The U.S. Army Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, Louisiana, is consistently rated by soldiers as a place that you don’t want to go. Hot temperatures, high humidity and a geographically isolated location make it so that soldiers posted there can’t wait to PCS and soldiers training there can’t wait to leave.
It must be said, though, that JRTC does offer world-class training for warfighters from the riflemen on the frontline to the commanders maneuvering them from their TOCs. JRTC also allows international partners to come and train with U.S. forces to foster partnerships and future interoperability. British soldiers are a common sight in the backwoods of central Louisiana, however, they generally come as a single company. For their own large-scale training, the Brits go to Kenya.
The British Army Training Unit Kenya is a permanent training support unit based mainly in Nanyuki, roughly 200 km north of the Kenyan capital of Nairobi. Consisting of about 100 permanent staff and a short-tour cohort of an additional 280 personnel, BATUK provides demanding and realistic training exercises for units preparing to deploy.
The UK Ministry of Defence maintains a Defence Cooperation Agreement with the Kenyan government that allows up to six British infantry battalions of 10,000-12,000 personnel to carry out four-week long exercises in Kenya every year. The training takes place at Archer’s Post Training Area in Samburu County and Dol Dol Training Area in Laikipia County. BATUK also currently maintains two barracks in Nairobi that serve as a rear area base and depot.
Similar to JRTC, British soldiers stationed in Nairobi serve as OCTs and OPFOR for the units that rotate in for training. BATUK even provides domestic housing so that soldiers can bring their families during their posting.
The local environment is arid and can be difficult to navigate, making it an excellent training ground for units preparing to deploy to combat zones. To optimize training, small towns have been constructed to facilitate MOUT training and hundreds of locals are hired to serve as role players.
(UK Ministry of Defence)
In Kenya, British forces train using both the Tactical Engagement Simulation system (British MILES gear) and live fire. As a result, like at JRTC, soldiers have to be on the lookout for native wildlife that wanders into the training area. However, whereas JRTC hosts animals like turkeys and deer, soldiers training at Archer’s Point or Dol Dol have the occasional elephant or giraffe sighting.
In return for the use of Kenyan land, three squadrons from the Corps of Royal Engineers are assigned to BATUK and carry out civil engineering projects throughout Kenya, while two medical companies provide primary healthcare assistance to the civilian community. Britain also offers training opportunities in the UK to the Kenya Defence Forces and supports its fight against Al Shabaab with British deployments to Somalia.
With a renewal of the defence agreement in September 2015, British troops will continue to conduct valuable training in Kenya through BATUK.
When it comes time to write up the technical pamphlets for the next generation of military gear, the manufacturers … probably won’t call us.
Here are seven perfectly accurate descriptions of military hardware that no self-respecting manufacturer would ever publish:
1. The Apache is the world’s most advanced digital camera
The AH-64 just has so many features that Canon and Nikon would never dream of putting on a camera: multiple rotor blades, a hydraulics systems, missiles, rockets, and a cannon. It’s almost hard to spot the camera sensors in the ball at the front.
2. The M1A2 Abrams tank provides very effective body armor for troops
Because the armor is on motorized tracks, you can barely even feel the 60 tons of protection. It even has seats, a feature most body armor lacks.
3. The A-10 is a great way to get a look at the battlefield
It gets you high enough to see over the terrain while keeping you low enough to see all your enemies. If only there was something we could do about them from up here?
4. Navy aircraft carriers are cruise ships with (slightly) less sex and much more (hidden) booze
You can move a LOT of people with one of these ships. Over 6,000 with the old Nimitz-class. The newer Ford ships hold less people, normally about 4,000, but have sweet magnets that could hold literally anything to a fridge. In a pinch, there’s even a way to move people from shore directly to the ship without it docking. But be warned that the cruise directors are pretty uptight and the upper decks are noisy.
5. TOW missiles are a much faster delivery method than carrier pigeons
While carrier pigeons top out at around 90 mph in a sprint, TOW missiles fly at an astounding 715 mph. There’s almost nothing that can get your message across a battlefield faster, and the control cables let the recipient know just where the message came from.
Just a quick note, when sending messages to friends you should be sure to remove the original payload.
6. Rifles can punch holes through hella paper at once
Don’t use boring three-hole punches that can only handle a few sheets when these rifles can create either 5.56mm or 7.62mm openings in dozens of sheets of paper at once.
