The story of America's first secret Space Force - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

The story of America’s first secret Space Force

Last year, President Trump drew headlines all over the world with the announcement that he intended to establish a new branch of the American armed forces dedicated solely to orbital and deep-space defense. This new Space Force would be responsible for defending America’s sizeable satellite infrastructure from potential attack and hardening the means by which America has come to rely on orbital technology in day to day life as well as defense.


The concept wasn’t without its critics, with some discounting the very idea of space defense as a flight of fancy and national level competitors accusing America of militarizing an otherwise peaceful theater… but the truth of the matter is, space has been a battlespace since mankind first started lobbing rockets at it.

The Space Race, which was in every appreciable way an extension of the Cold War that benefited from good PR, may have ended with Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landing on the moon in 1969, but the race to leverage space for military purposes continued going strong for decades to come. In fact, one could argue that reaching the moon marked only the end of the public-facing space race, but not the end of the competition between American and Soviet space programs.

The story of America’s first secret Space Force

Despite reaching the Moon first, America still had pressing concerns in space.

(NASA)

So heated was the race to militarize space during the Cold War that the Defense Department actually already had a Space Force of sorts starting way back in the 1970s. This secretive program was vast, with a .3 billion California-based spaceport meant for secretive space shuttle launches into polar orbit, a secret group of 32 military-trained astronauts, and plans to fly more shuttle flights per year than NASA itself at one point.

The military astronauts weren’t actually called astronauts — they were called Spaceflight Engineers, and in total, the Air Force’s Manned Spaceflight Engineer Program had 134 military officers and civilian experts assigned to it. These men and women worked out of the aforementioned California launch complex as well as the Pentagon’s own version of mission control in Colorado, and a third facility in Los Angeles that housed the Spaceflight Engineers themselves.

In the early days of the program, some of the Pentagon’s astronauts even hitched rides on NASA shuttle missions hoping to increase cooperation and cross-train on flight methodologies.

The story of America’s first secret Space Force

Air Force Spaceflight Engineer Maj. Gary Payton (back left) along with NASA crew members Loren Shriver (front left) and Ken Mattingly (front right), with Jim Buchli and Ellison Onizuka (behind).

(NASA)

“Between these two agencies, it really was a shotgun marriage,” said retired Air Force Col. Gary Payton, who served as Deputy Undersecretary of the Air Force for Space Programs until his retirement in July 2010.

“NASA thought of us as a bunch of snotty-nosed kids, outsiders, almost guests…nothing more than engineers or scientists who tended one particular satellite or experiment, and typically flew just once. We, on the other hand, thought our job was to help bridge the gulf between the military and civilian space agencies.”

The plan was for the Defense Department’s shuttles to launch from California and enter into a polar orbit, which was more beneficial for the Defense Department’s secretive missions than the equatorial orbit commonly reached from Florida launch complexes. The Pentagon’s plans called for an absolutely mind-boggling 12-14 launches per year. That was far more than NASA was prepared to manage, but the result would have been an extremely resilient and redundant space defense infrastructure long before any nation was prepared to present a viable threat to American interests in orbit.

The story of America’s first secret Space Force

The Space Shuttle offered a wide variety of mission sets, but with a great deal of risk.

(NASA)

But then in 1986, the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded 73 seconds after launch, killing all seven crew members on board. It was a crushing blow to NASA, but hit the Manned Spaceflight Engineer Program even harder. It forced the Pentagon to acknowledge two difficult truths about manned shuttle missions: when they fail, people die — and the whole world notices.

“By 1987, it was all gone,” said William J. Baugh, director of public affairs for the Air Force Second Space Wing at Falcon Air Force Base in Colorado told the New York Times. “By that time, Challenger had its problem, and we decided to get out of the shuttle business.”

The Pentagon opted to transition toward a system of mostly unmanned rocket launches for the deployment of new satellites, leaning on NASA and the Space Shuttle for some classified missions when the payloads were too big or complex for other rockets like the Titan IV.

“It’s disappointing,” Maj. Frank M. DeArmand, a Spaceflight Engineer who never got to fly, said in 1989. “We all had the excitement and expectation of flying on the shuttle. But I’m not bitter. It was the right decision.”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The American howitzer you never heard much about

Some artillery pieces become very famous. Some of the most notable are the French 75 of World War I, or the Napoleons used during the Civil War, or the German 88. But some are less well-known, but packed a big punch – or long range – of their own.


One such artillery piece is the M107 self-propelled howitzer. This 175mm artillery piece entered service in 1962, alongside the M110, an eight-inch self-propelled howitzer. It could fire shells as far as 25 miles away – and this long range proved very handy during the Vietnam War.

