The Air Force just launched a podcast - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

The Air Force just launched a podcast

The inaugural Airman Podcast for the At Altitude channel features a conversation with Dr. Will Roper, the assistant secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics.

As the Air Force’s Service Acquisition Executive, Dr. Roper is responsible for and oversees Air Force research, development and acquisition activities totaling an annual budget in excess of $40 billion for more than 465 acquisition programs.


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In this position, Dr. Roper serves as the principal advisor to the secretary and chief of staff of the Air Force for research and development, test, production and modernization efforts within the Air Force.

In the interview from early in 2019, Dr. Roper discusses how reforming the acquisition process is foundation to building the Air Force we need to maintain dominance in the battlespace today and tomorrow.

Listen to At Altitude Podcasts here.

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

21 injured after explosion, fire breaks out aboard Naval ship

Early Sunday, a fire broke out below decks on the USS Bonhomme Richard which is currently docked in her home port of San Diego.


The fire was reported to be as a result of an explosion below deck, possibly originating in the hangar bay of the amphibious assault ship. The first reposted call went out around 10am and was later expanded to a three-alarm call for the San Diego Fire Department.

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Injuries have been reported for 17 sailors and 4 civilians, but no details have been confirmed.

The Bonhomme Richard, named after Revolutionary War hero John Paul Jones’ famous ship, is primarily used to embark, deploy and land elements of a Marine assault force in amphibious operations by air, landing craft and amphibious assault vehicles. It can also act as a light aircraft carrier. The ship was commissioned in 1998 and San Diego became its home port in 2018. She has deployed numerous times in support of Operation Iraq Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom and was part of humanitarian efforts in during the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami disaster.

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MIGHTY CULTURE

Team RWB encourages Veterans to stay connected, stay active

Every year, more than 200,000 service members transition from military to civilian life, joining more than 18 million Veterans to form one of America’s largest and strongest communities. But like most big transitions in life, this one is not easy. Since its inception in 2010, Team Red, White & Blue (Team RWB) has been helping Veterans stay active, connecting to their new communities and developing a resilient mindset. Today, Team RWB is 217,000 members strong, with chapters across the country. Volunteer leaders run these chapters, and collectively, they host nearly 40,000 events per year.


The Air Force just launched a podcast

Providing Veterans more opportunities

Through a newly formalized partnership (signed memorandum of understanding) with the Department of Veterans Affairs, VA stakeholders will have access to Team RWB’s wide-ranging network of events, providing Veterans and supporters everywhere opportunities to connect at the local, regional and national levels.

In addition, Team RWB will work with local VA staff to bring the power of the Eagle network to communities across the country. Events range from hikes to yoga classes, to preparing care packages for deployed service members.

“Team RWB is a non-profit organization, but in that, we are so much more, ” says Mike Erwin, founder and Executive Director of Team RWB. “We are a movement and an identity, a mindset and a community that challenges and supports each other. We are accountable to each other, especially when it comes to creating healthy habits in our post-military lives. Through this new partnership with VA, Team RWB is positioned to engage every Veteran in our country—to help them re-discover the power of physical activity in their lives. And through that, a sense of pride, confidence, purpose and belonging.”

Last fall, Team RWB released a mobile app to engage Veterans wherever they are throughout the day. The Eagle app makes it even easier to discover nearby events and participate in virtual challenges like last month’s March Madness Challenge that had states competing with each other. In May, a new update will introduce social networking, the ability for members to create events and more.

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Born for the Storm

As Team RWB prepares to celebrate its 10th year, the organization has rolled out a new mantra for its Veterans: Born for the Storm. It’s a virus now, but it could be something else by the fall. Life is unpredictable and adversity is certain. Team RWB knows that every Veteran has persevered through numerous physical and mental challenges while serving the nation, and reminds its Veterans that they have the character to weather whatever storms they may be facing.

Team RWB is fired up to partner with VA and wants you to explore the idea of joining the Team and becoming active in virtual challenges right away. You, the Veteran community and our country, will be better for it.

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This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The CSAF’s Bible is one of the least-known Air Force traditions

It’s a tradition as old as the Air Force itself, but one very few have ever even heard of.


On his first days in office, the general in charge of the newly formed service bought a Bible that’s been a part of every swearing in ceremony for Chiefs of Staff for nearly 70 years. And in it contains the signature of all 21 of the Air Force’s top general officers.

