Air Force official visits ‘World’s Premier Gateway to Space’ - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Air Force official visits ‘World’s Premier Gateway to Space’

Becoming the “World’s Premier Gateway to Space” does not happen overnight. It takes decades of dedication by men and women around the United States. From July 19 to July 22, 2019, Acting Secretary of the Air Force Matthew Donovan visited the men and women at the 45th Space Wing and attended the 50th anniversary event of NASA’s historic Apollo 11.

Since former President John F. Kennedy’s revered “moon speech,” the race to establish dominance in space has been apparent. When the U.S. first put man on the moon July 20, 1969, the world held its breath.

Now, 50 years later, Donovan – along with Vice President of the United States Mike Pence, NASA employees and thousands watching across the world – looked back on this historic moment at the Apollo 11 anniversary event at the Kennedy Space Center.


“I was 10 years old, and my mom let me stay up late to watch the landing on television,” Donovan said, recalling the moment he watched the first man walk on the moon. “I remember the previous Christmas, I received and built the Apollo Saturn V model moon rocket. The moon landing captured the imagination of everyone, young and old. It was really an amazing time. It’s hard to believe that was 50 years ago.”

Air Force official visits ‘World’s Premier Gateway to Space’

Astronaut Buzz Aldrin stands on the surface of the moon near the leg of the lunar module, Eagle, during the Apollo 11 moonwalk.

(NASA)

Visiting the “World’s Premier Gateway to Space” reminded Donovan of how he felt during that time, as he met airmen — both at Patrick Air Force Base and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station — who contribute to the leaps and bounds the Air Force makes each day with its space capabilities.

The airmen of the 45th Space Wing are focused on 100% mission success while delivering assured access to space for the warfighter and the nation. Donovan met with some of these airmen at Space Launch Complex-37 on July 19, 2019, to receive a brief on United Launch Alliance’s Delta IV rocket and learn how the airmen play a role in the space mission.

“The exploration of space will go ahead, whether we join in it or not, and it is one of the great adventures of all time, and no nation which expects to be the leader of other nations can expect to stay behind in the race for space,” Kennedy said during his 1962 speech at Rice University, Houston.

Donovan agrees.

Air Force official visits ‘World’s Premier Gateway to Space’

Acting Secretary of the Air Force Matthew Donovan shakes hands with 45th Operations Group Airman July 19, 2019, at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Zoe Thacker)

“These airmen and the space mission are absolutely critical,” Donovan said. “Over the years, whether it be a global positioning system, communications or intelligence and reconnaissance mission; our foothold in space is critical. It’s so critical that our adversaries have noticed that and gone to school on the American way of war. From that, we now look forward to the development of the United States Space Force.”

The role of 45th Space Wing Airmen will change significantly because they’ll be some of the first individuals moved into the new service, Donovan said. I wish I could go back and do it all over again as to be on the ground floor of such a historical event as standing up a sixth service. I think it’s very exciting – the role that our airmen are going to play.

As U.S. Space Command and the U.S. Space Force come to fruition in the years to come, there is much excitement from the airmen of the 45th SW, the Air Force and the United States as a whole.

“One of the things that excites me the most for the future is the synergy that we have between the government and the space launch industry,” Donovan said. “Through different space pioneers, we’re able to lower the cost of space launch and pack more capabilities into a smaller package. Just imagine the possibilities that will come from that. I’m excited to see, in the years to come, our space capabilities taken to the next level for the nation.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Royal Navy is testing jet pack assault teams

For decades, science fiction has been telling us that jet packs are right around the corner. But, while it seems there’ll still be some time before any of us are using them to get to work, the UK and US have been experimenting with jet suits for a number of applications, including defense.


Twitter

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Of course, this isn’t the first time Gravity Industries’ jet packs have been spotted flying around Royal Navy ships. That’s fitting, seeing as Gravity Industries’ founder Richard Browning served in the British Royal Marines prior to beginning his new life as a jet pack mogul. Last year, he had the opportunity to fly his 5-engine jet pack suit around the pride of the Royal Navy, the HMS Queen Elizabeth.

Take on Gravity Jet suit demo with HMS Queen Elizabeth

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While the Royal Navy hasn’t announced any plans to adopt these jet packs for military purposes, both the Royal and U.S. Navies have acknowledged that they’ve been in contact with Gravity Industries. According to Browning himself, he’s already met with members of the U.S. Special Operations command — specifically, the Navy SEALs — to discuss what capabilities his jet packs could offer.

“We are always working with the brightest minds in Britain and across the world to see how emerging technology might support our military to keep them safe and give them the edge in the future.”
-UK Ministry of Defense statement

Last month, the Great North Air Ambulance Service (GNAAS), a UK-based charity that provides helicopter emergency services, began testing jet suits from Gravity Industries to see if they might allow paramedics to fly directly up to hard-to-reach locations where hikers and mountain climbers find themselves injured.

Paramedic Mountain Response!

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As GNAAS pointed out, “The undulating peaks and valleys can often mean the helicopter is unable to safely land close to the casualty, forcing travel by vehicle or foot.” That’s not optimal for emergency situations and could potentially even put rescue workers in danger. That’s where these jet packs could come in.

“In a jet pack, what might have taken up to an hour to reach the patient may only take a few minutes, and that could mean the difference between life and death,” GNAAS director of operations Andy Mawson explained.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.


