The mastermind of the Paris attacks was killed in a raid - We Are The Mighty
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The mastermind of the Paris attacks was killed in a raid

The suspected mastermind of the Paris attacks that killed 129 people was killed in a massive police raid north of Paris Wednesday.


The mastermind of the Paris attacks was killed in a raid
Photo: Dabiq

The raid was conducted by over 100 police officers and soldiers who rushed into an apartment building in Saint-Denis and attacked the apartment at 4:16 a.m., according to the Washington Post. The reinforced door stayed close, triggering a seven-hour siege.

The mastermind of the Paris attacks was killed in a raid
French police in Paris in 2005. Photo: Wikipedia/BrokenSphere

Abdelhamid Abaaoud had previously bragged that he could not be caught by Western intelligence agencies and police after he evaded Belgian police.

“Allah blinded their vision and I was able to leave… despite being chased after by so many intelligence agencies,” he told Dabiq, an ISIS magazine.

“All this proves that a Muslim should not fear the bloated image of the crusader intelligence,” he added. “My name and picture were all over the news yet I was able to stay in their homeland, plan operations against them, and leave safely when doing so became necessary.”

Apparently, Abaaoud’s luck ran out. Abaaoud’s cousin also died in the raid when she detonated a suicide device, according to Fox News.

The raid came after French police received a tip from a waiter. The raid was part of a larger effort to prevent a potential follow-up attack aimed at Paris’s financial district, French officials told The Washington Post.

One police dog was killed in the raid, a 7-year-old named Diesel.

France’s military and police forces were already fighting the international terror organization before Friday’s Paris attacks, but have launched an increased number of police raids and military airstrikes since they suffered the worst attack on their territory since World War II.

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This Italian king went all ‘Game of Thrones’ on his enemies

The mastermind of the Paris attacks was killed in a raid
Showtime | The Borgias


The Italian Renaissance had a pretty cutthroat political climate, but King Ferrante I of Naples carved out his own niche of crazy. Born the illegitimate son of Alfonso V of Aragon in 1423, Ferrante (“Ferdinand” in Italian) spent most of his life wrangling his Neapolitan realm into submission. The experience turned him into a real brute.

Ferrante didn’t let most of his enemies go free. Instead, he killed and mummified them—keeping their preserved corpses in the castle of Castelnuovo for his own enjoyment. He loved having them close by, according to nineteenth-century historian Jacob Burckhardt, “either in well-guarded prisons, or dead and embalmed, dressed in the costume which they wore in their lifetime.” A contemporary chronicler described them as “a frightful sight,” having been “pickled with herbs,” as a warning to future royal enemies.

Ferrante I as a bust, not a mummy Ferrante I as a bust, not a mummy

How did Ferrante get so twisted? King Alfonso didn’t have any legitimate male heirs of his own at the time, and he really wanted his not-so-secret love child to rule over at least part of his burgeoning empire. Thus, he gave Ferdinand the best education he could afford: tutoring by Rodrigo Borgia (later Ferrante’s mortal enemy when he became a cardinal, then Pope Alexander VI). Despite his legitimization, Ferrante struggled to hold on to his territory, facing opposition from numerous popes and the French candidate to his throne, Duke Jean II of Anjou.

Needless to say, Ferrante hated Jean and his French pals, even after he beat them, so he devised his own morbid revenge. After he dominated the French in 1465, Ferrante invited a bunch of his rebellious nobles and their families over to his castle for dinner. He ostensibly was showing his benevolence, and who wouldn’t want to make up over a meal? Unfortunately for his guests, Ferrante wasn’t in a forgiving mood. He fed some of them to the crocodiles in his moat and threw the rest in prison—keeping some of them there for the next thirty years. The King threw another enemy out the window (the Neapolitans loved defenestration). Some of these guys probably wound up in his mummy collection.

Interestingly, Ferrante didn’t just believing in mummifying his enemies. He had himself preserved as an artificial mummy after his own death in 1494. Modern scholars have autopsied his body and determined that he died of large bowel cancer.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Twitter chief is also a reservist for the British Army’s information warfare unit

Twitter’s “head of editorial” in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa also serves as a part-time officer for the British Army’s information unit in the UK, a new report revealed.

Middle East Eye, which was first to report the news, shared a screenshot of Gordon MacMillan’s LinkedIn page in which he listed his dual roles. His role in the army has since been removed from his page.

A source familiar with the matter told The Financial Times that MacMillan spends a few days a year acting as a consultant to Britain’s information warfare unit, the 77th Brigade.


The 77th Brigade was created in 2015 with the intention of using psychological operations and social media platforms such as Twitter or Facebook to help fight wars “in the information age.” It is made up of reservists and regular troops.

It writes online: “Our aim is to challenge the difficulties of modern warfare using non-lethal engagement and legitimate non-military levers as a means to adapt behaviours of the opposing forces and adversaries.

“77th Brigade is an agent of change; through targeted Information Activity and Outreach we contribute to the success of military objectives in support of Commanders, whilst reducing the cost in casualties and resources.”

The mastermind of the Paris attacks was killed in a raid

MacMillan’s LinkedIn page has since been edited to remove his secondary role.

(LinkedIn)

Neither MacMillan nor the UK Ministry of Defense (MOD) immediately responded to Business Insider’s request for comment when contacted.

In a statement shared with The Financial Times, a spokesperson for the MOD said: “We employ specialist reserve personnel from a variety of civilian occupations in order to utilize the skills and experience of senior professionals.

“There is no relationship or agreement between 77th Brigade and Twitter, other than using it as a social media platform.”

A spokesperson for Twitter told Business Insider that “Twitter is an open, neutral, and independent service.

“We do not allow our data services to be used for surveillance purposes or in any other manner inconsistent with people’s expectation of privacy. Employees who pursue external volunteer opportunities are encouraged to do so in line with company policy.”

In most cases, reservists would need to provide their employer’s details to their commanding officer. However, according to the UK government guidelines, they do have the right to not to tell their employer they are a reservist if there’s a good reason for it. For example, if it would put them at a disadvantage if their employer knew.

Twitter confirmed, however, that MacMillan’s dual role was reviewed by its compliance teams and is not currently in violation of its policies.

MacMillan joined Twitter in 2013 after working at various media companies. He previously trained at Sandhurst, the British military academy before studying journalism and then media studies at Cardiff and Bournemouth universities.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Army developed new high-tech fabric for fighting in the Arctic

Soldiers can’t achieve peak performance when they’re chilled to the bone. So in winter weather, some soldiers may don up to seven layers of clothing. That much fabric can weigh them down. Later, soldiers might find themselves overdressed, now getting hot and sweaty. That sweat, in turn, can turn to ice if the weather is super cold. But it doesn’t have to. Researchers have just come up with a way to lighten a winter warrior’s load and fight the threat of frozen sweat.


