Army Special Forces veteran Tyler Grey is definitely what you would call an “operator.”
A Ranger, a sniper with the 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, and a combat veteran, Grey has served his country well.
He knows the meaning of sacrifice, perhaps more than most. In 2005, he was blown up in a raid in Sadr City, Iraq, which nearly cost him his arm. But the experience gave Grey an evolved sense of perspective.
We Are The Mighty sat down to talk with him about how music had an impact on his career and his life, and what he had to say was pretty insightful.
“The journey isn’t that you never have a problem. The journey is overcoming problems. The music I like is about people who are honest and open enough to share a problem, to share a weakness, to share an experience that affected them, and then how they overcome it.”
We also asked Grey to make a Battle Mix — a playlist of power anthems — with songs that held significant meaning throughout his life. He didn’t disappoint.
When you think of the Gulfstream, you probably think of a jet that’s used by A-list celebrities and corporate CEOs – all of whom are living the high life.
Well, that is true. In fact, the Pentagon has a fleet of Gulfstream 550s dubbed the “C-37B” for the VIP transport role, including for President Trump (who owns a 757 of his own).
But if all you see is a cushy transport for execs, you’re missing the potential of the Gulfstream, company officials say.
In fact, the plane could do a whole lot more than fly high-rollers in comfort. The company is using the G550 as a platform for multiple missions, including for missile range instrumentation, a multi-mission version, and even for command and control. Some of these variants were being shown off by Gulfstream at a display at the 2017 SeaAirSpace Expo in National Harbor, Maryland.
The G550 has a lot going for it. It has long range, over 6,750 nautical miles, or about 12 hours of endurance. It is also reliable – the Gulfstream website notes its 99.9 percent mission-ready rate means that this plane misses one flight every five years.
This bird could very well become a larger part of the DOD inventory – proving that airframes can do much more than you might think they can at first glance.
President Barack Obama will shutter an alleged Russian spy compound in Maryland Dec. 30 in retaliation for nearly a decade’s worth of cyber espionage activities.
The compound was reportedly purchased in 1972 by the then-Soviet Union as a vacation retreat. The Russian government confirmed its ownership of the compound in 1992 to The Associated Press.
Washington Life also appears to have featured some parts of the compound in a 2007 profile on one of the main houses, used by the Russian ambassador as a vacation get away.
Obama also announced he would expel 35 Russian diplomats from the U.S., mainly from Washington, D.C., and San Francisco. Another compound owned by the Russian government will also be shuttered Dec. 30.
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A ceasefire between U.S.-backed rebels and Russian-backed Syrian forces went into effect in Syria on Feb. 27 — the first major respite in five years of warfare that has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives. The volunteer rescuers from the Syrian White Helmets group reported the ceasefire “holding in the main.”
“Today very quiet,” the group tweeted. “Long may it last.”
But the ceasefire doesn’t apply to Islamic State, of course — nor to Syrian, Russian, American and rebel attacks on the militant group. The Pentagon reported that its allies in the “New Syrian Forces” repulsed Islamic State attacks along the Mar’a Line in northern Syria while U.S.-vetted rebels in the Syrian Democratic Forces group gained control of the Tishreen Dam east of Aleppo as well as Shaddadi, a strategic logistical hub for militants in the northeastern part of the country.
Islamic State also attacked Kurdish SDF forces holding Tel Abyad, a Syrian town on the Turkish frontier that was a key border crossing for the militant group before the Kurds liberated it in July 2015. U.S. Air Force A-10 attack jets flying from Incirlik air base in Turkey strafed the militants, apparently drawing heavy ground fire. The distinctive sound of the A-10s’ powerful 30-millimeter cannons — and the chatter of small-caliber guns presumably firing back — is audible in the video below.
From the day the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall was erected in 1982, it has brought closure and healing to veterans who visit the solemn site. And millions of people visit “The Wall” each year.
How can a memorial bring the same feeling of remembrance and gratitude to those who can’t make the trip to Washington every year? The answer is to bring the wall to them.
Now, the Virtual Wall, a website that archives the names of the 58,300 Americans who gave the ultimate sacrifice during the Vietnam War — the names depicted on The Wall — gives veterans and curious visitors the chance to search for specific people from anywhere in the world.
