These 10 Air Force luxuries almost make airmen feel guilty for being airmen - We Are The Mighty
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These 10 Air Force luxuries almost make airmen feel guilty for being airmen

The United States Air Force gets a lot of (brotherly) hate from its sister branches, many claiming that we Airmen (and women, but big “A” here) have it easy. Though we often try to justify our already awesome branch, the others aren’t always entirely wrong. Here are what some think are the top 10 Air Force luxuries that almost make an airman feel guilty.


1. Barracks? We don’t need no stinking barracks!

Unless we’re stationed in Korea or a single digit number of other near-war zone areas, the airmen who must live on base get to do so in the comfort of single, double or quad-style apartment dormitories as opposed to 20 or more person barracks.

These 10 Air Force luxuries almost make airmen feel guilty for being airmen

We live the college kid life of having our own bed, sink and closet with more often than not the only thing we share being bathrooms, kitchens and common areas. I don’t know about you, but I can really get behind not having my roommate’s snoring keep me awake.

2. Not Quite Hogwarts, but still…

When it comes to eating – grub, chow, mess, food – everyone looks to the Air Force as the “presidential” treatment. You want two slices of cake? Feel free. What’s that? A Twix or a Snickers bar for the road? They’re right there waiting for you.

These 10 Air Force luxuries almost make airmen feel guilty for being airmen
Master Sgt. Wonka, today’s DFAC NCO.

I’ve never met anyone from a non-USAF branch that didn’t think we had the best DFACs and the best quality of food in ’em. And if it’s so late that the Chow Hall isn’t open, there’s probably a flight kitchen near the flight line to grab a good ol’ Box Nasty.

However, I don’t know if I could call a chicken sandwich, coke, bottle of water, apple/orange and a Snickers nasty. It’s good to be the fly guys.

3. TDYs: A Thing of Beauty

Whenever my unit was given a TDY (a temporary duty assignment – and know that I was with several units), the NCOICs were almost always able to get us an off-base hotel, usually in a Hilton. Free pool, free gym, queen size bed (minimum), no more than 2 to a room, etc. TDYs were mini-vacations for us and we pocketed that lovely per-diem while eating on-base for meal plan prices.

These 10 Air Force luxuries almost make airmen feel guilty for being airmen

The TDYs were filled with nights of going out and days of 9-5 work, so it was almost as if we went to a medical convention or a business convention. I am almost certain that no other branch would tolerate that, but the Air Force allows that luxury for the NCOs who know their way around and take care of their people.

4. By Basic Training, We Mean Basic:

Let me put an end to this now and say that Stress Cards are not, have not and will never be a thing. We’ve all heard that each branch gets these mythical things, but it just isn’t true. That being said, the Air Force does have one of the shortest (at 8 weeks) Basic Training requirements.

These 10 Air Force luxuries almost make airmen feel guilty for being airmen

We do have the BEAST in 6th or 7th week (it may have changed since I graduated basic), but it was surprisingly easy with the base area pre-assembled and most of the time practicing EOD sweeps and questioning people coming in. There were no smoke bombs, flashbangs, no sim grenades, land nav or anything extremely strenuous that some other branches have. While it’s no walk in the park, it’s not exactly limit-pushing either.

5. Look at the Size of my Wallet!

The USAF had an estimated budget of $160 billion in FY2015. While this was slightly less than the Navy’s budget (by less than 10%), the Navy has to pay for both itself and the Marine Corps. Because the Air Force doesn’t suffer from the split personality of our brothers and sisters in the Department of the Navy, we’ve got the largest per person budget in the military.

These 10 Air Force luxuries almost make airmen feel guilty for being airmen
Fun Fact: The F-35 actually runs on a money-based fuel.

This means that we have the coolest toys, best planes, largest office supply budget and more. While we claim that we do more with less, we often do more with more.

6. Consistency of the workday

The stereotype holds true, it seems, that the Air Force is the branch with the most consistent workdays. Barring weeks where we had to do an exercise (which for my unit was 2-3 weeks every 4 months) we pretty much always got in after PT at 0900 and left at 1630.

These 10 Air Force luxuries almost make airmen feel guilty for being airmen
This is the USAF gym in Afghanistan… just kidding, it’s not. But admit it: it could have been.

For units that don’t have field exercises as often, it is almost always a consistent workday. “People First, Mission Always” is one of the mottos. I believe it rings true in this area, and for that, many of us airmen are grateful.

7. There’s Strong, and Then There’s Air Force Strong

We may only get 60 seconds compared to Army 120 for calisthenics on PT tests, but our numbers are much easier to manage than any other branches’. To pass by bare minimums, one needs only run a 1.5 mile in 13:14, have a 37.5-inch waistline, and perform 44 push ups plus 46 situps in a minute each.

These 10 Air Force luxuries almost make airmen feel guilty for being airmen
“He’s doing a push-up, for god’s sake, help him!”

This pales in comparison to the USMC’s 15 pullups, 75 crunches, and 22-minute, 3-mile run. While the Air Force isn’t full of fatties, for sure, we have the greenest grass in the field.

8. “Vacation All I Ever Wanted, Vacation Had to Get Away”

Interestingly, I had a friend fear for his life after receiving his deployment orders. He was genuinely frightened and filled out paperwork to make out his will and to give someone power of attorney over his assets should something happen to him. Being a good friend, I asked him where he was going. I wanted to give him all the support I could. He told me he was going to Qatar. At that moment, I was torn between being a good friend and offering my support and being a great friend and mocking him.

These 10 Air Force luxuries almost make airmen feel guilty for being airmen
Oh yeah, Band of Brothers… we totally have something like that.

For those not in the know, Qatar deployments include daily alcohol allowances (most Middle Eastern countries don’t allow any) and other amenities that make it more like a vacation with a work component than a deployment into a dangerous war zone. While it’s not a vacation exactly, there are as many pros as cons with many of our deployments.

