These airmen secured the skies during the 9/11 attacks - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

These airmen secured the skies during the 9/11 attacks

As the towers fell and the nation reeled on Sept. 11, 2001, a team of New York Air National Guardsmen at the Northeast Air Defense Sector (NADS) in rural Rome, New York were tasked with searching for missing plans and scrambling fighters in response to the attacks.

Since renamed the Eastern Air Defense Sector, Air Guardsmen there were at the center of the military’s air response on that day. On duty for a NORAD training exercise, Vigilant Guardian, they now have a unique view on the events of Sept. 11, 2001, thanks to their roles in the response.


New York Air National Guard Maj. Jeremy Powell was a 31-year-old tech sergeant taking part in Exercise Vigilant Guardian when 9/11 occurred. He was the first military person to learn about the hijackings after taking the initial call from the Federal Aviation Administration’s Boston center. Master Sgt. Stacia Rountree was a 23-year-old senior airman working as an identification technician. Vigilant Guardian was her first major NORAD exercise.

Like every other American, Powell and Rountree remember that day vividly. Here are eight things they recall about the day that you might not know.

These airmen secured the skies during the 9/11 attacks

After Sept. 11, 2001, this is what the NEADS operation floor looked like. Above the Q-93 (the large green radar scope) is the NORAD contingency suite that was installed immediately after 9/11 to provide radar data of the entire country.

(Master Sgt. Stacia Rountree, Eastern Air Defense Sector)

It was not a drill

It took some time for NEADS to realize 9/11 was a real-world scenario and not part of the exercise. Once they did, there was even more confusion trying to find the missing planes, which always seemed to be a step ahead of them.

“We were treating all the information we got as real-time, not understanding that it was coming to us late,” said Rountree, who basically became a liaison between the FAA and the military for the rest of that day.

“We were trying to figure out departure destination, how many people were on board, how big the aircraft actually was, and factoring all of that stuff in. That way the [F-15 and F-16] fighters, when they got airborne, would know that they had the right plane in sight,” she said.

“I stayed on the phone for 12-14 hours, just calling all the bases and asking how quick the fighters could get armed, get airborne, and if they could go to a certain location,” Powell said.

There was little time between FAA call and the first crash

Just 10 minutes elapsed between the time Powell took the first call to NEADS about the hijackings to when the first plane, American Airlines Flight 11, hit the North Tower — not enough time to get fighters into the air.

According to the 9/11 Commission’s report, the call from the FAA’s Boston center came into NEADS at 8:37 a.m.

“8:46 is when I scrambled the first fighters [from Otis Air National Guard Base, Massachusetts], and then 8:53 they were airborne,” Powell said.

But it was too late to help American 11, which hit the World Trade Center’s North Tower at 8:47 a.m.

There were several more reports of hijackings over the day

By the time the day was over, Rountree said there were probably 19 or 20 planes that she and the other ID techs had investigating as possible hijackings. Only the initial four — American 11, United Airlines Flight 175, American Airlines Flight 77 and United Airlines Flight 93 — were the real deal.

At one point, there were reports that American 11 was still airborne. Air traffic controllers likely confused it with American 77, which was somewhere over Washington, D.C. air-space.

Rountree said she tried to contact the FAA’s Washington Center to get a position on it, while Langley Air Force Base fighters were trying to get to the capital.

These airmen secured the skies during the 9/11 attacks

New York Air National Guard Maj. Jeremy Powell, a tech sergeant on 9/11, was asked to play himself in the Paul Greengrass film “United 93” about the passengers who kept the fourth hijacked plane from reaching its destination in Washington, D.C. Powell, pictured here in a screen grab from the film, said he believed the movie was as spot-on as you could get, as far as what happened at NEADS was concerned.

“It was probably only a couple of minutes, but to me, it seemed like a lifetime. Then we got the reports that the plane hit the Pentagon,” Rountree remembered. “I was actively trying to find that plane, and I felt that we may have had some time. We didn’t.”

Fighter pilots were ready to make the ultimate sacrifice

The fighters were meant only to shadow potentially hijacked planes, but Rountree said there was discussion of those pilots making the ultimate sacrifice.

“In case their weapons were out, and if we would have had to use force, they were discussing whether or not those guys would have to go kamikaze,” she said, meaning some pilots were considering risking their own lives by using their planes to stop hijacked jetliners. “It was scary, when you thought about the possibility of them having to do that.”

There was a moment of hope for Flight 93

While all of the crashes were shocking, Rountree said that, for her, United 93 was the saddest. They had been trying to find the plane on radar and had called the FAA to get an updated position.

“They said, ‘It’s down,’ and we were thinking it landed,” Rountree remembered. But when they asked for landing confirmation, the info was clarified — it crashed. “For us, you had that glimmer of hope, and then… .”

NEADS was evacuated September 12

The day after 9/11, NEADS was evacuated because there was an unknown plane up at the time, and no one was supposed to be airborne.

“There were fighters coming back from air patrol over NYC … so our commander had them go supersonic over to where we were so they could figure out what it was. They thought it was heading toward us,” Rountree said.