There’s more to the Virtual Wall than searching for veterans by name, though. To safeguard American history and preserve local history, the Virtual Wall allows people to browse and search the names by state and city. More importantly, visitors can read about each individual’s death, often see a photo, and read more about their awards and decorations.
The Virtual Wall allows visitors to leave photos, memories, poems — basically anything to remember the fallen. It also allows others to see and read those personal memorials.
Each name on the pages of The Virtual Wall leads to a memorial, written by someone who had a personal connection to the man or woman remembered.
While The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall on Washington’s National Mall is operated by the National Parks Service, the Virtual Wall is a creation of private citizens who thought a virtual version of the memorial was a good idea.
It looks a little dated (it was first launched in 1997), but the site is maintained for free, by Integration, Incorporated, a Batavia, N.Y.-based corporation and from “the pockets of three veteran volunteers.”
Hollywood is known for riddling military movies with technical errors, but from “Full Metal Jacket” to “Stripes,” the movie industry gets it right with plenty of quotable military movies.
Here are WATM’s picks for 32 of the best ever:
1. “I love the smell of napalm in the morning. You know, one time we had a hill bombed, for 12 hours. When it was all over, I walked up. We didn’t find one of ’em, not one stinkin’ dink body. The smell, you know that gasoline smell, the whole hill. Smelled like … victory. Someday this war’s gonna end.” — Lt. Col. Bill Kilgore, “Apocalypse Now” (1979)
2. “When I go home people will ask me, ‘Hey Hoot, why do you do it man? What, you some kinda war junkie?’ You know what I’ll say? I won’t say a goddamn word. Why? They won’t understand. They won’t understand why we do it. They won’t understand that it’s about the men next to you, and that’s it. That’s all it is.” — Norman “Hoot” Hooten, “Black Hawk Down” (2001)
3. “You have to think about one shot. One shot is what it’s all about.” — Michael, “The Deer Hunter” (1978)
4. “Keep the sand out of your weapons, keep those actions clear. I’ll see you on the beach.” — Capt. John Miller, “Saving Private Ryan” (1998)
5. “Are you smoking this sh-t so’s to escape from reality? Me, I don’t need this sh-t, I am reality. There’s the way it ought to be, and there’s the way it is.” — Staff Sgt. Barnes, “Platoon” (1986)
6. “Now I want you to remember that no bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country.” — Gen. George Patton, “Patton” (1970)
7. “My name is Maximus Decimus Meridius, Commander of the Armies of the North, General of the Felix Legions, loyal servant to the true emperor, Marcus Aurelius. Father to a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife. And I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next.” — Maximus, “Gladiator” (2000)
8. “The Almighty tells me he can get me out of this mess, but he’s pretty sure you’re f–ked.” — Stephen, “Braveheart” (1997)
9. “Aim small, miss small.” — Capt. Benjamin Martin, “The Patriot” (2000)
10. “Out here, due process is a bullet!” — Col. Mike Kirby, “The Green Berets” (1968)
11. “Mandrake, do you recall what Clemenceau once said about war? … He said war was too important to be left to the generals. When he said that, 50 years ago, he might have been right. But today, war is too important to be left to politicians. They have neither the time, the training, nor the inclination for strategic thought. I can no longer sit back and allow Communist infiltration, Communist indoctrination, Communist subversion and the international Communist conspiracy to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids.” — Gen. Jack D. Ripper, “Dr. Strangelove” (1964)
12. “I feel the need . . . the need for speed.” — Lt. Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, “Top Gun” (1986)
13. “Each and every man under my command owes me one hundred Nazi scalps… And I want my scalps!” — Lt. Aldo Raine, “Inglourious Basterds” (2009)
14. “Are you quitting on me? Well, are you? Then quit, you slimy f–king walrus-looking piece of sh-t! Get the f–k off of my obstacle! Get the f–k down off of my obstacle! NOW! MOVE IT! Or I’m going to rip your balls off, so you cannot contaminate the rest of the world! I will motivate you, Private Pyle, IF IT SHORT-D–KS EVERY CANNIBAL ON THE CONGO!” — Gunnery Sgt. Hartman, “Full Metal Jacket” (1987)