They’ve designed a new high-performance fabric. It could become the basis of underwear for troops deployed in places blasted by Arctic cold. Scientists unveiled it here, last August, at the fall meeting of the American Chemical Society.

Paola D’Angelo is a bioengineer. She uses principles of biology to solve problems. Elizabeth Hirst is a chemist. Both work at the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center in Massachusetts. Their team got the initial idea for this innovation from some earlier work by a group at Stanford University in California. Their new fabric improves on that earlier research. It also adds an important new twist.

Chemist Elizabeth Hirst (left) and bioengineer Paola D'Angelo (right) are working on new winter fabrics for soldiers' uniforms. The fabric swatch on the board D'Angelo is holding carries an electrical current, which could heat the fabric. (Photo by Kathiann Kowalski) Chemist Elizabeth Hirst (left) and bioengineer Paola D’Angelo (right) are working on new winter fabrics for soldiers’ uniforms. The fabric swatch on the board D’Angelo is holding carries an electrical current, which could heat the fabric. (Photo by Kathiann Kowalski)

Hot stuff

Yi Cui and Po-Chun Hsu are materials scientists at Stanford University. Their team already had been using metal nanowires to create see-through electrical conductors. Such materials could be handy for things such as thinner smartphones, displays on car windshields and more. Teeny, tiny nanowires have diameters at the scale of billionths of a meter.

At Cui’s suggestion, the Stanford team set out to use conductive nanowires in a fabric. It would be “warm, lightweight and breathable,” explains Hsu. That way, it could help reduce the energy needed for indoor heating.

The team got itty bitty wires of silver to form a mesh across cotton fabric. The silvery metal can reflect body heat back to someone’s skin. The treated fabric also can carry an electrical current. So, batteries could deliver extra heat when needed.

Now the Army’s team has been tweaking that idea to work not just with cotton, but also with high-performance fabrics. Athletes, soldiers and others often turn to such fabrics when they’re doing things that call for lots of physical activity or that expose them to extreme conditions.

Also Read: Spiders will help produce the newest military uniforms

Examples of these special fabrics include polyester, nylon and other synthetic fabrics. Their fibers are engineered by people, instead of coming from natural materials, such as plant fibers or animal hair. The Army uses synthetic fabrics (or blends that include synthetics) for gloves, socks and a soldier’s base layer. That’s the “underwear” that sits closest to the skin. And it’s for that layer that this team has been building upon the Stanford group’s work.

Besides getting the concept to work with other fabrics, the Army researchers tested the ability of such fabrics to hold up through repeated washings. And their fabric indeed performed well.

In addition, the Army team packed more fibers onto each area of fabric than the Stanford team had. That denser wire mesh can carry more current and provide more warmth. Three volts of electricity is enough to warm a test swatch that’s 6.45 square centimeters (1-square-inch) in one minute by 56 degrees Celsius (100 degrees Fahrenheit), D’Angelo reports. A typical watch battery is all that’s needed to provide those 3 volts.

Soldiers won’t want their underwear that hot. But the fabric could provide quick heat in a hurry. With the right controls, soldiers could even customize how warm their clothes get.

Super soakers for sweat

That material would still not be a perfect solution for working in cold weather, however. Even if it were used under with the Army’s current winter wear, soldiers can get sweaty as they hike, climb or carry out other tasks. That’s because the synthetic fabric of the base layer is not good at wicking away moisture, Hirst explains. Instead, sweat soaks into the fabric. As water in the sweat cools, it can ice up. That’s “obviously very uncomfortable,” she adds.

To deal with this, her team is working with hydrogel beads. A hydrogel is a type of “super soaker” material that can absorb a lot of water. In this case, the beads can sop up as much as 40 times their weight in water, Hirst says. The molecules of the beads are made from polymers. These are long chains of identical repeating units. A part of each unit in the hydrogel has a segment that attracts water.

Researchers could tweak the hydrogel to act differently at different temperatures, Hirst points out. As a soldier sweats, the fabric would warm. That warming could lead the hydrogel to soak up any sweat, moving moisture away from the skin. Later, when the soldier took off the underwear, it would cool down. Moisture in the hydrogel beads could then evaporate into the air. Now the fabric would be ready to wear again.

Don’t expect to see the new fabric on soldiers just yet. “We are in the basic research stages,” Hirst says. Among other things, her team will play with different ways to attach the hydrogel beads to the wired fabric. Her group also wants to work on a protective coating for the nanowires. That would help the silver resist tarnishing, which could reduce its reflectiveness.

The mastermind of the Paris attacks was killed in a raid
This sketch shows how a new fabric might work for gloves. Silver nanowires (labelled AgNW on the bottom layer) would reflect body heat and could carry an electric current to warm fingers even more. At the same time, hydrogel beads in the fabric would pull sweat away from the skin toward the outer edge (shown on top in green).(Photo courtesy of U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center)

“We look forward to seeing their cloth combining silver nanowire and hydrogel together,” says Hsu. In his view, it makes good sense to combine features that would provide both heating and cooling as needed. “In the future stages of this research,” he suspects, “there might be some trade-off between the total amount of heating and cooling that the cloth can provide versus its compactness and weight.”

In addition to developing better winter underwear, the Army team hopes the new fabric might lead to warmer gloves and socks. After lots and lots of field testing by soldiers, the fabric might find its way into civilian clothes, too. Then anyone could wear it for skiing, winter walks, snowboarding or other cold-weather fun.

The outdoor temperature topped 32º C (90º F) when the researchers unveiled their new fabric in Washington, D.C. Few folks at the meeting were ready for winter. Later, however, many might appreciate that some scientists and engineers had been thinking ahead.

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This is what battle was like for airmen during World War II

 


The Air Force today takes a ribbing from the other services for being soft, so it’s easy to forget that historically their mission has been one of the most dangerous. This was on display in World War II when Allied aircrews were tasked with bombing Nazi-occupied Germany and Imperial Japan.

In this clip, a World War II Royal Air Force veteran discusses what it was like flying bombers to Berlin through a wall of flak so thick that, as he describes it, it sounded like driving a car through a hailstorm. He also tells of the mission where their bomber was chased down by German fighters and forced to crash land.

MIGHTY TRENDING

China will keep growing because it can do what the West can’t

China’s biggest advantage is that other countries have left giant opportunities wide open that Beijing was able to easily fill, according to John Garnaut, a former adviser on China to Australia’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.


Garnaut, who spoke to the US House Armed Services Committee on March 21, 2018, was giving national-security advice on state influence operations when he pointed out a common thread of China’s influence operations. Namely, that the US, Australia, and other leading nations stopped investing in Chinese education and global development, allowing China to take control.

