The last US troops left Vietnam 43 years ago today - We Are The Mighty
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The last US troops left Vietnam 43 years ago today

In January 1973, the United States agreed to end direct combat operations in Vietnam. Under the provisions of the Paris Peace Accords, the fighting between North and South Vietnam was also temporarily halted. Though the accords were never ratified by the Senate, on March 29, 1973 the last U.S. troops left Vietnam, ending more than twenty years of military assistance and eight years of direct combat support from the U.S. military. With only a handful of Marines left to guard the embassy in Saigon, the North Vietnamese government in Hanoi released the last 67 of its admitted prisoners of war.


The last US troops left Vietnam 43 years ago today
Newly freed prisoners of war celebrate as their C-141A aircraft lifts off from Hanoi, North Vietnam, on Feb. 12, 1973, during Operation Homecoming. The mission included 54 C-141 flights between Feb. 12 and April 4, 1973, returning 591 POWs to American soil. (U.S. Air Force photo)

During World War II Ho Chi Minh fought alongside the American OSS against the Japanese. After the war, Ho declared an independent Vietnam but soon realized the West would restore French rule in what was then known as Indochina. With the help of Communist governments in China and the Soviet Union, Ho led an eight-year insurgency against the French, and the country was split in two in 1954.

The United States began to support South Vietnam as early as 1954. President Eisenhower pledged his unwavering support for the regime of Southern dictator Ngo Dinh Diem. The Diem regime arrested, tortured, and/or killed upwards of 100,000 people whom he suspected supported the Northern Communists. Diem would be killed in a coup in 1963.

The last US troops left Vietnam 43 years ago today
Marines with Company G, 2d Battalion, 7th Marines, direct a concentration of fire at the enemy during Operation Allen Brook, 8 May 1968. (U.S. Marine Corps Photo).

In the 1960’s North Vietnamese guerrillas, known as the Viet Cong (VC), began attacking villages and government institutions in the South. By 1965, the U.S. began to send over men and materiel in large numbers, escalating the conflict to a major war. By 1969, the peak of U.S. military involvement, more than half a million U.S. troops were involved in the war. The war included the largest aerial bombing campaigns in history. President Richard Nixon, who was elected on a platform of ending the war, oversaw a brief expansion. Before it ended, the air war expanded, and the conflict migrated into neighboring Cambodia and Laos (attempts to block Northern supply routes along the Ho Chi Minh Trail).

The last US troops left Vietnam 43 years ago today
US Marines during Operation Dewey Canyon, A Shau Valley, Vietnam (Photo by Staff Sgt. Bob Jordan)

The U.S. left South Vietnam in 1973, but the fighting between North and South continued. The year 1974 would be the most costly one for the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) in terms of combat losses. In 1975, Northern Communist forces captured the southern capital of Saigon and the country was unified as the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. Saigon was renamed Ho Chi Minh City. The last Americans were airlifted out on April 30, 1975.

The last US troops left Vietnam 43 years ago today
A member of the CIA helps evacuees up a ladder onto an Air America helicopter on the roof of 22 Gia Long Street April 29, 1975, shortly before Saigon fell to advancing North Vietnamese troops.

More than three million people were killed in the Vietnam War, including 1.5 million civilians and 58,000 Americans. Ho Chi Minh would not survive the end of the war, dying in 1969. President Lyndon B. Johnson, who oversaw much of the escalation, would not live to see U.S. troops withdraw. He died in January 1973.

 

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General Mattis told a touching story about his 94-year-old mother at his confirmation hearing

In his opening statement at his confirmation hearing Thursday, retired Marine Gen. James Mattis said it would be an honor to serve again, mentioned myriad challenges in the world, and brought up a touching personal story about his mother — showing how his family’s military ties and career have come full circle.


“Finally, on a personal note, I’ve worked at the Pentagon twice in my career,” Mattis told the Senate Armed Services Committee. “A few people may know I’m not the first person in my family to do so, when, in the wartime spring of 1942, my mother was 20 years-old and working in military intelligence. She was part of the first government employees to move into the still unfinished Pentagon.”

He continued:

“She had come to America as an infant and lives today on the banks of the Columbia River in the Pacific Northwest. Little could she imagine in her youth that more than 90 years after she immigrated to this country and 75 years after she first walked through the doors of the War Department, one of her sons would be sitting here in front of you today.”

Mattis is right about that. A neighbor and close friend of his mother in Richland, Washington told a reporter in December that she was amazed at what he had accomplished in his career, and apparently his mother said “I can’t even believe he’s my son.”