“No documented history of the Bible exists,” says Ann Stefanek, Media Operations Officer at Air Force headquarters. “But a verbal history of the Bible maintains the Gen. Carl A. Spaatz purchased the book to be used in official swearing-in ceremonies.”

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Gen. David L. Goldfein is sworn in as the 21st Air Force Chief of Staff. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Spaatz became the Air Force’s first Chief of Staff on September 26, 1947 — eight days after the National Security Act of 1947 created the service. Since then, each of his successors signed the Bible on their last day in office.

The story goes that when the Pentagon was evacuated during the attacks of September 11, 2001, Gen. John P. Jumper, who was only in the office for a few days, rescued the Bible when he evacuated the office. It was reportedly the only item he took with him.

On June 22, 2016, Gen. Mark Welsh III, the 20th Chief of Staff, signed the CSAF’s Bible, then walked out of the Pentagon with his wife by his side as the airmen who served with him cheered.

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The CSAF’s Bible is signed by every outgoing USAF Chief. The first signature is that of Gen. Carl A. Spaatz. (U.S. Air Force photo)

On July 1, the Air Force had a new Chief, Gen. David L. Goldfein. He mentioned the historic Bible in his first message to the Air Force under his command and how the relic reminded him of his obligation to his airmen.

The names on the Bible’s pages include famous Air Force chiefs Spaatz, Curtis LeMay, and even the controversial Merrill McPeak, whose changes to the service’s dress uniform made him one of the most unpopular figures in Air Force history.

While the book remains an unofficial, undocumented tradition, in 1951 the Air Force Officers Wives Club donated a velvet-lined wooden box in which to store the Bible. Both the Bible and the box are on display in the Air Force Chief of Staff’s office.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 2016 Canadian military battle against… Pokémon?


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A couple individuals from the enraptured masses soaking in pure ecstasy.

The year is 2016. “Love Yourself” by Justin Beiber echoes through the streets. People are wearing choker necklaces again, for some reason. And millions of people are walking around, neck craned to their screens, trying to catch Pokémon.

The massive 2016 explosion of “Pokémon GO” sparked national hysteria. Multitudes of people took to the streets, surroundings be damned. Videos of novice Pokémon trainers falling prey to otherwise pedestrian obstacles (like the one below) went viral overnight.

According to a 2017 analysis, Pokémon GO usage contributed to 150,000 traffic accidents, 256 deaths, and a -7.3 billion economic price tag in the first six months of its launch.

Man Falls in Pond Playing Pokemon GO

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The hysteria was present across the border of our northern ally, as well. The enraptured masses unsuspectingly wandered through Canadian military installations, in search of the powerful pocket monsters.

The Canadian military responded to this invasion with a geopolitical-move as old as time; they issued a firm warning. “It has been discovered that several locations within DND/CAF establishments are host to game landmarks (PokeStops and Gyms) and its mythical digital creatures (Pokémon).”

The enraptured Pokémon masses pressed forward, iPhones in hand, in spite of the vague threat of consequence, while the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation detailed the entire battle with a full after-action report on the situation.

According to the CBC’s report, the Canadian military brass was dumbfounded by their new enemy.

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The enraptured masses.

Maj. Jeff Monaghan issued a base-wide memo at Fort Frontenac, letting his men know that many locations on the military base were being used as “both a Pokémon Gym and Pokèmon Stop.” The CBC contacted Maj. Monaghan to follow up his memo with insider knowledge, “I will be completely honest in that I have not idea what that is.” The war ravaged on.

While an assortment of Canadian stripes dripped sweat over a war table, moving pieces to chokehold Pikachu and his cohorts, security expert David Levenick verbalized his frustration, “We should almost hire a 12-year-old to help us out with this.” However, the enemy was resolute in their affiliation.

The base took to the offensive and armed a handful of MPs with iPhones and iPads to conduct an inside look into the enemy’s formation. The offensive move paid off, and the inside information led to the upgrading of an on-base museum from a “Pokéstop” to a “Pokémon Gym.”

In the end, however, the war ended as all things do: with a gradual decay. 45 million in the Poké-army became 20. And then 10. Then 5. Much like the Great Roman Empire, the enraptured masses slowly collapsed inward. Some sought refuge in “8 Ball Pool” some in “Super Mario Run” and a few brave souls transferred to a different battlefield altogether— “Bumble.”

Even the rapid hysteria of Pokémon GO was no match for the great equalizers of entropy and new apps, but the great flag of Canada waves on, swiping left to right through the end of time.