9. Performance Evals are Broken

While this recently underwent a change, the yearly EPR system used to be a “gimme,” with an overwhelming majority of airmen getting “firewall 5s” or perfect scores on their eval.

These 10 Air Force luxuries almost make airmen feel guilty for being airmen

Now the brass has finally realized after over a decade that this is ridiculous and are attempting to change the system to make a “5” rating mean something. The jury is still out on this, and also how it will affect the promotion cycle. But up until recently, airmen could be assured that by being average, they would be graded “The best of the best.”

10. Living On High

To be honest, this one does make me feel a little guilty. So, my friend was stationed at an Army base for tech school. On his first LES, he sees an additional allowance. So it’s not actually called substandard living pay, it’s something like that. While not all Air Force bases are cushy, if you are living in quarters that the DoD deems not up to USAF standards, the airmen will get an additional allowance not to exceed 75 percent of BAH for their rank.

These 10 Air Force luxuries almost make airmen feel guilty for being airmen
You’d get 25% BAH because the pool on this yacht is not up to USAF standards. What a dump.

There are many considerations that go into this, but suffice it to say that the reasoning is because the Air Force was the first “all volunteer” branch, and to attract high-quality airmen, the USAF needed higher quality housing.

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White House predicts another chemical attack in Syria

The White House issued a stern warning to Syrian President Bashar Assad on June 26 as it claimed “potential” evidence that Syria was preparing for another chemical weapons attack.


In an ominous statement issued with no supporting evidence or further explanation, Press Secretary Sean Spicer said the US had “identified potential preparations for another chemical weapons attack by the Assad regime that would likely result in the mass murder of civilians, including innocent children.”

He said the activities were similar to preparations taken before an April 2017 attack that killed dozens of men, women, and children, and warned that if “Mr. Assad conducts another mass murder attack using chemical weapons, he and his military will pay a heavy price.”

The White House offered no details on what prompted the warning and spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said she had no additional information.

These 10 Air Force luxuries almost make airmen feel guilty for being airmen
Photo from White House YouTube.

Several State Department officials typically involved in coordinating such announcements said they were caught completely off guard by the warning, which didn’t appear to be discussed in advance with other national security agencies. Typically, the State Department, the Pentagon, and US intelligence agencies would all be consulted before the White House issued a declaration sure to ricochet across foreign capitals.

The officials weren’t authorized to discuss national security planning publicly and requested anonymity.

A non-governmental source with close ties to the White House said the administration had received intelligence that the Syrians were mixing precursor chemicals for a possible sarin gas attack in either the east or south of the country, where government troops and their proxies have faced recent setbacks.

Assad had denied responsibility for the April 4 attack on the town of Khan Sheikhoun in the rebel-held Idlib province that killed dozens of people, including children. Victims show signs of suffocation, convulsions, foaming at the mouth, and pupil constriction.

Days later, President Donald Trump launched a retaliatory cruise missile strike on a Syrian government-controlled air base where US officials said the Syrian military had launched the chemical attack.

It was the first direct American assault on the Syrian government and Trump’s most dramatic military order since becoming president months before.

These 10 Air Force luxuries almost make airmen feel guilty for being airmen
The guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) conducts strike operations while in the Mediterranean Sea, April 7, 2017 local time). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ford Williams)

Trump said at the time that the Khan Sheikhoun attack crossed “many, many lines,” and called on “all civilized nations” to join the US in seeking an end to the carnage in Syria.

Syria maintained it hadn’t used chemical weapons and blamed opposition fighters for stockpiling the chemicals. Russia’s Defense Ministry said the toxic agents were released when a Syrian airstrike hit a rebel chemical weapons arsenal and munitions factory. Russia is a close ally of Assad.

The US attack on a Syrian air base came after years of heated debate and deliberation in Washington over intervention in the bloody civil war. Chemical weapons have killed hundreds of people since the start of the conflict.

Earlier on June 26th, Trump had dinner with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, and other top officials as he hosted Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the White House.

Tillerson and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov talked earlier that day about the need to secure a cease-fire in Syria, fight extremist groups, and prevent the use of chemical weapons, the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

These 10 Air Force luxuries almost make airmen feel guilty for being airmen
Photo from Moscow Kremlin.

Nikki Haley, the US Ambassador to the United Nations, followed up Spicer’s statement with a Twitter warning: “Any further attacks done to the people of Syria will be blamed on Asaad, but also on Russia Iran who support him killing his own people.”

Less than an hour after Spicer issued the statement, Trump was back to tweeting about the 2016 campaign, denouncing investigations into potential collusion between Moscow and his campaign aides as a “Witch Hunt!”

Articles

The Marine Corps’ love-hate relationship with the AV-8 Harrier

These 10 Air Force luxuries almost make airmen feel guilty for being airmen
Capt. Jonathan Lewenthal and Capt. Eric Scheibe, AV-8B Harrier pilots with Marine Attack Squadron 231, Marine Aircraft Group 14, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward), fly over southern Helmand province, Afghanistan after conducting an aerial refuel Dec. 6, 2012. VMA-231 deployed to Afghanistan to provide close air support for counter-insurgency operations. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Gregory Moore)


Dubbed the “widow-maker” in some aviation circles, the AV-8 Harrier is as dangerous to America’s enemies as it is to the pilots who commandeer it.

From its commissioning to as recent as 2013, there have been about 110 fighters involved in Class A mishaps — accidents causing death, permanent injury or at least $1 million in losses.

Related: This Marine pilot makes landing his Harrier fighter on a stool look easy

“Measured by its major accident rate per 100,000 flight hours, which is the military standard, the Harrier is the most dangerous plane in the U.S. military,” said Los Angeles Times reporter Alan C. Miller in the video below. “Overall the Marines have lost more than one-third of the entire Harrier fleet to accidents.”