The story of America’s first secret Space Force
SGT Max Cones (gunner) fires a M107, 175mm self-propelled gun, Btry C, 1st Bn, 83rd Arty, 54th Arty Group, Vietnam, 1968. (US Army photo)

The M107 is not like the M109 self-propelled howitzer in that it is open, and lacks both a turret and on-board ammunition storage. As such, it needed its ammo vehicles nearby to provide shells. The M107 was fast for an armored vehicle, with a top speed of 50 miles per hour, and could go almost 450 miles on a single tank of fuel.

The M107s used the same chassis as the M110s. In fact, Olive-Drab.com reported that the two self-propelled howitzers could exchange guns, thus a M107 could become a M110, and vice versa. This was used to good effect in Vietnam, where the barrels could be swapped as needed at firebases. Israel also used the M017 for decisive effect in the 1973 Yom Kippur War, destroying a number of Syrian and Egyptian surface-to-air missile batteries, and even shelling Damascus.

The story of America’s first secret Space Force
A gun crew member from 1st Battalion, 83rd Arty, takes a short break on top of the loading mechanism of his self-propelled 175 while waiting for further instructions. (US Army photo)

According to GlobalSecurity.org, the M107 fired only one type of conventional round, the M347 high-explosive round. The gun didn’t see service long past the Vietnam War. The M107 had a long reach, but it was not accurate – rounds like the laser-guided Copperhead or the GPS-guided Excalibur had not been developed yet.

An extended barrel for the M110 was developed, and in the late 1970s many M107s were converted to the M110A2 standard. The M110s eventually were replaced by the M207 MLRS.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The top 5 scams that hurt military families

It seems so urgent. You receive a call saying your deployed or traveling military member has lost their ID, needs cash, and has asked this trustworthy person to contact you. While you may recognize this to be along the lines of the Nigerian-prince-asking-for-money email, some other scams that hurt military families may be more difficult to spot.

Military members are often young and financially inexperienced, have reliable income, and frequently move around, a combination which may make them and their families seem like easy targets to scammers, especially since it might take them some time to notice an irregularity in a bill or credit report.

Can you spot a would-be scammer? Here are a few to watch out for, as you protect your loved ones, your personal information, and your wallet.


The story of America’s first secret Space Force

(Photo by Lance Cpl. Jacob Barber)

1. Scams Preying on Deployed Families

What it is: Scammers contact the spouse or parents of a deployed service member and pretend to be someone in authority, claiming the military member has been injured/lost their wallet/is held up somewhere traveling. Using the fear that families already feel about their loved one or lack of knowledge about military processes, the scammer hopes family members will give up personal information to “prove who they are” or even cash.

Why it matters/what to do: The military won’t ever contact family members via phone or email asking for personal information or money. Military members won’t need cash from their families to travel to or return from deployment. Don’t let fear compel you to share your personal information with strangers.

2. Rental Scams

What it is: You’re due to PCS in a few months and have decided to start looking at homes online. You come across what seems like the perfect house for your family–a rental decorated with that farmhouse style that would meet Joanna Gaines’ approval, with four bedrooms, amazing upgrades, new appliances, and in the school district you’ve been hoping for…all with amazingly low rent! The kicker? The landlord pushes for a security deposit or money to hold the property before you or a representative can even view the home in person, because “it’s going to go fast.” And you need to send that money, like yesterday.Hurry!” they press, “I’ve already got someone else looking at it!”

Why it matters/what to do: This sense of false urgency should be a red flag. While it could be legit, it’s possible the person listing the property simply copied it from another listing, isn’t the actual property manager, and is using the compressed military move timetable to try to make a quick, dishonest buck.

Stick with reputable sites or trusted referrals. Better yet, wait until you arrive to tour the home yourself. If that’s impossible, see if you have a friend in the area who can Facetime you while touring the home or hire a MILLIE Scout to do the legwork (the company hires military spouses just for this purpose!). Get more details about online rental scams.

3. Tickets or High-Priced Items at a “Too Good to Be True” Discount

What it is: Crooks hide behind all the goodwill and discounts offered to military by many businesses around Veterans Day and Memorial Day. Putting ads on Craiglist or other sites, sellers offer “great deals” for active duty on everything from tickets for professional sporting events to home goods. The seller, of course, requires money to be wired first to hold the item at this phenomenal price (seeing a pattern here?) and then when the item is to be picked up or transferred, disappears.

Why it matters/what to do: If something seems too good to be true, it probably is. Stick to well-known business and sites when you see military or veteran deals around holidays, especially for big ticket items like cars or in demand concert or event tickets.

The story of America’s first secret Space Force

(Photo by Jeff Drongowski)

4. Scams Targeting Extended Family

What it is: Along the lines of the scams targeting deployed family members, this one preys on elderly relatives of service members. One scammer contacted a soldier’s 84-year-old grandmother and asked her to wire money in order to assist him, with the caller claiming that her grandson had lost his ID card on his way home from Iraq and couldn’t get home without her help. Thankfully, she realized the request was not legitimate.