MIGHTY CULTURE

After 45 years, Green Beret faces his past in Vietnam — part nine

Sapa Valley, Northern Vietnam

The final stop in Rich’s journey through Vietnam. Sapa is a frontier township along the Chinese border, home to the northern highlanders and hundreds of miles of trails. It’s the perfect place to field test MACV-1 prototypes.


Air Force official visits ‘World’s Premier Gateway to Space’
Air Force official visits ‘World’s Premier Gateway to Space’

Sapa is considered the trekking capitol of Vietnam and we all know trekking is just rucking in the mountains.

Air Force official visits ‘World’s Premier Gateway to Space’

The secret to the best bowl of pho in Vietnam? Serve it with plenty of Tiger beer halfway through a 15-hour ruck.

Air Force official visits ‘World’s Premier Gateway to Space’

And of course you need to pack a few Tigers for when you get to the top.

Air Force official visits ‘World’s Premier Gateway to Space’
Air Force official visits ‘World’s Premier Gateway to Space’
Air Force official visits ‘World’s Premier Gateway to Space’
Air Force official visits ‘World’s Premier Gateway to Space’

“First impressions?” asked Paul.

“They’re comfortable, they’re lightweight, they’re versatile… and you can drink in them” said Rich.

Air Force official visits ‘World’s Premier Gateway to Space’

Follow Richard Rice’s 10-part journey:

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

Part Five

Part Six

Part Seven

Part Eight

This article originally appeared on GORUCK. Follow @GORUCK on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 3 most realistic firefights ever filmed by Hollywood

It’s no secret that movies get a lot wrong about firearms and the ways they’re used in a fight. From every 80’s protagonist refusing to shoulder their rifles when they fire, to the seemingly infinite magazine capacity in every hero’s gun, filmmakers have long prized what looks cool over what’s actually possible in their work, and to be honest, it’s hard to blame them. After all, diving sideways while firing pistols from each hand does look pretty badass, even if it’s just about the dumbest thing someone could do in a firefight.

There are, of course, exceptions to the rule when it comes to Hollywood’s depictions of firefights–movies that manage to offer a realistic representation of how armed conflicts actually play out while still giving the audience something to get excited about. These movies may not be realistic from end to end, but each offers at least one firefight that was realistic enough to get even highly trained warfighters to inch up toward the edges of their seats.


“Sicario” – Border Scene HD

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Delta’s time to shine: “Sicario”

The border scene in 2015’s Sicario is worthy of study from multiple angles: as an exercise in film making, this scene puts on a clinic in tension building, and although some elements of the circumstances may not be entirely realistic, the way in which the ensuing firefight plays out offers a concise and brutal introduction to the capabilities boasted by the sorts of men that find their way onto an elite team like Delta.

Unlike the Chuck Norris depictions of Delta from the past, these men are short on words and heavy on action, using their skill sets to not only neutralize opponents, but to keep the situation as contained as possible. The tense lead up and rapid conclusion leaves the viewer with the same sense of continued stress even after the shooting stops that anyone who has ever been in a fight can relate to, despite the operators themselves who are seemingly unphased. As real special operators will often attest, it’s less about being unphased and more about getting the job done–but to the rest of us mere mortals, it looks pretty much the same.

Saving Private Ryan – Omaha Beach HD

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The Gold Standard: “Saving Private Ryan”

When “Saving Private Ryan” premiered in 1998, I distinctly recall my parents returning home early from their long-planned date night. My father, a Vietnam veteran that had long struggled with elements of his service had been excited about the new Tom Hanks, Steven Spielberg wartime epic, but found the opening scene depicting the graphic reality of the Normandy invasion of World War II to be too realistic to handle. My dad, who never spoke of his time deployed, chose to leave the theater and spent the rest of the evening sitting quietly in his room.

This list is, in spirit, a celebration of realism in cinema, but realism has a weight to it, and sometimes, that weight can feel too heavy to manage. A number of veterans have echoed my father’s sentiments about the film (he did eventually watch it at home by himself), calling that opening sequence, often heralded as a masterpiece of film making, one of the hardest scenes they’ve ever managed to watch.

Heat (1995) – Shootout Scene – Bank Robbery [HD – 21:9]

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Val Kilmer helps train Green Berets: “Heat”

The dramatic ten-minute shootout in “Heat” has become legendary in Hollywood for good reason. For six weeks, the film’s production team closed down parts of downtown Los Angeles every Saturday and Sunday to turn the city into a war zone, and the actors came prepared to do their parts. Production brought in real British SAS operatives to train the actors in real combat tactics at the nearby L.A. County Sheriff’s combat shooting ranges.

Legend has it that Val Kilmer took to the training so well that the shot of him laying down fire in multiple directions and reloading his weapon (without the scene cutting) has been shown at Fort Bragg as a part of training for American Green Berets. Marines training at MCRD San Diego have also been shown this firefight from “Heat” as a depiction of how to effectively retreat under fire.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This rare Army award is given to aviators who expertly crash

The military has a lot of official and unofficial awards for when tragedy strikes. Soldiers saved by their helmets often receive sections of the helmet after it is studied. Troops hit by enemy weapons get Purple Hearts. And aviators flying for the Army are awarded “Broken Wings” when they manage to avoid a crash or crash safely when tragedy strikes in mid-flight.


