This crazy photo from the the LIMA 19 Airshow looks photoshopped - but it's real - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

This crazy photo from the the LIMA 19 Airshow looks photoshopped – but it’s real

Ace aviation photographer Mr. Liyu Wu shot this remarkable photo of no less than three Airbus Defense A400M Atlas aircraft and three (or is it four?) Pilatus PC-7s of the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) in the same camera frame at the same time during an amazing formation break maneuver. The aircraft seem to be heading in about four different directions. The optic compression of Mr. Wu’s telephoto lens and his perfect timing make the aircraft appear much closer together than they are in horizontal space, but even with this visual effect, the photo and the flying are spectacular.


The photo was posted on Facebook by Mr. Liyu Wu on March 23, 2019 during preparation for the Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace Exhibition 2019 (LIMA 2019) at Mahsuri International Exhibition Centre (MIEC) and the Langkawi International Airport. LIMA 2019 is “the largest show of its kind within the Asia Pacific region” according to the event’s promoters.

The aircraft pictured include three new Airbus Defense A400M Atlas tactical transports of Malaysia’s 22 Squadron from Subang AFB in Malaysia. Malaysia operates only four of the new A400M aircraft, so this photo represents fully three-quarters of their inventory. The three visible Pilatus PC-7 two-seat, single-engine light turboprop training aircraft are operated by 1 FTC training unit from Alor Setar AFB in Malaysia. The RMAF operates a training inventory of 22 Pilatus PC-7s.

This crazy photo from the the LIMA 19 Airshow looks photoshopped – but it’s real

Photographer Liyu Wu.

(Liyu Wu / Facebook)

The Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace Exhibition 2019 ran from March 29-30 at Langkawi International Airport and is 15 years old. A major international air, defense and maritime exhibition, LIMA 2019 included participants from Australia, Belarus, China, Germany, France, Italy, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Russia, Turkey, United Kingdom, and the U.S. according to the event organizers.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

One of the Navy’s newest ships is finally free from Canadian ice

The USS Little Rock, a US Navy littoral-combat ship commissioned in late December 2017, finally left the port of Montreal late March 2018, more than three months after docking there for a short stop on its maiden voyage.

The Little Rock was commissioned in Buffalo, New York, on Dec. 16, 2017, but its journey to Mayport Naval Station in northeast Florida was delayed when the ship became stuck in Montreal a few days after Christmas. Unusually cold temperatures, icy conditions, and a shortage of tugboats to guide it out of port all contributed to the Little Rock staying in Canada.


The Navy said in January 2018 that the Little Rock would remain in Montreal “until wintry weather conditions improve and the ship is able to safely transit through the St. Lawrence Seaway.”

That stay lasted until 6:15 on the morning of March 31, 2018, port officials told the CBC. Navy spokeswoman Lt. Cmdr. Courtney Hillson confirmed the departure. “Keeping the ship in Montreal until weather conditions improved ensured the safety of the ship and crew,” Hillson told Business Insider.

The Little Rock is expected to reach Florida later in April 2018, making several stops along the way.

The decision to keep the ship at Montreal was made on Jan. 19, 2018. Hillson told Business Insider at the time that the Little Rock’s crew was carrying out routine repair work and focusing “on training, readiness, and certifications.”

This crazy photo from the the LIMA 19 Airshow looks photoshopped – but it’s real
US Navy littoral combat ship USS Little Rock heading toward Montreal, December 27, 2017.
(Photo via USS Little Rock Facebook)

The ship was outfitted with temporary heaters and 16 de-icers to prevent ice accumulation on the hull and its roughly 170-person crew given cold-weather clothing in response to the delay, according to the CBC.

“We greatly appreciate the support and hospitality of the city of Montreal, the Montreal Port Authority and the Canadian Coast Guard,” the Little Rock’s commanding officer, Cmdr. Todd Peters, said in a statement. “We are grateful for the opportunity to further enhance our strong partnerships.”

Canadians living near the port complained about constant noise coming from the ship’s generators. The Port of Montreal dimmed lights illuminating the ship and adjustments were made to the soundproofing around the Little Rock’s generators.

The Little Rock was the fifth Freedom-class littoral combat ship to join the US Navy. It is 389 feet long with a draft of 13.5 feet, according to the US Navy. It has a top speed of over 45 knots and displaces about 3,400 tons fully loaded. The ship is scheduled for more training and combat-systems testing in 2018, its commander said in late December 2017.

Littoral combat ships are designed to operate near shore, and their modular design is meant to enable them to perform a variety of surface missions, mainly against small, fast attack craft as well as anti-mine and anti-submarine missions.

The LCS program has struggled with accidents and been criticized for cost overruns. The Navy said in January 2018 that LCS mission modules, designed to allow the ships to perform their three mission types, will enter service in 2019, 2020, and 2021.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Here’s one of the hardest Army courses you’ve never heard of

In the thick heat of a Missouri summer, the number of Army Engineer Dive School dropouts rises faster than the steamy temperature.

“Does anyone want to DOR (drop out on request)?” said Staff Sgt. Andrew Holdner, as soldiers in soaked combat uniforms push through the pool’s waters in the early hours of a muggy July morning.

Holdner, a diving cadre instructor, looks over at the soldiers struggling in the pool. Two raise their hands. Four leave the class before noon.


Army has divers?

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By the time the physical training session finished in the late afternoon, another five followed.

One day into the first week of Engineer Diver Phase I course, a class of 12 has dwindled to two: the first, a soldier who had already passed the course two years ago. He left the Army and worked his way back. The other: a soldier who struggled swimming the endurance laps necessary to be a deep-sea diver but passed other aspects of the course, including the classroom lessons and physical training exercises.

The cuts come swiftly. Some quit out of their own accord. Others simply did not meet the rigid standards of the course. The Army designed it this way; to weed out the weak-minded, weak-willed and those unable to remain calm during extended hours underwater. In maritime conditions, Army divers must be prepared to act in seconds; they must react to sudden changes in currents, waves and the elements.

This crazy photo from the the LIMA 19 Airshow looks photoshopped – but it’s real

Staff Sgt. Andrew Holdner pours water on students as they attempt to complete flutter kicks. The water simulates the sensations of drowning. The exercise tests students’ ability to perform under extreme duress.

(Photo Credit: Joe Lacdan)

More than 90 percent of students won’t advance past the school’s first phase at Fort Leonard Wood. Among those who didn’t make the first week: recruits who had years of competitive swimming experience and former high school athletes.

The instructors know oceans, rivers and lakes can be a brutally cold, unforgiving places.

They attempt to make the course as unforgiving. At Davidson Fitness Center’s 25-meter pool, divers face two crucial initiation tests. Holdner said the majority of students don’t make it past these two exercises.

The first, students must swim the width of the pool in a single breath — underwater. Then the new recruits jump off a high dive board, surface, and swim to the far side of the pool and back and tread water for 40 minutes.

This crazy photo from the the LIMA 19 Airshow looks photoshopped – but it’s real

Pfc. Nolan Hurrish, right, emerges from the pool with other students during an Army engineer diving training exercise at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.

(Photo Credit: Joe Lacdan)

During the first half, students keep their heads out of water while using their hands and feet. During the second 20 minutes, they perform the “dead man’s float” — a survival technique where soldiers bend at the waist facing the water with arms out while holding their breath, simulating a floating corpse. When they need to breathe, they collapse arms and legs at the same time to raise their head above the water before dipping their faces back in the water.