MIGHTY CULTURE

An Air Force veteran who taught himself to code explains how he started a nonprofit that has educated other vets on how to get jobs in tech

When Air Force veteran Jerome Hardaway left the military in 2009 after five years, he planned to transition to a civilian job after his service. However, he found that the recession’s lingering impact on the economy meant that jobs were still scarce.

“It was very painful coming back to America,” Hardaway, who’s based in Nashville, told Business Insider.

People would say, “Thank you for your service,” but not hire him, he explained. As he continued looking for jobs, he saw a commercial about a course for teaching people how to code.

While he didn’t take the class — “There were really great resources I didn’t have money for,” Hardaway said — it inspired him to get a book on databases. From there, he taught himself SQL and eventually landed a job as a database analyst for the Department of Homeland Security in 2010.

Eventually, he started teaching himself other programming skills, too, including Ruby on Rails and JavaScript, as well as learning about open source software by reading project documentation and source code and contributing as a general member, finding the JavaScript community to be especially welcoming. He even had the opportunity in 2014 to train in web development at General Assembly.

“I’m an African American male in the south trying to get into a dominant white male industry,” Hardaway said. “Before people look at my veteran status, I have that to overcome.”

In 2014, while Hardaway was working as a digital marketing assistant for a nonprofit, he connected with a family who lost their son in a police shooting and built them a website where he told the young vet’s story. Through this website, the family was able to raise $10,000, and the moving encounter spurred Hardaway to launch a new project:

Hardaway’s nonprofit, Vets Who Code, focuses on teaching veterans the programming skills they need for software engineering jobs and it’s completely free for veterans to participate. So far, the organization has helped over 250 veterans in 37 states learn how to be developers. 

Right now, Vets Who Code teaches languages like JavaScript, cloud technologies like Amazon Web Services, user experience design, GitHub, frameworks like React, and more, as well as less tangible skills, like what it takes to succeed in an engineering job.

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Jerome Hardaway, founder of Vets Who Code and Air Force veteran

The nonprofit aims to reduce job anxiety for veterans and take advantage of their skills 

While more than 250,000 military service members transition into the workforce each year according to Navy Federal, one of the greatest anxieties for veterans is being able to find a stable job that honors the skills and experiences they’ve gained from the military.

“The military trains you to be good at what the military needs you to be, not in regards to preparing you for the civilian sector,” Hardaway said.

While in the Air Force, Hardaway served in Iraq, Afghanistan and South Korea and had duties in security, checking airplanes, and law enforcement. However, it wasn’t easy to convey to how those skills could be useful in the larger job market.

While the military has programs that help veterans transition to going back to civilian life, Hardaway says they’re not as effective as they should be, partly because they’re run by people who have never fully transitioned to that life themselves. Unfortunately, it’s all too common for veterans to “fall into these cracks,” he said. 

Because of his own experience, though, Hardaway knows that many of the skills he learned can be directly applicable to software jobs.

“It has made me more of a go-getter, take initiative, and learn on my own, and of course, more discipline,” Hardaway said. “It’s helped me focus on the things that matter: learning how to write code, focusing on the things needed to be employed, teaching the veterans the same skills in my transition.”

For example, Hardaway says the military taught him to drill and adapt to new things faster – all of which helped him when he was learning to write code. In addition, veterans are used to teamwork and over-communicating as they did in the military, and these skills come into play when they work together on a software project.

That’s why Vets Who Code puts an emphasis on coordinating group projects for its students:

“That’s the true secret, making you a good worker, not just a good programmer,” Hardaway said.

Ultimately, Hardaway said that his goal is to empower as many veterans as possible to get good jobs in tech, like he did:

“I’m hoping my sisters and brothers [in the military] don’t have to deal with the hardships I had to deal with.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

6 ways the Integrated Training Exercise feels like a video game

Marines love video games. It’s no secret that games like Battlefield had an influence on many of us as we decided to sign up in the first place. Slowly, you’ll come realize that life in the military is nothing like video games 99% of the time. But that still leaves that sweet, sweet 1% — which is experienced mostly during the Integrated Training Exercise.

When you’re at ITX, your battalion is put to the test to see if they can operate in combat environments. This is the thing that makes or breaks your unit. It’s what tells the Marine Corps that you’re ready to be sent on cool, important missions during deployment.

There’s a lot at stake when your unit arrives at Camp Wilson, make no mistake about that. It’s also some of the most fun you’ll have while training for a deployment. At times, the experience can feel like you’re in a video game. The types of things you do at ITX are the very reason you joined the infantry in the first place — to shoot guns and blow stuff up. This is Battlefield live.