Also read: The FBI director called out China on its massive espionage effort

“China is really filling a service we are failing to provide — that is a China capability, linguistic capability, understanding of Chinese contemporary politics and history,” Garnaut said, before putting a spotlight on China’s state-run cultural institutes around the world.

“Confucius Institutes have found a great black hole that they can fill,” he said.

The mastermind of the Paris attacks was killed in a raid
John Garnaut

There are over 1,500 Confucius Institutes and Classrooms, which aim to promote Chinese language and culture, in universities, primary schools, and high schools in 142 countries around the world.

While playing a key role in, by their own admission, China’s soft-power and propaganda, they have also been deemed a “trojan horse” and a source of censorship. China’s Communist Party retains ultimate control over Confucius Institutes, their budgets, activities, and curricula.

Garnaut believes the US and Australia have essentially given Beijing this influence. He said that universities “need to work hard” to rebuild their Chinese expertise so they don’t have to rely on China’s government to fill the gaps.

Related: China’s president just gave a huge threatening speech

But education isn’t the only area where China has seized opportunities. The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), President Xi Jinping’s plan to link 70 countries via railways and shipping lanes, has seen an outpouring of expensive loans to poorer nations to fund infrastructure.

“With BRI, obviously again they filled a vacuum,” said Garnaut. “If we’re — between us — no longer supporting development in the way that we used to in my part of the world, in Southeast Asia and the Pacific, it provides opportunities for others. I think there’s opportunity to do more there and also to again really focus on transparency.”

The mastermind of the Paris attacks was killed in a raid
The Belt and Road Initiative.

US legislators want Confucius Institutes to register as foreign agents

On March 21, 2018, three US legislators, including Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, introduced the Foreign Influence Transparency Act which would require Confucius Institutes to register as foreign agents.

“This legislation aims to bring greater transparency to the activities of foreign governments operating in the United States,” said Rubio.

When asked about the proposed law, Garnaut said regardless of whether Confucius Institutes should be registered, “that’s the right direction.”

“What they do is partly propaganda, but even more importantly is their connection to the United Front’s Work Department system and that is they can potentially be used, and we need to stop them being used, as a platform for influencing decision-making in universities,” said Garnaut.

The United Front Work Department is the arm of China’s government that openly runs China’s soft power and influence initiatives internationally, particularly in regard to Chinese students studying abroad and the Chinese diaspora.

And the relationship between United Front Work and Confucius Institutes was made even stronger this week in a vast government shakeup. United Front Work’s role is being strengthened, and it will absorb the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office and oversee international Chinese language education.

From now on, Confucius Institutes may very well be overseen by the United Front Work Department.

But countries should be more concerned about quieter initiatives

As much as the US and Australia should be concerned about overt instances of influence, such as the Confucius Institutes, Garnaut believes there are far more serious instances of influence that need to be tackled.

More: China accidentally posted its plans for naval domination

“One thing about the Confucius Institutes is, at least we know about them and people are talking about them. In a way, that degree of transparency goes a long way to curing the problem,” Garnaut said.

“What I’m personally more concerned about is things that don’t have a big flag over their building. We see other institutes and research institutes performing similar functions but without the attention, and I think that’s where we need to pay a lot more attention.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is why so many veterans turn to music after war

An increasing number of studies and testimonials suggest that music heals symptoms of trauma, depression, and anxiety. As a result, veterans are being offered more music programs to help with healing after service.


Walter Reed Army Medical Center and at the National Intrepid Center of Excellence have created a music therapy program.

There are music therapists at VA hospitals across the country.

The mastermind of the Paris attacks was killed in a raid
Vietnam War veteran and Guitars for Vets volunteer James Robledo places a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. (Guitars for Vets photo)

And there are non-profit organizations like Guitars for Vets, which provides free guitar lessons — and a guitar — to veterans nationwide.

Vietnam War veteran James Robledo is a graduate of the program and the chapter coordinator at the Loma Linda chapter in California who, as a volunteer, has helped over 180 veterans graduate from the program.

“Playing the guitar takes concentration, it’s a little frustrating, it’s a challenge — but when you’re doing that, everything else disappears,” Robledo told We Are The Mighty.

Guitars for Vets — and its impact — has gained national attention. Robledo was named the 2015 National Humanitarian of the Year by the National Association of Letter Carriers, and he was invited to a music panel at the White House as well as to place a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns.

“There have been students that have come back and said because of the program they no longer have suicidal thoughts. And that’s what we’re about,” added Robledo.

The mastermind of the Paris attacks was killed in a raid
It costs $200 to put a veteran through the program, and all the funding comes from donations. (Guitars for Vets photo)

Ted Peterson, a veteran of the Navy and the Army and another graduate of the program, joined Robledo (and Willie Nelson — maybe you’ve heard of him) at the White House for a panel on music in the military.

He has written songs about the military community, including one that helped provide solace after the loss of loved ones.

“Learning to play guitar has let me reinvent myself. My knees and back are pretty banged up, but I can still impact other peoples’ lives in a positive way,” said Peterson about how he uses music to help others.

To date, Guitars for Vets has administered over 25,000 guitar lessons and distributed over 2,500 guitars to Veterans, and their waiting list keeps growing, which is why We Are The Mighty has partnered up with Base*FEST powered by USAA to donate $1 (up to $10k) every time you vote for one of our veteran artists and Mission: Music finalists until Sept. 23, 2017.

Editors’s Note: Voting is now closed. We reached our goal of donating $10k to Guitars for Vets — thank you to all those who supported this program!

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8 steps to executing the perfect do-it-yourself move this PCS season

The mastermind of the Paris attacks was killed in a raid
(Photo courtesy of Penske)


At first glance, the Personally Procured Move (or PPM) Program (what used to be called DITY move) may seem to be more trouble than it’s worth. After all, you have to take care of your own moving arrangements and expenses, rather than letting the government do it for you. But if you do a little planning and put forth a bit of effort, doing a PPM offers several advantages over a normal military move, like these:

Money, Money, Money. In the PPM Program, you receive a government payment of 95 percent of what it would cost the government to move you. In addition, you receive the standard travel allowances for you and your family. If you end up spending less than the 95 percent payment the government provides, you get to keep the rest. This may sound difficult, but if you take advantage of moving company discounts and other special offers, you’ll find that you can make money for yourself. You should especially consider a PPM if you have a limited amount of items that need shipping or moving — you may be able to take care of all the packing and transport yourself.

Time, Time, Time. When you receive orders to move to another area, you’re authorized permissive TDY or travel time in order to take care of all your moving arrangements. If you make a PPM, you’ll receive additional time to handle your move — time that you can use to relax if you’re efficient about planning your move.

