How these liaisons bridge gap between Congress and Air Force - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

How these liaisons bridge gap between Congress and Air Force

In one wing, there are 435. On the other, there are 100. Luckily, this isn’t referring to a severe weight imbalance detrimental to an aircraft’s flight. These are the number of appointed individuals responsible for making the nation’s laws on Capitol Hill and the people who some Air Force legislative liaisons and fellows engage with to ensure continued legislative support for national security.

The legislative liaison and fellowship programs are designed to provide service members opportunities to improve understanding and knowledge of the functions and operations of the legislative branch and how it impacts the military.

According to Title 5, U.S. Code Section 7102 and Title 10, U.S. Code Section 1034, United States Air Force personnel have the legal right to petition and furnish information to or communicate with Congress.


“It is our responsibility to truly understand the intersection of politics and policy as members of an apolitical organization,” said Maj. Gen. Steven L. Basham, former director for Secretary of the Air Force legislative liaison, who is now the deputy commander of U.S. Air Forces Europe and Africa Command. “We are not only the Air Force liaison to Congress, but we are also liaisons for Congress to the rest of the Air Force.”

How these liaisons bridge gap between Congress and Air Force

Lt. Col. Joe Wall, deputy chief of the Senate Air Force Liaison Office, salutes a staff vehicle to welcome Gen. David Goldfein, U.S. Air Force chief of staff, before a posture hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee at Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C., April 4, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Marianique Santos)

Basham says that individuals selected to become legislative liaisons are intuitive, broad and flexible thinkers. Despite donning a suit or business attire during their time on the Hill, aspiring liaisons or fellows are required to have exceptional professional bearing and appearance, exceptional organizational skills, performance and knowledge of current events in national security affairs and international relations are also desired.

“We bring phenomenal people into this program,” Basham said. “As a matter of fact, we want individuals who are experts in their career field who have the ability to look across the entire United States Air Force. When we’re working with Congress or a staff member, they don’t see a bomber pilot or a logistician; they see us as a United States Air Force officer or civilian who is an expert across all fields.”

According to Brig. Gen. Trent H. Edwards, budget operations and personnel director for the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Financial Management and Comptroller, the opportunity to serve as a legislative liaison and then as a legislative fellow to a member of congress provided him valuable experience in understanding how the government and democracy work. His time working at the Hill “left an indelible impression” in his mind.

How these liaisons bridge gap between Congress and Air Force

Maj. Michael Gutierrez, Senate Air Force Liaison Office action officer, and Col. Caroline Miller, chief of the Senate Air Force Liaison Office, corresponds with legislators in preparation for a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing at the Russell Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C., April 3, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Marianique Santos)

“As a squadron, group and wing commander, I frequently relied on my understanding of the legislative process to help inform my bosses and teammates on how they could positively affect their mission through the right congressional engagement at the right time,” he said. “I also left the experience with a keen understanding of the importance of relationships, communication and collaboration. Those lessons serve me well today, and I share them with younger officers every chance I get.”

Airmen working on the Hill come from diverse career backgrounds. Historically, the liaison and fellowship programs were only open to officers but have opened to senior noncommissioned officers and civilians in recent years. Typical responsibilities of fellows include assisting with the drafting of legislation, floor debate preparation, planning and analysis of public policy and serving as congressional liaisons to constituents and industry. Fellows are required to come back to serve as legislative liaisons later on in their careers and into positions where they can utilize their acquired knowledge of the legislative process.

How these liaisons bridge gap between Congress and Air Force

Maj. Christopher D. Ryan, Senate Air Force Liaison Office action officer, discuss Air Force inforamation with Dan S. Dunham, military legislative assistant to U.S. Senator Deb Fischer from Nebraska, at the Russell Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C., April 3, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Marianique Santos)

Col. Caroline Miller, chief of the Senate Legislative Liaison Office,said the first step to being a legislative liaison is making sure that the liaison understands the chief of staff and the secretary of the Air Force’s vision and priorities. As members of the Senate legislative liaisons, she and her team work primarily with the Senate Armed Services Committee and its members, as well as any members of the Senate who have Air Force equity. Along with preparing senior leaders for hearings or meetings with legislators, they provide members of Congress and their staff information that helps in their understanding of current Air Force operations and programs.

“I wish I knew what I know now from a legislative perspective when I was a wing commander because I didn’t understand the power of the congressional body back then,” she said. “Every installation has challenges. Every installation has aging infrastructure. Every installation has lots of different things that they’re working through, and I did not engage with my local congressional district as much as I would have if I had I been up here and understood that (our representatives) really do want to help.”

Dan S. Dunham, a military legislative assistant who works for U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer of Nebraska, said the legislative liaisons are who they “turn to first” whenever they have Air Force-related questions – may it be on budgets, programs or operations.

How these liaisons bridge gap between Congress and Air Force

Gen. David Goldfein, U.S. Air Force chief of staff, deliver his opening statements during a posture hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee at Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C., April 4, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Marianique Santos)

“Air Force and Congress can be a tall order – both sides have different chains of command and different constituencies to which they are answerable,” he said. “That can significantly increase the risk of miscommunication. The legislative liaison fills a critical role in bridging that gap and they are frequently the ones we rely on to be the primary facilitator for getting answers and information for our bosses.”

Along with having constant interaction with the highest echelons of Air Force leadership and the key decision makers, due to the sensitive nature of information exchange at this level, legislative liaisons must be capable of thinking on their feet and making informed decisions.

“We bring individuals in who sometimes have to make the call when talking with the staff on what information they should provide,” Basham said. “I think the level of trust they have for their senior leaders having their back when they make that call is invaluable.”

This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Monkeying around? Iranians ridicule official for posting Halloween costume as astronaut’s suit

Iranians are making fun of an Iranian official for posting a picture of an astronaut suit adorned with an Iranian flag that seems to be a photoshopped version of a children’s Halloween space costume.


Iranian Information and Communications Technology Minister Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi issued the image on February 4 with the hashtag #bright_future. Without any explanation at the time, it was unclear if he was trying to fool people into believing it was an actual Iranian-issue space suit or just a joke.

Azari Jahromi’s vague tweet was quickly met with derision, criticism, and humorous memes by Iranians on social media amid allegations the minister was, in fact, trying to trick his countrymen into believing the image was an actual suit for the government’s ambitious but not-ready-for-prime-time space program.

He later clarified that the image was “the picture of a dream, the dream of walking on the moon.” He added that he found the many jokes posted online to be “interesting.”

Speaking at a Tehran event titled Space Technologists’ Gathering, Azari Jahromi said his tweet “was the introduction to good news.”

“The suit wasn’t really important because we haven’t made an Iranian space suit, yet work is being done to create a special outfit for Iranian space scientists,” he backpedaled.

That didn’t stop the torrent of jokes.

“He bought a Halloween space costume [for] , removed [the] NASA logo while sewing an Iranian flag on it. He’s promoting it as a national achievement,” a user said in reaction to the image.

Some posted memes to mock the minister, including a video of an astronaut dancing to Iranian music with the hashtag #The_Dance_of_Iranians_In_space #Bright_future.

Another user posted a photoshopped photo of Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Buzz Aldrin wearing the suit Azari Jahromi had posted on Twitter.

Azari Jahromi — an avid Twitter user who’s been blacklisted by Washington for his role in censoring the Internet in Iran, where citizens are blocked from using Twitter and other social-media sites — has been promoting Iran’s space program in recent days while announcing that Tehran will launch a satellite, Zafar (“Victory” in Persian), into orbit by the end of the week.

Azari Jahromi said on February 4 that his country had taken the first step in the quest to send astronauts into space. “The Ministry of Information and Communications Technology has ordered manufacturing five space capsules for carrying humans to space to the Aerospace Research Center of the Ministry of Science, Research, and Technology,” he was quoted as saying on February 4 by the semiofficial Mehr news agency.

Iran had two failed satellite launches in January and February of last year and a third attempt later in the year resulted in the explosion of a rocket on the launch pad.

But Azari Jahromi said on Twitter on February 3 that Tehran was not afraid of failure and that “we will not lose hope” of having a successful space program.

Do Monkeys Get Space Suits?

Iran does have a recent history of sending creatures into orbit, much to the consternation of animal-rights activists around the world.

In 2010, a Kavoshgar-3 rocket was launched by Iran with a rodent, two turtles, and several worms into suborbital space and they reportedly returned to Earth alive.

A Kavoshgar-5 carrying a monkey was launched into suborbital space in 2011 but it was said to have failed, though there was no information about the unidentified monkey on board.

Iran sent another monkey up on a Pishgam capsule two years later that it said was successful. However, no timing or location of the launch was ever announced, leaving many to doubt it had taken place. A second monkey, named Fargam, was said to have made a similar trip into suborbital space nearly a year later.

Iran’s planned satellite launch this week comes amid heightened tensions with the United States, which has accused the Islamic republic of using its space program as a cover for missile development.

Iranian officials maintain their space activities do not violate United Nations resolutions and that there is no international law prohibiting such a program.

Tensions between Tehran and Washington have increased since the withdrawal of the United States from the 2015 nuclear deal in May 2018 and the reimposition of sanctions that have devastated Iran’s economy.

In early January, the United States assassinated Iran’s top military commander, Qasem Soleimani, in a drone attack. Tehran retaliated a few days later by launching a missile strike on Iraqi bases housing U.S. troops.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Spread facts, not fear

This is a moment when words matter.

All of us want answers. Within our hands we hold the gateway to all sorts of answers to every question we could think to ask, and even some questions better left unasked.

