at it,” he explained.

Operation Anaconda

During the early months of combat in Operation Enduring Freedom, in a battle known as “Operation Anaconda,” Haden’s A-10 wound up in a fast-moving, dynamic combat circumstance wherein U.S. military were attacking Taliban fighters in the Afghan mountains.

During the mission in March of 2002, Haden was able to see and destroy Taliban anti-aircraft artillery, guns and troop positions.

“We could see tracer fire going from one side of the valley to the other side of the valley. We were unable to tell which was from good guys and which was from bad guys. Using close air support procedures in conjunction with our sensors on board, we deconstructed the tactical situation and then shot,” he said.

The Future of the A-10

Many lawmakers, observers, veterans, analysts, pilots and members of the military have been following the unfolding developments regarding the Air Force’s plans for the A-10. Citing budgetary reasons, Air Force leaders had said they planned to begin retiring its fleet of A-10s as soon as this year. Some Air Force personnel maintained that other air assets such as the F-16 and emerging F-35 multi-role stealth fighter would be able to fill the mission gap and perform close air support missions once the A-10 retired.

However, a chorus of concern from lawmakers and the A-10s exemplary performance in the ongoing air attacks against ISIS – has lead the Air Force to extend the planned service life of the aircraft well into the 2020s. Despite the claim that other air assets could pick up the close air support mission, advocates for the A-10 consistently state that the platform has an unmatched ability to protect ground troops and perform the close air support mission.

Now, the Air Force has a begun a three-pronged strategy to replace or sustain the A-10 which involves looking at ways to upgrade and preserve the existing aircraft, assessing what platforms might be available on the market today or designing a new close-air-support airplane.

Sending the close-air-support aircraft to the boneyard would save an estimated $4.2 billion over five years alone, Air Force officials previously said.

The overall costs of the program including lifecycle management, sustainment and upkeep had made the A-10 budget targets for the service, however many lawmakers pushed back on the plans.

There have been many advocates for the A-10 among lawmakers who have publically questioned the prior Air Force strategy to retire the aircraft. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H. and Sen. John McCain have been among some of the most vocal supporters of the A-10.

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Capt. Dustin Ireland fires a missile as his A-10 Thunderbolt II breaks over the Pacific Alaska Range Complex April 24 during live-fire training. | US Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Robert Wieland

On several occasions, Ayotte has challenged the Air Force decision to retire the plane.

“The A-10 has saved many American lives, and Senator Ayotte is concerned that the Air Force might prematurely eliminate the A-10 before there is a replacement aircraft—creating a dangerous close air support capability gap that could put our troops at risk,” an Ayotte official said several months ago.McCain, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, welcomed the news that the A-10 might remain longer than the Air Force had planned.

“I welcome reports that the Air Force has decided to keep the A-10 aircraft flying through fiscal year 2017, ensuring our troops have the vital close-air support they need for missions around the world. Today, the A-10 fleet is playing an indispensable role in the fight against ISIL in Iraq and assisting NATO’s efforts to deter Russian aggression in Eastern Europe,” McCain said in a recent statement.

Also, the A-10 has been performing extremely well in ongoing attacks against ISIS, creating an operational demand for the durable aircraft and therefore reportedly informing this Air Force decision.

“With growing global chaos and turmoil on the rise, we simply cannot afford to prematurely retire the best close air support weapon in our arsenal without fielding a proper replacement. When the Obama Administration submits its 2017 budget request in the coming weeks, I hope it will follow through on its plan to keep the A-10 flying so that it can continue to protect American troops, many still serving in harm’s way,” McCain added.

Although the continued existence of the A-10 is assured well into the next decade, the debate about what, if anything, might be able to replace it is quite likely to continue.

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You’ll love this 91-year-old female World War II vet’s awesome definition of patriotism

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Miss Norma aboard USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78). (Photo: Facebook.com/DrivingMissNorma)


WATM recently caught up with 91-year-old WWII Navy Veteran Norma Bauerschmidt, who made headlines when she opted out of medical treatment for her stage IV uterine cancer to live the rest of her days seeing the country that she served rather than the walls of a hospital.

“Miss Norma,” as she has come to be known, made her decision two days after her husband Leo of 67 years and Army-Air Corps veteran passed away. She and her poodle, Ringo, now live in an RV with her son and daughter-in-law.  She has no regrets.

“I’m having the time of my life!” Norma said in an interview with The Huffington Post. “I’m done with doctors.”

Q: What made you want to join the service?

A: I wanted to help our country. I have always been quite patriotic. I was the only girl from my neighborhood who went into the service. I served 1945-1946.

Q: Did your parents approve?

A: My mother didn’t say one way or the other. My father said I could do it but I couldn’t sign up until I was 20. I think that was the Navy’s rule for women, not my father’s.