Neither his mother nor other family members made the trip to Washington, D.C. to see the 66-year-old retired general testify. When asked by Republican Sen. John McCain whether he wanted to recognize any family members in the audience, Mattis quipped: “Thank you Senator. They are safely west of the Rockies.”

Before Mattis spoke, former Secretary of Defense William Cohen testified in support of the general and also mentioned his 94-year-old mother, who he said he was a “devoted son” to. Cohen also mentioned Mattis remains a member of a local food bank in the area.

There were many other big takeaways from the roughly three-hour hearing, which included Mattis’ strong views on Russia, his insistence on being more aggressive against ISIS, and the need for a clear cyberwarfare doctrine.

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China just sent its homegrown aircraft carrier to the South China Sea

There’s a reason certain areas of the South China Sea are hotly disputed. There are an estimated 11 billion barrels of oil just waiting to be tapped down there. There are also 190 trillion cubic feet of natural gas reserves. 

While many countries lay claim to the vast petrochemical fields underneath the South China Sea, including Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam, only China has the economic and military might to build man-made islands there – and then militarize those islands with scores of troops. 

The last US troops left Vietnam 43 years ago today
Territorial claims in the South China Sea. China’s line crosses all the other countries’ lines, and, well… you see where this is going. (Voice of America/ Wikimedia Commons)

The latest military forces China is sending to the region is a first for the Chinese Communist Party: its very own, home-built aircraft carrier, the Shandong. 

Until those areas of the South China Sea claimed by China are officially recognized as belonging to anyone, the United States Navy will continue to conduct “Freedom of Navigation” missions right through those areas, daring China or anyone else to do something about it. 

U.S. Navy ships routinely enter the areas closest to the Spratly and Paracel Island chains, just two of many archipelagos which have either been artificially increased in size by China or have been completely constructed by the communist nation. China has artificially added 3,200 acres of land to the sea in the past decade. 

The last US troops left Vietnam 43 years ago today
If the USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) could talk, it’d probably say: “I wish a mofo would…” (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Markus Castaneda)

While China has as many as 27 military outposts spread out among the islands of the South China Sea, with various ports, airstrips, aircraft and anti-air defenses, the United States sends its combat ships on these exercises on a regular basis because much of the world doesn’t recognize the legitimacy of Chinese claims on the region. 

Freedom of Navigation through the disputed area is important because the area claimed by China covers an important sea lane. Conservative estimates say at least $3.3 trillion of shipping per year runs through those lanes, along with 40% of the global supply of natural gas. 

The Chinese carrier Shandong recently departed its homeport of Sanya for the South China Sea to conduct exercises in the disputed areas. The ship finished construction just two years ago and is still in its testing phases according to Chinese news outlet Eastday.

The last US troops left Vietnam 43 years ago today
This screen grab taken from a report by Chinese military channel js7tv.cn on May 3, 2021, shows stock image of aircraft carrier Shandong during an exercise in an unspecified location.

Shandong is replacing China’s other carrier, the Soviet-built Liaoning, as the latter returns to its homeport for maintenance. China complained about the presence of a U.S. Navy destroyer, the USS Mustin, accusing the destroyer of conducting illegal reconnaissance operations on the Liaoning. 

The United States Navy says everything the Mustin was doing in the South China Sea was legal. The U.S. Navy has increased its presence in the area by as much as 20% over the past year. It flew at least 65 reconnaissance missions in the South China Sea in April 2021, according to Chinese military think tanks. The Chinese Navy has responded with a 40% increase in naval presence. 

Despite the tensions in the region, the proximity of the two navies’ ships is unlikely to spark any kind of international incident. Both countries’ military forces conduct routine exercises there, regardless of the outrage or complaints they elicit from one another’s governments. 

The United States is determined to prevent military escalation in the region as claimants to the territory, especially the Philippines, turn up the heat on their rhetoric. 

Disputes over the region are also unlikely to disappear anytime soon. Though the United Nations and the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague have ruled against each and every Chinese claim on the area, China refuses to acknowledge the courts’ authority on the issue. 


Feature image: Wikimedia Commons

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The guy who committed the biggest hack of the US military is still free

In 2001, Gary McKinnon wreaked havoc on the computer systems at the Department of Defense. DoD estimates McKinnon’s hacks of Army, Navy, Air Force, NASA, and other DoD computer systems caused more than $800,000 in damages between February 2001 and March 2002.