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Even some of the company assault ranges were pretty cool.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Samantha Schwoch)

You go on cool missions

Conducing helicopter-supported raids and clearing through a large town populated with both enemies and civilians sound like objectives out of latest Rainbow Six. Sure, not all of the exercises are this cool, but even video games have their dull levels.

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There’s not much to do there, either.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Natalia Cuevas)

Camp Wilson is basically the game lobby

When playing a game online, between matches, you often get sent to a “lobby,” where you wait with other players and get prepared for the next mission. This is essentially the role of Camp Wilson: it’s a place you relax and get ready for the next event.

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You were lucky if you mostly rode in helicopters.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Samantha Schwoch)

You use vehicles to attack objectives

This isn’t the case for every mission but, for the most part, you’ll be taken to and from a staging area by vehicle to get as close as possible to your objective before you get out and attack. On the large assaults, you’ll be riding in Amphibious Assault Vehicles.

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The explosions are better in person.

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Samantha Schwoch)

You finally get to witness air strikes

Twentynine Palms offers a cool training experience for units undergoing ITX evaluation — you get the ability to use and witness air strikes. That’s right: We’re talking planes flying overhead and dropping bombs that you get to watch explode. And you thought calling in an airstrike in Call of Duty felt good?

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They’re like mortars but, bigger.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo illustration by Sgt. Justin A. Bopp)

You have artillery support

In some games, you can call for artillery support. This probably wasn’t the case during a lot of your pre-deployment training cycles. You definitely get mortars, but watching a 155mm Howitzer drop warheads in the distance is amazing. Just like air strikes, these are even better in person.

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You’ll burn through more ammo than you thought you’d ever touch.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Dallas Johnson)

You fire a lot of bullets

Video games give you a lot of ammunition and so will your unit at Twentynine Palms. You’re going to get everything you need for every mission you take on, and you might get more than you know what to do with. Hopefully your trigger finger is prepared for the cramp it’s going to experience.


MIGHTY CULTURE

This is how letters of appreciation are actually useful

A letter of appreciation feels like a wet dollar: It still has value but it does not do much – at first glance. When a Marine does something above and beyond but not to the point that they earned a medal it’s a gray area for some commanders. Officers in particular want to recognize their troops for their service but there are several politics at play when issuing awards. You can cross the no-man’s land between nothing and awards using letters of appreciation to close the gap.

How to get some

Letter of Appreciation. Any officer senior to a Marine whose performance is considered noteworthy or commendable beyond the usual requirements of duty may issue a Letter of Appreciation. Do not forward copies of Letters of Appreciation to CMC (MMMA) or to CMC (MMSB). A copy will not be entered into the Marine’s OMPF.

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Attaining a letter of appreciation is easy on paper yet you must do something that is outside the norm. For young troops first entering the Fleet Marine Force, good luck on getting awarded anything before your first deployment. No one is going to give you a Navy Cross for taking charge of working parties. A sergeant, however, may take notice of your dedication to duty and run it up the chain of command to give you something.

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U.S. Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Roger B. Turner, commanding general, Marine Air Ground Task Force Training Command, Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center (MCAGCC), presents a letter of appreciation to Lance Cpl. Bradley Walsh, infantry instructor, Training and Education Command, at MCAGCC, Twentynine Palms, Calif., Aug 12, 2019. The Marines were presented the letters for their immediate response and timely medical evacuation report during a training accident at Range 410A. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Robin Lewis)

They’re the easiest award to pitch

The biggest mistake troops do when first meet their new platoon sergeant and platoon commander is not being upfront with what one wants out of the service. When they ask you ‘what motivates you?’ and you choose the generic, falsely altruistic response that doesn’t include awards that’s what you’re going to get – nothing. Months later you are in formation you will watch someone else get the recognition for what you’ve done a million times over. Its because you didn’t open your mouth.

One says that you do not want awards because that is the proper thing to say. Being a ribbon chaser, someone who pursues awards, is a perceived negative trait. However, you’re not chasing the enemy into an ambush so you can get the Medal of Honor, it’s an ‘atta ’boy’.

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Capt. Bradford Smith, Naval Medical Center San Diego’s (NMCSD) commanding officer, presents a letter of appreciation to Fireman Zachary Desko at the hospital July 23. Desko received the award from retired Rear Adm. William Roberts and the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USU) for processing 41 badge requests and nearly 20 parking passes for USU medical students who reported to the hospital June 22. 

