9 disappointing ways Call of Duty isn't like the military - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY GAMING

9 disappointing ways Call of Duty isn’t like the military

Ah, Call of Duty. A video game that was a far more successful recruitment tool for the Army than the Army’s actual recruitment video game America’s Army.

It’s understandable that the game would plant a good seed in the heads of many teens who play the game. They get a consequence-free taste of the badassery from the safety of their couch. Later they’ll keep the military in the back of their mind and one day they’ll enlist.

If it fills the seats of recruitment offices — it’s fantastic. The only down side is that it kind of paints the military in an unrealistically awesome light. That’s not to say that life isn’t awesome in the military — just not that awesome.


9 disappointing ways Call of Duty isn’t like the military

You’ll think it’s a cool achievement when you finish but everyone else has it unlocked already.

(Photo by Scott Prater)

The tutorial is over nine weeks long

In the video game, you can just skip any training if you’ve already got an idea of how things work. You don’t get that kind of luxury in the real military. Even if you have a good idea how to pick up food with a fork or make a bed, you’ll learn you’ve been doing it wrong your entire life.

Then comes the cool training like rifle marksmanship. You’ll blink and then it’s back to learning that eating and showering should be done in 30 seconds.

9 disappointing ways Call of Duty isn’t like the military

You’re kinda on your own getting “Slight of Hand Pro.”

(DoD photo by Sgt. Tierney P. Nowland)

You can’t really modify your loadout

You can earn cool points in Call of Duty with the people you’re playing with by unlocking all the attachments and skins for your weapons. Hate to burst your bubble but it’s generally frowned upon to spray-paint your M4 bright pink and go on a patrol.

There is a silver lining to this one though. You don’t have to be a Colonel before you can get your hands on an M240-B.

9 disappointing ways Call of Duty isn’t like the military

But it is kinda real with other people running to go steal YOUR package. Still a bit sour about that one.

(U.S. Navy photo by Public Affairs Specialist Joel Diller)

Care packages don’t include attack dogs

Care packages are fun in Call of Duty! If you rack up a high enough score, you can get lucky and find some pretty useful stuff in them, like controllers to drone strikes or a radio to call in an attack helicopter.

Actual care packages usually just include things like socks, hotel soaps, and a chocolate bar that melted on its way to the deserts of Iraq.

9 disappointing ways Call of Duty isn’t like the military

You missed a spot.

(U.S Air Force photo by Tech Sgt. Matt Hecht)

Prestiging isn’t as fun

Prestiging in Call of Duty is a way for players to start their career all over again. When they reach the rank of General of the Army, they can say “f*ck it” and go back to being a private for the fun of it so they can unlock everything all over again — this time with a way to let other players know how cool they are.

In the actual military, going back down to private usually involves a reduction in pay and a lot more menial labor.

9 disappointing ways Call of Duty isn’t like the military

That’s not to imply that we don’t talk smack over the radios. No one really cares as long as you use “over” and “out.”

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Austin Mealy)

The chain of command discourages screaming obsenities over comms

It’s kind of a given that, when given a headset, kids will scream curse words that would have gotten us all slapped by our parents if they ever heard us use them. It doesn’t affect their gameplay, which is all that matters to them, so they’ll keep smack-talking you.

Even just the simplest of improper radio etiquette gets you a stern talking to by the operations sergeant major. Any mentions of doing unspeakable things to someone’s mother will be a near-instant way to “prestige” in rank.

9 disappointing ways Call of Duty isn’t like the military

“Here take a profile. That’ll cure everything!” said every doc ever.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Anthony Zendejas IV)

Healing involves more than hiding for four seconds

Being shot in the face in a video game is really easy to recover from. You just hide behind a rock until your screen stops being red and you’re good to go. Get back in there.

Real life medics and corpsmen like to think they have this ability when they prescribe you a Motrin and a change of socks — but they don’t. That also includes taking a knee and drinking water.

9 disappointing ways Call of Duty isn’t like the military

In either world, do not lose your own dog tags.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jordan A. Talley)

Collecting enemy dogtags isn’t a thing

A fun game mode in Call of Duty is Kill Confirmed, where after players kill the enemy, they have to run over their corpse and collect their dog tags to get points for the kill.

If that was how operations were conducted in the real world, it would make being an artilleryman so much more difficult. And taking war trophies off dead bodies is actually frowned upon by the Geneva Convention.

9 disappointing ways Call of Duty isn’t like the military

Freakin’ campers, man.

(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Joshua C. Allmaras)

Stabbing people in the foot doesn’t instantly kill them

According to the game’s logic, it takes several bullets to the chest to drop somebody, shotguns only work if you’re within three feet of someone, and sniper rifles are great for clearing rooms with. If you manage to find the dude hiding in the corner with a sub-machine gun though, you can stab them to instantly kill them.

No. That is not how any of this works. The grenade launcher thing is pretty close though.

9 disappointing ways Call of Duty isn’t like the military

What kind of military doesn’t allow its troops to single-handedly use a nuclear warhead at their own discretion? Oh? Literally every military? Nevermind.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Dengrier Baez)

No one will let you drop a nuke just because you killed 25 people

The ultimate prize for any Call of Duty is to get a 25-kill streak going without dying. If you can manage this, you can get a tactical nuke that you can drop to instantly win the match.

In reality, killing 25 people just gives you a drinking problem and night terrors.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How a teenager with a Cessna’s insane trip helped topple the Soviet Union

Back in 1987, the world was a very different place. While the Soviet Union was on a crash course with destiny, the power the nation wielded–backed by a massive nuclear arsenal–had left it in a decades-long staring match with the United States.

Mutually Assured Destruction, a doctrine of military strategy that left the two nuclear powers in a stalemate President Ronald Reagan described as a “suicide pact,” had left the world in an uneasy state of both peace and war simultaneously. And nowhere was this dichotomy more present than in the homes of residents of East and West Germany. The nation had been divided since the end of World War II, with NATO’s Western powers in West Germany, and a Soviet puppet-state called the German Democratic Republic in the east.


9 disappointing ways Call of Duty isn’t like the military

East German students sit atop the Berlin Wall at the Brandenburg Gate in front of border guards in 1989 (University of Minnesota Institute of Advanced Studies)

By 1987, the wheels that would ultimately tear down the Berlin Wall dividing East and West Germany physically and ideological were already turning, and a young man named Mathias Rust was keen on playing his part in history. Like many young adults, Rust was increasingly politically minded. Unlike most 18-year-olds, he also had a pilot’s license and access to a Cessna 172 airplane that had been modified by removing the rear seats for added fuel capacity.