Total Control. While it’s nice to do without the headaches of planning a move, many military personnel had less-than-ideal experiences when the government took care of their moves. With the PPM program, you’re in control every step of the way, from deciding which moving services you want to how much of the actual move you want to handle yourself.

If you’re ready to take advantage of the PPM program make sure you follow each of the steps outlined below:

Step 1. Apply for the PPM move by scheduling an appointment with your base Personal Property Transportation Office (PTO).

A PTO representative will cover all factors of the program in detail, and provide you with all forms and instructions you need. Foremost among these is the DD Form 2278 (Application for Move and Counseling Checklist). Other forms you may need to fill out or provide include:

Standard Form 1038 — Advance of Funds Application and Account (for advanced operating allowance).

Certified empty weight ticket for each shipment with name, your Social Security number and signature of weight master.

Certified loaded weight ticket for each shipment with name, your Social Security number and signature of weight master.

Original DD Form 1351-2 — Travel Voucher or Subvoucher (ask your PTO representative if you have specific questions about this form)

Copy of registration for your boat(s) and/or trailer(s) if applicable.

Only after applying for and being authorized for a PPM move can you proceed with the move. If you make a partial PPM move (i.e., only shipping a certain amount of household goods), make sure you work out all the details with your PTO representative. Note that you will not receive full government payment for your PPM move until after your move.

Step 2. Decide on your type of move.

Will you be doing this all yourself? Will you have packers help? Will you have a moving company take care of the actual transport? Nail down these arrangements as soon as possible.

The mastermind of the Paris attacks was killed in a raid
(Photo: Military.com)

Step 3. Arrange for any rental equipment or moving services you need.

You can either do it all yourself, have a professional handle tasks, or some of both. Packing materials can be purchased from commercial suppliers.

Step 4. Confirm your insurance coverage.

Make sure you are up to date on your car and accident insurance. If you use a trailer, check your auto insurance policy to make sure you’re covered. State laws regarding liability for accidents during a PPM move vary, so if you’re involved in an accident while performing a PPM move, you should contact the legal office at the military installation nearest the accident site as soon as possible.

Step 5. Pick up your operating allowance from your local disbursing office.

Step 6. When your vehicle (whether you own it or are renting) is ready, calculate the total weight of what you are moving.

You should weigh your vehicle both fully loaded and unloaded. This is extremely important, as your PPM payment will be based on this weight ticket. To calculate the weight of your shipment, follow this formula:

Loaded Weight = Your vehicle with a full tank of gas + all of your property loaded + no drivers or passengers inside

Empty Weight = Your vehicle with a full tank of gas + no drivers or passengers inside

Loaded Weight – Empty Weight = Net Weight of Property

Each weight ticket should have the following information:

Name, grade, Social Security number

Name/location of scales

Vehicle/trailer identification

Date of weighing

Weigh Master’s signature

Legible of weights

Step 7. Get receipts for all moving expenses.

All costs associated with the move are not taxable, and will be deducted from the allowance you receive from the move to determine your actual financial profit. Only your profit will be taxed, so be sure to keep track of everything to maximize your profit. Authorized expenses include:

Payment for rental vehicles/trailers

Packing materials

Moving equipment (including hand trucks and dollies)

Gas and oil expenses

Highway tolls, weight tickets and any other transportation expense directly related to the PPM move

Step 8. Make your move, and submit your settlement.

Once you complete your actual move, you have 45 days to submit a claim for full payment of your PPM allowance. This should include the following:

Empty and loaded weight tickets (two copies of each)

DD Form 2278

PPM Move certification (attach all receipts for moving expenses)

PPM Move expense sheet

Change of Station Orders

Advance operating allowance paperwork (if you are renting a truck or trailer)

Vehicle/trailer rental contract (if you are renting a truck or trailer)

More specific details can be obtained from the Personal Property Transportation office at your installation. To get more PCS tips or information, visit Military.com’s PCS Moving Guide.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Air Force’s first enlisted pilots in 70 years

Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance is the number one most requested capability by combat commanders and for more than a year enlisted airmen have been helping the Air Force meet this demand by piloting the RQ-4 Global Hawk.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Dave Goldfein has continually expressed the importance of the ISR force and finding innovative methods to relieve the pressure of getting commanders on the ground more data.


“Looking at new ways to operate within our [remotely piloted aircraft] enterprise is critical given that ISR missions continue to be the number one most requested capability by our combatant commanders. We expect that will only continue to expand,” said Goldfein. “We know our enlisted airmen are ready to take on this important mission as we determine the right operational balance of officer and enlisted in this ISR enterprise for the future.”

The mastermind of the Paris attacks was killed in a raid

A RQ-4 Global Hawk taxis for take off from the Beale Air Force Base, Calif. June 14, 2018.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Marianique Santos)

In light of this, the Air Force selected 12 active-duty airmen last year to become RQ-4 pilots as part of the first Enlisted Pilot Initial Class, the first enlisted airmen to fly aircraft since 1942.

“I wasn’t expecting to be selected,” said Tech. Sgt. Courtney, an RQ-4 Global Hawk pilot who was part of the initial class. “It was a huge honor and I was extremely excited and nervous. I’m glad I applied, a lot of great opportunities have come from it and I’ve learned a lot more about the RPA (remotely piloted aircraft) enterprise by being able to move to the pilot side.”

Courtney has been part of the ISR career field throughout her career. Over the years she’s filled several roles, including one as an imagery analyst and sensor operator for the MQ-1 Predator and the RQ-4, where she sat next to the pilot operating the aircraft’s camera during missions.

The mastermind of the Paris attacks was killed in a raid

Enlisted pilots of the RQ-4 Global Hawk at Beale Air Force Base, Cali., are now flying operational missions after completing pilot training. These are the first enlisted Airmen to fly aircraft for the U.S. Air Force since 1942.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Marianique Santos)

She always wanted to be a pilot and was going through the process of applying for Officer Training School to come back and fly RPAs when this program was offered as an exclusive volunteer possibility by the Air Force.

Courtney says even though it’s unique paradigm shift to have officer and enlisted pilots training and flying side-by-side, the dynamic of operating and conducting a mission is no different than on any other airframe.

“It’s important because everybody’s opinion matters when you’re flying an aircraft or executing a mission,” said Courtney. “We’re trained and we’re expected to fill an expectation and a skill level of that crew position. So regardless of what the rank is, our job is to get the mission done and if the senior airman sensor operator has a better idea and it works and I agree with it, then that’s what we’ll go with. Rank doesn’t play a part when we’re executing the mission.”
For RQ-4 pilots, there are a lot of missions.

In 2017, the Air Force was tasked with nearly 25,000 ISR missions, collecting 340,000 hours of full motion video and producing 2.55 million intelligence products — which averages almost five products per minute that close intelligence gaps and support target analysis and development.