The Broken Wing Award dates back to March 1968, and it has been awarded to hundreds of air crewmembers and pilots for avoiding crashes or minimizing the damage resulting from them.

Avoiding crashes may sound easy, but the award is given for serious crises like in 1987 when two OH-6 helicopters crashed in midair and Hugh D. Odum, a warrant officer, saved his bird alongside Warrant Officer Mark Desjardins.

In 2016, Navy aviator Ms. Barbara Gordon became the first sailor to earn the award when she took part in a training flight with an Army pilot. They were practicing an exercise on just one engine in a UH-60L Black Hawk when that engine failed, and the helicopter began to fall at almost 12,000 feet per minute. In that emergency, the two pilots had to take turns taking certain actions to save it, but they managed to do so in the only five seconds they had to avoid a deadly crash.

The award is typically given for in-flight emergencies caused by mechanical failure or environmental factors, though the guidelines for it do say that enemy action isn’t a disqualifier. While receiving the award is considered an honor, it’s not something anyone hopes for.

Air Force official visits ‘World’s Premier Gateway to Space’

Maj. Gen. Joel K. Tyler, commander of the U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command, presents the U.S. Army Broken Wing Award to Chief Warrant Officer 3 Sylvia Grandstaff.

(Collin Magonigal, RTC)

“I appreciate the award,” said Chief Warrant Officer 3 James Hagerty while receiving the award for saving his helicopter after a cardboard box went through the engine. “I don’t think I want to earn another one though.”

The helicopter had suffered engine failure, and the pilots had to carefully tip the helicopter over a cliff and then use the speed and power from the fall to reach a safe landing spot and do a “roll-on landing” where they have no power left to flare and hover, so they touchdown and roll to a stop instead. So, a controlled crash off of a cliff. No one wants that.

And no pilot wants to face any of the situations that result in a Broken Wing Award nomination. Not the crash off the cliff, not the midair power failure that Gordon suffered, not the midair crash that Odum and Desjardins survived.

The Army gives out the award about 12 to 15 times per year. According to Army Safety, the criteria are:

An aircrew member must, through outstanding airmanship, minimize or prevent aircraft damage or injury to personnel during an emergency situation. Aircrew member must have shown extraordinary skill while recovering an aircraft from an in-flight emergency situation. If more than one crewmember materially contributed to successful recovery from the emergency, each of those involved should be considered for nomination.

Each in-flight save by Army aviators represents lives saved and airframes preserved. Obviously, the lives are more important than the helicopters, and occasional plane (the Army has very few planes, so the award naturally goes predominantly to helicopter pilots), but each helicopter saved does represent millions of dollars saved by the Army.

It’s the award no one wants to earn, the Army doesn’t want to have to give out, but each time an aviator gets their broken wings, lives are saved, and aircraft stay in the fleet.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Veteran organizations pressuring congress on medical marijuana

Over the last few weeks, U.S. military veterans have been trying to persuade congress to expand VA research into the benefits of medical marijuana.


2019-03-06 Joint HVAC-SVAC Full Committee Hearing: Legislative Presentation of the VFW”

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The charge for marijuana reform is being led mainly by representatives from the Disabled American Veterans (DAV), Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA).

It’s no secret that veteran issues of post-traumatic stress disorder and brain injuries have been pushed to the forefront of thought of the general public. Vincent Lawrence, commander-in-chief of VFW, claims that this alone could call for the VA to look into the potential benefits of medical cannabis.

Lawrence went on to say that VA patients who also use marijuana for medical purposes are doing so without regimented care from the VA and therefore it is unregulated. However, he then went on to say, “This is not to say VA providers are opting to ignore this medical treatment, but that there is currently a lack of federal research and understanding of how medical marijuana may or may not treat certain illnesses and injuries, and the way it interacts with other drugs.”

This idea is not revolutionary or specific to the VA, Lawrence continued, “There is currently substantial evidence from a comprehensive study by the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academic Press that concludes cannabinoids are effective for treating chronic pain, chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, sleep disturbances related to obstructive sleep apnea, multiple sclerosis spasticity symptoms, and fibromyalgia –– all of which are prevalent in the veteran population…”

There are already some bills that have been submitted for the advancement of medical marijuana research–such as the VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act which would mandate that the VA conduct trials on the effects of medical marijuana for veterans afflicted with PTSD and chronic pain.

Air Force official visits ‘World’s Premier Gateway to Space’

A similar piece of legislation was proposed last year but did not pass a floor vote.

Medical marijuana has also been linked to lowering instances of opioid abuse as well. Lawrence even mentions this before congress explaining, “states that have legalized medical cannabis have also seen a 15-35 percent decrease in opioid overdose and abuse.” Rep. Conor Lamb (D-PA) echoed Lawrence’s statements in support.

The momentum of medical marijuana in the VA is gaining some bipartisan steam, too. Recently, a similar proposal was brought to the floor by the ranking member on the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs– Rep. Phil Roe (R-TN) when he said, “The VA is where cannabis should be studied[…] Let’s find out the risks, the benefits, the black box warnings and so on. I could not agree more with you there.”

Air Force official visits ‘World’s Premier Gateway to Space’

Rep. Phil Roe (R-TN)

While it’s clear that there is support for medical marijuana within the structure of VA, there is a long way to go before its application is widespread. The positive links between marijuana for medical purposes and veterans dealing with afflictions derived from service are apparent and numbered–and congress is starting to take notice.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Meet the pilots who fly SEALs and Delta Force to their most dangerous operations

The Army’s 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, Airborne, (SOAR-A), has earned the nickname “The Night Stalkers.”

