Somewhere in an Estonian Forest, causal hikers will come across a sea of red star-adorned metallic strips jutting out of the ground. Like some giant shark jaw, the 9,000-foot area is next to a wooded area, covered with what are actually aircraft tail fins, which are really grave markings of Soviet airmen.
Which are all really creepy.
These days, what was once a Warsaw Pact airstrip is now near a NATO-run military installation in Estonia, a former Warsaw Pact signatory. The base, Ämari Air Base, had the name Suurküla under the Soviet Union until 1991. The fins bear the names, and some even bear the likenesses of the pilots, many of whom were probably at the controls of the plane their eternal tail fin came from.
Suurküla was the home of several Sukhoi Su-24 Fencer medium bomber squadrons, from which many of the tail fins originated in some form. Now it’s the home of Estonian and NATO Air Forces whose mission is to monitor activity on the nearby Baltic Sea, as well as a fleet of F-16s from Denmark.
Just because these pilots happen to be buried below the aircraft that likely killed them, don’t think for a minute the Soviet Union’s air forces were nothing to write home about. For a time, the Soviets possessed superior technology and boasted the world’s largest air force. The Baltic States’ air force posture could actually cover much of the country in case of a NATO invasion.
This Estonian air base and the men stationed here contributed a large part to the defense of their countries, the men buried here gave their lives for it. If you ever visit Amari Air Base, be sure to pour out a sip of vodka for these comrades.
Morale patches are patches troops wear on their uniforms designed to be a funny inside joke, applicable only to their unit or military career field. They are usually worn during deployments, but the wear of morale patches is at the discretion of the unit’s commander.
The patches often (not always) make fun of a depressing, boring or otherwise specific part of the job.
These patches have been around since the military began to wear patches. They are collected and traded by people, both military and civilians, who come across them. Some are more popular than others, but they are usually a lot of fun.
The “Morale Stops Here” patch is pretty popular and is actually repeated by units the world over. It’s really funny the first time you see it.
This is an old one, a throwback to the Air Force’s Strategic Air Command days. “To forgive is not SAC policy” is widely attributed to famed SAC commander Curtis LeMay.
For the benefit of the uninitiated, CSAR stands for Combat Search And Rescue.
Having the Kool-Aid Man as your unofficial mascot is funny enough, but making his hand the lightning-shooting gauntlet in the old SAC emblem is clever.
The JSTARS (or Joint Surveillance and Target Attack Radar System) have a descriptive patch here – as they operate out of trailers at Al-Udeid Air Base, Qatar (in the military, being deployed here is also known as “doing the Deid”).
This is a U.S. Navy patch from Vietnam. The “yacht” is a junk – a historically widespread type of ship used in China and around Southeast Asia. The Tonkin Gulf is where the Vietnam War (or more specifically, the U.S. involvement in it) really ignited.
More from Vietnam. By the end of the 1960’s, the rift between those who served in Vietnam and the perception of the war back home hit its peak.
As the Cold War intensified and the threat of nuclear war seemed more and more unavoidable, the young enlisted and officers whose role in the annihilation of Earth’s population probably felt more than a little stressed.
The tradition continued, well into Desert Storm. If you have morale patches that make others laugh or are highly prized, please post in the comments.
Last year, the Australian Army hosted one of its largest military exercises with participants from the U.S. Marine Corps and the French military working side-by-side with Australian forces. The three militaries practiced how to work with each other as well as how to best incorporate the strengths of each force.
And that gives us a perfect chance to watch the highly mobile, flexible and lethal Marine artilleryman at work.
For warfighting exercise Koolendong, the 3rd Battalion, 11 Marines brought out their “Triple Sevens.” These are M777 howitzers which fire 155mm shells. An M777 is capable of sending a 103-pound shell to a target almost 14 miles away and of hitting that target within 54 yards thanks to a GPS-guided fuze.
An extended-range version of the round can go almost 23 miles at maximum range.
But of course, the rounds and the howitzers are only as good as the artillerymen manning them, and the Marines in the video above prove themselves quite capable of using their weapon to maximum effect.
While other troops sometimes make fun of artillerymen with accusations that they’re too weak to walk all the way to the target or too dumb for other work, the fact is that artillery requires a crap-ton of math, even more upper body strength, and an insane level of attention to detail.