It turned out to be a harmless floatplane, and it was forced to land.

9/11 changed the role of the air defense sectors

“Back then, the primary focus was that we were looking out at people coming to attack us from the outside,” Powell said. “We weren’t really focused on the inside.”

“Nobody thought that somebody would go ahead and utilize planes that were in the U.S. to do something, so our radar coverage was indicative of that,” Rountree explained. “Now, our coverage has definitely increased. It’s night and day versus then.”

The sector now has new and evolving technology.

“Our computer systems are bigger and better. … You should see all of the radars that are now hooked up. Everything the FAA sees, we see. We are much more actively involved in the identification of all aircraft in the United States,” Powell said.

Before 9/11, Rountree said they couldn’t always get in touch with critical personnel at the FAA centers. Now they can.

“We really didn’t have to talk to the various Air Traffic Control Center supervisors. Now, we have instant lines with everybody,” she said.

The military has been monitoring the skies over the U.S. ever since.

“A lot of people didn’t even realize that we were probably there, or what we even do, which could be a good thing,” Powell said. “It reinforces the idea that somebody’s always watching you, especially in the sky. The FAA’s there — that is their airspace — but the military is, too.”

Never Forget.

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Defense. Follow @DeptofDefense on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Blue Star Families seeking minority representation in Military Family Lifestyle Survey

The Blue Star Families Military Family Lifestyle Survey is actively seeking more representation for persons of color. The survey is a vital tool utilized by government officials to determine the needs of the military community.

With the survey ending on October 16, 2020, Blue Star Families seeks more participation from Black, Hispanic and Asian members of the military community, who are often underrepresented in measures of family stability and wellbeing. More diverse data collection in this survey will allow for a more accurate representation of the realities facing military members, their families and our veterans.


In an article on their website, Dr. Jessica Strong explained the significance of the survey. ” Blue Star Families started with a survey because if they want to explain what military families are experiencing, the best thing to do is ask them,” she said. Strong is a U.S. Army spouse who works as the organization’s co-director of applied research.

The survey itself covers a broad range of subjects as it relates to military life. Hot topics include child care, spouse employment, the pandemic and education, among others. The survey lends a comprehensive picture of the reality of the military community so that decisions can be made on how to address issues that come up.

One of the other parts of the survey is aimed at understanding diversity in the military community. But without significant participation from persons of color within the military community, their unique needs may be overlooked and underrepresented.

The survey itself is completely voluntary and takes anywhere from 20-35 minutes, depending on how long you spend on each question. Conducted only once a year, survey results determine a whole host of programs and governmental responses to issues that need to be addressed.

Each year, more than one million people are impacted by Blue Star Families’ programs. Over million in value has been accessed in benefits by military families. With a four star charity rating, they’ve maintained their commitment to the military community. But one of the most important things that they do for the community lies in the Military Family Lifestyle Survey. It is imperative that everyone take the time to make their voice heard because it matters.

Their website hones in on the need to bridge the gap saying, “The goal of Blue Star Families’ research and policy work is to increase the awareness and understanding of military family life trends and the ramifications for both our Armed Forces and our American society.”

Since 2009, the organization has been dedicated to serving the military community through active engagement with the civilian and governmental sectors to ensure quality of life.

Through partnerships with the government, communities, nonprofits and the military community, Blue Star Families is already making a difference. But they need your help. Take the time to fill out the survey and make sure your voice and needs are heard, so that BSF can continue to serve you and your family.

To complete the 2020 Military Families Lifestyle Survey, click here.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Museum creates massive replica of Nimitz flight deck

The National Naval Aviation Museum at Naval Air Station-Pensacola unveiled a nearly 9,000 square foot scale replica exhibit of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz’s (CVN 68) flight deck, Oct. 31, 2018.

The museum’s theater ticket counter was built to look like Nimitz’s island, and the flight deck is the second phase of the museum’s Nimitz project.


For the man in command of the ceremony, the Nimitz flight deck and having the towering 68 at his back was familiar territory.

“I’ve had the opportunity to deploy with her on three separate occasions,” said retired Navy Capt. Sterling Gillam, director, National Naval Aviation Museum. “My first arrested landing as a young aviator was on Nimitz. She is the oldest carrier in our fleet and in my opinion the most capable.”

These airmen secured the skies during the 9/11 attacks

Retired Marine Corps. Lt. Gen. Duane Theissen, President and CEO of the Naval Aviation Museum Foundation addresses guest during an unveiling of the 1/4 replica flight deck exhibit of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Cole Schroeder)

This exhibit is Gillam’s way of sharing a story in an interactive way. The exhibit gives viewers a chance to not only learn the history of Nimitz, but to see, touch and feel it.

“Our job here at the National Naval Aviation Museum is to tell the story of our rich, 107-year legacy of Naval aviation,” said Gillam. “That history is not static. Right now, men and women are flying off aircraft carriers around the world. These are Nimitz class carriers.”

There were many moving parts that brought this project, as well as the ceremony, together.