Why it matters/what to do: The military doesn’t require funds from family members to transfer wounded back home (another scam) or help with getting ID cards or other belongings. There’s a system in place that would not involve contacting the member’s spouse, parents, grandparents, or anyone else for money. Educated your elderly relatives about how the military handles emergencies and advise them to call authorities if they are contacted by a scammer or suspicious person.

5. Catfishing

What it is: Recently, I noticed a Facebook friend request from a high ranking service member I’m friends with, who I know is not on social media. I let him know and quickly deleted and reported it, since the photo showed him in uniform in his official photo. His comment about the situation was sad, “It happens all the time.”

Why it matters/what to do: Scammers assume identities of military members in order to befriend, lure, or get money from strangers. With many official military photos online, this is not difficult to do. In fact, over 30,000 military consumers reported identity theft in 2017.

Help protect your identity and those of people you know. Monitor your own social media for obvious duplicate accounts and let friends know if you see a duplicate account of theirs. Use identity theft protection and credit monitoring from reputable providers such as Lifelock or Experian to get real-time notifications of data breaches.

A New Meaning to the Phrase “Trust but Verify”

A couple of good rules to follow: never send money to an unknown entity, no matter how urgently they appeal, and never share your personal information over the phone or by email, even to an “official” sounding person. Family members, double check with the military member’s unit if you receive an urgent call regarding their situation.

As long as there have been phones and the internet, there have been people bent on using it for harm. While it can seem like a losing battle, staying vigilant about your personal information and trusting your gut will go a long way towards protecting yourself. Changing passwords frequently, monitoring your accounts regularly, putting a security freeze on your credit reports to prevent unwanted access to your information, and even not listing your birthdate on social media are some simple ways to thwart the scammers. Deployed members can put an ‘active duty alert’ on their accounts, which will notify businesses to take extra steps before offering credit in their name. For more ideas to protect yourself, see Consumer Report’s “Protect Your Identity.”

If you’ve been the victim of a scam or need to report suspicious activity, get more information from:

Federal Trade Commission Consumer Phone Scam Information

FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The heroic four chaplains and the sinking of the USAT Dorchester

During World War II, a troop transport ship made from a converted luxury coastal liner was hit by a German torpedo on its starboard side in 1943, dooming the ship and many of the men aboard. Amid the chaos, four chaplains representing three Christian sects and the Jewish faith moved between the wounded and scared, comforting them, distributing survival gear, and ultimately sacrificing themselves.


The story of America’s first secret Space Force

The USAT Dorchester.

(U.S. Coast Guard)

The USAT Dorchester had been converted from a luxury coastal liner during World War II and was sent on a cross-ocean journey carrying 902 crew, troops, and civilian personnel to Greenland. The ship had to cross through submarine-infested waters.

The passengers were under orders to sleep clothed and in life jackets in case of an attack, but while the upper decks and outer air were cold, large sections of the ship were hot from the engines that propelled the ship. Those housed on the lower decks typically slept in their underwear or just a shirt or pants. Across the ship, life jackets were unpopular off duty because they were uncomfortable.

But on February 3, 1943, 150 miles from Greenland, a German U-boat spotted the convoy which consisted of the Dorchester and two other transport ships as well as three Coast Guard cutter escorts. U-223 was on the hunt for Allied shipping, and troop transports were choice targets. The German vessel fired a spread of three torpedoes.

Two missed, but the third shoved through the hull and exploded in the boiler room.

The story of America’s first secret Space Force

Coast Guard cutter Escanaba rescues Dorchester survivors

(U.S. Coast Guard image)

The ship lurched, knocking men from their beds. The electrical systems failed instantly, and the ship began filling with water. Throughout the ship’s dark passageways, disoriented men stumbled from racks and the ground, struggling to dress and get to the open deck in time.

Some men forgot to get dressed until they emerged into the frigid, open air.

In the middle of the fear and danger, four men emerged as a center of calm. Four chaplains were assigned to the ship. Army Lt. George L. Fox was Methodist, Lt. Alexander D. Goode was Jewish, Lt. John P. Washington was Catholic, and Lt. Clark V. Poling was a Dutch Reformed minister.

Two of the men had struggled to join the military. Goode was rejected by the Navy before joining the Army, and Washington had to cheat on his eye exam because a BB gun accident had robbed him of most of his sight in one eye.

The story of America’s first secret Space Force

Lt. George Fox, a Methodist; Lt. Alexander Goode, a Jewish Rabbi; Lt. John Washington, a Roman Catholic Priest; and Lt. Clark Poling, a Dutch Reformed minister, on the deck of the USAT Dorchester as it sinks.

