How pilot training has changed over the years - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

How pilot training has changed over the years

Pilot training is constantly changing to ensure students have an environment where they not only learn to fly, but to adapt and quickly out-think their enemies.

With senior leadership making innovation a priority, the Air Force has changed how airmen are trained and how they become proficient at their jobs. This in turn has changed the way the Air Force develops pilots and what pilot training currently looks like.

For instance, pilot training currently consists of three phases starting with the academic and simulator phase. After the academic phase, student pilots are sent to train in the T-6A Texan II, the primary training aircraft.

Once the students complete the second phase, they are selected for either the airlift/tanker track in the T-1A Jayhawk, or the fighter/bomber track in the T-38C Talon.


“When I went through pilot training in the late 1960s, we started off flying the Cessna T-41 Mescalero for six weeks, the T-37 Tweet for five months and finished training in the T-38 Talon for a total of 52 weeks of training,” said Jim Faulkner, Vance Air Force Base, a graduate of pilot training, class of 1968.

How pilot training has changed over the years

U.S. Air Force Cessna T-41 Mescalero.

Although students in the 1960s and students today reach the same goal, there have been adjustments made over the course of time to focus pilots on mastering the specific style of aircraft they will fly once training has finished.

In addition to changes in the training aircraft, there have been technological advancements to improve the way students operate an aircraft.

“We had simulators, but the concepts that they covered were limited and did not give us any visual aids to look at while training,” said Jim Mayhall, pilot training graduate, class of 1967.

In the same way that older generations used simulators to gather a feel of the aircraft and location of instruments, current students use simulators to familiarize themselves with flying maneuvers and concepts before they reach the cockpit. The changes in technology have the potential to give students more realistic training for what they will experience in the cockpit.

“Being able to gain exposure to 360-degree videos of the local area, patterns and virtual-reality videos saves money and time,” said 1st Lt. Jason Mavrogeorge, 8th Flying Training Squadron instructor pilot.

How pilot training has changed over the years

2nd Lt. Kenneth Gill, a student pilot assigned to the 71st Student Squadron, and Capt. Peter Shufeldt, an instructor pilot assigned to the 33rd Flying Training Squadron, start up the T-6 Texan II before take-off, May 2, 2019, at Vance Air Force Base, Oklahoma. The T-6 Texan II is the first aircraft the student pilots learn to fly before moving on to other aircraft.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Zoe T. Perkins)

“Students should have seen the arrivals, departures and instrument approaches before their first flight,” Mavrogeorge said. “Giving the students more flying experience gives them confidence and allows me to enhance their flying skills as an instructor.”

Similar to the technological changes made within pilot training, there have been changes in monitoring the safety of pilots while flying.

The safety standards did not require pilots to wear a G-suit in the T-37 Tweet. When the T-37 was replaced with the more maneuverable T-6A Texan II, pilots were required to wear a G-suit during flight to prevent the possibility of losing consciousness.

All the great changes and advancements in pilot training are possible thanks to those who laid the groundwork and figured out what to avoid.

“The only thing that remains constant in the Air Force pilot training program is that we will continue to produce great Air Force aviators and future leaders,” Mayhall said.

Vance trains more than 350 pilots a year, totaling over 34,000 since pilot training began in 1941.

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

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This non-profit pairs war veterans with Gold Star kids

Perry Yee knew there was a way he could help his fellow veterans but wasn’t sure how. There are plenty of charities and programs out there that claim to help veterans with issues like PTSD, anxiety, loneliness and isolation, and the sometimes difficult transition into the civilian world. The call to do something was there, but he wasn’t sure what the path was.


So Yee and his wife, Jamie, did what a lot of people who want to help do….they prayed.

Soon after, the idea for Active Valor was born.

How pilot training has changed over the years

Active Valor is a non-profit that pairs veterans with Gold Star children. Based out of San Diego county, veterans apply to be a mentor for a child that belongs to a Gold Star family. The intent isn’t to take the place of the father who has passed away, but to be a mentor, guide, confidant and teacher while honoring the parent that passed away. Active Valor does this in several ways. First, they host events throughout the year that keep veterans engaged. This is not a once a year event. This is not a one time meet up. Once paired with a kid, the veteran commits to participating in events throughout the year, and most go further developing a relationship with the child and family. They will end up having weekly conversations, taking the child to sporting events, and being involved with the kid’s life. But more than a “Big Brother” program, Active Valor serves the veteran too and helps them with their struggles.

How pilot training has changed over the years

Yee himself knew all about that struggle. He enlisted in the Navy in 2005 on a BUDs contract. Twice he went through Hell Week and had to be rolled back. Once for nerve damage to his arm, and once for pneumonia. But like most warriors, Yee didn’t give up, and in true “third times the charm fashion” graduated in Class 262. He was eventually assigned to SEAL Team 7 out of Coronado, Calif.

Yee did a combat tour and earned himself a Navy Commendation with “V” and Army Commendation with “V.” He left the service in 2011 and embarked on the next chapter of his life. After flirting with college, Yee ended up with the Competitor Group, which runs the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathons nationwide. After a year, he ended up as a Range Safety Officer in Poway, Calif., before getting a job at the Warfighter Academy in Escondido, Calif.. It was here that Yee taught classes in CQB and other warfighting techniques. It was also here where he started connecting with veterans and learned that his rough journey into the civilian side wasn’t just his own experience. Yee learned that many other veterans struggle to connect with coworkers, classmates, family and spouses, and few had outlets which they could express themselves and connect with others.