In the second test, soldiers must swim 500 yards in 12 minutes and 30 seconds using breast stroke or side stroke, then do 50 pushups, 50 curl ups and six pullups. Finally, they must run a mile and a half in 12:30 or less.

As students attempt each exercise, they face the possibility of being dropped from the course and being reclassified into another career field.

“Every single time I’ve got to drop somebody,” said Sgt. 1st Class Eric Bailey, the lead instructor. “I feel bad because I know that they got into something that they knew nothing about. Because we’re a small field, very few people know that we exist.”

Students spend up to three and a half hours per day in the water, but also spend time in the classroom, learning about diving physics and how to maintain their equipment.

Dive instructors put students through a series of rites of passage, and ultimately test whether students can remain calm in situations that often cause heightened panic. The first such test came on the third day of training.

This crazy photo from the the LIMA 19 Airshow looks photoshopped – but it’s real

In addition to remaining calm underwater and developing breathing skills, diving school students must maintain rigid physical fitness standards.

(Photo Credit: Joe Lacdan)

Test of Wills

A soldier’s exasperating screams echoed in the swimming complex as he struggled to retrieve his equipment at the bottom of the pool. Instructors removed the diver’s mask, fins and air regulator and tossed them into the deep end of the pool. When the course began earlier that week, he lagged behind classmates during endurance laps.

Now at 1:30 p.m., the weather conditions in central Missouri hovered at around 95 degrees.

Inside the swimming complex the heat and humidity make the poolside area feel like a pressure cooker, not making the training any easier. During the test, instructors rip off pieces of the students’ scuba gear. soldiers must descend 14 feet and retrieve the gear in a single breath.

Holdner and Bailey bobbed at the surface, shouting instructions. They slapped water into the faces of the two remaining students in an attempt to simulate the unpredictable sway of an ocean current.

This crazy photo from the the LIMA 19 Airshow looks photoshopped – but it’s real

Pfc. Stephen Olinger dons swimming fins before a training exercise at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., in July 2018.

(Photo Credit: Joe Lacdan)

Here both instructors attempted to escalate the stress level to a fever pitch. Their screams, combined with the splashing water, simulate what instructors call a “rough sea state.” On missions, a diver’s rig might fail and they would no longer be able to breathe. Or divers may get bumped by an obstruction, falling debris, marine life or land they didn’t see. The current can also knock their air regulator off their suit.

When faced with the possibility of drowning, the diving instructors said water fills a swimmer’s nostrils, invoking feelings of nausea and sometimes vomiting. It can cause extreme panic, breaking down even the best of athletes and the most confident swimmers.

“We say water is the great equalizer,” Bailey said. “We have plenty of people that come here that are great physical specimens … They can do everything on land … But then, you put them in the water and guess what? They fall apart. They become two different people.”

Water can create extreme panic causing soldiers to lose their bearing, forcibly shoving fellow swimmers out of the way in order to reach for the shore. The violence of the water currents can push some soldiers to the edge.

“If you’re not comfortable,” Bailey said. “Water will bring out the worst in people.”

Bailey, a soldier with a neatly-combed crew cut and a stocky, fit build, teaches the class with a cool demeanor. He barks instruction with stern authority, but minutes later will crack a joke to put the students at ease.

This crazy photo from the the LIMA 19 Airshow looks photoshopped – but it’s real

Army divers must be able to communicate with the crew above before going on a deep-sea dive. Though they must operate underwater with little instruction, a deep-sea diver will have the only view of the operation.

(Photo Credit: Joe Lacdan)

An experienced veteran diver of 13 years, he tested his mettle at sea on a diverse array of maritime missions across the globe. He faced one of his most difficult challenges during a deployment to Iraq along a river. A vehicle-borne improvised explosive device had damaged a bridge and infantry units needed engineer divers to perform reconnaissance underwater.

At the river’s center in the shadow of the bridge, Bailey, then a young soldier, entered the water. He and another diver descended nearly 40 feet into the river’s depths. Almost immediately after he entered the river’s pitch black waters, disaster struck.

“As soon as I hit that water, I lost my grip,” Bailey said. “The current took me and immediately just threw me back.”

As he felt the pull to the bottom, the river broke his helmet’s seal. Cold water rushed into his head gear. His suit remained attached to an umbilical air supply cord, restricting his movement. He waited for a teammate to pull him back to shore while calming his nerves in the face of extreme conditions.

“I couldn’t swim to the shore,” he said. “I wasn’t moving. The only way I was getting out of there is if I was getting pulled out. And now my helmet was flooded. So what would have happened if I had panicked or I was not able to remain calm?”

Soldiers must face the fear of drowning and their own mortality on each mission. And each time, Divers must tame their emotions or lives will be at stake. In the worst conditions, soldiers will operate with limited visibility while carrying up to 80 pounds of underwater gear.

“I’ve been in situations where I’m using my hands as my eyes,” Holdner said. “One little mistake can be an injury for you. It’s not an environment that’s going to go easy on you.”

Holdner, a youthful-looking staff sergeant with slicked back dark hair who sports a cascade of tattoos on his right arm, graduated from the course in 2010. He entered with a larger class — 96. Only six made the cut and advanced to Phase II. Holdner said the mental hurdles the course poses can be the most difficult to overcome.

Even the second-time student looked visibly rattled as the two jockeyed for position before descending below. Athletically built with a wide upper body, the student easily passed the physical fitness tests and he seemed likely to survive to the next phase in Panama City, Florida.

Then the unexpected happened.

Inexplicably, he swam to the poolside and signaled to the instructors he wanted to drop out. He decided he had enough.

One student remained.

The private’s panicked expression reflected his extreme duress. Of the 12 students who attempted the course, he was the only remaining soldier. The shortest student in the class, this soldier struggled to finish the swimming endurance drills earlier in the week. But he persevered to make it to the third day.

But his chances have dimmed.

As the private spent more time bobbing his head above the surface, he lost valuable time that could have been spent underwater searching for equipment.

An instructor then blew his whistle. The soldier didn’t make the cut.

Slowly, the soldier swam toward the pool’s edge. Still breathing heavily, he gingerly exited the pool and walked toward his gear. He must now wait for the Army to reclassify him into a new career field.

About 12 to 20 students begin each class. Only 1 to 3 normally graduate. Sometimes, as with the July 2018 students, none make it.

Although instructors must cut the majority of the students, they don’t take each decision lightly. Often before they pull recruits from the course, they have counseling sessions. They sit down with each student and explain why they cannot advance to the next phase.

Often, emotions spill.

“They’re in tears,” Bailey said. “This is something that they’ve wanted to do for a long time or this is something that they’ve told their family about and everyone is rooting for them and they don’t want to disappoint their family.”

Bailey said recruiters and drill sergeants often don’t have accurate accounts of engineer diver training. Soldiers then arrive at Fort Leonard Wood with misconceptions about the realities of training.

This crazy photo from the the LIMA 19 Airshow looks photoshopped – but it’s real

Navy instructors check Soldiers’ scuba equipment. Equipment management and maintenance is critical for diver safety, instructors said.

(Photo Credit: Joe Lacdan)

Promising Pair

Two Phase I diving school graduates joined the class of students who trained here in the July heat. Instead of sporting the black Army shirts with gold letters, they donned white shirts and brown swimming trunks to distinguish themselves from the current class. They continued to train with incoming classes to keep their skills fresh as they waited for Phase II in Panama City.

Pvts. 1st Class Stephen Olinger and Nolan Hurrish are only months into their Army careers.