And that need for strength and attention to detail only gets greater the larger the gun is. And if artillery is king of the battle, the M777 is a roided-out king who could wrestle a lion.
There’s a Marine who ferries ammunition from the truck or ammo supply point to the weapon, which requires a quick movement of dozens of yards while carrying over 100 pounds every time he does it.
There are two Marines who work together to ram the round from its staged position into the breech, something that is accomplished with a massive, heavy tool that they sprint against.
There’s the gunner who’s trying to make sure his weapon is perfectly aimed after each shot, even though it settles into the dirt differently after every firing. The tiniest mistake in his measurements could send the round hundreds of yards off target.
And while the crew is firing at its sustained rate, of two rounds per minute, it can be tough. But their max firing rate is five rounds per minute, meaning that they have to repeat their physically and mentally challenging jobs every twelve seconds without fail. To see what that looks like, check out the video at top if you haven’t already.
Fireworks have been an American tradition since 1777 when they first lit up the skies of Philadelphia. It is an important time of reflection of everything American with the joy of pyrotechnics. The 4th of July is a time when Ol’ Glory is on everything from beer cans to bikinis, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. Patriots buy around 247,550,000 pounds of Freedom every year for this special holiday.
As long as you don’t live in Delaware and Massachusetts, the only two U.S. states that ban the sale and use of any and all consumer fireworks, you’ll be fine. Remember to check if your county has any restrictions on specific types as well.
A night of fireworks should be served like a five-course meal. Sparklers, the appetizer of fireworks, are safe with adult supervision and are great to get everyone in the mood to see some color. If you’re able to find the neon kind, pick those up because they’ll show up the best on phone cameras. Sparklers are great for kids or those scared of the boom-boom variety.
The advantage to these is that they’re cheap relative to the exploding kind and a few packs will entertain for a while. A sleeve will cost around .50 with 5 pieces and a box with 40 pieces should be around .
Firecrackers are a staple of every fourth of July BBQ, but there are so many brands and sizes that it’s easy to get overwhelmed deciding which kind to buy. The following video is a power test of some brands that can be purchased at fireworks tents. As always, exercise caution when using these and don’t do what this guy is doing at home.
The prices range from id=”listicle-2638777067″.99 for 100 pieces to .99 for 4,000 pieces and up.
Snowcones are my personal favorite because they’re great to get people excited for the main course while getting a good amount of fire for your money. Snowcones cost .50 give or take depending on taxes and availability. Some wholesalers are already sold out of these so if you see them definitely buy at least one.
Alright, time to set the little stuff aside and put some serious rounds down range. Get yourself a fireworks box, and I’m not talking about the variety pack from Walmart. I’m talking about the kind you buy from the fireworks tent from some guy named Bubba, and you’re unsure if this was smuggled into the country somehow. They run around 0 and are worth every penny. Blackcat is the most trusted brand in this category if you want to invest in quality. You’re going to want to outgun every neighbor as you all duke it out like the founding fathers wanted.
Seriously, John Adams wanted you to blow up as many fireworks as you can.
It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more. – John Adams, Letter to Abigail Adams
Detonating the biggest firework ever launched in North America. HOLY COW!
Usually, after four courses, people are full but there is always room for dessert. In the case of fireworks, this means your custom builds, the kind that you needed to get permission from the federal government to fire off. The kind of explosions that make ISIS say “F*ck that was loud.” In all seriousness, though, don’t make custom builds unless you have the proper license and training. 5 seconds of ‘wow’ is not worth your life.
Consumer fireworks in the United States are limited to 500 grams of composition and firecrackers may have up to 50 milligrams of flash powder. Reloadable shells are limited to 1.75″ in diameter, and shells in pre-fused tubes are limited to 2″. Any fireworks that exceed these limits are not considered consumer fireworks and need an ATF license. – The Consumer Product Safety Commission
If you’re anything like me and had a subscription to Civil War Times Illustrated when you were ten years old, the first time you saw Colonel Sanders (of KFC fame), you probably thought to yourself: “That’s not a colonel! I’ve seen colonels before in Civil War Times Illustrated and they definitely don’t dress like that. What gives?”
Ten-year-old me wasn’t wrong, but Colonel Harland Sanders was a colonel – a Kentucky Colonel – and the distinction is less about military service and more about service. Specifically to the State of Kentucky.
Get this man some bourbon.