These airmen secured the skies during the 9/11 attacks

Retired Navy Capt. Sterling Gillam, left, Director of the Naval Aviation Museum along with retired Navy Vice Adm. Jim Zortman, middle, the chairman of the Naval Aviation Museum Foundation, and retired Marine Corps. Lt. Gen. Duane Theissen, President and CEO of NAMF prepare to cut the ribbon during an unveiling of a 1/4 replica flight deck exhibit of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz.

“The museum is a part of history,” said George Taylor, project manager. “The guys that worked with us to get the flooring in place, brought their families out. They were proud that they were a part of history.”

“This new display is designed to get our visitors in the frame of mind of what they’re going to experience throughout the museum,” said retired Marine Corps. Lt. Gen. Duane Thiessen, president and CEO of the Naval Aviation Museum Foundation. “They’re going to step on to a facsimile of a Nimitz class carrier. This is today. This is the Navy today. It’s deployed today. It’s operational today. These visitors are then going to go off of this carrier, through the museum, and they’re going to then learn and understand how they got to that point.”

These airmen secured the skies during the 9/11 attacks

Retired Navy Capt. Sterling Gillam, Director of the Naval Aviation Museum prepares the Ouija board display before the unveiling of replica flight deck exhibit of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Cole Schroeder)

Thiessen talked about the unveiling event as being the first of many experiences for those visiting the museum in the future.

“You come here, you’re going to get an experience,” said Thiessen. “You don’t just learn something, you get to touch it, you get to understand it, and you get to experience it.”

Although Nimitz will one day reach its life span and be replaced, its history and legacy will live on at the National Naval Aviation Museum.

Gillam may never again have the opportunity to launch from a flight deck or feel the jet’s tailhook catch the arresting gear wire. However, his contribution, and that of thousands of others who have served on board Nimitz, will be preserved as part of the Nimitz legacy.

This article originally appeared on the United States Navy. Follow @USNavy on Twitter.

Articles

9 things we miss from our Afghanistan deployments

With possibility of a huge troop surge to Afghanistan coming from the Trump administration, We Are The Mighty asked several OEF combat vets what they missed most from their time “in the suck.” Here’s what they had to say.


Related: 7 items every Marine needs before deploying

Thanks to the Facebook page “Bring the Sangin Boys Back” for contributing.

1. Afghan naan bread

Regardless of the rumors how the bread is pressed (by Afghans’ feet) it was delicious.

Here they’re just mixing the bread. (image via Giphy)

2. Band of Brothers

The lifelong friends you made in combat are priceless, and there’s nothing else like it.

Yup. (images via Giphy)

3. Awesome nights

With a lack of electricity, there was no artificial illumination to spoil the night sky, it made the stars pop even more.

Not an Afghan night sky, but you get the point. (images via Giphy)

4. Low responsibility

You went on patrol, pulled some time on post, worked out, slept and…pretty much that’s about it.

woke right up when sh*t went down. (images via Giphy)

5. You got to blow sh*t up  

The best part of the job while serving in the infantry was delivering the ordnance.

3/5 Get Some! (image via Giphy)

6. Firefights

Getting a chance to put all your tough training to use and put rounds down range at the bad guys was freakin’ epic.

It was that fun. (images via Giphy)

7. Getting jacked

When you’re stuck out in the middle of nowhere and have 24 different of high-calorie MREs to choose from, there’s no better way to pass the time than hitting a gym made of sand bags, 2x4s, and engineer sticks.

1,2,… 12 (images via Giphy)

8. Movie night

Huddling around a small laptop watching a comedy or “Full Metal Jacket” was considered a night out on the town. And we loved it.

And felt like you’re in a real theater… not really.  (images via Giphy)

Also Read: How to make a movie theater with your smartphone on deployment 

9. Making memories

Although you we experienced some sh*tty times, nothing beats looking back and remembering the good ones while having a beer with your boys.

To the good times! (image via Giphy)

Bonus: The emotional homecomings

Leaving your family to deploy sucks, but coming home to them — priceless.

We salute all those who serve. Thank you! (images via Giphy) WATM wishes everyone to stay safe and watch your six. That is all.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia can’t be trusted after Ukraine aggression, says Mattis

Russia’s seizure of three Ukrainian ships in the Sea of Azov in contradiction to signed treaties and the Law of the Sea show that Russia cannot be counted on to keep its word, Defense Secretary James N. Mattis said at the Pentagon Nov. 28, 2018.

The secretary spoke to reporters while awaiting the arrival of Lithuanian Defense Minister Raimundas Karoblis for a meeting.

Over the weekend, Russia barred the Kerch Strait at the mouth of the Sea of Azov off the Crimean Peninsula. Russian sailors opened fire and wounded at least three Ukrainian sailors in the seizure of two armored naval vessels and a tugboat.


Mattis noted that NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has condemned the action on behalf of the 29 NATO allies and called for “calm and restraint.” The NATO official also called for Russia to release the ships and sailors immediately.

“It was obviously a flagrant violation of international law, it was I think a cavalier use force that injured Ukrainian sailors,” Mattis told reporters. “It was contempt, really, for the traditional ways of settling these kinds of concerns if they had any. When you think there is a treaty between the two countries that prohibits exactly what happened, it just shows that Russia cannot be counted on now to keep its word.”

