How Well Do You Speak Fighter Pilot? - We Are The Mighty
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How Well Do You Speak Fighter Pilot?

You can’t launch if you don’t know the lingo. Every branch of the military has a language of its own, but pilots have their own dialect.

Take this quiz and see if you’re ready to strap on your oxygen mask and talk to your wingman. Like a true pilot.


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Using your military communication skills in the home

This post is sponsored by the UCLA/VA Veteran Family Wellness Center (VFWC).

When you consider your family as a unit, you put its well-being before everything else, including yourself. After almost 8 years of marriage to my veteran, there are times I’ve had to dig deep into my well of patience. When my partner just said something so incredibly pig-headed that I, an angel, am left wondering what bloated, booger-eating alien just inhabited his brain and made his mouth move, I have to stop, take a breath, and remind myself that we are a unit. Is being right the most important thing in this moment? Is what I’m about to say or do going to serve the strength of the unit, or am I going to spin my wheels trying to outmaneuver my husband in an argument?

Despite what you might think, leaning back on things I’ve learned from the military lifestyle is what helps us keep comms open and clear.


We don’t argue much these days, which I attribute to years of practicing a combination of honoring our commitment to love and respect each other and using direct communication to problem solve together. Through our time in the military, he, the active duty service member, and I, the spouse, have developed the skills to say what we mean and let the rest fall away. Neither of us are much for jabbering, but there’s additional value in speaking directly that is hugely beneficial to a partnership. There is a purpose, a kernel of truth, to every message. The more you can make that purpose known, the less work the receiver has of deciphering the message.

Imagine a JTAC calling in for close air support from the F-16 in the sky with, “Hey, um, it would be super boring if you went south tonight — so maybe head west, if that’s cool. I was thinking this building we’ve confirmed for housing arms for I.S. was super ugly and could use some redecorating — like, with it and everything inside of it being on fire. It should be empty of people around 1930 zulu, unless Game of Thrones is on and you want to watch that instead… so if you felt like buzzing by and dropping a bomb that could be fun.”

How Well Do You Speak Fighter Pilot?
Providing communications for Balikatan

U.S. Marines

Speaking passively with suggestions for what could be done, rather than what needs to be done, leaves a lot of room for error. It requires that the receiver, the F-16 pilot, cross a field of uncertainty to reach the intended point of the communicator, the JTAC. What if the pilot interpreted the message any other way? Turns out Game of Thrones is on at that time and she does want to see what happens to Tyrion Lannister. And why not? The JTAC said it was okay, and that building will still be there tomorrow. She can bomb it then.

There’s a reason military communication follows a formula. It gives the communicator tools to say in shorthand directly and with clarity what needs to happen. When there is a goal, every element of the message should inform as to what that goal is. In other words a successful message is objective-oriented, which is another skill we practice at home.

I am a quality time person. Gifts are nice and compliments are sweet, but I really feel loved by my husband when we spend time together. When we are hanging out and I have his attention, I feel fulfilled, deserving, and lucky in love. And then there are spells when that well runs dry. If he’s busy at work for a long amount of time, then comes home and gets on his phone to read Group Me texts from his coworkers, I start to grumble. I know more than a few times I’ve looked over at his phone, huffed, and said, “You spend 9 hours a day with those guys. Don’t you talk to them enough?” And twice a week he goes to rugby practice, often with games on Saturdays. It can be easy for me to say, “You sure play rugby a lot” to which he would probably say “…yeah.” (Fair. Was there a question asked? Nope.)

These brief conversations are tense and a perfect example of missed communication. He’s not getting what I’m saying, but he can tell I’m irritated, which in turn makes him irritated. If I were to try a direct approach, this would play out differently. What’s my goal? To have his attention and feel loved. With an objective-oriented approach in mind, I would say, without attitude, “Hey, I haven’t seen a lot of you lately and miss you. It would mean a lot to me if we can spend some time together.” I would have his attention in a second! He would put his phone down and hear me, and probably tell me about his day.

How Well Do You Speak Fighter Pilot?

U.S. Coast Guard

I know this because we’ve had this conversation many times, and after years of practicing this kind of direct communication at home, he’s developed a radar on his own for opportunities when we can spend time together. This way, he still goes to rugby practice, but maybe the next night we go get a cappuccino and do a crossword puzzle. He gets to know I still crave him and he surprises me in ways to show me he cares. We eliminate the confusion of wondering why the other person is a jerk who just doesn’t get it. I’m happy. He’s happy. Win-win.

BONUS: In a more literal sense of using military communication, we just taught ourselves Morse code. Last month, we went to the symphony and during Beethoven’s String Quartet in C Minor, started tapping dirty words on each other’s palm to try to make the other person laugh. There’s always that.