Olinger, a bright-eyed recruit who was raised partially overseas, carries a swagger and self-confidence as he approaches each exercise. He graduated in March. Hurrish, a soft-spoken but diligent recruit from Wisconsin, has quietly passed each test. They don’t know if they will survive the next six months at Panama City. But they remain optimistic that in less than 16 weeks they will join the fewer than 150 Army divers worldwide.

“I have an attitude like ‘this is it,” Olinger said. “This is what I came here to do. If I fail out, I fail out. But I’m going to give it everything.”

The world’s five oceans, where many of the 12 dozen or so Army divers throughout the world must perform, can be ruthless.

The sea is an unpredictable, faceless adversary unlike any other soldiers face in the battlefield, and no less deadly.

Students will get their first taste of that adversary off the shores of the Florida Panhandle in Phase II of the diving school.

(Editor’s note: This is part one of a two-part series on the Army’s engineer diver training. For part two, click here.)

MIGHTY MOVIES

‘Winnie the Pooh’ was created by a vet explaining war to his boy

There is nothing more heart-wrenching to veterans with families than having to explain why daddy hasn’t been the same ever since he returned from the war. A reasonable adult can grasp the idea that war is hell and that it can change a person forever, but an innocent kid — one who was sheltered from such grim concepts by that very veteran — cannot.

A. A. Milne, an English author and veteran of both World Wars, was struggling to explain this harsh reality to his own child when he penned the 1926 children’s classic, Winnie-the-Pooh.


This crazy photo from the the LIMA 19 Airshow looks photoshopped – but it’s real

This might help give you a picture of just how awful the Battle of the Somme was. Fellow British Army officer and writer J.R.R. Tolkien fought in the Battle and used it as inspiration for the Dead Marshes in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.

(New Line Cinema)

As a young man, Alan Alexander Milne stood up for King and Country when it was announced that the United Kingdom had entered World War I. He was commissioned as an officer into the 4th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment, as a member of the Royal Corps of Signals on February 1, 1915. Soon after, he was sent to France to fight in the Battle of the Somme.

The description, “Hell on Earth” is apt, but doesn’t come close to fully describing the carnage of what became the bloodiest battle in human history. More than three million men fought and one million men were wounded or killed — many of Milne’s closest friends were among the numerous casualties. Bodies were stacked in the flooded-out trenches where other men lived, fought, and died.

On August 10, 1915, Milne and his men were sent to enable communications by laying telephone line dangerously close to an enemy position. He tried warning his command of the foolishness of the action to no avail. Two days later, he and his battalion were attacked, just as he had foreseen. Sixty British men perished in an instant. Milne was one of the hundred or so badly wounded in the ambush. He was sent home for his wounds suffered that day.

This crazy photo from the the LIMA 19 Airshow looks photoshopped – but it’s real

A.A. Milne, his son, Christopher Robin, and Winnie the Pooh.

(Photo by Howard Coster)

Milne returned to his wife, Daphne de Selincourt, and spent many years recovering physically. His light finally came to him on August 21, 1920, when his son, Christopher Robin Milne, was born. He put his writings on hold — it was his therapeutic outlet for handling his shell shock (now known as post-traumatic stress) — so he could be the best possible father to his baby boy.

One fateful day, he took his son to the London Zoo where they bonded over enjoying a new visitor to the park, a little Canadian Black Bear named Winnipeg (or Winnie for short). Alan was drawn to the bear because it had been a mascot used by the Canadian Expeditionary Force in WWI. Despite being one of the most terrifying creatures in the zoo, Winnie was reclusive, often shying away from people.

Alan saw himself in that bear. At the same time, Christopher loved the bear for being cuddly and cute. Understandably, Alan bought his son a teddy — the real-life Winnie the Pooh bear.

This crazy photo from the the LIMA 19 Airshow looks photoshopped – but it’s real

It all kind of makes you think about that line Winnie’s says to Christopher, “If you live to be a hundred, I want to live to be a hundred minus one day so I never have to live without you.”

(New York Public Library)

The demons of war followed Milne throughout his life. It was noted that when Christopher was little, Alan terrified him when he confused a swarm of buzzing bees with whizzing bullets. The popping of balloons sent him ducking for cover. Milne knew of only one way to explain to his son what was happening — through his writing. A.A. Milne started writing a collection of short stories entitled Winnie-the-Pooh.

It’s been theorized by Dr. Sarah Shea that Milne wrote into each character of Winnie-the-Pooh a different psychological disorder. While only A. A. Milne could tell us for certain, Dr. Shea’s theory seems pointed in the right direction, but may be a little too impersonal. After all, the book was written specifically for one child, by name, and features the stuffed animals that the boy loved.

It’s more likely, in my opinion, that the stories were a way for Milne to explain his own post-traumatic stress to his six-year-old son. Every stuffed friend in the Hundred Acre Woods is a child-friendly representation of a characteristic of post-traumatic stress. Piglet is paranoia, Eeyore is depression, Tigger is impulsive behaviors, Rabbit is perfectionism-caused aggression, Owl is memory loss, and Kanga Roo represent over-protection. This leaves Winnie, who Alan wrote in for himself as Christopher Robin’s guide through the Hundred Acre Woods — his father’s mind.

The books were published on October 14, 1926. As a child, Christopher Robin embraced the connection to his father, but as the books grew in popularity, he would resent being mocked for his namesake character.

Christopher Robin Milne eventually followed in his father’s footsteps and they both served in the Second World War. His father was a Captain in the British Home Guard and he served as a sapper in the Royal Engineers.

It was only after his service that he grew to accept his father’s stories and embraced his legacy, which endures to this day.

In fact, Christopher Robin, a film starring Ewan McGregor and directed by Marc Forster (known for Finding Neverland), is opening this weekend. Be sure to check it out.


MIGHTY CULTURE

Here’s what the President is supposed to do during the Army-Navy Game

While the annual Army-Navy Game might be one of the U.S. military’s oldest ongoing traditions, it’s an event that has not always included the Commander-In-Chief. Only ten U.S. Presidents have attended the game at one time or another, but if the nation’s chief executive decides to come, there are traditions for that office to follow when Army plays Navy.


President Trump has attended the game for nearly every year he’s been in office, including attending as President-Elect. While there is no precedent that says he has to attend the game, the very fact that he goes every year could set a new precedent, all the same, creating a tradition for future Commanders-In-Chief to follow throughout their administrations. Woodrow Wilson did something similar when he attended the game, creating a tradition that carries on to this day when the POTUS is in the house.

Although Wilson wasn’t the first American President to attend (that was, of course, the most athletic and all-around competitive President, Theodore Roosevelt), Wilson started the tradition of switching sides during the middle of the game, walking across the field at halftime in order to show no favoritism toward Army or Navy as the game continued. Presidents in attendance from Calvin Coolidge through President Trump have walked across the field ever since.

For many years following the Coolidge Administration, the President did not attend the game. Watching a raucous football game in the middle of the Great Depression and the Second World War might have sent a bad message. But once the economy turned around and the Axis was defeated, President Harry Truman returned to the game for much of his administration. But it wasn’t until President John F. Kennedy helped throw out the pregame coin toss that another Presidential tradition was born. His immediate successors did not attend, but Navy veteran Gerald Ford sure did. The next President to attend would be Bill Clinton, however. And ever since, Presidents have attended at least one Army-Navy Game during their administration.

One presidential event that didn’t catch on was when George W. Bush gave the Naval Academy Midshipmen a pregame speech and a pep talk to the Army Black Knights before the Army-Navy Game as American troops were fighting to avenge the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 – a special consideration for a wartime President.

