What it's like to fly America's 'Dragon Lady' - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

What it’s like to fly America’s ‘Dragon Lady’

The six years of experience and hundreds of hours of flight time needed to become a pilot of the US Air Force’s oldest spy plane are no more, and now trainee pilots will be eligible to take the controls of the venerable Dragon Lady.

The new U-2 First Assignment Companion Trainer, or FACT, program will allow Air Force student pilots to jump directly into the U-2 pipeline and join the 9th Reconnaissance Wing.


“Our focus is modernizing and sustaining the U-2 well into the future to meet the needs of our nation at the speed of relevance,” Air Force Col. Andy Clark, commander of the 9th Reconnaissance Wing, said in a release.

What it’s like to fly America’s ‘Dragon Lady’

Pilots from Beale Air Force Base go through pre-flight checks on a U-2 at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California, Sept. 29, 2018

(Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Schultze)

The new program is meant to create ” a new reconnaissance career path for young, highly qualified aviators eager to shape the next generation of [reconnaissance] warfighting capabilities,” Clark said. The first selection will be among fall 2018 undergraduate training pilots with the next round coming in about six months.

The change comes as the Air Force seeks to modernize the U-2 airframe and mission, as well as its pilot-acquisition and development process.

Once selected, pilots in the FACT program will go the T-38 pilot instructor training course at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph in Texas before a permanent change-of-station to Beale Air Force Base in California, where the U-2s are based.

What it’s like to fly America’s ‘Dragon Lady’

Airmen refuel a U-2 at Beale Air Force Base, California, Aug. 9, 2018.

(Air Force photo by Senior Airman Justin Parsons)

The selectee will then be a T-38 instructor pilot for the next two years, and once they have the requisite experience, they will undergo the standard two-week U-2 pilot interview process.

If hired, they’ll then start Basic Qualification Training.

“The well-established path to the U-2 has proven effective for over 60 years,” Lt. Col. Carl Maymi, commander of the 1st Reconnaissance Squadron, said in a release.

“However, we need access to young, talented officers earlier in their careers. I believe we can do this while still maintaining the integrity of our selection process through the U-2 FACT program.”

What it’s like to fly America’s ‘Dragon Lady’

A U-2 prepares to land at Al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates, Nov. 16, 2017.

(Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Colton Elliott)

‘An art, not a science’

The U-2 entered service during the Eisenhower administration, carrying out covert missions high above enemy territory during the height of the Cold War. The aircraft have been overhauled and the missions have changed in the decades since, but the Dragon Lady remains one of the most unique and challenging aircraft US pilots can fly.

Today’s U-2s are larger than the original versions and are made of slightly lighter material, as less weight translates into more altitude — about one extra foot for each pound shed, according to Wall Street Journal reporter Michael Phillips, who ventured up in a U-2 in 2018, accompanied by Jethro, one of the few pilots who’ve qualified to fly it.

Every six years, each U-2 is totally overhauled by Lockheed Martin, which takes the plane completely apart and goes through “every wire, every connector, every panel,” Jethro told Phillips.

“They’ll X-ray it … make sure there’s no cracks, replace anything that’s broken, put it back together, new coat of paint, and it looks like a brand-new airplane again, and it flies like a brand-new airplane again,” Jethro added.

What it’s like to fly America’s ‘Dragon Lady’

A U-2 is prepped for takeoff from Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan, June 22, 2018.

(Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kristin High)

The long, narrow wings allow the U-2 to quickly lift heavy payloads of cameras and sensors to high altitudes and stay there for extended periods. It’s capable of gathering an array of imagery, including multi-spectral electro-optic, infrared, and synthetic aperture radar products that can be stored aboard or transmitted to the ground.

Some parts of the preparation process are still low-tech, however.

The U-2 has a central fuel tank fed by tanks in each wing. Crews will fill up the wing tanks and then look to see which way the aircraft leans. They they transfer fuel from one side to the other until it balances out.

“So it’s really kind of an art, not a science,” Jethro said.

U-2 pilots work in two-man crews, but the pilots go up in the aircraft alone. Their pre-flight preparations begin with donning a full-pressure suit, like those worn by astronauts, that regulates the pilot’s pressure and temperature.

“If the cockpit lost pressure at 70,000 feet” — the usual cruising altitude — “and I weren’t wearing a space suit, my blood would boil,” Phillips said.

Once suited, pilots head to the aircraft, accompanied by a crew member carrying their oxygen supply.

Pilots give the U-2 a traditional pat on the nose, shake hands with each flight crew member, and clamber into the cockpit, where a team of technicians hooks them up to an array of regulators and sensors.

What it’s like to fly America’s ‘Dragon Lady’

A U-2 pilot prepares to board his aircraft at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan, June 22, 2018.

(Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kristin High)

“I’ve got crew chiefs. I’ve got electricians. I’ve got different civilians for each of the sensors … so there may be 40 people around the aircraft, who are all there just to get you in the air,” Jethro said. “We don’t call it a takeoff. We call it a launch.”

The U-2’s 103-foot wingspan and broad turning radius make it hard to maneuver, and the wings, laden with fuel, are supported by bicycle-like wheels that break away during takeoff.

To help deal with those hazards, the other member of the two-man pilot team trails behind the U-2 at the wheel of a muscle car — like a Pontiac GTO or Tesla Model S — that can keep up with the U-2.

Other U-2 pilots who aren’t flying may be in Beale’s control tower, overseeing their fellow pilots’ missions.

During takeoff, the pilot wrestles with the plane as it gets off the ground.

“As soon as you throw the power up, you’re pushing 18,000 pounds of thrust out of the backend. You have those big, long wings, and it just wants to accelerate so fast,” said one U-2 pilot, identified only as Nova. “You gotta pull it up to about 40 degrees nose high just to keep the airplane within limits, and that is just one of the coolest feelings ever.”

“When you get a chance to look and just see the earth just falling away behind you so quickly, it’s awesome,” he added.

Temporary wheels, called “pogos,” that hold up the wings during takeoff drop away as the plane leaves the ground.

The U-2 ascends to about 70,000 feet for a typical mission. Up there, the curvature of the earth allows pilots to see 270 nautical miles in each direction — a field of vision of about 500 miles. It can map all of Iraq in a single mission.