Can I gently implore you to resist the urge to spend the day on search engines or scrolling madly through social media as the source of information?


Here is the most important point you need to know today:

This is a dynamic situation.

Facts are evolving daily. Leaders are assessing every situation, every nuance and every facet of this public health situation, hourly.

Consequently, the biggest challenge they face is communicating in a timely manner with as much information as possible, without overstating the concerns and without underestimating the challenge.

If you feel an information delay, do not fill the vacuum with conjecture and hyperbole.

Do not add to the swirl.

Do not repeat as fact something offered as opinion.

Do not accept information from non-credible sources.

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Stick to the facts you know, from sources you trust.

Community Chat pages are not credible sources.

Private Facebook groups administered by private citizens with no official government or health training are not credible sources.

For our military families: Your first and most credible source of information will be official guidance offered through the chain of command – from the SECDEF to the Chief of Staff for your branch of service to MAJCOM to Installation leadership to unit commanders, etc.

It takes time for clear public affairs guidance to be written, approved and disseminated.

As someone who’s been on that side of things in the White House, Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State, trust me when I say: you want ACCURATE information. Be patient.

Trust leadership at all levels of government and your military chain of command to move as swiftly as possible.

As someone married to a senior leader on an Air Force base, I promise you – your leadership knows you want information. Their spouses are probably telling them all the questions they need to answer. Believe me, they know and they are working it. Trust them.

Earlier this week I got a message from a friend on base. Her kids go to school with my kids. Neighborhood conversation caused her to wonder about how the news headlines would impact her family specifically.

I suspect there are many spouses and families with similar questions today: spring break travel plans, pending PCS, active duty members overseas and family members stationed abroad.

Rather than participate in the conjecture or begin worrying about how to plan for all the contingencies, my friend sent me a quick text, asking if I knew how her family situation might be affected.

How these liaisons bridge gap between Congress and Air Force

She texted, “I know better than to simply survey my neighbors about what they’ve heard. I’d rather ask someone I trust, who I know can find out what’s true and what’s just rumor.”

You better believe I messaged her right back.

“I don’t know, but I’ll find out.”

My very next message was to find out.

In the interim, I told her, “I asked leadership. I suspect the initial answer will be something along the lines of: it’s a dynamic situation and we won’t know specific answers for specific cases until closer to that time. But I’ll get you an ‘official’ answer as soon as possible.”

This is my message for you today, too.

If you have specific questions for specific cases, ask credible sources, like those listed below — not social media. When the answer is incomplete, be patient and trust your leadership.

I promise, we’re on your side – it’s our life too.

www.coronavirus.gov is the official government website with up-to-date information from the White House Coronavirus Task Force. The Task Force includes representation from all federal agencies and is coordinating federal, state and local response to this emerging situation.

On that website, hosted by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), you’ll find situation updates as well as symptoms to monitor, answers to common questions and steps to prevent illness, including tips for keeping homes, workplaces, schools or public establishments safe.

You can find DOD specific guidance at https://www.defense.gov/Explore/Spotlight/Coronavirus/

For more information on travel restrictions, visit https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/notices

Look for branch specific and unit specific guidance issued by official public affairs sources. When in doubt, ask your supervisors and let them know you’re willing to wait for official answers. Then trust them to do their job and get you accurate, actionable information.

At a state and local level, official guidance will be offered by official, sanctioned government websites: Governors, Mayors, state and local public health officials. Those individuals and services will likely be pulling their information from this official CDC resource page for state, local, territorial and tribal health departments.
MIGHTY MOVIES

5 supporting characters you’d want in your squad

War movies are known for their big explosions, epic firefights, and fearless heroes who save the day against an overwhelming, opposing force.


The main characters receive 99.9% of the credit for winning battles, leaving very little recognition for others in the squad, who efficiently executed the orders given to them while under insane pressure.

This article pays homage to those supporting troops.

Related: 7 reasons why you’d want ‘Pvt. Pyle’ in your infantry squad

These are the five supporting characters you’d want in your squad.

5. Rhah (Platoon)

Although we don’t get much of his backstory, as soon as he takes the screen, we know Rhah is someone the troops can trust. Hell, he’s the one who tells us just how hardcore Sgt. Barnes can be.

Rhah is tough enough to survive the film’s final firefight, holding just his rifle and that barbed-wire rod thingy. He even manages to victoriously celebrate with a loud grunt as he sees his pal, Chris Taylor, evacuated alive from the war zone.

How these liaisons bridge gap between Congress and Air Force
One of our favorite war movie characters, Rhah. (Image from Orion Pictures)

4. Hoot (Black Hawk Down)

Considered the real hero of the film, Hoot believes bringing home all your men is the most critical aspect of any mission. He heroically dismounts his vehicle in the middle of a rescue mission, knowing that moving into the overrun city on foot is the most productive way to save his allies.

Never once does the audience suspect he has any fear in his heart, nor would he ever lost his cool during a firefight. For those reasons, we’d want him in our squad.

How these liaisons bridge gap between Congress and Air Force
Oh! Let’s not forget that his trigger finger is his safety. (Image from Columbia Pictures)

3. Tania Chernova (Enemy at the Gates)

Women have played a huge part in fighting their nations’ wars. That being said, they’ve gone uncredited for many outstanding military achievements in combat roles for a long time now.

Many people don’t know that Chernova was a real Soviet troop who effectively targeted her German enemies. Reportedly, she had 40 confirmed kills during her time serving in World War II. We’d love to bring Chernova’s sniping skills into our squad as we continue to fight the War on Terror.

How these liaisons bridge gap between Congress and Air Force
Tania Chernova, a talented sniper. (Image from Paramount Pictures)

2. Animal Mother (Full Metal Jacket)

Animal Mother is one of our all-time favorite war movie characters, as he has no problem busting out his M60 during a firefight. This big Marine is known for running into the face of danger for his brothers without hesitation.

For that reason alone, we’d want him in our squad.

How these liaisons bridge gap between Congress and Air Force

Also Read: 6 things you’d never hear a Marine recruiter say

1. Pvt. Jackson (Saving Private Ryan)

Who doesn’t want a talented sniper with a heart of gold in their squad? This praying man and talented shot nailed another German sniper right through his scope while it was raining cats and dogs.

Not only could he successfully aim under extreme pressure, but he also took orders like a champ as he ran out in the open, on his own and with little covering fire, to set up a small, strategic shooting post on D-Day.

How these liaisons bridge gap between Congress and Air Force
Pvt. Jackson as he shoots down his German enemies from a bell tower in Saving Private Ryan. (Image from DreamWorks)

Can you think of any others? Let us know.

Articles

4 crimes you learn to commit in the military

We’re not saying everyone in the military does these things, just that it’s almost impossible to complete an enlistment without someone either encouraging you, or even teaching you, to:


1. Commit petty theft

How these liaisons bridge gap between Congress and Air Force
(Photo: U.S. Navy)

“Gear adrift is a gift” and similar maxims are just cute ways of saying that it’s sometimes okay to steal. But it’s not. There’s no law that says it stops being government property or someone else’s personal property if they forgot to lock it up or post a guard.

This includes “acquiring” needed items for the squad by snatching up unsecured gear or trading for someone’s off-the-books printer. We know you have to get your CLP, but at least try to get some from the armorer before turning to theft.

2. Smuggle alcohol through the mail

How these liaisons bridge gap between Congress and Air Force
If their breath never smells minty fresh, maybe get suspicious of their constant mouthwash use.

It’s only legal to ship alcohol through the United States Postal System if you have a license or if it’s in a product like mouthwash. Of course, that mouthwash isn’t supposed to be 80 proof.

But every time a unit gets ready for deployment, the veterans start talking about the super illegal practice of asking family members to pour vodka into empty mouthwash bottles, mix in a few drops of blue and green food coloring, and send it to the base in the mail. Many of the old timers are just making jokes, but it still spreads the knowledge of the tactic. (Which this article also does. Crap.)

3. Lie on federal forms

How these liaisons bridge gap between Congress and Air Force
The Defense Travel System is reasons 1-3 that no one should ever re-enlist. (Photo: U.S. Air National Guard Master Sgt. Christopher Botzum)

Let’s be honest, perfectly filled out Defense Travel System vouchers and unit packing lists are the exception to the rule. Sometimes, this is because it’s hard to track every little change in a connex’s contents or a trip. But other times, it’s because units on their way out the door on an exercise or deployment are willing to put whatever they need to on the paperwork to get it approved.

It’s an expedient way to get the mission done, but it’s also a violation of Title 18 United States Code 1001, which prohibits false claims to the federal government. Of course, no one is going to prosecute when a connex shows up with three more cots than were on the list, but don’t listen to the barracks attorney telling you that the per diem is higher if you just change this one thing in DTS.

4. Abuse prescription medication

How these liaisons bridge gap between Congress and Air Force
Perfectly legal in training and combat, actually a crime when using it to avoid a hangover with a prescription. (Photo: U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Nicholas Farina)

Most troops aren’t out there injecting illegally acquired morphine, but most people would probably be surprised to learn that intravenous saline is a prescription medical device (yeah, saltwater in a bag). So are those 800mg Motrins.

And teaching a bunch of troops to give saline injections to each other does help them save lives in combat, but it also prepares them to tack an extra criminal charge onto their alcohol-fueled bender when they get home and stick themselves with a needle to try to avoid getting hungover (which, seriously guys, stop giving yourselves IVs while drunk).