How pilot training has changed over the years

The events the Active Valor puts on helps veterans do just that. They are specifically tailor-made to allow the veteran to use skills and experiences he/she learned in the military and put them to use in a setting that allows the kids to have fun.

How?

By hosting amazingly fun and badass events.

One of the events Yee organized was a treasure hunt for the kids. However, this particular treasure hunt required veterans to use their land nav skills so that kids could find the treasure. Veterans taught their kids how to read maps, use a compass, use a pace count and other tricks so that they could find the treasure that was buried. For those of us that served, it is a bit more fun to do land nav when it helps a kid win a prize as opposed to the torture of doing it as part of training.

Other events include a capture the flag event, field day events, jewel heist adventures where the kid has to recover stolen property, and the most popular of all….’The Zombie Hunt.’ This was a one-off event, where Gold Star kids and their veteran mentors navigated a course full of zombies. Armed with Nerf guns and lots of close combat experience, the pairs went around killing zombies and making memories. The event is so popular it went from a one-off to an annual event (although next year might feature aliens instead of zombies).

Seriously how fun is this:

For the Gold Star families, the events and mentorship provide fun events for the kids while giving them a chance to develop a rapport with someone that walked in their dad’s shoes. A big piece of why the events are successful for both the kids and the veteran is simple. The vet gets to teach the kids about the skills they learned in the military – the same skills their dad knew. That lays the cornerstone to a bridge between their fathers’ life and their life now.

For many Gold Star families, when they lose their loved one, they lose the one connection they had with military life. Active Valor helps reestablish that connection too. Perry has had a lot of positive feedback from mothers saying their kid was in a shell or detached after losing their dad. Having an Active Valor mentor and participating in the activities, give the child an outlet and someone they can talk to. Yee and his wife want to make it clear; Active Valor is not about bringing up the trauma the child had in losing a parent. It is about giving them a day of fun to celebrate the parent and, well, be a kid.

How pilot training has changed over the years

Active Valor is a two-person show. Perry is the CEO and does most of the leg work when it comes to organizing the events. His wife Jamie uses her media and design background from her job to do all the marketing, social media, and photo and video work that is needed to spread the word. They are local to San Diego right now, but bring in kids from Northern California, Arizona and Texas. Perry and Jamie are working on expanding the program and engaging more veterans and Gold Star families as they have seen the positive benefits of their program and know they can do more. The process of signing up revolves around the families. Once they sign up, they are then paired with a veteran based on several factors, including interests and hobbies. The key is to make sure the kid feels trusted, and the veteran is going to be a long-term positive influence on the child in the years to come.

The biggest obstacle they face is funding and getting the word out to Gold Star families that this program exists for their kids. If you would like to learn more and if you want to get involved, visit here!

MIGHTY CULTURE

Airman saves child’s life on the way to pick up an award

A US airman recently saved a child’s life on his flight back to the US, where he was to receive a prestigious award for being exceptional, the Air Force announced this September 2019.

Tech. Sgt. Kenneth O’Brien, a special tactics section chief assigned to the 320th Special Tactics Squadron at Kadena Air Base in Japan, was named one of only a dozen “2019 Outstanding Airmen of the Year,” the Air Force announced in August 2019.

O’Brien served as a member of President Donald Trump’s security detail for one of the summits with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, and he rescued someone from a burning vehicle in Korea. He played an important role in rescuing a Thai soccer team from a cave, and, during the rescue operation, he also saved the life of a Thai Navy SEAL.


“If someone needs to go do something dangerous, I volunteer,” O’Brien said of his rather eventful year. “If someone needs a leader, I volunteer. I happened to be in the right place at the right time and that’s what helped me stand out because I sought out key positions or responsibilities.”

How pilot training has changed over the years

Tech. Sgt. Kenneth O’Brien.

Two weeks ago, he was on a flight back to the US to receive his award at the Air Force Association conference when a 1-year-old child lost consciousness due to an airway blockage. The child may have been unresponsive, but O’Brien was not.

“Our man OB leaps into action, clears the breathing passage, resuscitates the kid, hands him back to the parents, and then goes on about his business,” Lt. Gen. Jim Slife, head of Air Force Special Operations Command, wrote in a Facebook post, Stars and Stripes first reported.

The Air Force said in a statement that the child regained consciousness after about a minute. O’Brien regularly checked in on the child throughout the remainder of the flight.

“I’m thankful that the child is OK and that I was able to help when the family needed support,” O’Brien said, explaining that he just “happened to be in the right place at the right time.”

“I can’t decide if he’s Superman or Mayhem (the guy on the insurance commercials),” Silfe said on Facebook. “I don’t know whether I want to be right next to him in case some bad stuff goes down, or whether I want to be as far away from him as possible because bad stuff always seems to go down around him.”

While O’Brien was named as an award recipient in August 2019, his actions on his flight back to the US confirmed that he is deserving of it, his commander said.