The Enlisted Pilot Initial Class training was created to provide more pilots to the RQ-4 program and ensure the Air Force is able to keep up with the high demand for its ISR products.

But, training new pilots takes time as the RPA training program spans almost a full year. Airmen begin Initial Flight Training at Pueblo Memorial Airport in Pueblo, Colorado, where they learn to fly and complete a solo flight in a DA-20 Katana aircraft. After IFT, students progress through the RPA Instrument Qualification Course and RPA Fundamentals Course at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas, and then Global Hawk Basic Qualification Training at Beale Air Force Base, California.

The mastermind of the Paris attacks was killed in a raid

Maj. Michael, a remotely piloted aircraft fundamentals course instructor pilot, right, discusses a training mission utilizing the Predator Reaper Integrated Mission Environment simulator with Tech. Sgt. Ben, an enlisted pilot student, and Staff Sgt. James, a basic sensor operator course instructor at the 558th Flying Training Squadron at Joint Base San Antonio, Texas Jul. 17, 2018.

(Photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.)

At the conclusion of this training airmen are rated, instrument-qualified pilots who are Federal Aviation Administration certified to fly the RQ-4 in national and international airspace and mission-qualified to execute the high altitude ISR mission.

“We pin their wings on them,” said Keith Pannabecker, a civilian simulator instructor at the 558th Flying Training Squadron at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph. “The creation of the career field was the best thing the Air Force could have done because it created an avenue for folks to volunteer. Beforehand, we were robbing Peter to pay Paul from the manned and unmanned airframes.”

Pannabecker, who is a retired Air Force colonel who helped with the inception of the RPA enterprise, thinks the Air Force is on track with a smart solution to a real problem, which is a shortage of pilots around the whole Air Force.

The mastermind of the Paris attacks was killed in a raid

Keith Pannabecker, a remotely piloted aircraft qualification instructor pilot, left, monitors a training mission utilizing the T-6 Flight Simulator with Tech. Sgt. Ben, an enlisted RPA pilot student, at the 558th Flying Training Squadron at Joint Base San Antonio, Texas Jul. 17, 2018.

(Photo by Bennie J. Davis III)

“We no longer pull pilots from the manned aircraft,” said Pannabecker. “Now, we’ve got our fresh group of motivated young people that are saying, please pick me to come be RPA pilots, which wasn’t always the case with asking for volunteers from the manned aircraft pilots. So, what we have now is a win-win.”

Since the graduation of the initial enlisted pilots in 2017, the Air Force added 30 more airmen into the training pipeline this year and plans to grow to 100 pilots by 2020. By then the Air Force expects nearly 70 percent of Global Hawk missions will be commanded by the “Flying Sergeants.”

“So, enlisted pilots are a very small force right now and we’ve relied on each other for information and we are each others’ shoulders to lean on,” said Courtney. “It’s going to take some time for enlisted pilots to integrate into the squadron and find the perfect flow, but we are very integrated into the mission.”

The mastermind of the Paris attacks was killed in a raid

Remotely piloted aircraft qualification instructor pilots and student pilots review the training mission schedules of the the T-6 Flight Simulator at the 558th Flying Training Squadron at Joint Base San Antonio, Texas Jul. 17, 2018.

(Photo by Bennie J. Davis III)

Courtney said during February 2018 all RQ-4 missions in the 12th Reconnaissance Squadron at Beale were flown by enlisted pilots.

“I’m hopeful in the future for the enlisted pilots and an equal playing field, so we won’t be seen as enlisted or officer, but we’ll be seen simply as pilots,” said Courtney.

Courtney believes the only thing that matters is providing intelligence that’s vital to the men and women on the ground fighting every day.

“It’s something that I value and I appreciate. Being able to be the commander of those missions means a lot to me and I take it seriously,” said Courtney. “I have so much respect for the other men and women that fly alongside of me. I’m thankful I’m able to provide that protection and the extra level of intelligence that they need to get their mission done.”

This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Study claims VA wait times are now shorter than private clinics

Wait times at Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals and clinics have gone down significantly from recent years and are now shorter on average than those in private-sector health care, at least in big cities, according to a new study from the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

Critics of the study pointed out that main contributors to the JAMA report were current and former VA executives, including Dr. David Shulkin, who was fired as VA secretary in 2018 by President Donald Trump.


In a statement, VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said the JAMA report published Jan. 18, 2019, showed that the VA “has made a concerted, transparent effort to improve access to care” since 2014, when wait-times scandals and doctored records led to the resignation of former VA Secretary and retired Army Gen. Eric Shinseki.

“This study affirms that VA has made notable progress in improving access in primary care, and other key specialty care areas,” Wilkie said.

The mastermind of the Paris attacks was killed in a raid

VA Secretary Robert Wilkie.

The cross-sectional JAMA study of wait-time data from VA facilities and private-sector hospitals focused on primary care, dermatology, cardiology and orthopedics in 15 major metropolitan areas.

The findings were that “there was no statistically significant difference between private sector and VA mean wait times in 2014” and, in 2017, “mean wait times were statistically significantly shorter for the VA,” the JAMA report said.

“In 2014 the average wait time in VA hospitals was 22.5 days, compared with 18.7 in the private sector,” the study said, but in 2017, “mean wait time at VA hospitals had gone down to 17.7 days, while rising to 29.8 for private practitioners.”

The study, titled “Comparison of Wait Times for New Patients Between the Private Sector and Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Centers,” relied on wait-time data provided by the VA and calculated private-sector data from a survey conducted by a physicians’ search firm, Merritt Hawkins, using the so-called “secret shopper” method in nearly 2,000 medical offices in metropolitan areas.

“For the secret shoppers method, the research associates at MH [Merritt Hawkins] called physicians’ offices asking to be told the first available time for a new-patient appointment,” the JAMA study said.

“This earliest availability was recorded as the wait time. However, the VA data record scheduled wait times, which may not reflect the earliest available appointment,” the study said.

The JAMA report also noted that rural areas and follow-on care were excluded from the analysis and said that “follow-up studies are critical to analyze access to the entirety of VA health care,” since nearly one-quarter of veterans live in rural areas.

The overall conclusion of the report was that “access to care within VA facilities appears to have improved between 2014 and 2017 and appears to have surpassed access in the private sector for 3 of the 4 specialties evaluated,” with the exception of orthopedics.

In 2014, the VA was rocked by wait-time scandals and allegations of manipulated data at the VA medical center in Phoenix, Arizona. “This incident damaged the VA’s credibility and created a public perception regarding the VA health care system’s inability to see patients in a timely manner,” the JAMA report said.

The VA has since worked to improve access and reduce wait times.