Articles

How a one-armed Gurkha fought 200 Japanese troops with a bolt-action rifle

The martial tradition, training, and dominating warrior spirit of Gurkhas means they will do things in a fight that wouldn’t occur to even the most seasoned combat veterans. Gurkhas will fight outnumbered; they will fight outgunned. They hold their positions against impossible odds and often come out on top.


One of these stories of Gurkha heroism comes from Lachhiman Gurung in Burma after he was taken by surprise when Japanese troops opened up on him and his men and lobbed some grenades into their trench. Gurung picked up two of the grenades and threw them back to the 200 Japanese soldiers waiting in the darkness.

The third grenade blew up in Gurung’s hand.

Related video:

He lost a few fingers, most of his right arm, and took shrapnel in his face and leg. Partially blind, bleeding profusely, and struggling to move, Gurung did something only a Gurkha would do: he pulled his Kukri knife with his good hand, stabbed the ground, and told the Japanese in a booming voice that none of them would make it past that knife.

Related: The Gurkha Kukri is designed for absolute devastation

How these liaisons bridge gap between Congress and Air Force

He then picked up his rifle — a bolt-action Lee-Enfield Mk. III — chambered a round, and invited the enemy to “come fight a Gurkha.”

With his friends dead or dying, Gurung fought for hours, firing his bolt-action Lee-Enfield with one hand and killing anyone who entered his trench. He would lie down until the Japanese were on top of his position, kill the closest one at point-blank range, chamber a new round with his left hand, and then kill the enemy’s battle buddy.

Gurung killed 31 Japanese soldiers this way, fighting until morning the next day.

At the end of the battle, he was shouting “Come and fight. Come and fight. I will kill you!”

Gurung was hospitalized through the end of the war, losing partial vision in his right eye and the use of his right arm. He was awarded the Victoria Cross, Great Britain’s highest military honor, and was the only recipient still alive when his command presented medals for the battle.

Gurung’s only complaint after the fighting was that his wounded arm had flies swarming around it.

He eventually moved to the U.K. to live out his life in peace. But he reemerged in 2008 when a controversial policy revoked the rights of some Gurkha veterans who retired before 1997 to live in the country. The government said the Gurkhas failed to “demonstrate strong ties to the U.K.”

Lachhiman Gurung put on his medals rack, went over to Britain’s High Court, and made another “last stand” — this time for his fellow WWII-era Gurkhas, and he pleaded to the Court and to the Queen to be allowed to stay.

How these liaisons bridge gap between Congress and Air Force

In a yet another demonstration of Gurkha tenaciousness, the British high court struck down the law that same year. It turns out Gurkhas have a special place in British hearts.

Lachhiman Gurung died 2010. He was 92.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The teenage girls who seduced and killed Nazis

When the Nazis steamrolled into the Netherlands in May of 1940, Jannetje Johanna “Hannie” Schaft and Truus and Freddie Oversteegen were just 19, 16, and 14 years old respectively.


As for the Oversteegen sisters, their mother, Trijn, had left their father years before. Freddie states of this, “She was just fed up one day—we lived on a large ship in Haarlem, but my father never made any money and didn’t pay anything for the barge. But it wasn’t an ugly divorce or anything—he sang a French farewell song from the bow of the ship when we left. He loved us, but I didn’t see him that often anymore after that.”

Immediately after the Nazis came to town, despite the risks, Freddie goes on, “During the war, we had a Jewish couple living with us, which is why my sister and I knew a lot about what was going on…”

At the same time, their mother also had her daughters join in with her in the rather dangerous task of posting and distributing anti-Nazi and communist literature around town.

Given their brazen activities, word soon got around to the resistance that the girls might be open to joining, with one Frans van der Wiel coming calling in 1941. Freddie states, “A man wearing a hat came to the door and asked my mother if he could ask us [to join the resistance]. And he did… she was OK with it. “

She also states her mother simply requested of them that no matter what the resistance asked them to do, to “always stay human.”

Of the sisters’ personal decision to join, Truus stated,

A war like this is a very raw experience. While I was biking, I saw Germans picking up innocent people from the streets, putting them against a wall and shooting them. I was forced to watch, which aroused such an enormous anger in me, such a disgust… You can have any political conviction or be totally against war, but at that moment you are just a human being confronted with something very cruel. Shooting innocent people is murder. If you experience something like this, you’ll find it justified that when people commit treason, such as exchanging a four-year-old Jewish child for 35 guilders, you act against it.

Needless to say, they were all for it, though not quite realizing at that point everything they’d be asked to do. She states, “I thought we would be starting a kind of secret army. The man that came to our door said that we would get military training, and they did teach us a thing or two. Someone taught us to shoot, and we learned to march in the woods. There were about seven of us then—Hannie wasn’t a part of the group yet, and we were the only girls.”

Indeed, in the beginning because of their age and gender, the authorities paid little attention to them. Thus, they were natural message runners between resistance members, as well as ideally suited for smuggling and stealing identity papers to help various Jewish people escape; they also occasionally were tasked with transporting weapons and even helping escort Jews to hiding places- generally Jewish children as they blended in with the girls well and the authorities on the whole weren’t suspicious of the young girls walking along with kids. Also thanks to Freddie’s ultra youthful look, particularly when she did her hair up in pigtails, she was often used for reconnaissance missions, as nobody paid attention to her.

Things escalated from these sorts of tasks, however, with assignments such as helping to burn down various enemy installations. In these cases, the girls were sometimes tasked with flirting with any guards while other resistance members slipped in and set the fires.

In 1943, the sisters were joined by a third female member of their resistance cell, Hannie Schaft- a woman who would go on to be one of the most famous Dutch resistance members in all of WWII, with her activities seeing her marked for death by Hitler himself.

When the Nazis invaded, the then 19 year old Hannie was studying international law, and particularly human-rights law, at the University of Amsterdam. Unfortunately for her, she would soon be given the boot from university owing to refusing to sign a declaration of allegiance to Germany- a requirement to remain a student and something over 3/4 of the rest of the students did. As you might imagine even if you knew nothing else about her but her choosing to study human-rights law at school, and given the activities the Axis were getting up to in the country, she almost immediately joined the resistance.

How these liaisons bridge gap between Congress and Air Force

In the interim since the start of the war and being assigned to the same resistance cell as Truus and Freddie, Hannie had worked with the resistance in various capacities and countless missions, even learning German to aid in her activities.

Naturally, the three girls became fast friends and frequently teamed up for the remainder of the war, with their missions having been expanded to something few women in the resistance were tasked with- directly eliminating enemy targets.

Their big advantage over their male compatriots was their age and gender allowed them to get close to enemy soldiers without garnering any suspicion. Thus, the girls were eventually trained with weapons and set to, as Freddie put it, “liquidating” the enemy.

As for the number of people they killed- a question they were frequently asked- they never disclosed, with the sisters’ stock answer to that question being, “You never ask a soldier how many people he’s killed.”

Perhaps their most famous method was flirting and convincing a mark to join one of them for a stroll. For example, in one instance, their target was an SS soldier who they scouted and, once he entered a restaurant to eat, a slightly drunk acting Truus entered and struck up a conversation. At a certain point, she then suggestively asked if he’d like to go for a walk in the woods with her- a prospect he apparently eagerly accepted.

When they got there, however, Freddie states,

Then they ran into someone—which was made to seem a coincidence, but he was one of ours—and that friend said to Truus: “Girl, you know you’re not supposed to be here.” They apologized, turned around, and walked away. And then shots were fired, so that man never knew what hit him. They had already dug the hole, but we weren’t allowed to be there for that part.

Beyond luring unsuspecting enemy soldiers and Dutch collaborators to their deaths, sometimes they just killed them outright. As Truus once said after watching horrified as a Dutch SS soldier grabbed a baby from the child’s family “and hit it against the wall. The father and sister had to watch. They were obviously hysterical. The child was dead… I pulled out a gun and shot him dead. Right there and then. This wasn’t an assignment. But I don’t regret it.”

Other times they would simply ride along on their bike- Truus on the front, and Freddie on the back with a hidden gun. As they passed their mark, if no one was around, Freddie would pull out the gun and shoot him. After this, Truus would peddle off as fast as she could; once out of sight, they were once again to all the world just a couple of young girls out for a bike ride.

Other times they’d follow the mark home and then come a-knocking, again with their young, innocent look helping to ensure their targets’ guard would be down when they’d kill him.

Beyond this, the trio also took part in bombings and other sabotage efforts, reportedly only refusing one mission in which they were asked to kidnap the three children of Riech Commissioner and former Chancellor of Austria Arthur Seyss-Inquart. The children were then to be used to get the commissioner to release certain prisoners in exchange for their safe return. If he refused, the children would be killed. Said Truus of their refusal of this mission, “Resistance fighters do not kill children.”

As for Hannie, while the two young girls often went overlooked, she was not so lucky, with her bright red hair and the many missions she took part in helping her stand out. The authorities soon caught on and she was initially marked as the “the girl with the red hair.” As the heat turned up on her and Hitler himself ordered efforts towards her capture ramped up, she began dying her hair black and changed her name. Unfortunately her real name was accidentally revealed to an undercover Nazi operative working as a nurse. What followed from this was her family being detained; though eventually when it became clear they didn’t know where she was or anything about her activities, they were let go.