This post is sponsored by the UCLA/VA Veteran Family Wellness Center (VFWC). If you are in the Los Angeles area, you can request a free Lyft ride to take advantage of their benefits for veteran families.

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Armored Warfare in World War Two

D-Day was only the beginning.  The Allied assault on June 6th, 1944 launched a bloody offensive that wouldn’t end until Hitler’s Reich lay in ruins.  

The battlefields are forever etched in the memories of the men who were there… the hedgerows of Normandy, to the breakthrough at St. Lo, The Battle of the Bulge, and the capture of Berlin.  In this episode, veterans of the 3rd Armored Division, Belton Cooper and Bertrand Close, transport us to the Race Across Europe in World War Two.

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4 keys to achieving your goals from history’s great minds

Every single one of us has potential, but sometimes we suck at life.

Have you ever set a goal for yourself and an hour later talked yourself out of it? Or, tried to break a bad habit and fell back into it after uttering the words, “I can’t”? Or, quietly gave up on a passion project because you weren’t disciplined enough to see it through?

At times, we can be our own worst enemy when it comes to achieving goals. It’s hardly ever a spouse, coach or boss standing in our way; typically it’s the person we face each day in the mirror.


Steven Pressfield has named this internal force that keeps us from reaching our full potential Resistance. He writes, “The more important a call or action is to our soul’s evolution, the more resistance we will feel toward pursuing it.”

History is filled with individuals who overcame their own resistance to discover, to create, and to invent. Their examples can help us overcome our fight against resistance and achieve our goals, quit our bad habits and see our passion projects through to completion.

How Well Do You Speak Fighter Pilot?

Hernan Cortes – Burn your ships

In 1519, Hernan Cortes led an expedition from Cuba to explore and secure the interior of Mexico for colonization. Once coming ashore, his men were divided on what to do next. Some wanted to return to Cuba; others wanted to move forward. Infighting broke out among the factions. He had to focus his men, so he destroyed his ships. Returning to Cuba was now out of the question, so they set their sights on their mission and went on to defeat the Aztecs and conquer Mexico.

Sometimes, to accomplish our goals we need to burn the ships and move out. We need to make a rash decision and force ourselves to live with the consequences. This could be done by closing a professional door, making that purchase we’ve been wrestling with, or signing up for the course we’ve been putting off.

How Well Do You Speak Fighter Pilot?

Victor Hugo – Lock your clothes away

In late 1830, Victor Hugo had a problem. He promised his publisher a book by February, but he hadn’t even started it yet. So, he had his servant lock all of his formal clothes in a trunk, leaving him with nothing but his pajamas. It worked. In January he finished his novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame ahead of schedule.

Hugo locked himself into what psychologists call a commitment device. This is a term used to describe the extra step we take to protect ourselves from breaking our commitment. Hugo couldn’t get his clothes back until he finished his manuscript. Other examples include deleting social media apps from our phone so we will be less likely to pick it up every five minutes. Or setting a punishment if you fail to complete your project; this could be giving away money or doing 1000 burpees if you don’t reach the milestones you’ve set for yourself.
How Well Do You Speak Fighter Pilot?

Thomas Edison – Make an announcement

Thomas Edison was a great inventor. He received 1093 patents, more than any single person in U.S. history. But, he also recognized that he could procrastinate on projects. So, he would talk about how great his idea was to a journalist. In doing so, his ideas started generating publicity. Once people started talking about it, Edison had to complete it; otherwise he would be ridiculed.

When we put our pride or reputation on the line, we increase the stakes. By telling others what we want to set out to accomplish, we are more apt to follow through with our projects. We don’t want to show up empty-handed next time they ask us about it, so we increase our chances of following through with it.

Fight the resistance

The resistance is real, but it doesn’t have to stop us in our tracks. We don’t need to be paralyzed by inaction when it comes to goal accomplishment. Next time you feel resistance creeping up, burn the ships, lock away your clothes and tell someone about it. Don’t let yourself get in the way of greatness.

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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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South Korean troops on DMZ are ready for anything

South Korean and American troops on and near the Demilitarized Zone separating North and South Korea are ready, well-supplied, well-trained, and prepared, the senior enlisted advisor to the chairman said following a visit over the weekend.


Army Command Sgt. Maj. John W. Troxell accompanied his boss, Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to South Korea. But where the general participated in the Military Committee Meeting and Security Consultative Meeting with his Korean counterpart, Troxell used his time to get a feel for what life is like on “Freedom’s Frontier” in light of current tensions.

The DMZ is a place where North Korean troops are studying every action on the southern side. They continually probe, test, and push for a reaction from the South Korean troops that man most of the DMZ.

The unit Troxell visited — the 1st Republic of Korea Division’s 1st Reconnaissance Battalion — was the victim of a North Korean intrusion across the DMZ three years ago and had soldiers wounded in a minefield laid by North Korean special operations forces.