(U.S. Army)

On the deck of the Dorchester, the men ministered to the scared and wounded. They helped organize the men up top, and Goode, the rabbi, gave his own gloves to Petty Officer John J. Mahoney, a sailor who had forgotten his belowdecks. Mahoney would later say that he believes Goode already knew he would stay on the ship.

The extensive damage to the hull and the boiler room ensured that the ship would sink quickly, so the men were rushing survivors off the ship as quickly as possible. The life jackets ran low, and all four chaplains gave their vests up to save others.

Back in the open, the chaplains ministered to the men as the ship sank into the waves only 20 minutes after the torpedo hit. Two Coast Guard cutters were scooping men out of the water and into lifeboats, but it wasn’t fast enough. The last survivors to escape the ship said that their last view of the chaplains was of them on deck, standing arm-in-arm, singing hymns and reciting religious passages to comfort both survivors and those who would drown with them.

The story of America’s first secret Space Force

1948 stamp commemorating the four religious leaders.

(U.S. Air Force)

Approximately 672 men died, and 230 from the Dorchester survived the attack and sinking. The American public and Congress pushed for the men to receive Medals of Honor, but the medal requires that the heroic actions take place under enemy fire.

The chaplains were posthumously awarded Distinguished Service Crosses instead, and Congress later created a new, one-time medal named the Four Chaplain’s Medal that was awarded by President Dwight D. Eisenhower during his final days in office in January 1961, almost 18 years after the sinking of the Dorchester.

MIGHTY HISTORY

7 ways your first year in the military mirrors freshman year

The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, and crust adorns your bright eyes as you open them to your earliest taste of freedom. Your room is decked out according to how you want it and what mommy and daddy say or think is no longer the deciding factor in what you will or won’t do for the day.


This day could easily belong either to Private Joe from Anytown, America or Johnny Freshman in any university dorm. There are some surprising similarities between those earliest days in the military and the typical freshman year of college.

Related: 8 reasons being in the military is like being in a sorority

7. You’re beyond lost

When you first encounter military instructors, as a military member, it is anything but pleasant.

Go this way! Go that way! Pick it up! Put it down!

Add that to the fact that you have zero idea where you’re going (and sometimes even where you’re coming from) and confusion is the only real outcome.

The story of America’s first secret Space Force
Pictured: The inside of a first-year service member’s mind (Photo from The Odyssey Online).

6. You have no idea what to do now that you’re away from home

The first time away from home can be extremely frightening for many. Even if your parents and/or guardians empowered you with freedom and responsibility, chances are that going to college or joining the military is your first time being away from home in a real way.

This isn’t taking a break for a few days or weeks, you have left the nest and flying solo can be scary.

Newness is very exciting but it also carries a certain measure of suck.

5. Boot camp is like pledging a fraternity/sorority

No disrespect to any fraternity or sorority, but actual military boot camp is one of the toughest things anyone will ever do, but there are similarities to rushing. There is information cramming, adapting to a new culture, an embarrassing haircut, frowned-upon hazing, and the list goes on.

Truthfully, the brotherhood of arms is very much a fraternity for some and a sorority for others. Our letters aren’t Greek but they do all start with “U.S.”

The story of America’s first secret Space Force

4. Dorm rooms

The only way to avoid time in a dorm room is getting married but, chances are, being fresh to the military means you aren’t ready for marriage. That doesn’t stop many young troops from walking down the aisle, but I digress…

Regardless of which service you join, the early stages of your enlistment will involve some type of dorm life. You simply can’t avoid it.

The story of America’s first secret Space Force
The look you make when you thought you got your own dorm room. Should’ve joined the Air Force. ( Photo from YouTube | Jon Richie)

3. The “freshman 15”

Besides the Marines, no other service as a whole just stays in shape. Every single service has physical training programs, sure, but not every branch will ride you and expect you to stay in the same shape you achieved in basic/boot.

This makes gaining weight too easy. Even if you adhere to the same standards training-wise, the availability of good eats can lead to a military version of the infamous “freshman 15.”

The story of America’s first secret Space Force
Trust me, it’s not that hard to get out of shape (Photo from Gawker).

2. Underage drinking

Yes, as a military member, you end up shouldering a lot of weight that most civilian teenagers wouldn’t. There is no denying that.

There is also no denying that a dorm party in the military looks a lot like a dorm party in college. There are kegs, there are guys and girls, there are food platters, and there are a lot of people alternating between throwing up and turning up. You know what there isn’t a lot of, though? Anyone checking identification!

Although it’s a rampant and completely normalized part of early enlisted life, underage drinking is 100% illegal in America and is a punishable offense.