7. CS gas is a quick and effective decongestant
Neti pots are weird and pouring liquids through your sinus cavities can lead to brain parasites. 2-chlorobenzalmalononitrile has neither drawback and is extremely effective at helping you breathe free clearing your sinuses.
Keanu Reeves has not only earned respect from the operator community for his tactical dedication, he’s also managed to charm his way into the hearts of everyone who isn’t dead inside. And then, of course, there’s the fact that he’s the face of multiple fandoms from The Matrix to John Wick to Bill & Ted.
He’s such a good guy — and he’s so good at what he does — that it’s just plain fun to adore him, which made this year’s Comic-Con@Home all the more delightful. While celebrating the 15th anniversary of Constantine and the upcoming release of Bill Ted Face the Music, Reeves really brightened up the doldrums of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“There’s nothing like…I mean, I can’t feel or laugh or do anything like the way that working on Bill Ted and working with Alex [makes me feel]. That doesn’t exist anywhere else in the world for me. So to partner up and work on the craft side of it and get to play, get to play these characters that Chris [Matheson] and Ed [Solomon] have created….there’s no other place where I can laugh like this,” he shared.
Everything Reeves says is incredibly genuine and is he single?
Reeves gushed on and on about his favorite moments from Constantine. “Getting to work with such extraordinary artists…” he beamed. “Production design was great. And the crew! Peter Stormare, as I’m bleeding out, and he’s leaning in to me! Philippe Rousselot was the cinematographer. Throwing down with Tilda Swinton as she’s choking me…”
Steve ‘Frosty’ Weintraub complimented Reeves for how awesome and gracious he is to the crew. He then asked Reeves how he stays grounded, and of course even Reeves’ response was, well, grounded. “That’s kind of you to say, Steve. I don’t know. I love what I do and I like going to work and I like being creative. We’re all in it together. Go play and have some fun.”
The C-47 Skytrain is arguably one of the greatest planes of all time. When you look at the complete picture surrounding this aircraft — how many were built, how many still fly, and the effect they had on a war — one could argue that the C-47 is the best transport ever built (not to slight other fantastic planes, like the C-130 Hercules, C-17 Globemaster III, and the C-5 Galaxy).
But what’s a plane without a pilot? For every C-47 built, the US needed an able aviator — and there were many built. So, the US developed a massive pipeline to continually train pilots and keep those birds flying.
It make look like a docile floater from afar, but flying a C-47 is a lot harder than you might think. Sure, you’re not pulling Gs and trying to blow away some Nazi in a dogfight. In fact, by comparison, flying materiel from point A to point B looks simple, but cargo planes have their own problems that make piloting them very hard work.
And by very hard work, we mean if you screw up, you’ll crash and burn.
C-47s performing a simple job — easy flying, right? Wrong. There was a lot that pilots had to keep in mind.
(U.S. Air Force)
Why is that? Well, the big reason is because transport planes haul cargo, which comes with its own hazards. When you load up a plane, it affects the center of gravity and, if the load shifts, the plane can end up in a very bad situation.
This is what happens when it goes wrong – this particular C-47 was hit by flak, but you could crash and burn from shifting cargo or just by messing up.
(Imperial War Museum)
The United States Army Air Force used films to give the thousands of trainees the information needed to fly the over 8,000 C-47s produced by Douglas — and this number doesn’t include at least 5,000 built by the Soviet Union under license.
Learn how to handle operations in the cockpit of a C-47 by watching the video below!
In case you missed it, a 59-year old OEF veteran is reenlisting after a nearly ten year break in service. It took about a year to get the waivers and to cut the red tape, but Army regulations still require him to go through Basic Training all over again in June. I mean, that is what it is, but his military record kinda shows even more of how pointless that is…
His story begins when he enlisted in the Marines in ’78, got out and became a cop, reenlisted during Desert Storm as an infantryman, stayed in long enough to go to Afghanistan as PSYOPs, got out again to become SWAT, and now he’s looking to do it all over again.
I’m just saying – I know that the drill sergeants probably give him the appropriate amount of guff that’s required in Basic and understand that his knowledge of previous conflicts can be instrumental to teaching the younger troops. But imagine being that young, dumb trainee who thinks they’ve got jokes for the “old dude in his platoon” only to learn that he’s been kicking in door before their parents were born.