How Well Do You Speak Fighter Pilot?
Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., 19th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, during his visit to the Demilitarized Zone in the Republic of Korea, Nov. 2, 2015. DOD photo by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique A. Pineiro.

Unfiltered Look at the North

“I felt the need to go up to the Demilitarized Zone outside of the Joint Security Area and go to an area where I could get an unfiltered look at the North Koreans and what their demeanor, what their disposition, what their posture was in light of all of this rhetoric,” Troxell said.

He also just wanted to talk with South Korean troops to get a feel for their morale and readiness, he said.

The sergeant major’s previous job was as the senior enlisted leader for US Forces Korea and the Combined Forces Command.

He said he did not notice much difference in the North Koreans across the line. “They were on security,” he said. “They were observing into the South, especially when I got there — a lot of folks with binoculars trying to figure out what we were doing. But their patrols did not seem like they were in any more enhanced readiness than what they normally are.”

How Well Do You Speak Fighter Pilot?
Soldiers from the Korean People’s Army look south while on duty in the Joint Security Area. Army photo by Edward N. Johnson.

Despite the rhetoric from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, the North Koreans were carrying on business as usual, he said. On the North Korean side, there are heavy weapons in contravention of the UN-brokered armistice signed in 1953. The North kicked out the two armistice guarantor nations — Poland and Czechoslovakia — when the Soviet Union fell.

“We still have the Swiss and the Swedes in the southern part of the DMZ that are making sure that the [South Koreans] and the US aren’t breaking any rules, in accordance with the armistice,” the sergeant major said.

The assumption in the south is that the North Koreans are breaking the rules and allied forces have to plan accordingly, he said.

How Well Do You Speak Fighter Pilot?
A South Korean soldier stands guard within the Joint Security Area of the DMZ. Army Photo by Edward N. Johnson.

‘Frail’ Troops

And there are a lot of North Korean troops. “There’s 750,000 North Korean troops on the DMZ, out of a more than 1.1 million man and woman force,” Troxell said. “But we haven’t seen them do a combined arms maneuver in 20 years. They fire about five to 10 rounds out of their rifles a year. And a good part of them have been diagnosed as being medically frail.”

“But there are 750,000 of them,” he continued. “So if you end up in conflict and you got full magazines of ammunition, you better not miss.”

Also Read: This is what the North Korean military looks like

And the North Koreans have been indoctrinated since birth on the infallibility of the Kim family. “If we have to go into high-end conflict, the North Koreans are going to fight,” Troxell said. “They’re prepared to fight and defend their country and defend who they call the Great Leader.”

On the South Korean side, the troops were patrolling and ready, the sergeant major said. They are a learning Army, he said, and have learned from the incident where the infiltrators came in. “They’ve really upgraded their positions,” Troxell said. “They’ve cut back all of the foliage from around their guard posts and the gates to get into the DMZ. They’ve also reinforced with, you know, better cameras and everything, so they have [fewer] blind spots that the North Koreans can exploit.”

How Well Do You Speak Fighter Pilot?
Korean Demilitarized Zone. ROK and US Soldiers at Observation Post Ouellette, South Korea. Army Photo by Edward N. Johnson.

‘Ready to Fight’

A bit farther back, the sergeant major met with American soldiers. “Obviously, they pay attention a lot more to the news than the [South Koreans] do, and certainly more than the North Koreans,” he said. “There was a lot more heightened sense of, ‘Hey, we got to be ready.'”

The rotational brigade — now from the 1st Cavalry Division — goes through a decisive action training rotation at the National Training Center in California and then deploys to the Korean Peninsula. “Those guys and gals are absolutely prepared for high-end conflict because they’ve been certified in it,” Troxell said. “They’re ready to fight.”

American units are training and focusing on potential threats, one of which is North Korea’s use of tunnels. “Subterranean warfare is something we have to continue to prepare for,” the sergeant major said. “As a matter of fact, the Army is making subterranean warfare part of their doctrine, and the Marines are going that way too.”

South Korean and US soldiers serve together closely. The 2nd Infantry Division, which is the divisional headquarters there, is now a combined division, with South Korean and US officers and non-commissioned officers on their division staff. “If you look at the 2nd Infantry Division patch, … it says combined division over their patch now,” he said.

How Well Do You Speak Fighter Pilot?
2nd Infantry Combined Division. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

The 2nd Infantry Division is also certified at all levels of combat.

Building Mil-to-Mil Relationships

The members of the division continually look for ways to enhance the military-to-military relationship, Troxell said, especially in their noncommissioned officer corps. The South Koreans are looking “to better develop their squad leaders and platoon sergeants to operate effectively at the decentralized level and operate off of commanders’ intent and apply discipline initiative to get after combat, if they have to,” he said. “They really look at the noncommissioned officer corps in the United States military, and they want theirs to be like that.”