On the edge of space, the cockpit is silent except for the raspy hiss of the breathing system, which sucks pure oxygen into the pilot’s helmet.

“The air pressure inside the cockpit is the equivalent to standing on top of Mount Everest,” Phillips said.

“Without the oxygen I’d be gasping for breath, and I’d be in danger of getting the bends,” he added, referring to an illness that occurs when dissolved gases enter the bloodstream as the body experiences changes in pressure.

“A lot of times when we get up to altitude, you’ll be able to look down and see the airliners,” Jethro, the pilot, said during the flight.

“And you can see that very gentle curve of the earth from here,” Phillips added, “It’s an extraordinary view.”

“When you get up there and you think, like, ‘What makes these people different from these people?’ And you just don’t see it from up there,” Nova, the other pilot, said. “It’s one world. There’s one planet.”

What it’s like to fly America’s ‘Dragon Lady’

A U-2 lands at Al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates, Nov. 16, 2017.

(Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Colton Elliott)

‘You’re in a small club’

The features that make the U-2 an exceptional high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft make it extremely difficult to land. Pilots have to perform a kind of controlled crash to bring the plane back to earth.

The two sets of wheels built into the plane are set up like bicycle wheels, with one set under the nose and the other under the tail. The massive wings, now relieved of their fuel, make the aircraft hard to control as it comes in.

The cars that saw the plane off zip in as it lands, their drivers giving the pilots a foot-by-foot countdown and alerting them to any problems. The cars can hit 140 mph while chasing an incoming U-2.

Once the plane has slowed down enough, one of the wings droops to the ground. Titanium skid plates on the bottoms of both wings help bring the plane to a full stop, at which point the temporary wheels are reattached. The plane then taxis off the runway.

Back on earth, technicians begin developing the imagery.

A flight can produce 10,500 feet of film, stored on a 250-pound spool, according to Phillips.

The U-2’s wet-film camera produces images that are clearer than digital images, which are analyzed with loupes or microscope-like optics that zoom in on the features captured on the film.

It’s an old-fashioned approach to aerial reconnaissance, Phillips noted. “But it works, and that’s why it’s still around,” one of the airmen overseeing the film-development process added.

After the first two undergraduate pilot training students are picked and enter the FACT program, the assignment process “will be assessed to determine the sustainability of this experimental pilot pipeline,” the Air Force said in its announcement.

For the time being, the Dragon Lady’s pilot corps will be a rare breed.

“A thousand pilots, [there are] way more Super Bowl rings out there. You’re in a small club,” Lt. Col. Matt Nussbaum, 99th Reconnaissance Squadron commander, told Phillips.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

This was Nazi Germany’s primary fighter

Unlike the United States, which threw at least a half-dozen outstanding fighters at the Axis in World War II (the F4F Wildcat, the F4U Corsair, the F6F Hellcat, the P-38 Lightning, the P-47 Thunderbolt, and the P-51 Mustang, just to name a few), Nazi Germany relied heavily on two major fighters throughout the war.

One of those planes was produced in staggering numbers, especially when compared to some of today’s planes. Its time in service extended two decades beyond the end of World War II and, in a stroke of irony, this plane actually went on to help a new country stand up against genocidal foes.

That plane was the Bayerische Flugzeugwerke Bf 109.


Many know this plane as the Messerschmidt Me 109, but that’s a misnomer. While it was designed by Willy Messerschmidt, the planes designed through the early stages of World War II had the prefix ‘Bf,’ which stands for Bayerische Flugzeugwerke, or “Bavarian Aircraft Factories” in English. It was only later that the company took the name of Messerschmidt — and with it, the ‘Me’ prefix.

What it’s like to fly America’s ‘Dragon Lady’

Nazi Germany built over 33,000 Bf 109 fighters.

(German Federal Archives)

The Bf 109 had a top speed of 359 miles per hour and a maximum range of 680 miles. Depending on the variant, Bf 109s were equipped with either 7.9mm machine guns or autocannons. Over 33,000 Bf 109s were produced during the war, making it the most-produced fighter aircraft in history. Even more Bf 109s were designed and built after the war in Spain and Czechoslovakia as well.

What it’s like to fly America’s ‘Dragon Lady’

Czech-built versions of the Bf 109, known as the S-199, served in the Israeli Air Force.

Some of the Czech versions, known as the Avia S-199, found their way to Israel where they served in the 1948 Israeli War for Independence. There, they fought against Arab forces in what the Secretary-General of the Arab League called a “war of extermination.” A plane that was once the arm of history’s most infamous genocide stood in opposition of the next.

The planes proved difficult to fly, however, and were replaced by 1950.

What it’s like to fly America’s ‘Dragon Lady’

Licence-built Bf 109s in Spain had a variety of engines, including the Rolls Royce Merlin.

(Photo by Alan Wilson)

Spain’s Hispano HA-1112, a designed based on the Bf 109, stayed in service until 1965. These variants were notable for using a variety of engines, the Rolls Royce Merlin famously used by the P-51 Mustang.

Learn more about this classic German fighter in the video below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GiRi1hmbz_0

www.youtube.com

popular

General Petraeus returned to duty days after being shot in the chest with an M-16

There are a lot of reasons for soldiers to visit sick call. Sure, there are a lot of skaters among the ranks of U.S. troops, but most of the military is looking to stay away from doctors and stay in the fight — especially while deployed. No officer exemplifies this more than Gen. David Petraeus, who was shot in the chest due to a negligent discharge.

The doctors were not thrilled at the prospect of letting then-Lt. Col. Petraeus walk out of the hospital. Just days before, the colonel was participating in a live-fire exercise at Fort Campbell, KY when a soldier under his command tripped. The fall caused the soldier to fire his M-16 rifle, hitting Petraeus in the chest.

Of course, Lt. Col. Petraeus survived.


What it’s like to fly America’s ‘Dragon Lady’

“Ooh, good attempt, Private Dipsh*t. If you had tried that at the range, you might have a sharpshooter badge.”

I remember standing for a moment and then going down to my knees and slumping to the ground,” said Petraeus. “The next I recall was being worried about the effect on the unit and delaying training. So I instructed the leaders to just prop me up against a tree with a canteen.”