If only to be a fly on that wall… Anyways, here’s some memes.
From vigorous barking to dashing through water-based obstacles, military working dogs and handlers with the 6th Security Forces Squadron participated in water aggression training to maintain full spectrum readiness at Adventure Island amusement park in Tampa, Florida, Oct. 29, 2018.
“We have 7.2 miles of coastline around MacDill and we always have to be ready to patrol it,” said Tech. Sgt. Matthew McElyea, a military dog trainer assigned to the 6th SFS. “We never stop training and it’s our job to keep our dogs engaged and excited about the job we accomplish together.”
Additionally, eight Tampa law enforcement agencies unleashed their own K9s during the joint training exercise.
“We do this training annually,” said Eddie Durkin, Tampa Police Department public information officer. “Some dogs don’t get enough exposure to water-based scenarios and this type of training gets them more confident and comfortable in the water.”
U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Damion Morris, a military dog handler assigned to the 6th Security Forces Squadron, tests the water with his military working dog, Lleonard, at Adventure Island, Tampa, Fla. Oct. 29, 2018.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Scott Warner)
MacDill’s military working dogs, Lord, Zeno, and Lleonard, participated in a wave of training scenarios involving suspect apprehension and deterrence in an unfamiliar environment.
“We are always looking for new ways to evolve our training and be ready for any contingency situation,” McElyea said.
The event simulated three water-based scenarios, from an obstacle course to waves and large depths of water. The training fully encompassed what a military working dog might experience in the field.
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Greene, a military dog trainer assigned to the 6th Security Forces Squadron, practices water aggression training with 6th SFS military working dog, Lleonard, at Adventure Island, Tampa, Fla. Oct. 29, 2018.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Scott Warner)
“Lord was outstanding in every water-based evaluation, and Zeno and Lleonard made significant progress throughout the day,” McElyea said. “This situational training is invaluable when our dogs need to be ready to respond to anything.”
Whether it’s inside of the base or at a point of entry, MacDill’s working dog handlers and their partners continuously practice detection, bite drills, obeying commands and apprehending suspects.
“We are the best at narcotic and bomb detection and deterrence,” McElyea said. “But our local law enforcement agencies are experts in patrol, so collectively these joint training exercises are mutually beneficial since we can learn so much from one another.”
Syrian state media said a military airport near Homs had come under missile attack, which was repelled by its air defense systems on May 24, 2018.
“One of our military airports in the central region was exposed to hostile missile aggression, and our air defense systems confronted the attack and prevented it from achieving its aim,” state news agency SANA said.
Charles Lister, a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute, tweeted that there were reports of “possible #Israel airstrikes underway targeting the Al-Dhaba’a Airbase near Al-Qusayr in #Homs, #Syria.”
Al-Qusayr is an Iranian Revolutionary Guard and Hezbollah stronghold, Lister tweeted.
“Some local users said #Israel strikes,” Joyce Karam, a reporter at The National, also tweeted.
SANA earlier reported sounds of explosions heard near the Dabaa airport near the city of Homs.
It’s well known that in the American military, the green beret is the exclusive headdress of soldiers qualified as Army Special Forces. The only way to don one of these distinctive berets is to complete the arduous “Q Course” and be awarded a Special Forces tab.
In fact, Army Special Forces soldiers are often called “Green Berets” based on that specific Army green “Shade 297” cap.
But how America’s premier unconventional warfare force got that iconic headwear is as much a testament to the force’s tenacity as it is a tribute to the founding soldiers who challenged at Big Army’s authority.
The beret is said to be somewhat derived from America’s ties to the British Commandos of World War II, who wore a green beret as their standard-issue headdress beginning in 1941.
So it’s not surprising that according to the official history of the Army Special Forces Association, America’s green beret was first designed by SF major and OSS veteran Herbert Brucker about two years after the unit was formed, likely due to the close work between the OSS — the predecessor to the Special Forces — and Royal British Commandos during the war.
But that all changed in the early 1960s, when then-President John F. Kennedy adopted the Special Forces as America’s answer to the guerrilla wars that marked the first decades of the Cold War. Before a visit to Fort Bragg in 1961, Kennedy reportedly ordered then Special Warfare School commander Brig. Gen. William P. Yarborough to outfit his soldiers with the distinctive caps, arguing these unconventional warriors deserved headgear that set them apart from the rest of the Army.