“We are very proud of Tech. Sgt. O’Brien,” Lt. Col. Charles Hodges, commander of the 320th Special Tactics Squadron, said in a statement. “He continues to step up when there is a need for leadership and action. This incident demonstrates without a doubt that O’Brien epitomizes the Air Force’s core values and rightly deserves the honor and selection as one of the Air Force’s 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

6 signs that let troops know it’s about to get real

Veterans who have been in the service a while know that the exact dates and times of the biggest operations are typically classified until just before they pop off. But the troops have found ways of knowing what’s coming because the command can’t quite keep everything to “business as usual” while also preparing for a big push.

Here are six signs that sh*t’s about to get real:


How pilot training has changed over the years

Lt. Col. Matthew Danner, battalion commander of Battalion Landing Team 3/1, 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, inspects a rifle aboard the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Essex during a regularly scheduled deployment of Essex Amphibious Ready Group and the 13th MEU, July 31, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Francisco J. Diaz Jr.)

The commander shows up to inspections

In theory, the commander cares about all inspections, but he or she typically leaves the actual inspecting to their noncommissioned officers and platoon leaders. After all, company commanders and above have a lot to keep track of.

But sometimes, the first sergeant and commander are involved in more inspections than normal, and are checking for more details than normal. It’s a sign that they’re worried weapons, vehicles, and troops will see combat soon, making an untreated rash or rust damage much more dangerous.

How pilot training has changed over the years

Soldiers training at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California, undergo a CS gas attack simulating an attack with a worse chemical agent.

(U.S. Army photo by Cpl. Hannah Baker)

Low-level, constant exercises or operations suddenly stop

When a force is built up for a potentially big fight, the commanders have to keep everyone razor sharp and focused. If the troops aren’t in regular combat, this is typically accomplished via small exercises and large drills.

But, if the fight is about to start, the higher-ups want to ensure that everyone gets a little rest before going into the big battle. So, leaders get word from their own bosses to cease unnecessary training and operations the days immediately preceding the fight, and troops may even get official confirmation 24 hours out along with orders to rest up.

All the headquarters pukes are suddenly mum, or are talking in whispers in corners

But of course, not every low-level soldier can be kept out of the loop. Someone has to look at where the moon will be on different nights, cloud cover, whether the locals will be outside or in their homes during normal patterns of life. Someone has to move the right equipment to the right spots, and someone runs the messages between all the majors making the plans.

So, those people are all low-ranking, yes, but they’re also in the know. They’ll respond in one of a few ways, usually spilling the beans to close friends or cutting themselves off from everyone — which are dead giveaways in their own right. If the intel guy who typically wants to talk to everyone is suddenly mum or will only talk in whispers to close friends, get ready for a fight.

How pilot training has changed over the years

Marines deliver an M777 howitzer via MV-22 Osprey slingload during training in Australia in 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Daniel Wetzel)

A whole bunch of fresh supplies arrive

Here’s a little secret: For as much as all the troops complain about always having to deal with old, hand-me-down gear, the U.S. is actually one of the best-supplied militaries in the world, if not the best supplied (we’re certainly the most expensive). But all of those supplies are typically sent to top-tier units or units about to go into the fight.

So, if you’re not in a Special Forces unit but the supply guy shows up with a ton of useful, new gear — especially batteries —that your unit has been asking for — and failing to receive — then you might be going into combat. Get to know the equipment quick.

How pilot training has changed over the years

Pizza Hut shows up at the Marines’ base just before the invasion of Iraq begins in ‘Generation Kill,” a mini-series based on a journalist’s account of the invasion.

(HBO)

A sudden, seemingly unprompted, nice meal

As odd as it sounds, an unexpected nice meal is a dead giveaway that troops are about to experience something rough. If you’re a soldier in the middle of a huge force, it’s a good bet that the “something rough” is the planned operation.

This sometimes comes up in movies and TV, like in Generation Kill, when 20 cars showed up at the wire filled with Pizza Hut while the Marines were waiting for the invasion of Iraq to begin. Driver and comedian Ray Person immediately calls it,

“Sh*t is on. Has to be.”
How pilot training has changed over the years

Marines communicate with family and friends on new morale internet lines in 2011 in Kabul, Afghanistan.

(Office of the Secretary of Defense Public Affairs)

Comms blackout

Of course, the officers typically want to tell all their troops what’s going on and get them mentally prepared for the fight, but there’s a big step they need to take to make sure word doesn’t leak out: a communications blackout. Internet and phone access to the outside world is cutoff so no one can send an errant text home and let the enemy know the invasion is coming.

So, if the morale lines suddenly cut off, go ahead and report to your platoon, because word is coming down that something has happened or is about to.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Vince Vargas teams with vets to create documentary about MOH recipient & his Marines

“On a dusty road in western Iraq, Corporal Dunham gave his life so that others might live.”

Those words were spoken by President George W. Bush during the Medal of Honor ceremony for Corporal Jason Dunham, who became the first Marine honored with the MOH since the Vietnam War.

After years of friendship with the family and friends of Dunham, Navy veteran David Kniess has joined with Army vet Vince Vargas to tell the story of the men of Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines — and the story of how Dunham sacrificed himself for his brothers.

“This film truly is by veterans, for veterans,” shared Kniess, stressing the significance that “all of them understand the importance of telling this story.”

“Many years ago, I had a chance meeting with Corporal Dunham before he went to Iraq. That chance meeting led to life-long friendships with the Dunham Family and a core group of Marines who served with Corporal Dunham. I have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly over the past 15 years… PTS, drug and alcohol abuse, and in some cases suicide. It’s been an extremely hard road for some of them,” he said.