These airmen secured the skies during the 9/11 attacks

Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

During a Nov. 26, 2018 news conference at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Stoltenberg said the alliance members “expressed their full support for Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.”

“We call on Russia to ensure unhindered access to Ukrainian ports and allow freedom of navigation for Ukraine in the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait,” he added. The secretary general’s statement came after an extraordinary meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Commission.

Latest escalation

The incident is the latest escalation in the war between Russia and Ukraine that started when Russia illegally annexed Crimea in 2014. NATO’s position since the annexation has been consistent: The United States and all NATO allies condemned Russia’s aggressive actions in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine.

Stoltenberg said Russia must end its support to militant groups in eastern Ukraine and withdraw all its forces from Ukrainian territory.

The escalation is the latest in Russia’s ongoing militarization of Crimea, the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov. “The Russian move poses further threats to Ukraine’s independence and undermines the stability of the broader region,” Stoltenberg said.

NATO provides support to Ukraine and its people. The United States and the other NATO allies sanctioned Russia for its moves.

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Defense. Follow @DeptofDefense on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

What happens when a massive pop star goes to boot camp?

Imagine a world where 18-year-old music sensation Billie Eilish, fresh off her six Grammy wins in February, had to report to boot camp at Fort Benning, Georgia, in March. How would the Army handle the media glare, and how would her fellow recruits react?

That’s the situation in Israel right now. Noa Kirel has been famous since age 14 for her YouTube videos that led to stardom on reality television, teen dramas and TV commercials. She recently signed a multimillion-dollar recording contract with Atlantic Records.


The Washington Post reports that Kirel, now 19, has been drafted into the Israeli Army to fulfill her required service under the country’s mandatory conscription law. Noa will serve at least two years before she can return to her career full time.

Some of our readers are old enough to remember Elvis Presley’s Army service 60 years ago. A lot has changed since then, and the Army didn’t have to deal with a pack of paparazzi and a bottomless appetite for gossip on social media at that time.

Things in Israel have not gotten off to a great start. Kirel pissed off the brass by making a commercial for Israeli streaming service Yes+ that has her playacting in American fatigues in a fake boot camp. She’s singing “Let the Sunshine In” from “Hair,” a show that even Israelis remember for its anti-war sentiments.

נועה קירל פרסומת ל YES+ | כוריאוגרפיה טל הנדלסמן

www.youtube.com

“Wonder Woman” actress Gal Gadot also did her Israeli military service, but she had yet to launch her acting career at that point. Still, she was already famous as the winner of the Miss Israel pageant, but local media insist that Kirel’s current fame dwarfs Gadot’s at that time.

Kirel may be causing chaos, but she chose to fulfill her obligation even though she could have opted out because she’s got only one kidney. Her commitment to serve no matter what counts for a lot in Israeli society.

“I felt that, because I was famous, I had to serve to set an example to others,” Kirel said. “I know people abroad will probably not understand this, not understand why I have put everything on hold, but it was clear to me that I had to do this.”

Kirel represents the first wave of a new problem facing the Israeli military. The modern definition of fame is changing, and there are dozens of Israeli youths becoming popular solely through their social media profiles on YouTube, Instagram and TikTok.

Making an exception for one big star might be a challenge that the Israeli Army is prepared to meet, but what happens when you’ve got a whole platoon of teenage celebrities reporting to boot camp?

That’s not a problem we’re likely to face anytime soon. It’s not likely the USA will have compulsory national service in the near future. We can’t even convince people to wear a mask over here.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

DARPA wants to make you eat your own trash

Those mad bois over at the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency are at it again. This time, they want to create a system that would let you eat your own trash, and to be honest, you’d probably like it. (The system, not the taste.)


These airmen secured the skies during the 9/11 attacks

Senior Airman Frances Gavalis tosses unserviceable uniform items into a burn pit March 10, 2008, at Balad Air Base, Iraq.

(U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Julianne Showalter)

Right now, the U.S. military either carts out or burns much of its trash, depending on security and environmental factors. This is resource-intensive for a force, especially during missions that are already logistically strained like special operations, expeditionary task forces, and disaster response.

But that means that the military has to burn fuel to bring supplies in on trucks, then use more fuel to cart out the trash or burn it. If the trash can be recycled locally instead, especially if it can be turned into high-need items like fuel, lubricants, food, or water, it could drastically cut down on the logistics support that troops need.

And that’s why DARPA wants you to eat your own trash. Not because they find it funny or anything, but because macronutrients can be pulled out of trash and re-fed to troops to supplement their diets.

These airmen secured the skies during the 9/11 attacks

A DARPA graphic shows how a military force’s trash and forage could be fed through a system to create organic products like fuel and food.

(DARPA)

And that leads us to ReSource, a new program under DARPA’s Biological Technologies Office. It’s led by Program Manager Blake Bextine, and he said in a press release that, “In a remote or austere environment where even the basics for survival can’t be taken for granted, there can be no such thing as ‘single use.'”