15. “Ideals are peaceful. History is violent.” —Wardaddy, “Fury” (2014)
16. “I ain’t got time to bleed.” — Blain, “Predator” (1987)
17. “I could have killed ’em all, I could kill you. In town you’re the law, out here it’s me. Don’t push it. Don’t push it or I’ll give you a war you won’t believe. Let it go. Let it go.” —Rambo, “First Blood” (1982)
18. “Spartans! Ready your breakfast and eat hearty… For tonight, we dine in hell!” — King Leonidas, “300” (2006)
19. “All right, sweethearts, what are you waiting for? Breakfast in bed? Another glorious day in the Corps! A day in the Marine Corps is like a day on the farm. Every meal’s a banquet! Every paycheck a fortune! Every formation a parade! I LOVE the Corps!” — Sgt. Apone, “Aliens” (1986)
20. “You still think it’s beautiful to die for your country. The first bombardment taught us better. When it comes to dying for country, it’s better not to die at all.” — Paul Baumer, “All Quite on the Western Front” (1930)
21. “Sir, Custer was a p-ssy. You ain’t.” — Sgt. Maj. Plumley, “We Were Soldiers” (2002)
22. “Sir, I got lost on the way to college, sir.” — Anthony Swofford, “Jarhead” (2005)
23. “Remember Sully when I promised to kill you last? I lied.” — John Matrix, “Commando” (1985)
25. “Only two kinds of people are gonna stay on this beach: those that are already dead and those that are gonna die. Now get off your butts. You guys are the Fighting 29th.” — Brig. Gen. Norman Cota, “The Longest Day” (1962)
26. “F–kin’ badass, I was there. F–kin’ took him out at 400 yards, head popped up three feet in the air. Crazy shot, man.”
27. “Yes they had weapons! You think there’s a script for fighting a war without pissing somebody off? Follow the rules and nobody gets hurt? Yes, innocent people probably died. Innocent people always die but I did not exceed my orders.” — Col. Terry Childers, “Rules of Engagement” (2000)
28. “We’re Airborne. We don’t start fights, we *finish* ’em!” —Galvan, “Hamburger Hill” (1987)
29. “Lighten up, Francis.” — Sgt. Hulka, “Stripes” (1981)
30. “My name is Gunnery Sergeant Highway. I’ve drunk more beer, banged more quiff, pissed more blood, and stomped more ass than all of you numb-nuts put together.” — Gunny Highway, “Heartbreak Ridge” (1986)
31. “All I ever wanted was an honest week’s pay for an honest day’s work.” — Master Sgt. Ernie Bilko, “Sgt. Bilko”
32. “You see Danny, I can deal with the bullets, and the bombs, and the blood. I don’t want money, and I don’t want medals. What I do want is for you to stand there in that f–goty white uniform and with your Harvard mouth extend me some f–king courtesy. You gotta ask me nicely.” — Col. Nathan Jessep, “A Few Good Men” (1992)
The Civil War Marine Corps usually had just a little over 3,000 men but manned the guns at vital points in the Union war machine, helping usher in the victory.
First, in the immediate aftermath of the Articles of Secession, Marine detachments were sent to reinforce federal garrisons in seceding states, including Fort Sumter. While the Marines were unable to reach Sumter, they did reinforce Fort Pickens in Florida which, though threatened by Florida secessionists throughout the war, never fell from Union control.
Perhaps the greatest contribution of the Marines to the war effort was their manning guns on Navy ships and guarding Union positions on America’s rivers, helping ensure the success of the Anaconda Plan, which called for the Confederacy to be split in two and starved for supplies.
One of the most stunning naval battles the Marines took part in was the Battle of Hampton Roads, the first clash of iron vessels in the history of naval warfare. The Marines manned guns on the Union Navy ships USS Cumberland, USS Congress, USS Minnesota and others.
The Cumberland fought bravely against the ironside CSS Virginia, pumping cannon rounds through open portholes on the Virginia, destroying two cannons and killing 19 of the crew. But the Cumberland was eventually doomed by a ram strike from the Virginia. The USS Monitor, also an ironside, arrived and drove off the Virginia from the other wooden-hulled ships.
The next month, Marines took part in Navy Capt. David Farragut’s attack on New Orleans. On April 24, 1862, Farragut led his flotilla through a gauntlet of Confederate guns and gunships and captured the city. At one point in the naval battle, Marines stabbed Confederate sailors through the gunports on two ships jammed together and exchanging cannon fire.