The Kentucky Colonels are a voluntary but exclusive philanthropic organization, and the only way to receive a commission as a Kentucky Colonel is to be nominated by the Governor of Kentucky. The Colonels offer grants, scholarships, and more in the form of charitable donations from its membership. The goal is to give back for the betterment of the people of the state while doing the most good with the money they have.
They enjoy the occasional party now and then too.
In order to become a Colonel of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, you’ll need first to be nominated to the Governor or the Secretary of State. The Colonels are, after all, designated representatives of the governor of Kentucky and the “aides-de-camp” of the commonwealth’s chief executive. That’s all due to the history of the organization.
The title of Kentucky Colonel began as a way to bestow respect on elder generations who fought the British in the American Revolution and the War of 1812, as the Kentucky Militias were particularly feared and/or respected by British troops. The governor, Isaac Shelby, personally led Kentucky troops in the War of 1812. When there was no war left to fight, the militias were disbanded – but the governor of the Commonwealth of Kentucky still required an aide-de-camp, so he hired one. That was Col. Charles Stewart Todd. After a while, the role of the governor’s aide-de-camp became more ceremonial and, eventually, honorary.
Nowadays, being designated a Kentucky Colonel still means assisting the governor, but the Colonels exist as envoys of the governor and state, those who preserve Kentucky heritage and history, while improving the lives and living conditions for those who live there. Previous Colonels include boxer Muhammad Ali, Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl, actress Betty White, Pope Benedict XVI, and the past seven U.S. Presidents, just to name a few.
So while the uniform and rank may be ceremonial, the duties and expectations of the Kentucky Colonels are very real.
In 2008, Navy SEAL Will Chesney was introduced to the SEAL canine program, a team of four-footed recruits tasked with saving soldiers’ lives. What Chesney did not realize at that moment was that his canine partner, Cairo, would become instrumental in saving his life both on and off the battlefield.
Through the course of the next couple years, Chesney and Cairo forged an impenetrable bond.
“A military working dog must be a fighter first and foremost,” Chesney told We Are The Mighty. “We have a saying, ‘Dogs have a switch on or off mode,’ [so when you] put their vest on, they know they’re working, turn it off, they’re playful. You could turn it off, [and] Cairo was a family dog. He got attacked by my girlfriend’s mom’s bulldog and got his arm sliced up. And he didn’t do anything, [but] as soon as you put on his vest, he knew it was time to go to work and was always happy to go to work.”
During a mission in 2009 that involved heavy firefight with insurgents, Cairo was shot.
“I remember seeing him drop and I thought he was dead,” Chesney said. “I was devastated, but we had to continue the mission. I got to him, I was able to go and check on him fairly quickly. A lot of dogs don’t make it when they get shot, unfortunately. I got to him and carried him, as I was getting Cairo’s medical kit out, a medic came over. We got to him immediately considering the circumstances and a teammate saved his life.”
Cairo was not expected to redeploy, but on May 2, 2011, Chesney and Cairo were part of the team of two dozen Navy SEALs who touched down in Pakistan and descended upon Osama bin Laden’s compound in what would come to be known as Operation Neptune Spear.
“For us, it was business as usual,” Chesney explained. “We conducted a little more training than normal, we’re always conducting training, being prepared for anything. We knew that the stakes were higher and there was definitely a lot more energy, because of who we were going after. A lot of good people put in a lot of hard work, they were pretty confident. Cairo always fed off everybody’s energy. Your emotions run up and down the leash. If you’re mad, the energy is going to run down that leash. For Cairo, it was just another day at work.”
After the successful mission in eliminating bin Laden, only one hero’s name was released — Cairo, Belgian Malinois. Upon the team’s arrival home, President Obama awarded each team member, except Cairo, a silver star. In the wake of the Al Baghdadi raid, it’s something the president has brought up. Currently service dogs are not entitled to military awards, and that is why Cairo never received the Silver Star. It’s also why Cairo doesn’t have a trident pin like his two legged teammates.
Post-mission, life went on for Chesney and he deployed again, but this time without Cairo. A grenade blast in 2013 left him with a brain injury, PTSD and the inability to participate in missions.
Suffering from crippling migraines, chronic pain, and depression, Chesney pursued modern medicines to ease the pain, but only found moderate relief.
“I was in a very bad place,” Chesney admitted. “A lot of guys try a lot of modalities and they get tired of reaching out and go into a very bad place. One of my best friends ended up dragging me to a brain health clinic. It took him reaching out to me.”
