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Headlines

Writing a great headline is hard. Here’s how to do it.

In the digital age, writing a headline is extremely important. There are so many places out there on the web competing for people’s attention and WATM is not just competing with Military Times or Military.com, or other military-related websites. It is competing with the entire web — whatever is in the user’s Facebook news feed — for attention. A good headline grabs someone. Not only that, it should immediately get an emotional reaction. In hardly any instance is it wise to save the important part for the story, and do a straight, boring, newspaper headline. The headline is what makes a person click through to read. Put simply, if they are not interested in the headline, they aren’t going to even give you the opportunity to show them why it’s a cool story. You already lost them.


First, some formatting notes that are important:

  • Headlines should be in sentence case.
    • This is a properly-formatted headline
    • This is Not a Properly-Formatted Headline
  • Avoid swears in the headline unless absolutely necessary. There may be times when this would work, so they are not absolutely forbidden. But avoid them if you can.

Constructing a great headline

What is a great headline? This varies from person to person, but a headline should be informative and interesting, without lying to the reader. Headlines are much more important nowadays.

Your goal is to post good content and get people to view it without resorting to unfair tricks. This isn’t a magazine, where people will read whatever is on the page. It is a ruthlessly competitive environment, where people are choosing between dozens of stories on our page, hundreds of stories on twitter, and infinite stories on the Internet.

People will only click news if they understand its significance, so focus on significance when necessary to reach a wider audience. When news becomes old, which happens fast on the Internet, then further coverage of a story should focus on compelling analysis, exciting details, or other added value. Compelling analysis and exciting concepts can also be good without a news hook.

Rhetorical techniques can help increase clicks but should not be overused. Obfuscation can create intrigue and works well when a headline reads naturally and conveys some information already, but it can be annoying if too teasing. Dramatic language can heighten interest, but it backfires when overused or overstated.

Now instead of writing on and on about how to create a headline, let’s look at some examples that did well and work backwards. Here’s the headline:

11 Things New Soldiers Complain About During Basic Training

This is a great headline because it tells the reader exactly what they are going to get without overselling it. It doesn’t need to be “Incredible Things” or “Awesome Things.” It’s enough as it is, and the subject is interesting while being a little teasing. What are these things? Let’s definitely click and see what they are.

Soldiers want to click this headline to see if their complaint is in it, and civilians want to click it to get a view into the world of a soldier. It’s a great headline (and a great post).

27 Incredible Photos Of Life On A US Navy Submarine

Another example of an interesting premise that both sides want to read about: sailors and civilian. This headline promises something you don’t normally get to see. Not only are you going to check out life on a Navy submarine, but it’ll include incredible photos.

7 Key Military Life Hacks That Matter In Civilian Life

This headline uses the term “life hacks” which everyone knows with a military spin on it. What can we learn from the military and really use? There is a promise give the reader something new they can learn.

Headline analyzer

CoSchedule, a website publishing app, made a tool that helps compose headlines. Although it’s not perfect, feel free to use it as a guide.

Visit the headline analyzer

Key takeways:

  1. Start with a solid premise that is accessible to a large audience
  2. Make the point in the headline. Don’t save it for the story.
  3. Use as few words as possible. Always shoot for brevity.

Here is a look at our best posts over the past few months. Check out the headlines for ideas:

Headlines

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This is why Iran is smuggling boatloads of weapons into Yemen

The top US admiral in the Middle East said on Sept. 18 that Iran continues to smuggle illicit weapons and technology into Yemen, stoking the civil strife there and enabling Iranian-backed rebels to fire missiles into neighboring Saudi Arabia that are more precise and far-reaching.


Iran has been repeatedly accused of providing arms helping to fuel one side of the war in Yemen, in which rebels from the country’s north, Al Houthis, ousted the government from the capital of Sana’a in 2014.

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The Yemeni capital of Sana’a. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

The officer, Vice Admiral Kevin M. Donegan, said that Iran is sustaining Al Houthis with an increasingly potent arsenal of anti-ship and ballistic missiles, deadly sea mines, and even explosive boats that have attacked allied ships in the Red Sea or Saudi territory across Yemen’s northern border. The US, the Yemeni government and their allies in the region have retaliated with strikes of their own and recaptured some Al Houthi-held coastal areas to help blunt threats to international shipping, but the peril persists, the admiral said.