This is why he has chosen to create this film, one that will feel very familiar to those who have lost someone to war.


The Gift | Documentary Sizzle

vimeo.com

Watch the moving sizzle video:

“What do you say to the parents of the guy who gave his life for you? What do you tell them?” asked Cpl Kelly Miller, who served with Dunham.

Kniess has tried to make the film before, “but the Marines of Kilo weren’t ready, and quite frankly, neither was I. It was too soon. Every year during the month of April and the anniversary of Corporal Dunham’s death, I would remind myself of the story I needed to finish. 15-years later that time is now.”

On Nov. 10, 2019, Kniess and 4 Kilo Marines went to San Diego to record Jocko’s Podcast, episode 203, One Man Can Make a Difference. The next day, they launched an Indiegogo campaign to try and raise more funding to keep the project moving forward.

“The story will be told through present day interviews with the Dunham family as well as the Marines who served with Corporal Dunham, including Kelly Miller and Bill Hampton whose lives he saved. You will learn the circumstances surrounding Corporal Dunham’s sacrifice and the tragic outcome of his actions.”

To learn about the day Dunham was attacked in Western Iraq, including images of the team and first-hand reporting, check out their indiegogo campaign. If you feel moved to contribute, great. If you can share their story, that’s important, too.

[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/B5vdtZQJmTi/ expand=1]The Gift on Instagram: “A decision… Do nothing and we all die… do something and my Marines will live. This is what was left of Corporal Dunham’s Kevlar helmet…”

www.instagram.com

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of October 5th

This week, airmen all over the world are finally able to don their super cool, super high-speed OCPs. Meanwhile, the Army has just one more year of ACUs before they have to be completely switched to the same pattern. Airmen are loving it, but soldiers have been reacting with a near-unanimous “are you f*cking kidding me?”

The airmen love it because they’re no longer in those ridiculous, tiger-stripe uniform. Soldiers hate it because, well, they’re cramping our style. If the Air Force starts claiming they were a part of the Army during the Pinks & Greens era to get in on that perfect getup (instead of that flight attendant costume), then we might have a problem.

What were we talking about again? Oh, yeah. Enjoy these memes.


How pilot training has changed over the years

(Meme via Air Force Nation Humor)

How pilot training has changed over the years

(Meme via Smokepit Fairytales)

How pilot training has changed over the years

(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

How pilot training has changed over the years

(Meme via Lost in the Sauce)

How pilot training has changed over the years

(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)

How pilot training has changed over the years

(Meme via Sh*t My LPO Says)

How pilot training has changed over the years

(Meme via PNN)

How pilot training has changed over the years

(Meme via Pop Smoke)

How pilot training has changed over the years

(Meme via Dysfunctional Veterans)

How pilot training has changed over the years

(Meme by Inkfidel)

How pilot training has changed over the years

(Meme via Shammers United)

How pilot training has changed over the years

(Meme via Infantry Follow Me)

How pilot training has changed over the years

(Meme via The Salty Soldier)

MIGHTY CULTURE

Veterans Affairs chaplain addresses holiday stress in sermon

Excerpts from a sermon by Chaplain Jonathan Landon, Eugene VA Health Care Center.

I’ve known for a long time that some men and women really don’t enjoy the holiday season. In recent years I’ve had encounters that really brought home to me how many people there are in this situation, and how deep is their pain.

I’ve been convicted that we – the VA – and we – the community of faith – really should find some way to address this deep, aching need that some of our brothers and sisters feel.

Planning this service brought home to me many reasons why people might suffer during the holidays.


  • The first one that comes to mind is grief — loss of a loved one or a friend — but it’s not the only reason.
  • Alienation from family or even geographic distance from them can do it.
  • Painful memories of events that happened in the holiday season might be a reason.
  • Some people are experiencing loss of a job or other economic difficulty.
  • Even good things might make the holidays difficult; think about retirement, empty nest, or moving to a new home.

Any big change that affects a strong part of your self-identity might cause loneliness and feelings of isolation.

Even the loss of what might have been can be so painful.

I’m supposed to say something helpful, here, but I don’t want to offer quick fixes or simple tips; What brings healing is going to be distinctive for each person. Still, there are some principles that can help many.

How pilot training has changed over the years

Chaplain Jonathan Landon.

We may suppress our painful feelings, because we don’t want to burden others, but giving ourselves freedom to acknowledge the pain may be helpful by itself. Concealing those feelings can leave us feeling lonelier, and leaves those who care about us helpless to comfort us. So if you need to cry, then cry. And if you need to be hugged, say that, and let your family members and friends reach out to you and meet your need.

I can’t be so presumptuous as to guarantee it, but if you acknowledge your pain, and people offer space to let it out, and make that giving of mutual support into a time for bonding, maybe you can let the pressure off a little bit. Maybe you can relieve the tension of those who care about you, who are trying to avoid stirring up painful feelings. Then you may just find that there’s some room for laughter, smiles, and enjoyment.

You see, what most of us really need is not the quick fix or the simple solution; it’s caring relationships. One of the key themes of the time leading up to Christmas is the prophecy that foretold the coming of Jesus, giving him the name or title of “Emmanuel”, which means, “God with us.” This Word teaches me that I am never alone in any loss or pain, no matter what my emotions may tell me.