He was looking for evidence of UFOs. He says it’s all there.

“It was above the Earth’s hemisphere. It kind of looked like a satellite. It was cigar-shaped and had geodesic domes above, below, to the left, the right and both ends of it, and although it was a low-resolution picture it was very close up. This thing was hanging in space, the earth’s hemisphere visible below it, and no rivets, no seams, none of the stuff associated with normal man-made manufacturing.”

He claimed he found evidence of NASA altering photos to remove strange shapes from the sky, a list of non-terrestrial officers, logs of ships named USSS LeMay and USSS Hillenkoetter, all with a dial-up 56k connection.

The last US troops left Vietnam 43 years ago today

“I can’t remember,” McKinnon told the Guardian in 2005. “I was smoking a lot of dope at the time. Not good for the intellect.”

He also claimed he found evidence of free energy production, called “Zero-Point” Energy, being suppressed by the U.S. government.

“I knew that governments suppressed antigravity, UFO-related technologies, free energy or what they call zero-point energy. This should not be kept hidden from the public when pensioners can’t pay their fuel bills.”

In October of 2012, British Home Secretary Theresa May withdrew the extradition order to have McKinnon sent to the United States to face trial. Her concern is McKinnon’s Asperger’s Syndrome would lead him to commit suicide if he were sent to the U.S., where he faced 70 years in prison and $2 million in fines. The UK opted not to prosecute him due to the complications which would arise from trying him in the UK for a crime where the evidence is across the Atlantic Ocean.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=18v=ipaFr6ukZ1A

“Once you’re on the network, you can do a command called NetStat – Network Status – and it lists all the connections to that machine,” he said. “There were hackers from Denmark, Italy, Germany, Turkey, Thailand… every night for the entire five to seven years I was doing this.”

McKinnon’s hacking is widely known as the “biggest of all time.”

These days, McKinnon is still a free man who started Small SEO, a site which charges £40 an hour to help businesses get prominently mentioned in search engine results. To this day, he cannot travel outside of the United Kingdom but has no restrictions on his ability to use computers.

NOW: The 5 most dangerous hackers of all time

OR: 7 criminals who messed with the wrong veterans

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4 tips for adjusting to civilian life after the military

The last US troops left Vietnam 43 years ago today

In the military, we’ve been trained to dress, work, and even negotiate. Here are a few of the most common military “pet peeves” that can be turned into positives while adjusting to civilian life.

1. Attention to detail

You notice EVERYTHING! How one dresses, how their hair is a little more shaggy, or their desk is a little more crowded…


USE IT! Focus your attention to detail toward what they do well, compliment them, and turn your attention toward editing yourself, your work and your portrayal of yourself. Civilians do not know the world you’ve come from, and won’t appreciate it until you let them in. Teach them through actions to focus on a RELEVANT set of details.

2. To be early is to be on time

Unless you’re using the “European” or “island time” mentality, you’ve been accustomed to being 15 minutes early to everything. That’s great, and your pet peeve for others just being “on time” should be dismissed. Why? Simply because YOU were holding sentry, observing the area. And though others may have missed something, in your opinion, you can be their eyes and ears and report as needed. Your pet peeve for them has now become an asset. Hey, take those 15 minutes to meditate! A little spiritual centering never hurt anyone.

3. Doing the ‘right’ thing when no one is looking

Veterans adjusting to civilian life still have Integrity. Have it. Just because you may notice that your co-workers lack it: BE the example, and begin to teach your ways through assertive practice. Don’t be a tattle-tale, but teach the benefits of integrity. The honest worker is not only trustworthy, but loyal. Loyalty is leadership.

4. Active listening

Having drill sergeants and MTIs for motivation make for a quick lesson in active listening! However, civilian folks do not have a comparative analysis for this quick and dirty “study.” Again, BE the example, be a mentor. Engage. Listen. Decide. Reply. Print it and put it on your desk. Through your actions, and your awareness of this personal lacking in others, you are building your relationships around you passively; and believe me, they’re watching, and learning. Just remember, listening has no words…so truly LISTEN.

Use your pet peeves to your advantage while adjusting to civilian life by modifying your perception of the situation these are seen in. Simply because you are a modeled machine with certain values and habits does not mean that those around you do not possess these same values; they may just be dormant, culturally unpracticed, or uncultivated. As always, we live to teach whether we want to or not, so speak softly, and rather than “carry a big stick” as Teddy Roosevelt would have you, carry your arsenal of tools in a positive light.

