If the Baltics are a flashpoint where a war between Russia and NATO breaks out, it might be the Baltic Sea where those first shots are fired.
Things are so tense that during his Senate confirmation hearings, retired Marine General James Mattis indicated he supported a permanent U.S. military presence in the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.
Tensions in that region have been high. This past April, the Daily Caller reported that Su-24 Fencers buzzed the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Donald Cook (DDG 75). A closer look at that event, though, can give a sense as to what America could be facing.
Like it or not, in the event of war, American forces will have to get to the Baltic States. With their membership in NATO, defending them is a solemn obligation due to the provisions of Article V of the North Atlantic Treaty.
So, America has an obligation to defend them. That means getting reinforcements there in a hurry.
For armored brigade combat teams, like the one on rotation to Europe, this means a seaborne convoy. That probably means using at least a couple dozen military sealift ships and escorts to move a division of troops and supplies.
How might Russia take down such a convoy? Part of it would be using the geography of the Baltic Sea. It is a very narrow, confined body of water. Furthermore, the short distances involved mean that any convoy could have only a few minutes’ warning of an air attack.
As the Daily Caller notes, the Donald Cook was buzzed largely because she had very little warning of the Fencers’ approach.
The Baltic is also full of places where diesel-electric submarines like the Kilo-class or Lada-class could hide and carry out ambushes. The submarines would likely sit at chokepoints like the Kattegat or Skagerrak – targeting escorts like Arleigh Burke-class destroyers.
Once some of the escorts are taken out, Russia would then send Su-24s at low level to attack the sealift vessels and surviving escorts, likely using missiles like the AS-20 “Kayak” – the Russian equivalent to the AGM-84 Harpoon.
Destroying the convoy may be the Russians’ best chance to defeat NATO in a war over the Baltic States. That said, if the United States were to bring back the old POMCUS (Prepositioning Of Materiel Configured in Unit Sets) system, that would greatly reduce the time it took to reinforce any force initially in the Baltic States.
The U.S. Air Force has had many recruiting slogans, used at various times to varying effect. The current Air Force slogan “Aim High, Fly-Fight-Win” is no “We’re Looking For A Few Good Men” or “The Few The Proud, The Marines.” But yet the USAF continues its effort to come up with something as sticky as “Semper Fi.”
Marine Corps slogan recognition will always beat any branch (and even some national brands… there are studies on this), but Air Force advertising has been like the Cleveland Browns trying to find a quarterback – they were on to something early, but after a while, it got confusing.
Here’s WATM’s list of Air Force slogans ranked from the best ideas to the worst:
1. “Aim High”
Easily the best slogan the Air Force ever used. Aim High is so good, the Air Force had to bring it back. It’s fast, snappy, memorable, and says all you need to know: we think we’re the best branch, so why try to join the Army or Navy? I don’t know why they changed it and they probably couldn’t tell you either but whatever they changed it to had to be the Merrill McPeak uniform of Air Force slogan.
2. “Uno Ab Alto (One From on High)”
This sounds less like Airmen and more like Gandalf the Gray. Or a Harry Potter spell. Looking for that badass Latin quote will get you into trouble, Air Force. I can’t fault them too much because this was before Aim High. Uno Ab Alto gets #2 because it’s a classier way of saying “Death From Above” (Mors Ab Alto) which I think is a far better recruiting slogan for the Drone Age. If you want to attract more drone pilots, just say what you mean.
The 7th Bomb Wing is ahead of the game.
3. “Aim High . . . Fly-Fight-Win”
Sloganeering as a result of surveys, meetings, and calls for suggestions: the true Air Force way. This latest iteration of “Aim High” ranks as #3 because it’s riding the coattails of #1.
This will likely not be replaced for a long time considering the amount of research, time, and money effort spent on coming up with it. It shouldn’t be a surprise to Air Force veterans that the Air Force put so much into changing their slogan only to lean on one they used a decade or so ago and adding a college fight song to it.
If they wanted to use things Airmen naturally say to each other as a recruiting slogan, they should have just listened to Airmen in squadron hallways, but this would probably result in the Air Force slogan being “Have a great Air Force day” “Happy Hour?” or “See you tomorrow, Doug.”
4. “The Sky’s No Limit”
Harkening back to the Air Force’s Cold War glory days, The Sky’s No Limit is actually not a bad one to fall back on if we’re just going to start resurrecting old lines. The test pilots of the days of yore were pretty ballsy, and with the Air Force’s expanding missions as an Air and Space Force, this is a good descriptive slogan, even if it’s a little vague.
The only real problem with this is a lot of the Air Force doesn’t really fly so for them, the sky’s no limit, but getting there certainly is. Believe it or not, some people who join the Air Force don’t want to fly. The fighting and winning are fun, though.