Operating under the cover of night or the shadows of dawn, these elite pilots are responsible for getting special operators into and out of some of their most secret and dangerous operations.

Night Stalker pilots go through rigorous training to become mission-ready to fly in the most challenging conditions, including bad weather and enemy fire, all while relying on infrared and night-vision equipment to navigate through the darkness.

While many of the 160th SOAR’s operations are secret, it’s widely understood that they were involved in the 2011 raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

Read on to learn more about the elite aviators that “would rather die than quit.”


Air Force official visits ‘World’s Premier Gateway to Space’

A US Army MH-60M Blackhawk from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne), June 19, 2019.

(US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Pena)

The Night Stalkers fly a few different helicopters, including the MH-60 Black Hawk.

The 160th has over 3,200 personnel and 192 aircraft.

The Night Stalkers operate different versions of the Black Hawk, outfitted for dangerous and covert operations. In fact, all the aircraft the 160th uses are “highly modified and designed to meet the unit’s unique mission requirements,” according to the Army.

All the MH-60s the Night Stalkers use have in-air refueling capability, extending the aircraft’s ability to operate over long distances.

The Night Stalkers’s MH-60 Direct Action Penetrator (DAP) is a Black Hawk specially outfitted with an M230 30 mm automatic cannon. When the aircraft is modified to the DAP, it can move only small numbers of troops, according to US Special Operations Command (SOCOM).

All of the Black Hawks the 160th flies have a cruising speed of 140 mph and a top speed of 200 mph, The Washington Post reported in 2014, when the aircraft were used in a failed attempt to rescue American civilians in Syria.

Air Force official visits ‘World’s Premier Gateway to Space’

A Navy aviation boatswain’s mate guides an Army CH-47 Chinook helicopter from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment during deck landing qualifications aboard amphibious assault ship USS Peleliu, April 28, 2014.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Dustin Knight)

The Night Stalkers also fly the MH-47 Chinook.

The 160th operates two variants of the MH-47 Chinook, a special-operations variant of the Army’s CH-47 Chinook.

The MH-47E is a heavy assault helicopter with aerial refueling capability, as well as advanced integrated avionics, an external rescue hoist, and two L714 turbine engines with Full Authority Digital Electronic Control that enables the MH-47E to operate in high-altitude or very hot environments, according to SOCOM.

The Night Stalkers fly the MH-47G Chinook as well, which has a multi-mode radar to help pilots navigate challenging conditions, as well as two M-134 “minigun” machine guns and one M-60D machine gun for defensive fire.

The MH-47 is used for a variety of operations, including infiltration and exfiltration of troops, assault operations, resupply, parachuting, and combat search and rescue.

Air Force official visits ‘World’s Premier Gateway to Space’

Chief Warrant Officer 4 Dave Currier, left, an MH-60M Black Hawk pilot, and Spc. Joseph Turnage, a UH-60 Black Hawk crew chief, with the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne) in Yuma, Arizona, Sept. 23, 2017.

(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Brennon A. Taylor)

The 160th was born out of tragedy.

The Night Stalkers were formed after the botched attempt to rescue hostages from the US embassy in Tehran in 1979, known as Operation Eagle Claw.

During that operation, eight US service members were killed, and the need for a specialized group of aviators became apparent.

The 160th was formed in 1981, composed of soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell in Kentucky, and was officially designated the 160th Special Operations Aviation Group (Airborne) in 1986.

What we know as the modern 160th was officially activated in 1990.

The Night Stalkers have been active in every military operation since Operation Urgent Fury in Grenada in 1983. The unit lost pilot Michael Durant during the Battle of Mogadishu in Somalia in 1993.

Air Force official visits ‘World’s Premier Gateway to Space’

Two MH-47G Chinooks from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment prepare for aerial refueling over California, Jan. 19, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Daniel Snider)

The tempo of operations increased significantly after the terror attacks on September 11, 2001.

“At the height of Iraq, those guys were doing two to three missions a night,” a 10-year veteran of the unit with multiple tours to Afghanistan and Iraq told Insider.

“Once the mission has been accomplished, the only reward is another mission,” he said.

Once Night Stalkers are finished with a mission, “they’re not going to Disney World. They’re going back to wherever they came from. They’re going to train again.”

Night Stalker training simulates the challenging environments they’re going into, as well.

Air Force official visits ‘World’s Premier Gateway to Space’

US soldiers, assigned to 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne), practice loading and unloading on a 160th SOAR MH-47 Chinook during sniper training at Ft. Carson, Colorado, June 22, 2017.

(US Army photo by Sgt. Connor Mendez)

Women in the 160th see combat too.

“It’s just not all guys. At least the 160th has female pilots. They’re rowing the boat. They’re in the battle,” the Night Stalker veteran told Insider.

Air Force official visits ‘World’s Premier Gateway to Space’

A 10th Special Forces Group soldier and his military working dog jump off a CH-47 Chinook helicopter from the 160th SOAR during water training over the Gulf of Mexico, March 1, 2011.