The Axis got her in the end, however, when she was picked up at a random military checkpoint on March 21, 1945, having been caught with copies of the communist newspaper de Waarheid. She was subsequently tortured for a few weeks, but apparently never broke. Given the war was in its final stages, she may have survived if not for her bright red hair giving her away as it grew and with no dye to keep the roots black. Once the Germans figured out who she was because of this, the then 24 year old Hannie was slated to be immediately executed- a sentence carried out on April 17, 1945, a mere 18 days before the Germans withdrew from the Netherlands.

Apparently defiant to the end, it is reported that when the two soldiers tasked with killing her shot her, she fell, but both had missed their mark for a killing shot. Her last words were reported to be mocking the soldiers, allegedly stating after the first volley, “Idiots! I shoot better!”

How these liaisons bridge gap between Congress and Air Force

The Oversteegen sisters in 2014.

As for the sisters, they survived the war, but suffered from post traumatic stress disorder, with Truss burying herself in art and Freddie stating she quickly got married and started a family as her way to cope. Her son, Remi, would state of this, “She shot… people… but she hated it, and she hated herself for doing it.” Freddie would also state, “I’ve shot [them] myself and I’ve seen them fall. And what is inside us at such a moment? You want to help them get up.”

Truss added, “It was tragic and very difficult and we cried about it afterwards. We did not feel it suited us… I wasn’t born to kill. Do you know what that does to your soul? …One loses everything. It poisons the beautiful things in life.”

In the end, both sisters lived to the ripe old age of 92, with Truus dying in June of 2016 and Freddie following her in September of 2018, the day before her 93rd birthday.

If you’d liked to read a lot more about this trio of badass ladies, you can find more in a friend of the Oversteegen sisters, Sophie Poldermans’, recent book Seducing and Killing Nazis: Hannie, Truus and Freddie: Dutch Resistance Heroines of World War II

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Navajo airman is heir to ‘code talker’ legacy

Airman 1st Class Phillip Rock is part of his family’s legacy of military service — a legacy that, in fact, would not have continued if it weren’t for that military service itself.

Stationed at Whiteman Air Force Base, Rock is a B-2 Spirit weapons load crew member in the 509th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. It is his first Air Force assignment and the most recent in his family’s military history.

“I was raised in Kayenta, Arizona, which is an hour away from the four corners,” said Phillip, who is three-quarters Navajo American Indian. “It is really the heart of the reservation.”


Raised by his grandparents, he learned much about his cultural heritage from them. He also learned where his family’s long military lineage began.

This Rock family tradition started with his great grandfather, Joseph Rock — Grandpa Joe — who served in World War II.

How these liaisons bridge gap between Congress and Air Force

Airman 1st Class Phillip E. Rock, a 509th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron B-2 weapons load crew member, weaves a dream catcher on Nov. 15, 2018, in his dorm at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kayla White)

“At first, I didn’t know much about what my great grandfather had done,” Phillip said.

Grandpa Joe died in 2004 at age 92 when Phillip was 5 years old. It wasn’t until he was nearly a teen that Phillip realized his great grandfather was a war hero.

One day, when Rock was 12 years old, he was flipping through TV channels with his grandfather, Ernest Rock Sr., in their living room. They stopped to watch a historical documentary about World War II.

Rock recalled asking his grandfather about his great grandfather’s role in the major world conflict which spanned across Europe and the Pacific.

“I said, ‘Isn’t that the war Grandpa Joe fought in? What did he do?'”

His grandfather told Phillip “He was a code talker.”

Western expansion, cultural repression

It was the early 1900s and Joseph Rock was a young boy living on a Navajo reservation in Arizona. As the country expanded westward, much of the tribe’s land was taken by the U.S. government. Joseph was sent to school, where his long hair was cut and his name was changed.

“He went up to a chalkboard, pointed at a random configuration of letters, and that’s how he became Joseph Rock,” Phillip said. “Four generations later, we still carry on that last name.”

Grandpa Joe was also punished in school if he spoke his native language — the same language that would later save countless lives.

By 1941, shortly after the U.S. had entered WWII, the Marine Corps began to recruit Navajo tribal members for a top-secret code-communications program that wouldn’t be declassified until two decades later.

At first, fewer than 30 Navajo Indians were recruited as code talkers. In total, only about 400 of the 44,000 American Indians who served in WWII were Navajo code talkers. Joseph Rock was asked to work among them, and he accepted.

How these liaisons bridge gap between Congress and Air Force

Airman 1st Class Phillip E. Rock, a B-2 weapons load crew member assigned to the 509th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, poses for a portrait on Nov. 15, 2018 in his dorm at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kayla White)

“He was told if he served, the family would get some of their land back and a house,” Phillip Rock said. “None of that happened.”

But those promises weren’t what enticed Grandpa Joe to join the military. He wanted to serve his country, and did so honorably.

“My great grandfather was proud of his service,” Phillip Rock said. “It’s his legacy.”

Military recruitment

This was not the first time American Indians were recruited for U.S. military service, either as combatants or code talkers. During the first World War, American troops relied on messages transmitted in Cherokee and Choctaw tribal languages to pass secret information. However, the languages used were eventually all deciphered by enemy troops.

The Navajo language, though, is considered particularly linguistically difficult. And at that time, it had not been written down. The U.S. government knew it would be nearly impossible for a non-Navajo to learn.

So, in the early 1940s, Navajo code talkers used their language to create more than 200 new words for military terms and then committed them to memory.

“The enemy never understood it,” a Marine general was quoted as saying after the Navajo code was first used in WWII. “We don’t understand it either, but it works.”

The Navajo code is the only spoken military code that has never been deciphered, and Navajo code talkers are credited with saving thousands of Americans’ and allies’ lives.

Winning the war

Before he knew his Grandpa Joe served as a code talker, Phillip learned about his tribe’s role in WWII as a boy in school.

“We were taught that we should be extremely thankful for what they did,” Phillip said. “Without the code talkers, we wouldn’t have won the war.”

During the Battle of Iwo Jima in 1945, Navajo code talkers worked around the clock sending and receiving thousands of messages. One Marine later stated, “Were it not for the Navajos, the Marines would never have taken Iwo Jima,” according to the Naval History and Heritage Command.

Joseph Rock was one of those code talkers involved in the critical battle to claim the Pacific island.

During the battle, a grenade landed only feet away from Joseph Rock, who “watched it hit the ground,” Phillip said. Then, Joseph Rock saw one of his fellow Marines dive on top of it, giving his life to save Grandpa Joe.

“He wanted to save the life of a code talker,” Phillip Rock said. “It’s inspiring what people will do to continue with the mission. My Grandpa Joe owed his life to that man.”

Neither Joseph Rock nor the Rock family was ever able to find out who the Marine was, but know future generations of Rocks have their lives thanks to his valor.

“I owe my life to that man, too,” Phillip said.

How these liaisons bridge gap between Congress and Air Force

Traditional native american jewelry is laid out on the couch of Airman 1st Class Phillip E. Rock, a B-2 weapons load crew member assigned to the 509th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. Each piece of jewelry was gifted to rock throughout his childhood.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kayla White)

Culture and service

Since Grandpa Joe, many members of the Rock family have answered their nation’s call including his grandfather, his father, uncles and an aunt.

For Phillip, his great grandfather’s service as a code talker influenced Philip’s own decision to join the Air Force.

Phillip is the most recent member of his family to serve in the military.

“I feel like it was a prideful thing to carry on that lineage of service,” said Phillip. “It felt like the right calling. My Grandpa Joe was the first to wear this name on a uniform. I am very proud of this name. I knew I wanted to carry that on and wear it on a uniform.”

Meanwhile, Navajo principles have taught him respect, perseverance, and determination.

“My culture really shapes who I am,” Phillip Rock says. “I wear my culture on my sleeve and my name on my chest.”

This feature is part of the “Through Airmen’s Eyes” series on AF.mil. These stories focus on a single Airman, highlighting their Air Force story.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

Top 10 most intense battles in US history

In the short history of our country, the United States rose to global military dominance — yeah, I said it. Come at me, China.

But the road to the top was paved with the blood of good men and women. Looking back, there are some pivotal battles we remember with solemn pride and a little bit of hoo-rah. Let’s check out 10 of the most intense battles in United States history.


10. The Battle of Chosin

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This blown bridge at Funchilin Pass blocked the only way out for U.S. and British forces withdrawing from the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea during the Korean War. Air Force C-119 Flying Boxcars dropped portable bridge sections to span the chasm, allowing men and equipment to reach safety.
(Photo by U.S. Air Force)

The Battle of Chosin Reservoir was one of the defining battles of the Korean War and the stuff of legend in the Marine Corps. In the Fall of 1950, U.N. Forces under the command of General MacArthur had almost captured the entirety of North Korea when they were attacked by thousands of Chinese Communist soldiers. The U.S. X Corps was forced to retreat and by mid-November the 1st Marine Division and elements of the 7th Infantry Division found themselves surrounded, outnumbered, and at risk of annihilation in the high North Korean Mountains at the Chosin Reservoir. Their only way out was a fighting retreat back to the coast.

Although as Chesty Puller put it, they weren’t retreating, they were “fighting in the opposite direction.”

Over the course of the next 17 days, the Marines and soldiers fought the Chinese — and bouts of frostbite — with fierce determination and epic endurance. They broke through the enemy’s encirclement and even rebuilt a bridge the Chinese destroyed using prebuilt bridge sections dropped by the U.S. Air Force.

By the end of the battle, the U.S. Marines suffered 836 dead and roughly 10,000 wounded. The Army had 2,000 dead and 1,000 wounded. The Chinese had the most catastrophic losses. Six out of their ten divisions were wiped out and only one would ever see combat again. Although exact numbers are not known, historians estimate that anywhere between 30,000 and 80,000 Chinese were killed.