At G.I. Jobs, we dedicated an entire section of resources to making your military-to-civilian transition successful!

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Former Marine Corps captain is new Navy Secretary nominee

President Donald Trump says he’s found a new candidate for the civilian post of Navy secretary.

His name is Richard Spencer, and he’s a former financial industry executive. Spencer is also a former Marine Corps captain.


The White House says Spencer most recently was managing partner of Fall Creek Management, a privately held management consulting company in Wyoming. Spencer also was vice chairman and chief financial officer for Intercontinental Exchange Inc., a financial market company, and president of Crossroads Group, a venture capital firm that was bought by Lehman Brothers in 2003.

Trump’s first choice for Navy secretary, businessman Philip Bilden, withdrew from consideration in February. Bilden cited privacy concerns and the difficulty of separating from his business interests.

The Senate must approve of Spencer’s nomination.

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The use of military ‘drone’ aircraft goes back to World War I

The last US troops left Vietnam 43 years ago today
The Kettering Bug drone in 1918. Photo: US Air Force Museum


The history of drones goes back much further than most people are aware. Not only were unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) — aka drones — used against targets in World War II, but four competing programs were tested during the first World War.

The first two were in the United Kingdom and focused on gliders that would explode when they impacted the ground. Both designs were unsuccessful and neither were used in the war.

The first American program was led by three scientists working for the Navy to create an “aerial torpedo.” They were Elmer Sperry, inventor of auto-pilot; Dr. Peter C. Hewitt, a specialist in radio signals and vacuum tubes; and Carl Norden, who would go on to create the Norden bombsight for World War II bombers.

The men initially tried to create a radio-controlled aircraft that could fly to its targets, essentially attempting to create the suicide drones of today almost 100 years ago. When remote control failed, they settled on mechanically “programming” the drones to fly to their targets and detonate.

The last US troops left Vietnam 43 years ago today
The Hewitt-Sperry automatic airplane. Photo: Wikipedia

The resulting aerial torpedo could fly 50 miles with a 300-pound payload.

A successful test was conducted on November 21, 1917. Army Maj. Gen. George Squier was at the demonstration and ordered that the Army begin its own program.

The Army developed the “Kettering Bug” with the help of Charles Kettering and the famed Orville Wright. The “Bug” relied on an auto-pilot system to maintain steady flight, but had a mechanical system to shutoff its engine and jettison its wings after a set distance. The fuselage, filled with explosives, would then impact the target.

The last US troops left Vietnam 43 years ago today
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Unfortunately, both systems were plagued by problems with accuracy and neither was completed in time to aid the war effort. Research did continue though, leading to the drone missions of World War II.

NOW: There’s going to be a ‘Top Gun 2’ — with drones

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The US military is starting to recruit women for combat jobs

Just in time for the new, all-female Ghostbusters film, the Armed Forces of the United States is starting in earnest to recruit females to fill direct combat roles. This includes finding volunteers for Army and Marine Corps special operations and Navy SEAL teams. The Navy tells CBS News they’re already receiving SEAL submission packages from female candidates.


The last US troops left Vietnam 43 years ago today
U.S. Marines from Delta Company, Infantry Training Battalion (ITB), School of Infantry-East (SOI-E) navigate their way through the obstacle course aboard, Camp Geiger, N.C. Delta Company is the first company at ITB with female students as part of a measured, deliberate and responsible collection of data on the performance of female Marines when executing existing infantry tasks and training events. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

If women start basic training immediately, they could be in combat units by fall. Plans released to the Associated Press from Defense Secretary Ash Carter predict low volunteer rates and low graduation projections for the more intense training courses.

All branches of service have made changes to their facilities to accommodate women and all pledge to monitor recruits to combat sexual harassment and assaults. Military service chiefs told the SECDEF that it could take up to three years to fully integrate women into all aspects of the military.

The last US troops left Vietnam 43 years ago today
U.S. Marines from Delta Company, Infantry Training Battalion (ITB), School of Infantry-East (SOI-E) take a break after completing their 10k hike before navigating their way through the obstacle course aboard Camp Geiger, N.C. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

Related: Top brass want women to register for the draft

The Marines estimate an influx of 200 women per year will make it into the USMC infantry and other combat roles. This would account for only 2% of the total Marine force. The Corps will ensure females will be assigned together to help mitigate risks. The Army plans to integrate by first assigning female officers to leadership roles in infantry and armor units. Historically, the Air Force and Navy only restricted women in special operations roles and on ships that had no berthing for females. With the new rules in effect, neither branch will change its assignment procedures.