Then, like a true soldier, he instructed medics not to cut off his load-bearing equipment because it took him so long to get it together and put it on. Medics then tended to his wound just like it says in the Soldier’s Manual. They then airlifted him to Blanchfield Army Community Hospital where doctors were forced to tend to his wounds without anesthesia. He was later rushed to Vanderbilt University Medical Center for more care. 

Despite having been shot, Petraeus couldn’t just languish in the hospital for months at a time. He was the commander of the Iron Rakkasans, not the Wet Paper Bag Rakkasans. He may not look like it at first glance, but the decorated Army officer is tough as nails and is willing to prove it. That’s exactly how he was able to leave the hospital soon after.

What it’s like to fly America’s ‘Dragon Lady’

“Come at me, son. My life has its own Konami Code.”

The surgeon that operated on David Petraeus that day in Nashville would later go on to work with Petraeus as a General. Republican Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist helped save the young officer’s life and later took testimony from the general on how he intended to train Iraqi troops.

Before that, however, Lt. Col. Petraeus needed to get out of the hospital. To prove to his civilian doctors that he was fine and ready for duty, Petraeus did 50 pushups without resting – just days after being shot by a 5.56 round in the chest from 40 meters and then undergoing surgery to repair the damage.

(It) feels like a combination of the most enormous blow imaginable and being hit in the back with a massive hammer from the force of bullet exiting the body,” Petraeus told The Leaf-Chronicle.I was very fortunate that the bullet did not sever an artery… I was also very fortunate that the bullet hit over the ‘A’ in ‘Petraeus’ rather than the ‘A’ in ‘U.S. Army.’

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is how many US troops are in Syria

After suggesting in late March 2018, that the US would be pulling out of Syria “very soon,” President Donald Trump reportedly told his national security team that he is open to keeping troops in the country for the time being, but wants to look to pull them out sometime soon, a senior administration official told CNN.

The US has now been involved in Syria for about three and a half years, having started its military intervention there as part of Operation Inherent Resolve in September 2014. The military has carried out numerous operations in Syria against ISIS and other targets, according to the Department of Defense, and members of the US Marines, Navy, Air Force, and Army are active in the country.


As of December 2017, there are approximately 2,000 US troops in the country. Four US soldiers have been killed in action in Syria.

The US has carried out over 14,989 airstrikes in Syria since 2014, according to the Pentagon.

While it is difficult to ascertain exactly how much the US military spent in Syria specifically, Operation Inherent Resolve as a whole has cost over over $18 billion as of February 2018, according to the Pentagon. The majority of these funds were spent on Air Force operations.

Since the US mission began, ISIS has seen its territory dwindle in Syria, and now almost all of its holdings have been conquered by local forces on the ground with US support.

US forces are fulfilling a variety of roles in the fight against ISIS

The US mission in Syria is aimed at defeating ISIS and its offshoots, providing coordination between air assets and troops on the ground and the anti-ISIS coalition. So far, this mission has largely been a military success — the group has reportedly lost over 98% of its territory since it stormed across Syria and Iraq in 2014.

What it’s like to fly America’s ‘Dragon Lady’
(US Army photo)

The US has also been supporting Syrian Kurds in Syria’s north, bolstering a coalition of forces led by the Kurds called the Syrian Democratic Forces by deploying coalition advisers to train, advise, and assist the group. The SDF has conquered swathes of territory from ISIS in northeastern Syria with support from US airstrikes and special forces and, according to the Pentagon, is leading the fight against the remnants of the Islamist group in the country.

But the incredibly fractured nature of the conflict lends itself to additional challenges, Pentagon spokesman Eric Pahon told Business insider.

“It’s the most complex battlefield in modern warfare,” he said, explaining that there are active lines of communication open between US forces and other actors in the conflict like Turkey and Russia, which serve to avoid accidental military engagements and as deconfliction hotlines.

Pahon said that now that the active fight against ISIS is drawing down, the US is pivoting to civilian reconstruction efforts, clearing IEDs, and rebuilding civilian infrastructure.

“That’s a big challenge for getting people back into their homes, especially in populated areas like Raqqa,” Pahon said, citing numerous ways in which fleeing ISIS fighters have booby-trapped abandoned homes with explosives.

Pahon said part of the US civilian effort is training people on the ground on how to de-mine former urban battlefields.

He also pointed out that in addition to the military aspect of US operations in the country, other parts of the US government like the State Department and USAID are also active in reconciliation efforts, recovering water access, and rebuilding the power grids in destroyed towns and cities.

“It’s more than a military effort, it’s a whole of government effort,” he said.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Air Force awards $9.2 billion for new fighter, bomber trainer

The Air Force awarded The Boeing Company a contract worth up to $9.2 billion for the Air Force’s new training aircraft Sept. 27, 2018.

The Air Force currently plans to purchase 351 T-X aircraft, 46 simulators, and associated ground equipment to replace the Air Education and Training Command’s 57-year-old fleet of T-38C Talons.

The indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract allows the Air Force to purchase up to 475 aircraft and 120 simulators. The contract is designed to offer taxpayers the best value both today and in the future should requirements change.


“This new aircraft will provide the advanced training capabilities we need to increase the lethality and effectiveness of future Air Force pilots,” Secretary of the Air Force Heather A. Wilson said. “Through competition we will save at least billion on the T-X program.”

The original service cost estimate was .7 billion for 351 aircraft.

The T-X program is expected to provide student pilots in undergraduate- and graduate-level training courses with the skills and competencies required to transition to 4th- and 5th-generation fighter and bomber aircraft.

What it’s like to fly America’s ‘Dragon Lady’

(Boeing photo)

“This is all about joint warfighting excellence; we need the T-X to optimize training for pilots heading into our growing fleet of fifth-generation aircraft,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein. “This aircraft will enable pilot training in a system similar to our fielded fighters, ultimately enhancing joint lethality.”

The first T-X aircraft and simulators are scheduled to arrive at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas, in 2023. All undergraduate pilot training bases will eventually transition from the T-38 to the T-X. Those bases include: Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi; Laughlin AFB, Texas; Sheppard AFB, Texas and Vance AFB, Oklahoma.

An initial delivery order for 3 million provides for the engineering and manufacturing development of the first five aircraft and seven simulators.

The contract supports the Air Force’s objective of an initial operational capability by 2024 and full operational capability by 2034.

“This outcome is the result of a well-conceived strategy leveraging full and open competition,” said Dr. Will Roper, assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, technology and logistics. “It’s acquisition’s silver bullet.”