Although technically a loss for the Marines, the Battle of Chosin Reservoir lives on in memory as an example of the Marine fighting spirit and the ability to find strength even when the odds are stacked against them.

9. The Battle of Antietam

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Charge of Iron Brigade near the Dunker Church, on the morning of Sep. 17, 1862.
(Painting by Thure Thulstrup)

A year and a half into the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln needed a Union victory. He finalized the Emancipation Proclamation during the summer but his cabinet feared it would be too difficult to enforce after a string of northern losses, including the Second Battle of Bull Run (known as the Battle of Manassas to the rebels).

Lincoln charged Major General George B. McClellan with the defense of Washington D.C. against Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s first invasion of the North. Earlier in the month, Lee divided his men, sending General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson to capture Harper’s Ferry. Following Jackson’s success, Lee decided to make a stand in Maryland at Antietam Creek.

After two days of posturing, fighting began early in the morning on Sep. 17, 1862, and lasted well past sundown, with staggering casualties on both sides and no ground gained. The next day, both armies gathered their dead and wounded and Lee retreated south.

It was the bloodiest one day battle in American history, with 23,000 casualties from both sides and nearly 4,000 dead.

Sticking with the Civil War, let’s move on:

8. The Battle of Gettysburg

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Among the many militia regiments that responded to President Lincoln’s call for troops in April 1861 was the First Minnesota Infantry.
(Painting by Don Troiani)

The Battle of Gettysburg was not only the largest battle of the Civil War, it remains the largest battle ever fought in North America.

Confederate General Robert E. Lee had just won a decisive victory against Union General George Meade’s Army of the Potomac in Virginia. Wanting to capitalize on the recent victory, Lee led his troops on a second invasion into the Northern states to defeat the Union on their own soil and hopefully gain recognition of the confederacy by European countries.

General George Meade’s Army of the Potomac pursued Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia and the two forces met near Gettysburg on July 1, 1863. The Confederates outnumbered the Yankees at roughly 30,000 to 18,000. By the end of the first day, the Yankees were forced to retreat through town to cemetery ridge and Culp’s Hill.

By the next day, both sides had gained reinforcements. Meade now had roughly 94,000 soldiers in a fish hook formation, allowing him to successfully move troops from one front to another. Lee had roughly 72,000 soldiers wrapped around the fish hook.

The Confederates attacked first but at the end of the second day, the Union defense lines held strong.

On the 3rd day, Lee tried an aggressive attack to crush the federals. He sent General Pickett with approximately 12,500 men to crush the Union Army with a direct charge.

It turned out to be one of Lee’s most ill-fated decisions. Fifty percent of Pickett’s men were wounded or killed and the rest of his troops were forced to retreat.

Also read: 5 most humiliating defeats in military history

On July 4th, Lee and his men waited for the Yankees to attack — but they didn’t.

That night the Northern Army of Virginia began its retreat back to the South. His train of wounded men stretched 14 miles long. Lee’s greatest opportunity became his greatest failure and his hopes of European recognition for the Confederacy — and a quick end to the war — were dashed.

Casualties were high on both sides. The Union suffered around 23,000 casualties while the South suffered 28,000 — more than a third of Lee’s army.

The battle was the deadliest in the Civil War and prompted Lincoln’s iconic Gettysburg address four and a half months later at the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery.

Although the fighting continued for nearly two more years, Gettysburg was an irrevocable turning point in the war in the Union’s favor.

7. Hue City

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(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. W. F. Dickman)

The North Vietnamese captured the venerated capital city of Hue during the Tet Offensive, a coordinated series of attacks on over a hundred American and South Vietnamese positions countrywide.

The battle to regain Hue began in February 1968 and lasted nearly a month, as Marines ferociously drove North Vietnamese and Communist Viet Cong forces from the city.

The Perfume River divided the city of Hue in two. To the north was the Citadel, a three-square mile fortress surrounded by walls 30-feet high and up to 40-feet thick, with a moat on three sides and the Perfume River on the 4th. To the south, the smaller and more modern section of Hue was connected to the Citadel by a bridge.

U.S. Marines and soldiers were tasked with clearing out the entrenched enemy in the southern portion of the city, while the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) would clear out the Northern portion and the citadel.

Untrained for urban combat, U.S. battalions had to come up with tactics and techniques on the spot — while facing a brutal enemy. The process was methodical and casualty heavy. They went from house to house and room to room to gain ground. Speed, surprise, and shock were essential to achieve victory.

After clearing the south side, U.S. battalions broke into the Citadel from the bridge to assist ARVN troops.

Finally on Feb. 24, the South Vietnamese flag flew over the citadel. On March 2, the longest sustained infantry battle the war had seen to this point was officially declared over.

Casualties were high on both sides.

The U.S. suffered 216 dead and 1364 wounded. South Vietnamese losses totaled 384 dead and 1,830 wounded with thousands of civilians were caught in the the cross-fire or murdered. The North Vietnamese casualties included 5,000 dead and countless more wounded.

Virtually all of Hue was destroyed, leaving roughly 100,000 homeless.

While technically a win for the U.S. and South Vietnamese, the news coverage of the event shocked the American population and broke their faith in the war.

U.S. troops would not experience that intensity of urban fighting again for another 36 years until the second battle of Fallujah, which is number six on our list.

6. Second Battle of Fallujah

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An M-198 155mm Howitzer of the US Marines firing at Fallujah, Iraq, during the Second Battle of Fallujah.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo)

The Second Battle of Fallujah was the bloodiest battle American troops fought in the entire Iraq conflict and the deadliest battle for the Marine Corps since Hue City in 1968. From November through December 2004, a joint American, British, and Iraqi-government offensive fought to clear the insurgents from their Anbar province stronghold.

An estimated 4000 enemy combatants were in the city when the fighting began — it’s even suspected that al’Qa’eda terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi held his headquarters there. They fortified their defenses before the attack, preparing spider holes, traps, and concealed IEDs throughout the town. They created propane bombs hidden in buildings, cut off access to escape routes and roofs, and designed fields of fire where they believed coalition forces would maneuver.

Nearly 70% of the civilian population fled the city, reducing civilian casualties and allowing coalition forces to launch their assault. Army, Marine, and Iraqi forces attacked with an air barrage, followed by an insertion of Marines and Navy Seabees, who bulldozed obstacles. The worst of the fighting continued for the first week, but insurgents resisted throughout the six-week campaign.

By the end of December, 82 US troops were killed with another 600 wounded. British and Iraqi forces sustained 12 killed with another 53 wounded. Over 2000 insurgents were killed while another 1200 were captured.

Keeping with Post-9/11, let’s talk about Afghanistan.

5. Battle of Sangin

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U.S. Marines with 3rd Battalion, 5th Regiment and the Afghan National Army provide cover as they move out of a dangerous area after taking enemy sniper fire during a security patrol in Sangin, Afghanistan, in November 2010.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. David R. Hernandez)

The Battle of Sangin was one of the deadliest campaigns in Operation Enduring Freedom. The Sangin River Valley was a Taliban stronghold and was considered the center of opium production. In 2010, United States Marines replaced the British forces in Sangin and initiated a deadly campaign to clear out the insurgent presence in the region. The counterinsurgency lasted for four years, and during this time Marines sustained casualties at some of the highest rates seen during the 17-year conflict in Afghanistan.

IEDs peppered the landscape, killing or maiming hundreds. During the height of the fighting, there was daily contact with the enemy just meters outside allied FOBs. In October 2010, 3rd Battalion 5th Marines began a 7-month tour that would kill dozens of them in action and injure hundreds more, with at least 34 of them becoming single, double, or triple amputees. But the “Dark Horse” Marines made progress extending their security perimeter and clearing Highway 611, which allowed for the transportation and operation of future units.

Also read: 10 songs we listened to while “Bangin’ in Sangin”

By 2012, Sangin was transformed from a battlefield into a thriving rural town, but the price was over 100 British and American lives lost and hundreds more wounded. The Taliban continued to fight for Sangin, and today, the area remains in contention.

4. Operation Bolo

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(U.S. Air Force photo)

This is the only air-to-air fight we’ll cover. It’s decidedly less deadly than any other battle on this list, but the tactics and implications merit a discussion.

Operation Bolo was the biggest air battle in the Vietnam War and one of the most successful ambush actions in military history.

In the last months of 1966, the North Vietnamese Army’s Mig-21 Fishbed fleet had become more active and successful at intercepting the F-105 Thunderchief formations of the United States Air Force.

The F-105 “Thuds” were super-sonic fighter-bombers with the mission of destroying communist air defense systems. They did this in the role of the wild weasels, a group that would fly slow and low enough to bait the communist surface-to-air systems into targeting them, thus giving away the enemy position and allowing the Wild Weasels to attack and destroy.

But with the MiG-21 added to the fight, the Thuds were falling vulnerable to air-to-air attacks.

The U.S. Air Force decided they needed to neutralize the MiG threat. Air Force legend and World War II Ace Colonel Robin Olds designed a gutsy plan to accomplish this.

Known as Operation Bolo, the mission was to lure the enemy MiGs into battle by hiding supersonic F-4C jets among the slower and less-maneuverable Thud formations.

On Jan. 2, 1967, Olds and his formation of phantoms took to the cloudy skies to fly the F-105 bomb run. They kept to the F-105 speed and flew in the F-105 formation.

The NVA took the bait and engaged.