The first Harrier model, the AV-8A had a Class A mishap rate of 31.77 accidents per 100,000 flight hours. The Marines improved the rate to 11.44 per 100,000 hours with the introduction of the AV-8B in the mid-1980s, according to Miller.

By contrast, the Harrier has more than twice the accident rate of the F-16, more than three times the rate of the F/A-18, and about five times the rate of A-10.

Despite its astronomical accident rate, the fighter is beloved and remains in service more than 40 years since its introduction in 1971.

“One Marine general who flew the plane early on described it as an answer to a prayer,” Miller said.

These 10 Air Force luxuries almost make airmen feel guilty for being airmen
An AV-8B Harrier jet aircraft assigned to the air combat element of the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (13th MEU) performs a vertical landing on the flight deck of the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer June 16, 2013. Boxer is conducting amphibious squadron and MEU integrated training.(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Mark El-Rayes)

The Corps’ need for an aircraft with a vertical landing and short takeoff capability can be traced to the 1942 Battle of Guadalcanal. The Marines lost over 1,000 men during that fight and felt abandoned by the Navy to fend for themselves.

“Since then, the precept that the Marines in the air should protect the Marines on the ground has been an essential part of the Corps’ ethos,” Miller said.

This History Channel video shows how the Harrier supports the Marine Corps’ mission to fight anywhere, anytime regardless of the risks:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kUFBV–62tA

Engineering Channel, YouTube

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US may deploy Patriot missile defense to Russian border

U.S. defense officials say a long-range Patriot missile battery may be deployed to the Baltic region later this year as part of a military exercise.


If the move is finalized, it would be temporary, but still signal staunch U.S. backing for Baltic nations that are worried about the threat from Russia.

These 10 Air Force luxuries almost make airmen feel guilty for being airmen
A Patriot Air and Missile Defense launcher fires an interceptor during a previous test at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. The latest configuration of the system, called PDB-8, has passed four flight tests and is now with the U.S. Army for a final evaluation. | Raytheon

U.S. Defence Secretary Jim Mattis is visiting one of the Baltic countries — Lithuania. And he’s declining to confirm the specific deployment.

But Mattis says “we are here in a purely defensive stance.”

U.S. officials say the Patriot surface-to-air missile system could move into the Baltic region during an air defense exercise in July. They say it would be gone by the time a large Russian military exercise begins in August and September.

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5 awesome facts you didn’t know about Memorial Day

Celebrated on the last Monday in May, Memorial Day brings America together to remember the 1.1 million men and women who died in service to their country.


As most of us spend our day flipping burgers, wearing pro-American attire and saving money on those amazing furniture deals, it’s important to understand the significance of the historic day.

Related: 5 interesting facts about the Marine Corps birthday

Check out these awesome facts you probably didn’t know about our beloved holiday.

1. Moment of remembrance at 3 pm

On Dec. 28th, 2000, President Bill Clinton signed the National Moment of Remembrance Act, which asks all Americans to pause on Memorial Day at 3:00 pm local time for a full minute to honor and remember all those who perished protecting our rights and freedoms.

These 10 Air Force luxuries almost make airmen feel guilty for being airmen
Airmen from the 317th Airlift Group stand at parade rest during a Memorial Day ceremony at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas. (Photo: Airman 1st Class Charles V. Rivezzo/ Released)

2. Wearing red poppies

You may have noticed people wearing red poppy flowers pinned to their clothing on Memorial Day. This idea was influenced by the sight of poppies growing in a battle-scarred field in WWI which prompted the popular poem “In Flanders Fields” written by former Canadian Col. John McCrae.

The American Legion adopted the tradition of wearing the red poppy flowers along with many allied countries to commemorate troops killed in battle.

These 10 Air Force luxuries almost make airmen feel guilty for being airmen
Honor the dead. (Source: Wikipedia Commons)

3. Flag raising procedures

Americans love to proudly display their flags and let them wave high and free. On Memorial Day, there’s a special protocol to properly raise and exhibit the ensign. Here it is.

When the flag is raised at first light, it’s to be hoisted to the top of the pole, then respectfully lowered to the half-staff position until 12:00 pm when it is re-raised to the top of the pole for the remainder of the day. Details matter.

These 10 Air Force luxuries almost make airmen feel guilty for being airmen
Service members saluting the raised American flag. (Photo: Airman 1st Class Harry Brexel)

4. The origin of the holiday

Originally called “Decoration Day” by Gen. John A. Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic, in 1868, the day was intended to honor the estimated 620,000 people who died fighting in the Civil war and was celebrated on May 30th.

But it wasn’t until 1971 that Congress shifted the holiday to the last Monday of May to ensure a three-day weekend and renamed it to what we all know today.

Thank you, Congress.

These 10 Air Force luxuries almost make airmen feel guilty for being airmen

Also Read: The mother of the boy in this iconic photo has a Memorial Day message all Americans should read

 5. The holiday’s birthplace

At least five separate cities claim to be the birthplace of “Decoration Day,” including Macon and Columbus, Georgia. Of course, there’s no real written record or D.N.A test to prove who is truly the mom and dad.

These 10 Air Force luxuries almost make airmen feel guilty for being airmen
California, you are not the father… or mother. (Source: Wikipedia Commons)

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Afghan special forces are trying to take back Tora Bora from ISIS

The Afghanistan Defense Ministry says the military operation against Daesh is ongoing in Pachir Aw Agam district in the southeast of Nangarhar province and security forces will soon reach to the Tora Bora region recently captured by the group.


The security forces are determined to defeat and eradicate Daesh from the area, the Afghanistan Defense Ministry spokesman Dawlat Waziri said on June 16th.