Marines later stood guard as the state banner in New Orleans was cut down and the American flag raised.
The Marines under Farragut’s command distinguished themselves again when then-Vice Adm. Farragut sent his ships past Confederate torpedoes and Fort Morgan to threaten Mobil Bay, Alabama. It was in this battle, with Marines firing their muskets into enemy portholes, that Farragut uttered his famous curse, “Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!” The attack was ultimately successful.
Finally, the Marines helped close the Confederacy’s last major port through which it received supplies from blockade runners. Fort Fisher held open the port at Wilmington, North Carolina. In January 1865, a naval brigade of sailors and 400 Marines assaulted the fort under heavy fire. While their attack was easily beaten back, it served as a diversion for a second attack by the Army.
The Army was able to take the fort in large part due to the sacrifice of the Marines and sailors. The fall of Fort Fisher closed Wilmington’s port and shut down the last major supply route into the Confederacy. The surrender of Confederate units came faster after this loss of supplies and Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered the Army of Virginia at Appomatox Court House only three months later.
The Jeep was first introduced on Jul. 15, 1941. It became an icon in World War II and evolutions of the design saw combat in Korea, Vietnam, and the Persian Gulf War.
The U.S. phased the Jeep out of the arsenal starting in 1984 when it adopted the High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle, also known as the HMMWV or Humvee. But the Jeep may be headed for a comeback.
One company, Hendrick Dynamics, thinks that sounds a lot like the original Jeep and they’re submitting modified Jeep Wranglers to the competition. From Stars and Stripes:
Hendrick starts with a diesel-equipped Wrangler Rubicon, converts the electrical system to 24 volts, adds additional safety features and military-spec equipment, upgrades the suspension and brakes for higher payload capacities and modifies the vehicle so it can be transported within an aircraft cargo hold.
While Jeep, now owned by Fiat Chrysler, has been out of the defense contracting game for a long time, Hendrick Dynamics has a bit of experience modifying Wranglers for combat duty. They currently offer three versions of their “Commando” vehicle to government agencies and commercial clients.
The Commando 2, Commando 4, and Commando S are clearly aimed at light units like Airborne and Air Assault formations, the same units that are the most likely beneficiaries of the Army’s vehicle proposal.
Commandos are certified for loading on CH-47s and can be slung under UH-60 helicopters. The website advertises that the vehicles are strong enough to tow 105mm howitzers.
All three models run on JP-8, the jet fuel also used in most military vehicles, tanks, and generators. The Commando S model even has a “Mission Pallet System” that allows it to be quickly configured for carrying heavy weapons, combat engineering, route clearance, or other tasks.
If Hendrick Dynamics gets wins the Army contract, vehicles similar to the current Commando and the World War II Jeep could be the preferred ride of future warfighters.
Next-generation fighter jets, simulated aerial combat, and some of the best pilots from the US, British, and French air forces – no, this isn’t a scene from the next Hollywood blockbuster. It’s the latest combined exercise testing pilots’ ability to operate, communicate and dominate in a combat environment.
Called “Atlantic Trident,” this month-long exercise at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, focused on anti-access and aerial-denial missions, which were meant to place the US, British, and French pilots in situations that tested their limits and capabilities.
“This exercise is great because it brings our best and some of our allies best fighters together to train and learn from each other in a very challenging environment,” said Col. Pete Fesler, 1st Fighter Wing commander. “It’s also a great way to test the capabilities of these advanced aircraft.”
The advanced aircraft participating included the F-22 Raptor, the F-35 Lightning II, the Eurofighter Typhoon, and the Dassault Rafale – all of which bring a lot of capabilities to the fight. The aircraft were supported by USAF Air Combat Command E-3 Sentry airborne early warning and control aircraft and Air Mobility Command KC-10 Extender refueling aircraft.
According to Lockheed Martin, the Raptor’s unique combination of advanced stealth, supercruise, advanced maneuverability, and integrated avionics allow it to “kick down the door,” and then follow up with 24-hour stealth operations and freedom of movement for all follow-on forces – fully leveraging the Raptor’s technological advantages.