The mastermind of the Paris attacks was killed in a raid

“There is evidence suggesting that these efforts have improved access to care, including reports that 22% of VA patients are now seen on the same day as the requested appointment,” the report said. However, “Despite, these efforts, the adequacy of access to VA care remains unclear.”

As a result of the 2014 scandals, the VA initiated the Choice program to expand private-care options for veterans. Last year, Congress passed and President Trump signed into law the VA Mission Act to consolidate and streamline the Choice program, which has been riddled with inefficiencies.

In June 2018, the Government Accountability Office issued a report stating that many veterans who opted for the Choice program to avoid wait times still faced delays that could stretch for months before seeing a doctor.

In response to the JAMA report, a posting on the Disabled American Veterans website came under the heading: “Veterans Affairs Spins ‘JAMA Study’ It Authored On VA Wait Times.”

In addition to Shulkin, the posting noted that another contributor to the JAMA study was Dr. Carolyn Clancy, the former acting head of the Veterans Health Administration. She was replaced in July by Dr. Richard Stone as acting head of the VHA and has now taken the position at the VA of deputy under secretary for discovery, education and affiliate networks.

Stone, the former deputy surgeon general of the Army, has yet to receive Senate confirmation. The VHA has not had a permanent head since Shulkin left the position in January 2017 to become VA secretary.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US Navy practicing to ‘up the game’ against old but dangerous threat

Some 8,600 personnel, 50 surface ships, 36 aircraft, and two submarines from 18 countries are in the Baltic Sea this month for Baltic Operations.

The annual BaltOps exercise, led this year by the US Navy’s recently revived 2nd Fleet in its first major European engagement, allows partners to practice air defense, anti-subsurface warfare, amphibious operations, and mine warfare.

Mines are especially dangerous in confined, heavily trafficked waterways, like the Strait of Hormuz or the Baltic Sea.

Bordered by six NATO members, the Baltic is littered with World War I- and II-era mines, and Russia is believed to have the world’s largest arsenal of naval mines — as many as a quarter-million, by one estimate.


“The Baltic Sea is of vital strategic importance for the alliance,” said NATO spokesperson Oana Lungescu, who stressed that the exercise was not targeted at any country but noted the deterioration of European security since Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea.

BaltOps 2019’s Mine Warfare Task Group had sailors and experts, including more than 70 divers, from 11 countries manning more than 15 mine-countermeasures ships, 15 unmanned undersea vehicles, five drone ships, and airborne mine-countermeasures systems.

“There is a lot of value in this exercise as it supports not only our US capability, but our work with partner nations in the mine-warfare space,” said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Daniel Claytor, officer in charge of a detachment from Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 28.

Below, you can see how the US and NATO train for a uniquely complicated, and uniquely dangerous, form of warfare.

The mastermind of the Paris attacks was killed in a raid

Researchers from the US Office of Naval Research and German Naval Research aboard FSG Konsort, conduct MCM Experimentations using an Mk 18 Mod 2 unmanned underwater vehicles during BaltOps in June 2019.

(US Navy photo by Chief Mass Comm Specialist Shannon E. Renfroe)

The mastermind of the Paris attacks was killed in a raid

Lt. Alex Burtness, left, a field support representative for Mk 18 Mod 2, prepares to lower a Mk 18 Mod 2 from the stern of FSG Kronsor during experimental Mine Countermeasure operations at BaltOps in June 2019.

(US Navy photo by Chief Mass Comm Specialist Shannon E. Renfroe)

The mastermind of the Paris attacks was killed in a raid

A Mk 18 Mod 2 is submerged from the stern of FSG Kronsort during experimental Mine Countermeasure (MCM) operations at BaltOps in June 2019.

(US Navy photo by Chief Mass Comm Specialist Shannon E. Renfroe)

The Mk 18 Mod 2 UUVs being tested had two kinds of sensor packages: The Small Synthetic Aperture Minehunter and the Autonomous Topographic Large Area Survey forward-looking sonar.

Small Synthetic Aperture Minehunter systems work on a range of wavelengths, providing fine-grain imaging of the seafloor and of small man-made objects as well as peering into the seabed to provide imagery and analysis of buried objects.

The SSAM II module used at BaltOps “provides higher resolution and is intended to hunt bottom mines,” said Navy Lt. Matthew Stroup, public affairs officer for the BaltOps 2019 Mine Warfare Task Group.

SSAM II “has two modes; linear [synthetic aperture sonar] mode for rapid search and circular SAS, which provides very high-resolution images to enable” reacquiring and identification, Stroup added.

Autonomous Topographic Large Area Survey forward-looking sonar, known as ATLAS, has a wide search-area width that’s meant for volume mine-hunting, Stroup said. It can also be used to gather information, including mapping of clutter and large-object detection on the seafloor and to gauge ocean depth.

The mastermind of the Paris attacks was killed in a raid

A Mk 18 Mod 2 unmanned underwater vehicle is submerged from FSG Kronsort during experimental Mine Countermeasures operations at BaltOps in June 2019.

(US Navy photo by Chief Mass Comm Specialist Shannon E. Renfroe)

Mine warfare is key to maintaining sea lines of communications, particularly in ports and landing areas, said US Navy Rear Adm. Scott Robertson.

Robertson is commander of the Naval Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Center and led the BaltOps 2019 Mine Warfare Task Group.

The mastermind of the Paris attacks was killed in a raid

Lyle Valtron, a field support representative, operates an Mk 18 Mod 2 aboard FSG Kronsort during experimental Mine Countermeasure operations at BaltOps 2019.

(US Navy photo by Chief Mass Comm Specialist Shannon E. Renfroe)

The mastermind of the Paris attacks was killed in a raid

A mine countermeasure ship attached to Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group One (SNMCMG1) transports divers in preparation for an investigative dive during a mine countermeasure exercise in support of Baltic Operations 2019.

(NATO/CPO Brian Djurslev)

The mastermind of the Paris attacks was killed in a raid

Naval Aircrewman 1st Class Patrick Miller operates the common console, used for both Airborne Laser Mine Detection System (ALMDS) and the Airborne Mine Neutralization System (AMNS), aboard a MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter, June 2019.

(US Navy photo by Chief Mass Comm Specialist Shannon E. Renfroe)

The mastermind of the Paris attacks was killed in a raid

A close-up of the common console aboard a MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter during BaltOps 2019.

(US Navy photo by Chief Mass Comm Specialist Shannon E. Renfroe)

The mastermind of the Paris attacks was killed in a raid

The Airborne Laser Mine Detection System aboard an MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter heading to the Baltic Sea during BaltOps 2019.

(US Navy photo by Chief Mass Comm Specialist Shannon E. Renfroe)

The mastermind of the Paris attacks was killed in a raid

A team of Norwegian explosive ordnancemen prepare to detonate a World War II-era, air-laid mine weighing approximately 1,000 pounds in the Baltic Sea, June 2019. The team is operating as part of an 11-nation Mine Warfare Task Group in BALTOPS 2019.