The press release went on to say:

A successful ReSource system will be capable of completing three main processes: breaking down mixed waste, including recalcitrant, carbon-rich polymers like those in common plastics; reforming upgradeable organic molecules and assembling them into strategic materials and chemicals; and recovering purified, usable products. In the case of food, the ReSource output would be a basic product composed of macronutrients ready for immediate consumption.
These airmen secured the skies during the 9/11 attacks

Spc. Mary Calkin, a member of the Washington State National Guard, takes a plate of food at the Freedom Inn Dining Facility at Fort Meade, Maryland.

(U.S. Army photo Joe Lacdan)

Operators would feed waste into the system and then select what supplies were most valuable to them at the time. Need food? Well, it sounds like you’re getting a paste, but at least you’ll have something to keep you going. But when there is plenty of MREs or locally sourced food to go around, commanders could opt for fuel for generators and lubricants for equipment.

And there’s no reason that the feedstock would necessarily be limited to strictly trash. After all, a bunch of tree branches may not be edible for troops, but the ReSource setup might be able to extract the nutrients and create something that troops could consume, maybe with a lot of spices.

Systems would range in size depending on what is needed, potentially as small as a man-portable system for small teams but going as high as a shipping container that could support much larger operations. Ideally, no specialists would be needed to run the system. Troops don’t need to know how the system works; they just feed waste in and take supplies out.

It’s a new DARPA program, meaning that DARPA is looking for researchers to bring ideas and nascent technologies to the table for consideration.

Their Proposers Day meeting for ReSource will take place on August 29 in Phoenix.

Articles

This pilot crashed his plane into a torpedo to save the carrier

Warrant Officer Sakio Komatsu had just taken off from the aircraft carrier Taiho during the Battle of the Philippine Sea when he spotted six American torpedoes bearing down on his ship.


Almost immediately, he banked his “Judy” dive bomber into the path of one, causing it to detonate against the plane and preventing a hit against the carrier at the cost of his own life.

These airmen secured the skies during the 9/11 attacks

Near the end of World War II, the Japanese launched one of their best-ever carrier designs. While the carrier Taiho lacked the catapults of many of its American rivals, it was heavily armored, carried 73 aircraft and massive amounts of aviation fuel and ammunition, and boasted radar.

The Taiho launched on April 7, 1943, and was commissioned on March 7, 1944. With the Japanese Navy in retreat across most of the Pacific, the admirals held the Taiho in reserve until it could be sent where it would make a significant difference.

These airmen secured the skies during the 9/11 attacks
The Japanese carrier Taiho was an armored support carrier capable of supporting hundreds of planes. (Photo: Public Domain)

It was an armored support carrier, meant to serve on the frontline and protect older carriers launching their planes from the rear. With massive supplies of ammunition and fuel, it would be able to refuel and rearm planes from other carriers.

The ship was committed to combat in June as part of the Battle of the Philippine Sea, one of the largest carrier battles in history. The goal of the Japanese forces was to force a confrontation with the U.S. and wipe out the greater American numbers.

These airmen secured the skies during the 9/11 attacks
The Japanese 1st Mobile Fleet maneuvers under fire on June 20, 1944, during the Battle of the Philippine Sea. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

On the morning of June 19, the Japanese force, with the Taiho as its flagship, launched planes in what would be one of the most lopsided defeats in naval history. The inexperienced Japanese pilots were massacred in what was later known as the Great Marianas Turkey Shoot.

But the Taiho only participated in part of the defeat. In the opening hours of the battle, the USS Albacore spotted the carrier and launched a spread of six torpedoes right as the second wave of planes was taking off.

These airmen secured the skies during the 9/11 attacks

Komatsu saw the torpedoes immediately after he took off and banked around, crashing his plane into the path and destroying the torpedo at the cost of his own life. Usually, that sort of heroism would mean that the story ends with, “He was awarded a medal and saved the lives of thousands.”

But while Komatsu was heralded for his decision, it wasn’t enough to save the Taiho. Four of the torpedoes missed, one was intercepted by Komatsu, but the sixth impacted the Taiho. It blew through the outer armor and created openings between an aviation tank, a fuel oil tank, and the surrounding ocean.

These airmen secured the skies during the 9/11 attacks
The USS Albacore was the submarine that fired the torpedo spread that doomed the Taiho. (Photo: Public Domain)

The Taiho crew gamely patched what holes it needed to and resumed launching aircraft. But there was a danger in its bowels. The leaking fuels were turning into vapors and filling the ship. For just over six hours, the ship continued fighting while the ship turned into a bomb.

Then it blew.

The blast rocked through the ship, blowing out the sides and opening holes that stretched down below the waterline. So Komatsu’s actions were one of the more heroic moments in warfare history, but it wasn’t enough to save his friends or his ship.

Approximately 1,200 men died with the ship.

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Combat on the gridiron: this is playing football for the Marine Corps

For many Americans, joining the military represents a second chance, free of the social obligations, economic pressures, and uncertainty of our civilian lives. For me, however, it represented a bit more: a second chance at playing a sport I thought I’d left behind.

Football in the Marine Corps was unlike anything I’d ever seen before — a league full of men that had spent their entire adult lives training for war, intrinsically tied to the Corps’ own culture of honor, courage, and commitment.