While medicine eased the pain, the one place Chesney found true comfort was alongside Cairo, who he visited as often as possible. When Cairo was officially retired, Chesney was there, ready to sign the adoption paperwork to make it official.
“I never thought I would write a book, but there were some articles I had seen that weren’t factual,” Chesney shared. “[Operation Neptune Spear] was the biggest mission in history and Cairo was a really good dog. I thought, ‘Why not write a book about my dog?’ I wanted to get the true story of Cairo out there.”
Chesney penned No Ordinary Dog, the factual story and timeline of Cairo and his work, their relationship, and Chesney’s own personal struggles with mental health.
“If you step back and think about it, the night Cairo got shot, he saved guys’ lives,” said Chesney. “And then I got out and he saved my life. And now I’m using his stories to save more lives. If Cairo can help someone in some way, that could be great and by using the platform to talk about some of the issues I went through, [I’m] hopeful it would inspire others to reach out.”
In his book, Chesney writes,
“I share this story not because I seek the spotlight — indeed, I have always withdrawn from its glare — but to honor my fellow soldiers, including a multipurpose canine military dog named Cairo, who was in many ways just as human as the rest of us. We fought together, lived together, bled together. Cairo was right by my side when we flew through Pakistani airspace that night in 2011. He was an integral part of the most famous mission in SEAL history. After nearly a decade of pursuit, he helped us get the ultimate bad guy, and he was no more or less vital than anyone else on the mission.
But the story doesn’t end there, and it doesn’t end on a high note. It never does with dogs, right? Someone once said that buying a dog is like buying a small tragedy. You know on the very first day how it all will turn out. But that’s not the point, is it? It’s the journey that counts, what you give the dog and what you get in return; Cairo gave me more than I ever imagined, probably more than I deserved.”
Adds Chesney, “There is something uniquely American about a man and his dog. This is not a SEAL book, and it’s not a dog book. It’s a story about friendship.”
Nothing says America like a great sense of humor. We practically broke the internet with our COVID-19 memes, but since we’re all sick of coronavirus, we wanted to brighten your spirits with some good old fashioned 4th of July ones. Also, since most of the firework displays across the country have been cancelled, we thought you’d need something to look at today. Be safe and happy 4th of July!
1. Freedom rings
Hahaha, you can use this ALL day today. You’re welcome! And yes, we know it should be “there.” We don’t make the memes folks, we just share them.
2. Will Smith
If you don’t watch Independence Day this weekend, is it even 4th of July?
3. Call the doc
What do doctors know? Just kidding. We love you.
That’s right, bro. Wear those jean shorts with pride!
5. They’re coming
At least it will be a nice break from politics on social media.
It’s so true. And yet, we’re all guilty.
We started it!
8. What else is there?
Add in a hot dog eating contest and you’re all set.
Make sure you try to spell U.S.A. with them.
10. Pick up line
You can use this at today’s bbq, too.
11. Michael Scott
Obviously if it’s declared it’s true.
Poor things. Extra cuddles for you!
13. Brace yourself
(Insert your own inappropriate rocket between legs joke here).
It’s a common misconception that Cinco de Mayo is the celebration of Mexican Independence day. The May 5th celebration is actually the marking of a win by a small faction of the Mexican Army over the French during the French-Mexican war.
A Cinco de Mayo celebration in Washington, D.C.
In reality, Americans actually do have a cause to celebrate and commemorate the Texan-born Mexican general, his ragtag battalion of enlisted volunteer troops and their unlikely defeat over the French Army at the battle of Puebla on May 5th, 1862. Despite being outnumbered 3-1, the Mexicans obliterated the French, forcing a retreat after the French sustained over 500 casualties, compared to the Mexican’s mere 100 deaths in the battle.
What many people might not know was that the French were planning a lot more than just a one-off takeover of the small Mexican city of Puebla. Along with this mounted offensive, Napoleon and his Army were planning to exchange their superior and advanced artillery with the American Confederate Army in exchange for southern cotton; a commodity that was growing quite sparse across the pond in Europe.
Had the French won the battle of Puebla and made that deal with the Confederates, our Civil War most-certainly would have turned out quite differently. At the time France was known to have some of the most technologically advanced and deadly firepower in the world. And if they had supplied their weapons to the Confederates, the Union Army’s fight would have become exponentially more difficult, causing more deaths and perhaps even resulting in a Union defeat; an outcome that would have changed the course of US history.