(US Nav photo by Lt. Matthew A. Stroup)

The mastermind of the Paris attacks was killed in a raid

A team of Norwegian explosive ordnancemen prepare to detonate a World War II-era, air-laid mine weighing approximately 1,000 pounds in the Baltic Sea, June 2019.

(US Navy photo by Chief Mass Comm Specialist Shannon E. Renfroe)

The mastermind of the Paris attacks was killed in a raid

An unexploded A Mark I-VI mine at the bottom of the Baltic Sea. It was detected, identified, and detonated by Norwegian and Danish naval personnel during BaltOps 2019 in June 2019.

(Royal Danish Navy)

The mastermind of the Paris attacks was killed in a raid

A diver attached to Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group One (SNMCMG1) prepares an investigative dive during a mine-countermeasure exercise at Baltic Operations 2019.

(NATO photo by CPO Brian Djurslev)

The mastermind of the Paris attacks was killed in a raid

A roughly 1,000-pound WWII-era air-laid mine detonates in the Baltic Sea after being discovered by the BALTOPS 2019 Mine Warfare Task Group and being rigged for detonation by a team of Norwegian explosive ordancemen in June 2019.

(US Navy photo by Chief Mass Comm Specialist Shannon E. Renfroe)

“There is a good chance we will find more of these mines as the exercise continues, and it’s reassuring to know our international task group has the training and expertise necessary to safely dispose of them,” Robertson added.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

Articles

10 legendary heroes of the US Air Force

Last week, We Are The Mighty wrote a list of nine of the most legendary heroes of the U.S. Army. This week, we remember some of the Air Force’s heroes.


At 68, the Air Force may be technically the youngest branch of the five services, just a fraction of the Army’s age, but the service’s roots are well over a hundred years old. Here are 10 men who became legends in that time:

1. Eddie Rickenbacker

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U.S. Air Force photo

A race car driver turned self-taught pilot, Rickenbacker joined the military immediately after the United States entered World War I. In less than a year, he earned a promotion to an officer’s rank and shot down his fifth enemy aircraft, earning him the title of “Ace.” A year later, he was in command of his entire Aero Squadron. By the time of the November 11, 1918 armistice, Rickenbacker racked up 26 aerial victories, a record he held until World War II.  His tactic was to charge right at enemy flying squads, whatever the odds, winning every time. Rickenbacker was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross with six oak leaf clusters, the Croix de Guerre with two palms, the French Legion d’Honneur, and was later awarded the Medal of Honor.

2. Billy Mitchell

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General William “Billy” Mitchell is known as the “Father of the Air Force.” He was a turn-of-the-20th-century pilot who advocated for a separate, independent Air Force. He argued that airpower would be a revolution in modern warfare, but was dismissed as a radical by his peers. Mitchell became an Army aviator at a time when he was considered too old to go through pilot training. He paid for lessons himself and led more than 1,400 planes against the Germans during the World War I Battle of St. Mihiel. His experience flying planes in combat led to his idea of a separate Air Force, even demonstrating the power of airplanes against naval battleships. When he criticized the War Department for incompetence and negligence, he was sensationally court-martialed. He resigned his commission instead of accepting a humiliating sentence.

3. Henry “Hap” Arnold

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Major Henry H. Arnold with first Liberty V12 engine completed. (U.S. Air Force photo)

A protégé of Gen. Billy Mitchell’s, Hap is probably the only airman on this list who needed to overcome a fear of flying to reach his legendary Air Force status. Arnold oversaw the expansion of the Army Air Corps in the years between World War I and World War II to its position as the world’s largest Air Force. He oversaw development of intercontinental bombers, radar, airlift capabilities, and the use of nuclear weapons in modern air combat. His wartime job was so stressful, he experienced three heart attacks in three years, but survived to become a five-star General of the Army, which was later changed to General of the Air Force after it became an independent branch in 1947. He remains the only person to ever hold the rank and title.

4. Daniel “Chappie” James, Jr.

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Though Chappie did not see combat until the Korean War, he was one of the original Tuskegee Airmen, training pilots in the Army Air Corps’ 99th Pursuit Squadron, the famous Red Tails.  In Korea, he flew 101 combat missions and then another 78 missions as vice-commander of the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing during the Vietnam War. In the 8th TFW, he served under none other than then-Col. Robin Olds, including during Operation Bolo, the highest single MiG sweep ever. The duo were so successful their men nicknamed the team “Blackman and Robin.” During his command of the U.S. Air Force Base in Libya, he stared down Muammar Qaddafi in a stand-off, admitting later that he almost shot the dictator with his .45. Chappie became the first African-American to reach the rank of four-star General and the third person of African descent to reach the highest ranks in the Western world.

5. Robin Olds

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Olds joined the military through The U.S. military academy at West Point, an all-star linebacker for the football team who was anxious to get into the fight raging in World War II Europe. His legacy was larger than life. He was a triple ace fighter pilot with 16 kills in WWII and married Hollywood actress Ella Raines. He stayed in the Air Force when it became independent from the U.S. Army and then commanded a fighter wing during the Vietnam War. He is remembered by the Air Force today during “Mustache March,” for the distinctive mustache he wore in Vietnam, sported as a way to boost morale among his men and thumb his nose at the media.

6. Curtis LeMay

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LeMay was the youngest four-star general in American military history. He served with four stars longer than anyone ever had — a big deal for a general who didn’t go to a service academy. He earned the nickname “Iron Ass” for his stubbornness and shortness once his mind was made up. When he did speak, the stout, cigar-chomping, stone-faced general had a reputation for his outspoken manner. He is not always remembered fondly by history, as seen through the silver screen depiction of him as Gen. Jack D. Ripper in Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove, but LeMay led the U.S. military through some of its most trying times.

Related: 7 Badass Airpower Quotes From General Curtis LeMay

LeMay’s leadership revolutionized the tactics and effectiveness of the 8th Air Force in World War II Europe, giving the Allies the decisive edge over the Nazi Luftwaffe. In the Pacific Theater, LeMay’s strategic planning crippled the Japanese war effort. He saw the U.S. through the Berlin Airlift and Cuban Missile Crisis. The Soviet Union would not have gone to war with a man who was famous for saying “If I see that the Russians are amassing their planes for an attack, I’m going to knock the shit out of them before they take off the ground.”