MIGHTY TRENDING

NATO kicks off its massive war games in Europe

NATO is launching its largest military exercise since the collapse of the Soviet Union, mustering tens of thousands of troops in what the head of the Western alliance called a “strong display” of its capability, unity, and resolve at a time of growing danger in Europe.

“The main phase of exercise Trident Juncture will begin tomorrow in Norway,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told a news conference in Brussels on Oct. 24, 2018. “This is an important day because Trident Juncture is NATO’s biggest exercise since the end of the Cold War.”


The drills are drawing criticism from Moscow amid persistent tension between NATO and Russia, which seized Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and backs separatists in an ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine but accuses the alliance of provocative behavior near its borders.

Another source of discord is what NATO says is Russia’s deployment of a missile that violates a key U.S.-Russian nuclear arms treaty and could potentially be used to target alliance members in Europe.

“Trident Juncture sends a clear message to our nations and to any potential adversary: NATO does not seek confrontation, but we stand ready to defend all allies against any threat,” Stoltenberg said.

This crazy photo from the the LIMA 19 Airshow looks photoshopped – but it’s real

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.

The exercise “is a strong display of our capabilities and our resolve to work together,” he said.

Without mentioning Russia by name, he said that “Europe’s security environment has significantly deteriorated” in recent years and that NATO has responded with the biggest adaptation of our collective defense since the end of the Cold War. Trident Juncture demonstrates that adaptation.”

“Trident Juncture will include around 65 ships, 250 aircraft, 10,000 vehicles, and 50,000 personnel. All 29 NATO allies will participate, as well as our partners Finland and Sweden,” Stoltenberg said of the exercise, which will run in two phases from Oct. 25 to Nov. 7 and Nov. 13-24, 2018.

“It is ambitious and it is demanding,” he said.

Moscow has frequently said that it views NATO’s enlargement to include former Warsaw Pact countries and the Baltic states since the 1991 Soviet collapse as provocative, and Russia and NATO have repeatedly accused each other of aggressive action repeatedly in recent years.

Russia held large military exercises called Zapad-2017 (West-2017) in September 2017 in its western regions jointly with Belarus, which also borders several NATO countries, and last month conducted massive drills across its central and eastern regions.

This crazy photo from the the LIMA 19 Airshow looks photoshopped – but it’s real

A Russian T-72B3 during Zapad-2017.

The Defense Ministry said the weeklong Vostok-2018 (East-2018) war games involved some 300,000 personnel — twice as many as the biggest Soviet maneuvers of the Cold War era.

Speaking at a joint panel of the Russian and Belarusian defense ministries in Minsk on Oct. 24, 2018, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said that “the scale of [NATO] operational and combat training near our borders is expanding, its intensity is growing. The bloc’s member states are practicing the objectives of conducting offensive combat actions.”

Describing the exercise, Stoltenberg said the personnel will be split into “South Forces” and “North Forces” that will “take turns playing the role of the fictitious aggressor and the NATO defending forces. The exercise will test our readiness to restore the sovereignty of an ally — in this case Norway — after an act of armed aggression.

“This scenario is fictitious but the lessons we learn will be real,” he said.

Norway shares a short border with Russia in the Arctic.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 reasons why recruiters have a thankless job

If there’s one thing every military veteran has in common, it’s that we all went through a recruiter — but experiences may vary. For example, some recruits had either high-value skills or were willing to take any job the recruiter might offer and, thus, were pursued by military recruiters. Others had to seek one out. Either way, our feelings about our recruiters rise and fall as our career progresses.

At first, many feel like they were bamboozled by their recruiter. As if somehow, they lied to us.


Maybe they made us promises they had no intention of keeping. Maybe they said we were going to get a bonus when we didn’t, or maybe the bonus wasn’t as big as promised. Or maybe the recruiter told us we could go in “Open General” and then choose to be an Airborne Cryptologic Language Analyst when we’re in basic training and we wouldn’t have to take whatever the Air Force chose to give us.

This crazy photo from the the LIMA 19 Airshow looks photoshopped – but it’s real
Which is how I became a combat cameraman. Don’t tell me recruiters don’t lie.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Ave I. Pele)

The fact of the matter is that every U.S. enlisted troop has a recruiter story. The recruiting process is the one thing every branch of the military has in common. From MEPS to the naked duck walk to going on a trip with a group of strangers whose only common bond is a manila envelope full of personal information, this is the area of the military that transcends branch of service — one that all Coast Guardsmen, soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines experience equally.

But what we don’t realize until we’re grown up a little and have a little rank on our sleeves or collars is that recruiting is a really, really tough job.

This crazy photo from the the LIMA 19 Airshow looks photoshopped – but it’s real

“Yeah, we all totally love this uniform.”

1. Everyone thinks recruiters are g*ddamn liars.

I know I kinda covered this one, but it’s a big deal. Not because the recruits think recruiters are lying — who cares what they think? They can go home if they want to. It’s that people already in the military think recruiters are liars. That’s the whole thing about recruiters — the one tired joke that never stops playing.

People think you’re out there luring high school kids into a Marine Corps-painted Astro van with promises of chest candy. Or that you somehow prey on minorities and low-income communities. Or that you’re filling the ranks with sub-par people just to make an invisible quota of some kind. The Army doesn’t exactly sell itself, so recruiters must be tricking these kids somehow.

Now read: 7 white lies recruiters tell and what they really mean

This crazy photo from the the LIMA 19 Airshow looks photoshopped – but it’s real

“What’s the matter, you already have the haircut.”

2. Recruiters are competing with a great job market.

The unemployment rate of Americans between 16 and 24 — prime military recruiter targets — fell to a 50-year low in 2018. For recruiters, people who have to bring in a certain number of recruits to keep the Army, Air Force, and Navy Departments going for the foreseeable future — this is a terrible thing.

For some, joining the military is something that provides access to opportunity. If someone from Podunk, Conn. (which is a real place, by the way) has the choice of working at the Ice Cream Factory (which does not exist in Podunk, it’s just an example) or joining the Marines during a 17-year-long war, which do you think they might be more inclined toward? As a Marine Recruiter, you have to convince him that a lifetime of mud, dirt, paperwork, and potentially killing ISIS fighters is a better choice than riding dirtbikes at the bonfire Saturday night.

Good luck with that.

Read: The top 6 reasons civilians back out of military service

This crazy photo from the the LIMA 19 Airshow looks photoshopped – but it’s real

Or, in some cases, a unicorn.

3. Most wannabe recruits aren’t cut out for service.

The Pentagon believes that 71 percent of American youth aren’t able to enlist for a number of reasons. They may be overweight, they may have drug use issues or ear gauges, or maybe they can’t score well on the ASVAB. No matter what the issue is, of the 29 percent left, the Army estimates only seven percent of the remainder is even interested in serving.

So, your job is basically to find those needles in all that haystack.

Related: Here’s why most Americans can’t join the military

This crazy photo from the the LIMA 19 Airshow looks photoshopped – but it’s real

“Pew pew! … And that’s how you do Army. Just sign your name in crayon.”

4. Training and living as a recruiter is actually incredibly difficult.

Recruiters train to go into a local community and pull out the most potentially exceptional recruits from neighborhoods that might hate you. At the same time, the recruiter has to typify everything that makes the perfect U.S. troop, from physical fitness and on down the line. If you even pass the screening process, every branch of the military has an in-depth intense training school that involves professional development and very detailed instructional lessons on all the ins and outs of your chosen branch of service.

Remember, recruiters are supposed to be demi-gods with all the answers, so it makes sense that to be an example for youth to follow, potential recruiters have to train incredibly hard at it.