So be sure to have a celebratory margarita this Cinco de Mayo and when someone asks you why we Americans tend to celebrate this holiday in more numbers and with more gusto than our neighbors to the south, just smile and pour one out for the warriors that won the Battle of Puebla and saved us from a significantly bloodier and potentially-disastrous end to the American Civil War.
After decades of readiness decline, the Air Force is working to accelerate its recovery, ensuring the service is prepared to combat rapidly evolving threats.
Today, more than 75% of the Air Force’s core fighting units are combat ready. The service’s goal is for 80% of those units to have the right number of properly trained and equipped airmen by the end of 2020 – six years faster than projected before the Air Force developed a recovery plan.
“Restoring the readiness of the force is our top priority,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein. “And the budget Congress recently passed will have a significant impact for airmen across our active, guard and reserve components.”
To do this, the Air Force is focusing on three key areas: people, training, and cost-effective maintenance and logistics.
Cost-effective maintenance and logistics
The third element of restoring the readiness of the force is weapons system sustainment — the parts, supply and equipment — to make sure our aircraft are ready to go when needed.
“There are a thousand fingerprints on every aircraft that takes off. From air traffic control to crew chiefs to weapons loaders to avionics technicians — it is a total team effort,” Goldfein said. “When the plane is twice the age of the team, it makes it harder. So we are looking at new methods across the board for how we are maintaining an older fleet with a younger workforce.”
Focused efforts in Conditions-Based Maintenance Plus, additive manufacturing and retention, are helping to create solutions to achieve a more combat ready force.
CBM+ represents a conscious effort to shift equipment maintenance from an unscheduled, reactive approach at the time of failure, to a more routine and predictive approach. The Condition-Based Maintenance Plus approach to maintenance is based on evidence of need before failure occurs. Evidence of a need forecasted by analyzing data collected automatically by sensors.
“We’re trying to take some of those lessons learned in technologies and capabilities that (commercial airlines) are using and apply it into our inventory, and we’re starting to see some benefits,” said Gen. Arnold W. Bunch Jr., Air Force Materiel Command commander.
Airmen at Travis Air Force Base, California, are implementing innovative strategies to reduce man-hours and increase mission effectiveness with the procurement of a 3D hand scanner, capable of producing three-dimensional representations of aircraft parts. The device has also been used to inspect aircraft damage.
The scanner was first used in November 2018 to inspect the landing gear of a C-17 Globemaster III after a bird strike. Since then it has greatly reduced the time required to complete damage inspections.
“One of our C-5 aircraft went through a hail storm in 2013 and we found many dents on all the panels,” said Master Sgt. Christopher Smithling, 60th Maintenance Squadron assistant section chief for aircraft structural maintenance. “We’ve performed an inspection of this aircraft every 180 days and we’ve had to measure every dent that’s still on the wing’s surface. The first few times we did that, it took us 48 hours. We had that C-5 in our hangar last week and we were able to inspect the four primary structural panels in 30 minutes.”
The 60th MXS is also in the process of procuring two 3D printers, one polymer printer and one metal printer, so they can reproduce aircraft parts.
“With the two additive manufacturing units, we will be able to grab any aircraft part, scan it and within four to eight hours we will have a true 3D drawing of it that we can send to the additive manufacturing unit to print it,” Smithling said.
That capability, Smithling said, will decrease the time Travis aircraft are out of service.
Solutions to maintenance readiness are also being sought with advances in Additive Manufacturing or 3D printing. Traditional manufacturing is a subtractive process, beginning with cutting a lump of material to create a needed part. Three dimensional printing, one type of a larger set of techniques labeled additive manufacturing, extrudes or prints a base material in layers to create 3D solids.
For the Air Force, readiness is first and foremost about people. In fiscal year 2018, Congress provided funding to allow the Air Force to address a serious shortage of maintainers by adding 4,000 active duty maintainers.
Airmen at aircraft maintenance squadrons around the service began innovating with new scheduling, accelerated hands-on training courses and virtual reality simulators to get new maintainers proficient quickly; keeping more aircraft ready to fly and improving operational readiness.