“These types of weapons did not exist in Yemen before the conflict,” said Donegan. “It’s not rocket science to conclude that Al Houthwis are getting not only these systems but likely training and advice and assistance in how to use them.”

Donegan gave his assessment in an hour-long telephone interview from his 5th Fleet headquarters in Bahrain as he prepared to conclude his two-year tour, and take a new assignment at the Pentagon.

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His Majesty, King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, the King of the Kingdom of Bahrain, with Vice Adm. Kevin M. Donegan (right). Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kevin Steinberg.

In the wide-ranging interview, Donegan said that the bitter rift between Qatar and many of its Gulf neighbors, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, who accuse Qatar of financing militants and having overly cozy relations with Iran, has not yet hindered coalition efforts to battle terrorism, piracy, or other mutual maritime scourges. Donegan’s most pointed accusations focused on suspected Iranian assistance to Al Houthi rebels. The US and other Western governments have provided vast quantities of weapons, and other forms of military support, to the embattled Yemeni government and its allies in a coalition led by Saudi Arabia, contributing to violence that the UN says has caused more than 10,000 civilian casualties.

The admiral’s charges appear supported, at least in part, by findings in a report late last year by Conflict Armament Research, a private arms consultancy. The report concluded that the available evidence pointed to an apparent “weapon pipeline, extending from Iran to Somalia and Yemen, which involves the transfer, by dhow, of significant quantities of Iranian-manufactured weapons and weapons that plausibly derive from Iranian stockpiles.”

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A cache of weapons seized from a stateless dhow which was intercepted on March 28, 2016. The United States assessed that the cache originated in Iran and was likely bound for Houthi insurgents in Yemen. US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Darby C. Dillon.

For years, Iran has been under a series of international sanctions prohibiting it from exporting arms. The US has frequently claimed that Tehran has violated the sanctions in support of proxy forces in many conflicts, including in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and the Palestinian territories.

Between September 2015 through March 2016, allied warships interdicted four Iranian dhows that yielded, in total, more than 80 anti-tank guided missiles and 5,000 Kalashnikov rifles as well as sniper rifles, machine guns and almost 300 rocket-propelled grenade launchers, according to data provided by the US Navy.

Donegan said that while there have been no seizures since, he said he suspects Iran’s hand in Al Houthis’ apparent ability to replenish and improve their arms stockpiles. “It is not something that was a one-time deal and stopped,” Donegan said. “It appears to be progressive.”

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7 epic ways you can troll your commo shop

Messing around with your fellow Joes is always good fun. It’s a lighthearted way of letting them know that they’re “one of the guys.” After all, if you didn’t care about someone, you wouldn’t mess with them — right?


Every unit has a communications (commo/comms) person. Oftentimes, the guy spending his time in the commo shop (S-6) gets a little lonely, toiling away at fixing the internet or the Commander’s computer. What better way is there to let them know that they’re a part of the team than by messing with them from time to time?

Doing any of the things on this list should come from a place of mutual friendship. Don’t do anything that would get you UCMJed, impede the mission, or cost you your military bearing. Basically, don’t be a dick about it.

Related: 9 epic ways you can troll your radio guy

7. Call them ‘nerds’

Enlisting in the Army as a computer guy is one of the least ‘grunt’ things you can do. Chances are, they’re well aware of how ‘POG-y’ they really are and will brush it off.

If you really want to push their buttons, just slyly refer to them as ‘nerds’ in conversation. They’ll try to deny it, but we know. We all know.

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Anyone want to try and guess their MOS? (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Manuel A. Estrada)

6. Say, “but I tried turning it off and back on again!”

A good computer guy will know the ins and outs of how to fix the problem. But as everyone in the military knows, being in a position doesn’t always mean they’re qualified for the task.

An easy solution that many of the younger, more inexperienced computer guys will default to is called a “power cycle,” which is literally just turning it off and back on again.

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5. Give them a dumb but effective password

Say something like, “one two, three fours, five sixes, and seven.” When typed out, it should look something like, ‘244466666seVEN!’