There are cultural differences that have to be overcome and much of the South Korean military is made up of conscripts. But, South Koreans have served alongside the US in every contingency since the Korean War, Troxell said, and they see that the American military expands the commander’s reach in the battlespace by empowering noncommissioned officers to act without being told.

This is especially needed in terrain like that at the DMZ, which is mountainous. “It’s a cluttered battlefield,” he said, “and it will call for decentralized execution to defeat the North Koreans. That means we’ve got to continue to have empowered enlisted leaders, because this will be a squad-level fight, more so than it will be a battalion/brigade-level fight.”

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Romania’s navy is getting a complete overhaul

Romania has been a bit of an odd duck historically. It has the dubious honor of being home to Vlad the Impaler (the inspiration for Dracula) and, under the Ceausescu regime, went its own way at times while nominally a member of the Warsaw Pact, even going as far as buying French equipment during the Cold War (which it refused to let the Soviets examine).


Now a NATO ally, Romania has been making do with a lot of ships that use old Soviet technology. Their most modern vessels are two heavily-modified British Type 22 Batch 2 frigates that have had their Sea Wolf surface-to-air missiles removed. Their most powerful ship is the 33-year-old destroyer Marasesti, armed with eight SS-N-2 Styx anti-ship missiles, two triple 533mm torpedo tube mounts, four AK-630 Gatling guns, and two twin 76.2mm AK-726 dual-purpose guns.

How Well Do You Speak Fighter Pilot?
Regele Ferdinand, one of two modified Type 22 frigates acquired by Romania. (Wikimedia Commons photo by MAPN)

That could be changing soon, however, according to a report by DefenseNews.com. Romania is now seeking to buy three submarines to replace its lone Kilo-class vessel, the Delfinul, and four new surface ships. While Romania has made no decision on which submarine design it will buy, it did, at one point, plan to buy four Sigma-class corvettes from the Netherlands.

The previous purchases indicate that the Romanian Navy may be looking to replace their Tetal-class corvettes. The corvettes, three of which were built in the 1980s, are armed with one or two twin AK-726 mounts, two twin 533mm torpedo tube mounts, and 30mm cannon, among other systems. Two of the Tetal-class corvettes can operate helicopters off decks.

How Well Do You Speak Fighter Pilot?
One of four Tetal-class corvettes in the Romanian Navy. The aft AK-726 mount marks this as a Tetal I variant. (Wikimedia Commons photo by MAPN)

Romania has also ordered 227 Piranha V infantry fighting vehicles. These eight-wheeled vehicles are comparable to the M1126 Stryker, with a crew of three and the ability to haul eight infantrymen.

Though it’s impossible to say exactly which upgrades Romania is to acquire, modernization seems to be an inevitability.

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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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Guadalcanal

The unrelenting ferocity of the Pacific War was without a doubt the bloodiest and most savage of the two theaters of World War II. The memories of brutal battles like Guadalcanal, Tarawa, Midway and Iwo Jima are forever seared into minds of the courageous men who fought there.  The island of Guadalcanal represented one of the last chances for the Allies to turn back the Japanese advance in the Pacific.  Marine veteran Victor Croizat experienced the “hell of earth” of the battle for Guadalcanal.

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The Chinese military just conducted a live-fire exercise a few miles from a US base in Africa

China has staged military exercises in Djibouti after opening its first overseas military base there last month, official media said.


State television CCTV showed armored vehicles moving on a desert track, groups of soldiers firing automatic weapons, and cannon pointing towards the horizon.

Dozens of soldiers have been deployed in temperatures above 40 degrees Celsius “to reinforce their hardiness in combat and their mastery of military techniques,” the report said.

How Well Do You Speak Fighter Pilot?
Arta Training Range, Djibouti. Photo by Sgt. Steve Lopez.

“This is the first time that officers and soldiers stationed in Djibouti have left their camp to conduct live-fire exercises,” Liang Yang, the base commander, told the broadcaster.

It was unclear when the drills took place. China opened its base in Djibouti in early August.

Personnel will mainly focus on supporting UN peacekeeping operations, evacuating Chinese nationals, and providing naval escorts, according to the Ministry of National Defense.

The Chinese navy has since 2008 had a presence off Somalia and the Gulf of Aden as part of international efforts to combat piracy.

How Well Do You Speak Fighter Pilot?
PLA troops undergo live-fire exercises in Djibouti. Source: Government handout.

“This modest live-fire drill was apparently conducted on a designated firing range in Djibouti, and involved a small-scale force, perhaps just a single platoon or maybe a few platoons,” said James Char, a specialist in the Chinese army at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University.

It did not mean Chinese forces could be expected to carry out “counter-terrorism or constabulary operations in the manner of the US military anytime soon”.

Djibouti is strategically located on the Strait of Bab-el-Mandeb, controlling access to the Red Sea.