But the message is not only about God being with us; we have the opportunity to show the presence of God to others, by living God’s love in truth and caring for them. Some people came here today because they’re struggling with the holidays. Some people came here because they care about who is struggling with the holidays. Some care because of their faith. Some of them just care because they see a human in pain and they don’t want anyone to suffer alone.

Don’t forget: in the midst of your own pain, you have opportunities to come alongside of others — to be with them, as God is with us.

In this fairly recent tradition, the Blue Christmas service usually happens on or close to the 21st of December, the night of the winter solstice, the longest and darkest night of the year.

It’s an appropriate symbol for a time when many people feel alone, lost and in pain. But that’s not the only meaning of the night of the 21st. Because what happens at sunrise on the morning of the 22nd?

The days begin to get longer. At first, it’s by tiny increments and you hardly notice it, and then it grows faster and faster and you can’t miss it. It’s inevitable. The light returns. That, too is part of the symbolism of this night and this service. The light returns. No matter how long the night will be — or has been — the light returns.

Chaplain Jonathan Landon is the chaplain at the Eugene VA Health Care Center.

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Air Force Wounded Warrior program partners with Ukrainian vets to find healing in war-torn country

Exercise and adaptive sports have been proven to build resiliency among wounded veterans. Through new purpose, unwavering support, rekindled determination, and a focus on ability and not disability, these warriors can heal. The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) reported that 13,000 people had been killed in the Ukraine conflict as of 2019. Upward of 30,000 soldiers have been badly wounded since the war began in 2014.


These injured soldiers come back with burns covering much of their bodies, extensive brain damage, and chronic phantom pains from amputations. Around half of them are also suffering from symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Once home, their new war is just beginning.

The Ukrainian government struggles to provide basic care for these veterans, with private non-profits often stepping in to pay for things like prosthetics. Seeking help for mental health illnesses, like PTSD, carries a strong stigma for Ukrainian society. Psychologists and non-profit wounded warrior programs in Ukraine have been working hard to change that.

In 2015, Col. (Dr.) Vsevolod Stebliuk introduced the first complex psychological and physical program for the rehabilitation of war veterans at Irpin Military Hospital in Ukraine. It’s there that veterans are introduced to things like exercise therapy to build resiliency. Wounded Warrior Ukraine also teaches PTSD workshops, deep breathing and exercise therapy to Ukrainian veterans.

In 2017 the Ukraine team made its debut at the Invictus Games. This was monumental for these veterans who were struggling with devastating visible and invisible wounds from war. The Invictus Games helped them by not only building a community of support, but by giving them purpose and passion through adaptive sports. The word “Invictus” is Latin for unconquered – implying that although forever changed by war, they will not be overcome.

How pilot training has changed over the years

Marsha Gonzales, a retired United States Air Force veteran and current Air Force Wounded Warrior (AFW2) Branch Chief for Warrior Care Support, is the manager of Team US for the 2020 Invictus Games. While at a meeting for the games, she met the manager for Team Ukraine, Oksana Horbach. Horbach shared with Gonzales her concern for her team, as Ukraine did not have the same access to financial resources as other countries. Gonzales decided to help.

When discussing different options of support, Gonzales remembered that AFW2 had equipment that was to be recycled. It was at this moment that AFW2 helped establish Team Ukraine’s first-ever wheelchair basketball team to compete in the 2020 Invictus Games.

Ten specialized wheelchairs were delivered to Ukraine in February, and with them came two AFW2 coaches and five sports ambassadors to not only train the Ukrainians with sport-specific knowledge, but also directly engage with local veterans. The AFW2 group visited the Ministry of Veteran’s Affairs, Ministry of Defense, and engaged with local media to share stories of resilience through adaptive sports.

According to Gonzales, many tears were shed during the visits with veterans. She shared that while visiting veterans in one local hospital, it was hard not to be overcome by their stories. American Veterans who came on the trip with AFW2 also felt an overwhelming sense of appreciation for the care and support they receive in the United States. All involved wished there was more they could do for these incredible Ukrainian veterans.

How pilot training has changed over the years

One Ukrainian veteran shared during a visit that they had just received word of increased fighting, and that some of their friends had been killed. Gonzales said it was hard to remain unemotional, knowing that not far away, more Ukrainian soldiers were dying in the conflict.

While providing wheelchairs and giving their time might not seem like much to some, to the Ukrainians it was everything. “We are giving these veterans hope for their future,” Gonzales said.

Team US co-captain, retired Air Force Tech. Sgt. Joshua Smith, was one of the ambassadors on the international trip. He made a Facebook post on Feb. 22 sharing that the visit was a humbling and profound experience for him and others taking part.

How pilot training has changed over the years

“Letting other wounded, ill, and injured service members/disabled veterans know that we can adapt, overcome, and persevere with absolute resiliency in the face of challenges, obstacles, and trials we suffer due to military service for our countries,” he wrote.

Smith said that they went into this trip with Team Ukraine appearing very unsure of why they were there to help. However, by the time AFW2 left, Ukrainian veterans were referring to them as “our Americans.”

It was no longer Team US and Team Ukraine – it was “Our Team.”