The story of America’s first secret Space Force
A little early for a drink, Timmy (Photo from The Telegraph)

Also Read: 6 reasons being E-4(ish) mafia is the best

1. Growing up

Eventually, you learn your way and you become who you’ll be. Now, I’m not saying this happens by the end of that first year, but it does happen after some time. Until then, life is basically a series of hard knocks, adaptations, and semi-pleasant surprises.

It works out for most of us… well, for some of us.

The story of America’s first secret Space Force
You’ll get there, hopefully, one day (Photo from Minnesota National Guard).

MIGHTY HISTORY

Experts dispute what really killed Stonewall Jackson

Did friendly fire really kill Confederate Army Lt. Gen. Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson, or is this just a myth of the Civil War?


We all know the story (or should).

On May 2, 1863, Jackson was conducting a reconnaissance mission in the last stages of the Battle of Chancellorsville when he was accidentally shot by Confederate troops. He would die eight days later, after an operation to amputate his left arm.

 

The story of America’s first secret Space Force

Today, were someone to be wounded in the left arm and right hand, combat medics would rapidly be working on him to stabilize his condition. Once that was done, a MEDEVAC flight would get him to a combat hospital for further evaluation. Surgery on the arm might not even take place in a combat hospital – Jackson would likely have been transported to a place like Walter Reed for the actual surgery.

He might not lose the arm. He probably would not have died.

The story of America’s first secret Space Force
Army medics unload a mock casualty from a UH-60 Black Hawk medevac helicopter during a training exercise at the Joint Readiness Training Center. | U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Michael J. MacLeod

But this was 1863, and Jackson died. Why? According to one coroner in a History Channel video, the wounds Jackson received when he was accidentally shot by Confederate sentries while on a reconnaissance mission during the Battle of Chancellorsville on May 2, 1863, were not the direct cause of his death.

Instead, the blame may very well fall on the poor medical treatment he received after his wounds. The methods used to keep General Jackson under while his arm was amputated using the techniques of the time triggered the pneumonia that killed him, the coroner claims.

The story of America’s first secret Space Force

Is he right? Watch the video for yourself and let us know what you think!

History, YouTube

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Chinese military’s new propaganda video is epic

China’s People’s Liberation Army released a chilling video last week called “I am a Chinese Soldier,” which was first spotted in the West by the National Interest.

The 2:20 minute video, released on August 1 for China’s Army Day, emotionally underscores the sacrifices made by service members of the PLA while showing off some of the country’s latest weaponry.

At one point in the propaganda video, the narrator says “peace behind me, war in front of me,” which The National Interest said could be interpreted to mean war is “inevitable.”


The National Interest, which provided a translation of the narration, also pointed out that no female soldiers were depicted in the video — just mothers and wives sending their husbands or sons off.

Check out the video:

The high-quality video also likely instilled a lot of pride, something which Eric Wertheim, a naval expert with the US Naval Institute, recently told Business Insider is at least in part China’s reason for building a fleet of new aircraft carriers that may soon be on par with the US’ Nimitz-class carriers.

But China’s grand ambitions for a world-class military likely goes beyond pride and domestic politics, as Beijing continues to set its sights on the East and South China Seas, Taiwan, market access overseas, and more.

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

MIGHTY MOVIES

5 reasons why being a super soldier would actually suck

In comic books and superhero movies, there’s a constant trope about average troops being given superpowers to match their immense bravery and honest heart. From a story perspective, it makes sense. And according to the bumper stickers on most military spouses’ mini-vans, not all heroes wear capes after all.


But in real life, if you manage to survive a super-soldier project, you won’t be doing much superhero work. Take a look at Captain America for instance.

1. Uncle Sam would get his money’s worth

There isn’t an exact number put to how much it would cost to become a super soldier, but Forbes estimates the cost of Captain America at $54.6 Million. There’s no way you’d get away with having that much money spent on you without constantly having to do military stuff.

You probably won’t be doing Special Ops stuff, either. Your name and face would be everywhere and that’s simply too much money to put on the line. Plus, if the Army learned you could clean an entire Connex in one minute, guess what you’ll be doing…

The story of America’s first secret Space Force
That, or selling war bonds… (Paramount Pictures)

2. Everyone expects the best from you

Good luck trying to take it easy for a single moment.

You’re going to be constantly working. You’ll be on the move non-stop, saving everyone and doing the right thing. Even if the pressure weighs you down, you’ll have to keep saving everyone.

The story of America’s first secret Space Force
God forbid you take a nap for 70 years… (Paramount Pictures)

3. No more private life

A common theme in comic books and movies is the protagonist trying to balance their public, superhero life and a personal life. That balance wouldn’t be a thing for super soldiers.

They just don’t get the opportunity to BE civilians. If they do have a personal life, it’ll still just be doing regular military stuff.