The next time you have a heart to heart with the first rung of your chain of command and they ask what motivates you, say ‘A letter of appreciation would be fine.’ They do not have to do too much paperwork, there isn’t a massive approval process, there is no investigation, its literally a letter saying that you did a good job. It takes less time to go to lunch. If your command won’t write two paragraphs thanking you for months of back breaking labor than it’s time to talk to your career planner and go somewhere else.

When you ask for so little, they may straight up give you the medal your deserve.

A side note: Although the order says a copy of the letter will not be put into your OMPF, it will annotated that you have received a letter of appreciation but not why. So, they’re still valuable.

Establishes a pattern of good conduct

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Naval Support Activity Panama City Commanding Officer Cmdr. Kevin Christenson presented Ofc. Matthew Moskowitz, Security Department, with a letter of appreciation. Moskowitz’s quick action prevented the introduction of illegal and illicit contraband and the unlawful entry into a federal installation with a firearm. (U.S. Navy photo by Religious Program Specialist 3rd Class Onisha Simmons)

After every major field op, battalion movement, or deployment is the time when the top brass asks their officers if anyone within their command deserves an award for meritorious action. This is where those letters of appreciation come in handy. It is a negative quality for an officer to continuously give LOAs. Enlisted troops also judge their officers when they continuously give LOAs than an actual awards.

Officers high up the food chain will see you name time and again and recommend a higher award. For example, the battalion commander informed his officers that they can issue ‘X’ amount of ‘Y’ awards pertaining to the deployment in Afghanistan. Where ‘Y’ is the various kinds of individual awards they’re willing to approve. A troop with seven LOAs deserves a Meritorious Mast, surely. A troop with two or three Meritorious Masts should be only earning medals past this point. The administrative element of the military has evolved into a bureaucratic machine, a necessary evil to keep the gears of war lubricated. It may be a wet dollar but you can still buy things with it.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The story of a Navy warship’s dangerous encounter with Russian fighters

When the Navy destroyer USS Donald Cook sailed into the Baltic Sea in April 2016, it had been more than two years since Russia seized Crimea from Ukraine.

Tensions between Russia and its NATO and European neighbors were still high, and the intervening period had seen a number of uncomfortable and even unsafe encounters between their forces, for which NATO often criticized Russia.

Adm. James Foggo, then a vice admiral in charge of the Navy’s Sixth Fleet, had those in mind as the Cook sailed into the Baltic.


“I had warned them going up there that as they passed through the Danish Straits and into the Baltic that they should be prepared for something like that and that the only way that the world would recognize that it happened is if they had a recording or a photograph,” Foggo, now commander of US Naval Forces Europe and Naval Forces Africa, said on the US Naval Institute’s Proceedings podcast.

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A Russian Sukhoi Su-24 attack aircraft makes a very-low-altitude pass by USS Donald Cook, April 12, 2016.

(Photo by US Navy)

“So the commanding officer [of the Cook], Chuck Hampton, told me afterward, ‘Well, I had six combat cameramen on each bridge wing.’ And I was like, ‘Wow, that’s a lot,'” Foggo said.

“He goes, ‘Well, you told me if something happened I had to be prepared,'” Foggo added. “So that was part of their ‘man battle stations’ type drill for close-aboard contacts.”

Guided-missile destroyers like the Cook are the Navy’s premier air-defense platforms and are often tasked with guarding other ships, aircraft carriers in particular.

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Two Russian Sukhoi Su-24 attack aircraft fly over USS Donald Cook, April 12, 2016.

(Photo by US Navy)

‘Here comes this Russian hot dog’

The encounter with two Su-24 fighter jets, which took place about 80 nautical miles from the Russian Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad, was one of two the US destroyer had on April 11 and 12, 2016.

On April 12, a Russian helicopter flew around the Cook seven times at low altitude in what the ship’s commander deemed “unsafe and unprofessional” passes.

A short time later, two Su-24s made 11 more close-range, low-altitude passes in what the Navy said was “a simulated attack profile.” The jets didn’t respond to safety advisories from the Cook, whose commander deemed several of their maneuvers “unsafe and unprofessional.”

The April 11 incident was especially dangerous because of what the Cook was doing and because of how the Russian pilot behaved.

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A Russian Kamov KA-27 HELIX helicopter flies low-level passes near the USS Donald Cook in international waters in the Baltic Sea, April 12, 2016.

(Photo by US Navy)

“What a lot of people don’t know is that at the time they were doing what we call a ‘hot-pump’ of a Polish aircraft that was doing deck landing [qualifications],” Foggo said.