In a twist of irony, just weeks before Kennedy’s visit, the Army officially adopted the green beret for Special Forces soldiers.
Kennedy was said to have asked Yarborough whether he liked the new berets, with the SF general telling him, “They’re fine, sir. We’ve wanted them for a long time.”
Later, Kennedy sent Yarborough a message thanking him for the visit to Bragg and remarking, “The challenge of this old but new form of operations is a real one, and I know that you and the members of your command will carry on for us and the free world in a manner which is both worthy and inspiring. I am sure that the Green Beret will be a mark of distinction in the trying times ahead.”
The bond between the late president and the Special Forces community are so strong that on Nov. 25, 1963, as Kennedy was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery, a Special Forces sergeant major placed his green beret on the grave of the fallen president. Silently, steadily 42 other Special Forces Soldiers laid their berets alongside, the Army says.
Since then, the SF lays a wreath at Kennedy’s grave in Arlington National Cemetery on the anniversary of his death.
Staff Sgt. Timothy Dawson was trying to get some rest before work the next day. The phone rang twice before he answered it. His neighbor, who lives just above his apartment complex on the hill, told him the fire was really close and they were evacuating.
That neighbor was 1st Lt. Mike Constable, a pilot with the 146th Airlift Wing, Channel Islands Air National Guard Station, California. Dawson said he could see Constable and his roommates packing things into their cars.
The Thomas Fire started on Dec. 4, 2017, in Santa Paula, near Thomas Aquinas College. Driven by Santa Ana winds gusting up to 70 mph, the flames screamed across the hillsides toward Ojai and Ventura. Numerous fires leapfrogged across Ventura and Los Angeles Counties the following day.
Chino Valley firefighters watch the oncoming flames of the Thomas Fire from the yard of a home in Montecito, California, Dec. 12, 2017. C-130Js of the 146th Airlift Wing at Channel Islands Air National Guard Base in Port Hueneme, carried the Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System and dropped fire suppression chemicals onto the fire’s path to slow its advance in support of firefighters on the ground.
(Photo by J.M. Eddins JR.)
“I looked out my window, and could see the sky above the ridge by my home was glowing really orange and red already. My wife and I decided at that point to just grab what we could get and go somewhere safe,” Dawson said.
Dawson’s three-level, 52-unit apartment complex burned to the ground a few hours later.
Ironically, Dawson is a C-130J Hercules crew chief for the 146th AW, one of five wings in the Air Force equipped with the module airborne firefighting system, or MAFFS. This system is loaded onto C-130s and is designed to fight the very thing that took his home, wildfires.
The 146th AW was activated Dec. 5 to fight what became the largest California wildfire by size in the state’s recorded history, covering 281,893 acres. The Thomas Fire is now 100 percent contained.
“We got the word and everybody sprung into action. Our maintenance folk got the airplane ready for us, our aerial port guys went and got the MAFFS units pulled out and loadmasters got the airplanes ready. It was really a well-oiled machine on that day. We got things done really quickly,” said Senior Master Sgt. Phil Poulsen, a loadmaster with the 146th AW.
Most of the airmen stationed at Channel Islands ANGS are from Ventura County or the surrounding area. Approximately 50 people from the 146th AW evacuated their homes during the fire and five airmen lost their homes.
Residents of a 52-unit apartment complex search for belongings, Dec. 13, 2017, after the Thomas Fire roared through their neighborhood. Staff Sgt. Timothy Dawson, a C-130J Hercules aircraft maintenance technician with the 146th Airlift Wing, was also a resident of the apartment complex.
(Photo by Master SGT. Brian Ferguson)
“I can see the smoke from my house and we know people who live there,” Poulson said. “My daughter went to day care up there and I think I flew over that house. I think it’s gone. So it really hits close to home when you are this close to home.”
The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or CAL FIRE, requested MAFFS aircraft and personnel support through the state’s governor and the Adjutant General of the state’s National Guard. Once activated, CAL FIRE incident commanders assigned to the Thomas Fire, and based at the Ventura Fairgrounds, generate the launch orders for the MAFFS. The aircraft sit ready at Tanker Base Operations, a few miles south of the fairgrounds at Channel Islands Air National Guard Station.