The story of America’s first secret Space Force
You’re still never going to watch all those films you told people you’d eventually get around to seeing. (Walt Disney Studios)

4. No more getting drunk

Captain America doesn’t have a real weakness — except one. His superpowers and accelerated metabolism work too hard for him to get drunk.

No matter how much he drinks, he’ll never get the pleasure of stumbling home after the bars close.

The story of America’s first secret Space Force
At least you can hold your own with a Norse god. (Walt Disney Studios)

5. You’re never getting promoted… ever…

Once you’ve been given your superhero name, you can’t really change it. It’s your new identity. That’s fine for every other superhero, but it’s terrible for Captain America.

The ‘Captain’ in Captain America isn’t some clever name. It was Captain Steve Rogers’ actual rank in the U.S. Army. In The Ultimates, at least Colonel Nick Fury gets promoted to General.

The story of America’s first secret Space Force
Over 80 years of service and never promoted to Major. (Sony Pictures)

Bonus: At least chicks dig superheroes in uniform

It could be all the badass things he’s done in WWII, it could also be the CIB he rocks, or it could even be the Pinks and Greens he’s wearing. Either way…

The story of America’s first secret Space Force
It’s totally the P&G’s. (Paramount Pictures)

MIGHTY TRENDING

What happens when military aircraft find your anti-aircraft truck

Originally, the thing that terrified everyone about ISIS was how fast-moving it was and how sophisticated its battlefield strategy and equipment was. But as the battlefield has shifted against ISIS, their deployments have become less terrifying horror stories and more hilarious follies.


For example, have you heard the one about the ISIS anti-aircraft truck that was discovered by coalition aircraft? Yeah, turns out the anti-aircraft truck isn’t all that good at detecting aircraft.

Task Force Trailblazer, the 35th Combat Aviation Brigade, and other coalition forces were hunting for ISIS remnants in Iraq when they spotted the truck. While ISIS has lost its territory and de facto state, that just reduced it to a more “normal” terrorist organization — and it still has a decent arsenal of weaponry.

Hunting them down is important to finally #DefeatISIS, and eliminating the more sophisticated weapons makes it easier and safer to go after all the rest. Anti-aircraft trucks, in the scheme of things, are fairly sophisticated and important.

But the thing about coalition aircraft is that it includes a lot of aircraft and weapons that can engage enemy targets at well beyond the ranges at which they are easy to spot and attack. Basically, a jet can kill you from much further away than you can kill the jet, unless you have very good missiles and radar.

So, when U.S. forces found the truck, they called in an airstrike against it. It’s not immediately clear which weapon and platform was used against it, but it does look like a missile or fast-moving bomb enters the frame just before the explosion. While the 35th Combat Aviation Brigade was cited in Operation Inherent Resolve’s tweet, the 35th didn’t deploy with any attack helicopters, and so it’s likely that the attacking aircraft came from somewhere else.

Regardless, the footage is sweet and available at top. Enjoy.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US and Polish combat controllers train near Krakow

Clouds make way for the first pass of combat controllers from the U.S. and Polish forces as they free fall out of an MC130J Commando during a culmination exercise near Krakow, Poland recently. The joint team is determined to put all their recent training into action as they steer their parachutes onto the calculated target.

“We are in Poland to strengthen our already capable POLSOF allies by advising them on how we conduct special operations air land integration,” said the 321st Special Tactics Squadron commander, assigned to the 352nd Special Operations Wing, based in the United Kingdom. “This will give our Polish allies the ability to survey, secure and control an austere airfield anywhere in Poland.”


The exercise was based on a real-world scenario which featured jumping into and seizing an unimproved airfield, where they completed tasks such as deploying undetected into hostile combat and austere environments, while simultaneously conducting air traffic control and command and control.

The story of America’s first secret Space Force

Pararescuemen from the U.S. Air Force’s 321st Special Tactics Squadron assigned to the 352nd Special Operations Wing in England, conduct a medic response scenario during a culmination exercise near Krakow.

(Photo by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Pena)

“The CULMEX was our final chance to see everything we’ve trained with our Polish counterparts,” said the 321st STS mission commander. “The 321 STS is extremely impressed with the high level of partnership and competency demonstrated by the soldiers of the Polish Special Operations Forces from Military Unit NIL.”

By sharing methods and developing best practices, U.S. and NATO partners around the world remain ready to respond to any potential real-world contingencies in Eastern Europe.

The team deployed to Poland months prior, in order to build upon Polish Special Operations Command’s ability to conduct special operations air-to-land integration.

“We’ve been planning for two months,” said a 321st STS combat controller. “We’ve practiced basics of assault zones, air traffic control, completing surveys and what we call the global-access piece; our capability to find airfields anywhere in the world to forward project highly trained manpower and equipment whenever needed.”