“So the Polish helicopter had landed and was being refueled while the rotors were turning, and here comes this Russian hot dog in his jet, doing several hundred knots, and the distance between wingtip and the deck of Donald Cook was about 30 feet,” Foggo added.

That was the closest of the 20 passes the Russian jets made that day, according to US officials, who said the Russians flew so close they created wakes in the water and that it was among the “most aggressive” Russian acts in some time.

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A Russian Sukhoi Su-24 attack aircraft makes a low-altitude pass by USS Donald Cook, April 12, 2016.

(Photo by US Navy)

The fly-by that took place during the refueling was deemed unsafe by the Cook’s commanding officer, and the ship suspended flight operations until the Su-24s left the area.

“I asked Gen. [Philip] Breedlove and Gen. [Frank] Goranc … ‘would you ever fly your F-16 that close to a moving platform like Donald Cook?'” Foggo said.

“And they said, ‘No way, if the guy sneezed he might have buried his wing into the Donald Cook,'” Foggo added. “Now what would’ve happened then? We’d be explaining that this was a pilot error and not a shoot-down of that aircraft.”

Breedlove and Goranc are retired Air Force generals and fighter pilots who both led US Air Forces in Europe and Africa; Breedlove was also NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander in Europe and head of US European Command.

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Two Russian Sukhoi Su-24 attack aircraft make multiple low-level passes over the USS Donald Cook, April 12, 2016.

(Photo by US Navy)

‘Wings clean’ vs. ‘wings dirty’

Encounters between NATO ships and aircraft and their Russian counterparts increased after the seizure of Crimea. US forces involved frequently deemed those encounters “unsafe.”

In years prior, “the Russians would typically fly with what we call a ‘wings clean’ configuration, which is no weapons on the wings,” Foggo said on the podcast. “Now in the interactions and the intercepts I see today, they’re coming out ‘wings dirty,’ or they have weapons on board.”

“That’s another bit of the calculus that goes in the commanding officer’s mind on … what is the intent of that pilot, and at what point is [the commanding officer] obliged to defend his ship under defensive rules of engagement,” Foggo said.

Foggo didn’t elaborate on those rules of engagement, but a European Command spokesman told Navy Times at the time that the Cook’s commanding officer didn’t feel threatened, and a retired Navy commanding officer said that, under the circumstances, the Russian aircraft didn’t present a credible threat.

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Two Russian Sukhoi Su-24 attack aircraft fly over the USS Donald Cook, April 12, 2016.

(Photo by US Navy)

Encounters at sea still happen but are less frequent, Foggo said.

“I don’t have as many negative interactions … between Russian Federation navy and US or NATO assets,” he said. “They tend to act very professionally. It’s mostly in the air with intercepts, and those could possibly be due to different pilots … is it an air force guy in the cockpit or a navy guy? It depends, and every situation is different.”

US Air Force Gen. Tod Wolters, NATO’s current Supreme Allied Commander in Europe and head of US European Command, said this summer that encounters had decreased and that “unsafe” intercepts had “diminished tremendously.”

“What I can assure this audience is that well over 99% of the intercepts that occur in the air are actually safe,” Wolters said at an event in Brussels in June. “In many of the cases where they’re unsafe, when you take a look at the experience level of the operators that were involved, it typically turns into a young man or woman that was probably just hot-dogging it a little bit more than they should.”

“For every one intercept that a Russian aviator commits against a NATO aircraft, we actually have three NATO intercepts” of Russian aircraft, Wolters added, according to Military Times. “That gives you a little bit of a feel for the readiness disposition of your NATO force.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How Prince Charles got all his medals without fighting in a war

When decked out in his full royal regalia, the Prince of Wales looks much like what you think a 69-year-old aristocrat might — much like what you think a stereotypical soon-to-be king might. His military uniform is emblazoned with medals, ropes, pins, patches, and other decorations worthy of someone who may soon occupy the biggest seat in the entire United Kingdom.

Which is amazing, considering he hasn’t seen combat once in his life.


Britain itself has not been devoid of conflict, even within Charles’ relatively short lifetime. He was born three years after the end of the Second World War, but broke royal tradition by going straight to university instead of joining the military after his secondary education. When he did join the armed forces in the 1970s, he did stints in both the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force. Even though he was late to the game, there was still plenty of action to see.

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Armed British soldiers in Northern Ireland during The Troubles.