(US Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Manuel J. Martinez)

The 160th’s motto — “Night Stalker’s Don’t Quit!” is attributed to Capt. Keith Lucas, the first Night Stalker killed in action.

“The purpose of that organization is to serve the most elite special forces in the United States,” a veteran of the unit told Insider.

“That unit’s gonna be on time, and it’s gonna fly like hell to serve the ground forces,” he said.

The Night Stalkers have a reputation of being on time within 30 seconds of every operation and say they’d rather die than quit.

The Night Stalkers’ motto — often shortened to “NSDQ!” — is vitally important to the team.

“It binds people that have been serving in that organization till now,” the veteran said. Lucas was killed in 1983, during Operation Urgent Fury in Grenada.

Air Force official visits ‘World’s Premier Gateway to Space’

The MH-6 Little Bird is a helicopter unique to special operations that was developed in close collaboration with special operators and combat developers.

MH-6 and AH-6 Little Birds are also part of the 160th’s fleet.

These aircraft are small and maneuverable — perfect for use in urban combat zones where pilots must fly low to the ground among buildings and city streets.

The MH-6M and AH-6M are both variants of the McDonnell Douglas 530 commercial helicopter.

The MH-6M is the utility version that can also be used for reconnaissance missions. The AH-6M is the attack version and is equipped with Foward Looking Infrared, or FLIR, which shows crewmembers an infrared video of the terrain and airspace.

Here’s an AH-6M training for a combat mission

Go160thSOAR USASOAC Night Stalkers AH-6

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And an MH-6M extracting a soldier from the water.

Go160thSOAR USASOAC Night Stalkers MH-6 Series

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Air Force top enlisted leader encourages airmen to connect

Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright just wanted to get airmen talking — to each other, friends, family — with the service’s one-day pause to break down unresolved feelings they may have buried deep inside.

Wright doesn’t expect commanders at each base to draft a plan of what they believe could prevent suicide, which has plagued the service’s ranks in recent months, with 78 airmen taking their own lives between Jan. 1 and July 31, 2019. But the top enlisted airman hopes the effort might help struggling airmen again feel a sense of purpose when they come into work, even if they carry baggage from their personal lives with them.


“While mental health is a part of it, I personally think a larger part of this solution is us just being good human beings,” he said during a recent interview. Military.com accompanied Wright and Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein on a trip to Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, last week.

Air Force official visits ‘World’s Premier Gateway to Space’

Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright speaks to Team Travis airmen.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. David W. Carbajal)

The Air Force in August 2019 ordered a one-day “tactical pause” that had commanders and airmen address a rise in suicides across the force. As of Aug. 1, 2019, the service had exceeded the number of suicides in all of 2018 by nearly 20 people.

Wright said suicide has become the leading cause of death in the Air Force despite airmen serving overseas in combat.

“If some initiatives [at bases] came out of that, then I think that’s great. But it really wasn’t designed to develop prevention initiatives,” he said Oct. 9, 2019.

“All of the airmen that I’ve had the pleasure of meeting, connecting with and talking to who’ve thought about committing suicide, none of them — not one — pointed to a program or a process or mental health [initiative]. … They all pointed to the thing that kept them going, and that was another person,” Wright said, but added some have been in therapy programs to keep talking to someone they’re comfortable with.

Air Force official visits ‘World’s Premier Gateway to Space’

Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright listens to an Airman’s question.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. David W. Carbajal)

Wright said he’s heard feedback from airmen who’ve felt the most hopeless during deployments, unable to connect with someone from their unit or loved ones back home.

On those occasions, help came from a friend or teammate — sometimes even a stranger — asking the simplest questions like, “How are you? Is there anything I can do?” Wright said.

“That’s all it was — meaningful connections,” the chief said.

“It makes a big difference if you walk into a work center where you feel like, ‘Hey, I’m a valued member of his team, and my supervisor, my teammates, they care about the things that I’m going through’ versus, ‘Hey nobody cares,'” Wright said. “This is about making airmen feel valued.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 of the best jungle warfare training sites in the Marines

Marines are known for their versatility in combat — we even flex that fact in our hymn, boasting that “we’ve fought in every clime and place.” One thing’s for sure, no matter where the enemy is, Marines will find a way there to punch ’em in the face — even if that place is a rainy, hot, unforgiving jungle.

But, like a professional sports team, we need a home field in which we can practice. To get our devil dogs ready to fight in the thick of the jungle, we’ve got a few sites where they can get the reps they need. These are the best of ’em:


Air Force official visits ‘World’s Premier Gateway to Space’

It also looks like a post-apocalyptic suburb, which is a plus.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Nichelle Griffiths)

Andersen South AFB — Guam

Once used by the Air Force, Andersen South is an abandoned housing base that the Marines now train in. Not only is the area filled with an extensive amount of jungle, there’re also plenty of buildings. This means you can combine jungle warfare with urban training in the same location. It’s the best place for force-on-force training, hands down.

Air Force official visits ‘World’s Premier Gateway to Space’

The jungle here isn’t that bad, though.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ryan Conroy)

Bellows Air Force Station — Oahu, Hawai’i

Another space acquired from the Air Force, the base is mostly used for recreation. The Marines stationed at nearby Marine Corps Base Hawai’i, however, use it as a training site for jungle patrols and land navigation.