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Air Force just used its new laser to shoot down a missile

The Air Force Research Laboratory Self-Protect High Energy Laser Demonstrator Advanced Technology Demonstration Program successfully completed a major program milestone with the successful surrogate laser weapon system shoot down of multiple air launched missiles in flight, April 23, 2019.

The SHiELD program is developing a directed energy laser system on an aircraft pod that will serve to demonstrate self-defense of aircraft against surface-to-air and air-to-air missiles.

“This critical demonstration shows that our directed energy systems are on track to be a game changer for our warfighters,” said Dr. Kelly Hammett, AFRL’s Directed Energy Directorate director.


During the series of tests at the High Energy Laser System Test Facility, the Demonstrator Laser Weapon System, acting as a ground-based test surrogate for the SHiELD system, was able to engage and shoot down several air launched missiles in flight.

What it’s like to fly America’s ‘Dragon Lady’

During the series of tests at the High Energy Laser System Test Facility at White Sands Missile Range, N.M., April 23, 2019, the Demonstrator Laser Weapon System, acting as a ground-based test surrogate for the Self-Protect High Energy Laser Demonstrator system, was able to engage and shoot down several air-launched missiles in flight.

(Air Force Research Laboratory)

The demonstration is an important step of the SHiELD system development, by validating laser effectiveness against the target missiles. The final SHiELD system, however, will be much smaller and lighter, as well as ruggedized for an airborne environment.

“The successful test is a big step ahead for directed energy systems and protection against adversarial threats,” said Maj. Gen. William Cooley, AFRL commander. “The ability to shoot down missiles with speed-of-light technology will enable air operation in denied environments. I am proud of the AFRL team advancing our Air Force’s directed energy capability.”

High Energy Laser technology has made significant gains in performance and maturity due to continued research and development by AFRL and others in the science and technology ecosystem. It is considered to be a game changing technology that will bring new capabilities to the warfighter.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

This Marine division never set foot in the United States

When American military units are established or disestablished, it’s usually done on American soil. There are exceptions, but, for the most part, it is done in the United States. But one Marine division has the distinction of never setting foot in the United States for the duration its service.


During World War II, the Marine Corps underwent a massive expansion. The 1st Marine Division was established in February of 1941. Eventually, the Marines grew to six infantry divisions (today, there are four – three active and one reserve). Five were formed in the United States, but the 6th Marine Division was formed on the Pacific island where Marine legends, like John Basilone, made their mark on history – Guadalcanal – on September 7, 1944, a little over two years after the invasion of that island.

What it’s like to fly America’s ‘Dragon Lady’
Marines from the 6th Marine Division on a patrol during the Battle of Okinawa. (USMC photo)

The division trained until it was sent to help take the island of Okinawa from Japan. The Japanese troops on that island didn’t give up easily. The battle spanned almost three months, leaving 12,520 Americans dead, including Lieutenant General Simon Buckner. Over 110,000 Japanese troops and at least 40,000 civilians were killed during the fighting.

During the fight for Okinawa, five Marines and one sailor with the 6th Marine Division were awarded the Medal of Honor for their actions. The entire division was recognized with the Presidential Unit Citation. After Okinawa, the division was pulled back to Guam in order to prepare for the invasion of Japan — on an American territory, but not in the United States. Soon thereafter, the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and forced Japan’s surrender. The division was instead sent to Tsingtao, China, where it was disestablished in 1946.

What it’s like to fly America’s ‘Dragon Lady’
With the captured capital of Naha in the background, Marine Maj. Gen. Lemuel Shepherd, commanding general of the 6th Marine Division, relaxes on an Okinawan ridge long enough to consult a map of the terrain. (Marine Corps)

Today, the 6th Marine Division remains inactive. To learn more about what their courageous actions on Okinawa, watch the video below.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yIq7MK_bnaU
MIGHTY TRENDING

Special Tactics combat controller laid to rest at Arlington

Known for his grit, loyalty, unwavering character, and the author of quick-witted military cadences, often referred to as “jodies,” Staff Sgt. Dylan Elchin was tough, dedicated, and easy going — often making light of difficult situations.

He was a good teammate, a selfless friend and a true patriot who expressed a willingness to lay down his life for what he believed in — God and country.


Elchin, a Special Tactics combat controller assigned to the 26th Special Tactics Squadron, was honored as hundreds gathered in the rain and he was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery, Jan. 24, 2019.

What it’s like to fly America’s ‘Dragon Lady’

A Special Tactics combat controller with the 24th Special Operations Wing pounds a flash into the casket of Air Force Staff Sgt. Dylan Elchin.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joseph Pick)

“The boy had a deep-seeded love for his country, and I think early on he decided he wanted to do something with that,” Elchin’s grandfather, Ron Bogolea said. “Somewhere along the line, he apparently made the decision that he was willing to give his life for the country.”

As a Special Tactics combat controller, Elchin was specially trained and equipped for immediate deployment into combat operations to conduct global access, precision strike, and personnel recovery operations. He was skilled in reconnaissance operations, air traffic control and joint terminal attack control operations.

Foundation of morals, discipline

Growing up in rural Beaver County, Pennsylvania, Elchin’s love for camping, hiking, and swimming led him to cub and boy scouts, where his grandfather, Bogolea, believes he acquired his moral compass.

What it’s like to fly America’s ‘Dragon Lady’

Dawna Duez, mother of Air Force Staff Sgt. Dylan Elchin, receives a flag from Air Force Lt. Gen. Brad Webb, commander of Air Force Special Operations Command, during a ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery, Va., Jan. 24, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joseph Pick)

“He loved the whole aspect of boy scouts,” said Bogolea. “I think as a boy scout, it did a lot to instill in him some of the better moral things in life that people need, and it filled him with patriotism.”

Alongside three brothers, Dylan grew up doing “boy things,” often resulting in minor scrapes and bruises. A trip to the hospital at the age of four showcased a trait that would establish the foundation for Elchin’s success in Special Tactics.

As Bogolea recalls, Dylan’s horseplay on a bunkbed resulted in a laceration above his eye that required stitches, but with the location of the cut, the medical team wasn’t able to apply any medication for the pain. What happened next amazed Dylan’s grandfather and showcased how Dylan was different from other children.