During Charles’ service window, the UK saw a number of shooting conflicts, most notably the Falklands War with Argentina and The Troubles, a military occupation of Northern Ireland. He saw action in neither conflict.

While the Prince of Wales didn’t see combat duty, he still trained vigorously with the members of units to which he was attached. He has trained in undersea warfare and commanded a Royal Navy Destroyer and has learned to fly helicopters and twin-engine jet fighters with the RAF. Charles also successfully completed the parachute regiment’s jump training at an age much older than the average recruit.

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Charles, tasked to lead the parachute regiment in 1978, decided he would be unfit to lead them without undergoing the training himself. He was 30 years old.

(Clarence House)

Charles also commands the Welsh Guards, leading the annual Trooping the Colour ceremony on Horse Guards Parade, marking Queen Elizabeth’s official birthday.

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The Prince wears the ceremonial uniform of Colonel of the Welsh Guards during the Trooping the Colour Ceremony.

(Clarence House)

So, this isn’t to say Charles’ medals are somehow unearned. He wears no medals for valor in combat. Instead, he wears the appropriate regalia, given his service, ranks in the Navy and Air Force, and appropriate titles. He wears the Order of Merit, the Order of the Bath, and the Queen’s Service Order, all for service to the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth.

Other decorations of note include medals related to the Queen herself, including the Queen’s Coronation medal, Queen’s Silver Jubilee medal, and the Queen’s Golden Jubilee medal, all awarded for a celebration of his mother ascending to the throne and her continued reign as Queen. He also wears awards from Canada and New Zealand, and wears the Order of the Garter, chosen and awarded by the Queen herself.

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The Prince of Wales and Prince Harry presented Operational Medals to the 2nd Battalion Royal Gurkha Rifles in a ceremony at Buckingham Palace.

(Buckingham Palace)

It’s a tradition for men in the Royal family to serve in the military. Charles’ father, Prince Philip, served in World War II and his sons, William and Harry, both served. Harry famously deployed to combat duties in Afghanistan in recent years.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Service members could see big tax returns this year

Recent changes in tax law mean that many in uniform could see big returns when they file their 2018 taxes.

“This last tax year has been quite exciting with all of the changes that occurred to it,” said Army Lt. Col. David Dulaney, executive director of the Armed Forces Tax Council. “The good news is that most of our service members should see a substantial reduction in their overall federal taxes for 2018.”


One way service members can maximize their tax refund is to log onto Military OneSource and take advantage of MilTax, a free suite of services designed specifically for service members. MilTax includes personalized support from tax consultants and easy-to-use tax preparation and e-filing software.

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(Photo by Mike Strasser, Fort Drum Garrison Public Affairs)

• MilTax is available to active-duty, reserve and National Guard service members. Additionally, thanks to new language in the National Defense Authorization Act, “service” has been expanded to included transitioning service members — those who have separated or retired will be able to make use of MilTax for up to a year after leaving the military.

• MilTax is available through www.militaryonesource.mil and includes online tax preparation software designed specifically for military personnel and the unique circumstances that surround military life.

• Through Military OneSource and MilTax, service members have access to expert tax consultants specially trained to address tax issues related to military service. During tax season, consultants are available seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. in the Eastern time zone at 800-342-9647.

• Using MilTax, eligible individuals can file one federal and up to three state tax returns through the Military OneSource website. The service is available now through Oct. 15, 2019, for extended filers.

• At some installations, the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, or VITA, allows service members to sit down face to face with a tax professional to help prepare their tax forms.

• All service members are required to pay taxes. Military service doesn’t mean service members don’t have to pay. Fortunately, MilTax is free to those eligible to use it.

“One of the worst things we can hear is a military service member went out and paid for tax services that we provide for free through the DOD,” said Erika R. Slaton, program deputy for Military OneSource. “We want to ensure our service members and families know they are supported and we provide the best possible support for them in completing their tax services.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 spooky military ghost stories

If war wasn’t scary enough already, living enemies might not be the only ones you have to worry about. You see, where there’s war, there’s death, and where there’s death, there are ghosts…or ghost stories, at least! There are dozens, if not hundreds, of unique, ghostly experiences from veterans and bases all over the world. These creepy stories might leave you checking over your shoulder twice when you walk down the hall at night!

Ghost Planes

During and after World War II, fighter planes were seen patrolling the sky appearing and disappearing in and out of the clouds. One such sighting happened a year after Pearl Harbor. When the United States Army radar traced the signal of an incoming plane, pilots were dispatched to investigate.