In October of 1986, Rust had watched the Reykjavík summit between U.S President Ronald Reagan and Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev. As that summit ended in a stalemate, Rust felt the overwhelming urge to find a way to make a difference.

“I thought every human on this planet is responsible for some progress and I was looking for an opportunity to take my share in it,” he would go on to tell the BBC.

Rust soon began forming a plan. President Theodore Roosevelt once famously said, “Do what you can, where you are, with what you have,” and while it’s unlikely that Rust was aware of the axiom, his actions embodied the premise. He took stock of the skills he had, the resources he had available, and the situation to begin forming an idea. He’d take his little Cessna directly into the heart of the Soviet Union in a political spectacle he hoped would inspire others.

“I was thinking I could use the aircraft to build an imaginary bridge between West and East to show that a lot of people in Europe wanted to improve relations between our worlds,” Rust said.
9 disappointing ways Call of Duty isn’t like the military

Rust’s rented Cessna 172 (WikiMedia Commons)

By May 13, 1987, Rust was ready to put his plan into action, but he still harbored understandable doubts. Today, Russia is renown for their advanced air defense systems, and the same was true of their Soviet predecessors. The USSR maintained the most elaborate and largest air defense system anywhere on the globe and they had demonstrated a propensity for using it against civilian aircraft. Only about five years earlier, the Soviets had shot down a South Korean airliner that had strayed into their airspace, killing all 269 passengers on board.

Rust told his parents he was leaving on a tour of Northern Europe that would help him accumulate more hours toward his professional pilot’s license, and for the first few days, that’e exactly what he did. After a few days of traveling, he stayed in Helsinki, Finland for a few days and pondered what he was about to do. He wanted to make a big public statement, but he wasn’t keen on dying in the process.

“Of course I was afraid to lose my life. I was weighing if it is really responsible, reasonable, to take this kind of risk. At the end I came to the conclusion, ‘I have to risk it.'”

He filed a flight plan that would have taken him to Stockholm and took off just like he would on any other day. As Rust recalls, he still wasn’t really sure he would go through with it until well after he was already airborne.

“I made the final decision about half an hour after departure. I just changed the direction to 170 degrees and I was heading straight down to Moscow.”
9 disappointing ways Call of Duty isn’t like the military

Rust’s flight path (WikiMedia Commons)

It wasn’t long before Soviet air defenses were alerted to his presence. They were tracking him on radar, and within an hour of diverting from his flight plan, fighters had been scrambled to intercept his little Cessna. He was flying low–only about 1,000 feet off the ground or 2,500 feet above sea level, and donned his crash helmet.

“The whole time I was just sitting in the aircraft, focusing on the dials,” said Rust. “It felt like I wasn’t really doing it.”

Fate was on Rust’s side, however, and one of the fighter pilots reported seeing what he believed was a Yak-12–a Soviet plane that looks similar to a Cessna 172. Either the pilot or his air traffic controllers decided that the plane must have been allowed to be there, because they broke off pursuit. At around the same time, Rust descended below the clouds to prevent them from icing up his wings, which also made him disappear from Soviet radar. Once he passed the clouds, he climbed back up to 2,500 feet and popped back up on their radar scopes.

Suddenly, he spotted fighters emerge from the cloud cover in front of him.

“It was coming at me very fast, and dead-on. And it went whoosh!—right over me. I remember how my heart felt, beating very fast,” he explained. “This was exactly the moment when you start to ask yourself: Is this when they shoot you down?”

Before he knew it, Soviet Mig-23 interceptors pulled up alongside him from both beneath him and his left. The single-seat, swing-wing Mig-23 was capable of speeds in excess of Mach 2.3 (more than 300 miles per hour faster than an F-35) and was positively massive compared to Rust’s little Cessna. In order to flank him, the Migs had to lower their landing gear and extend their flaps to scrub their speed enough not to scream past Rust and his single-prop 172.

9 disappointing ways Call of Duty isn’t like the military

Soviet Mig-23

“I realized because they hadn’t shot me down yet that they wanted to check on what I was doing there,” Rust said. “There was no sign, no signal from the pilot for me to follow him. Nothing.”

Rust would later learn that the pilots were indeed trying to contact him, but were using high-frequency military channels. Finally, the Migs pulled their landing gear in, dropped their flaps and screamed off into the distance again, circling rust twice in half mile loops before departing. Rust had once again made it through a brush with Soviet interceptors and was still flying straight for the Soviet capital.

A later investigation would confirm that, either the pilots assumed the Cessna was indeed a Soviet Yak-12, or their command didn’t think the situation warranted any concern. Shortly after the fighters departed, luck would once again deal in Rust’s favor. He unknowingly entered into a Soviet air force training zone where aircraft with similar radar signatures to his own were conducting various exercises. His small plane got lost in the radar chatter, which would save his neck in the following minutes.

9 disappointing ways Call of Duty isn’t like the military

The Soviet Yak-12 looks very similar to a Cessna 172 (WikiMedia Commons)

Protocol required that all Soviet pilots reset their transponder at frequent intervals, and any pilot that didn’t reset theirs would immediately show as hostile on radar. At 3pm, just such a switch was scheduled, but because Rust was flying among a group of student pilots, the Soviet commander overseeing radar operations assumed he was a student that had absent-mindedly forgotten to switch his transponder. He ordered the radar operator to change Rust’s radar return to “friendly,” warning that “otherwise we might shoot some of our own.”

An hour later, Rust was little more than 200 miles outside of Moscow, and subject to a new region’s radar and air defense scrutiny. Once again, radar operators spotted the small aircraft and intercept fighters were dispatched, but the cloud cover was too thick and they were unable to find the small Cessna visually. Soon thereafter, another radar operator would mark Rust’s plane as “friendly,” mistaking it for a search and rescue helicopter that had been dispatched to the region.

As Rust approached Moscow’s airspace, the report that was forwarded to the air defense in the area listed a Soviet aircraft seemingly flying with its transponder off, rather than anything about a West German teenager infiltrating hundreds of miles of heavily guarded Soviet airspace.

9 disappointing ways Call of Duty isn’t like the military

Soviet 2K12 “Kub” air defense system (Andrey Korchagin on Flickr)

Rust then flew his small plane over Moscow’s infamous “Ring of Steel,” which was made up of multiple overlapping air defense systems built specifically to protect the Soviet capital from American bombers. Air defense rings surrounded Moscow at 10, 25, and 45 miles out, all capable of engaging a fleet of heavy bombers, but none the least bit interested in the tiny plane Rust piloted.