The last US troops left Vietnam 43 years ago today
Pfc. Julia Carroll eats a small meal after a six-hour patrol during patrol week of Infantry Training Battalion near Camp Geiger, N.C. on Oct. 31, 2013. Carroll is one of the first three females to ever graduate from Infantry Training Battalion. Patrol week is a five-day training event that teaches infantry students basic offensive, defensive and patrolling techniques. Delta Company is the first infantry training company to fully integrate female Marines into an entire training cycle. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

The services plan to evaluate new recruits using new gender-neutral testing to ensure the would-be warriors can meet the demands of their desired military specialty.

We may have to wait until September or October to see our first female Navy SEALs, but we can catch the first female Ghostbusters in July.

 

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This Marine better watch his footing in the new thriller ‘Mine’

After an assassination gone wrong, a Marine sniper, played by Armie Hammer, is stranded in a dry oasis after stepping on one of at least 33 million mines that occupy the desert region.


In this psychological thriller, Mike will have to battle himself, his enemies, and all the dangerous elements of his environment without lifting a foot until help arrives — 52 hours away.

Mine blasts its way into theaters and On Demand April 2017.

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How watching movies helped this sniper achieve record-breaking kill shots

Cpl. of Horse Craig Harrison set the world record for a sniper kill twice in November of 2009 while serving in Afghanistan.  Near the end of a three-hour firefight between British forces and Taliban insurgents he spotted the machine gun team that was pouring lead onto his buddies. But his distance estimate put the two fighters 900 meters outside of the effective range of his rifle.


The last US troops left Vietnam 43 years ago today
Photo: Wikipedia

But he didn’t give up. He figured he would have to fire 6 feet high, and 20 inches to the left of his target to account for the drop of the bullet, the estimated wind, and the spin of the earth. Even with his weapon balanced on the firm compound wall, it was a seemingly impossible task.

Harrison took the shot. He waited six seconds for the round to hit the target. It missed. He saw the enemy react, trying to figure out where the shot came from. He fired again. This time the bullet found its mark. The gunner slumped over his weapon, dead. Harrison lined up on the other insurgent and squeezed the trigger.

The last US troops left Vietnam 43 years ago today

Again, he watched for six seconds only to see the third shot miss and again he steadied himself and took aim. The fourth shot downed the second enemy fighter.

An Apache later used its lasers to measure the distance between the two spots and calculated it at 2,475 meters, just over 1.5 miles. The two longest sniper kills in recorded history belonged to Harrison.

Harrison later revealed his unique training regimen: “Each night I got my DVD player, put it at the end of the corridor and watched a film while lying in a firing position behind my rifle,” he told The Daily Mail. “Once I had mastered the stillness, I started balancing a ten pence piece on the end of the barrel, just to really hold myself to account.”

Harrison later had both arms broken by a roadside bomb, but after he healed he returned to the fight in Afghanistan.

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Australia suspends aerial missions in Syria after US jet downs Syrian bomber

On June 20th, Australia announced it was temporarily suspending air force operations in Syria after a Syrian government fighter jet was struck down by the United States over the weekend.


Following the incident, Russia said any US-led international coalition plane detected in Syrian airspace west of the Euphrates would be considered a military target.

An Australian Defense Force spokesperson said force protection was regularly reviewed and that the ADF are closely monitoring the air situation in Syria.

“A decision on the resumption of ADF air operations in Syria will be made in due course,” the spokesperson told broadcaster ABC News.

The last US troops left Vietnam 43 years ago today
A retired Su-22M-4 attack fighter used by Czechoslovak army. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

An American F-18 downed a Syrian Su-22 fighter jet after it allegedly bombed positions close to Syrian Democratic Forces fighters, who are US allies participating in the offensive to retake the city of Raqqa from the Islamic State terror organization.

The spokesperson added the suspension will not affect Australian armed operations in Iraq.

Around 780 Australian armed forces personnel are deployed in Iraq, where they are involved in assistance and training tasks, and Syria, where they carry out airstrikes.

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This was America’s first true aircraft carrier

When people talk about the aircraft carriers of World War II, some names jump out right away. Maybe the USS Enterprise (CV 6), both versions of the USS Yorktown (CV 5 and CV 10), or the USS Hornet (CV 8)?