Technically, it meets all DoD guidelines — with the added benefit of the commo guy looking at you funny.

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It’s not like our admin passwords are that much more difficult, though. (Photo by Timothy Shannon)

4. Ask if that red cable you snipped was important

The red cable is “SIPR Net,” or “Secret Internet Protocol Router Network.” It’s used for much of the highly-classified communication that needs to remain secure and separate from everything else you’d normally do on the internet.

The commo shop is supposed to be the custodian of the secret internet. Sometimes, they need a little reminder that its security is important.

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That, or they just ran out of every other color cable. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Renae Pittman)

3. Tell them to fix their loose cables

Ever see someone spend way too long to get whatever they’re setting up juuuuust right? That’s how the S-6 is when it comes to arranging the internet stacks.

After they spend hours working on making it beautiful, tell them it’s slightly off. If their cables actually look jacked up, tell them they fail as a commo guy.

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Hours upon hours of work. And if it’s not color-coded, it’s time to start over again. (Photo by Sgt. Frank O’Brien)

2. Ask if they can get it done faster

It may not seem like it, but there’s a method to the madness. If the problem can be solved at the lowest level, they’ll do it. If the problem is too big to handle, they’ll try anyway.

But a third of the time, the issue is locked behind higher level administrator rights than their shop can access. Now, everyone is working on the civilian contractor’s time. When the commo shop can’t do anything about it, make sure to remind them to go faster.

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The work order is put in — no need to remind us every few months about getting it back… (Image by Headquarters, 4th Infantry Division Public Affairs)

1. Fake-spoil some nerdy TV show or movie

Remember a few points ago when I said they hate being called nerds? Drive that knife in deeper by fake-ruining something they like.

Don’t be that asshole who actually ruins the movie (or do. I don’t care and you’re an adult), but if the film just came out and you know they haven’t seen it yet, make up some random crap just to mess with them. If they’ve already seen it, they’ll get that you’re messing with them, but if they haven’t, it’ll throw off their entire day until they realize you’re full of sh*t.

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Just watch out for the small, squirrely bastards… Unless you can take them. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Lance Pounds)

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Vietnam POWs remember the code that became their lifeline


 

Questions consumed Capt. Carlyle S. “Smitty” Harris’ mind in the early days of his eight years as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam.

Harris’ thoughts focused mostly on his pregnant wife and two children back home near Kadena Air Force Base in Okinawa, Japan. Harris also wondered how the POWs could maintain any semblance of leadership and morale without a way to communicate with each other.

For eight long years of captivity, the questions lingered and gnawed at his mind.

Within five months after he’d joined the 67th Tactical Fighter Squadron in Thailand, Harris launched his second F-105 Thunderchief mission on Thanh Hoa Bridge April 4, 1965. After Harris hit his target, his F-105 was hit by anti-aircraft fire, and he was forced to eject. About 20 people from a nearby village immediately captured the pilot, and he was quickly surrounded by almost 50 villagers armed with hoes, shovels and rifles. Just as he was about to be shot, an elderly man stepped in because of the government’s orders to capture American pilots alive. Harris remained in captivity for 2,871 days, much of it at the Hoa Lo Prison, which POWs nicknamed the Hanoi Hilton.

After Louise Harris learned her husband was missing, she remained at their home in Okinawa with their two young daughters, Robin and Carolyn, until after their son Lyle was born. Six weeks after Lyle’s birth, she took her family to Tupelo, Mississippi, where her sister lived. Even before she received her first letter from her husband from Vietnam, Louise believed he was alive and made certain the children kept the faith, too. As Lyle grew older, he’d tell his mother, “There goes Daddy,” when an airplane flew overhead.

Shortly after his capture, Harris was placed in a cell in the Hoa Lo Prison, also known as the “Hanoi Hilton,”with four other POWs, and, at that time, he remembered a conversation with an instructor at his survival school training. The instructor had told him about a tap code Royal Air Force POWs used during World War II, and Harris taught the other four POWs the code. Their captors put them back in solitary confinement a few days later, but that only helped them spread the code throughout the seven-cell area, and ultimately, to POWs throughout North Vietnam.