Daesh captured the strategic Tora Bora region on June 13th. The area was used as a hideout by Osama bin Laden, the leader of al-Qaeda, who was killed in a US operation in 2011.

These 10 Air Force luxuries almost make airmen feel guilty for being airmen
Emblem of the Ministry of Defense of Afghanistan. Photo licensed under public domain.

“Our security forces are in Pachir Aw Agam district and Daesh will be eliminated in the near future. The military operation against Daesh will continue without any delay,” Waziri said.

Meanwhile, Nangarhar Police Chief Abdul Rahman Rahimi said Tora Bora will never turn into a safe haven for Daesh fighters.

“Daesh fighters have come to Pachir Aw Agam, but they will be defeated. Daesh and their supporters should be aware that there is no place for them [in the district],” Rahimi said.

Reports indicate that at least 600 families have left their houses in Dara-e-Sulaimankhail village close to Tora Bora area in Pachir Aw Agam district.

These 10 Air Force luxuries almost make airmen feel guilty for being airmen
The mountains of Tora Bora. DoD Photo by Spc. Ken Scar.

“Daesh came and captured the [Tora Bora] area and we left our villages,” a resident of Sulaimankhil said.

“Our goods have remained in our houses and all the people have fled,” another resident of Sulaimankhil said.

A number of military analysts said the presence of Daesh in Tora Bora would pose a serious threat to Nangarhar and its neighboring provinces.

“The reason behind the changing of Daesh into a big threat is that we concentrate on others instead of those who are killing the people and who loots their properties,” said Mirza Mohammad Yarmand, former Deputy Minister of Interior.

These 10 Air Force luxuries almost make airmen feel guilty for being airmen
A line of ISIS soldiers.

On June 15, Abdul Saboor Sabet, the head of the National Directorate of Security in Nangarhar, claimed that Pakistani militia fully supported Daesh in their offensive against the Tora Bora region this week in eastern Nangarhar province.

In a trip to Nangarhar’s Chaparhar district, Sabet said that Pakistani militia are still backing Daesh militants in the region.

“Daesh militants sustained heavy loses, whenever they suffer a toll, they get reinforcements from the other side of the border who are the Pakistani militias. The [Afghan] public uprising forces are bravely defending all districts against the enemies,” said Sabet.

Earlier this week, Waziri stated that up to 700 Daesh operatives had been killed in Nangarhar as a result of a military operation by security forces over the past three months.

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Sesame Street launches a new series on difficult topics for military kids

This month, Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit that owns “Sesame Street,” released a new line of educational resources geared toward topics of race. This comes alongside their ongoing platform that is geared toward military families and the unique challenges that they face. Additional programs have been developed around topics of the pandemic and how to talk with kids about COVID-19. 

Together with sponsor USAA, the brand compiled a series of content including videos, original songs, downloads that kids can read and/or color and a long list of apps. All of these are free for parents to download and use to more appropriately talk with their kids about tough subjects. There are also add-ons covering specific military topics to give parents and caregivers tips on how to have difficult conversations with kids. 

These 10 Air Force luxuries almost make airmen feel guilty for being airmen

The organization has been providing military-based content for kids nearly for 15 years through their nonprofit branch. However, new material has been added focusing on racial literacy, self-care and coping strategies for kids dealing with racism. It’s their hope to provide kids the knowledge they need to understand big issues, as well as the developmental abilities on how to deal with the feelings that come with them, they said. 

“Military and veteran families practice service in everything they do, and they live their lives with purpose – values that help them confront injustices like racism,” Dr. Jeanette Betancourt, Senior Vice President of US Social Impact, Sesame Workshop, said. “In a military kid’s world, it’s common to see people of all races and backgrounds living, working, and playing together. Military parents and caregivers can help their children become good citizens of the world by using that unique opportunity to talk openly about racism and celebrate who they are inside and out.”

These 10 Air Force luxuries almost make airmen feel guilty for being airmen

Topics covered on the website include:

  • Injuries and care-giving
  • Military homecomings
  • Military to civilian life
  • Relocation
  • Deployments
  • Grief
  • And more

Race-related topics include: 

  • How to talk about race
  • Being proud of one’s features
  • Family histories
  • Self-love and worth
  • Dealing with feelings and expression
  • And more

Sesame Street also offers learning resources on topics that affect civilian families, such as divorce and incarceration, through their program, Little Children, Big Challenges family support services.

Professional development resources are available for teachers, social workers and others who work with children on both topics. Check out the videos, or sign up for ongoing courses, such as webinars and events. 

Families can watch the videos, listen and sing along to songs and engage in other ways, such as downloading the free Sesame Street apps (including those associated with the above topics), download PDFs with activities, or play online games. Versions are available in English and Spanish. 

The resources are available at SesameStreetinCommunities.org and sesamestreetformilitaryfamilies.org/

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Marine vet killed in Syria was passionate about fight against ISIS

A Marine veteran believed so strongly in the war against the Islamic State group that he secretly traveled to Syria, where he was killed this month while fighting for a Kurdish militia group.


David Taylor, a 25-year-old former Florida resident, had kept his plans to join the Kurdish group a secret from his family and only told a high school friend, who he swore to secrecy. Taylor’s father said July 25 that he didn’t even know of his son’s plans until after he had arrived in Syria last spring and was training with the group known as YPG.

“I got an email and he said, ‘Pops, don’t worry. I’m with the YPG,'” David Taylor Sr. told The Associated Press from his West Virginia home. “He said, ‘I’m doing the right thing. It’s for their freedom.'”

Taylor Sr. said when his son set his mind on something, he did it.

These 10 Air Force luxuries almost make airmen feel guilty for being airmen
David Taylor, Sr. (left) and former US Marine, David Taylor (right). Photo via NewsEdge.