Shortly thereafter, Rust entered the airspace over the city itself–an area that had all air traffic heavily restricted, even military flights. As Rust flew over Moscow, Soviet radar operators finally realized something was terribly amiss, but it was too late. There was no time to scramble intercept fighters; Rust was already flying from building to building, trying to identify Moscow’s famous Red Square.

“At first, I thought maybe I should land inside the Kremlin wall, but then I realized that although there was plenty of space, I wasn’t sure what the KGB might do with me,” he remembers. “If I landed inside the wall, only a few people would see me, and they could just take me away and deny the whole thing. But if I landed in the square, plenty of people would see me, and the KGB couldn’t just arrest me and lie about it. So it was for my own security that I dropped that idea.”
9 disappointing ways Call of Duty isn’t like the military

Moscow’s Red Square

Rust spotted a 6-lane bridge that led into Red Square with sparse traffic and only a few power lines he’d need to avoid. He flew over the first set of wires, then dropped the aircraft down quickly to fly below the next set. As he nearly touched down, he spotted a car directly in his path.

“I moved to the left to pass him,” Rust said, “and as I did I looked and saw this old man with this look on his face like he could not believe what he was seeing. I just hoped he wouldn’t panic and lose control of the car and hit me.”

With his wheels on the ground, Rust rolled directly into Red Square. He had wanted to park the plane in front of Lenin’s tomb, but a fence blocked his path and he settled for coming to a stop in front of St. Basil’s Cathedral. He shut down the engine and closed his eyes, taking a deep breath as the reality of his situation slowly engulfed him. He had done the impossible.

“A big crowd had formed around me,” Rust recalled. “People were smiling and coming up to shake my hand or ask for autographs. There was a young Russian guy who spoke English. He asked me where I came from. I told him I came from the West and wanted to talk to Gorbachev to deliver this peace message that would [help Gorbachev] convince everybody in the West that he had a new approach.”
9 disappointing ways Call of Duty isn’t like the military

Rust next to his Cessna 172 in Moscow’s Red Square

He had anticipated being captured immediately by the KGB, but instead found the crowd confused and delighted by his stunning entrance. One woman gave him some bread. A young soldier chastised him for not applying for a visa, but credited him for the initiative. What Rust didn’t realize was that the KGB was already present, and agents were already worming through the crowd, confiscating cameras and notebooks people had Rust sign.

An hour later, two truck loads of Soviet soldiers arrived. They mostly ignored Rust as they aggressively pushed the crowds back and put up barriers around the teenager and his plane. Then three men arrived in a black sedan, one of whom identified himself as an interpreter. He asked Rust for his passport and if they could inspect the aircraft. Rust recalls their demeanor as mostly friendly and even casual.

The plane was then taken to the nearby Sheremetyevo International Airport where it was completely disassembled during its inspection, and despite the friendly demeanor of the Soviets, he was immediately transported to Lefortovo prison. The prison was infamous for its use by the KGB to hold political prisoners.

9 disappointing ways Call of Duty isn’t like the military

A modern view of the Lefortovo prison (WikiMedia Commons)

Initially, the Soviets refused to believe that Rust had accomplished his daring mission without support from NATO forces. The date he chose, May 28, was Border Guards Day in the Soviet Union, and they accused him of choosing the day intentionally to embarrass them. Then they accused him of getting the maps he’d used to reach Moscow from the American CIA… that is, until the Soviet consul in Hamburg confirmed that they could purchase the very same maps through a mail order service.

After realizing Rust was not the world’s youngest and most ostentatious CIA operative, they finally charged him illegal entry, violation of flight laws, and “malicious hooliganism.” Rust pleaded guilty to the first two charges, but refused the third, claiming he had no malicious intent. Nonetheless, he was found guilty on all counts by a panel of three judges and sentenced to four years in the same Lefortovo prison. Despite the prison’s harsh reputation, Rust was mostly well cared for, and even allowed to have his parents visit every two months.

In 1988, Rust was released from prison in a “goodwill gesture” following a treaty between Reagan and Gorbachev that would have both nations eliminate their intermediate range nuclear missiles. It was not quite such a happy ending for many Soviet officials however.

9 disappointing ways Call of Duty isn’t like the military

Rust’s re-assembled Cessna on display in the German Museum of Technology (WikiMedia Commons)

In a way, Rust’s flight did exactly what he’d hoped. The stunt had seriously damaged the reputation of the Soviet military and provided Gorbachev with the leverage he needed to outfox those who opposed his reforms.

Almost immediately following Rust’s landing in Red Square, the Soviet defense minister and the Soviet air defense chief were both removed from their posts for allowing such an egregious violation of Soviet airspace. Shortly thereafter, hundreds of other officers were also removed from their positions. Rust’s flight led to the single largest turnover of Soviet officers since the 1930s, according to Air Space Magazine.

Rust would never sit behind the stick of an aircraft again, but would go down in history as the only pilot to defeat the entirety of the Soviet military using a rented, single prop, trainer plane. Unfortunately, Rust’s seemingly heroic stunt has been overshadowed by the troubled man’s continued run-ins with the law. In the early 90s, he received another prison sentence for assaulting a woman that refused his romantic advances. In 2005, he was again convicted of a crime–this time for fraud. Today he describes himself an analyst for an investment bank, seemingly keen to leave his high-flying theatrics behind him.

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


MIGHTY HISTORY

12 rarely seen photos from the Vietnam War

It was one of America’s longest-running wars. U.S. involvement began in 1954 with a few hundred troops advising national and then Democratic forces in a civil war. U.S. involvement grew and, in 1961, President John F. Kennedy authorized a massive increase in troop deployments to the country. 58,000 Americans would die before the U.S. left the conflict in 1973 and South Vietnam fell in 1975.