Col. William Maxwell, chief of aircraft maintenance division at the Pentagon, has been charged in his new role with assessing the maintenance enterprise for the director of logistics in order to develop the strength of the maintenance career field and to share the best practices and solutions developed by the airmen on the flight line.
Maxwell said there are a lot of changes ahead for the aircraft maintenance community in order to develop and retain their airmen to sustain an aging fleet.
“The (aircraft maintenance community) is a passionate group of people and it’s fun to be a part of that,” Maxwell said, “because I love that passion I see in the airmen taking care of these weapon systems out there.”
This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.
Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California — In a magnificent display of combat power, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (MAW) demonstrated its ability to lift a regiment of Marines and their equipment over long distances in a very short period of time in Southern California, Dec. 10, 2019.
Muddy and exhausted with dark clouds looming, the Marines trekked across a rain-soaked field, their footprints embedding into the mud with every weighted step. They marched toward the distant sound of rotor blades.
US Marine Corps CH-53E Super Stallions and MV-22B Ospreys with 3rd MAW waited on the horizon, ready to fulfill their role and extract the warriors following a training event that began with inserting Marines from 1st Marine Division.
Overhead, two UH-1Y Venoms secured an unseen 3-dimensional perimeter, ready to provide support if needed. This is what a regimental air assault looks like.
Four US Marine Corps CH-53E Super Stallions take off during exercise Steel Knight at El Centro, California, December 10, 2019.
(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Julian Elliott-Drouin)
“The regimental air assault is part of Steel Knight 20, which is a 1st Marine Division exercise,” explained US Marine Corps Col. William J. Bartolomea, the commanding officer of Marine Aircraft Group (MAG) 39, 3rd MAW.
“But of course, as Marines and as Marine Pilots, we are always supporting our brothers and sisters on the ground. We’re involved because the Marine Air Ground Task Force (MAGTF) is better when all of its elements are put together.”
Helicopter Support Team Marines prepare an M777 Howitzer for external lift during exercise Steel Knight in El Centro, California, December 10, 2019.
(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Julian Elliott-Drouin)
The regimental air assault used a variety of 3rd MAW Marines and machines and integrated each of their capabilities into an adaptable aviation maneuver, all working in support of the ground combat element.
“I think more than anything else, it provides versatility and flexibility,” said Bartolomea. “The air assault portion provides the ground element the ability to maneuver in three dimensions and bypass enemy strong points to get at enemy weak points. The flexibility and the range of fire power that 3rd MAW and MAG 39 brings in support of 1st Marine Division is critical to make sure they can achieve their objectives.”
US Marines load onto an MV-22B Osprey for a regimental air assault during exercise Steel Knight at Camp Pendleton, California, December 10, 2019.
(US Marine Corps photo by Warrant Officer Justin M. Pack)
The regimental air assault is one of the many exercises 3rd MAW performs in order to provide realistic and relevant training in support of ground operations.
“Training like this is vital to individual and unit readiness,” said Capt. Valerie Smith, a pilot with Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron (HMH) 465, MAG-16. “Integrating aviation in the same manner that it would be used in a MAGTF gives the Marines the training they need to remain aggressive, prepared and focused on operational excellence.”
US Marines prepare for a tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel during exercise Steel Knight in El Centro, California, December 10, 2019.
(Photo by US Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Juan Anaya)
Four MV-22B Ospreys arrive for a regimental air assault during exercise Steel Knight on Marine Corps Air Station Camp Pendleton, California, December 10, 2019.
(US Marine Corps photo by Warrant Officer Justin M. Pack)
“At the end of the day,” said Bartolomea, “this combined effort puts our enemies in a dilemma that gets our ground combat element to the objective they need, giving us a lethal edge on the battle field.”
The Super Stallions and Ospreys lifted off from the rain-soaked field, their precise and graceful movements a visible testament to the rigorous training required of aircrews.
The Marines, loaded in the fuselage, looked back on the landing zone as gusts from the rotors blew away all traces of them ever being there save for the muddied footprints they left behind as a reminder of their presence and the lethal capabilities of the force that moved them.
Air assaults of this magnitude are and will continue to be a vital part of the 3rd MAW’s preparation as they train and focus on naval integration and ship-to-shore transport, connecting the naval force and its warriors. The regimental air assault is but one example of how 3rd MAW supports the Navy-Marine Corps warfighting team.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The last of the Marine Corps‘ remaining EA-6B Prowlers have wrapped up their final mission in the Middle East, where they supported troops taking on the Islamic State group. Now, the electronic-warfare aircraft will soon be headed to the boneyard.