5. “Do Something Amazing”
While the Air Force has some heroic people working in incredible career fields (that is, people who do those amazing somethings), it also has cooks, plumbers, and lawyers. All are necessary to the Air Force mission (and are true-blue lifesavers when you really want or need one – trust me, you want these people to be your friends), but these aren’t the careers you think of when you’re considering joining the military. You might be disappointed when you’re thinking about all the amazing AFSCs you’ll cross-train into the moment you can. At least they’re not patronizing people by framing additional duties as a great activity.
Actually, you know what’s amazing? Spending an entire enlistment without ever having to see Tops In Blue.
Also, “amazing” is what a sorority girl calls her summer study abroad program in London.
6. “We Do The Impossible Everyday”
… And we do the hyperbolic so much more. Read some USAF EPRs for the most flowery language you’ve ever seen. The thesaurus was created for Air Force performance reviews. You need one to make it sound like your creepy subordinate deserves a goddamn medal for volunteering to watch people pee.
This line looks like the Air Force doesn’t know the meaning of the word impossible (Which is a much better slogan. Air Force, call me). The biggest problem with this slogan is that they also do the very, very possible all the time. Not every one gets the “impossible” job.
You know what’s possible? Getting booted out for your third alcohol-related incident because Frank’s Franks won’t put hot dogs on Anthony’s Pizza. You know who makes that possible? Air Force JAGs and security forces.
7. “No One Comes Close”
This wouldn’t have been so bad in retrospect, except you know who comes close? The Navy. They also have fighters and stuff. Not exactly the same missions, I know, but… close enough to make this slogan awkward.
8. “Cross Into The Blue”
This nebulous Blue. Context tells you it’s the sky but the ocean is also blue, for the record, and it’s a much more tangible blue to cross into. This would be a better line for trying to get Army people to come to the Air Force, but I doubt that would be the goal (Airmen use the term “Army Proof” for a reason).
9. “It’s Not Science Fiction, It’s What We Do Everyday”
This would be a better slogan for Scientology. I don’t remember Orson Scott Card writing about drone strikes in Pakistan but maybe somewhere a six-year-old is playing video games and ending terrorists. No one confuses drones with alien technology. The Internet had been around for a long time when these ads started. So too with night vision. Until DARPA puts those Iron Man suits in field tests, no one will ever make that connection.
America’s Airmen (for the most part) are not delusional about themselves. They don’t need to be. For all the “Chair Force” smack Airman take from other branches, troops like Ammo are awesome in their own way and don’t need to pretend they’re all combat controllers.
10. “We’ve Been Waiting For You”
Slightly ominous, it doesn’t really inspire as much as it implies the Air Force has been watching you while you sleep, staring at you from across crowded rooms, and following you home after school.
11. “Above All”
Unfinished thoughts probably always seem like a great idea for a slogan in meetings. Sure, I get the idea of putting your branch above everyone else’s as a way to foster esprit de corps, but it can be troublesome sometimes.
Every branch has their strengths, so let’s be real. Unlike this Air Force Training Instructor:
Another reason this slogan ranks so low is the lack of originality. Uber alles (above all) is the German national anthem.
12. “A Great Way of Life”
An older slogan which probably seemed appropriate for a time when the Air Force has to pull people from living the American Dream and get them into the Air Force, where they would sleep on the flightline and be prepared to bomb Russians into the Stone Age 24/7.
The Airmen of the Strategic Air Command era were pretty badass in their own right. Nowadays, this would mean highlighting the golf course, gym, the dorms (and the Airmen who live there), the DFAC, and all the stupid shit young Airmen tend to do when they get to their first duty station.
The Air Force is beginning to work on how fast, lethal, durable and capable a new “A-10”-like aircraft would need to be in order to provide U.S. military ground troops with effective close-air support for decades to come.
Senior service officials are now exploring “draft requirements” concepts – and evaluating the kind of avionics, engineering, weapons, armor and technical redundancy the aircraft would need, Air Force officials told Scout Warrior.
Many of the core technical attributes and combat advantages of the A-10 will be preserved and expanded upon with the new effort, officials said.
The performance of the A-10 Warthog in the ongoing bombing campaign against ISIS, coupled with the Air Forces’ subsequent decision to delay the aircraft’s planned retirement – has led the service to begin the process of developing a new, longer-term A-10 type platform.
Following an announcement earlier this year from Pentagon leaders that the A-10 will not begin retiring but rather will serve until at least 2022, Air Force and DoD officials are now hoping to keep a close-air-support aircraft for many years beyond the previously projected timeframe.
Given the emerging global threat environment, it would make sense that the Air Force would seek to preserve an aircraft such as the A-10. While the aircraft has been extremely successful attacking ISIS targets such as fuel convoys and other assets, the A-10 is also the kind of plane that can carry and deliver a wide-ranging arsenal of bombs to include larger laser-guided and precision weapons.