The F-35, meanwhile, is no slouch, either. The F-35 combines fifth generation fighter aircraft characteristics — advanced stealth, integrated avionics, sensor fusion and superior logistics support — with the most powerful and comprehensive integrated sensor package of any fighter aircraft in history. This means the Lightning II can collect and share battlespace data with other friendly aircraft and commanders on the ground and at sea.
“The F-35 brings an unprecedented combination of lethality, survivability, and adaptability to joint and combined operations,” said Maj. Mike Krestyn, an F-35 pilot with the 33rd Fighter Wing at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida.
Pilots of both the F-22 and F-35 refer to their jets as aerial “quarterbacks,” capable of controlling an airspace by locating, identifying and sharing the location of enemy threats within a battlespace.
Then, allied aircraft like the Typhoon and Rafale can use their advanced weaponry to eliminate these threats.
All of these advanced aircraft provide lethality never before seen in aerial combat, and their pilots training and flying together enhances tactics, ensures coalition teams are on the same page and strengthens relationships.
“The Air Force and our partners must seek opportunities to develop, expand and sustain relationships wherever possible,” said Heidi Grant, deputy under secretary of the Air Force for International Affairs. “This enables us to amplify our collective strengths and improves our ability to confront shared challenges.”
From the pilots’ viewpoint, this is also a matter of “training like we fight.”
“We won’t go to war without our allies,” said Capt. Nichole Stilwell, a T-38 pilot with the 71st Fighter Training Squadron. “So we have to train together to make sure we get the most out of our capabilities.”
The Human Element
But, none of these capabilities mean anything without one crucial component.
“People,” Fesler said. “It doesn’t matter how advanced an aircraft is if we don’t have quality people flying and fixing them.”
It’s easy to get distracted by the sleek aircraft and their state-of-the-art capabilities, but this shouldn’t take away from how important the human element still is to air operations, he added.
“There is so much more to this than simply flying an advanced jet and shooting stuff,” Fesler said. “There are people on the ground making sure these planes fly, people in support functions making sure missions happen and go smoothly, and there are people making sure pilots receive the training they need to be effective.”
So, exercises like this are really all about people – training them, developing them, testing them – and relationship building, he added.
Throughout the exercise, US, British and French pilots planned, flew and evaluated missions together, working side-by-side to develop tactics and talk about lessons learned from each day’s flights.
“This type of training is invaluable,” said Royal Air Force Wing Cmdr. Chris Hoyle, 1 (Fighter) Squadron. “It really places a premium on people and relationships, which both are very important to our success as allies.”
These bonds and friendships made at Atlantic Trident can also carry over into other operations.
“This is a great foundation for us to build on,” Hoyle said. “Some of the US or French people I’ve met, or some my guys have met, can really create great opportunities in the future. If I need something, I can pick up the phone and call … and then the relationships we started here can really pay off down the road.”
Still, as pilots of each aircraft are quick to point out, a conversation about people can’t happen without talking about maintainers.
“We simply borrow the jets for a little while, the maintainers own them,” said Krestyn. “They fix them and care for them and then they let us use them.” This sentiment is echoed by Hoyle.
“As pilots, we have the easy part,” he said. “We fly the plane, but it’s the maintainers and support personnel who make everything happen. It doesn’t matter how advanced a jet is, if no one fixes it or makes sure it’s able to take off and accomplish the mission, then it’s a useless piece of equipment.”
Sharpening the Sword
Once these advanced fighters do get in the air, testing them and their pilots is still important. This is where the adversary squadrons come in.
Made up of T-38s from Langley and F-15E Strike Eagles from Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, these “adversaries” acted as enemy combatants during the exercise to test friendly force’s air-to-air abilities.
Flying outdated, past-their-prime trainer jets against the most technologically superior fighters in the world may seem futile, but the adversary pilots have a different outlook.
“I think of it as our sword is very sharp, we just help make it sharper,” Stilwell said. “We make pilots adapt their tactics, we make them think and we try to test them as much as possible.”
At the end of the day, though, exercises like Atlantic Trident do more than give pilots time behind the stick. These exercises are providing relevant, realistic training so that when pilots do experience stressful combat situations for the first time, they are prepared.
“Air superiority is not an American birthright,” said Gen. David Goldfien, Air Force Chief of Staff. “It’s actually something you have to fight for and maintain.”
Air superiority doesn’t just mean having the most technologically sophisticated aircraft in the world. It also means having highly trained and experienced pilots to fly them.