This crazy photo from the the LIMA 19 Airshow looks photoshopped – but it’s real

In case you didn’t believe me when I said people will hate you. Because they will.

5. You’re (mostly) alone out there.

More than that, a recruiter lives far from a military community, where things might be way more expensive than in your standard military base area. There may be no other military personnel to lean on except for the other recruiters in your area and since none of you are exactly keeping banker’s hours, a potluck jamboree might be hard to schedule.

So you only need to be the perfect picture of physical, mental, and financial health with unlimited energy and money to stay up all night to recognize talent and have all the answers required to get them to give you the first years of their adult life while their parents (who might really, really hate you) look on. No sweat, right?

You dirty liar.

MIGHTY CULTURE

6 ways to explore a civilian career working with veterans

No matter where you served in the military, one thing is certain: Veterans have a special bond. These shared experiences draw former service members to careers working with fellow veterans. As you might’ve guessed, VA is a great place to do exactly that.

You still may have a lot of questions about what it’s like to work here. Will it be the right cultural fit? How do the benefits stack up? What support is available day to day?

There are plenty of resources to help you answer these and other questions. Here are six ways you can explore what it’s like to work at VA before you make the choice to apply:


1. Visit the VA Careers website.

The VA Careers site is chock full of information about what it’s like to work at VA, including employee video stories about VA’s workplace culture, an informational deep dive into some of the positions we’re hiring for (think: physicians, nurses and mental health counselors), a summary of benefits we offer employees, and details on how we work with veterans to build rewarding careers.

This crazy photo from the the LIMA 19 Airshow looks photoshopped – but it’s real
Smiling Group

2. Check out the Veteran Employment Services Office (VESO).

VESO is a wealth of information for veterans seeking employment opportunities. Get details on upcoming veteran hiring events, access free virtual training on how to navigate USAJOBS or write an effective resume, and learn more about the federal hiring process.

3. Attend a VA recruitment event.

Visit the VA Careers event webpage for days and times of recruiting events we’ll be attending all around the country. You’re invited to register for an event and ask recruiters questions about a future career with VA.

4. Participate in a virtual career fair. 

If you can’t make it to one of our events, go digital! Through virtual career fairs, VA brings recruiters and job seekers together online so they can exchange information without having to worry about distance or travel. Find out about the next virtual career fair by following the VA Careers blog or visiting the events site.

This crazy photo from the the LIMA 19 Airshow looks photoshopped – but it’s real

5. Reach out to a recruiter directly.

Do you have specific questions? Reach out to VA recruiters via email for guidance on finding the opportunity that best matches your skillset, preparing your resume and planning for interviews.

6. Get more information about the transitioning military program.

The Transitioning Military Personnel program aims to raise awareness about civilian careers for former service members at VA. If you’ve served in military healthcare — as a physician, nurse, mental health provider, medic, hospital corpsmen, health service technician, para rescue specialist or another occupation — find an array of VA opportunities across the country where you can put your professional training and skills to work.

After you’ve done your research and fully explored VA careers, think about applying for an opening. Be sure to look into special programs such as Veterans Preference that can help you get hired more quickly.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Japanese have a shrine for every dead warrior who died honorably

“Til Valhalla” is becoming a more and more common exaltation among veterans today, especially when hearing about the passing of a fellow veteran. Whether you believe in Odin, Master of Ecstasy, leader of the Gods, chief of the Æsir and the king of Asgard, is irrelevant, the warrior ethos is the heart of the expression. It’s not necessarily meant to be a religion.

Unless you’re Japanese, that is.


The Yasukuni Shrine is a Shinto temple that was founded at the beginning of the Meiji Restoration, a period in Japanese history that saw the Emperor return as the true ruler of Japan. Around this time, the Shinto worship of nature spirits and ancestors became an official state apparatus, the Emperor himself became one of these divine spirits. Today, there are some 80,000 of these public shrines, and the Yasukuni Shrine is just one of many.

What’s unique about the Yasukuni Shrine is that it is dedicated to the memory and spirit of those who died fighting for Japan from the first war in which the shrine was founded – the civil conflict that restored the Emperor in 1869 – and World War II in 1945. The Meiji Emperor originally wanted the shrine to honor the souls of those who died fighting for him in that conflict, but as more conflicts came to pass, the Emperor decided to house the souls of more and more war dead there. As the Empire expanded, so did the ethnicities of those enshrined at Yasakuni. There are more than Japanese souls; there are Koreans, Okinawans, Taiwanese, and more – anyone who fought for Japan.

Anyone. And these days, that’s a problem.

This crazy photo from the the LIMA 19 Airshow looks photoshopped – but it’s real

That’s a problem.

These days, the Yasukuni Shrine is an incredibly controversial subject in Asia. It’s so taboo that Japanese Prime ministers can’t even officially visit. Even though war criminals prosecuted by the International Military Tribunal for the Far East were denied enshrinement after World War II, lower classes of war criminals were slowly admitted to the shrine in the following years. Still, those class-A criminals like Hideki Tojo (above) were excluded…

… until the late 1970s, when the chief priest included them in secret during an enshrinement ceremony. There was nothing the government or the Emperor could do about it. Shinto was separated from the state in the 1947 MacArthur Constitution.

So now, the shrine causes a lot of friction between Japan, China, and the Koreas. The latter three accuse the shrine of encouraging historical revisionism and forgetting the crimes of its past. The museum attached to the shrine accuses the United States of forcing World War II on Japan with economic sanctions and military aggression. Thus, the last time an Emperor visited the shrine was in 1975.

This crazy photo from the the LIMA 19 Airshow looks photoshopped – but it’s real

U.S. Navy sailors visit the Yasukuni Shrine in 1933.

Any time a Japanese official visits the shrine, officially or unofficially, it sets off a firestorm of anger in the Pacific region. The last time a sitting Prime Minister visited Yasukuni was 2013 when Shinzo Abe made a visit, calling it an “anti-war gesture.” The Chinese said the visit was “absolutely unacceptable to the Chinese people,” and South Korea says it expressed “regret and anger.” Since then, Abe has opted out of the visit.

Yasukuni now lists the names of 2,466,532 men, women, and children (and even some war animals) enshrined as deities. Of those,1,068 are convicted war criminals.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Parents use creativity to take kids on driveway adventures

In March, parents across the country began hunkering down at home with kids of all ages. Stay-at-home orders going into effect across states at different times left many juggling both parenting and teaching, and trying to find a way forward.

As temperatures across the nation heat up, parents have taken to driveways and sidewalks to ease that at-home blues for their kids, letting creativity take the lead with sidewalk chalk designs.

For Abbey Tucker, a mom of four girls ages 3, 7, 11 and 13, the creativity began with her oldest child.

“My oldest daughter drew some balloons at the start of quarantine,” the Atlanta-area mom told We Are The Mighty.


This crazy photo from the the LIMA 19 Airshow looks photoshopped – but it’s real

“I took a photo of my 3 year old with them and loved it so we decided to try some more and it took off from there. The ideas come from lots of places – the internet, favorite Disney films or just things we would love to do that we can’t do right now.”

This crazy photo from the the LIMA 19 Airshow looks photoshopped – but it’s real
This crazy photo from the the LIMA 19 Airshow looks photoshopped – but it’s real
This crazy photo from the the LIMA 19 Airshow looks photoshopped – but it’s real

Heather Gibb, a central Pennsylvania mom of three, can relate.

“It all started with Ella asking me to draw her a princess carriage to sit in,” Gibb said, referencing her 5 year-old daughter. “So I Googled it because I actually am terrible at drawing unless I have a picture.”