What it’s like to fly America’s ‘Dragon Lady’

An Air Force bugler plays taps during the military funeral honors of Air Force Staff Sgt. Dylan Elchin.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joseph Pick)

“The boy never whimpered, never whined, never cried, and I was just amazed.” Bogolea said. “From that point on, I just knew there was something a little different about this child. He could take things and kind of brush them off.”

Joining the nation’s elite warriors

By age 14, Dylan began reading accounts of various historical conflicts — Vietnam, the Gulf War, and others — that involved the expertise of special operations.

“A spark ignited, the spark that most of us don’t have,” Bogolea said.

At the end of high school, Dylan visited the local Air Force recruiter and expressed his desire to perform more high-risk activities.

What it’s like to fly America’s ‘Dragon Lady’

A casket team folds an American flag during the military funeral honors of Air Force Staff Sgt. Dylan Elchin, a Special Tactics combat controller assigned to the 26th Special Tactics Squadron, at Arlington National Cemetery, Va., Jan. 24, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joseph Pick)

“Dylan wanted to jump out of airplanes, scuba dive and do all that fun stuff,” his grandfather said.

The recruiter was able to fulfill Dylan’s desires and offered him an opportunity to serve his nation as a Special Tactics combat controller. While the desire and passion were there, Elchin needed to focus on the physical aspects of the job to best prepare him for what lay ahead.

“For a year, the recruiter took Dylan under his wing and brought him to the YMCA…swam him, lifted weights with him, ran him, ran him and ran him.” Bogolea said. “The whole year this recruiter got him in shape; otherwise he wouldn’t have made it.”

What it’s like to fly America’s ‘Dragon Lady’

A casket team removes the casket of Air Force Staff Sgt. Dylan Elchin, a Special Tactics combat controller assigned to the 26th Special Tactics Squadron.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joseph Pick)

On Aug. 7, 2012, the Hopewell High School graduate would come one step closer to his goal as he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and arrived in San Antonio, Texas for basic military training. Upon graduation, he immediately began the two-year Special Tactics combat control training program.

As Dylan progressed through one of the most strenuous military training programs, his teammates began to notice one of his most valued characteristics, his quick-witted humor.

“He was a hilarious human, he was probably one of the funniest people that I’ve ever encountered in this job,” said a Special Tactics officer with the 720th Special Tactics Group and Dylan’s teammate in the pipeline. “His quick wit, his ability to draw the most hilarious comics and just provide levity to the worst situations made him an unbelievable teammate that everybody wanted to help carry along and be carried by.”

What it’s like to fly America’s ‘Dragon Lady’

A caisson carries the casket of Air Force Staff Sgt. Dylan Elchin.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joseph Pick)

However, it wasn’t only his humor his teammates noticed. They saw the same spark Bogolea did.

“He just had that grit…He just kept driving through and he would always do whatever it took to get the job done. That definitely stood out to me,” said a Special Tactics officer and Elchin’s teammate throughout the pipeline and his team leader at the 26th STS. “His never quit, no-fail attitude carried him, and that’s what he took to everything he did, even post-pipeline, as an operator.”

When it came time for Dylan and his team to graduate from combat control school at Pope Field, North Carolina, and don their scarlet berets for the first time, he invited his family down to attend the graduation ceremony.

What it’s like to fly America’s ‘Dragon Lady’

Air Force Maj. Amber Murrell, left, and Air Force Capt. Christopher Pokorny, both chaplains, lead a caisson carrying the casket of Air Force Staff Sgt. Dylan Elchin.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joseph Pick)

“I go down there and I meet up with him; and I look across the field and I see a half a dozen guys jogging through a field with a telephone pole on their shoulders,” Bogolea said. “I said to (Dylan), ‘what’s that?’, he said ‘that’s Andy’, I said, ‘what are they doing?’, and he replied, ‘well, if you screw up, you get to carry Andy. If you don’t screw up, you get to carry Andy’.”

The ability to smile and laugh gave Dylan and his team a comradery that would fuel them through combat control school and their next stop — Advanced Skills Training at Hurlburt Field, Florida. Following graduation of AST, Special Tactics operators are sent to their respective units deployment ready and prepared to be force multipliers on the battlefield.

What it’s like to fly America’s ‘Dragon Lady’

The family of Air Force Staff Sgt. Dylan Elchin.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joseph Pick)

When Dylan arrived to the 26th STS in October of 2015, his new unit was set to deploy in the upcoming months. Unfortunately, he didn’t have the time required to earn his joint terminal attack controller rating, and he was unable to go with his unit on the deployment.

For many special operators, this situation would be disheartening.

“His attitude with it the whole time was great,” said Master Sgt. TJ Gunnell, a Special Tactics tactical air control party specialist with Air Force Special Operations Command headquarters and Dylan’s team sergeant at the 26th STS. “We came back and they were like, ‘man, Dylan was crushing it here the whole time you guys were gone,’ and they put him right back on a team and he immediately went to work.”

What it’s like to fly America’s ‘Dragon Lady’

A casket team removes the casket of Air Force Staff Sgt. Dylan Elchin.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joseph Pick)

In August of 2018, the 26th STS deployed and this time Dylan joined his unit in Afghanistan serving as a JTAC embedded with a U.S. Army Special Operations Force Operational Detachment-Alpha team. His role was to advise the ground force commander, direct close air support aircraft, and deliver destructive ordnance on enemy targets in support of offensive combat operations.

“As soon as they got overseas on this trip, he was there two weeks and immediately into it, just crushing it as a JTAC,” Gunnell said.

Gunnell was referring to Dylan’s actions Aug. 12, 2018, when he repeatedly disregarded his own personal safety and exposed himself to enemy fire while coordinating life-saving, danger-close, air-to-ground strikes, killing enemy fighters who had pinned down their friendly forces convoy. Dylan’s timely and precise actions were credited with saving the lives of his Army Special Forces and Afghan Commando brethren, and he was awarded an Army Commendation Medal with Valor.

What it’s like to fly America’s ‘Dragon Lady’

More than 350 family members, friends and teammates of Air Force Staff Sgt. Dylan Elchin gather for a ceremony at Fort Myer Memorial Chapel, Arlington, Va., Jan. 24, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joseph Pick)

This was just the start of a consistent battle rhythm Dylan and his teammates pursued throughout their deployment; but unfortunately on Nov. 27, 2018, Elchin and three of his teammates paid the ultimate sacrifice for their nation.