Here are 12 photos from the U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center that you won’t see in most textbooks and history papers:


9 disappointing ways Call of Duty isn’t like the military

(U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center)

9 disappointing ways Call of Duty isn’t like the military

(U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center)

9 disappointing ways Call of Duty isn’t like the military

(U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center)

9 disappointing ways Call of Duty isn’t like the military

(U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center)

9 disappointing ways Call of Duty isn’t like the military

(U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center)

9 disappointing ways Call of Duty isn’t like the military

(U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center)

9 disappointing ways Call of Duty isn’t like the military

(U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center)

9 disappointing ways Call of Duty isn’t like the military

(U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center)

9 disappointing ways Call of Duty isn’t like the military

(U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center)

9 disappointing ways Call of Duty isn’t like the military

(U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center)

9 disappointing ways Call of Duty isn’t like the military

(U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center)

9 disappointing ways Call of Duty isn’t like the military

(U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center)

Articles

This retired Navy SEAL shares 100 deadly skills

Yeah, The Official 700 Club isn’t where many people go for advice about how to defend themselves and kill others, but former Navy SEAL Clint Emerson went on the show to promote his book, “100 Deadly Skills: The SEAL Operative’s Guide to Eluding Pursuers, Evading Capture, and Surviving Any Dangerous Situation.”


9 disappointing ways Call of Duty isn’t like the military
(Book cover: Amazon)

Emerson gives a quite a few of the tips and a lot of the mentality behind those skills during an interview on the Christian Broadcasting Network.

Again, not where we normally go for violent advice, either.

Tips run the gamut from always knowing which way you’ll run in a crisis to remembering to keep razor blades hidden nearby and carrying a steel barrel pen that can withstand multiple stabs against an opponent.

Check out the video below. For a guide you can carry around with you, check out the book linked above.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Soldiers weigh in on new Army virtual marksmanship trainer

Soldiers from 10th Mountain Division were some of the first outside of training units to test the Squad Advanced Marksmanship-Trainer system March 20-21, 2019.

Beginning with weapons familiarization on the M4 carbine, M249 light machine gun and M9 Beretta pistol simulated weapon systems, soldiers from the 548th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion commented on the differences between SAM-T and other training systems.


“It was a lot different from what I was expecting,” said Pfc. Sean Jacobs. “I thought it was going to be an expanded EST [Engagement Skills Trainer], but it turned out to be something entirely different. This new program delves into more squad tactics and is not a static engagement.”

9 disappointing ways Call of Duty isn’t like the military

Soldiers from 10th Mountain Division were some of the first outside of training units to test the Squad Advanced Marksmanship-Trainer system March 20-21, 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. Phillip Tross)

While conducting squad movements, soldiers could maneuver through physical obstacles while reacting to an on-screen virtual simulation.

“We weren’t tethered to anything like we are at an EST, so we could move freely when doing squad-level drills with a wall-sized screen,” said Sgt. Micah Yaklich. “The weapons, and even the magazines, had the same weight and feel of our regular systems.”

9 disappointing ways Call of Duty isn’t like the military

Soldiers from 10th Mountain Division were some of the first outside of training units to test the Squad Advanced Marksmanship-Trainer system March 20-21, 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. Phillip Tross)

Using the system’s ability to simulate different training scenarios, such as room-clearing, the squads that participated were able to react to the on-screen avatars controlled by a system-operator nearby.

9 disappointing ways Call of Duty isn’t like the military

Soldiers from 10th Mountain Division were some of the first outside of training units to test the Squad Advanced Marksmanship-Trainer system March 20-21, 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. Phillip Tross)

“In a five man team, you have different scenarios and on-screen characters that interact with you, such as civilians and enemy who respond differently though the training,” said Pfc. Jacobs.

At the end of the training, the soldiers shared their thoughts on the SAM-T system.

“I think everyone needs to go through it … infantrymen, truck drivers, cooks, everyone, because at the end of the day you’re a rifleman first,” said Pfc. Blake Smith.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Air Force’s first enlisted pilots in 70 years

Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance is the number one most requested capability by combat commanders and for more than a year enlisted airmen have been helping the Air Force meet this demand by piloting the RQ-4 Global Hawk.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Dave Goldfein has continually expressed the importance of the ISR force and finding innovative methods to relieve the pressure of getting commanders on the ground more data.


“Looking at new ways to operate within our [remotely piloted aircraft] enterprise is critical given that ISR missions continue to be the number one most requested capability by our combatant commanders. We expect that will only continue to expand,” said Goldfein. “We know our enlisted airmen are ready to take on this important mission as we determine the right operational balance of officer and enlisted in this ISR enterprise for the future.”

9 disappointing ways Call of Duty isn’t like the military

A RQ-4 Global Hawk taxis for take off from the Beale Air Force Base, Calif. June 14, 2018.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Marianique Santos)

In light of this, the Air Force selected 12 active-duty airmen last year to become RQ-4 pilots as part of the first Enlisted Pilot Initial Class, the first enlisted airmen to fly aircraft since 1942.

“I wasn’t expecting to be selected,” said Tech. Sgt. Courtney, an RQ-4 Global Hawk pilot who was part of the initial class. “It was a huge honor and I was extremely excited and nervous. I’m glad I applied, a lot of great opportunities have come from it and I’ve learned a lot more about the RPA (remotely piloted aircraft) enterprise by being able to move to the pilot side.”

Courtney has been part of the ISR career field throughout her career. Over the years she’s filled several roles, including one as an imagery analyst and sensor operator for the MQ-1 Predator and the RQ-4, where she sat next to the pilot operating the aircraft’s camera during missions.

9 disappointing ways Call of Duty isn’t like the military

Enlisted pilots of the RQ-4 Global Hawk at Beale Air Force Base, Cali., are now flying operational missions after completing pilot training. These are the first enlisted Airmen to fly aircraft for the U.S. Air Force since 1942.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Marianique Santos)

She always wanted to be a pilot and was going through the process of applying for Officer Training School to come back and fly RPAs when this program was offered as an exclusive volunteer possibility by the Air Force.

Courtney says even though it’s unique paradigm shift to have officer and enlisted pilots training and flying side-by-side, the dynamic of operating and conducting a mission is no different than on any other airframe.

“It’s important because everybody’s opinion matters when you’re flying an aircraft or executing a mission,” said Courtney. “We’re trained and we’re expected to fill an expectation and a skill level of that crew position. So regardless of what the rank is, our job is to get the mission done and if the senior airman sensor operator has a better idea and it works and I agree with it, then that’s what we’ll go with. Rank doesn’t play a part when we’re executing the mission.”
For RQ-4 pilots, there are a lot of missions.

In 2017, the Air Force was tasked with nearly 25,000 ISR missions, collecting 340,000 hours of full motion video and producing 2.55 million intelligence products — which averages almost five products per minute that close intelligence gaps and support target analysis and development.

The Enlisted Pilot Initial Class training was created to provide more pilots to the RQ-4 program and ensure the Air Force is able to keep up with the high demand for its ISR products.