Once requested, the C-130s would join the fight at a designated altitude in the protected flight area, typically 1,500 feet above ground. An aerial supervisor, or air attack, would fly at about 2,000 feet, directing and controlling the aircraft. Lead planes, at 1,000 feet, guide the tankers to their drop points, approximately 150 feet above the ground.”
Once we enter the fire traffic area, we join on the lead plane. He’ll typically give us a show me [puff of smoke] which shows us where he’s intending us to drop,” said Lt. Col. Scott Pemberton, a C-130J pilot with the 146th AW. “We try to be very precise with that because you know it’s a high value asset and you get one shot at it.”
The mission requires the crews to fly the C-130s very close to the fires.
“You’re taking the fight directly to the ground,” Pemberton said. “We are 150 feet above the ground at 120 knots, at the edge of the airplane’s envelope. You’re demanding a lot of yourself and your fellow crewmembers. So that’s why you are typically very highly trained and are very prepared to do this mission.”
The MAFFS can hold 3,000 gallons of retardant, which is released from a nozzle placed in the left rear troop door of the aircraft. It takes approximately 15 minutes to load retardant into the MAFFS, another 15 minutes to reach the Thomas Fire, 10 more to join the lead plane and drop and then another 15 minutes to return to base. With 10 hours of daylight and two planes, the 146th AW drops an average of 60,000 gallons of retardant each day.
Lt. Col. Scott Pemberton, a C-130J pilot with the 146th Airlift Wing, has been with the 146th for 30 years and has lived in the Ventura/Santa Barbara, California community for about 48. He has been flying the modular airborne fire fighting system for approximately 20 years. The 146th was activated Dec.5, 2017, to support CAL FIRE with wildfire suppression efforts within the state.
(Photo by Master SGT. Brian Ferguson)
“Many times if you are close to a fire line and you’re doing direct attack you’ll see the guys standing down there,” Pemberton said. “On the second, third or fourth drop you’ll come by and you will see that you have gotten close enough to where they are a different color. But I’ve also seen the whites of their eyes where they’re diving behind their bulldozer because you’re that close, and they know that the retardant is coming.”
Still, the dangers of this mission are not lost on Pemberton.
On July 1, 2012, MAFFS 7, which belonged to the North Carolina Air National Guard’s 145th Airlift Wing based at the Charlotte-Douglas International Airport, crashed while fighting the White Draw Fire in South Dakota’s Black Hills. Four of the six crewmembers aboard died.
“There was a thunderstorm approaching from the north and as they were waiting for the lead to coordinate and get his bearings… The thunderstorm moved closer and closer,” Pemberton said. “They made a first run and I think they got off half of their retardant.”
As they made their second run, they had a wind shear event and a microburst took away their lift and forced them to fly straight ahead into the terrain.
Senior Master Sgt. Phil Poulsen, 146th Airlift Wing loadmaster, checks the level of retardant in the module airborne firefighting system as redardant is loaded, Dec. 9, 2017. The 146th AW is one of five wings in the Air Force equipped with MAFFS. This system is loaded onto C-130s and is designed to fight wildfires.
(Photo by Master SGT. Brian Ferguson)
“As a result of that incident we completely changed our training. We incorporated a lot of the wind shear escape maneuvers, and we built new seats for the loadmasters in the back and made crashworthy seats for those crewmembers,” Pemberton said.
This training and the 146th AW’s capabilities benefit everyone involved in the wildfire fighting community, too.
The 146th AW plays a big role in extinguishing fires, said Tenner Renz a dozer swamper with the Kern County Fire Department, but it’s something he sees on almost every fire. Whether a 100-acre or a 250,000-acre fire, the guard shows up.
“Some of these guys are crazy. I mean dipping down into some of these canyons, flying through smoke, buzzing treetops,” Renz said. “They have a talent that most people don’t have.”
Having the MAFFS capability means the 146th AW can be federally activated to support firefighting operations around the United States by the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho. An Air Force liaison group, led on a rotating basis by one of the five MAFFS unit commanders, staffs the center.
A C-130J Hercules from the 146th Airlift Wing, California Air National Guard, sprays fire retardant ahead of the leading edge of the Thomas Fire, Dec. 13, 2017. The 146th was activated to support CAL FIRE with wildfire suppression efforts within the state. The C-130s from Channel Islands Air National Guard Station are capable of spraying fire retardant from a modular airborne firefighting systems loaded in the cargo bay.