“As we were moved to other camps away from Hanoi, someone always took the tap code with them and was able to pass it on,” said Harris, who retired from the Air Force as a colonel in 1979 and spent the next 18 years working in business, law and marketing in Mississippi. “So no matter where you went in the POW system in North Vietnam, if you heard a tap, the guy on the other side of the wall would respond with two knocks in return, and you’ve started the communication process.”

At the Hanoi Hilton and other POW camps in Vietnam, the tap code was not only a means to communicate with each other, but it also became a lifeline. In the code, the alphabet was arranged on a grid of five rows and five columns without the letter K, which was substituted with C. The first set of taps indicated which row the letter was on, and the second represented the column. So one tap followed by another tap meant the letter A, and a tap followed by two taps indicated B.

As soon as a POW returned from interrogation, he would begin tapping the wall to communicate what happened. When a prisoner returned from a particularly brutal interrogation, as soon as the guard turned the key and left the block, he’d hear a series of taps that communicated three letters: G, B and U for “God bless you.”

When Harris was being interrogated, for strength to resist demands for information, he thought back to his squadron commander in the 67th TS, Lt. Col. James R. Risner.

“While I was being interrogated the first couple of weeks, when it was pretty darned intense, I thought so much about Robbie Risner,” Harris said. “Mentally, I put Robbie Risner on a stool right beside me. It was my greatest effort to not do or say anything that he would not approve of. That really helped me.”

Risner was later captured, and confirmed the birth of Harris’ son after another POW first relayed the news through the tap code.

As the U.S. began its withdrawal from Vietnam, almost 600 POWs returned home in 1973, and Harris was finally released on Feb. 12. As he looked forward to his reunion with his family at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, one question remained in his mind: the reception with his children after eight years of captivity, especially the 8-year-old son he’d never met.

When Harris stepped into the quarters where his family was waiting, Robin and Carolyn squealed and ran to his arms. “Oh, thank you, Lord,” he said, “they haven’t forgotten.” But when he saw Lyle for the first time, his son didn’t hug him back. However, about a half-hour later, as his father opened his arms, Lyle ran across the room and fell into his embrace.

After eight years, Harris had the answers to all of his questions.

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Here are the best military photos of the week of Jan. 7

The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:


AIR FORCE:

U.S. Air Force Capt. Raymond Whisenhunt, 379th Air Expeditionary Wing chief of protocol, tumbles to the ground as a military working dog locks onto the bite suit he is wearing at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, Dec. 30, 2016. MWD’s are highly motivated canines utilized for patrol, drug and explosive detection, and other specialized mission functions.

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U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Cynthia A. Innocenti

An F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot assigned to the 134th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron performs preflight checks at the 407th Air Expeditionary Group, Dec. 29, 2016. The 134th EFS is flying combat missions for Operation Inherent Resolve to support and enable Iraqi Security Forces’ efforts with the unique capabilities provided by the fighter squadron.

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U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Benjamin Wilson

ARMY:

Nevada National Guard soldiers patrol the Las Vegas Strip last night as part of Operation Night Watch, an annual law enforcement mission supporting the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department during the annual New Year’s Eve celebration.

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U.S. Army photo

U.S. Army U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, United States Air Force and U.S. Coast Guard Service members conduct an Armed Forces Full Honor Farewell Ceremony for for the departing commander-in-chief, President Barack Obama at Comny Hall on Joint Base Myer – Henderson Hall, Va., Jan. 4, 2016.

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U.S. Army Photo by Pvt. Gabriel A. Silva

NAVY:

NORFOLK (Dec. 30, 2016) Sailors man the rails aboard the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) as it returns to homeport. Dwight D. Eisenhower and its carrier strike group conducted a 7-month deployment to the U.S. 5th and 6th Fleet areas of operation in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts.

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U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Cole Keller

VENICE, Italy (Jan. 3, 2017) Sailors man the helm aboard the guided missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) as it departs Venice, Italy. Porter, forward-deployed to Rota, Spain, is conducting naval operations in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe.