This kind of firepower, coupled with its 30mm cannon, titanium armor plates and built-in redundancy for close-air-support, makes the A-10 a valuable platform for potential larger-scale mechanized, force-on-force type warfare as well. The A-10 has a unique and valuable niche role to perform in the widest possible range of combat scenarios to include counterinsurgency, supporting troops on the ground in close proximity and bringing firepower, protection and infantry support to a large-scale war.
Air Force officials have told Scout Warrior that the current approach involves a three-pronged effort; the Air Force may consider simply upgrading the existing fleet of A-10s in a substantial way in order to extend its service life, acquire an off-the-shelf existing aircraft or develop a new close air support platform through a developmental effort.
“We are developing that draft requirements document. We are staffing it around the Air Force now. When it’s ready, then we will compare that to what we have available, compare it to keeping the A-10, compare it to what it would take to replace it with another airplane, and we will work through that process,” Lt. Gen. James Holmes, Deputy Chief of Staff for Strategic Plans and Requirements, told reporters several months ago.
Holmes went on to explain that the service was, broadly speaking, exploring ways to achieve, preserve and sustain “air superiority” in potential long-term, high-end combat engagements. He added that considerations about a close-air-support replacement aircraft figured prominently in the strategic calculus surrounding these issues.
As a result, the Air Force will be looking for the “optimal” type of close-air-support platform by weighing various considerations such as what the differences might be between existing aircraft and future developmental platforms.
Cost and affordability will also be a very large part of the equation when it comes to making determinations about an A-10 replacement, Holmes explained.
“The question is exactly where is the sweet spot as we talked about between what’s available now and what the optimum CAS replacement would be. We are working along that continuum to see exactly what the requirement is that we can afford and the numbers that we need to be able to do the mission,” Holmes added.
Several industry platforms, such as Raytheon’s T-X plane and the A-29 Embraer EMB Super Tucano aircraft, are among options being looked at as things which could potentially be configured for a close-air-support plane.
Having the requisite funds to support this would be of great value to the Air Force; former Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh told lawmakers that, despite the prior plan, the service did not want to retire the A-10.
Prior plans to retire the fleet of A-10s were purely budget driven, senior Air Force leaders have consistently said.
“I don’t want to retire it,” Welsh told a Congressional Committee in early March.
Air Force leaders had previously said that the emerging multi-role F-35 would be able to pick up the close-air-support mission. With its sensor technology, 25mm gun and maneuverability, there is little question about whether the F-35 could succeed with these kinds of missions. At the same time, there is also consensus that the A-10 provides an extremely unique set of battlefield attributes which need to be preserved for decades.
Even though he was 73 years old and serving as President of the United States at the time, Ronald Reagan received a letter from the Marine Corps asking him if he would like to enlist in 1984.
It may have been a clerical error or just a practical joke from the service to its commander-in-chief, or in the words of Reagan in his response, the result of “a lance corporal’s overactive imagination.” In any case, on Tuesday the U.S. Marine Corps Historical Company shared on its Facebook page the letter he sent back to then-Commandant Gen. Paul X. Kelley on May 31, 1984, and well, it’s classic.
“I regret that I must decline the attached invitation to enlist in the United States Marine Corps,” Reagan writes on official White House letterhead. “As proud as I am of the inference concerning my physical fitness, it might be better to continue as Commander-in-Chief. Besides, at the present time it would be rather difficult to spend ten weeks at Parris Island.”
With his trademark wit, Reagan noted the Democrats would probably appreciate it if he left The White House, but had to pass since his wife Nancy loved their current residence and Reagan himself was “totally satisfied with his job.”
“Would you consider a deferment until 1989?” Reagan wrote. (It’s worth noting that Reagan served stateside in the U.S. Army Air Force’s first motion picture unit during World War II).
Another unusual thing that occurred was the capture of what initially was assumed to be a Japanese soldier in a German uniform by American paratroopers.
As it turns out, this soldier was neither Japanese nor German and was in fact a young Korean man who, through a bizarre series of incidents, had been conscripted to fight for the Soviets, the Japanese and the Germans during WW2. This is the story of Yang Kyoungjong.
Little is known about Yang’s life prior to his service in WW2 other than that he was a native Korean who happened to be living in Japanese controlled Manchuria at the start of WW2. Due to this, Yang found himself conscripted against his will in 1938 and forced to serve in the Kwantung Army at just 18 years old.
After basic training, Yang was sent to take part in what has since become known as the Battles of Khalkha Gol, along the borders of Manchuria.
These battles were mostly fought between the Kwantung Army and a combined force consisting of Mongolian and Soviet troops (the two countries were allies at the time) around the Khalkha River, which the Japanese insisted fell within the borders of Manchuria, despite claims to the contrary from Mongolia.