To see all of the things AFW2 is doing to support wounded warriors, click here. Also, check out Team Ukraine’s Invictus Team page.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This Army vet started the Thousand Islands winery scene

The Thousand Islands Region in upstate New York is famous for the Saint Lawrence River seaway, impressive castles, gorgeous summers, and the salad dressing named for the region. Aside from the dressing, the region’s best-known features bear quite a bit of resemblance to the Moselle and Rhine River regions in Germany, which are famed for their beauty and wineries. One Army officer took notice of the similarities during his time in the service and decided to recreate the winery scene of the German river regions in the North Country.

How pilot training has changed over the years
(Thousand Islands Winery)

Steve Conaway joined the Army straight out of high school in 1981. He rose to the rank of Staff Sergeant before commissioning as an officer. His service in the Air Defense Artillery branch took him to bases across the United States, Greece, and Germany. When Conaway was posted to Fort Drum, NY, he discovered the Saint Lawrence River and the Thousand Islands Region. “The Saint Lawrence River reminded me of the rivers in Germany,” Conaway recalled. “The castles and the river were very similar.” During his five years in Germany, Conaway had become passionate about Riesling and, in 1999, had the idea to start a winery in the Thousand Islands and began conducting market research.

Through the course of his research, Conaway discovered that there were no wineries in the Thousand Islands Region. He contacted New York grape experts at Cornell University who informed him that grapes had never been grown in the Thousand Islands Region and could not be grown there because of the cold climate. Undeterred, Conaway continued his research and, using the limited power of the early internet, found that cold-hardy grapes were being grown by wineries across the border in Quebec. In 2001, then-Captain Conaway took a road trip to Canada to meet with the farmers and learn the trade. The Canadian farmers showed him how to nurse the grapes through the frost of winter and introduced him to a variety of cold-hardy grapes that could survive temperatures as low as -30˚ F.

How pilot training has changed over the years
The winery produces 23 varieties of wine (Thousand Islands Winery)

Before Conaway could put the newfound knowledge to use, his winery plans were interrupted by the events of 9/11. In response, Conaway deployed with the 10th Mountain Division in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. The deployment took him to Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan before he eventually arrived in Afghanistan. Now working as a contracting officer, Conaway helped to establish the initial coalition forces contracting footprint across all three countries including the first establishments at the former Soviet airbase at Bagram. However, perhaps his most important establishment was taking place back in the states.

With the help of his wife Erika, Conaway purchased an old dairy farm in Alexandria Bay, NY while he was deployed. Fittingly, the farm had previously been owned by a famed Riverboat Captain and an Army Reserves Captain, making Conaway the third Captain to own the farm. Upon returning from deployment in 2002, Conaway and his wife set to work converting the dairy farm to a winery. It took one year to get the winery going.

How pilot training has changed over the years
Capt. Steve Conaway and Sfc. Derrick Whitington in Afghanistan in 2001 (Steve Conaway)

In 2003, the same year that Conaway retired from the Army as a Major, the Thousand Islands Winery had one part-time employee and sold and produced 1,100 gallons of wine. The first four years saw the winery operating at a loss. “I bought the farm with houses, boat storage, and tenants,” Conaway said. “I had my military retirement income. So, I never counted on the winery to make any money initially.” Luckily, the fifth year of operation saw the winery turn a profit and it has turned a profit every year since.

The first year of operation, all of the winery’s sales were local. “I sold every bottle at retail out of the front door,” Conaway said. As the winery expanded, Conaway began distribution in liquor stores throughout New York State. In 2010, Thousand Islands Winery expanded into other states as well. Online sales have helped to expand distribution, but so has the Army.

How pilot training has changed over the years
Conaway takes great pride his product (Steve Conaway)

The 10th Mountain Division maintains two Brigade Combat Teams at Fort Drum, NY and one at Fort Polk, LA. Oftentimes, soldiers that have been stationed at one will eventually find themselves posted to the other. Thanks to a partnership with the 10th Mountain Division Association, Thousand Islands Winery wines made their way down south to Fort Polk where they can be found in the Class Six. In 2020, the Thousand Islands Winery had 65 employees in the summertime, including employees in Louisiana, and produced and sold over 75,000 gallons of wine. This year also saw the winery enter an agreement with Republic National Distribution Company as operations expanded into Kentucky, South Carolina, Virginia, Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Georgia.

Since 2007, the Thousand Islands Winery has received 168 medals in wine competitions throughout the country. Despite the doubt that many people had about the Conaways and their winery, the Thousand Islands Winery has thrived. “I didn’t know anything about private industry,” Conaway said about starting the business. “I got out of the Army and failure wasn’t an option.” Using the skills he had acquired throughout his 22 ½ years in the Army, Conaway was able to apply planning considerations like safety, hazmat, personnel structure, and organizational charts to the winery. “I encourage soldiers to fall back on the stuff they did while they were in the military,” Conaway said. “I always tell them, ‘If you want to be an entrepreneur when you get out of the military, everything you’re already doing translates into the civilian workforce.’”

Following Conaway’s success, other wineries have opened up in the Thousand Islands Region. In hopes of encouraging the industry to grow, the Thousand Islands Winery offers its services and nearly two decades of experience to other individuals and wineries in the form of specialized vineyard services. As the winery and the region grow, Conaway continues to serve as a leader in the Thousand Islands by applying the skills and knowledge he acquired in the Army to his business.