(Photo by Master SGT. Brian Ferguson)
This wide-ranging operational experience and capability gives CAL FIRE an extra capability when things are at their worst.
“We currently have low humidity, Santa Ana winds, we haven’t had rain in a number of days and we’re in areas that haven’t burned in 50-60 years,” said Dan Sendek, MAFFS liaison officer for CAL FIRE. “You can never have enough equipment for every eventuality. What the guard brings to us is that surge capacity when we’re in a situation where we need everything we can get.”
Six days after he lost his home, Dawson was back at work.
“The routine of going about the mission and getting things done is probably better,” Dawson said. “I needed to get back and get involved in the fire mission. The show must go on. The world doesn’t stop spinning and the guard doesn’t stop flying missions.”
For Dawson, it’s also a chance to combat the fire that took his home and save some of his neighbor’s property.
Tanner Renz, Kern County Fire Department, looks on as a C-130J Hercules from the 146th Airlift Wing, California Air National Guard, sprays fire retardant ahead of the leading edge of the Thomas Fire, Dec. 13, 2017. The 146th was activated to support CAL FIRE with wildfire suppression efforts within the state. The C-130s from Channel Islands Air National Guard Station are capable of spraying fire retardant from a modular airborne firefighting systems loaded in the cargo bay.
Photo by Master SGT. Brian Ferguson)
Dawson and his wife were able to return to their apartment a few days after the fire destroyed it, however, they were not able to search for personal items because the fire was still smoldering.
“Every single tenant in the 52 units was able to get out ahead of the fire. When we went back for the first time it was it was pretty emotionally taxing,” he said. “There were two stories worth of apartments that collapsed into a carport. There’s nothing left that we could really find.
“To me, then and even now, it still feels a little surreal. I know it’s happening to me, but it feels like it’s happening to someone else.”
This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.
Although the Force has significantly reduced its maintainer shortage, it now faces the daunting task of training the new recruits up to the levels of knowledge and experience the Force needs. That takes considerable time.
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said, in Nov. 2017, that the lack of maintainers was having a noticeable effect on air operations.
Whereas in years past, a pilot would have multiple maintainers on hand for aircraft prep, takeoff, and landing, now, Goldfein said, pilots often have to “taxi slow, because the same single-crew chief that you met has to … drive to the end of the runway to pull the pins and arm the weapons.”
“Then, you sit on the runway before you take off and you wait, because that crew chief has to go jump on a C-17 with his tools to fly ahead to meet you at the other end,” he added. “This is the level of numbers that we’re dealing with.”
The maintainer shortage has been a problem for some time and was exacerbated by the drawdown in 2014, which grew the shortage by 1,200 airmen. At the end of fiscal year 2015, the force was short some 4,000 maintainers.
The shortages fell especially hard on the most experienced airmen — 1,900 maintainers at the 5- and 7-skill levels were absent. Maintainers at that level work on the Air Force’s advanced aircraft, like the F-35, and those with the most experience were left working 50- to 60-hour weeks to keep aircraft in flying shape.
The Air Force tries to keep deployed units at full strength, meaning the personnel shortage was felt acutely among squadrons in the US.
The force rolled out a number of enticements to keep airmen on the flight line. By the end of fiscal year 2016, that shortage shrunk to 3,400 maintainers. By the end of fiscal year 2017, the official tally was down to 400.
“So we’ve been getting well” in terms of maintainers, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said at a Heritage Foundation event last week.
Wilson said in mid-February 2018 that the shortage had fallen to 200 maintainers— though Air Force spokeswoman Erika Yepsen told Business Insider the number can change throughout the year based on the force’s personnel numbers and needs.
Wilson added at the Heritage Foundation that simply adding airmen won’t solve the problem created by shedding experienced maintainers.
New, 3-skill level maintainers usually take five to seven years to get fully experienced.
“You go from being an apprentice to a craftsman to a master craftsman,” Wilson said. “So, we have a deficit in those craftsmen, and so we’re looking at different ways to be able to accelerate the learning of those young maintainers.”
“There’s only so much you can do to really learn and master your craft, but we’re almost well in terms of numbers, really now it’s about seasoning that force and getting them to the level of being craftsmen,” she added.