During one particularly heated battle, Yang was captured by the Soviets in 1939 and sent to a labor camp. If the Soviet Union hadn’t suffered intense casualties fighting Nazi Germany on the Eastern front in the latter half of the war, this is probably where Yang would have stayed for the duration of WW2.
But as its pool of able bodied men had been severely depleted by extensive engagements against the Nazis, Soviet military officials made the decision in 1942 to replenish their fighting force by “drafting” thousands of POWs. Among the soldiers drafted was Yang who was once again forcibly made to join the fight in WW2- this time under the Soviet Flag.
Yang’s service with the Soviets lasted about a year, during which time he took place in numerous engagements along the Eastern Front, most notably the Third Battle of Kharkov. It was in this battle that he found himself once again a prisoner of war for yet another nation.
The Germans were apparently unconcerned with how a Korean had come to end up fighting in Ukraine for the Soviets and simply took him prisoner along with hundreds of other soldiers. Again, the interesting part about Yang’s story would likely have ended here if the Nazis weren’t in the habit of allowing prisoners they didn’t execute to “volunteer” to serve with the Wehrmacht following their capture.
As a result of this practise, Yang was conscripted to fight in a German Ostbataillone (literally: East Battalion) in the 709 Infanterie-Division of the Wehrmacht.
For the curious, Ostbataillones were small battalions of men comprised of “volunteers” from the numerous regions of Europe Nazi Germany controlled. These were folded into larger units of German soldiers to serve as shock troops and backup to more experienced Wehrmacht battalions.
After being conscripted to fight for the Third Reich, Yang was sent to help defend the Cotentin peninsula in France shortly before D-Day. When D-Day arrived and Allied troops successfully stormed the beaches, Yang was among a handful of soldiers captured by the United States’ 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment.
Initially it was reported by Lieutenant Robert Brewer of the 506th that they’d captured “four Asians in German uniform”. While this was technically true, the 506th mistakenly believed the four men (Yang included) were Japanese. In reality, three of the men hailed from Turkestan while Yang, as already noted, was of Korean heritage.
Unable to communicate with Yang due to him not being fluent in either English or German, Yang was sent to yet another POW camp, this time in Britain, where he mercifully remained until the end of the war.
When WW2 ended, Yang chose not to return home, but instead immigrated to the United States where once again his story becomes hazy. The only thing we can find for sure about Yang’s life after WW2 is that he eventually ended up settling in Cook County, Illinois where he quietly passed away in 1992.
Very unfortunately for those of us who like all the little details of a story, such as Yang’s thoughts on his experiences in WW2 and how he got through it all, after the war, Yang never talked publicly about his WW2 misadventure. In fact, according to a December of 2002 article on Yang that appeared in Weekly Korea, he didn’t even discuss
Every April veterans and volunteers gather at the Rose River Farm in Madison County, Virginia for an annual 2-fly fishing tournament known as “Project Healing Waters.” This year was the 10th anniversary and the event raised over $200,000 for veterans services.
WATM sat down with keynote speaker Tom Brokaw and several veterans who have found physical and mental improvement through the program.
Listen to the interview with Tom Brokaw:
More than 7,500 vets from every war since WWII have taken part in Project Healing Waters in 2015 alone. There are hundreds of local programs in addition to the national events.
Along with the psychological benefits of the camaraderie and being out in nature, the technical aspects of fly-fishing help those with all sorts of injuries recover, from a physical therapy perspective. They have taken blind people and quadriplegics out to catch fish.
84 cents of every dollar raised goes to the veterans services making it one of the leanest veterans services programs.
To learn more about Project Healing Waters, visit their website.
The company that makes some of the military’s most advanced laser and infrared beam illuminators has just released a civilian-legal version of it’s rifle-mounted sight used by some of America’s top troopers.
Laser and IR sight maker BE Meyers Co. commercialized its MAWL-DA laser illumination and designation device and dubbed it the “MAWL-C1+.” The sight complies with federal mandates on civilian-legal laser strength and performs almost as well is the ones special operators use in the field.
This is a big deal — but to understand why it’s a big deal, one must know a little more about the company and about the original MAWL itself.
Many of you reading this already know BE Meyers Co., albeit indirectly. If you’ve ever been in a contact while a Forward Air Controller laser designated a target, or stood by while a TACP pointed out a place that needed a little special CAS love, you know BE Meyers. They’re the folks who designed and built the IZLID for air-to-ground integration.
They’re also the company behind the GLARE RECOIL some of you gyrenes have picked up for some additional less-lethal capability (that’s some effective Hail and Warning right there).
Additionally, the IZLID makes for an excellent force multiplier if you need to zap someone (or at least point them out for someone in an aircraft to zap) or obtain PID a klick away…with a beam that’s invisible to the naked eye.
So, now you know where they’re coming from.