MIGHTY CULTURE

18 photos of troops lighting up the night

The U.S. military and its allies create some of the best light shows on the planet, filling the night sky with everything from tracer rounds to bursts of artillery fire to missile engines.

Here are 18 of our favorite nighttime light shows from American troops and their buds in battle:


How pilot training has changed over the years

(U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Mark El-Rayes)

How pilot training has changed over the years

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Owen Kimbrel)

How pilot training has changed over the years

(U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class William McCann)

How pilot training has changed over the years

(U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Daniel Barker)

How pilot training has changed over the years

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Matthew Callahan)

How pilot training has changed over the years

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Timothy Jackson)

How pilot training has changed over the years

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Trey Fowler)

How pilot training has changed over the years

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kallysta Castillo)

How pilot training has changed over the years

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Gregory T. Summers)

How pilot training has changed over the years

(U.S. Coast Guardphoto by Petty Officer 1st Class Phillip Null)

How pilot training has changed over the years

(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Matthew S. Masaschi)

How pilot training has changed over the years

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Raymond Schaeffer)

How pilot training has changed over the years

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Anthony Zendejas IV)

How pilot training has changed over the years

(U.S. Army photo by Timothy Hale)

How pilot training has changed over the years

(U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Justin Schoenberger)

How pilot training has changed over the years

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Anthony Zendejas IV)

How pilot training has changed over the years

(U.S. Army Central Command)

How pilot training has changed over the years

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Bobby J. Yarbrough)

MIGHTY CULTURE

Marines return from deployment just in time for Thanksgiving

The Marines and sailors of the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit are concluding their 2019 deployment this week, just in time for Thanksgiving.

Departing in waves from the three ships of the Boxer Amphibious Ready Group, the 11th MEU conducted an amphibious landing aboard Camp Pendleton, California, and aircraft landings at Miramar, California, and Yuma, Arizona.

At each site, Marines and sailors were greeted by family members and welcomed home after seven months away.


During the deployment, the Boxer ARG and 11th MEU spent time in the U.S. 7th Fleet and U.S. 5th Fleet areas of operations, and conducted training in Kuwait, Jordan, Djibouti, Brunei, the Philippines, and Malaysia.

How pilot training has changed over the years

Families and friends of Marines with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 163, Marine Aircraft Group 16, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (MAW), await their loved ones at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., Nov. 25, 2019.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jaime Reyes)

“We have traveled a long way and the Marines and sailors of the 11th MEU have risen to every challenge. They have built important partnerships and have been ready to help, ready to respond, and ready to fight if necessary,” said Col. Fridrik Fridriksson, commanding officer of the 11th MEU. “I am incredibly proud of each and every Marine and sailor in the ARG/MEU team.”

11th MEU consists of the command element; the aviation combat element comprised of Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 163 (Reinforced); the ground combat element comprised of Battalion Landing Team 3/5; and the logistics combat element comprised of Combat Logistics Battalion 11.

Boxer ARG is comprised of amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4), San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock USS John P Murtha (LPD 26), and Harpers Ferry-class amphibious dock landing ship USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49).

The ARG/MEU departed their home port of San Diego and began their deployment May 1, 2019.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The difference between military funeral honors and ‘full’ military honors

Any eligible veteran who requests a military burial is guaranteed by law to have certain honors at his or her funeral. The Department of Defense is required by law to provide these services at no cost to the veteran’s family. 

The honors they receive at their funeral depends on the veteran’s service, but will always have certain baseline elements, which includes at least two honor guard members. Depending on their military achievements, however, the funeral can range from a simple, understated ceremony to something akin to the opening act of a Super Bowl.

For veterans to get military honors at their burial, the family must give the VA or the local military installation two days’ notice. This can be coordinated through a veteran’s funeral director. 

Any veteran’s funeral will have, at the least, the two-person honor guard, who will play “Taps” as well as fold and present the American flag to the veteran’s family. The Department of Defense will go out of their way to provide a real bugler, but in some cases, exceptions have to be made for a recording. 

Air Force members honoring a veteran at his funeral

Sometimes, a ceremonial bugle will be used, where the song comes from a speaker in the bell of the bugle, but the song isn’t actually being played live. 

The honor guard will then fold the flag draping the casket and present it to the family. If the veteran is cremated, the folding ceremony varies slightly, but is still presented to the next of kin. Burial flags are provided free of charge, but must be coordinated through a funeral director or VA office, after completing the required form.

Every veteran interred at Arlington National Cemetery will have a 17-person casket team, a firing party, a bugler and the folding of and presentation of the flag. 

How pilot training has changed over the years
A Buckley Air Force Base Honor Guard bugler plays taps at the funeral for World War II flying ace, retired Col. John Smith Stewart at the Ft. Logan National Cemetery, Denver, Colo., on Oct. 8. 2004. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Staff Sgt. Anika Williams) (RELEASED)

For members of the Coast Guard and the Navy, families can request a burial at sea. Families are responsible for transporting the remains to the port of embarkation and must know that the burial will take place during a routine deployment. It’s unlikely that the family will be able to be present at a burial at sea. 

Some veterans are eligible to receive military honors with escort, also known as “full” military honors. What eligible veterans receive with full military honors also varies by availability and service.