Q: You served in the WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Services). What made you interested in joining?

A: I always looked up to my older brother, Ralph. He went into the Navy before he graduated from high school. He was probably about 17. I thought I should follow in his footsteps.

Q: What was your job in the WAVES?

A: I was a nurse. I remember giving a lot of penicillin shots.

Q: Where were you stationed?

A: I did basic training at Hunters College in New York. I then took the train to San Diego Navel Hospital for the remainder of my service.

Q: Where did you meet your husband?

A: My brother Ralph and my husband Leo were buddies. Ralph introduced me to Leo in Toledo, Ohio 1947. They remained best friend for all those years and died exactly a month apart from each other.

Q: Where were you on the day World War II ended? What was your memory of that day?

A: We were in the barracks in San Diego. I remember feeling elated. Everyone was jumping up and down, screaming and hollering. It was a very big day!

Q: What advice do you have for women who are currently serving?

A: I don’t have any advice. I’m just glad that they are serving.

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Norma in front of the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia. (Photo: Facebook)

Q: What is your definition of patriotism?

A: Supporting those who have chosen to serve our country.

Q: What was your most memorable moment of service?

A: I remember “borrowing” a male sailor’s leave pass so I could enjoy some time with my girlfriends who had a different day off from me. I hope the statute of limitations is up on this one!

Q: You were down to your last three cents when Congressman Ford personally delivered your benefit checks.  Did he spend time with you and your husband?

A: At the time he was a new congressman. He simply dropped off our checks. We were so grateful and surprised that he would come out himself. He didn’t visit more than to make sure we had what we needed. I would have liked to have given him a cookie, but we didn’t have any food at the time. Our interaction with him allowed us to get on our feet and begin our life together. He was a good man.

Q: Are there any other Navy Ships / National monuments that you’d like to visit?

A: Well, we are in Boston right now and are planning to visit the USS Constitution this week. And I would really like to see the USS Arizona Memorial in Hawaii someday.

Q: Did you join any veterans organizations after your service?

A: The only thing I remember is registering at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial in Arlington, VA along with my daughter who served in the Army and later became a special agent in the US Secret Service.

Q: What was the most valuable lesson the military taught you?

A: I am sure many lessons have stuck with me throughout my life. I am proud to say a quarter still bounces off my bed!

Watch the video of her visit aboard USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78):

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10 fabulous military Halloween costumes for your kids

Halloween is just around the corner and if your children are anything like mine, the focus of the month is what costume they’ll be wearing. This year, skip the Superman and Elsa outfits and help them dress like real American heroes: their parents. Halloween provides the perfect opportunity to teach your little ones about the incredible breadth of military career choices, while having fun dressing up like mom or dad.


10 Great Military Themed Halloween Costumes for Kids

1. Dress uniforms

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Regardless of your occupation, there is nothing sweeter than your little guy or gal dressed in your branch’s best. Take this opportunity to teach them some of the traditions with your service. Whether it’s what the empty table at a dining out represents or the history behind who gets the first piece of cake at a birthday ball, this costume selection could serve as an excellent conversation piece between you and your child. Not to mention, adorable. Find it here.

2. Aviator 

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Is there anything more comfortable than wearing a flight suit to trick or treat the neighborhood? Use this opportunity to teach your child about the different aircraft and their respective missions. Whether your son wants to fly Seahawks or Strike Eagles or your daughter Chinooks or Super Hornets, let your little aviator pick his or her favorite aircraft and patches. Bonus: have a name patch made for your son or daughter with a call sign.

3. Paratrooper 

For your little daredevil, the perfect costume might be the perfect career choice. This Halloween, let your son or daughter join the elite, complete with a deployed parachute to help him or her soar. Here’s how.

4. Rescue Swimmer 

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After a summer of swimming, your son or daughter might think they’re ready to take on the open seas. Grab some scuba gear and read Mayday! Mayday! A Coast Guard Rescue to learn more about what rescue operations look like in a storm.

5. Doctor or Nurse 

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This year, skip the Doc McStuffins costume and teach your children about the incredible humanitarian missions our services’ doctors and nurses perform. Whether it’s sailing aboard the USNS Comfort to Latin America or treating patients in Landstuhl, your little caregiver can certainly dress the part with a stethoscope and kit or even go back in time to World War II, with this costume.

6. Chef

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For your budding baker, get a chef’s coat and hat, sew on some patches to look like this military chef and let your son or daughter help prepare Halloween treats. Teach them the history of the White House Mess and the science behind MREs.

7. K-9 Handler

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Perfect for your animal lover — put a harness on your pup, ACUs on your kiddo and hit the town. No dog in your house? This costume would be complete with a stuffed German Shepherd. For your K-9 enthusiast, read Lionel Paxton’s Navy Seal Dogs to learn even more about these incredible animals.