Elchin, along with U.S. Army Capt. Andrew Ross and U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Eric Emond, were killed in action when their vehicle hit an improvised explosive device in Ghazni Province, Afghanistan while deployed in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel. Army Sgt. Jason McClary died later as a result of injuries sustained from the IED.

For his outstanding courage and leadership over the course of his deployment, Dylan was posthumously awarded a Bronze Star Medal.

“I implore you to honor (Dylan’s) service and sacrifice by picking up your sword and shield and continuing the righteous fight, that each one of us might make this world a better and safer place,” said Air Force Lieutenant Col. Gregory Walsh, 26th STS commander, in a letter addressed to Dylan’s teammates. “Although heartbroken at the loss of Dylan, I am extremely proud of him, and every one of you as we carry on in defense of our great nation. Together we must continue the mission, honor his legacy, and never forget what Dylan gave that we might be free.”

What it’s like to fly America’s ‘Dragon Lady’

A casket team secures the casket of Air Force Staff Sgt. Dylan Elchin.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joseph Pick)

Staff Sgt. Dylan Elchin is the 20th Special Tactics Airman to be killed in combat since 9/11. In the close-knit Special Tactics community, the enduring sacrifices of Elchin and his family will never be forgotten.

Elchin was a qualified military static line jumper, free fall jumper, an Air Force qualified combat scuba diver, and a qualified JTAC. His awards and decorations include the Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart, Army Commendation Medal with Valor, Air Force Commendation Medal, Air Force Combat Action Medal, Air Force Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Afghan Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Air Force Longevity Service Award, Air Force noncommissioned Professional Military Education Graduate Ribbon, Air Force Training Ribbon and NATO Medal.

“Dylan knew the freedom and lifestyle we enjoy here must be protected from evil people wanting to destroy our life. Such love a man must have to lay down his life for his friends and his country, but this is who he was,” Bogolea said. “He truly died a noble death. Dylan was a man who had dreams and the guts to make those dreams come true.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Army seeks to hire 10,000 soldiers in virtual campaign

For the first time in their history, the Army will be completely reliant on the internet and social media to complete their summer recruitment of soldiers. With COVID-19 impacting their ability to do face to face recruitment events, they’ve become innovative. Their goal: 10,000 new soldiers.

The Army paused briefly in processing new applicants and significantly reduced the number of recruits at basic training to ensure they could reduce risks of infection and keep potential soldiers and staff safe. Once all measures were in place, the Army hit the ground running for recruitment.


The Army typically sends between 10,000 to 15,000 future soldiers to basic training every summer. The challenge, however, will be making that happen through a computer. In the months leading up to the summer push, most recruiters are inside high schools and continually interacting with youth. Although the pandemic prevented that, recruiters got creative.

These past few months have seen recruiters actively engaging on platforms like Facebook, Instagram and even playing video games with potential future soldiers. Although this definitely helped the Army somewhat maintain their recruiting numbers, a bigger push is needed to ensure mission readiness.

The Army’s virtual nation-wide hiring campaign will run from June 30 to July 2, 2020. Those who are eligible and join during the hiring event can earn a ,000 bonus, on top of other available bonuses and student loan payoffs. This campaign will be a test of the Army’s digital footprint and their ability to reach potential young soldiers virtually.

Command Master Sergeant Tabitha Gavia is the senior enlisted leader for U.S. Army Recruiting Command at Fort Knox, Kentucky. It is her command leading the national hiring event. “We are responsible for the mission that the Army gives us every year, to recruit a certain number of Army and Army Reserves,” she shared.

According to an Army press release, “Army National Hiring Days is an all-Army effort to inspire individuals across the nation to ‘Join Us.'” This will be the first time that the Army has collectively come together as a whole to leverage the digital space in a nation-wide recruiting effort.

The Army has over 150 career opportunities for those that want to join. When someone signs up, they will also pick their job at the same time. When they finish basic training, they are sent to their specialist training for their chosen career field.

During Army National Hiring Days, those who want to learn more about the Army and inquire about joining can visit their recruitment website. There they’ll find a wealth of information about careers, qualifications, and specific hiring incentives.

There are always unique challenges to recruiting, even without a global pandemic. “External environments are the real challenges. One in particular is the significant number of people who simply aren’t qualified to serve in the armed forces,” Gavia explained. According to a recent 2019 study by Mission: Readiness, they found that as much as 75% of America’s youth is ineligible to serve. The three top reasons for ineligibility include being undereducated, involved in crime or physically unfit.

Gavia shared that another unique challenge in recruiting is that many young people simply don’t know enough about the Army, especially if they don’t live near a base or weren’t raised in a family of service. “We have to get people to get to know us and overcome preconceived notions and fears,” she said.

One example of a current fear is the recent ongoing protests and the involvement of the U.S. military in shutting them down. This led to a lot of potential recruits to question whether they wanted to be a part of the Army or any armed service at all. “Our recruiters faced backlash in their communities. They then had to explain that this is one aspect of supporting the country, but becoming part of the team there would be other things you would be doing and that this isn’t a true reflection of the Army,” Gavia shared.

The Army is also seeking to create a more diverse service. They aim to be the national leader in embracing a more diverse and inclusive environment. “It’s important to stress our diversity. Our strength really lies within our diversity….We want the public to understand and know this is important and a part of who we are,” said Gavia.

To learn more about the Army’s mission and dedication to inclusiveness, you can check out their website which details their commitment to diversity. For those who are interested in learning more about the Army and how they can make a difference by becoming a soldier, click here.

MIGHTY CULTURE

11 valuable tax tips and benefits for military families

The holidays are over, and we are now in the year 2020. It’s a good time to start working on our 2019 taxes, because April 15 will be here before we know it. Taxes are overwhelming and complex, but there are numerous tax benefits for military families, so it is important to understand the basics.


What it’s like to fly America’s ‘Dragon Lady’

Income

Servicemembers receive different types of pay and allowances. It is important to know which are considered as income and which are not. For servicemembers, income typically includes basic pay, special pay, bonus pay, and incentive pay.

Exclusions

Items normally excluded from income include combat pay, living allowances, moving allowances, travel allowances, and family allowances, such as family separation pay.