Air Force official visits ‘World’s Premier Gateway to Space’

Those in the Advanced Infantryman Course go here to enjoy the wrath of their instructors.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Andrew Morris)

Kahuku Training Area — Oahu, Hawai’i

Kahuku Training Area features one of the best examples of jungle environments. This training area is home to a road referred to as “The Devil’s Backbone” because of the rolling hills over which it spans. The jungle here is incredibly thick and it always rains. No, really. This isn’t some “if it ain’t rainin’, we ain’t trainin'” sort of thing — it just always rains.

In addition to a lush jungle environment, Kahuku also includes some urban environments.

Air Force official visits ‘World’s Premier Gateway to Space’

This place also has some gnarly hills.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Tyler Ngiraswei)

Camp Schwab — Okinawa, Japan

Even though it doesn’t seem very large and the Okinawan people protesting outside the front gate can make you feel a little unwelcome, Camp Schwab has some great training sites. Whether you want to sharpen your offensive tactics in the jungle or just do some good ol’ fashioned land nav, this base has plenty of space for both.

Air Force official visits ‘World’s Premier Gateway to Space’

You might even get to go and raid one of their tiny jungle villages.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo Lance Cpl. Jessica Etheridge)

Camp Gonsalves — Okinawa, Japan

Anything you can’t do at any of the other bases, you can definitely do here. This is home of the Jungle Warfare Training Center, so it’s not hard to figure out why Camp Gonsalves tops the list. Here, in addition to the jungle survival training, you can practice rappelling down a cliffside and learn what it really means to fight in a jungle.

If you’re lucky, you’ll also take part in mock raids on small, nearby villages, which is a fun, immersive experience. Also, because this place is used primarily for training purposes, it’s guaranteed to rain throughout your visit.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The day golf filmmaker Erik Anders Lang bonded with wounded vets

He’s a golfer, a filmmaker, a podcaster, and he has no problem swearing (which makes him cool in my book). There are worse people to hit 18 holes with.

When he set out to play at Rob Riggle’s InVETational Golf Classic, he was in for a different type of game. This one had a little more meaning as his team consisted of a couple of wounded warriors from Semper Fi Fund, a charity dedicated to supporting critically ill and catastrophically wounded service members and their families.


Playing Golf w Inspiring Vets at Rob Riggle’s InVETational

Playing Golf w Inspiring Vets at Rob Riggle’s InVETational

Lang’s teammates included 1st Sgt. Michael Barrett (U.S. Marines) and Sgt. Saul Martinez (U.S. Army Retired) — and they were cracking jokes before the first shot of the day. After the opening ceremony, hosted by U.S. Marine Rob Riggle himself, they were off, meeting up with 4-time long drive champion Frank Miller, sharing some wisdom, and, sadly, not winning a trip to Pebble Beach. But they were not winning in style.

I was there that day, and I have to say, it was refreshing to watch Lang’s experience of the event. I was working for We Are The Mighty, capturing footage, sharing the event on social media, and acting as MC for the awards ceremony in the evening.

In other words, I was working, so I didn’t get to see what it was like for everyone who came out to support Semper Fi Fund.

Lang’s video showed that the InVETational did exactly what we’d hoped it would do: raise money for a great cause, get people out of the house and into their bodies, and cross that military-civilian divide.

 

Lang’s dedication was more proof that Riggle’s tournament was a success: “This video is dedicated to those who have served. Please take a moment to experience the feeling of gratitude towards the men and women that have served in your country, whatever country that may be. No matter our differences, political, societal, or geographical, we all have golf.”

Check out the video to see these vets describe what golf means to them, especially after their injuries, and keep an eye out for the 2019 InVETational because it just keeps getting better.

MIGHTY CULTURE

What do military working dogs do?

At least 14,000 years ago in one of the most fascinating (and adorable) evolutionary events, dogs diverged from their wolven ancestors. The details of the domestication process are still hazy, but the results have changed our relationship with dogs completely. Working dogs even save lives.

While most of us view dogs as lovable family pets, they’re much more than that. Dogs have much of the same biological advantages as their evolutionary predecessors, including intelligence and a remarkably keen sense of smell. They’re also highly trainable, making them perfect candidates for jobs that are beyond human capabilities- including jobs in the military. 

military working dog

Military working dogs have been serving the US for over 100 years.

In the earliest years of our country’s history, dogs were out on the battlefield alongside their companions. Come World War II, the first formally trained military working dogs were deployed- over 10,000 of them. They’ve played a role in every war since, with some studies estimating that more than 10,000 human lives were saved by working dogs in Vietnam.

Not all breeds are suited to being military working dogs. 

No offense, but a Shih-Tzu is better designed to be a pillow than a working dog. Many breeds have been used over the years, including Dobermans, Boxers, Rottweilers, and different types of terrier. In recent years, the staple breeds have leaned towards German Shepherds, Dutch Shepherds, and Belgian Malinois. Why? These breeds are fiercely loyal, loving, and obedient, with an insanely powerful bite. Perfect. 

These special pups take on several essential, life-saving roles in the field. These are some of the most common.

military working dogs

Patrol dogs

Trained to work silently, patrol dogs search for snipers and alert troops of possible ambushes. Having them around is a powerful deterrent to enemies. Because they’re so good at what they do, soldiers are often more at ease in their presence. 

Sentry dogs

Sentry dogs are most often used to detect approaching enemies at night. The Coast Guard has even used them to alert ships of enemy submarine activity. 