8. Special ops

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For your hide and go seek lover, the kids ghillie suit is perfect for ghouling. Watch the fun as your child ducks from house to house trying not to be seen. Be sure to add a chem light so that at least you can spot your camouflaged cutie. Bonus: no one will notice if this costume gets dirty.

9. Toy Soldier

This impressive do it yourself costume is the perfect outfit for your little soldier in Army green! Check out these step-by-step instructions for what will be, without a doubt, one of the most unique costumes walking down the street.

10. Rosie the Riveter

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There’s nothing like a Halloween costume to provoke a discussion about the important roles spouses, families, and community members have in supporting our troops. This year, teach your child about Rosie the Riveter and the contributions the home front made for the war efforts.

Whether your child dresses like Rosie or a rescue swimmer, a pilot or a paratrooper, use this holiday to celebrate the vast opportunities and capabilities within our military.

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4 reasons the Aardvark and Switchblade could still kick ass today

In this day and age, the F-111 Aardvark and its larger variant, the FB-111 Switchblade, are often forgotten. That shouldn’t be the case. Here are four reasons that these planes could still kick a lot of ass.


1. Speed

The F-111 was fast – with a top speed of Mach 2.5, according to GlobalSecurity.org. The FB-111 was also capable of going fast, according to aviation historian Joe Baugher. Not just at high altitudes, but also on the deck. In fact, these planes were designed to deliver a knockout punch at treetop level.

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A General Dynamics FB-111A Aardvark on display at the Barksdale Global Power Museum at Barksdale Air Force Base. This plane could fly over twice the speed of sound – and deliver 35,500 pounds of bombs. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

2. Payload

The B-2, B-1B, and B-52 get a lot of press for their huge payloads — anywhere from 51 to 84 Mk 82 500-pound bombs. But the F-111 and FB-111 could each carry 36 Mk 82s. That is nothing to sneeze at. During the Vietnam War, Baugher noted that four F-111s were delivering as many bombs as 20 F-4s.

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A left side view of an F-111A dropping 24 Mark 82 low-drag bombs in-flight over a range on May 1, 1980. The aircraft was assigned to the 391st Tactical Fighter Squadron, 366th Tactical Fighter Wing. (USAF photo)

3. Range

Baugher notes that the FB-111 could fly over 2,500 miles with four AGM-69 Short-Range Attack Missiles and internal fuel. That is a long reach – without tying up tankers like the KC-135, KC-46, or KC-10. While the AGM-69 is no longer in service, imagine what sort of distant targets could be hit by a squadron of FB-111s carrying AGM-158 JASSMs based at Aviano Air Base in Italy.

The F-111F demonstrated this range in an operational context during Operation El Dorado Canyon, when 18 planes from the 48th Tactical Fighter Wing flew from bases in England around Spain to hit targets around Tripoli. Aviation historian Joe Baugher noted that the mission was about 6,400 miles — the longest fighter mission in history.

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Ground crew prepares an F-111F of the 48th Tactical Fighter Wing for a retaliatory air strike on Libya. (USAF photo)

4. Accuracy

The F-111 was very capable with laser-guided bombs, but the planes could also deliver unguided bombs accurately. During Desert Storm, that the F-111Es from the 20th Fighter Wing carried out attacks with conventional “dumb” bombs — and suffered no combat losses doing so.

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A U.S. Air Force General Dynamics F-111F aircraft, equipped with an AN/AVQ-26 Pave Tack laser target designator, banking to the left over Loch Ness (UK). (USAF photo)

In short, the Aardvark and the Switchblade had a lot of life left when they were sent to the boneyard in the 1990s. One could imagine that with upgrades to carry JDAMs, AGM-154 JSOWs, and even the AGM-84H/K SLAM-ER systems, that these planes would certainly be a huge assets in today’s global hotspots.

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This is why the M320 kicks the M203’s ass

The M203 grenade launcher entered service with the U.S. military in 1969 during Vietnam. It replaced the M79 “Blooper” stand-alone launcher, almost always being used as an under-barrel addition to an assault rifle.


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U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. William Jaggers, rifleman, Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division (2d MARDIV), loads an M203 grenade launcher during a live-fire range at the Infantry Platoon Battle Course as part of a Deployment for Training (DFT), on Fort Pickett, Va., Dec. 12, 2016. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Alexis C. Schneider, 2d MARDIV Combat Camera)

Though it has served faithfully and effectively for over 40 years now and will continue to do so for years to come, the M203 is being phased out of Army service and is being replaced by the new M320 designed and built by Heckler Koch.

For now the Marines are sticking with the 203, though many top infantry advocates in the service want the Corps to replace its current ones with M320s.

The M320 won a competitive bidding process and entered production in 2008 with over 71,000 of the weapons planned for the U.S. Army. Soldiers of the 82nd Airborne Division were the first to field the weapon operationally.