The football field was where we fought our skirmishes, and if there’s one thing Marines take seriously, it’s a fight.


These airmen secured the skies during the 9/11 attacks

Marine Corps football exists somewhere between where customs and courtesies stop, but duty remains.

Marine Corps football goes on at a number of levels. Players start by trying out for battalion-level teams that compete against one another until a champion emerges. Base champs then compete regionally for a chance to move on and compete against other regional champions, and (at least sometimes) those regional champions compete for the honor of becoming the All-Marine squad.

In order to field the most capable team, there’s little room for the customs and courtesies Marines use when interacting with their seniors. Something about trying to head butt a captain into submission to secure your place on the starting roster makes it tough to find the time for the appropriate greeting of the day. Most of us tend to forgo the pleasantries and just engage with one another as peers.

These airmen secured the skies during the 9/11 attacks

Football is, above all else, an exercise in the pursuit of victory. Your rank and MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) mean exactly sh*t between whistles. All that matters is your ability to perform when the team is counting on you. You may stand at parade rest when you bump into your wide receiver at the PX, but come gametime, he’s just another dude with the right colored jersey on.

Playing ball in the Marine Corps is as close as some of us will get to being professional athletes.

While a battalion-level football program is truly a command function, being on the team often isn’t enough to get you out of your normal training requirements. That doesn’t mean football doesn’t become another full time job anyway, however.

These airmen secured the skies during the 9/11 attacks

Playing football for the Corps is an honor that isn’t bestowed lightly: you’re expected to give the team three to four hours of practice a day, to train on your own, and to meet the general training requirements of your respective command. At one point, I was participating in a brown belt MCMAP course for four hours each morning, attending unit PT, and then going to practice from 1600 to 2000 each night.

Once the base season was over and my team had earned its place in the regional leagues, my requirements to the team only grew. At that point, the command tends to grant you a reprieve from many of your usual duties. It’s only then that football becomes more than a side gig: it becomes your profession.

These airmen secured the skies during the 9/11 attacks

The competition can be downright brutal.

Playing ball for the Marines is just like playing anywhere else, except everyone on the field has trained to some extent in ways to kill you. Marines don’t take failure lightly, they don’t like to lose, and in many cases, they’re eager and willing to sacrifice their own well being to accomplish the mission.

Many players in the Marine Corps leagues played college football and everyone on the field is already in the sort of shape active duty Marines just generally need to be in. Over my years of playing both football and rugby, I’ve never run into a more physically capable group, but to be frank, it’s not the physicality of Marines that makes the competition so daunting… it’s really all about mindset.

My tenure playing football for the Marine Corps resulted in multiple broken bones and torn ligaments (along with the corresponding surgeries to patch me back together). I like to think that’s because I’m mentally tougher than I am physically, but the truth is, I could say the same about most good Marines.

These airmen secured the skies during the 9/11 attacks

Out there on the field, the stakes may not be as high as they are in combat, but the drive to succeed for your brothers, to push through the pain and the hardship to accomplish something great, is as alive between the goal posts as it is on any battlefield. Today, the only football trophies I have in my office were earned during my two seasons starting for the Marine Corps’ Best of the West champions — and for good reason.

I still walk with a slight limp and all I had to do was play against Marines. Let that be a lesson for any foreign militaries that might fancy themselves a match for America’s crayon-eating, jar-headed, ego-driven war-fighters, because when the pads come off, the kevlar goes on.

Intel

The interesting backstories to each of Gen. Jim Mattis’ nicknames

There has never been a United States Secretary of Defense that has been so universally beloved. Retired Gen. Jim Mattis was confirmed last year by a landslide vote of 98 in favor and 1 opposed, despite being on a waiver to circumvent the seven-years-since-retirement requirement to be appointed Secretary of Defense.


Long before he rose to the highest position in the Armed Forces, second only to the President, he earned several monikers, each from a different aspect of his ability to lead.

4. “Mad Dog” Mattis

For the record: He is not a fan of the name, “Mad Dog” Mattis. So, you probably don’t want to go saying it to a man that has admitted that the max effective range on his knife hand is hundreds of miles. It dates back to a 2004 Los Angeles Times article saying that U.S. troops in Fallujah called him “Mad Dog” behind his back and that it was “high praise” in Marine culture.

The “Mad Dog” label stuck following a series of intimidating quotes, such as, “be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet” and “a good soldier follows orders, but a true warrior wears his enemy’s skin like a poncho.” At Gen. Mattis’s confirmation hearing, former Maine Senator and the Secretary of Defense from 1997 to 2001, William Cohen, joked that it’s a misnomer and the nickname “Braveheart” would have been much more accurate.

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3. “Warrior Monk”

The most accurate of his nicknames has to be “The Warrior Monk.” Another beautiful Mattisism is, “the most important six inches on the battlefield is between your ears.”

Gen. Mattis is well known for his intelligence, extensive book collection, and giving his troops required reading lists that range from cultural studies to Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations. For his complete reading list, broken down by rank and region of deployment, click here.