Working together also helps each of the players learn to speak the same language – that of winning.
“Really, the goal of exercises like this is to train and learn together so that on day one of a future conflict, we dominate,” Fesler said.
Senior Veterans Health Administration (VHA) employees recently demonstrated to the public how innovations are advancing clinical care and outcomes for veterans. Innovations included a virtual reality application used as a revolutionary PTSD treatment and 3D printing used for everything from orthotics to pre-surgery procedures.
The innovations were presented at the 2nd Annual Tech Day on May 16, 2019, in Washington, DC, by Dr. Beth Ripley, Senior Innovator Fellow, and Joshua Patterson, Acting Director of Strategic Initiatives with VHA Innovation Ecosystem (IE). Tech Day is a way for federal agencies to share their cutting-edge, mission-enabling technologies with leaders, fellow federal workers, and the public.
VHA IE made a big impression with its virtual reality and 3D printing demonstrations as attendees experienced how these ever-expanding technologies are helping veterans every day.
Beth Ripley demonstrates 3D printing.
Patterson demonstrated StrongMind, VHA’s innovative PTSD treatment that offers patients therapeutic experiences that wouldn’t be possible without the use of virtual reality. By donning a virtual reality headset, attendees experienced how StrongMind works and why it’s appealing to a younger generation of veterans. They also experienced the personalized, forward-thinking care VA is delivering to veterans using innovative technology.
Ripley described how VHA’s 3D Printing Network is an integrated national effort that allows VA health care staff to share ideas and best practices, solve problems, and pool resources to improve veteran care.
These programs aren’t just on the showroom floor, however.
Veterans in the Puget Sound area have been the beneficiaries of 3D printing as VHA medical staff make model kidneys for veteran patients with renal cancer to aid in pre-surgical planning. At many other VHA facilities, veterans suffering from diabetes who lose feeling in their feet now have access to custom orthotics at the time of their visit, instead of waiting weeks to have them manufactured.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
There are lots of Fleet Weeks held around the country every year, but there’s only one New York City Fleet Week. And as Bill Murray’s character said in “Ghostbusters,” right before they flame-sprayed the Sta-Puff Marshmellow Man: “New York City knows how to take care of a sailor.”
Last night Jimmy Fallon filled his Late Night audience seats with troops from all branches, and then Adam Sandler and he serenaded them with this hilarious (and too true) version of “I’ve Got Friends in Low Places.”
In World War II, an American aircrew found itself at the mercy of a German fighter and expected to be shot out of the sky. But something else happened entirely . . .
The American aircrew takes a heavy beating
The American crew on their first mission was limping after taking heavy flak damage during a bombing run over Germany on Dec. 30, 1943. It was supposed to be just behind and beside the flight leader in its formation, but it simply couldn’t keep up with two of its four engines severely damaged. 2nd Lt. Charles Brown, the pilot, watched his formation pull slowly away.
All alone in German skies, the situation got even worse for the crew when eight German fighters appeared ahead. The B-17 downed at least one of the attackers and possibly a second, but seven more fighters approached from the rear and began another attack.
Brown doesn’t remember exactly what happened next but thinks he must have lost oxygen and passed out.
“I either spiraled or spun and came out of the spin just above the ground,” he said in an interview on Military.com. “My only conscience memory was of dodging trees but I had nightmares for years and years about dodging buildings and then trees. I think the Germans thought that we had spun in and crashed.”
One crew member was dead and Brown was wounded with three others. Thinking the Germans had left after the plane nearly crashed, he ordered the crew in the cockpit to check on the wounded and the state of the plane. In the cockpit with the co-pilot, he looked out the window and saw a German fighter on his wing, a feared Messerschmitt Bf-109.
The German Ace
Oberleutnant Franz Stigler was a skilled pilot for the Luftwaffe. On the day of the incident, he had already shot down two B-17s and would automatically earn the Knight’s Cross, Germany’s highest military honors, if he got just one more that day. He was smoking a cigarette and watching his plane be rearmed and refueled when he looked up and saw the heavily damaged American bomber fly over him. He leaped into his cockpit and flew up to get the kill.
Approaching from the rear, he lined up his shot on the tail, but was surprised to notice that the tail guns were pointed down like no one was holding them. He abstained from his shot and flew closer. What he found shocked him.