Related: This Wild Weasel didn’t want Desert Storm to be like Vietnam

Popping up from the clouds, the Fishbeds attacked in pairs. Olds and his formation began a legendary dogfight, where U.S. forces exploited their tactical and technical advantage over the enemy.

Within 13 minutes, seven MiGs were destroyed — roughly half the NVA Mig -21 fleet. The Americans hauled ass back to Thailand with zero casualties.

In the next week, similar missions took out more communist aircraft. As a result, the North Vietnamese were forced to ground their aircraft for several months as they re-trained their pilots and sought new air defense tactics.

Colonel Olds remains the only U.S. Air Force ace with victories in both World War II and Vietnam.

To illustrate how terrible it can be when our birds are shot down, let’s move on to Somalia.

3. Battle of Mogadishu

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Michael Durant’s helicopter heading out over Mogadishu on October 3, 1993. Super64 was the second helicopter to crash during the incident.
(U.S. Army photo)

On Dec. 9, 1992, eighteen hundred United States Marines arrived in Mogadishu, Somalia to help affect peace in the war-torn country. As part of Operation Restore Hope, the Marines supported international aid workers in the country for humanitarian aid operations, including food and supply distribution. In 1993, President Bill Clinton reduced the U.S. presence as the United Nations formally assumed responsibility for operations.

In June, however, Pakistani UN peacekeepers were ambushed by militias loyal to Somali warlord General Mohammad Farrah Aidid, and 24 UN soldiers from Pakistan were killed.

In response, the UN authorized the arrest of Aidid, and President Clinton dispatched 160 Army Rangers and Delta Force operators on a mission to capture the warlord and other leaders of his militia.

The operation went disastrously wrong. Two UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters were shot down and a brutal urban battle began. The first Black Hawk was struck by an RPG, killing the pilot and co-pilot in the crash, and injuring five more passengers, including one who would die later from his wounds. A rescue mission retrieved the rest of the survivors, but then the second Black Hawk was struck, killing three in the crash. Pilot Mike Durant survived, but his back and leg were broken and he was taken prisoner.

Two Delta Force operators, MSG Gary Gordon and SFC Randy Shughart, were killed attempting to rescue Durant, who was held prisoner for 11 days until his release was secured through diplomatic negotiations. Gordon and Shughart would be posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for their actions.

President Bill Clinton immediately ordered the withdrawal of American troops from Somalia, and other U.N. countries followed suit, leaving the region unstable and without a functioning government.

Let’s talk about World War Two, a conflict where military fatalities were estimated between 50 and 80 million.

2. Iwo Jima

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Wrecked vehicles litter an Iwo Jima beach.
(DoD photo by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Robert M. Warren)

In the final stretch of World War II, the allies sought to gain control of strategic islands in the Pacific. Iwo Jima was a barren Pacific Island located roughly 660 miles from Japan, making it an ideal forward-deployed location for the Allies and Axis powers alike. On Feb. 19, 1945, after three days of naval and aerial bombardments, which launched over sixty-eight hundred tons of bombs and twenty-two thousand shells, the first wave of United States Marines stormed Iwo Jima’s volcanic shores.

Over 21,000 Japanese were there to greet them, heavily entrenched in a complex network of underground tunnels and artillery positions. What followed was some of the most violent fighting of the Pacific in World War II, due in large part to the determination of the Japanese to die before they would surrender.

They burned any vegetation that might have provided the Marines with cover, then launched artillery fire at the Marines’ exposed positions. Naval Seabees got to work on U.S. artillery positions, forward command posts, and field hospitals — all while holding their own in the fight.

Read more: Marines get an official history lesson on Iwo Jima

The iconic raising of the American Flag over Mount Suribachi took place four days into the battle, but the fighting continued for a month. Marines used artillery and flamethrowers to destroy enemy defenses, and the final battle on March 26 included a massive attack against the Americans that ultimately came down to hand-to-hand combat.

In the end, nearly all of the Japanese defenders were killed, except for a couple hundred prisoners. Over 6000 Americans died helping to take the island, with 17,000 more wounded.

1. D-Day

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American troops approaching Omaha Beach on Normandy Beach, D-Day, World War II.

This one is ranked for its intensity, carnage, and outcome.

D-Day was the largest air, land, and sea operation undertaken to date and a logistics marvel. One of the most important battles in World War II, it turned the tide of the conflict in the Allies’ favor and eventually led to their victory in Europe.

Allied forces had been planning D-Day for months. Codenamed Operation Overlord, its goal was to gain a strong foothold in continental Europe by landing thousands of Allied troops and supplies on the beaches of Normandy, France.

The original invasion date was set for May, but due to poor weather conditions it was postponed until June. Despite the continued poor weather, General Eisenhower, the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces, gave the order to attack.

D-Day would commence on June 6, 1944.

On Eisenhower’s orders, roughly 176,000 troops embarked on their journey from England to France on 6,000 landing craft, ships, and other vessels.

Just before midnight, airborne troops parachuted into occupied France, surprising the Germans.

Air and naval bombardments were underway to weaken the German defenses before the main invasion began.

At 0630 local time, the land insertion struck across five sectors in a 60-mile coastal stretch of Normandy. British and Canadian troops overcame light opposition to capture Gold, Juno, and Sword beaches, as did the Americans at Utah. But the American G.I.’s at Omaha faced a tough fight.

The aerial and naval bombardment had done little to diminish the heavily fortified German defenses, both on the shore and on the cliffs above the beaches. Allied amphibious tanks were launched too far from shore and only 2 out of 29 made it to the beach. Many soldiers drowned in the waves, dragged down by the weight of their rucksacks, and many more were mowed down by the constant German fire.

Related: 8 famous people who served on D-Day

Small groups of Americans managed to make it across the beach and traverse up the cliffs.

Allied casualties on June 6 have been estimated at over 10,000 killed, wounded, and missing in action, consisting of around 6,603 Americans, 2,700 British, and 946 Canadians.

By the end of the day, 155,000 Allied troops successfully stormed and held Normandy’s beaches. By Aug. 21, 1944, the allies had successfully landed over 2 million men in Northern France and suffered 226,386 casualties. German losses included over 240,000 casualties and 200,000 captured. Between 13,000 and 20,000 French civilians died, and many more were seriously wounded.

The success of the invasion was the beginning of the end of the war in Europe. It forced the Germans to fight a two-front war with the Soviets on the East and British, Canadian, and U.S. forces on the west.

The Nazi Third Reich would fall the following May.

This article was written with contributions by Megan Hayes.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia softens punishments for likes, reposts, and memes

Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a law that will soften the punishment for some hate crimes amid concerns over prison terms handed down to people for “liking” or reposting memes on the Internet.

The legislation, signed by Putin on Dec. 28, 2018, will remove the possibility of a prison sentence for first-time offenders found to have incited ethnic, religious, and other forms of hatred and discord in public, including in the media or on the Internet.


The legislation is the result of a rare climbdown by President Vladimir Putin, who proposed it amid a wave of potentially image-damaging concern over the arrests and imprisonment of Russians for publicly questioning religious dogmas or posting, reporting, or “liking” memes or comments that authorities say incited hatred.

Under the legislation, first-time offenders will face administrative instead of criminal prosecution, meaning they would be fined, do community service, or be jailed for up to 15 days.

How these liaisons bridge gap between Congress and Air Force

Russian President Vladimir Putin.

A person who is deemed to have committed a second, similar offense within a year will then face criminal prosecution and the possibility of two to five years in prison.

But all offenders, including those found guilty for the first time, will still face up to six years in prison if their incitement to hatred involves violence, the threat of violence, the use of their official position, or is committed by a group, the bill says.

Putin proposed the change in early October 2018, following a string of cases in which Russians were charged for publishing material — sometimes satirical or seen by many as harmless — on social networks such as VKontakte and Facebook.

The bill was approved by lawmakers in both chambers of parliament, the State Duma and the Federation Council.

Reaction to the new legislation has been mixed, with Kremlin critics warning that the government will still retain many tools for suppressing dissent and limiting free speech.

On Oct. 2, 2018, Putin signed a law toughening punishment for those who refuse to remove information from the Internet deemed illegal by a court.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

In search of an MOS translator that works for the modern era

Everyone in America saw it: a commercial from Google during the third quarter of Super Bowl LIII that highlighted their “Jobs for Veterans” MOS Translator. At last, many veterans watching at home exclaimed, Google has brought their unmatched search functionality to translate military skills and connect veterans to the right career opportunities.


“I was excited to try it out,” said Joe Bongon, a Navy veteran who now serves as an employment support specialist for veterans at the GI Go Fund in Newark, NJ. “Google makes everything easier; I was confident that they would help me find jobs for the vets I work with based off their skills.”

So, he entered in his military rating: Aviation Machinist Mate. The results were scattered, primarily offering jobs as a Food Service Specialist and Warehouse Worker.

“Unfortunately, it turned out to not be much different than a lot of the ones I’ve used before,” he said.

Such is the struggle for veterans looking for a system to accurately connect them to the right job opportunities. Military veterans have consistently performed tasks similar to those available in the civilian world, and have often done so under more difficult and stressful environments. So why do so many translators on the market, including the one recently developed by the most powerful search engine in the world, produce such underwhelming results? It’s all about the DATA!!!

Back in 1998, the Department of Labor (DOL) set out to provide veterans with a Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) Translator that would connect them to civilian job titles based on what they had done in the military.