Messenger dogs

Messenger working dogs are trained to carry messages from one handler to the other. At times, they carry sensitive information through enemy territory, so they must travel as quietly as possible. 

Explosive-detecting dogs

Bomb dogs start training when they’re just a year and a half old, and they’re practically made for the job. Their noses have 300 million olfactory receptors compared to just six million in humans, and over a third of their brain is used to process smells. These finely-tuned sniffers learn to detect the presence of dozens of chemical ingredients. When they recognize an ingredient, they’re trained to sit- can’t have a puppy pawing at TNT, can we? 

Casualty dogs

The most heartwarming of all military working dogs are the ones who literally save lives. Their incredible sense of smell enables them to find injured soldiers in locations a human would never be able to guess. Armed with protective gear and tiny cameras, the dogs scout the scene to lead their human partners to critically injured companions. 

After the terror attacks on September 11, 2001, over 300 search and rescue dogs helped out at ground zero. They sniffed out several injured civilians buried under feet of rubble. Rescue workers were so impressed by one dog that they saved his DNA. A few years later, they made five little casualty dog clones

These dogs aren’t tools of the trade. They’re partners.

Ask any military dog handler, and they’ll tell you that working dogs are more than military assets. They work alongside their human companions with every bit as much loyalty and brotherhood as any other service member, except on four legs and with a much better schnoz. Their comparatively short lifespans make their devotion even more poignant; they truly dedicate most of their lives to saving ours. 

They may not be able to read or speak, but they live up to their unofficial pledge with their actions: 

“My eyes are your eyes. To watch and protect you and yours. My ears are your ears. To hear and detect evil minds in the dark.  My nose is your nose to scent the invader of your domain. And so you may live, my life is also yours.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

The future is bright for our military families

The forecast for America is changing. The country has been dominated by a pandemic with no end in sight. However, the future for the military is looking bright. What does this mean for military families?


Why Members Serve

Surveys show most Americans believe military members serve for patriotic reasons. How do these views compare to the actual reasons why military members serve? Recent studies indicate many members are motivated to serve by the salary and benefits associated with the military. Recruits also express job stability and training opportunities as occupational motives for joining the service.

Recruitment

At the beginning of 2020, military recruiters were facing an uphill battle. The branches of the service were all competing for recruits as the economy and job market were excellent, and the pool of qualified candidates was small. The military was not only competing with itself, but with colleges, and the strong civilian job market.

Fast forward to the present day and consider the short and long-term effects of COVID-19 on the Department of Defense and Homeland Security. The pandemic is challenging all branches of the service in their ability to recruit and train personnel. Due to stay-at-home orders and quarantines, military recruitment and training has slowed in order to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. The stall in recruitment is presenting a challenge no one could have predicted.

However, there is a silver lining. Current unemployment rates and the economic outlook are somewhat dismal. The occupational motives for serving are perhaps more important now than ever. The military provides job and financial security when few civilian jobs exist. Could the economic downfall of COVID-19 be the answer to the recruitment woes of the military? The future of military recruiting is looking bright.

Separation, Retirement, Retention

Some military members serve their initial commitment and separate from the service once the obligation is complete. Others make the military a career serving 20 years or more. The military experiences a high rate of turnover and retention is an on-going battle.

Military aviation serves as an excellent example. All branches of the service are familiar with the pilot shortages seen in recent years. Pilot retention found itself in a downward spiral due to the lucrative pay, flexible schedules, increased control over home life, and benefits affiliated with employment in the commercial sector. Suddenly and unexpectedly, the airline and travel industries are facing unforeseen turbulence. Could the effects of COVID-19 on these two industries be the answer to the military’s pilot retention woes?

COVID-19 is presenting complications for every armed service to maintain a mission-ready workforce. Most branches are currently implementing programs to keep members in the ranks. The Navy recently loosened some retirement restrictions for sailors and officers. The Coast Guard has introduced a new campaign to retain personnel. The Army has made recent promotion and retention policy changes as well. The bottom line is the military needs to keep people from separating. Could the short and long-term effects of COVID-19 in America be the answer to the military’s retention woes?

Impact on Military Families

Military families often express a desire to plant roots and have more control over their lives. Some long for a more “normal” life and discuss the right time to end their military service. Now more than ever, the discussion topic is: How long can we remain in the military? Luckily, military families are always prepared to expect the unexpected.

Perhaps military families need to put the retirement and separation plans on hold. It may seem ironic, but an extended active-duty military career is starting to look like a first-class ticket to stability. Given the current unemployment rates in the United States, the future for military families is looking extremely bright.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Unit Cartoonist: How the Grinch burned down Christmas

Master Sergeant George Hand US Army (ret) was a member of the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, The Delta Force. He is a now a master photographer, cartoonist and storyteller.

(Featured cartoon: The unfortunate Christmas fire started by the Grinch here is likened to the great Chicago Fire of 1871, when a cow being milked by owner Catherine “Cate” O’Leary kicked over an oil lantern that started a hay fire in the barn they were in. The fire killed 300 people and destroyed over 17,000 structures)

Quite a lot of the nation tends to kick back and cut slack during the holidays. Some functions cannot do that by sheer nature of the importance of their contribution. Others will not simply because…they don’t want to.

That was the attitude of my Special Mission Unit. It was a year that we felt we needed to train more, but were just running out of days in the year to do it. It was then that we ran our live-fire urban combat training all the way up to the 24th of December.