But, training new pilots takes time as the RPA training program spans almost a full year. Airmen begin Initial Flight Training at Pueblo Memorial Airport in Pueblo, Colorado, where they learn to fly and complete a solo flight in a DA-20 Katana aircraft. After IFT, students progress through the RPA Instrument Qualification Course and RPA Fundamentals Course at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas, and then Global Hawk Basic Qualification Training at Beale Air Force Base, California.

9 disappointing ways Call of Duty isn’t like the military

Maj. Michael, a remotely piloted aircraft fundamentals course instructor pilot, right, discusses a training mission utilizing the Predator Reaper Integrated Mission Environment simulator with Tech. Sgt. Ben, an enlisted pilot student, and Staff Sgt. James, a basic sensor operator course instructor at the 558th Flying Training Squadron at Joint Base San Antonio, Texas Jul. 17, 2018.

(Photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.)

At the conclusion of this training airmen are rated, instrument-qualified pilots who are Federal Aviation Administration certified to fly the RQ-4 in national and international airspace and mission-qualified to execute the high altitude ISR mission.

“We pin their wings on them,” said Keith Pannabecker, a civilian simulator instructor at the 558th Flying Training Squadron at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph. “The creation of the career field was the best thing the Air Force could have done because it created an avenue for folks to volunteer. Beforehand, we were robbing Peter to pay Paul from the manned and unmanned airframes.”

Pannabecker, who is a retired Air Force colonel who helped with the inception of the RPA enterprise, thinks the Air Force is on track with a smart solution to a real problem, which is a shortage of pilots around the whole Air Force.

9 disappointing ways Call of Duty isn’t like the military

Keith Pannabecker, a remotely piloted aircraft qualification instructor pilot, left, monitors a training mission utilizing the T-6 Flight Simulator with Tech. Sgt. Ben, an enlisted RPA pilot student, at the 558th Flying Training Squadron at Joint Base San Antonio, Texas Jul. 17, 2018.

(Photo by Bennie J. Davis III)

“We no longer pull pilots from the manned aircraft,” said Pannabecker. “Now, we’ve got our fresh group of motivated young people that are saying, please pick me to come be RPA pilots, which wasn’t always the case with asking for volunteers from the manned aircraft pilots. So, what we have now is a win-win.”

Since the graduation of the initial enlisted pilots in 2017, the Air Force added 30 more airmen into the training pipeline this year and plans to grow to 100 pilots by 2020. By then the Air Force expects nearly 70 percent of Global Hawk missions will be commanded by the “Flying Sergeants.”

“So, enlisted pilots are a very small force right now and we’ve relied on each other for information and we are each others’ shoulders to lean on,” said Courtney. “It’s going to take some time for enlisted pilots to integrate into the squadron and find the perfect flow, but we are very integrated into the mission.”

9 disappointing ways Call of Duty isn’t like the military

Remotely piloted aircraft qualification instructor pilots and student pilots review the training mission schedules of the the T-6 Flight Simulator at the 558th Flying Training Squadron at Joint Base San Antonio, Texas Jul. 17, 2018.

(Photo by Bennie J. Davis III)

Courtney said during February 2018 all RQ-4 missions in the 12th Reconnaissance Squadron at Beale were flown by enlisted pilots.

“I’m hopeful in the future for the enlisted pilots and an equal playing field, so we won’t be seen as enlisted or officer, but we’ll be seen simply as pilots,” said Courtney.

Courtney believes the only thing that matters is providing intelligence that’s vital to the men and women on the ground fighting every day.

“It’s something that I value and I appreciate. Being able to be the commander of those missions means a lot to me and I take it seriously,” said Courtney. “I have so much respect for the other men and women that fly alongside of me. I’m thankful I’m able to provide that protection and the extra level of intelligence that they need to get their mission done.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

See the Coast Guard and Navy own cocaine smugglers in the Pacific

Members of the US Coast Guard, US Navy, US Customs and Border Patrol, as well as the Colombian navy, intercepted a go-fast boat laden with cocaine in the eastern Pacific Ocean in early April 2018.

The various forces fought a fire on the smuggling vessel before off-loading more than 1,000 pounds of cocaine.


A CBP Air and Marine Operations P-3 patrol aircraft spotted the boat, technically called a low-profile go-fast vessel, in the waters of the eastern Pacific on April 7, 2018. Go-fast boats are specially made vessels, typically made of fiberglass, designed to carry large quantities of drugs with a low surface profile, which helps them avoid visual or radar detection.

The crew on the P-3 reported the go-fast boat to the Joint Interagency Task Force-South, which directed the crew of the US Navy coastal patrol ship USS Zephyr to make an intercept.

After spotting the Zephyr, the crew of the go-fast boat began to throw their cargo overboard. They then jumped overboard themselves when their boat caught fire.

US Coast Guard Navy go-fast smuggling boat drug bust fire

A US Coast Guard law-enforcement team launched from the Zephyr caught up with the go-fast boat and rescued four suspected smugglers. Coast Guard and Navy personnel then fought the fire aboard the suspected smuggling vessel, extinguishing it in about 90 minutes, according to a Coast Guard release.

Coast Guard personnel and other US law-enforcement personnel were then able to recover about 1,080 pounds of what is believed to be cocaine. The Colombian navy ship 07 de Agosto arrived during the recovery to assist with documenting the case. The go-fast boat, which was severely damaged, was intentionally sunk.

“There was no doubt in our minds what needed to be done to salvage the evidence needed for a successful prosecution even if it meant laying Zephyr alongside a burning hull, with the intense heat and acrid smoke hindering our 90-minute firefight,” Lt. Cmdr. Grant Greenwell, commanding officer of the Zephyr, said in the release.

‘We’re basically giving all of this illegal activity a free pass’

The waters of the Pacific along South and Central America have become a particularly busy venue for traffickers.

Colombia, the only South American country with both Pacific and Atlantic coastlines, is the world’s largest producer of coca, the base ingredient for cocaine. (Bolivia and Peru are the only other major producers.)

US Coast Guard go-fast smuggling boat drug bust rescue

Traffickers typically launch from secluded areas on the Pacific coast in Colombia, Ecuador, or Peru and head north. Limited government presence and corruption allow traffickers and criminal groups to operate with relative freedom in these areas, particularly in the coastal areas and inland waterways in western Colombia.

In recent years, trafficking routes have moved farther out, sometimes going around the Galapagos Islands, likely to avoid detection in waters closer to shore.