They created “My Next Move by O*NET,” which translated approximately 900 military careers into civilian language, as well as a handful of corresponding job titles that related to the military skills. While DOL’s O*NET translator was innovative at the time of its creation 20 years ago, it is now a static relic, having received virtually no updates in two decades, kinda like the canteen in a camelback world.

This means that many 21st century industries, such as robotics, cyber security, software development, or advanced manufacturing, which have become staples of the modern workforce, do not show up as potential job opportunities for today’s veterans. Even worse, every military branch periodically updates its MOS codes – over time, this has resulted in thousands of additions to their MOS listings that are not recognized in O*NET. For example (and there are many similar examples), if a Marine separated from the military today with an MOS of “6325 – Aircraft Communications / Navigation / Electrical / Weapons Systems Technician, V-22” and used the O*NET translator, it would populate zero results because this MOS did not exist in 1998. This MOS is for a technician for the V-22 Osprey, a tiltrotor aircraft that the Marine Corps began crew training for only in 2000, and did not formally introduce to the field until 2007.

How these liaisons bridge gap between Congress and Air Force

So the DOL, the agency that is tasked with ensuring all Americans are able to connect to the best job opportunities, has a military skills translator that is in desperate need of an update. Worse yet, virtually every private sector or nonprofit organization that has developed its own translator is relying on this same outdated data in O*NET. This, as one could imagine, has made the task of finding a quality MOS translator for the modern workforce difficult. We’ve spent years trying different MOS translators to find one that works for today’s veterans. However, we did find one translator that considers other variables besides just your MOS code; JobPath.

How these liaisons bridge gap between Congress and Air Force

JobPath is built on the idea that a veteran’s rank, service, and experience also play an important role in finding the right job. While other translators fail to differentiate between ranks, and focus solely on the job category, which often leads to inappropriate matching between actual military experience and civilian positions, JobPath provides a glimpse into the type of leadership roles the veteran held, as well as their additional responsibilities within their units.

Justin Constantine, a retired Marine Lieutenant Colonel JAG attorney and author of From We Will to At Will about veteran employment hiring, tried MOS tool after tool over the years, but was continually disappointed. Most MOS translators produced less-than-accurate results. “One in particular said I should be a mascot or work in the company store,” said Constantine. “I didn’t become an attorney to stand around all day in a costume taking pictures and waving to kids. No veteran I know is looking for a job like that.”

How these liaisons bridge gap between Congress and Air Force

That’s when Constantine, now the Chief Business Development officer at JobPath, took on the mission to build a more effective tool. In partnership with military leaders and HR professionals from Fortune 500 companies, JobPath developed their translator to ensure that their data is clear, concise, and modernized for today’s marketplace. They manually evaluated, rewrote, and matched every MOS code to the best job categories and compatible employment opportunities. The end result: over 7,000 military career codes mapped to the correlating civilian job openings utilizing the appropriate industry buzzwords and keywords recognized by recruiters and Applicant Tracking Systems.

“Our software intelligently connects veterans to the right job opportunities based on their military skills, education, rank, job training, and civilian work experience, each of which are important elements to understanding a veteran’s full work history,” said Constantine.

We are glad to see that there is a translator like JobPath’s out on the market, but one is not enough. Until major companies throughout the employment space build their translators the same way that JobPath did, most veterans will not receive the job translations they deserve.

MIGHTY HISTORY

9 books you need to read to understand World War I

November 2018 marks 100 years since Germany signed the armistice that brought World War I to a close. Yet in many ways “the war to end all wars” has never really ceased. From the outbreak of a second world war just twenty years later to the Balkan conflicts of the 1990s and the current perilous state of Turkish Democracy, the smoldering ashes of WWI have ignited time and time again. These nine books — arranged by genre and covering the hostilities from the home front, the trenches, and the hospitals where soldiers were treated for a new injury known as “shell shock” — are essential to understanding how a century-old feud shaped the world we live in today.


How these liaisons bridge gap between Congress and Air Force

(Random House Publishing Group)

1. The Guns of August

By Barbara Tuchman

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize and one of the Modern Library’s top 100 nonfiction books of all time, this is the definitive history of the first 30 days of the war—a month that set the course of the entire conflict. Tuchman brings a novelist’s flair to her subject, from the spectacle of King Edward VII’s funeral procession—”The sun of the old world was setting in a dying blaze of splendour never to be seen again”—to the dust and sweat and terror of the German advance across Belgium. She captures the war’s key figures with flair and precision and enlivens her analysis with a dry-martini wit: “Nothing so comforts the military mind as the maxim of a great but dead general.” Most astonishingly of all, she creates genuine suspense out of the inevitable march of history, convincing her readers to forget what they already know and turn the pages with bated breath.

How these liaisons bridge gap between Congress and Air Force

(Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group)

2. The First World War

By John Keegan

Twenty years after its original release, this gripping chronicle remains the best single-volume account of the war. Keegan, an acclaimed British military historian, brings a refreshingly clear-eyed perspective to some of the 20th century’s most confounding questions: Why couldn’t Europe’s greatest empires avoid such a tragic and unnecessary conflict? And why did so many millions of people have to die? By foregoing radio and telephone to communicate by letter, Keegan explains, world leaders effectively rendered themselves deaf and blind. The problem was grotesquely amplified on the battlefield, where weapons technology had advanced to the point that entire regiments could be wiped out in a matter of hours. No other history brings the war’s mind-boggling magnitude — 70,000 British soldiers killed and 170,000 wounded in the Battle of Passchendaele alone — into sharper focus.

How these liaisons bridge gap between Congress and Air Force

(Aurum Press)

3. Gallipoli

By Alan Moorehead

As an acclaimed correspondent for London’s Daily Express, Moorehead covered WWII from North Africa to Normandy. But the Australian once swore he’d never write about the most famous military engagement in his nation’s history: the Battle of Gallipoli. He’d heard more than enough stories from ANZAC (Australia and New Zealand Army Corps) veterans back home and had grown bored with the subject. Thankfully, he changed his mind — and his eloquent, elegiac account is a modern day masterpiece. From Winston Churchill’s plan to “launch the greatest amphibious operation mankind had known up till then” to the costly, avoidable blunders that doomed 50,000 Allied troops (11,000 of them from Australia and New Zealand), Moorehead vividly captures the grand ambition and tragic folly of the campaign. His sketch of army officer Mustafa Kemal, later known as Kemal Atatürk, is a must-read for anyone seeking to understand how the seeds of modern-day Turkey’s independence were sown at Gallipoli.

How these liaisons bridge gap between Congress and Air Force

(Random House Publishing Group)

4. Paris 1919

By Margaret MacMillan

WWI brought about the fall of the Russian, German, Austro-Hungarian, and Ottoman empires and displaced millions of people across Europe. Faced with the monumental task of reshaping the world, Allied leaders convened the Paris Peace Conference in January 1919. Over the next six months, delegates from 27 nations redrew international borders, hashed out the terms of Germany’s surrender, and laid the groundwork for the League of Nations. Above all, they aimed to prevent another world war. They failed, of course — Hitler invaded Poland just 20 years later—but this engrossing, comprehensive history debunks the harshest judgments of the Treaty of Versailles and provides essential context for understanding its myriad repercussions. MacMillan covers impressive ground, from the Balkans to Baku to Baghdad, without losing focus on the colorful personalities and twists of fate that make for a great story

How these liaisons bridge gap between Congress and Air Force

(Orion Publishing Group, Limited)

5. Testament of Youth

By Vera Brittain

The daughter of a well-to-do paper manufacturer, Vera Brittain left her studies at Oxford in 1915 to join England’s Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) as a nurse in London, Malta, and France. Like so many others of her generation, she felt called to be a part of something larger than herself. By the war’s end — and before she turned 25 — she had lost her fiancé, her brother, and two of her closest friends. Her chronicle of the war years, her return to Oxford, and her attempts to forge a career as a journalist is both an elegy for a lost generation and a landmark of early 20th-century feminism. Upon the book’s original publication in 1933, the New York Times declared that no other WWI memoir was “more honest, more revealing within its field, or more heartbreakingly beautiful”. Eighty-five years later, that assessment still rings true.

How these liaisons bridge gap between Congress and Air Force

(Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group)

6. Goodbye to All That

By Robert Graves

This spellbinding autobiography is by turns poignant, angry, satirical, and lewd. It’s also, according to literary critic Paul Fussell, “the best memoir of the First World War.” A lieutenant in the Royal Welch Fusiliers (where he fought alongside his friend and fellow poet Siegfried Sassoon), Graves was severely wounded in the Battle of the Somme and reported killed in action. His family had to print a notice in the newspaper that he was still alive. As befitting a man returned from the dead, Graves breaks all conventions, mixing fact and fiction to get to the poetic truth of trench warfare. Sassoon, for one, objected to the inaccuracies, but Good-bye to All That touched a nerve with war-weary readers and made Graves famous. It has gone on to influence much of the 20th-century’s finest war literature, from Evelyn Waugh’s Sword of Honour trilogy to Joseph Heller’s Catch-22.

How these liaisons bridge gap between Congress and Air Force

(Penguin Publishing Group)

7. Storm of Steel

By Ernst Jünger

An international bestseller when it was originally published in 1920, this fiercely lyrical memoir is the definitive account of the German experience during WWI. Jünger, a born warrior who ran away from home at the age of 18 to join the French Foreign Legion, fought with the German infantry in the Battle of the Somme, the Battle of Arras, and the Battle of Cambrai. He was wounded seven times during the war, most severely during the 1918 Spring Offensive, when he was shot through the chest and nearly died. He received the German Empire’s highest military honor, the Pour le Mérite, for his service. Taken from Jünger’s war diary, Storm of Steel has a visceral, in-the-moment quality that separates it from other WWI autobiographies. Some have criticized it as a glorification of war, while others, including Matterhorn author and Vietnam War veteran Karl Marlantes, think it’s one of the truest depictions of the combat experience ever written.