This crazy photo from the the LIMA 19 Airshow looks photoshopped – but it’s real

Gibb said that the princess carriage led to her son, Rhett, wanting a crocodile.

This crazy photo from the the LIMA 19 Airshow looks photoshopped – but it’s real

“And that led to me getting 100 other ideas from Pinterest,” she shared.

This crazy photo from the the LIMA 19 Airshow looks photoshopped – but it’s real
This crazy photo from the the LIMA 19 Airshow looks photoshopped – but it’s real
This crazy photo from the the LIMA 19 Airshow looks photoshopped – but it’s real

When Heather Tenneson of Madison, Alabama had to cancel a much-anticipated family trip to Disney World, she took her daughters using chalk (and a little bit of imagination) in the driveway.

This crazy photo from the the LIMA 19 Airshow looks photoshopped – but it’s real

Tucker, Gibb and Tenneson are just three examples of parents taking their creativity outdoors.

When We Are the Mighty asked parents to share how they were getting creative with their kids outside, they delivered. Messages of hope and inspiration, Disney characters, stained-glass inspired works of art, learning tools and games came tumbling into our inbox from every corner of the country.

This crazy photo from the the LIMA 19 Airshow looks photoshopped – but it’s real

(Amber — California)

This crazy photo from the the LIMA 19 Airshow looks photoshopped – but it’s real

(Austin — Pennsylvania)

This crazy photo from the the LIMA 19 Airshow looks photoshopped – but it’s real

(Austin — California)

This crazy photo from the the LIMA 19 Airshow looks photoshopped – but it’s real

(Calvin — Sugar Hill, Georgia)

This crazy photo from the the LIMA 19 Airshow looks photoshopped – but it’s real

(Courtney — Kansas City)

This crazy photo from the the LIMA 19 Airshow looks photoshopped – but it’s real

(Declan — Honolulu, Hawaii)

This crazy photo from the the LIMA 19 Airshow looks photoshopped – but it’s real

(Jordan — Pennsylvania)

This crazy photo from the the LIMA 19 Airshow looks photoshopped – but it’s real

(Kayden — Harrisburg, PA)

This crazy photo from the the LIMA 19 Airshow looks photoshopped – but it’s real

(Kayden Willa — Harrisburg, PA)

This crazy photo from the the LIMA 19 Airshow looks photoshopped – but it’s real

(Lauren son Maddox, pictured — Littleton, CO)

This crazy photo from the the LIMA 19 Airshow looks photoshopped – but it’s real

(Max — Honolulu)

This crazy photo from the the LIMA 19 Airshow looks photoshopped – but it’s real

(Nicole — Las Vegas)

This crazy photo from the the LIMA 19 Airshow looks photoshopped – but it’s real

(Rachel — Oxford, MS)

This crazy photo from the the LIMA 19 Airshow looks photoshopped – but it’s real

(Rachel — Oxford, MS)

This crazy photo from the the LIMA 19 Airshow looks photoshopped – but it’s real

(Rachel — Oxford, MS)

This crazy photo from the the LIMA 19 Airshow looks photoshopped – but it’s real

(Robyn — Houston, Texas)

This crazy photo from the the LIMA 19 Airshow looks photoshopped – but it’s real

(Robyn — Houston, Texas)

This crazy photo from the the LIMA 19 Airshow looks photoshopped – but it’s real

(Robyn — Houston, Texas)

This crazy photo from the the LIMA 19 Airshow looks photoshopped – but it’s real

(Robyn — Houston, Texas)

This crazy photo from the the LIMA 19 Airshow looks photoshopped – but it’s real

(Robyn — Houston, Texas)

This crazy photo from the the LIMA 19 Airshow looks photoshopped – but it’s real

(Robyn — Houston, Texas)

Whether parents are encouraging creativity through art, looking for a family-friendly outdoor activity, or simply seeking another way to entertain kids at home, sidewalk chalk delivers.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Reservists are suing the Army for lost wages and denied benefits

Army reservists deployed to Europe were wrongly denied housing allowance payments, subjected to humiliating criminal investigations, and forced into debt by the service after the Army “willfully disregarded” its own policies to refuse benefits owed, according to a federal court complaint.

The complaint, filed in April 2018, in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, accuses the Army of “gross negligence,” saying it caused financial and professional damage by intentionally denying benefits it should have paid.


The lawsuit also says the soldiers faced threats that “jeopardized their careers and security clearances by flagging them as subjects to fraud or larceny investigations.”

The dispute began in 2016 after reservist soldiers deployed to Europe and received benefits authorized by the Army, which included basic housing allowance, or BAH, for their stateside homes. They also received overseas housing allowance, or OHA, in Europe after being ordered by the Army to live off post because of a lack of available housing.

The benefit is spelled out in the Joint Federal Travel Regulations, which govern how allowances are paid: “A Service member called/ordered to active duty in support of a contingency operation is authorized primary residence-based BAH/OHA beginning on the first active duty day . . . This rate continues for the duration of the tour.” Army regulations reiterate the policy.

This crazy photo from the the LIMA 19 Airshow looks photoshopped – but it’s real

Months into their respective deployments, the finance office at U.S. Army Europe decided the benefits should no longer be paid, said Patrick Hughes, the Washington attorney representing the seven soldiers who filed the lawsuit.

Army spokeswoman Lt. Col. Nina Hill declined to comment on the case, citing “ongoing litigation.”

The Army Reserve and National Guard officers, who were dispatched to Europe for contingency operations, are seeking to restore their benefits and abolish Army-imposed debts that have been levied.

Over the past two years, Hughes said, soldiers have seen entire paychecks wiped out through wage garnishments as the Army seeks to collect on debts that range from $13,000 to $94,000.

Investigated, reprimanded, indebted

Hundreds of reservists could have been affected by the Army’s actions, Hughes said.

The court is expected to respond to the complaint within 30 days. If it’s accepted as the proper venue, the soldiers will move to certify the case as a class-action lawsuit that other reservists could join.

“You do need power in numbers to get action to be taken in these situations. We are trying to address it at a massive scale,” Hughes said. “This an effort to resolve the issue in its entirety for everyone.”

In some cases, soldiers were issued general officer reprimands, which are often considered career-killers.

Col. Bradley Wolfing, one of the plaintiffs in the case, successfully appealed his reprimand, which was the result of being “erroneously placed under investigation by the Army’s CID, and ultimately punished for BAH fraud on or about March 24, 2017,” the complaint says.

A grade determination review board determined Wolfing satisfactorily served as a colonel and was allowed to retire as such, the complaint states.

This crazy photo from the the LIMA 19 Airshow looks photoshopped – but it’s real
Army Reserve Soldier.

In conjunction with that ruling, Defense Financing and Accounting Services reviewed the case and “concluded that the Army’s decision to ignore (the Joint Federal Travel Regulation) and deny COL Wolfing his primary residence location BAH entitlement was erroneous.”

That conclusion will likely factor into any future litigation.

“This DFAS opinion is of great significance, because its analysis is applicable to virtually all of those affected by the Army’s primary residence location BAH entitlement denial,” the complaint says.

Still, the Army continues to garnish soldiers’ wages, a move the complaint says “amounts to gross negligence.” The Army indebted Wolfing for $94,000.

‘Criminally processed’

In 2016, the Army launched criminal investigations into the reservists who received the benefits that the Army itself had authorized when the reservists were mobilized.