According to Arlington National Cemetery, military honors with escort are available to any veteran who reached the ranks of E-9, CW-4, CW-5, or O-4 and above. Medal of Honor recipients, former prisoners of war and those killed in action – of any rank – are also afforded “full” military honors. 

Those receiving military honors with escort are provided with the standard military honors; the flag ceremony, playing of “Taps,” and an honor guard. They can also receive a marching escort of various sizes (dependent on rank), a firing party for a three-volley salute, a military band and a military team of pallbearers. 

If the veteran is being interred at Arlington, they are eligible to be driven to the gravesite by the cemetery’s caisson, a wagon driven by a team of six horses. 

General officers who served in the Army or Marine Corps can get full military honors that include a riderless horse and a cannon salute with the number of cannons dependent on the general’s rank. Navy, Coast Guard, and Marine Corps officers of 0-7 and above are offered minute guns for their salute. 

Families can also request a military flyover, if the assets are available to the location of the funeral and the weather permits.

MIGHTY CULTURE

What it’s like to be undercover with the Hells Angels

With heavily tattooed arms, a motorcycle vest, red bandana, and long goatee, Jay Dobyns fit the stereotype for the kind of person who would hang around the street-hardened bikers of the Hells Angels Skull Valley Charter. He would peddle T-shirts for the one-percenter motorcycle club, run errands at ungodly hours, and eventually break bread with individuals who wouldn’t think twice about taking a baseball bat to someone’s head.

Two years in, and the Hells Angels had no idea that Dobyns, who was close to getting his patch, was an undercover agent for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). The patch is sacrosanct to the Hells Angels. After a shootout between the Hells Angels and the Mongols, a rival biker gang, “We found Mongols cuts in vents, stuffed in trash cans, and some were floating down the Colorado River,” Dobyns said. “As far as the Hells Angels and their patches, we didn’t find a single one. The Hells Angels don’t take off their patches for anyone.”


Becoming a patched member of the gang is no easy task — and Dobyns had already done a lot more than simply run errands for them in his attempt to be welcomed into the gang.

How pilot training has changed over the years

Dobyns undercover with the Hells Angels.

(Photo courtesy of Jay Dobyns)

At times, he even had to participate in assaults, getting a taste of the vicious world in which the Hells Angels reside.

“My reaction was to fight my way to the victim and take control of the victim, throw my punches, both maintain my cover and protect my persona, and protect the victim from any life-threatening battle damage,” Dobyns said. “It’s one of the elements of tradecraft.”

For the Hells Angels, it was hardly enough.

In 2002, the rift between the Hells Angels and their legendary rivals, the Mongols, hit a boiling point. The two gangs were involved in a big-time gunfight at the Harrah Casino Hotel in Laughlin, Nevada. It was the event that led to Dobyns going undercover.

Dobyns wanted to get a good idea of where the Hells Angels stood against the Mongols, especially with what had happened in Laughlin. “I asked the president of the Skull Valley Charter what I should do if I come across a Mongol,” Dobyns said. “And he said to me, ‘It’s your job to kill him.'”

Jay Dobyns-Killing a Mongol

www.youtube.com

As time passed, Dobyns sat on the incriminating information from the charter president, continuing to gain more trust with the gang members, all while a series of homicides happened in his wake. One of the murders was particularly brutal. The Hells Angels beat a woman to death in their clubhouse, wrapped her body in a piece of carpet, and cut her head off in the desert.

It was a pivotal moment in the investigation. Dobyns decided it was time for the Hells Angels to see how far he was willing to go to show his devotion and loyalty. If it worked, he was in. If it didn’t, he was dead.

“We took a living, breathing member of our task force, got a Mongols cut, dressed him up in the vest, and brought in a homicide detective to create a crime scene,” Dobyns said. “We used makeup, animal parts, animal blood, and dug a shallow grave. Then we duct taped his hands and feet and threw him in the grave.”

The elaborate ruse needed to be properly documented in order to convince the Hells Angels leadership that it was real.

How pilot training has changed over the years

The fake homicide Dobyns used to get patched into the Hells Angels.

(Photo courtesy of Jay Dobyns)

“I asked the homicide detective to make it look like the victim had been beaten with a baseball bat and shot in the head,” Dobyns said. “Almost Hollywood-style. We photographed it. We took pictures of the crime scene, and we took the bloody mongol vest back to the Hells Angels leadership.”

Dobyns showed the vest to the charter president, the vice president, the sergeant-at-arms and one another member of the gang. “They were either going to believe me, or I was going to get a baseball bat to the back of the head or razor wire to the throat,” he said.

Fortunately, the president didn’t have any plans to dispose of Dobyns. In fact, quite the opposite: They hugged him, kissed him, and welcomed him into the gang.

Convinced that Dobyns had just savagely murdered a Mongol, the gang wanted to immediately get rid of the fabricated proof. “We went out to the desert and burned all the evidence along with the Mongol cut. They helped destroy the evidence of the murder we exposed them to in order to cover up the crime.”

Dobyns now had his patch, but his time in the Hells Angels was coming to an end.

The investigation, code named “Operation Black Biscuit,” concluded with ATF executives citing that it was too dangerous to continue — even though Dobyns argued that they should let him stay and work the case. Regardless, he remains the first law enforcement officer to successfully infiltrate the cold and callous world of the Hells Angels.

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

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