Along with developing joint leaders, this deployment gave the units the opportunity to establish professional development at the tactical level.

The story of America’s first secret Space Force

A combat controller from U.S. Air Force Special Operations Command’s 321st Special Tactics Squadron assigned to the 352nd Special Operations Wing in England, prepares to free fall out of an MC130J during a culmination exercise near Krakow.

(Photo by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Pena)

“It helped us to learn our job better too; I feel like anytime you’re training with another unit, it makes you that much better at your own skills. It allowed some of our younger guys to become leaders and put them in positions where they may not have been before,” said a 321st STS combat controller.

“We are very proud of our relationship with POLSOF and other NATO allies,” said the 321st STS commander. “We look forward to building and maintaining our abilities to conduct special operations (air-to-land) integration in Europe as a joint and ready force.”

Through these types of joint training exercises, special operation commands across the force stand ready to operate anytime, anyplace.

“This will ultimately increase the reach and the responsiveness of U.S. and NATO forces, deterring enemy aggression in Eastern Europe,” said the 321st STS commander. “Should the day come where we have to fight together in combat, I am confident in our joint capabilities.”

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

Articles

That time this Navy squadron bombed North Vietnam with a toilet

In October 1965, Commander Clarence W. Stoddard, Jr. of the USS Midway carried a special bomb to North Vietnam to celebrate the six millionth pound of ordnance dropped on the Communist country: a ceramic toilet.


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The event was recounted on MidwaySailor.com:

The bombing was a Dixie Station strike from South Vietnam. Among the weapons on Stoddard’s ordnance list was one code named “Sani-Flush.”

Sani-flush was a damaged toilet, which was going to be thrown overboard. One of the Midway‘s plane captains rescued it and the ordnance crew made a rack, tail fins, and nose fuse for it. The checkers maintained a position to block the view of the air boss and the captain while the aircraft was taxiing forward.

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The toilet ordnance was dropped in a dive with Stoddard’s wingman, Lt. Cmdr. Robin Bacon, flying tight wing position to film the drop. When it came off, it turned hole to the wind and almost struck his airplane, and whistled all the way down.

According to Clint Johnson, now a retired U.S. Navy Captain, just as Stoddard’s A-1 Skyraider was being shot off, they received a message from the bridge: “What the hell was on 572’s right wing?”

“There were a lot of jokes with air intelligence about germ warfare,” Johnson said. “I wish that we had saved the movie film. Commander Stoddard was later killed while flying 572 in October 1966. He was hit by three SAMs over Vinh.”

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Cmdr. William Stoddard

This isn’t the first example of unconventional warfare from U.S. Navy aviators. In August 1952, AD-4 Skyraiders from the aircraft carrier USS Princeton dropped a 1,000-pound bomb with a kitchen sink attached to it.

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“We dropped everything on them (the North Koreans) but a kitchen sink.” Their squadron’s executive officer, Lt. Cmdr. M.K. Dennis, told the press, before showing them a bomb with a kitchen sink attached.

The admiral was not okay with this, but caved to pressure from American press. The U.S. dropped the kitchen sink on Pyongyang that same month.

MIGHTY CULTURE

A soldier faked his way into the 82nd Airborne – and almost everything else

Jumping from a perfectly good airplane is inherently dangerous, even for qualified Army Airborne personnel. Why someone would fake their way into jumping without being certified or trained is anyone’s guess, but there was Staff Sgt. Joshua Stokes in August 2014, making the jump. Somehow, he landed like a paratrooper, and no one would figure out his entire Army life was a sham.

Not yet, anyway.


Stokes was on his way to a staff position at his battalion headquarters when his company’s Air NCO noticed something was off about his Airborne Graduation Certificate. His was the only one in the entire 82d whose name wasn’t printed in all caps. It was just the first in a long line of falsified documents that Stokes had in his service record. The Air NCO wasn’t going to let it go. When Stokes wouldn’t produce the paperwork for his parachutist badge, he called Fort Benning’s Airborne School.

That’s when the 82d Airborne discovered Staff Sgt. Joshua Stokes had never attended Airborne School. And the long effort to unravel all of Stokes’ false records began. It wasn’t only that he wasn’t jump qualified. There was much, much more, according to an Army Times story from 2018.

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A U.S. Soldier jumpmaster, assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division instructs Paratroopers from various units during pre-jump training at Pope Army Airfield, N.C., Aug. 7, 2019. Paratroopers perform routine airborne proficiency training to maintain their skills and keep readiness alive.