“There was no middle ground. He wasn’t wishy-washy,” the father said.

A Kurdish militia group released a video saying Taylor was “martyred fighting ISIS’ barbarism” on July 16.

The US State Department said in a statement that it was aware of reports of a US citizen being killed while fighting in Syria but offered no further comment. Taylor’s dad said the family was told about the death last weekend by a US consular official.

Taylor’s high school friend emailed the father after he learned of the death. The friend said Taylor told him during a visit to St. Petersburg Beach, Florida, last February that he believed the Islamic State group needed to be stopped.

These 10 Air Force luxuries almost make airmen feel guilty for being airmen
Photo from Kurdishstruggle Flickr.

“One night he got drunk and told me of the atrocities he had witnessed in the Middle East during his time in the Marine Corps,” the friend, Alex Cintron, wrote in an email to Taylor’s parents.

“He said to the effect that ‘Isis was the bane of modern existence and needed to be stopped before they destroy any more lives and priceless works of human achievement,'” Cintron said in the email.

Taylor’s father shared the email with AP on July 25. Cintron didn’t respond to a message for comment sent via social media.

Cintron said in the email that Taylor died from an improvised explosive device. The YPG video offered no details on how Taylor died.

These 10 Air Force luxuries almost make airmen feel guilty for being airmen
YPJ and YPG forces work together. Photo from Kurdishstruggle on Flickr.

Taylor grew up in Ocala, Florida, located about 80 miles northwest of Orlando. He attended college in Florida and West Virginia before joining the Marines. He was deployed in Afghanistan, Japan, South Korea, and spent time in Jordan before he was discharged last year, said David Taylor Sr.

After his discharge, he came to the United States and visited family and friends in West Virginia, Philadelphia, and Florida.

Last spring, he asked his father to drive him to the airport because he had decided to visit Ireland, where his family has ancestral ties.

These 10 Air Force luxuries almost make airmen feel guilty for being airmen
Kurdish, American, and British YPG fighters. (Photo by flickr user Kurdishstruggle. CC BY 2.0)

Taylor Sr. received periodic updates from his son about his travels in Europe until there was a period of silence for several weeks. Soon afterward, the elder Taylor received an email from his son, saying he had joined the Kurdish militia group.

The consular official told Taylor Sr. that the YPG is paying to transport Taylor’s body back to the United States.

“He loved his country. He loved democracy,” the father said. “He had a mission, to go over there and advance democracy and freedom like we have it over here. It came at a horrible price.”

 

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The ‘most hated units’ in the Army are some of the best

They’re the units that everyone wants to beat, that every commander wants to squash under their heel, and that most average Joes accuse of cheating at least once — the “Opposing Forces” units at military training centers.


The OPFOR units are comprised of active duty soldiers stationed at major training centers and are tasked with playing enemy combatants in training exercises for the units that rotate into their center. They spend years acting as the adversary in every modern training exercise their base can come up with.

 

These 10 Air Force luxuries almost make airmen feel guilty for being airmen
American Army Pfc. Sean P. Stieren, a rifleman with A Company, 1st Battalion, 509th Infantry Regiment (Airborne), fires a mock Stinger missile launcher at the Joint Readiness Training Center in Fort Polk, La., April 19, 2014. Paratroopers with 1st Bn., 509th Inf. Reg. (A), act as insurgent and conventional opposing forces during decisive action training environment exercises at JRTC. (Photo: U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Christopher Klutts)

So while most units do a rotation at a major training center every couple of years, soldiers assigned to OPFOR units often conduct major training rotations every month. This results in their practicing the deployed lifestyle for weeks at a time about a dozen times per year.

Through all this training, they get good. Really good.

And since they typically conduct their missions at a single installation or, in rare cases, at a few training areas in a single region, they’re experts in their assigned battlespace.

These 10 Air Force luxuries almost make airmen feel guilty for being airmen
A U.S. Army soldier with 1st Battalion, 509th Infantry Regiment (Airborne) fires blank rounds at soldiers from a rotational training unit during an exercise at the Joint Readiness Training Center in Fort Polk, La., April 22, 2014. Paratroopers with 1st Bn., 509th Inf. Reg. (A) role-play as multiple enemy forces including a near-peer military, insurgent cells and a crime family. (Photo: U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Christopher Klutts)

 

All this adds up to units with lots of experience against the best units the military has to deploy — units that are at the cutting edge of new tactics, techniques, and procedures; units that have the home field advantage.

“The first time you fight against the OpFor is a daunting experience,” Maj. Jared Nichols, a battalion executive officer that rotated through the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California, said during a 2016 training iteration. “You’re fighting an enemy that knows the terrain and knows how American forces fight, so they know how to fight against us and they do it very well.”

So yeah, despite typically fighting at a 2-to-1 or even a 3-to-1 disadvantage, OPFOR units often decimate their opponents.

 

These 10 Air Force luxuries almost make airmen feel guilty for being airmen
An OPFOR Surrogate Vehicle from Coldsteel Troop, 1st Squadron, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, travels through the city of Dezashah en route to the objective, during NTC rotation 17-01, at the National Training Center, Oct. 7, 2016. The purpose of this phase of the rotation was to challenge the Greywolf Brigade’s ability to conduct a deliberate defense of an area while being engaged by conventional and hybrid threats. (Photo: U.S. Army Sgt. David Edge)

 

For the military, this arrangement is a win-win. First, rotational units cut their teeth against realistic, experienced, and determined opponents before they deploy. This tests and stresses deploying units — usually brigades — and allows them to see where their weak points are. Do their soldiers need a tool they don’t have? Are there leaders being over or under utilized? Does all the equipment work together as expected?

But the training units aren’t expected to get everything right.