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One has to wonder about his take on fictional war novels, like Dune, Starship Troopers, and Ender’s Game. (DoD photo by Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)

2. “CHAOS”

His preferred nickname is the call sign he used as a Colonel, “Chaos.” He joked at a conference that he’d like to tell people that it was for some dignified reason, but it’s not.

When he was a regimental commander at Twentynine Palms, he was leaving the S-3 office and noticed the words “CHAOS” written on the whiteboard. He asked someone what it meant and got, “Oh, you don’t need to know about that…” which, of course, only piqued his interest more. Finally, they broke it to him that it meant, “Colonel Has An Outstanding Solution.” It was a joke at his expense that he took in stride, so he wore it as a badge of honor.

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If anything, Gen. Mattis knows how to take a joke in stride. (Image via Instagram)

1. “Patron Saint of Chaos”

Secretary of Defense Mattis’ legendary status among the troops has earned him the title, “Saint Mattis of Quantico. Patron Saint of Chaos.”

The meme has spread far and wide from Terminal Lance to t-shirts to the sidebar of the USMC subreddit to even being posted by the MARSOC official Facebook page.

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(Image via OAF Nation)

So, if you’ll join us in a quick reading,

Hail Mattis, full of hate. Our troops stand with thee. Blessed art though among enlisted. And blessed is the fruit of thy knife hand. Holy Mattis, father of War. Pray for us heathen, Now and at the hour of combat. Amen.
Articles

That time Muhammed Ali rescued hostages from Saddam Hussein

On August 2, 1990, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq invaded neighboring Kuwait with little warning. During that time, Hussein prevented many foreigners in Iraq from leaving while also bringing foreigners captured in Kuwait to Iraq. The hostages were mostly citizens of Western countries critical of the Iraqi invasion and many worked at the Baghdad General Motors plant.


After the UN gave Hussein the January 16 deadline to pull out of Kuwait, 15 Americans were moved to strategic locations inside Iraq to be used as human shields in the event of retaliatory strikes from the multinational force that was growing larger by the day.

In October, Hussein released the foreign women and children held in Iraq. Many in the State Department feared the remaining hostages would be killed when Coalition forces engaged the Iraqis in Kuwait, either by friendly fire or by their Iraqi captors. That’s when the “Greatest of All Time” stepped in the international arena.

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Muhammed Ali was highly regarded in the Islamic world. One hundred and thirteen days into the hostage crisis, Ali came to Baghdad at the behest of a peace organization founded by Ramsey Clark, the former U.S. Attorney General for President Lyndon B. Johnson. The group hoped to prevent a greater war, but Ali was more concerned with getting the U.S. hostages home.

Many were critical of Ali’s trip. The administration of George H.W. Bush worried it would legitimize Saddam’s invasion. the U.S. media accused Ali of trying to boost his own popularity, perhaps to win a Nobel Peace Prize. The New York Times claimed Ali was actually aiding Hussein and criticized his ability to communicate, reporting, “Surely the strangest hostage-release campaign of recent days has been the ‘goodwill’ tour of Muhammad Ali, the former heavyweight boxing champion … he has attended meeting after meeting in Baghdad despite his frequent inability to speak clearly.”

By 1990, Ali had been fighting Parkinson’s Disease for six years, suffering from tremors and a slurred speech. He had to use hand signals to communicate to his spokesman many times during his interactions in Iraq. He still managed to visit schools, talk to people on the streets, and pray in Baghdad’s mosques. Crowds flocked to him wherever he went and he never turned anyone away. It would be part of his promise to Saddam to trade hostages for an “honest account.”

He ran out of his Parkinson’s medication but stayed in the country until he could meet with the Iraqi dictator. He was bedridden for days at a time. His trip was far from a publicity stunt as “The Greatest” was suffering but refusing to leave until he could attempt to get the hostages released. The Irish Hospital in Baghdad replenished Ali’s medication just before Saddam Hussein agreed to meet with him.

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Ali sat as the Iraqi dictator praised himself for how well he’d treated American prisoners. Ali reiterated his promise to bring back to the U.S. an “honest account” of his visit to Iraq.

The American hostages met with Ali at his hotel in Baghdad that night and were repatriated on December 2, 1990 – after four months of captivity.

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Ali with the 15 Americans he helped return from Iraq in December 1990.

“They don’t owe me nothing,” Ali said of the hostages in 1990.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PMNwCZ-ZHmE
Six weeks later, the U.S. and the multinational forces staging in Saudi Arabia during Operation Desert Shield launched Operation Desert Storm. Coalition forces liberated Kuwait from Iraqi troops in 100 hours.

Ali did not receive the Nobel Prize, but he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005 and a Liberty Medal in 2012.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Failing Forward

Senior U.S. Air Force leaders are embracing and promoting the concept that if their Airmen are not failing, then they are, more than likely, not moving forward.

They believe pushing the envelope is necessary to keep the U.S. Air Force dominant and the occasional failure should be viewed by supervisors not as a negative, but as part of a greater positive.


In this series, we hear senior Air Force leaders give examples of how taking calculated risks and failing throughout their careers taught them valuable lessons, propelled them to future success and made them better leaders.