Combat pay exclusions are a substantial benefit to servicemembers and spouses. Combat pay is that compensation for active military service for any month while serving in a designated combat zone. This may also include a reenlistment bonus if the voluntary reenlistment occurs in a month while the servicemember is serving in the combat zone. Note that for commissioned officers, there is a limit to the amount of combat pay you may exclude.

The most common living allowances are Basic Allowance for Housing and Basic Allowance for Subsistence. Moving allowances are those reasonable, unreimbursed expenses beyond what the military pays for a permanent change of station.

Sale of Homes

Servicemembers and spouses often decide to purchase homes when moving to new duty stations. Often, we then turnaround and sell the homes a few years later before moving again.

What happens if you make a profit from the sale of this home? If you are fortunate enough to profit, you may qualify to exclude up to 0,000 of the gain from your income, or up to 0,000 if you file a joint return with your spouse. This is referred to as the Sale of Primary Home Capital Gain exclusion. Normally, this exclusion requires that you owned the home for at least two years and lived in it for at least two of the last five years. There is an exception, however, for servicemembers. If you were required to move as the result of a permanent change of station before meeting these requirements, you still may qualify for a reduced exclusion.

Claim for Tax Forgiveness

If a servicemember dies while on active duty, there are circumstances where the taxes owed will be forgiven by the IRS. Contact your closest Legal Assistance Office immediately for assistance using the website provided later in the article.

Extensions

If April 15 is quickly approaching and you are running out of time, remember, there are several different extension requests that military families may make. If the servicemember is in a combat zone, an automatic extension covers the time period the servicemember is in the combat zone plus 180 days after the last day in the combat zone.

Avoid Tax Scams

In November 2019, I wrote an article on common scams during the holidays. Unfortunately, scams are not limited to the holidays. There are numerous tax scams that have stolen personal information and millions of dollars. Scammers use the mail, telephone and email to initiate contact. Please remember that the IRS never initiates contact by email, text messages or on social media pages to request personal or financial information. The IRS initiates most contact through the regular U. S. Postal Service mail. Finally, the IRS never uses threats or bullying to demand payments.

If you have any questions, contact the IRS with a telephone number you find on its website (www.irs.gov) and verify what you received is legitimate before doing anything. To protect yourself, only use an IRS telephone number from its website. Do not use a telephone number you received that you suspect may be part of a tax scam from an email, text message or social media page.

What it’s like to fly America’s ‘Dragon Lady’

Signing Tax Returns

Normally, both the servicemember and spouse must sign jointly filed tax returns. If one spouse will be absent during tax season, it is advisable to have an IRS special power of attorney, IRS Form 2848 (Power of Attorney and Declaration of Representative). You may access this form on the IRS website.

Military Tax Centers

Annually, many Legal Assistance Offices worldwide help servicemembers and spouses file their federal and state income tax returns starting in early February. Last year, for example, Army Legal Assistance personnel and volunteers prepared and filed over one hundred thousand Federal and over sixty-four thousand State income tax returns saving servicemembers and their families more than million in tax preparation and filing fees.

If you don’t live near a military installation, visit the Department of Defense Military One Source website at https://www.militaryonesource.mil for additional information on accessing free online tax assistance.

Legal Assistance Offices

If you have specific tax questions or receive correspondence from the IRS, contact the closest legal assistance office to schedule an appointment. Use the Armed Forces Legal Assistance website (https://legalassistance.law.af.mil) that I provided in the October 2019 blog to locate your nearest legal assistance office. The quicker you address your issues, the better likelihood that you will successfully resolve them.

What it’s like to fly America’s ‘Dragon Lady’

Valuable Tax Tip for 2020

Finally, here is a valuable tip for next year’s taxes. Does it seem like every year you are scrambling to find tax documents and receipts from throughout the tax year? Relieve this stress by getting a folder and writing “Tax Year 2020” on the front of it. Keep it in an easy-to-find place, and every time you receive a document or receipt that may impact your taxes place it in the folder. That way, at the end of this year, you will have most of the supporting documents you need already together.

Future Blogs

Be on the lookout for future blogs that will continue to discuss specific legal issues often encountered by servicemembers and military spouses. As always, this blog series will help to protect your family and you!

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

US Navy’s best sub-hunting aircraft has some persisting problems

The P-8A Poseidon, introduced in 2013 to replace the P-3 Orion, has quickly become one of the most highly regarded maritime-patrol aircraft in service, fielded by the Navy and sought after by partner countries all over the world.

But the P-8A is dealing with some lingering issues that could affect the force as a whole, according to the fiscal year 2018 annual report produced by the Pentagon’s Office of the Director of Operational Test and Evaluation.


What it’s like to fly America’s ‘Dragon Lady’

US Navy crew members on board a P-8A Poseidon.

(US Navy photo)

The Poseidon’s capabilities now include receiver air refueling, employment of the AGM-84D Harpoon Block I anti-ship missile, and several upgrades to its communications systems.

But, the report said, “despite significant efforts to improve P-8A intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) sensors, overall P-8A ISR mission capabilities remain limited by sensor performance shortfalls.”

Moreover, the report found, data from the operational testing and evaluation of the P-8A’s latest software engineering upgrade as well as metrics from the Navy “show consistently negative trends in fleet-wide aircraft operational availability due to a shortage of spare parts and increased maintenance requirements.”

What it’s like to fly America’s ‘Dragon Lady’

A Boeing and a Raytheon employee complete installation of an APY-10 radar antenna on P-8A Poseidon test aircraft T2.

(Boeing)

Forward-deployed P-8A units have reported “relatively high mission capable rates” when they have access to enough spare parts, sufficient logistic supply support, and priority maintenance.

However, the report said, focusing on supporting forward-deployed units “frequently reduces aircraft availability and increases part cannibalization rates at other fleet operating locations.”

Shortages in spare parts for the Poseidon are exacerbated by the nature of the contracting and delivery system for the P-8A, according to the report.

What it’s like to fly America’s ‘Dragon Lady’

Naval aircrewman (Operator) 2nd Class Karl Shinn unloads a sonobuoy on a P-8A Poseidon.

(US Navy photo by Chief Mass Comm. Specialist Keith DeVinney)

The use of engineering model predictions rather than reliability data from the fleet itself, “ensures that some mission critical spare part contracts lag actual fleet needs,” lengthening the already long six- to nine-month contracting process.