“Basically, I was criminally processed, all because they are saying I shouldn’t (have been) collecting BAH for my Connecticut residence. I was stunned,” said Capt. Tim Kibodeaux, an intelligence officer with 27 years in the National Guard.

Criminal Investigation Command agents fingerprinted him and took his mug shot for their records during the investigation.

The Army levied a $50,000 debt on Kibodeaux for BAH payments it says he wasn’t entitled to and has repeatedly garnished his wages, the soldiers’ complaint says. Meanwhile, he hasn’t received about $16,000 in owed benefits.

The six other service members in the complaint are in similar situations.

“My credit has been completely ruined,” Kibodeaux said. “I am disgusted at this point. We think about 340 people were affected by this.”

At least 140 soldiers were snared in the BAH investigation in Europe, according to the complaint, which cites information relayed by the Criminal Investigation Command.

Given the high numbers of reservists who have been rotating through Europe in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve — the campaign to deter Russian aggression in the region — the lawsuit says that the numbers are likely much higher. If the complaint grows, millions of dollars could be at stake in future litigation.

One concern now, Kibodeaux said, is that lower-ranking reservists could have been intimidated into silence and may be unaware that their rights to certain benefits have been violated.

“Several Plaintiffs were informed through their chain-of-command that any future inquiries into this issue would be met with negative consequences, and that the denial of the housing entitlement was a final decision,” the complaint says.

No explanation

Kibodeaux said he and his colleagues never received a clear explanation from the Army why benefits were taken away or why they were subjected to criminal investigations.

During the probe, Kibodeaux said, he told Army finance officials about the regulation that allowed for the allowance. He said the Army investigators told him they didn’t recognize the policy, which for decades has allowed reservists on deployment overseas to receive BAH for their home of record.

This crazy photo from the the LIMA 19 Airshow looks photoshopped – but it’s real
Army Reserve Spc. Derek Hanna.
(Photo by Timothy Hale)

“They said, ‘We don’t go by that. We go by the active duty one,'” Kibodeaux said.

When Kibodeaux pointed out the military’s regulations governing allowances for reservists to a criminal investigator, the agent’s response was, “We just do what finance tells us to do,” Kibodeaux said.

In recent years, the military has struggled to interpret federal regulations dealing with living allowances.

In 2013, a reinterpretation of overarching State Department regulations by the Defense Department put nearly 700 civilians in debt by cutting off their housing allowances. Special waivers were required to eliminate debts that in some cases reached six figures.

Europe-based reservists have also been affected by new interpretations of long-standing regulations. In 2013, the Army decided to stop paying BAH to reservists who lived in Germany and deployed on Army missions in other parts of Germany that were hours away from their home.

The Army, which imposed debts on about 10 soldiers at the time, never fully explained its legal rationale for changing the rules.

Service members and civilians who have gotten caught up in benefits disputes have complained that there is little internal recourse in a one-on-one fight with the military bureaucracy over benefits. And the idea of taking on the federal government in a lengthy court fight also is daunting and costly.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

An interview with one of the last WWII Marine fighter pilots

Sam Folsom, born July 24, 1920 in Quincy, Massachusetts, was one of the first echelon of 17 Marine fighter pilots with Marine Fighter Squadron 121 tasked with defending Guadalcanal. He is also one of the last living Marine Corps WWII combat pilot.

It was the summer of 1941, while Folsom was attending a flight training program in Jacksonville, Florida, that the unthinkable happened.

“I was lying in my bunk in Florida,” Folsom recalled. “I turned on the radio and it blared out ‘Pearl Harbor has been attacked’, so I did what any patriotic American would’ve done. I jumped to my feet, got dressed and ran to the door as fast as I could.”


Folsom completed training at the end of 1942 and received orders to Miramar, California, where he checked into his new unit, VMF-122. Later, the squadron was combined with another to form VMF-121. Folsom’s assigned fighter plane was a Grumman F4F Wildcat which he trained in for months before his unit was sent overseas to New Caledonia briefly, before being sent to Guadalcanal in early September, 1942.

“I spent six or eight months on the west coast in a squadron with about 40 pilots and only eight or 10 planes, so as you can imagine none of us got much training,” Folsom said.

Folsom arrived to the Island Oct. 8.

This crazy photo from the the LIMA 19 Airshow looks photoshopped – but it’s real

A U.S. Navy Grumman F4F-3 in non-specular blue-grey over light-grey scheme in early 1942.

The first few days of combat were rough for Folsom. In training the highest they had ever flown was roughly 10,000 feet and previously Folsom had only fired his guns once in a training exercise. Then suddenly his unit was sent on a mission dispatched at 30,000 feet where they found themselves above a Japanese formation of G4M Betty Bombers with an escort of fighter planes. When they dived down to attack Folsom lost control. After recovering and regaining control, he closed in on the bombers and pulled the trigger only to find out his guns wouldn’t fire. Due to the lack of flying experience at this altitude the unit didn’t realize that lubricating the weapons before flying would freeze the lubricant at this high of an altitude.

“I never remember being frightened,” he said. “Just mad as hell going through this with your life on the line and having my guns not firing.”

Folsom and the other pilots had to return to base considering the conditions of their weapons.

Towards the end of the squadron’s tour, the pilots received more experience flying in support of combat operations than they ever did through their training. Later, Folsom and his squadron had found themselves above another bomber formation. The bombers had already attacked and were returning home when Folsom dived down and closed in on the two bombers.

“I closed in on two Japanese bombers, one of which was directly in my sights and I shot him down,” Folsom said. “I pulled over to the side and I shot down the other one. It was just like a training exercise.”

Eventually, Folsom was completely out of ammunition and flew back to base. The Japanese fighter planes escorting the bombers closed in on Folsom. Folsom found himself in a dogfight without any means of defense. His plane was shot multiple times, but he still managed to escape and make it back to base.
Folsom said that wasn’t the only time he found himself in a dogfight without ammunition. On one occasion, Folsom was attacked by approximately six Japanese fighter planes, which damaged his plane and wounded his left leg.

After his three-month tour in Guadalcanal he was transferred to Samoa, ending his time with VMF-121. During Folsom’s time with VMF-121 he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Purple Heart for his actions in Guadalcanal. In total, he shot down two Japanese Betty Bombers and one Japanese fighter plane. He continued his career in the Marine Corps and served nearly 18 years, retiring in 1960 as a lieutenant colonel.

This article originally appeared on the United States Marine Corps. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The legendary tanker that refuels planes in flight

While it may sound cliché, it’s a common motto within the tanker community. For more than 60 years of continuous service, the KC-135 Stratotanker has been the core aerial refueling capability for U.S. operations around the world.

The KC-135 provides the Air Force with its primary mission of global reach, but it also supports the Navy, Marine Corps and allied nations in assisting training, combat and humanitarian engagements.


The aircraft is also capable of transporting litters and ambulatory patients using patient support pallets during aeromedical evacuations.

This crazy photo from the the LIMA 19 Airshow looks photoshopped – but it’s real

A Cold War-era image of B-52D refueling from a KC-135A.

(U.S. Air Force photo)

The stratotanker was the Air Force’s first jet-powered refueling tanker, replacing the KC-97 Stratofreighter. It was originally designed and tasked to support strategic bombers, but has been heavily used in all major conflicts since its development, extending the range and endurance of U.S. tactical fighters and bombers.

The KC-135 is a mid-air refueling aircraft with a telescoping “flying boom” tube located on the rear of the plane. A boom operator lays prone and guides the boom insert into a receptacle on the receiving aircraft. With a single boom, aircraft refuel one at a time.