“During at-sea interdictions in international waters, a suspect vessel is initially located and tracked by US and allied, military or law enforcement personnel,” the Coast Guard said in its release. “The interdictions, including the actual boardings, are conducted by Coast Guard members.”

The cargoes that make it through are typically off-loaded somewhere in Central America — Coast Rica in particular has become a busy drug-transit hub— and then they’re moved up the coast via another ship or overland through Central America and Mexico toward the US border.

More than 90% of the cocaine that makes it to the US comes through the Central America/Mexico corridor, though there are signs that traffickers are trying to increase production in Central America itself.

US Coast Guard go-fast boat drug bust fire

The US and international partners have stepped up their operations in the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea, including Operation Martillo, a US, European, and Western Hemisphere initiative launched in 2012, and through the US Coast Guard’s Western Hemisphere strategy, which started in 2014.

The US Coast Guard has warned repeatedly in recent years that its resources fall short of what is needed to fulfill its interdiction responsibilities in the US’s southern maritime approaches.

“In 2014, we knew where about 80% to 85% of the activity was taking place, to include when a go-fast [boat] was leaving Colombia or Ecuador or somewhere in Central America with a shipment ultimately destined for the United States,” Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft told Business Insider in December 2017. “But on the best of days we could probably put a ship over next to and a plane above maybe 10% of that 80% to 85%. We’re basically giving all of this illegal activity a free pass.”

Zukunft said the ultimate goal was deter traffickers and the people who sign on to transport drugs and contraband.

“We want these smugglers to look at that same risk calculus and say, ‘You know, you can’t pay me enough to move a shipment of illegal drugs, because I don’t want to get arrested. I don’t want to spend the next 10-plus years of my life in a US prison, where I’m severed from my family in isolation.'”

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is how the Coast Guard got its stripes

This famous logo first came to life during the early 1960s when there was an urgent need to identify the rescue and law enforcement service to other boaters and military craft, air and sea. During WWII, Coast Guard Cutters were painted like other warships but carried the letter “W” in front of their hull number to distinguish from the US Navy. The iconography as we know it was ordered and adopted by President John F. Kennedy, and the service has never looked back.


The icon of the US Coast Guard is emulated by other similar organizations and agencies around the globe in some fashion, especially the diagonal design of the stripes.

9 disappointing ways Call of Duty isn’t like the military
That feeling when you first realize that all Coast Guard assets have diagonal stripes… (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Fireman Taylor Bacon)

There is a profound difference in the color scheme of the two logos, even including the additional wording, “Auxiliary.” Both logos embody the same mindset and core mission values. The US Coast Guard Auxiliary is an integral part of operations for the service, providing tremendous benefit to the public in areas of boating safety, inspections, and training.

Where did the Auxiliary get its start? Congress passed a law on June 19, 1941 that restructured the Coast Guard Reserve. From then on, the service was directed to operate two reserve forces. The already-existing civilian reserve organization was renamed the US Coast Guard Auxiliary. The newly structured US Coast Guard Reserve was to function on a military basis, providing an important resource of wartime capabilities, very similar to the duties of the other armed services.

9 disappointing ways Call of Duty isn’t like the military
The iconic Coast Guard stripes. Imagery from US Coast Guard.

The next time you see one of these dedicated professionals at a boat show, at a marina, on patrol, at a training seminars, or performing safety inspections, please remember: without them, the waterways we enjoy for recreational boating would be much different and complex.

Coupled with the Power Squadron, other boating safety organizations, and license training institutions, they expertly provide essential, and sometimes under-appreciated, assistance. Boating safety is not complete with a one-time educational event, but is a full-time endeavor.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Copy of Watch Stone Cold Steve Austin interview this WWII tanker who saw combat in France

This article is sponsored by World of Tanks Console.

We all know Stone Cold Steve Austin from his years when he was the face of World Wrestling Entertainment. “The Texas Rattlesnake” was one of the toughest, most badass wrestlers who left an indelible mark in the ring — both on TV and on the silver screen. Recently, we got to see Stone Cold sit down with some gentlemen who exhibited an entirely different type of toughness and heroism. By partnering up with Wargaming, the company responsible for the hit game World of Tanks, Austin recently sat down to interview three World War II tankers about their experiences. Their stories are powerful, harrowing, and heartbreaking.

The first veteran interviewed is Walter Stitt.


Walter served in World War II as a tank gunner. He was assigned to E Company of the 33rd Armored Regiment of the 3rd Armored Division. Upon answering the call and enlisting, his father gave him a piece of advice. He told Walter to not tell the Army that he was a truck driver, but to say he was a student — “maybe they’ll send you to school,” he mused. So, Walter listened to his father and told the Army he didn’t want to have anything to do with a steering wheel. And so, Walter was promptly assigned to be a tanker — which had levers and not a wheel (got to love Army humor, right?).

Stitt participated in the Normandy campaign and was initially anchored offshore because the weather was so bad. After three days, the tanks finally were allowed to move onto the beach and into the infamous hedgerow country of the Normandy peninsula. A mile up the road, he had to dig his first foxhole — and he quickly found out why. That night, a German bomber rained fiery mayhem on troops just a few yards from his position. After that, Walter said, “whenever they said ‘dig a foxhole”, I was one of the ones who grabbed a shovel and started.

9 disappointing ways Call of Duty isn’t like the military

US M4 Sherman, equipped with a 75 mm main gun, with infantry walking alongside.

(US Army)

When Steve Austin asks, “what was it like the first time being shot at?” Stitt tells us a harrowing story of a sniper taking a shot at him and missing by a “matter of a couple of inches.” Unfortunately, not all of his fellow troops were so lucky. “If a tank got hit, usually someone got killed… That was the sad part.”

So, how dangerous was it to be a tanker during World War II? The 3rd Armored Division had more killed in action than the 101st Airborne. In that Division alone, over 22,000 men were killed and over 600 tanks were lost in the campaign to liberate Europe.

Stone Cold Steve Austin’s questions help Stitt take us on an amazing journey into one of the most far-reaching conflicts in history. To learn more, straight from the mouths of allied heroes, check out the interview.

To continue the Tank action, be sure to check out World of Tanks on PlayStation 4 or Xbox One today. Through the World of Tanks Tanker Rewards program, Wargaming offers tons of benefits and exclusive rewards both in-game and in person for all registered players. Be a part of our current WWE season and get endless opportunities to claim WWE and Tanker rewards. To learn more about the program, click here.