But one carrier that was present at the start of World War II and survived throughout the war isn’t that well known. Meet America’s first purpose-built aircraft carrier, the USS Ranger (CV 4).

The last US troops left Vietnam 43 years ago today
USS Ranger (CV 4) at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in 1939. (US Navy photo)

The Ranger, like many pre-war American ship designs, was heavily influenced by the Washington Naval Treaty. This limited aircraft carriers to 27,000 tons per ship, and the United States Navy’s carrier force could have a total displacement of 135,000 tons. The conversion of the under-construction battle cruisers Lexington (then-CC 1) and Saratoga (then-CC 3) to CV 2 and CV 3 put them both at 33,000 tons.

As such, the Ranger was limited to 14,500 tons – and the U.S. wanted to cram as much as it could on this ship. She received eight 5-inch, 25-caliber guns, as well as a host of M2 .50-caliber machine guns. She also could carry around 75 aircraft.

The last US troops left Vietnam 43 years ago today
Nine Grumman F4F-4 Wildcat fighters and five Douglas SBD-3 Dauntless dive bombers are visible on the flight deck of USS Ranger (CV 4) prior to Operation Torch. Note Ranger´s distinctive stacks in the left foreground. (US Navy photo)

When World War II broke out, the USS Ranger was in the Atlantic as part of the Neutrality Patrol, along with the carrier USS Wasp (CV 7). According to the “Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships,” the Ranger was sent to patrol the South Atlantic. After returning for repairs, the Ranger then was tasked with delivering P-40 Warhawks to Africa. She made two runs in the spring and summer of 1942, delivering 140 of those planes – some of which were destined to reinforce the Flying Tigers.

In November of 1942, the Ranger took part in Operation Torch, launching 54 F4F Wildcats and 18 SBD Dauntless dive bombers. Her planes sank or damaged two French warships, and also gave the landings fighter cover.

After Torch, the Ranger was overhauled, then delivered 75 more P-40s — this time for the North African Theater of Operations. She carried out training missions during most of 1943, until she was attached to the Home Fleet.

The last US troops left Vietnam 43 years ago today

In October, 1943, the USS Ranger joined the British Home Fleet, and carried out a number of strikes on German naval forces around Norway. After that, she again served as an aircraft ferry, delivering 76 P-38 Lightning fighters to the Mediterranean Theater of Operations.

After making that delivery, the Ranger finally went to the Pacific, where she was a training carrier until the end of the war. After the war, the USS Ranger was decommissioned and sold for scrap.

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This is the Israeli version of the dogfighting wargame Red Flag

A number of elite units from multiple nations are gathered to train at an air base, with over 100 aircraft sitting on the flightline for a two-week exercise.


Sounds like just another Red Flag, right? Wrong.

This exercise is a “flag,” but it’s not at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada. Instead, it’s taking place in Israel. And appropriately enough, it’s known as Blue Flag.

The last US troops left Vietnam 43 years ago today
F-16I Sufa (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

While several Red Flag exercises are held each year in the U.S., the Israelis hold one Blue Flag every two years. In 2013, four countries took part. This year, according to DefenseNews.com, seven will be in the skies over the Middle East nation: the United States, France, Germany, India, Italy, Poland, and of course, Israel.

One big difference between Red Flag and Blue Flag is the fact that Blue Flag doesn’t have a lot of head-to-head action between the participants. The exercise usually puts the 100 or so planes in as a multi-national “Blue Force” dealing with an external “Red Force.”

The last US troops left Vietnam 43 years ago today
(U. S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Michael R. Holzworth)

Week one of Blue Flag is spent getting familiar with the area. The second week is the actual combat exercise, usually involving the Red Force trying to hit friendly targets. The Blue Force tries to stop them, in a variety of missions, both air-to-air, and air-to-surface.

Past Blue Flags have drawn rave reviews from the United States Air Force.

The last US troops left Vietnam 43 years ago today
Photo: US Air Force Tech. Sgt. Kevin J. Gruenwald

“The Israelis provided an excellent training environment, which offered us the opportunity to learn from each other and to take advantage of good airspace, surface threat replicators, and challenging scenarios,” said Lt. Col. John Orchard after Blue Flag 2013 in an Air Force release. “It was a real pleasure integrating with our Israeli, Italian and Greek partners who all offer unique tactical, strategic and cultural perspectives.”

While the nightlife may be very different from the Vegas strip — and it’ll be a little harder to find a good ham sandwich between sorties — Blue Flag 2017 promises to be very interesting for the participants.

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