To help accelerate training, the Air Force is going to the boneyard — the aircraft storage facility at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona. The boneyard (there is more than one) provides long-term storage for mothballed or unused aircraft — the force has scavenged parts from there to keep its largest plane, the C5 Galaxy, in the air.
According to Air Force Times, the force will start pulling F-15s and F-16s from the facility to provide training aircraft for the new maintainers and weapons-loaders. Those planes won’t fly, but they will act as high-tech guinea pigs for aircrews training to work on active combat aircraft. This will also keep the Air Force from having to take active aircraft out of service for training.
The Air Force has also brought in civilian contractors to take over some responsibilities — like washing aircraft and instruction — to free up time for maintainers to train.
“Every jet that I can relieve and put back on a flying schedule instead of being a ground instructional trainer, that has second- and third-order return on investment,” Col. Michael Lawrence, head of the Air Force’s maintenance division, told Air Force Times in December 2017.
“When you move jets from one place to another in a maintenance group complex, that drives a level of effort,” Lawrence added. “When we can park a jet down there on a permanent basis, that is a training asset.”
It looks like the list for the Army’s senior enlisted promotions got pushed out — which is fantastic news for everyone who got picked up. Congratulations! You worked hard and it’s paying off.
To the rest of you, my condolences. But let me be clear here: I’m not pitying the NCOs — oh no, they’ll get their time to shine (or get RCPed for staying in at the same rank, whichever comes first). My heart aches for the soldiers beneath the NCOs that didn’t make the list. Get ready for a world of hurt because your platoon sergeant is about to take their frustrations out on you.
In London’s Westminster Abby there is St. George’s Chapel, where on one of the chapel’s walls hangs the Commando Association Battle Honors flag that lists where the Commandos fought and died during World War II from 1940 to 1945.
Under the word COMMANDO in gold letters is a stylized portrayal of a singular knife – the Fairbairn-Sykes fighting knife.
Soldiers throughout history have always carried blades as weapons and as tools. Yet, no other knife is more commonly associated with WW II elite forces or possesses more mystique than the Fairbairn-Sykes knife.
Commonly referred to as the “F-S knife” or “F-S dagger,” it is still issued to British Royal Marine Commandos, the Malaysian Special Operations Force, Singapore Commandos and Greek Raiders. In addition, the image of the knife is part of the emblem of the United States Army Special Operations Command (Airborne) as well as the emblems of special forces units in Holland, Belgium and Australia.
Yet, it is a weapon born out the experience of dealing with 1930’s knife fights in Shanghai and developed by two men who had no scruples about dirty fighting. In fact, William Fairbairn and Eric Sykes taught an entire generation of warriors that one of the quickest, quietest and deadliest ways to kill Germans was cold steel thrust into Nazi vitals – preferably from behind.
“The Commando dagger would become a symbol not just to the men who were issued it, but also to British civilians at a time when Britain was on the back foot, and any deadly way to strike back at the Germans was considered a boost for morale,” wrote Leroy Thompson is his book Fairbairn-Sykes Commando Dagger.
Whether it was the Roman pugio (a short-bladed dagger that served as a legionnaire’s backup weapon), bowie knives wielded on both sides of the U.S. Civil War, or the “knuckle duster” trench knives of the Great War, soldiers have always carried blades for use in close-quarters fighting.
However, from the late 19th century until World War II many European generals thought it was unseemly for soldiers to bring personal knives into combat. Some thought it would reduce reliance on the bayonet and diminish the fighting spirit of soldiers.
Other commanders deemed rough-and-tumble knife fighting downright “ungentlemanly” – there’s a reason why betrayal is often called a “stab in the back.” Killing face-to-face with the bayonet was considered the more honorable way to dispatch the enemy.
However, the beginning of World War II reinvigorated belief in the close-combat knife as an essential weapon.
Prime Minister Winston Churchill was less fussy about how British troops killed the soldiers of the Third Reich. He placed great stock in commando forces, covert operations, and what he called “ungentlemanly warfare.”
The newly created Special Operations Executive taught knife-fighting as part of agents’ training. So did the British Commandos and airborne forces.
That meant there was a demand for a specific kind of knife that would be used to quietly kill the enemy, preferably in a surprise attack.