Air Force official visits ‘World’s Premier Gateway to Space’

Not even Christmas was a candidate to compromise our resolve to train to standard.

Our urban combat training site was an abandoned neighborhood just off the far end of the runway of a major American airport. The property values had sunk out of sight due to the constant roar of the aircraft overhead. The houses were pretty old, but I don’t think they were older than the airport. It begged the question: “why would anyone think it was a good idea to build a community so close to the flight path of such a large airport?”

Air Force official visits ‘World’s Premier Gateway to Space’

An abandoned hood such as this makes an excellent complicated urban target

subject.

[David Lohr, Huffington Post]

While some real estate investor had come up bust, Delta had gained a 360-degree free-fire city where anything could go into the tactical fight. Our operations cell had worked on the hood for weeks preparing it with modifications: pop-up targets in windows and doors, on roofs, and even behind bushes. Some of the targets moved across streets mounted
on rollers that ran along the tops of cables. There simply was just no way to even modestly know what to expect.

The keyword there is what lends the greatest to the realism of the training venue — not knowing what to expect; to be coaxed into expecting the unexpected. The whole ambiance of the scenario begged every man to constantly scan overhead and wonder just what might burst forth from out of the ground. Therein lies a formidable test of our true live-fire marksman skill.

The Grinch was our Bravo Assault Team Leader. He was a painfully no-nonsense one-man wrecking machine with combat experience in Lebanon, Somalia, the Iraqi Wars, and Afghanistan. “Asscrackistan,” the Grinch would say, “is no place for a fatherless boy.” Yes, just what exactly he meant by that no sane man knew, but it was his version of humor, and knowing that we all laughed each time he said it.

Another famous Grinch-ism: he was once formally quoted to have said to a man: “Well, that’s your opinion, and it’s wrong!” Any attempt to explain the absence of degrees of right or wrong of an opinion was in danger of being met with a lung-collapsing blow to the chest; that’s just how the Grinch rolled. Ours was never to reason why with the Grinch, ours was to pop the snot bubble and move out.

We spent half days planning our assaults on our “Slim City” as we called it: methods of infiltrations onto target, exit strategies, routes of movement to objectives, and contingency plans. The second halves of the days we executed our assaults on targets.

A meeting with the City Mayor’s office and Police Chief was required to secure the use of the abandoned neighborhood that was scheduled for demolition. After presenting a description of the training we planned to do, the Mayor asked our senior officer: “What guarantee can you give me that your men will not miss some of these targets and send bullets whizzing through my city?”

The response: “Because they’ll be told not to,” the senior officer replied — sold!

During the last assault (it’s always on the last assault) the Grinch skillfully maneuvered his pipe-hitters from building to building. The booming of flash-bang grenades and the quick staccato of double-tap* rifle shots was almost rhythmic, to the extent that we could pretty much tell how far through the buildings he was.

Then “it” happened…

The Grinch slammed a flash-bang in a room. It bounced off a wall and came to rest near the open entrance door. When it exploded it shoved the locked door shut. It was a metal door that did not respond to mule kicks from the powerful Grinch: “put a man on it and the rest of us by-pass it!” the Grinch instructed. When they finished clearing the structure, it had become filled with smoke that was coming from the locked room.

“BLOW IT!!” the Grinch called out, and a man immediately slapped a full 80-inch high explosive charge on the door and fired it. With an Earth-rocking explosion, the door was pushed inside the room…but immense flames shot out of the doorway. The Grinch keyed his microphone and called in the situation as structural fire out of control. The Command and Control element had the city fire department alerted.

Air Force official visits ‘World’s Premier Gateway to Space’

It became painfully clear that most the the neighborhood was going to burn.

The old building was consumed totally and in short order by flames which spread from building to building. Soon an entire block was a raging inferno of flame and choking smoke. The pumper trucks from the local fire department showed up. The boys were there to meet the trucks:

“Thanks, we’ll take it from here,” the boys told the fire crews, who stood stunned for many moments, then ultimately had to concede the pipe-hitters who bore no grins upon their faces. It was no joke.

Air Force official visits ‘World’s Premier Gateway to Space’

“They… they took our trucks.

The fire crews huddled at the hood entrance while the boys fought the fires, knocking them down with high-pressure hoses and water canons. The assault tactics on fire were the status quo for any assault, just that water was now being launched. The last of the flames succumbed to the deluge with a small number of structures hardly worth the count.

Air Force official visits ‘World’s Premier Gateway to Space’

The brothers knocked down the flames with high pressure water the best they could.

“Who on God’s Earth is responsible for this?” demanded our ranking officer later into the night where he addressed the balance of the men. The mighty Grinch, offering no sugar coating, took a mighty step forward.

Saying nothing as he stood with hands on hips, and stared the Major down.

“Ok… we’re all tired from a very long day and night; let’s knock it off and get some sleep!” the major conceded.

*Double-tap: two shots of rifle or pistol that are fired very quickly to the chest area of a threat target. Often time they are fired so fast as to be barely discernible as two separate shots fired. Double-taps are often fired with a slower third “clean up” shot to the head. The meter of the event will “sound” like this: “Ba-Bam… bam, Ba-Bam… Bam.”

Air Force official visits ‘World’s Premier Gateway to Space’
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