Last summer BE Meyers Co. released the MAWL-DA. Modular Advanced Weapon Laser (Direct Action). By numerous user accounts, the MAWL-DA was the greatest innovation in weaponized photonics (hell, any photonics) in a generation.
Apparently it really is that good.
The MAWL is an aiming laser that features a visible green laser, an IR pointer and a predetermined battery of IR illuminators (each intended for a specific operating environment). It’s ambi operated, low profile, tucked in close to the bore (so you don’t have to worry about mechanical offset), and easy to operate under stress (in the dark, wearing gloves, while dudes are trying to kill you or keep from being killed).
Every anecdotal report we’ve heard — and there have been several — indicate this thing performs significantly better than the PEQ-15. Andbecause it’s modular, it’s easier to maintain.
Did we mention the HMFIC over at BE Meyers is an infantry combat veteran of both Iraq and Afghanistan?
Requests for a commercial “civilian” version of the MAWL that doesn’t break the Federally mandated 0.7mW barrier have been incessant. We know, because we’re some of those who’ve been asking.
Now a device very nearly as good as the military version, but still far superior to anything else out there we’re familiar with, is available for individual purchase. So whether you’re about to deploy and your unit doesn’t have them, a LEO who understands the significant advantages of a device like this, or a responsible armed citizen who wants one Because Reasons, you’re good to go.
What the company tell us about the civilian-legal MAWL-C1+ is big brain speak. Up front though, what the end user needs to know is that you can use it intuitively and in a wide variety of operational conditions; for instance you can roll from a stack outdoors to indoors and back out adjusting the intensity and flood as you go without ever having to fumble-fart around with knobs and buttons and dials.
Just as importantly, you can punch way out there with it when you need to, even in an environment filled with photonic barriers like fog, smoke, or ambient light.
Learn more about the BE Meyers MAWL-C1+ right here.
The US-led coalition air campaign against ISIS militants in Iraq and Syria has dragged on for months, but the US airmen mounting the raids haven’t lost track of time.
During Christmas Day airstrikes against the terrorist group, some US pilot donned Santa hats, photos of which were shared by the US Air Force, as first spotted by international monitoring group Airwars.
Coalition air forces mounted 18 strikes against ISIS targets in Iraq in Syria on December 25.
Near Raqqa, the group’s de facto capital city in Syria, 11 strikes were directed at ISIS tactical units, fighting positions, vehicles, and weapons, including ISIS’ apparent go-to of late: A vehicle-borne improvised explosive device.
Near Mosul, the second-largest city in Iraq and the terror group’s last stronghold in that country, two strikes were directed at ISIS tactical units, fighting positions, vehicles, weapons, and infrastructure.
According to a release from Operation Inherent Resolve, all aircraft involved in Christmas Day strikes returned to base safely.
US forces on the ground in Iraq appear to be stepping up their involvement in the fight for Mosul.
As a recent Reuters report quotes the commander of the main US unit on the ground in Iraq:
“We have always had opportunities to work side-by-side, but we have never been embedded to this degree … That was always a smaller niche mission. Well, this is our mission now and it is big and we are embedded inside their formations.”
Many civilians have found themselves in the cross-fire, especially in Iraq, where they have been caught between ISIS and Iraqi fighters on the ground as well as in the path of ongoing airstrikes.
In the 10 days before Christmas, Airwars documented reports — some of them contested — indicating that more than 50 civilians were killed by air and ground fire from coalition and Iraqi forces.
ISIS continues to menace civilians as well.
The terrorist group has fired on civilian areas of Mosul, including liberated sections of the city, and a Human Rights Watch report issued on Tuesday states that the terror group executed at least 13 people — including two boys — in villages south of Mosul where locals mounted an effort to expel the group’s fighters.
Both Manson and Billy Corgan come from military backgrounds: “We can speak to the personal effect that yes, we can be artists and yes, we can play these roles in public, but at the end of the day, if we don’t serve all our communities – [and] veterans are an integral part of our communities – we’re not really doing service as artists or as people,” Corgan told Rolling Stone.
The tour begins in Concord, California on July 7th.
The first time during this campaign cycle that presidential candidate Donald Trump dealt with veteran groups, he accepted an endorsement from a “veterans charity” during the Republican primaries that turned out to be a funnel for Super PAC money. In spite of the low-level controversy, he more than survived the hit; he is now the presumptive GOP nominee for President.
At the end of January of this year, Trump declined to participate in the debate against his Republican primary opponents. Instead, he held what his campaign called a “special event to benefit veterans organizations.” When it was all over the Trump campaign claimed to have raised almost $6 million in donations to veterans groups. Today, the candidate finally announced how the money was distributed and to which groups.
The almost four-month delay was due a need to vet the groups that would receive funds, Trump said at a press conference at the Trump Tower in New York. The total amount raised from the fundraiser was $5.6 million, including one million from Trump himself.