“One of the largest challenges I face as the OPFOR battalion commander is conveying the message to the other nations that it’s OK to make a mistake,” Lt. Col. Mathew Archambault said during a 2016 training rotation. “When they come here it’s a training exercise, and I want them to take risks and try new things. I want them to maximize their training experience; it helps them learn and grow.”

 

These 10 Air Force luxuries almost make airmen feel guilty for being airmen
A UH-72 Lakota helicopter from the OPFOR Platoon, NTC Aviation Company provides air support to 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment ground forces during an engagement during rotation 16-08 at the National Training Center, Aug. 3, 2016. The Lakota aircraft participated in an exercise that challenged the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division’s ability to conduct a deliberate defense. (Photo: U.S. Army Sgt. David Edge)

But the military also gets a group of soldiers that, over a two or three-year tour of duty at a training center as opposing forces, have seen dozens of ways to conduct different missions. They’ve seen different tactics for resupplying maneuver forces in the field, different ways of hiding communications, different ways of feinting attacks. And, they know which tactics are successful and which don’t work in the field.

When it’s time for these soldiers to rotate to another unit, they take these lessons with them and share them with their new units.

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This Marine saved his squad from insurgents after he took shrapnel to the leg

A Marine who fought off an Afghan insurgent assault despite painful shrapnel wounds to the leg said his bravery under fire was all in a day’s work.


Staff Sgt. Robert Van Hook, a critical skills operator attached to 2nd Marine Raider Battalion, received the Silver Star on Jan. 15 during a ceremony at the headquarters of Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command, or Marsoc, near Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, for heroism in battle during a 2013 deployment to Herat province, Afghanistan.

In an interview days after receiving the military’s third-highest award for bravery, Van Hook recalled the events of that day of action.

Van Hook, a 27-year-old native of Nokesville, Virginia, had been serving as the element leader for Marine Special Operations Team 8224, Special Operations Task Force West. A former reconnaissance Marine, Van Hook had been to Iraq once and was on his third deployment to Afghanistan.

His team had begun its operation late at night Aug. 14. They planned to clear a village of insurgents in preparation for a visit by local Afghan National Army, or ANA, leaders to the region the following day. As they moved into the region around 2 or 3 a.m., Van Hook said, the team spotted two who appeared to be “walking with intent” and exhibiting other suspicious behaviors.

On Van Hook’s order, the Marine team took cover and maneuvered closer to observe the men, eventually watching them link up with eight others at the back of a building. All were armed with AK-47s, rocket-propelled grenade launchers and other weapons he said, and as they communicated in Pashto over their radios, Van Hook could make out words like “bomb.”

Taking advantage of the element of surprise, he “executed a hasty ambush” on the men, according to his medal citation, killing four and wounding two more. Then he and his team cleared the building from which the insurgents were operating, using their own guns and hand grenades. One more insurgent was taken hostage inside, and two more were detained.

Despite the intensity of this ambush under cover of darkness, Van Hook said he was able to keep a cool head as he aggressively charged into an enemy position.

“We train like we fight here,” Van Hook said. “Our training is as realistic as we can possibly get it. It’s almost second nature at this point.”

Daybreak found Van Hook and his team in a building providing over-watch defense for a sister Marine Special Operations Team as they brought in ANA officials for a key leader engagement with elders from the region.

“The area was highly destabilized. We wanted to get high-ranking leaders with the Afghan army to show their presence,” Van Hook explained. “We knew the area had a lot of insurgents in it and they had freedom of movement.”

The engagement went as planned, with little more than sporadic “pop shots” at the Marines while the leaders were present. But as the ANA detachment pulled away, all that changed.

“You could almost see their tail lights crossing the horizon when the attack started to kick off,” Van Hook said.

A sniper on the ground started targeting the two Marine teams. As Van Hook’s team began returning fire with recoilless rifles and machine guns, the insurgents directed the bulk of their fire at them. As the onslaught became overwhelming, Van Hook ordered a Marine who had been manning an MK-19 grenade launcher on the roof to take cover.

“If your head was just over the wall, you were getting shot in the Kevlar,” he said.

Later, though, when Van Hook got word from the other Marine element that it was being targeted on three sides, he grabbed another Marine and charged back out to take control of the MK-19 once more.

As he fired the big gun, Van Hook successfully drew the brunt of the enemy attack onto his position, taking the pressure off the other element and allowing them to regain their advantage. He fired on the insurgents until one of them shot an RPG into the rooftop position, knocking Van Hook and the other Marine unconscious and wounding them with shrapnel.

When Van Hook regained consciousness, he saw that the MK-19 had rolled over his leg, which had been pierced by shrapnel and had blood pooling under it. The other Marine had been apparently wounded in the back, and Van Hook moved to put pressure on the wound, and push the Marine to cover, despite the pain in his own leg.

Then, he manned the gun once more and continued to fire on the enemy fighters. When he looked down and saw that the pool of blood under his leg had grown larger, he applied a tourniquet to the leg and kept on fighting.

Finally, one of MARSOC’s special amphibious reconnaissance corpsmen convinced Van Hook to leave the roof for a medical examination. At this point, the Marine was in intense pain and couldn’t feel anything below the ankle of his wounded leg due to a nerve injury.

But, Van Hook said, “I could still think, and I realized there were gaps in my security, so I wanted to support as much as possible.”

With two Marines wounded and an ANA soldier who was fighting with them in bad shape from being shot in the face, the decision was made to organize a casualty evacuation. Instead of laying back and resting, Van Hook teamed up with another Marine who had a recoilless rifle, identifying insurgent targets so he could shoot at them.

Then, with the medical evacuation, or medevac, chopper approaching, he began calling in “danger close” suppressive 120mm mortar fire around the landing zone to allow the bird to land safely. Once on board, Van Hook said he felt not relief, but frustration.