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U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Ford Williams

MARINE CORPS:

Marines with Alpha Battery, Battalion Landing Team 1st Bn., 4th Marines, conduct an M777 Howitzer live-fire night fire mission during Exercise Alligator Dagger, Dec. 18. This nightscape was taken as a single, long exposure photograph. The chaos of different colored lights are red-lensed headlamps worn by the artillery Marines moving and operating the different gun positions around the M777. The unilateral exercise provides an opportunity for the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group and 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) to train in amphibious operations within the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations.

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U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Zachery C. Laning

Marines with Tank Platoon, Battalion Landing Team 1st Bn., 4th Marines, 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, conduct tank maintenance during Exercise Alligator Dagger, Dec. 8, 2016. Maintenance checks are done around the clock to ensure equipment is operating safely and efficiently and to ensure the safe conduct of training. The unilateral exercise provides an opportunity for the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group and 11th MEU to train in amphibious operations within the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations. The 11th MEU is currently supporting the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operation’s mission to promote and maintain stability and security in the region.

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U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Lance Cpl. Zachery C. Laning

COAST GUARD:

Two kayakers recover from the seas and weather aboard a Coast Guard Station Maui 45-foot Response Boat-Medium Dec. 15, 2016. Coast Guard crews responded to a call for assistance from the kayakers when they were beset by weather off Maui.

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U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Linda Bashqoy

Members of the Coast Guard Ceremonial Honor Guard stand at parade rest during the Pearl Harbor Remembrance ceremony on Coast Guard cutter Taney in Baltimore Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016. This year marks the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

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U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Jasmine Mieszala

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Forward Air Controllers in Vietnam

Forward Air Controllers or FACs choreographed this skies over the battlefield in Vietnam. They courageously flew low, slow and unarmed over enemy territory in small, propeller driven aircraft like the Cessna 0-1 Bird Dog and 0-2 Skymaster. The FACs were experts at spotting an evasive, well camouflaged enemy and they often braved a battery of enemy ground fire to target the opposing force.  In this episode, Forward Air Controllers William Platt and Bill Townsley tell their dramatic stories, In Their Own Words. 

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US military to ground CH-53 helicopters after accident in Okinawa

The US forces in Japan will ground all CH-53E helicopters to confirm their safety after the same type of chopper crash-landed near a US military training area in Okinawa on Oct. 11, Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said.


The minister said that Maj. Gen. Charles Chiarotti, deputy commander of US Forces Japan, told him of the decision during their talks in Tokyo on Oct. 12. An official of the Defense Ministry’s local bureau, meanwhile, said the accident site was found to have been about 300 meters away from residential houses.

The Japanese and US governments apparently decided to act quickly to address local concerns in a bid to minimize any repercussions from the incident with a general election in Japan slated for Oct. 22.

The US Marine Corps in Japan separately announced a four-day operational halt for the CH-53E transport helicopters stationed in Okinawa. The southern island prefecture hosts the bulk of US military facilities in Japan.

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A CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter inserts components of the Improved Ribbon Bridge into the water in the Central Training Area, Okinawa, Japan. USMC photo by Cpl. Drew Tech.

In the Oct. 11 accident, the helicopter caught fire in midair during a training flight and burst into flames as it made an emergency landing near the US Northern Training Area on the main island of Okinawa. None of its seven crew members or local residents were hurt.

The US Naval Safety Center has rated the accident as a most serious “Class A” mishap, saying that a fire broke out in one of the aircraft’s engines, forcing it to make an emergency landing.

Okinawa Gov. Takeshi Onaga expressed his dismay over the incident as he visited the site in the village of Higashi, saying, “I felt disconcerted at seeing the sudden change from ordinary life to this horrible situation. I feel sad.”

In Tokyo, Onodera told Chiarotti the accident was “deplorable” and had caused “considerable anxiety among the residents living nearby and other people in the prefecture.”

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US Marines with Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 369 (HMLA-369), 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, exits a CH-53E Super Stallion. USMC photo by Lance Cpl. Clare J. Shaffer.

The minister also urged the United States to clarify the cause of the accident, provide detailed information, and take thorough safety measures, noting that the crashed aircraft is a variant of the one that crashed in 2004 at a university in Ginowan City in Okinawa.