7. Chuck Yeager

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Yeager in front of the Bell X-1, which, as with all of the aircraft assigned to him, he named Glamorous Glennis (or some variation thereof), after his wife. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Charles Elwood Yeager began his Air Force career as a private in the U.S. Army Air Forces. His time as an aircraft mechanic probably gave him a good idea of what planes could handle, information he would need later down the line as a USAF test pilot. He entered the enlisted flying program in 1942 and became at test pilot at war’s end. Two days before he famously broke the sound barrier, he broke two ribs and had them treated at a veterinarian’s office rather than risk losing that flight by going to an Air Force doctor.

8. William H. “Pits” Pitsenbarger

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Airman 1st Class William Pitsenbarger with an M-16 outside the HH-43. (U.S. Air Force Photo)

“Pits” was a U.S. Air Force Pararescue Jumper from Piqua, Ohio during the Vietnam War. He joined the Air Force right after high school and became a Pararescueman right after basic training. Less the a year after receiving orders to Vietnam, he set out on a mission to extract Army infantry casualties in the jungles near Cam My. He dropped into the trees, tended to some wounded and then loaded them onto his helicopter. When it came time for Pits to be extracted, his helicopter was hit by small arms fire and had to leave. Instead of leaving with the helo, Pits stayed with the infantry. For an hour and a half, he tended to the wounded, built improvised stretchers, and redistriubuted ammo. When everyone was set, Pitsenbarger joined the firefight. He was killed by a VC sniper during the night.

9. John L. Levitow

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U.S. Air Force photo

Levitow was a Loadmaster on board an AC-47 “Spooky” Gunship during the Vietnam War. In an engagement with Viet Cong guerillas in February 1969, Levitow and the plane’s gunner started deploying flares during an bank when the gunship was hit by VC mortar fire. The entire crew was wounded by shrapnel and the gunner dropped a flare inside the gunship. Its fuse burned next to 19,000 rounds of ammunition which would surely take out the gunship when it exploded. Levitow, despite not being able to walk and fighting the plane’s 30-degree bank, crawled over to it, hugged the flare close to his body, and crawled to the rear toward the cargo door, dropping it out just before it ignited. He received the Medal of Honor for his actions and now the top graduate of all Air Force Enlisted Military Education courses receive the “John L. Levitow Award” for exceptional performance.

10. George Everett “Bud” Day

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Though he retired an Air Force Colonel, Day started his military career as an enlisted Marine, joining in 1942 at age 17. After World War II, he went stateside to earn a law degree. At the onset of the Korean War, he joined the Air National Guard and was activated the next year. He flew combat sorties as an Air Force fighter pilot throughout the Korean War. He stayed in the Air Force through 1967, flying combat missions over North Vietnam. He was shot down, captured, tortured, beaten, and sent to the infamous “Hanoi Hilton.” A year later, he was sent to “The Zoo,” a punishment camp for the most defiant POWs. At his most defiant, he would stare down his guards, singing the Star-Spangled Banner in their face. He was released in 1973, and returned to a flying status a year later.

Articles

Navy officer feels the need for NASCAR speed

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Jesse Iwuji wasn’t a race car driver when he entered his first race. The Dallas-area high school football standout and son of first-generation Nigerian immigrants had been recruited by the U.S. Naval Academy to play defensive back. He’d been a big part of three winning seasons with the Midshipmen when he took his stock Chrysler 300 to the Capitol Speedway in Crofton, Maryland to see if he could beat anyone on open drag race night.

That experience fueled his desire to do it again . . . and better. Immediately after he graduated and put on ensign bars in May of 2010 he bought a Dodge Challenger SRT8 and started racing it.

After a year of coaching football at the Naval Academy Preparatory School in Newport, Rhode Island, Jesse made his way to San Diego for his first fleet tour aboard a mine sweeper. Among his priorities once he got there was to join a car club and locate the nearest raceway. He managed to balance his shipboard duties with drag races on free weekends at a strip 45 minutes away.

His racing was interrupted by a 10-month deployment to the Persian Gulf, but when he returned to San Diego he was able to convert the money he’d saved on cruise into modifications to his Challenger that made it into a 1,000 horsepower scream machine. He took the car to the Mohave Mile and hit 200.9 miles per hour, which made him only the fifth person in the world to reach that speed with a modern HEMI engine.

“I proved you don’t have to be a fancy person to go fast,” he said.

His performance at the Mohave Mile got him the right kind of exposure. A lot of people started following his racing videos on YouTube. He was featured in a number of car magazines, including Hot Rod. That coverage led to performance company sponsorships.

Jesse transferred from sea duty to a shore tour working on the staff at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, and as he did he bought a five-year-old Corvette ZO6 with an eye on switching from drag strips to road courses. He spent weekends driving five and a half hours from Monterey to Irwindale in an attempt to learn the ropes required beyond driving fast in a straight line.

“I started learning car control and the different parts of being a good driver,” he said.

Eventually he landed an invitation to try out for a driver slot with Performance P1 Motorsports. After 4 test sessions he was on the team for the 2015 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series season – 11 30-lap races, one every two weeks or so, all of them at Irwindale Speedway.

The mastermind of the Paris attacks was killed in a raid
(Photo: Eric Win)

Race weekends start with Friday night practice runs. Saturday is race day, including qualifying runs to determine pole position in a field of 20-22 cars.

Jesse’s first race was on April 4. He crashed during a practice run but managed to make the race and finished 15th. He started in the 12th position in his second race a few weeks later but got tangled up with another car and spun out.

“The guy behind me had nowhere to go,” he said. “I got T-boned. That ended my night.”

He finished the third race in 17th place.

Jesse has quickly learned that setting the car up right maintenance-wise is crucial.  “When you don’t have a lot of seat time you don’t necessarily know what’ normal in terms of how the car should feel,” he said.  “The more runs I get the more I’ll know.”

Entry fees for races are between $3,500-$7,000, which is a lot of money for a single lieutenant. But his financial burden has been largely reduced by the Phoenix Patriot Foundation.

“We dedicate each race weekend to a wounded veteran and his family,” he said. “The effort has been widely supported by race officials and others. It’s an opportunity for everyone to give back to the people who’ve made a sacrifice on their behalf.”

Jesse plans on getting out of the Navy at the end of his current tour to pursue bigger things as a NASCAR driver. He hopes to move up to the KN Pro Series soon, driving a bigger car in front of bigger crowds. After that he wants to make it to the Xfinity series and finally the big leagues – the Sprint Cup.

Jesse’s confident he’ll make it all the way. “All the things I’ve learned in the Navy have helped,” he said.  “Some of the biggest drivers haven’t even graduated high school yet. They don’t have real life experiences.  I’ve managed myself in stressful environments, including war zones. That has already helped me a lot out here, along with networking and meeting the right people.”

Jesse’s next NASCAR Whelen All-American Series race is July 4.

For more about the Phoenix Patriot Foundation go here.

Now: This combat controller kept taking it to the enemy after he was shot in the chest

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