How these liaisons bridge gap between Congress and Air Force

(Random House Publishing Group)

8. All Quiet on the Western Front

By Erich Maria Remarque

This iconic German novel was first serialized in 1928, 10 years after the armistice. The book version sold millions of copies and was quickly adapted into an Academy Award-winning film. By then, the Nazi Party was the second largest political party in Germany; Joseph Goebbels led violent protests at the film’s Berlin screenings. Three years later, he banned and publicly burned Remarque’s books in one of his first orders of business as Nazi Germany’s Minister of Propaganda. Why the intense hatred for the story of a young man who volunteers to fight in WWI? Because it is one of the most powerful anti-war novels in Western literature. In Remarque’s downbeat tale, one nameless battle is indistinguishable from the next and the lucky survivors are doomed to lifetimes of disillusionment and alienation. No other book, fiction or nonfiction, conveys the existential horror of trench warfare so clearly.

How these liaisons bridge gap between Congress and Air Force

(Penguin Publishing Group)

9. Regeneration

By Pat Barker

This audaciously intelligent, powerfully moving historical novel, the first in a trilogy, opens with the full text of Siegfried Sassoon’s letter refusing to return to active duty after receiving treatment for gastric fever. The declaration, which was read in the House of Commons, earned him a mandatory stay at Craiglockhart War Hospital, where he was treated for shell shock by the noted neurologist Dr. William Rivers and became friends with fellow poet Wilfred Owen. From these facts, Barker fashions one of the most original works of WWI literature, intertwining fact and fiction to explore Freudian psychology, the doctor-patient relationship, nationalism, masculinity, and the British class system, among other fascinating topics. Foregoing battlefields and trenches to explore the terrain of the human mind, Barker gets to the essential truth of WWI: No one who lived through it — man or woman, soldier or civilian — saw the world the same way again.

This article originally appeared on Explore The Archive. Follow @explore_archive on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Air Force is in dire need of more fighter pilots

Air Force officials have been warning about the force’s dire pilot shortage, and a recent Government Accountability Office report illustrates just how bad the shortfall has gotten.

The report assesses the gaps between the actual number of fighter pilots that the Air Force, Marine Corps, and Navy have and the number of positions they are authorized to have.


Each service branch reported fighter-pilot shortages that have grown worse in recent years. “Service officials attributed these gaps to aircraft readiness challenges, reduced training opportunities, and increased attrition of fighter pilots due to career dissatisfaction,” the report says.

The Air Force had at least 92% of its fighter-pilot positions filled between 2006 and 2010, an 8% gap, and 104% of what it needed in 2011, a 4% surplus. But the gap has grown since 2012 and is currently the biggest of the three military branches, at 27%.

The Air Force, which has undertaken a number of training and retention initiatives, projected its shortfall to last through fiscal year 2023.

Growing shortfalls and falling retention

How these liaisons bridge gap between Congress and Air Force
Maj. Gen. Jay Silveria, U.S. Air Force Warfare Center commander, walks out to an F-35A Lightning II with Lt. Col. Matt Renbarger, 58th Fighter Squadron commander, before his final qualification flight Sept. 26, 2014, at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.
(U.S. Air Force photo)

Each branch has different levels at which the difference between authorized positions and actual staff levels becomes a shortage. Air Force officials told the GAO that “their established practice is that pilot communities with less than 100 percent of authorizations are considered to be insufficiently staffed.”

Changing authorization levels led to an excess in some Air Force career fields in 2011, but an increase in authorized positions in the past few years has led to a growing shortfall among fighter pilots — from 192, or 5% of authorized positions, that year to 1,005, or 27% of authorized positions, in 2017. (The Air Force said at the end of 2017 that its total shortage was “around 2,000” pilots.)

“According to briefing documents prepared by the Air Force, this gap is concentrated among fighter pilots with fewer than 8 years of experience,” the report notes.

Air Force officials told the GAO that between 2006 and 2017, “fighter pilot gaps were generally limited to non-operational positions, such as staff assignments at Air Force headquarters or combatant commands.”

But the GAO also found that the Air Force had been unable to fill all its operational positions since fiscal year 2014, with the gap between the operational positions it needed to fill and the actual staffing levels it had growing from 39 pilots, or 1% of authorizations, in 2014 to 399 pilots, or 13%, in 2017.

How these liaisons bridge gap between Congress and Air Force
The Air Force’s fighter-pilot shortfall has grown significantly over the past several years.

Several factors have contributed to these shortfalls, in particular reductions to overall active-duty military end strength.

Service officials said that personnel reductions after the 2008 drawdown in Iraq and cuts to funding stemming from the 2011 Budget Control Act both helped reduce the number of fighter pilots in the military.

The Air Force shed 206 fighter pilots in order to meet initial demand for pilots of unmanned aerial systems in 2011 and 2012 and then lost 54 more to early-retirement incentives in 2014 and 2015. That was compounded by changes to force structure — the decline in active and reserve Air Force fighter squadrons from 134 in 1989 to 55 in 2017 has reduced the opportunities newly trained pilots have to gain flying experience.

These factors have helped create a bottleneck in the Air Force’s training pipeline. The service has more pilots entering than it has resources to train. According to the GAO report, between 2006 and 2017 the Air Force trained 12% fewer new fighter pilots than its target amount.

“Fighter pilots told us that the need to prioritize the staffing of experienced pilots to deploying squadrons has limited the number of experienced personnel available to train newer pilots at home stations,” the report says.

A fighter pilot needs about five years of training to be qualified to lead flights, which costs between about $3 million to $11 million depending on the type of aircraft they’re being trained to fly, according to Air Force officials.

How these liaisons bridge gap between Congress and Air Force

Those training issues are exacerbated by the reduction in aircraft, as longer maintenance times for legacy aircraft, like the F-16 or F-15, leave fewer aircraft available for training. (A shortage of maintainer crew members has also hamstrung the Air Force, though it has made progress adding more of those personnel.)

The services have also struggled to retain pilots.

The GAO found that the number of Air Force pilots signing retention contracts fell from 63% in 2013 to 35% in 2017 — despite the service increasing its maximum aviation bonus contract to $225,000 at the start of 2013, which was the highest amount offered by any of the military service branches.

Stop-gap measures

Officials from the service branches told the GAO they had used various tactics to address their pilot shortfalls, including longer and more frequent deployments, putting senior pilots in junior positions, and “prioritizing staffing fighter pilots to flying positions that require fighter pilot-specific technical skills.”

The service branches has also tried to compensate for fighter-pilot shortages by drawing on pilots from other career fields.

How these liaisons bridge gap between Congress and Air Force
F-16 Fighting Falcons from the Arizona Air National Guard’s 162nd Wing fly an air-to-air training mission against student pilots April 8, 2015.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Jeffrey Allen)

The Air Force, for example, has drawn on mobility pilots — those that fly cargo and refueling aircraft — to fill instructor roles for basic training to free up fighter pilots for duties elsewhere.

But fliers and squadron leaders told the GAO that these measures have had deleterious effects. Pilots and squadron leaders also said that some of these efforts to mitigate pilot shortages had helped drive down retention

A high operational tempo has limited the opportunities senior pilots have to train with junior pilots, which in turn limits the opportunities the service branches have to grow the number of pilots with specific qualifications. This also cuts into the services’ ability to rebuild readiness. Air Force officials said “high deployment rates … have resulted in less time for squadrons to complete their full training requirements because high deployment rates mean that there are fewer aircraft available for training at home stations.”

Moreover, increasing individual deployments undercut family stability, pilots said, affecting satisfaction with their careers.

The Air Force has taken steps to mitigate the effects the pilot shortage has had on pilots’ quality of life.

It has stood up teams dedicated to finding and implementing dozens of initiatives to reduce the fighter-pilot shortage.

How these liaisons bridge gap between Congress and Air Force
Maj. Tyler Ellison, a Thunderbirds pilot, administers the oath of enlistment to enlist Florida’s newest airmen during the Sun ‘n Fun International Fly-in and Expo Air Show at Lakeland, Florida, April, 25, 2015.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Manuel J. Martinez)

“For example, as the result of one initiative, 126 contractors have been placed in fighter squadrons to assist with administrative tasks and reduce workload for fighter pilots,” the GAO notes.

Air Force training squadrons have also taken steps to better apportion resources, including consolidating instructors among training units and altering the training process and syllabus, according to a February 2018 report by Aviation Week, but those shifts still put a strain on pilots and aircraft and represented “a leap into the unknown” for the units.

The GAO report also noted that the service branches had not reevaluated fighter-squadron requirements to reflect change conditions, the increased workload, and the effects of the increasing use of unmanned aircraft.

“Air Force officials told us that metrics that inform squadron requirements … have not been increased because the Air Force is instead prioritizing the effort to recapitalize its fleet of fighter aircraft,” the report said, adding that officials said they were also reassessing fighter-pilots’ nonoperational requirements, focusing on finding which ones could be reassigned to other pilots.

The report made recommendations for each branch, advising the Air Force to reevaluate those squadron requirements, “to include updating current assumptions of fighter pilot workload, and assessing the impact of future incorporation of [unmanned aerial systems] platforms into combat aviation.”