Chiarotti told Onodera that the helicopter made the emergency landing after smoke, apparently from the engine fire, made its way inside. The aircraft headed to an area where there were no houses, he added.

He also said the US military is aware of the concerns of local people and will consider measures to prevent such incidents.

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Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Okinawa. Wikimedia Commons photo by Sonata.

The CH-53E helicopter belongs to Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Okinawa. Its crash-landing is the latest in a string of accidents involving US aircraft in Okinawa, including the Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft.

People in Okinawa have long been frustrated with noise, crimes and accidents connected to US bases.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe ordered the Defense Ministry and the Self-Defense Forces to use their expertise in looking into the cause of the incident rather than solely relying on US investigations, a senior government official said.

Local police dispatched officers and cordoned off the accident site, investigating the case as a possible violation of a Japanese law on endangering aviation.

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The crashed CH-53. Photo from Kyodo News+ via NewsEdge.

But it remains unknown whether Japanese authorities can probe the cause as they do not have the power to search or seize US military assets without consent under the Japan-US status of forces agreement.

The Okinawa prefectural government said it had tried to conduct some environmental tests Wednesday night at the accident site, suspecting the helicopter may have been equipped with a safety device that contained a low-level radioactive isotope, but its officials were denied entry by the US military.

The CH-53E is a large transport helicopter used by US Marines. It has three engines and can carry up to 55 personnel.

The Northern Training Area, straddling the villages of Higashi and Kunigami, has helipads that are also used by the Osprey aircraft and some of them are located close to residential areas.

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Flying Tigers & Silver Streaks

This Episode tells the tale of two American pilots of World War II. One, R.T. Smith, was a fighter ace in Burma flying P-40s with the legendary Flying Tigers.  He recorded 9 confirmed victories, aiding the Chinese in their conflict with Japan. The other, Al Freiburger, was a bomber pilot in Europe flying B-26 Marauders with his unit, the Silver Streaks. He logged numerous missions in the twin engine, medium bomber including key bombing runs on D-Day. Both men were engaging characters with very unique and dramatic war time experiences.  

 

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Bob Hoover Legendary Pilot – Part 2

Bob Hoover learned to fly as a teenager in Tennessee, flew over 50 combat missions in World War Two and went on to become a legendary test pilot.  Hoover was Chuck Yeager’s backup pilot in the Bell X-1 program and flew the chase plane when Yeager first broke the sound barrier. In 1950 he joined North American Aviation as an experimental test pilot, an association that would last 36 years.  This Episode is Part 2 of the remarkable story of Bob Hoover, one of the history’s greatest pilots.

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The 5 biggest stories in the military world right now (June 29)

Good morning! Here’s what’s happening around the national security space:


NOW CHECK OUT: 5 mind-blowing facts about the US Military

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The best kept secret of the Super Bowl

The Super Bowl is so many things. All the football, merch, traditions and fanfare … and all the money in the land to attend.

But turns out, one of the very best parts of the Super Bowl is absolutely free.

The USAA Salute to Service Lounge is colocated with the NFL Experience, but unlike the Experience which requires purchasing a day pass, the Salute to Service Lounge is open to anyone with a valid military ID.


Of course lounge-goers love all the free drinks and chips, the swanky leather furniture and the sweet set up, but more than anything, the candid conversations with NFL superstars was second to none.

This year’s lineup was absolutely incredible. Players sat down for a one-on-one interview with lounge host Dave Farra and then the audience had the opportunity to ask questions, followed by a chance to get an autograph and chat with the individual players.

This year’s lineup:


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WATM and Roger Staubach

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Legendary Dallas Cowboys QB and Navy QB Roger Staubach

Tessa caught up with legendary Cowboys football player and Vietnam Veteran Roger Staubach to hear about his ongoing relationship with the military…

WATM and Deshaun Watson

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Houston Texans QB Deshaun Watson

Listen as Tessa interviews Houston Texans QB Deshaun Watson about growing up in a Habitat for Humanity house, the importance of paying it forward and the…

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Christian McCaffrey at the USAA Salute To Service Lounge at the Super Bowl LIV NFL Experience.