“In close-quarters fighting there is no more deadly weapon than the knife,” Fairbairn wrote in his manual Get Tough! How to Win in Hand-to-Hand Fighting (1942). “An entirely unarmed man has no certain defense against it, and, further, merely the sudden flashing of a knife is frequently enough to strike fear into your opponent, causing him to lose confidence and surrender.”
Fairbairn would have known: During his 20-year career with the Shanghai Municipal Police, he fought in hundreds of street fights against assailants armed with knives and daggers. His friend and colleague Sykes served on the same police force and faced the same adversaries in what was at the time one of the most dangerous cities in the world.
In 1941, both men collaborated on the knife’s original design. Although the knife went through several variations during the war, it remained a double-edged stiletto well-balanced like a good sword and suited to thrusting and cutting more than slashing an opponent.
The models made by high-quality cutlers were manufactured from carbon steel so they could be honed razor sharp.
David W. Decker, a U.S. Navy veteran, knife-fighting expert, and collector of F-S knives, said a man trained in the use of the Fairbairn-Sykes knife learned confidence and aggression. In the hands of a properly-trained individual, it is a fearsome weapon.
“The knife has tremendous capacity for penetration of an enemy’s clothing, web gear and person,” Decker said. “A vital part of the training was the instruction in hitting lethal targets on the human body. Many of these targets had to be reached through the rib cage, so the slender blade was most efficient. The approximately seven-inch blade is capable of reaching all vital organs. Fluid in the hands, the grip was designed like that of a fencing foil to enhance the maneuverability of the knife.”
Another advantage of the F-S dagger was its ease of carry, said Decker, whose website chronicles the development of the knife and has photographs of many examples.
Relatively lightweight compared to other combat knives of the time, it was easily concealed or secured in a battle dress cargo pocket. Some men carried them strapped to their legs, tucked behind their pistol holster, or in a boot.
The needle-nosed point and razor-like edges of the dagger sometimes caused problems, Decker said. For example, one British commando could not pull the dagger out of the body of a German sentry because the knife was stuck in his ribs.
“At least one knife-maker was quoted as saying he made knives for stabbing Germans, not peeling potatoes,” Decker said, indicating some manufacturers made F-S knives with smooth edges so a soldier could remove the blade more easily from the enemy’s body.
Despite differences in quality and manufacture, the F-S knife gained popularity with both British and American soldiers during the war.
Members of the U.S. Army Rangers and Marine Raiders carried versions of the knife. U.S. Army Gen. Robert T. Frederick, commander of the 1st Special Service Force known as The Devil’s Brigade, based his design for the V-42 stiletto issued to his troops on the F-S knife.
Today, the F-S knife remains an iconic symbol on both sides of the Atlantic of what it means to qualify as an elite soldier.
At Fort Benning, Georgia, there is the Ranger Memorial. Behind two stone pillars holding a stylized Ranger tab are two smaller pillars and a knife sculpted in stone – a Fairbairn-Sykes fighting knife.
The US has reportedly made a bold move in countering Beijing’s growing dominance in the South China Sea by flying B-52 nuclear-capable bombers over disputed islands — and it shows how the US and China may rapidly be approaching a showdown.
“China’s militarization of artificial features in the South China Sea includes the deployment of anti-ship missiles, surface-to-air missiles, electronic jammers, and more recently, the landing of bomber aircraft at Woody Island,” Mattis said.
Chinese President Xi Jinping swore at the White House with former President Barack Obama in 2015 that he would not militarize the islands, and continues to claim the islands have not been militarized despite the obvious presence of military equipment.
“The placement of these weapons systems is tied directly to military use for the purposes of intimidation and coercion,” said Mattis.
The B-52s reportedly flew within 20 miles of the Spratly Islands, which China claims for itself and has built military facilities on. But Malaysia, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Taiwan also claim the islands, and China has repeatedly made a show of refusing to let international courts settle the matter.
The US has a lot of experience taking down small islands
(U.S. Navy photo)
Earlier in June 2018, a top US general asserted the US military’s power to act against threats to international order, saying “the United States military has had a lot of experience in the Western Pacific, taking down small islands.”
In another rhetorical shift, the US military renamed its Pacific command “Indo-Pacific command” to emphasize India and advance a vision of the Pacific not dominated by China.