“The last thing a Marine wants to do is leave other Marines behind and I was pretty irritated at that point,” he said.

But the day wasn’t over; while aboard the aircraft, the Afghan soldier collapsed, and Van Hook and the other Marine provided triage care, taking advantage of their extensive medical training.

Looking back on the day, Van Hook was unassuming about his accomplishments.

“This is the job we signed up for,” he said. “Everybody understands the positions you’re going to be put in once you become a [Marine] Raider. Once I found out that the award went through, it was the biggest dose of humble pie I’ve ever experienced.”

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SecNav loves Mattis but thinks Congress is right to debate the ‘7 year rule’

The Navy’s top civilian leader told reporters Jan. 11 that while he respects the career and leadership abilities of President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for secretary of defense, he thinks Congress should take a hard line on its mandate to keep civilians in charge of the nation’s defense.


These 10 Air Force luxuries almost make airmen feel guilty for being airmen
(Photo: U.S. Navy Chief Mass Communications Specialist Shawn P. Eklund)

Outgoing Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus said Congress had a good reason to require former military leaders be out of uniform for at least seven years before they may take the top leadership positions at the Pentagon — including the roles of secretary of defense and deputy secretary of defense — adding that the time out of uniform had recently been reduced from 10 years.

Trump’s pick to lead the Pentagon, former Marine Gen. James Mattis, retired from the Corps in 2013 after 44 years in the military. His appointment would require a waiver from Congress to skirt the seven-year mandate.

“I have worked very closely with Jim Mattis almost the whole time [in office] and I have an enormous amount of respect for him,” Mabus told defense reporters at a breakfast meeting in Washington, D.C. “I think that civilian control of the military is one of the bedrocks of our democracy and there was a reason that was put in place.”

These 10 Air Force luxuries almost make airmen feel guilty for being airmen

Top lawmakers in the Senate held a meeting with experts on military affairs Jan. 10 to debate the restriction, with many arguing the rule should be kept in place but that Mattis’ experience and intellect warrant a one-time waiver.

“I would hesitate to ever say … that there is any indication that dangerous times require a general,” said Kathleen Hicks, a former Pentagon official in the Obama administration, according to the Washington Post. “I don’t think that’s the issue. I think dangerous times require experience and commitment … which I think Gen. Mattis can bring.”

So far one member of the Senate Armed Services Committee has spoken against granting a waiver. New York Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand has said she’d oppose a waiver and hasn’t “seen the case for why it is so urgently necessary.”

Former Army Gen. George Marshall is the only Pentagon leader to be granted a waiver under the 10-year rule, and he served only one year during the hight of the Korean war.

“It was done for George Marshall but it shouldn’t be done very often,” outgoing SecNav Mabus said. “So I think [Congress] is right to raise that issue.”

“This is nothing to say about Jim Mattis, I think he was a great Marine and a great general officer and a great CoCom,” he added.

Mattis is set for a confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee Jan. 12. Both chambers are expected to vote on a service waiver before Trump’s inauguration Jan. 20.

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These pictures of Marines drinking Cobra blood are as grisly as you’d expect

Every year, the United States team with its Pacific allies for a military exercise in Thailand, Cobra Gold. Cobra Gold is the largest multinational military exercise in which the U.S. participates and has been an ongoing exercise for more than 30 years. In 2015, Cobra Gold included 26 nations, and for the first time, included China. The exercise smooths interoperability between nations in the region, especially when coordinating responses to a crisis, like Tsunamis and Typhoons.


The operation consists of a live fire exercise, a command post exercise, and (as with many military exercises) an operation to benefit the local population. There is also a jungle survival Training exercise where Thai Marines train U.S. troops to find water, which foods are safe to eat (scorpions!), and famously, demonstrate how they subdue a Cobra.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yrmm1MZW4ak

After the jungle training, those in attendance are given the option to participate in the Thai custom of drinking the Cobra’s blood.

These 10 Air Force luxuries almost make airmen feel guilty for being airmen
Royal Thai Marine Chief Petty Officer 1st Class Pairoj Prasansai, Recon Battalion, Marine Division demonstrates how to capture a cobra for U.S. Marines with Company A, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment during a jungle survival course in Ban Chan Krem, Chanthaburi province, Kingdom of Thailand, Feb. 17. The class was held to teach U.S. Marines basic jungle survival techniques as part of Exercise Cobra Gold 2013 (CG13). CG 13, in its 32nd iteration, is designed to advance regional security and ensure effective response to regional crises by exercising a robust multinational force from nations sharing common goals and security commitments in the Asia-Pacific region. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Matthew Troyer/Released)

 

These 10 Air Force luxuries almost make airmen feel guilty for being airmen
Royal Thai Marine Chief Petty Officer 1st Class Pairoj Prasansai, Recon Battalion, Marine Division demonstrates how to capture a cobra for U.S. Marines with Company A, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment during a jungle survival course in Ban Chan Krem, Chanthaburi province, Kingdom of Thailand, Feb. 17. The class was held to teach U.S. Marines basic jungle survival techniques as part of Exercise Cobra Gold 2013 (CG13). CG 13, in its 32nd iteration, is designed to advance regional security and ensure effective response to regional crises by exercising a robust multinational force from nations sharing common goals and security commitments in the Asia-Pacific region. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Matthew Troyer/Released)

 

These 10 Air Force luxuries almost make airmen feel guilty for being airmen
Royal Thai Marine Chief Petty Officer 1st Class Pairoj Prasansai, right, Recon Battalion, Marine Division feeds cobra blood, which can be a useful source of energy, to U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Jerry Clark, squad leader, 1st Squad, 1st Platoon, Company A, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment during a jungle survival course in Ban Chan Krem, Chanthaburi province, Kingdom of Thailand, Feb. 17. The class was held to teach U.S. Marines basic jungle survival techniques as part of Exercise Cobra Gold 2013 (CG13). CG 13, in its 32nd iteration, is designed to advance regional security and ensure effective response to regional crises by exercising a robust multinational force from nations sharing common goals and security commitments in the Asia-Pacific region. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Matthew Troyer/Released)