The Secret Air Force Program That Hid An Even More Secret Program
Spc. Travis Williams, a grenadier with the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, looks through the the sights of his M320 grenade launcher March 24, during a training exercise at Fort Bragg, N.C. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Michael J. MacLeod)

While the M203 was capable of operating independently, in practice it is rarely used in standalone configuration. In fact, the old M79 resurfaced during Operation Iraqi Freedom as a superior option for grenade launcher duties without a rifle.

The break-action blooper (or ‘thumper,’ based on who you ask) was touted as a superior tool for the job when the whole rifle/launcher combo was too heavy or unwieldy, and standalone M203 units were not up to the task or simply unavailable.

The M79 has greater range and better accuracy than the M203. While it has performed admirably since Vietnam, no one has ever claimed that the M203 provided pinpoint accuracy.

The Secret Air Force Program That Hid An Even More Secret Program
The M79 was beloved by troops since Vietnam and still has a following in today’s military. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

The M79, introduced in 1961, is even older than the M203. Much more importantly, it’s not capable of being used as an under-barrel launcher on an M4 or M16 rifle. While stand-alone launchers definitely have their place, the need for a grenadier who is also a rifleman is a crucial one in most cases. A new, better, under-barrel 40mm grenade launcher was needed.

The M320 filled that need. Using the same high-low propulsion system of the M79 and M203 to keep recoil low while firing a heavy 40mm projectile, the M320 has the same range as the M203 while increasing accuracy and coming with a number of improvements over the older model.

One of the most noticeable upgrades over the M203 is the M320’s side-loading mechanism. The barrel swings out for loading, rather than the M203’s forward-sliding pump-like barrel. This allows the use of additional, longer, ammunition, particularly non-lethal rounds. With the weapon’s introduction, the Army is able to move forward with the development of new, high-tech rounds that wouldn’t fit in the M203.

The Secret Air Force Program That Hid An Even More Secret Program
(Photo from PEO Soldier)

Another obvious feature of the M320 is the folding foregrip. The grip is intended primarily for use when the weapon is used separate from a rifle, but it can also serve as a forward vertical grip when mounted under a barrel. When not needed, the foregrip can be easily folded back and out of the way.

The sights of the M320 are certainly more advanced than those of the M203, and they benefit from being integral to the launcher itself, being mounted on the side of the unit. The M203’s sights were attached separately and had to be re-zeroed every time.

The M320’s leaf sight simply flips up when needed, and the integrated electronic sighting system allows users to dial in the range as determined by laser and tell if they’re on target. This alone makes the M320 easier to field and more accurate in more conditions more of the time. While operating the M79 was an acquired ability and accuracy with the M203 was more art than skill, the M320’s sight helps to make every operator a capable grenadier.

The M320 has a double-action trigger compared to the M203’s single-action unit and has an ambidextrous safety. This allows the operator more control over his weapon, its firing, and better capability to handle a misfire or simple unloading.

The Secret Air Force Program That Hid An Even More Secret Program
U.S. Army Pfc. Rohan Wright, center, a cavalry scout with a personal security detachment with the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, prepares to fire an M320 Grenade Launcher Module (GLM) at the weapons range at Forward Operating Base Thunder in Paktia province, Afghanistan, Oct. 18, 2013. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Justin A. Moeller/Released)

Despite the M320’s technical advantages over its predecessors, its introduction did not come without some hiccups. All new weapons systems suffer from some teething pains, particularly when introduced during a time of war, and the new grenade launcher was no exception.

While intended to be lighter than the M203, the M320 is actually slightly heavier, weighing in at 3.3 pounds compared to the M203’s 3.0 pounds. While this difference is small, combat troops are already overloaded and every ounce counts.

While the new sight provides significant advantages over the M203’s sight, some troops have complained that it’s a little fragile for hard use in the combat zone. This may be due to the fact that the troops are used to not worrying about an M203 because there was so little to break.

Another complaint is that when used stand-alone with the stock assembly, the buttstock is a little short for many operators.

Finally, the single-point sling attachment of the stand-alone M320 meant that the weapon swung around and was often bouncing in the way, with troops calling for a holster of some sort to use while carrying the launcher unmounted. The Army responded by launching an M320GL Holster Soldier Enhancement Program.

The SEP was a “try-before-you-buy” program that used holsters from three different vendors and issued them to troops for testing and feedback. The holster solution will also address some of the concerns about the fragile sights, since the weapon won’t be bouncing around or getting dragged on the ground when the operator hits the dirt.

A comment found online from a soldier claiming to carry an M320 in Afghanistan says that the launcher is a pain in the ass and swings everywhere, he “wouldn’t trade it for anything else in a firefight.” It’s hard to come up with a better endorsement of the M320 than that.

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