“I had teams of people reviewing statistics, reviewing numbers and also talking to people in the military to find out whether or not the group was deserving of the money,” he told the gathered press.
The groups on the list have not yet released statements or receipts for the funds, but here’s a list of them and how much they will receive from the benefit. Most of them can be found on the non-profit evaluation site Charity Navigator, and most have three- and four-star ratings.
22KILL is a global movement bridging the gap between veterans and civilians to build a community of support. 22KILL works to raise awareness to the suicide epidemic and educate the public on mental health issues.
The AMVETS mission is to enhance and safeguard the entitlements for all American Veterans who have served honorably and to improve the quality of life for them, their families, and the communities where they live through leadership, advocacy, and services.
DAV provides more than 700,000 rides for veterans attending medical appointments and assists veterans with more than 300,000 benefit claims annually. In 2015, DAV helped attain more than $4 billion in new and retroactive benefits to care for veterans, their families, and survivors. DAV is also a leader in connecting veterans with meaningful employment, hosting job fairs and providing resources to veterans seeking employment.
“Established to provide various benefits for all veterans, either through Veterans Hospitals, homeless programs, educational programs, crisis programs, etc., where the local, state, and federal governments leave off.”
The Green Beret Foundation provides direct and continuous support to the Green Beret Community and its families. The Green Beret Foundation facilitates the transition of Green Berets and their families whether that transition is from wounds sustained in combat, illness, injury or “merely” from numerous deployments and/or retirement.
“This organization was created to assist families who upon the death of their loved one who has served our country, the opportunity to have augmented military honors when the family deems that the legislated two man flag fold is not enough.”
“Hope For The Warriors provides comprehensive support programs for service members, veterans, and military families that are focused on transition, health and wellness, peer engagement, and connections to community resources.”
“Serves United States military personnel wounded or injured in service to our nation, and their families. Supporting these heroes helps repay the debt all Americans owe them for the sacrifices they have made.”
“K9s For Warriors is dedicated to providing service canines to our warriors suffering from Post-traumatic Stress Disability, traumatic brain injury, and/or military sexual trauma as a result of military service post 9/11.”
Assists military families during difficult financial times by providing food assistance, auto and home repair, vision care, travel and transportation, moving assistance, essential home items, and financial assistance.
Provides food for veterans, emergency relief grants and rent assistance for homeless and near-homeless veterans, sends care packages to deployed troops, and provides Christmas presents to military children.
The Mission Continues empowers veterans who are adjusting to life at home to find purpose through community impact. TMC deploys veterans on new missions in their communities so their actions will inspire future generations to serve.
NMFA is a private, non-profit association organized to improve the quality of family life of all military personnel. Started in 1969 as the National Military Wives Association by a group of wives and widows, responsible for the Survivor Benefit Plan.
The philanthropic arm of Easter Seals Military and Veterans Services provides resources and services to veterans, service members and their families with a wide range of family, personal, and financial needs.
The Vietnam Veterans Workshop is doing business as the New England Center and Home for Veterans (NECHV). The Mission of the NECHV is to help homeless veterans who have served the United States honorably in peace and war who are addressing the challenges of addiction, trauma, and severe persistent mental health issues.
Warriors for Freedom Foundation (WFF) is a non-profit, tax-exempt organization that provides support to our nation’s heroes and their families in the areas of recreational and social activities, scholarships, veteran suicide and mental health awareness
An explosion inside an Army ammunition factory in Missouri on April 11 left one person dead and four others injured.
The Army Joint Munitions Command, which is tasked with managing military weapons and equipment, confirmed that the explosion occurred in a mixing building at the Lake City Army Ammunition Plant in the city of Independence, local outlet KY3 News reports.
The man killed in the explosion reportedly worked at the plant for 36 years.
Manufacturing ammunition is “dangerous work, and our employees risk their lives to protect our men and women in uniform,” said Lt. Col. Eric Dennis, commander of the plant, according to KSHB Kansas City. “This is a sacrifice they make to support our country, and I am humbled by the ultimate sacrifice this employee made today.”
An explosion injured six people at the same factory in 2011 in a construction area where the powder is loaded. All of the nearly 1,800 employees were sent home following the most recent unexpected detonation. Investigators are still trying to decipher how the explosion occurred.
Federal investigators fined the 707,000-square foot facility three times in the last decade (2008, 2011, 2012) for workplace safety violations.
The private contractor operating the plant in 2011 was initially charged $28,000 for safety issues, and paid $5,600 to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which cited “serious” problems with the handling of potentially dangerous chemicals.
The property holds more than 400 buildings, including nine warehouses. The plant primarily generates and tests small-caliber ammunition.