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Carolina Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey

Arguably the best running back in the NFL, Christian McCaffrey talks with Tessa about his Super Bowl pick, his love for the military and his harmonica.

Steelers running back James Conner at the USAA Salute To Service Lounge at the Super Bowl LIV NFL Experience.

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Pittsburgh Steelers RB James Conner

Tessa catches up with Pittsburgh Steelers’ James Conner to talk about his brother’s military service, his Super Bowl prediction and his unbelievable…

Also joining the Salute to Service Lounge was Tennessee Titans QB Ryan Tannehill and Washington Redskins Coach Ron Rivera. Next year, join USAA at the Super Bowl in Tampa and don’t miss this once in a lifetime experience.

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Brain surgery to bear hugs: One wounded warrior’s story

Born with a birth defect causing seizures, battling anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, and facing divorce and separation from a child can be a lot for anyone to handle, but with a community of support, things can get better.

For retired Air Force Capt. Rob Hufford, no statement could ring truer. From an all-time low to bear-hugging England’s Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, while in Australia to compete in the Invictus Games, things are looking up for Hufford.

“I researched the effect of lingering hugs,” Hufford said. “Psychotherapist Virginia Satir said four hugs a day for maintenance, eight hugs a day for survival, and 12 hugs a day for growth.”


After graduating the Air Force Academy in 2006, Hufford became a civil engineering officer and, over the next nine years, was stationed in four locations and deployed to Iraq twice.

It was during this time that Hufford’s life seemed to fall apart and things began to spiral. He reached the limit on the medicine he could take for his condition, which was a good and bad thing.

The drugs were causing anxiety and anger, but without them, his physical activity was limited until surgery. His outlook became bleak.

In January of 2013, he had a temporal lobectomy to remove a piece of his brain.

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Retired Capt. Lawrence “Rob” Hufford yells triumphantly after lifting 418 pounds, setting a personal best in the heavyweight category of power-lifting at the 2018 Invictus Games.

“It was about the size of a tube of Chapstick,” Hufford said.

In 2015, the secretary of the Air Force decided that he should be medically retired. In 2016, his marriage fell apart and he became geographically separated from his son.

Keeping a positive attitude while coping with everything was a constant struggle.

His lifeline came in the form of friend, Dana Lyon, Air Force Academy javelin and strength conditioning coach. She had noticed that Hufford was a shell of what he once was and pushed him to become involved with the Air Force Wounded Warrior program.

In June of 2017, he attended Offutt Air Force Base’s AFW2 Caregivers, Adaptive Sports, Resiliency, Empowerment and Transition event. Hufford was able to share his stories with others who were suffering and got to know himself better.

“I could finally see the effects that denial issues and my illnesses had had on my relationships with other people,” Hufford said. “It was a turning point in my life.”

It was also during the CARE event that he heard about the Warrior Games. He applied for the winter trials at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, and was one of 40 selectees and 10 alternates to participate in the games at the Air Force Academy.

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Team Air Force athlete Capt. Rob Hufford looks at the scoreboard after competing in the rowing competition during the Department of Defense Warrior Games at the U.S. Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, Colorado, June 9, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force Photo by Tech Sgt. Anthony Nelson Jr.)

The next thing he knew, he was invited to participate in the Invictus Games in Sydney, Australia. The event, created by Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, in 2014, was inspired by the Warrior Games created by the U.S. Department of Defense in 2010.

Hufford said he was honored to see Prince Harry during the sailing event. He called out to the prince to inform him that he could expect to receive a hug when he met him again.The Duke decided that there was no better time than the present and accommodated him with a big bear hug.

As Hufford continues to compete in Wounded Warrior programs, he has also made an effort to pay it forward. He works with Omaha organizations that help to identify what he calls “invisibly wounded” individuals throughout the community.

His efforts don’t go unnoticed.

“Rob is always the person there supporting everyone else regardless of what he is going through,” said Marsha Gonzales, Warrior Care Support branch chief.

Impressed by his attitude, Gonzales assisted Hufford in returning to Air Force employment.

He is currently the lead engineer for the upcoming Offutt AFB runway restoration project and the Omaha Lincoln Airfields due to kick off in 2019.

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

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