Icicles of blood were hanging from the gun barrels and the tail gunner, dead, was visible through a hole in the tail. The tail itself was nearly half gone. Pulling even with the enemy plane, he saw the rest of the plane was damaged as well. Sunlight was passing through a massive hole in the side and the whole thing was peppered from flak and cannon fire. Still unopposed, he caught up to the cockpit and saw the American pilot.
Stigler could drop back at this moment, take out the plane and become a German war hero.
But, when he was starting his career, his commanding officer had told him that he had to follow the rules of war to protect his own humanity. He told Franz that if he ever heard Franz shot at a pilot descending in a parachute, he’d kill Franz himself. Franz later said that when he saw the extreme damage to the B-17, he couldn’t fire. “… for me, it would have been the same as shooting at a parachute,” he said in a video. “I just couldn’t shoot. I just hoped that he got his wounded men home.”
There was a complication though. If Franz was caught letting an Allied plane go, he could be executed on the ground. And the planes were drawing close to German shore defenses that would spot and report him. Also, at any moment the American crew could decide to kill the threat off their wing.
After watching this for a few moments, Brown realized that this pilot could kill him at any moment. He screamed back down the plane for the top gunner to get in the turret and shoot down the German. After he gave the order he turned back to look out the window.
Franz, already worried about how close they were getting to the German shore gunners, saw the turret begin to move. He looked Brown in the eyes, saluted the American, and flew away.
They meet again
Brown would wonder for years about what happened, but it wasn’t until 1990 that he learned what had become of the German pilot who spared him.
After placing an ad in a magazine for combat pilots, Brown received a letter in reply. He called Franz with a dose of skepticism about whether it was his real savior. Franz quickly convinced him by describing all the details of the event, right down to the salute.
They answered each others questions about the event. Franz explained that he didn’t fire because of his own morals in the war, that he had been gesturing and mouthing to try and get the American to fly to Switzerland because he was convinced the plane couldn’t make it to England, and that he had finally pulled away from the bomber because he was worried about being spotted by Germans or fired on by the Americans.
Franz had always wondered if the Americans made it back alive, if sacrificing his medal and risking his life had meant anything. Brown confirmed that the crew and the plane made it to England and were able to land. The tail gunner had died in the air, but the rest of them survived.
The two became friends. Franz had moved to Canada in 1953 and Brown lived in America, so they visited each other and fished together. Both died of heart attacks in 2008.
The COVID-19 pandemic and the required restrictions led to a halt in any activity outside the home in March. On Sept. 24, Georgia’s Camp Southern Ground, a non-profit organization founded by GRAMMY Award-winning artist Zac Brown, announced it is reopening for on-site veteran programming, Warrior Week and Warrior PATHH (Progressive Alternative Training for Healing Heroes).
This year has been especially difficult for many veterans, specifically those that are experiencing mental health issues. Camp Southern Ground was focused on re-opening so they can continue to provide the services many veterans need.
“The impact this year has had on the mental health and wellbeing of our nation’s veterans cannot be understated,” Camp Southern Ground said in a statement on its website.
Camp Southern Ground’s CEO Mike Dobbs shared in a press release that the camp “remained connected with our veterans through virtual programming, but we know the importance of building community and support face-to-face.” Camp Southern Ground’s motto is “where goodness grows” and that is their mission. The goal of their veteran programming is to provide and build supportive networks for transitioning post-9/11 veterans.
About Camp Southern Ground
Warrior Week is a 12-month workforce and wellness program that begins with six days at camp. The camp week focuses on identifying strengths through team-building exercises, training sessions with world-class instructors about Clifton Strengths (90% Fortune 500 Companies use this, read: marketable assessment) and Enneagram assessments that prepare the attendees for the transition from military life. Team efforts of shared meals, ropes exercises and other events help build the veteran community outside of their immediate units in the military. The goal of the program is to help transitioning veterans build an action plan for their life after service after determining their strengths and purpose for their life to transform what they do as a career but also personally.
One veteran’s testimony shared “This program provided me what I needed to understand what my experiences, feelings, and reactions are. Now I am aware of my strengths and know how to capitalize on these strengths to help me focus on my career and wellbeing. I know now what I need to do moving forward. I cannot say thank you enough for helping navigate out of the fog.”