An American P-40 was spotted, riddled with bullet holes, its landing gear, mangled, and its blood drenched pilot slumped in his harness. Suddenly, the aircraft fell from the sky spiraling out of control and crashing down. When scouts went to investigate, the P-40 was found, but the pilot had disappeared.

Diplomat Hotel

Nights at the Diplomat Hotel are often pierced with shrill screams and banging. Located in the Philippines, it is a hot spot for paranormal investigation. The hotel’s terror is believed to have stemmed from the Japanese invasion of the Philippines. Originally a monastery, invading soldiers beheaded all nuns and clergymen, leaving a trail of blood in their wake. For the remainder of the war, it served as a sanitorium, only to reopen again as the Diplomat Hotel, where guests often see black figures and women clothed in white.

The Battle of the Alamo

The 1836 Battle of the Alamo was the climatic point of Texans’ fight for independence from Mexican control. Today, the San Antonio historic landmark now serves as a cemetery for the remains of fallen soldiers, many of whose bodies were dismembered and dumped into the San Antonio River. Just days after the battle, though, paranormal activity was reported. When Mexican General Juan Jose Andrade ordered the burning of what remains still lay on the field of battle to prevent the spread of disease, the men came running back, fearful of what they’d witnessed. On the river, the men had spotted six diablos or “devils,” guarding the front of the Alamo mission. Over the years, visitors have seen young boys running along the mission plaza and then disappearing, hearing the clacking of horse hooves on the streets, and even seeing a man and small boy fall from the roof of the mission.

The Jefferson Barracks 

On October 23, 1826, the Jefferson Barracks were opened in honor of president Thomas Jefferson who had passed earlier that year. It’s been used as a hospital, cemetery, and also for military staging,but on the barracks headquarters, soldiers have reported an aggressive sentry confronting them. He’s said to approach with a bloody bullet hole through his head. Supposedly, the sentry had been killed in a munitions raid and as he believes he’s still on duty, confronts those he suspects as the enemy.

Missing Children

Though Switzerland tried to stay neutral during WW2, the country was repeatedly swayed by both Allied and Axis powers. When Germany instigated, the UK retaliated, sending one British unit to a secluded village within the Swiss Alps. However, just a few weeks after their arrival, scraps of food supplies started disappearing and goods were stolen. Not long after, children went missing from the village, including one Private Reginald from the British troop. These disappearances led to the story that a monster resided in the mountains.

One night, soldiers on patrol saw a figure through the window of a house. The figure gave chase all the way to the outskirts of the village where the figure jumped into a man-made cave. Shots were fired from either side and after a resounding silence, soldiers entered the cave where they found Reginald with a bullet whole through his heart and surrounded by the missing children’s half-eaten bodies.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Vets discuss VA home loan entitlement for 75th anniversary of the GI Bill

On June 22, 2019, VA will celebrate the 75th anniversary of the G.I. Bill. It was on that date in 1944 when President Franklin Roosevelt signed the Serviceman’s Readjustment Act into law, which became widely known as the G.I. Bill of Rights. As veterans came home from the war, many started families and used their VA home loan entitlement to become homeowners. Through subsequent decades, new generations of veterans continued to use the VA home loan benefit that they earned through service to our nation, becoming a fundamental pillar of the U.S. housing industry and the building of communities.


In honor of this historic event, Army veteran Maxine Henry and Air Force veteran Mark Connors of the VA’s Loan Guaranty Service team sat down with Borne the Battle to discuss one of the best and most popular veteran benefits — the VA home loan entitlement.

Buying A Home with the VA Home Loan

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An outstanding benefit

The VA home loan guaranty has several advantages for veteran borrowers:

  • Veterans using the VA home loan are generally not required to have a downpayment.
  • Veterans using the VA home loan also aren’t required to carry any mortgage insurance, which saves borrowers hundreds of dollars on their monthly mortgage payments.
  • Veterans using the VA home loan benefit enjoy limited closing costs.
  • VA home loans have very competitive interest rates.
  • Veterans aren’t charged any prepayment penalty if they are able to pay off their mortgage earlier than required while using the VA loan.
  • VA provides assistance to help Veterans retain their homes during periods of temporary financial difficulty.
  • The VA home loan benefit can be used multiple times throughout the veteran’s life.

For more on the top five benefits to using the VA home loan guaranty, check out the video below.

Top 5 Benefits of the VA Home Loan Program

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Additional Links:

#BtBattle veteran of the Week: Army veteran Arthur Lorelli.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

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