Failing Forward: Dr. Richard J. Joseph

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DR. RICHARD JOSEPH, AIR FORCE CHIEF SCIENTIST

Dr. Richard J. Joseph, Air Force chief scientist, believes failure is a necessary component and result of the scientific method. The failures of ideas and theories, when tested through experimentation and prototyping, inform, and are often the root of, future successes.

However, he also believes that project failures are often rooted in past successes of large technological bureaucracies. Large organizations with far-reaching strategic plans often stifle the creativity, experimentation and risk acceptance necessary to achieve game-changing technological advances.

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Dr. Richard J. Joseph, Chief Scientist of the U.S. Air Force, looks through virtual reality goggles at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., Nov. 29, 2018. The harness training was a requirement before flying on a B-52 Stratofortress with the 20th Bomb Squadron. (U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO // SENIOR AIRMAN PHILIP BRYANT)

Joseph serves as the chief scientific adviser to the chief of staff and secretary of the Air Force, and provides assessments on a wide range of scientific and technical issues affecting the Air Force mission. He has more than 40 years of experience as a physicist, directed energy researcher, senior program manager, national security advisor and executive.

Failing Forward: Dr. Will Roper

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DR. WILL ROPER, ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF THE AIR FORCE FOR ACQUISITION, TECHNOLOGY AND LOGISTICS

As the Air Force’s Service Acquisition Executive, Dr. Will Roper oversees Air Force research, development and acquisition activities with a combined annual budget in excess of billion for more than 465 acquisition programs.

He promotes the concept of “Fail Fast, Fail Forward” as a foundational culture shift necessary to keep the U.S. Air Force dominant.

This philosophy is manifested in his promotion of rapid prototyping and funding innovative ideas through Air Force Pitch Day and AFWERX’s Spark Tank.

Roper believes that by spending money to develop fledgling technologies and ideas quickly, and then prototyping them rapidly, flaws are found much earlier in the development process.

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Dr. Will Roper, assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, technology and logistics, speaks to a crowd of small businesses, venture capitalists, and Airmen during the Inaugural Air Force Pitch Day in Manhattan, New York, March 7, 2019. Air Force Pitch Day is designed as a fast-track program to put companies on one-page contracts and same-day awards with the swipe of a government credit card. The Air Force is partnering with small businesses to help further national security in air, space and cyberspace. (U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO // TECH SGT. ANTHONY NELSON JR.)

This method avoids committing to the huge cost of the much longer traditional system and weapons development and acquisition where flaws are only found years and hundreds of millions of dollars later. Then the Air Force is stuck with that flawed system for decades.

However, in order for “Fail Fast, Fail Forward” to work, Roper believes the Air Force must adjust its attitude towards risk.

He points out that his own success actually points to a persistent flaw in the Air Force’s tolerance for risk – people are only rewarded for taking a risk that pays off. Roper insists that to foster an innovative culture, people must be rewarded for taking a good risk in the first place.

“Why are the people who succeed the only people we cite when we talk about risk taking as a virtue?” Roper said. “I’m trying to be very mindful with Air Force program managers and people taking risk that they get their evaluation and validation for me at the point that they take the risk.”

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

Lists

5 ways troops go to the bathroom while in field

Everyone has to hit the head (bathroom) at least a few times a day (if you don’t, you should probably consult with a doctor ASAP). For troops in the field, using the restroom might not always be as easy as just visiting the nearest toilet.

In fact, some forward-deployed troops don’t even have access to running water, so flushing their waste away through a series of pipes would simply be impractical.


So, how do troops make a number one or two while in the field? Well, keep reading and be slightly amazed!

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“Piss pipes”

This might sound like some new way to smoke tobacco, but it’s far, far from it. These public urinals are constructed from large pipes that are halfway buried. This way, all the human pee collects several feet underground instead of pooling on the surface.

Cat holes

You know how cats sometimes burr small holes in the kitty litter before dropping the payload? Well, the military adapted that idea when it comes to human waste disposal and created what are known, aptly, as “cat holes.”

According to field manuals, proper cat holes are 12-inches long, 12-inches wide, and 12-inches deep. This method of waste disposal is meant to be temporary and quickly covered up if a squad needs to get on the move.

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WAG Bags

Have you ever made brown in a Ziploc bag? Well, if you have, that’s exactly what it’s like taking a dump in a WAG bag — except this one has a bunch of biodegradable odor neutralizers inside.

Since holding a WAG bag open while taking care of business isn’t easy, use some sort of container (like a bucket) to keep the bag open.

Straddle trenches

Remember the cat hole we talked about earlier, and how they’re made for temporary use? Well, the straddle trenches are like that — only permanent. To properly use the straddle trench, squat over the rectangular hole and release.

According to Army regulations, the trenches are supposed to be 1-foot wide, 2 1/2-feet deep, and 4-feet long.

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Porta-Johns

Yes, we have “Porta-sh*tters” located on the frontlines. For the most part, they’re located on the larger FOBs. To keep these maintained, allied forces pay local employees who live nearby to pump the human discharge out of the poop reservoirs.