More than 250 members of Marine Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron 2 are returning to North Carolina after spending seven months operating out of Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar. The squadron — the last to fly the service’s decades-old electronic-warfare aircraft — is only about four months away from being deactivated.
But that didn’t slow the Death Jesters downrange, where they were tapped with supporting two campaigns simultaneously: Operation Inherent Resolve in Iraq and Syria, and Operation Freedom’s Sentinel in Afghanistan.
“The mission of the Prowler is and always has been to deny, degrade and disrupt the enemy’s use of the electromagnetic spectrum,” said Capt. Robert Ryland, an electronic-countermeasures officer with VMAQ-2. Being based in Qatar, he added, allowed them to respond to missions for both operations.
Ryland declined to specify how many flight hours the crews flew throughout the deployment, due to operational security concerns. But the operational tempo remained high throughout the deployment, he said.
A U.S. Marine Corps EA-6B Prowler.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Michael B. Keller)
“The presence of electronic warfare is extremely important to the supported unit,” he said. “Though this is the final EA-6B deployment, the need for electronic warfare will remain high worldwide in the future.”
The Marines were called on to support not only U.S. ground troops, but coalition forces as well. From planning missions to executing them, the squadron worked with troops from several countries.
“There were a lot of people on this deployment who’ve dedicated their entire lives to this aircraft, its community and most importantly, the electronic-warfare mission,” Ryland said.
The end of an era
The Prowler has been a part of the Marine Corps’ aviation arsenal since the Vietnam era. The aircraft has been vital on the battlefield, since, including during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and now in the fight against ISIS terrorists.
Seeing the Prowler used all the way up until its sundown says a lot about its capabilities, said 1st Lt. Sam Stephenson, a spokesman for 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing. Despite the aircraft’s age, Ryland said the Marines with VMAQ-2 were able to maintain high readiness throughout this final deployment.
“There’s sometimes a bit of a misconception that old equals having a hard time getting jets airborne, but that’s actually not the case with the Prowler,” he said.
Ryland credits their skilled maintainers, who’ve worked on Prowlers for a long time. Some joined VMAQ-2 when other Prowler squadrons deactivated.
Now as VMAQ-2 prepares to deactivate, too, the Marines with this squadron are on the lookout for new opportunities. Some will transition to other Marine Corps aircraft, join a different branch, or leave the military when their service time is up, Ryland said.
“Everybody has their own personal plan for what they’ll do next,” Ryland said.
Lt. Col. Greg Sand, EA-6B requirements officer with Marine Corps headquarters, told Military.com in 2017 that the Prowler’s sunset wouldn’t force anyone out of the Marine Corps.
Three EA-6B Prowlers.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. N.W. Huertas)
If Marines weren’t selected to transfer to work on another aircraft, he said they could always serve in B-billets or support their headquarters. And some with EA-6B aircrews were also transitioning to work with drone squadrons, he said.
Despite the end of the Prowlers’ era, the need for electronic-warfare capabilities on the battlefield isn’t going away. Throughout the aircraft’s sundown process, Stephenson said the Marine Corps has been building up a suite of new electronic-warfare capabilities across the Marine air-ground task force.
According to Marine Corps planning documents, that includes pods or sensors that can be affixed to other aircraft and new signals intelligence and cyber capabilities.
“This will be the new way the Marine Corps plans to transition from utilizing the Prowlers to a more distributed strategy where every platform contributes and functions as a sensor, shooter and sharer and [includes] an EW node,” Stephenson said.
Marine units heading to sea or combat are already carrying some of those capabilities, Sand said. They offer commanders a great deal of flexibility, since they can be added to fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft.
“A MAGTF commander can just walk out onto a flightline now, see the asset, and he or she owns that asset and can task that asset,” Sand said.
And Marine ground troops will still be able to call on joint forces when they need airborne electronic attack capabilities, he added.
“The Prowler in practical terms has been replaced in additional capacities by the Navy [EA-18G] Growler,” Sand said. “That’s a Super Hornet … with a pretty fierce EW capability. The Growler really is the follow-on to the Prowler.”