Lt. Col. Allison Black, commander of the 319th Special Operations Squadron, became the first woman in her special ops navigator field. Now younger generations of airmen can take the same path while embarking on their own journey in the Air Force. (U.S. Air Force video // Jimmy D. Shea)
Under the cover of night, then-1st Lt. Allison Black left her tent in Uzbekistan to walk to a preflight brief. Hours later, she’d be making history.
On this November night in 2001, the United States was hoping to bring to justice those responsible for the attacks two months earlier in New York City and Pennsylvania, and at the Pentagon.
Flying over the skies of Afghanistan, Black, who is now a lieutenant colonel and the commander of the 319th Special Operations Squadron at Hurlburt Field, Florida, was the navigator on the AC-130H Spectre. As the navigator, she was charged with several duties, one of which was to be the single voice communicating from the aircraft to troops on the ground.
As the gunship fired everything it had upon the Taliban, expending 400 40 mm rounds and 100 105 mm rounds, the Northern Alliance leader, Gen. Abdurrashid Dostum (often referred in the media and around camp fires as “Dostum the Taliban killer”) heard Black’s voice communicating to the joint terminal attack controller on the ground to better understand where rounds need to be fired.
“He heard my voice and asked the special ops guys ‘Is that a woman?’ and they said ‘Yeah, it is,'” Black recalled. “He couldn’t believe it. So he’s laughing and says, ‘America is so determined, they’ve brought their women to kill Taliban.’ He calls the guys we’re shooting and says ‘You guys need to surrender now. American women are killing you … you need to surrender now.'”
The morning after that first mission, those remaining Taliban members surrendered.
“My first combat mission began the collapse of Taliban in the north,” said Black, who became the first female to be awarded the Air Force Combat Action Medal.
This operation would have looked different in 1992.
When Black joined the Air Force in 1992, females weren’t allowed to fly combat missions. That didn’t change until 1993, as the Air Force opened all but less than 1 percent of career fields to women, with the remainder scheduled to open up by early 2016.
At just over 5 feet tall, the Long Island, New York, native seeks and embraces challenges and doesn’t play for second place — a mindset that led her to the Air Force.
“The Air Force seemed to be the hardest service to get into. That got my attention,” Black said. Arriving at basic military training as an enlisted Airman, she was guaranteed a job in the medical career field. But her plans changed when a survival, evasion, resistance and escape specialist briefed Black’s flight on his career field and challenged the group of trainees to join SERE.
“I didn’t know how to chop down a tree, didn’t know how to kill a rabbit, didn’t know how to set a snare, but I was willing,” Black said. “It sounded challenging.”
After more than four years as a SERE instructor, including time as an arctic survival instructor, Black wanted another challenge.
Upon finishing her degree, Black earned a commission as a second lieutenant and headed off to become a navigator — a career field available on several airframes, including bombers and fighters.
There was just one airframe Black wanted: the gunship — specifically, the AC-130H gunship — so she could be on the main flight deck with the pilot, right in the thick of things.
But becoming an Airman, a SERE specialist, an officer and a navigator wasn’t enough — she wanted to join the elite Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC).
“It was exciting. It’s special operations command. You’re in a small force, asked to do tough missions — missions that operate in the gray,” Black said.
Black didn’t realize it at the time, but when she arrived at the 16th Special Operations Squadron, then stationed at Hurlburt Field, she became the first female navigator in that unit and on the AC-130H.
“The thought of being the first was the furthest thing on my mind,” she said. “At that time, I was so focused on being really good at my job and not letting any naysayers get in my way.”
Not only was the milestone the furthest thing from her mind, but it was also something she didn’t want to be on anyone else’s mind either.
“I wasn’t trying to change anyone’s opinion on whether I should or shouldn’t be in a job,” Black said. “I wanted to be an asset. I wanted to be sought after. I wanted to be really good at what I did. I didn’t want to come in second; I wanted to be first.”
Each person defines success differently.
Black doesn’t define success by the medals on her chest or the oak sleeves on her shoulders.
“By not trying to make a statement, I think I found success. I didn’t have an agenda. I didn’t join the Air Force, I didn’t join SERE, and I didn’t join AFSOC to prove that women can do a job,” Black said. “I joined all those things because of the challenge and the career field and the sexy mission. And I just happen to be a woman doing it. And, fortunately, because of my successes, it brought more visibility to ‘Hey, it doesn’t matter if it’s a guy or a girl.'”
Paying it forward
“It wasn’t until years later … when I’d have young female or male Airmen tell me that my story was inspiring, that hearing what I was able to do in AFSOC gave them the confidence to raise their hands and go forward. It was humbling,” Black said.
Black remembers vividly a point in her career where it was clear that she needed to pay it forward.
After a speech to members from base, a female senior airman approached her and referenced the part of the presentation when Black said it has been possible to mother children while also being an Airman. The senior airman was about to get out of the Air Force because she didn’t have anyone telling her the same thing.