These delays are exacerbated by consumable-item processes at the Defense Logistics Agency, which requires depleting stocks and back orders before starting to procure new items, according to the report.

“These delays are a major contributing factor to the observed increases in aircraft downtime awaiting parts and higher part cannibalization,” it added, saying that the P-8A program is working with Naval Supply Systems Command to procure parts on a more flexible and proactive basis and to start basing procurement on fleet-reliability data.

Keeping an eye on things

More than 60 P-8As are in service for the US Navy. The plane is based on Boeing’s 737 airliner but built to withstand more stress and outfitted with a suite of electronic gear to allow it to detect and track ships and subs — even just their periscopes — across wide swaths of ocean, as well as to conduct surveillance of ports and coastlines.

“I went up on a training flight, and basically … they could read the insignia on a sailor’s hat from thousands of feet above,” Michael Fabey, author of the 2017 book “Crashback,” about China-US tensions in the Pacific, told Business Insider in early 2018. “It’s not the aircraft itself of course,” he added, but “all the goodies they put in there.”

The Navy plans to improve the aircraft’s capability going forward by adding the Advanced Airborne Sensor radar and by integrating the AGM-84 Harpoon Block II+ missile and the High Altitude Anti-Submarine Warfare Weapon Capability MK 54 torpedo.

Interest in the P-8A continues to grow.

What it’s like to fly America’s ‘Dragon Lady’

US Navy aircrew members on a P-8A Poseidon.

(US Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Keith DeVinney)

India has bought 12 of the P-8I variant, and the country’s navy chief has said it’s looking to buy more. Australia is buying eight and has an option for four more.

Other countries in the Asian-Pacific region are looking to buy, too, including South Korea, to which the US State Department approved the sale of six in 2018.

NATO countries are also looking to reinvigorate their airborne anti-submarine-warfare capabilities, including the UK and Norway, which are adjacent to the Greenland-Iceland-UK gap, a chokepoint for submarines traveling between the Atlantic and the Arctic, where Russia’s Northern Fleet and nuclear forces are based. The US recently sent P-8As back to the Keflavik airbase in Iceland, though it does not plan to reestablish a permanent presence.

At the end of January 2019, Boeing was awarded a .46 billion modification to an existing contract for the production and delivery of 19 P-8A Poseidons — 10 for the US Navy, four for the UK, and five for Norway.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Taliban have special forces and the tech to match it

In January 2018, an Afghan National Army position near Kunduz was assaulted and knocked out during a precision night raid. The attackers were using laser targeting systems and wearing night vision. The attack came from a special Taliban fighter unit called “The Red Unit,” a team of insurgents carrying American weapons and technology, attacking the police in Kunduz in daring night raids. By 2018, The Red Unit had wiped out several police posts around Kunduz.


What it’s like to fly America’s ‘Dragon Lady’

This isn’t your grandaddy’s Mujahideen. Probably.

Raids in Kunduz saw The Red Unit killing the defenders of police outposts, occupying the fortifications while they looted it for food and weapons, destroying whatever vehicles and weapons they couldn’t take, and then leaving the scene – without taking any casualties themselves.

The special insurgent forces carry M4 rifles and Russian-made night vision, along with laser targeting systems on their rifles. The only difference is they’re also sporting traditional garb and wearing head scarfs around their faces. Rumor has it they go into combat riding in a Ford truck or armored humvee. They make these quick strikes on outposts in order to avoid air strikes.

No one knows where they’re getting this advanced gear.

What it’s like to fly America’s ‘Dragon Lady’

How do drones never catch these video shoots mid-production?

“Night-vision equipment is used in ambushes by the insurgents, and it is very effective,” said Maj. Gen. Dawlat Waziri, the spokesman for the Defense Ministry told the New York Times. “You can see your enemy, but they cannot see you coming.”

Videos released by the Taliban depict their fighters training with even more advanced American weapons technology, including the FN SCAR (Special Operations Forces Combat Assault Rifle) 7.62mm rifle, AN/PEQ 5 visible lasers, and more. The SCAR is only used by the U.S. Special Operations Command, so seeing a Taliban insurgent carrying one came as a surprise to those in the know.

MIGHTY TRENDING

One Navy officer and a pink phone prevent all-out war with North Korea

It happens at least twice a day. A pink phone in the U.S.- South Korean part of the Joint Security Area rings. On the other end is North Korea. The phone is an old-timey touchtone phone, and the calls come in at 0930 and 1530 every day. This is the first time since 2013 these calls have been made. Picking up the phone is Lt. Cmdr. Daniel McShane, U.S. Navy, and while he’s not talking to Kim Jong Un, these are the most important talks with the North since President Trump went to Hanoi.


What it’s like to fly America’s ‘Dragon Lady’

It didn’t hurt, though.

In a piece for the Wall Street Journal, McShane told Timothy W. Martin that he actually has eight people on the other side of the demilitarized zone that he talks to now. While their exchanges are amenable but often brief, the important part is that someone is calling. For the years between 2013 and 2018, they weren’t – and that was a big problem.

“If they’re talking, they’re not shooting,” says McShane, who will speak to his counterparts in either English or Korean. In-between coordinating the return of Korean War dead, removing mines, and coordinating helicopters, the North Koreans have come to know McShane has a Korean girlfriend and that he loves baseball, especially the LA Dodgers. When there is no message, that’s okay too. They still call to tell McShane there is no message to send that day.

What it’s like to fly America’s ‘Dragon Lady’

Even North and South Korea have begun to coordinate in recent years.

He’s not the only one who answers the phone, according to the Wall Street Journal, but he’s the most widely known. A few others around the office help him manage phone calls. The younger, enlisted people who have picked up the phone at times have marveled at how well the North Koreans speak English

“I worried about a communication barrier, but there are times when I think, ‘Wow, your English is better than mine!’ ” says Air Force Tech. Sgt. Keith Jordan. He and a handful of others help enforce the UN-brokered cease-fire. The two groups have even met face-to-face, the few groups who do so unarmed. For the time being, it seems that casual conversations about choco-pies and the Dodgers will be the limit of U.S.-North Korean interaction. But as long as that interaction is happening, neither side will be mobilizing for war.