For now, VMAQ-2 still has a few months of work left before the Prowlers’ final flights. When the squadron does get ready to say goodbye to its beloved aircraft in March 2019, Ryland says they’ll hold a sundown ceremony at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina. Any Marine who worked with the Prowler, whether a year or decades ago, is invited to attend.
“The Prowler has been a really incredible workhorse for the Marine Corps, the United States and allied forces for many, many decades,” Ryland said. “I know the people who fly and fix these aircraft have a lot of respect for them and certainly for those who came before us.
“There is a tremendous amount of hard work and training that goes into performing the Prowler mission,” he added. “It’s a great honor, every time I get to fly in one.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
According to popular legend, in 1859, “the quatrefoil” design was added and stitched onto the top of Marine officer’s cover to help identify them from the rest of the personnel.
The quatrefoil — adapted from the French — is a cross-shaped braid with many different symbolic interpretations. Some think of it as representing the four cardinal directions, while in architecture it is an icon of design (and it’s fancy).
In 1987, singer David Bowie played a concert in West Berlin, near the Reichstag. The performance was so loud, a massive crowd gathered on the East side of the nearby Berlin Wall to better hear his performance. He could hear the East Germans behind the Iron Curtain, singing along.
At the time, he didn’t know it would be the catalyst for the beginning of the end the city’s crushing divide.
The Berlin Wall was built in 1961 to keep East Berliners (and all East Germans) inside East Germany. It certainly wasn’t needed to keep Western citizens out. It quickly became a symbol of the Iron Curtain over Eastern Europe, the barrier between East and West that kept one side subject to the oppression of forced Communism and the other a burgeoning society of freedom and self-governance.
It was in Berlin where Bowie recorded his 1977 album, “Heroes,” a song about two lovers, one from East Berlin and one from the West. Living with punk legend Iggy Pop in the city’s Schöneberg neighborhood, Bowie could walk outside his door and see the tyranny and death that came with living in the heart of the Cold War. The song’s lyrics were so descriptive of the city’s plight, it became one of Berlin’s anthems:
I, I can remember (I remember) Standing, by the wall (by the wall) And the guns, shot above our heads (over our heads) And we kissed, as though nothing could fall (nothing could fall) And the shame, was on the other side Oh we can beat them, forever and ever Then we could be heroes, just for one day
70,000 Germans attended the 1987 Concert for Berlin.
The artists spent years in Berlin recording his albums “Low” and “Lodger,” along with “Heroes.” Today, they’re referred to as Bowie’s “Berlin Trilogy.” A decade after recording “Heroes,” Bowie returned to Berlin as part of the Concert for Berlin, a three-day festival held near the Reichstag, the seat of West Germany’s parliament. Nearby was the Brandenburg Gate and, running through it, the notorious Berlin Wall. The music, forbidden in the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) rang out loudly in the West, and wafted over the wall.
Along with Bowie came Eurythmics, Genesis, and Bruce Hornsby. Thousands of East Berliners began to crowd the area near the gate, trying to get an earful as East German guards fought them back, dragging them away from the area and arresting the unruly. If they couldn’t listen near the wall, they could listen over the airwaves. The radio station Radio in the American Sector broadcast the concert in its entirety throughout the city, with the blessings of the artists and recording labels.
“It was like a double concert where the wall was the division,” Bowie told The Atlantic. “And we would hear them cheering and singing along from the other side. God, even now I get choked up. It was breaking my heart. I’d never done anything like that in my life, and I guess I never will again. When we did ‘Heroes’ it really felt anthemic, almost like a prayer.”
Eventually, the crowd broke into a full-on chant of, “the wall must fall!” and “Gorby, get us out!” When the concert ended on the third night, the East German police beat back the crowd with billy clubs. Even though Bowie headlined the second night, it’s believed his performance attracted more East Berliners to the wall the next night. It was the overreaction from the East Berlin police that turned so many residents against the regime. It completely changed the mood of the city, which would only be divided for two years longer before frustrations overwhelmed the wall.
“The title song of the ‘Heroes’ album is one of Bowie’s best-known works and became the hymn of our then-divided city and its yearning for freedom,” said Berlin Mayor Michael Müller. “With this song, Bowie has not only set musical standards, but also unmistakably expressed his attachment to our city.”
Bowie played Berlin again in 1989, after the wall fell and the city was united. His last show in Berlin was in 2004. When Bowie died in 2016, the German government officially thanked him for bringing the wall down and unifying a divided Germany.