The mid-air refueling capability changed the landscape of air dominance during the Vietnam War and enabled tactical fighter-bombers of the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps to stay on the front lines for hours rather than minutes due to their limited fuel reserves and high fuel consumption.

For bombers, all targets were now within reach without the need of hopping from base to base until striking their targets. No longer are lives at stake to build airstrips to support bombing campaigns, as they were in WWII.

Development and design

The Boeing Company’s model 367-80 jet transport, commonly called the “Dash-80,” was the basic design for the commercial 707 passenger plane as well as the KC-135A Stratotanker.

In 1954, the Air Force purchased the first 29 of its future 803 aerial refueling tanker fleet. The first aircraft flew in August 1956, and the initial production Stratotanker was delivered to Castle Air Force Base, California, in June 1957. The last KC-135 was delivered to the Air Force in 1965.

The aircraft’s KC identifier stands for (K) tanker (C) transport.

The aircraft is powered by four turbofan engines mounted on 35-degree swept wings, has a flight speed of more than 500 mph and a flight range of nearly 1,500 miles when loaded with 150,000 lbs. of fuel.

The KC-135 has been modified and retrofitted through the years with each update providing stronger engines, fuel management and avionics systems. The recent Block 45 update added a new glass cockpit digital display, radio altimeter, digital autopilot, digital flight director and computer updates.

Of the original KC-135As, more than 417 were modified with new CFM-56 engines.

The re-engined tanker, designated either the KC-135R or KC-135T, can offload 50 percent more fuel, is 25 percent more fuel efficient, costs 25 percent less to operate and is 96 percent quieter than the KC-135A.

In 1981 the KC-10 Extender was introduced to supplement the KC-135. The KC-10 doubles the fuel carrying capacity of the KC-135, which is critical in supporting mobility operations of large cargo aircraft like the C-5 Galaxy and the C-17 Globemaster III.

This crazy photo from the the LIMA 19 Airshow looks photoshopped – but it’s real

Airmen of the 86th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron perform lifesaving procedures to a patient in a KC-135 Stratotanker, at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, March 26, 2015. Aircrew and a KC-135 from Royal Air Force Mildenhall, England, spent multiple days at Ramstein performing aerial refueling missions, which also gave AES Airmen the opportunity to train on their mission inside a different airframe.

(Photo by Damon Kasberg)

Through the years, the KC-135 has been altered to do other jobs ranging from flying command post missions to reconnaissance. RC-135s are used for special reconnaissance and Air Force Materiel Command’s NKC-135As are flown in test programs. Air Combat Command operates the OC-135 as an observation platform in compliance with the Open Skies Treaty.

The KC-135R and KC-135T aircraft continue to undergo life-cycle upgrades to expand their capabilities and improve reliability. Among these are improved communications, navigation and surveillance equipment to meet future civil air traffic control needs.

There have been 11 variants or models through the years of the C-135 family.

The aircraft carries a basic crew of three, a pilot, co-pilot and boom operator. Some missions require the addition of a navigator.

This crazy photo from the the LIMA 19 Airshow looks photoshopped – but it’s real

An A-10C Thunderbolt II receives fuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker over Afghanistan Oct. 2, 2013. The A-10 is deployed from Moody Air Force Base, Ga., to the 74th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. The KC-135 is assigned to the 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron.

(Photo by Stephany Richards)

Nearly all internal fuel can be pumped through the flying boom. A special shuttlecock-shaped drogue attached to and trailing behind the flying boom may be used to refuel aircraft fitted with probes. Some aircraft have been configured with the multipoint refueling system, which consists of special pods mounted on the wingtips. These KC-135s are capable of refueling two receiver aircraft at the same time.

In 2007 the Air Force announced plans for the KC-X tanker replacement program for the KC-135. In 2011, the Boeing KC-46 Pegasus was selected as the winner of the program.

The first 18 combat-ready Pegasus tankers are expected for delivery by 2019.

The KC-135 E and R models are expected to continue service until 2040 when they will be nearly 80 years old.

This crazy photo from the the LIMA 19 Airshow looks photoshopped – but it’s real

A KC-135 Stratotanker flies through storm clouds on its way to refuel a C-17 Globemaster III off Florida’s east coast, July 12, 2012. The KC-135 was the Air Force’s first jet-powered refueling tanker and replaced the KC-97L Stratofreighter.

(Photo by Jeremy Lock)

Operation and deployment

Air Mobility Command manages the current inventory of 396 Stratotankers, of which the Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard fly 243 aircraft in support of AMC’s mission.

While AMC gained the control of the aerial refueling mission, a small number of KC-135s were also assigned directly to U.S. Air Forces in Europe, Pacific Air Forces and the Air Education and Training Command.

All Air Force Reserve Command KC-135s and most of the Air National Guard KC-135 fleet are operationally controlled by AMC, while Alaska Air National Guard and Hawaii Air National Guard KC-135s are operationally controlled by PACAF.

Did you know?

  • The Stratotanker is constructed with almost 500,000 rivets. The installed cost of these rivets range from 14 cents to id=”listicle-2595814234″.50 each.
  • The KC-135 as 23 windows, nearly all of which are heated electrically or with hot air to prevent fogging.
  • The tanker has a cargo area easily capable of holding a bowling alley, with enough room left over for a gallery of spectators. The cargo area is almost 11 feet wide, 86 feet long and 7 feet high: the equivalent of 220 automobile trunks.
  • The KC-135 transfers enough fuel through the refueling boom in one minute to operate the average family car for more than one year.
  • It can transfer more fuel in 8 minutes than a gas station could pump in 24 hours.
This crazy photo from the the LIMA 19 Airshow looks photoshopped – but it’s real

A U.S. Air Force B-52 Stratofortress leads a formation of aircraft including two Polish air force F-16 Fighting Falcons, four U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons, two German Eurofighter Typhoons and four Swedish Gripens over the Baltic Sea, June 9, 2016. The formation was captured from a KC-135 from the 434th Air Refueling Wing, Grissom Air Force Base, Indiana as part of exercise BALTOPS 2016.

(Photo by Erin Babis)

KC-135 Stratotanker fact sheet:

General characteristics

  • Primary function: Aerial refueling and airlift
  • Builder: The Boeing Company
  • Power plant: CFM International CFM-56 turbofan engines
  • Thrust: 21,634 pounds of thrust in each engine
  • Wingspan: 130 feet, 10 inches (39.88 meters)
  • Length: 136 feet, 3 inches (41.53 meters)
  • Height: 41 feet, 8 inches (12.7 meters)
  • Speed: 530 mph at 30,000 feet (9,144)
  • Range: 1,500 miles (2,419 kilometers) with 150,000 pounds (68, 039 kilograms) of transfer fuel; ferry mission, up to 11,015 miles (17,766 kilometers)
  • Ceiling: 50,000 feet (15,240 meters)
  • Maximum takeoff weight: 322,500 pounds (146, 285 kilograms)
  • Maximum Transfer Fuel Load: 200,000 pounds (90,719 kilograms)
  • Maximum Cargo Capability: 83,000 pounds (37,648 kilograms), 37 passengers
  • Crew: 3 (pilot, co-pilot and boom operator. Some KC-135 missions require the addition of a navigator. The Air Force has a limited number of navigator suites that can be installed for unique missions.)
  • Aeromedical Evacuation Crew: A basic crew of five (two flight nurses and three medical technicians) is added for aeromedical evacuation missions. Medical crew may be altered as required by the needs of patients.
  • Initial operating capability: 1956
  • Unit cost: .6 million

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

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