“She’s a senior master sergeant now, and we still keep in contact,” Black said.
Seeing these tangible results from telling her story, Black began to reach out even more.
“It’s second and third order effect that just at the virtue of me doing my job, it highlighted that women can succeed. It highlighted the opportunity for women: ‘Hey you’re going to be accepted. They’re going to respect what you bring to the fight,'” Black said.
When she arrived at AFSOC, she didn’t have a cadre of female navigators to offer her mentorship. What she did have were those she refers to as her everything: her husband, Ryan, who was also a SERE instructor, and a supply of male mentors who were all willing to help a teammate grow, regardless of which bathroom stall they use.
“All of the gentlemen I’ve worked for have equipped me with the skills to be a good leader. They gave me that opportunity to shine and to step up,” she said. “You’re judged on game day. You can practice every day of the week, but it’s what you do on Sunday that counts. And I don’t believe in ‘Everyone gets a trophy.”
A new generation
When Black joined the Air Force in 1992, her options looked a lot different than they do for female Airmen today. However, because of her success and the success of many others like her, there are more options in the Air Force for females than in any other service.
This success gave people like 1st Lt. Margaret Courtney many options and paths to walk — or even fly.
Just over two years ago, Courtney had the world on a string, with options in droves. The Baylor University graduate, who majored in neuroscience, managed to pass the Law School Admission Test while working at a mental health institution helping to rehabilitate individuals with drug dependencies. Her potential career paths were in no way limited.
But she wanted more. She wanted a bigger challenge even than graduating with a neuroscience degree and going to law school.
After talking to recruiters from three different branches of the military, and after pinging several friends and family members, Courtney noticed a trend.
“It’s funny — everyone who wasn’t in the Air Force recommended the Air Force,” Courtney said.
After commissioning as an officer and going through training to become a navigator, Courtney faced a decision — what airframe did she want to work on for the remainder of her Air Force career?
“I remember going through (navigator) training, and there are several airframes that require (combat systems officers). You’re going through those aircraft and imagining your life three to 10 years down the road,” Courtney said. “How different would my life look if I joined this community or that community?”
The number of opportunities the Air Force has given Courtney caught her off guard.
“It’s not too bad to be in your young 20’s and have basically limitless possibilities laid out in front of you. I’m like ‘Goodness gracious, let me look into it all,'” Courtney said. “I feel like I’m hitting this whole job and career at the sweet spot. I’ve had plenty of people ahead of me pave the way.”
Knowing what’s ahead for Courtney, Black is excited, and almost proud of the options female Airmen now have.
“It’s exciting — hearing about Lieutenant Courtney,” Black said. “I can’t help but to reflect on when I was a lieutenant and how excited I was to come to the mission, then, after 9/11, to go and fight. I’m excited for her, because I know she’s going to find the reward.”
Black doesn’t just see the past and the present, but the future keeps her motivation high, knowing the possibilities now out there for females in the Air Force.
“The success is that we don’t hear about it because they’re blended in,” said Black said of current female aircrew members. “They’re just people doing great things – male and female. That’s success.”
When Black arrived at Hurlburt in 2000, she was wide-eyed and ready to take on the world. She saw a fork in the road and committed to a direction, not knowing the path. Now that she’s traveled that path, she feels she has a responsibility to people like Courtney and other female Airmen.
“She doesn’t know what she doesn’t know,” said Black of Courtney, who’s even more wide-eyed than the prior-enlisted Black was at this stage in her AFSOC career. “That’s where people like me come in. Lt. Col. Megan Ripple is the director of (operations) at the 4th Special Operations Squadron. We arrived here at Hurlburt together. We are taking the initiative to reach out to these women to prepare them for deployment, to teach them all the things we didn’t know.”
Considering Courtney’s only job up until this point has been to learn and receive training, she’s growing more and more excited to fly this new path.
“I’m still trying to figure out how everything works,” said Courtney, who was recently assigned to the 4th SOS. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I can’t wait to actually partake in it, and do what I’ve been training for. They want you to learn, they want you to train; they want to set you up for success. No one really cares where you’ve come from, what your rank is. They care about how much work you put into your job every day. If you’re competent and put forth the work, you get rewarded.”
Though there are some years between Black and Courtney, they noted a common mentality present when they joined the AFSOC community.
“I haven’t noticed if anyone cares about me being a girl or not,” Courtney said. “They care about how good you are at what you do, and if you care or not, and if you take pride in your work.”
Letting your work speak for itself is a welcome reality for Courtney.
“It’s definitely a relief that you’re judged based on the quality of your work, and nothing else,” Courtney said, pointing out that the impact of the mission is way too important to care about the irrelevant. “AFSOC is pretty open about it. The game we play is life or death.”