 

These 10 Air Force luxuries almost make airmen feel guilty for being airmen
A Marine with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit drinks the blood of a king cobra during a jungle survival class taught by Royal Thai Marines as a part of Cobra Gold 2013 here, Feb. 20. Drinking of the cobra blood is a survival technique used to maintain hydration and replenish nutrients while in the hot jungle. Cobra Gold demonstrates the resolve of the U.S. and participating nations to increase interoperability, and promote security and peace throughout the Asia-Pacific region. The 31st MEU is the only continuously forward-deployed MEU and is the Marine Corps’ force in readiness in the Asia-Pacific region.

 

These 10 Air Force luxuries almost make airmen feel guilty for being airmen
Cpl. Kyleigh M. Porter, from Montross, Va., eats a scorpion Feb. 8 in Ban Chan Krem, Thailand, during exercise Cobra Gold 2015. The Royal Thai Marines demonstrated several jungle survival tactics and asked for U.S. Marine volunteers to participate. Porter is a radio operator with Marine Air Support Squadron 2, Marine Air Control Group 18, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III Marine Expeditionary Force. (Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Isaac Ibarra/Released)

 

These 10 Air Force luxuries almost make airmen feel guilty for being airmen
A Royal Thai Marine kisses a cobra’s head Feb. 8 at Ban Chan Krem, Thailand, during exercise Cobra Gold 2015. The Thai Marines demonstrated several survival techniques including how to capture a cobra and drink its blood. Drinking the snake’s blood is used as a last resort in case there is nothing else to drink. Other survival methods such as starting fires and how to eat spiders and scorpions were also taught. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Isaac Ibarra/Released)

 

These 10 Air Force luxuries almost make airmen feel guilty for being airmen
Royal Thai Army Soldiers assigned to the 31st Infantry Regiment, Rapid Deployment Force, Kings Guard, demonstrate how to properly handle and neutralize a King Cobra snake to U.S. Army soldiers assigned to the 25th Infantry Division during a jungle training exercise on Camp 31-3, Lopburi, Thailand, Feb. 10, 2015. The training was conducted as a part of the joint training exercise Cobra Gold 2015. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Steven Hitchcock/Released)

 

These 10 Air Force luxuries almost make airmen feel guilty for being airmen
Lance Cpl. Dakota Woodward, from Brandon, Florida, drinks cobra blood Feb. 8 during exercise Cobra Gold 2015. The Royal Thai Marines showed U.S. Marines various jungle survival methods. Drinking snake blood is used as a last resort in case there is nothing else to drink. Woodward is a distribution management specialist with Combat Logistics Regiment 35, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, III Marine Expeditionary Force. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Isaac Ibarra/Released)

 

These 10 Air Force luxuries almost make airmen feel guilty for being airmen
U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Kurt Bellmont, platoon sergeant, 3rd Platoon, Company A, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment feeds cobra blood cobra blood to his Marines, which can be a useful source of energy , to his Marines during a jungle survival course in Ban Chan Krem, Chanthaburi province, Kingdom of Thailand, Feb. 17. The class was held to teach U.S. Marines basic jungle survival techniques as part of Exercise Cobra Gold 2013 (CG13). CG 13, in its 32nd iteration, is designed to advance regional security and ensure effective response to regional crises by exercising a robust multinational force from nations sharing common goals and security commitments in the Asia-Pacific region. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Matthew Troyer/Released)

 

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Here’s what you need to know about China’s new light tank

China has long history of using light tanks – many of which have been discarded. Light tanks have become rarer as people have discovered that they need the same crew as a main battle tank, while offering said crew less protection.


China’s primary light tanks have been the Type 62 light tank and the Type 63 amphibious light tank. Both feature 85mm main guns (the Soviet/Russian T-34 used a main gun of this caliber as well), and each hold 47 rounds for that gun. But like many light tanks today, they are light in the protection department.

The Type 62 has about two inches of armor at most.

These 10 Air Force luxuries almost make airmen feel guilty for being airmen
Type 63 amphibious light tank. (Wikimedia Commons)

China has now pushed the light tank to the VT-5. This is a much more powerful system. It is centered on a 105mm rifled gun with up to 38 rounds. This gun is pretty much what was used on the early models of the M1 Abrams, and prior to that, on the M60 Patton main battle tanks. ArmyRecognition.com notes that this tank will weigh between 33 and 36 tons. Secondary armament is a 12.7mm heavy machine gun and a 40mm automatic grenade launcher.

The last light tank in United States service was the M551 Sheridan. This vehicle saw action in the Vietnam War, Operation Just Cause, and Desert Storm before being retired in the mid-1990s. Called the Buford by some sources, the Army had the XM8 Armored Gun System ready to roll out, but it was cancelled as well.

Today, the United States Army uses the M1128 Stryker Mobile Gun System. It has the same 105mm rifled gun as the VT-5, but only holds 18 rounds.

These 10 Air Force luxuries almost make airmen feel guilty for being airmen
Armor Soldiers assigned to 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, fire their Main Gun Systems (MGS) Stryker’s 105 mm main gun during a live fire range 28 March 2011, at Yakima Training Center, Wash. (U.S. Army photo)

Below, you can see video of the VT-5 as it is put through some live-fire paces in Inner Mongolia. A number of military attaches witnessed this performance. Did China build the light tank that units like the 82nd Airborne Division need?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hQtH4L0LsDM
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