This article is sponsored by World of Tanks Console.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why the US is painting jets to look like Russian fighters

The US Air Force’s 64th Aggressor Squadron, which uses 20 F-16 fighter jets to train the rest of the force on realistic battle scenarios against enemy fighters, will use the paint scheme of Russia’s newest fighter jet, the Su-57, for one of its jets.

And this should give the US a considerable advantage in aerial combat against the Russian jet that’s meant to take on US F-22 and F-35 fighters, Brig. Gen. Robert G. Novotny, who commands 38 squadrons including the 64th, told The Drive.


Beyond-visual-range radars and missiles that can seek heat or electronic emissions have made visual camouflage on aircraft somewhat less of a priority over the years, but Novotny said camo still has an important psychological effect.

9 disappointing ways Call of Duty isn’t like the military

A rendering of the F-16’s new paint scheme.

(57th Wing Commander / Facebook)

The Su-57 sports a “digital shark” paint job of pixelated blues and grays that distorts what pilots may see in the air. The US, as a counterpoint, has largely abandoned painting its jets with camouflage and has moved to integrating stealth coatings.

“Long ago, when aerial combat almost always involved visually acquiring the adversary, an enemy aircraft paint scheme could provide an advantage by either delaying detection, i.e., it blended in with the background environment, or it could confuse a pilot by masking its aspect angle or range,” Novotny told The Drive.

In the past, the Aggressor Squadron has sported paint jobs from Russia’s Su-34 and Su-35 fighters, as well as China’s J-20 stealth fighter.

A major advantage for US fighters

“The aggressor paint schemes serve a purpose other than just looking cool,” Novotny said. He cited the book “Red Eagles: America’s Secret MiGs” by Steve Davies that explains “buck fever,” a phenomenon that happens to fighter pilots upon seeing the enemy.

Novotny said Davies described it as “the emotion a new hunter feels the first time they aim a rifle at a deer,” or something that can cause well-trained pilots to freeze up and fail to act in combat.

9 disappointing ways Call of Duty isn’t like the military

(Russian Embassy / Twitter)

“Although the 64th Aggressors are not flying actual [Russian] aircraft, we use adversary paint schemes to help mitigate the risk of buck fever,” Novotny continued. “Based on that threat-representative training, our warfighters are much more likely to arrive at a merge, visually identify the enemy, and kill!”

The Aggressor with the new paint job will soon start in on a busy schedule of simulated air combat against US fighters like F-15s, F-22s, and F-35s in exercises like Red Flag at Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas, where the squadron is based.

While the Su-57 paint job is designed to ready the US for combat against a formidable Russian fighter, it was not the obvious first choice, or even a choice made by Novotny — he posed the question to his Facebook followers, who overwhelmingly chose the Su-57.

Though the Su-57 has no large orders on the books and may never see a large role in Russia’s air force, people apparently jumped at the idea of a US fighter taking on the new challenge.

Novotny, for his part, agreed that the Su-57 was a relevant foe to train against.

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

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

No hand sanitizer? No problem. Here’s how to make your own.

The world is on high alert as COVID-19, more commonly known as Coronavirus, was declared a global pandemic today by the World Health Organization. WHO and other medical experts are imploring people to wash their hands, wipe down surfaces and not to touch your face. As more and more people take precautions seriously, more and more shelves are being emptied of things like toilet paper, paper towels and one of the most necessary items for on-the-go hygiene: hand sanitizer.

Empty shelves? Make your own. And the best part? It only takes two ingredients.


No hand sanitizer? No problem. Here’s how to make your own. #coronavirus #preparednesspic.twitter.com/EtKW06PAZM

twitter.com

We promise it’s that easy, but here’s a video so you can see for yourself. This mother-daughter duo also has some great tips on how to make your homemade hygenic concoction smell a little less like you’re a walking disinfectant. Although in these times, that’s definitely not a bad thing.

www.youtube.com

Humor

9 ISIS weapon fails that you have to see to believe

Take care of your gear and your gear will take care of you. Sounds simple, right?


Apparently not for terrorists. Most of them don’t thoroughly study their weapon systems before employing that power on the battlefield.

There are also the bad guys just want record themselves laying rounds down range for honor?social media purposes.

We’re glad they did because they have some epic weapon fails that we now get to laugh at.

Related: The military is going to put laser attack weapons on fighters

9. The terrorist who just can’t seem to keep his balance.

Can we get this guy a seat belt or something? (Images via Giphy)

8. This isn’t technically a weapons fail, but seeing the bad guys get smashed by a truck — we couldn’t pass that up.

Oopsie. (Images via Giphy)

7. You gotta love a funny ISIS negligent discharge every once in a while.

We guess he’s not used to touching something sensitive. (Images via Giphy)

Also Check Out: 9 weapon fails that will make you shake your head

6. Somebody didn’t properly lube their rifle before the ambush.

This is why terrorists can’t have nice things. (Images via Giphy)

5. There’s never a trained mortarman around when you need one.

Someone call the EOD techs. (Images via Giphy)

4. When you lie on your resume to get the tank driver position…but you get the job anyways.

Your left or my left? (Images via Giphy)

3. Just when you think you found a brilliant new way to fire that rocket you stole.

It looked good on paper. (Images via Giphy)

2. When you’re too focused lining up that perfect shot, but an American sniper ruins it.

Even the camera knew to get down. (Images via Giphy)

Also Read: This is who would win a shoot off between a ‘Ma Deuce’ and a Minigun

1. When your rocket just doesn’t have enough juice.

Maybe next time. (Images via Giphy)

MIGHTY TRENDING

An airman looks back on the Khobar Towers attack

Post-Traumatic stress disorder carries him into the depths of fear and pain; reliving images of death and destruction. Closing his eyes to night terrors at sundown and fighting through daily anxiety attacks eventually pushed him to the brink of suicide so he could put an end to the never-ending cycle.

It wasn’t until his second suicide attempt that Air Force veteran and Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center support agreement manager Ryan Kaono took steps to face his invisible scars and reach out for help.

It was 2010 and he hadn’t slept in more than four days, knowing he’d get flashbacks of what he’d experienced during deployments to Saudi Arabia and Iraq.


“They were terrible,” Kaono said. “I would wake up screaming and my wife would be scared. Out of desperation, I decided I was going to end it.”

Kaono’s wife, Alessa, said it was very difficult for her to watch her husband suffer with no real diagnosis.

“You feel helpless,” she said. “I described it as having an animal or child unable to speak yet you know they’re feeling something. You see a look in their eyes that they’re suffering but you don’t know what you can do to help them.”

9 disappointing ways Call of Duty isn’t like the military
Ryan Kaono, a support agreement manager with the Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center, takes a moment to breath while his service dog Romeo assesses the situation.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Armando Perez)

Exhausted and going through myriad feelings, Kaono swallowed numerous prescription drugs in the hopes of not waking up. Something inside him, however, made him reach out to his commander for help, letting her know what he’d done.

He was admitted to the Los Angeles Veterans Affairs hospital for a few days of observation and diagnosed with PTSD. This began his journey of living with the disorder instead of being a slave to it.

His diagnosis came with some relief but angst as well.

“I was scared yet relieved at the same time,” Alessa said. It was a roller coaster of emotions. I was happy he was finally diagnosed but both he and I knew it would be a long and difficult journey at times.”

Even today, two deployments replay in the mind of the former security forces military working dog handler and logistician.

Khobar Towers, Saudi Arabia

In June 1996, Kaono was working a gate at Khobar Towers, Saudi Arabia, when a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device detonated on the other side of the compound, killing 19 and wounding countless others.

“When the actual blast went off, it was chaos everywhere,” Kaono said. “I had to stop and put that part behind me. I needed to focus and ensure that the folks who had been injured or disoriented … were taken care of.”

For years, he continued pushing the many visions of pain and suffering he’d seen there to the back of his mind where they festered.

In total, the Hawaii-native had 11 deployments as a security forces defender by the time he found himself at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, struggling with anger issues.

“I would quickly get frustrated; I would have bouts of just frustration and real anger,” he said.

While on a smoke break outside of central security control one day, Kaono lost consciousness and fell to the ground. Controllers inside the building were able to see what happened and his officer-in-charge ran to his aid.

When he regained consciousness, his captain was leaning over his chest, trying to wake him.

9 disappointing ways Call of Duty isn’t like the military
U.S. and Saudi military personnel survey the damage to Khobar Towers caused by the explosion of a fuel truck outside the northern fence of the facility on King Abdul Aziz Air Base near Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, at 2:55 p.m. EDT, Tuesday, June 25, 1996.

He was quickly taken to the hospital where he suffered with partial paralysis in his legs for about 10 hours and the inability to use his body from the base of his neck to his fingertips for three days.

His medical team diagnosed him with syncope; the uncontrollable loss of consciousness with no real explanation.

“From that, they determined I couldn’t deploy, I couldn’t carry a weapon so I couldn’t really be a security forces member anymore,” Kaono explained. “I was force retrained for medical reasons into logistics.”

Balad Air Base, Iraq

Fast forward to 2005 when Kaono served as first sergeant and deployment manager for the 93rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron in Balad, Iraq.

As a dual-hatted logistics planner and first sergeant in the Reserve, he was responsible for making sure unit members arrived safely at their deployed location, were able to get their jobs done and would return home to Homestead Air Reserve Base, Florida, when their deployment was over.

While in a meeting with senior leaders, the base began taking mortar fire that impacted closer and closer to Kaono’s trailer and two fully-loaded F-16s nearby.

“They were trying to walk (mortars) up our runway to our loaded aircraft,” Kaono said, with the expectation that they’d be able to hit the aircraft causing secondary explosions with more damage.

While everyone in the room was running for cover, Kaono gathered up classified materials to stow in a safe.

“It wasn’t my first mortar attack so I really didn’t think anything of it,” he said.

With the sensitive documents in the safe, Kaono turned to leave to seek shelter when a mortar pierced the aluminum trailer and exploded, sending him 15-20 feet in the air before slamming his head and right shoulder into a concrete Jersey barrier.

“It felt essentially like The Matrix … I’m floating through the air and everything is going in slow motion. I see shrapnel and dust and everything just going around me,” he said.

Once he hit his head, he was snapped back to reality and felt the severe pain of what would later be diagnosed as a traumatic brain injury.

“I went to the hospital there at Balad and they checked me out and told me I had a concussion but that was about it; nothing really life threatening so I didn’t get sent home,” he said.

When he eventually rotated back to Homestead, he went through a standard post-deployment physical health assessment where he initially struggled with discussing what he’d endured. When he was able to talk about it, the doctor said he entered what was considered a fugue state — a complete loss of what was going on around him.

“I essentially was staring off into nothingness for a period of time suffering a flashback,” he said.

“From there, they said I had a possibility of PTSD and they sent me on my way.”

Five years later, after his extreme cries for help, his PTSD diagnosis came.

PTSD, the daily struggle

“PTSD and living with it is a daily struggle,” Kaono said. “We’re always cognizant of it. Those who are around us may see us and see absolutely nothing’s wrong. We don’t typically have external signs of our disability but emotionally and mentally, we still have to deal with it.”

In the years between 1996 and today, Kaono said there were times when he would just shut himself away because he didn’t want to be a burden on anyone. There were also times when he could go to work and feel that people would think there was nothing wrong with him because he looked fine.

9 disappointing ways Call of Duty isn’t like the military
Ryan Kaono, a support agreement manager with the Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center, shares a laugh with a videographer during an interview while his service dog Romeo keeps a steady eye on the photographer.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Armando Perez)

“That just reinforced the issue that I had,” he said. “To me, one of the main issues of dealing with PTSD is that people don’t (realize) … they don’t see you missing a limb, they don’t see you scarred, they don’t see you burned and so to the outside world you look like you’re no different — you’re not special, you have no issue, no disability to really claim.”

In order to live his life, Kaono has to acknowledge his PTSD and what caused it every single day.

“If I continued down the path that I was on previously, where I just let it consume me, I wouldn’t be here today,” he said.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs estimates 31 percent of Vietnam veterans, 10 percent of Gulf War veterans, 20 percent of Iraqi war veterans and 11 percent of veterans from the war in Afghanistan live with PTSD.

To be able to help them, Kaono recommends people educate themselves on the disorder.

“Find out what post-traumatic stress is, see what it does, look at the studies that show why there are 22 people per day committing suicide because they can’t handle the stress anymore. Don’t just pass us off as being fine … that’s the worst thing that people can do.”

On top of everything else, dealing with the stigma of having PTSD is a struggle for the Kaono family.

“When people hear the word PTSD they think of the negative news articles out there. Ryan may have PTSD, but it doesn’t make him any less of a human being,” Alessa said.

“We’re not asking people to walk on eggshells around us,” Kaono said. “Treat us as if you would treat anybody else … we are still people. We still hold jobs. We still have families.We still have responsibilities and if you don’t give us the opportunity to meet those responsibilities, you’re not helping us.”

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

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