(U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Gin-Sophie De Bellotte)

An Army investigation discovered the soldier had been sending false documents to the Electronic Military Personnel Office for almost as long as he’d been in the military. Some falsehoods were small, like claiming to have attended Sniper School and even being an instructor there for three years. Others were egregious, like claiming to have received the Purple Heart and Good Conduct Medal – for a time period before he was ever in the Army.

Stokes’ graduation certificate was dated for a Sunday, not a Friday as per Airborne tradition. HIs jump log lists dates of jumps he made when he was actually stationed with the 10th Mountain Division. He had never attended Sniper School, let alone work as an instructor. Stokes claimed to have finished Jump School, but he had never received jump pay. For all his denials, there are photos of Stokes wearing the Purple Heart in his dress uniform. Stokes’ Good Conduct Medal dates back to January 1992, when he was still in high school. He not only faked his way into the famed unit, he had faked his way through almost his entire Army career.

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U.S. Army Paratroopers of the 82nd Airborne Division go through pre-jump safety procedures, Aug. 7, 2019, at Pope Army Airfield, N.C. During this procedure strong emphasis is placed on the way troops exit the Paratroop door to maximize their safety during the operation.

(U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Gin-Sophie De Bellotte)

The real Stokes entered the military in the California National Guard with the name Asche before changing his name to Stokes. As Stokes, he entered active duty in May 2003. His first assignment was at Fort Drum with the 10th Mountain Division. His record shows he was a sniper then, but the Army’s Sniper School has no record of that. Army investigators found that at least ten false documents had been added on a single day in 2007.

Army Times found Stokes on Facebook and reached out for comment, but none was forthcoming. The Army confirmed with Army Times that Stokes was administratively separated from the Army sometime between the start of the investigation and the writing of the Army Times story, but could not explain why, as those records are protected by privacy laws. One thing is for certain, the Army believes Stokes falsified all the questionable documents and added them to his record on his own.

And he almost got away with it.

Lists

These are the only 3 countries who protect the right to bear arms

The right to keep and bear arms is a longstanding, often glorified right protected by the US Constitution.


Americans own nearly half of all the civilian-owned guns in the world, and on a per capita basis, the US has far more guns than any other nation.

Certainly, many countries are awash with guns. Among the nations with the most firearms are Serbia, Yemen, Switzerland, and Saudi Arabia.

There are only three countries, however, that have a constitutional right to keep and bear arms: Mexico, Guatemala, and the United States — here’s why.

Mexico

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Mexican army members salute during a ceremony honoring the 201st Fighter Squadron at Chapultepec Park in Mexico City, Mexico, March 6, 2009. (DoD photo by Air Force Master Sgt. Adam M. Stump.)

Just south of the US border, the Mexican government has a strict hold over civilian gun ownership. Although Mexicans have a right to buy a gun, bureaucratic hurdles, long delays, and narrow restrictions make it extremely difficult to do so.

Article 10 of the 1857 Mexican Constitution guaranteed that “every man has the right to keep and to carry arms for his security and legitimate defense.” But 60 years later in 1917, lawmakers amended it following Mexico’s bloody revolution.

During the rewriting of the constitution, the government placed more severe restrictions on the right to buy guns. The law precluded citizens from buying firearms “reserved for use by the military” and forbid them from carrying “arms within inhabited places without complying with police regulations.”

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Today, Mexicans still have a right to buy guns, but they must contend with a vague federal law that determines “the cases, conditions, requirements, and places in which the carrying of arms will be authorized.”

In 2012, The New York Times reported that only members of the police or military can buy the largest weapons in Mexico, such as semiautomatic rifles.

“Handgun permits for home protection allow only for the purchase of calibers no greater than .38,” the Times wrote. One man who wanted to buy a pistol had to pay $803.05 for a Smith Wesson revolver.

Perhaps the biggest hurdle of all is that there is only one shop in the entire country where Mexicans can go to buy guns, and it’s located on a heavily guarded army base in Mexico City.

Guatemala

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Guards with guns in Guatamala City. (Image Wikicommons)

Like Mexico, Guatemala permits gun ownership, but with severe restrictions. The right to bear arms is recognized and regulated by article 38 of the current constitution, which was established in 1985.

“The right to own weapons for personal use, not prohibited by the law, in the place of in habitation, is recognized,” the document says. “There will not be an obligation to hand them over, except in cases ordered by a competent judge.”

Although Guatemalans are not allowed to own fully automatic weapons, they are allowed to buy semi-automatic weapons, handguns, rifles, and shotguns if they obtain a permit. Still, that can be difficult.

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For example, individuals who want to purchase a gun for private security purposes need approval from the government. They are also limited in how much ammunition they can own, and they must re-apply and re-qualify for their firearm licenses every one to three years, according to GunPolicy.org.

Despite the restrictions, guns are widely available in Guatemala. In fact, it has one of the highest gun ownership rates per capita in Latin America, according to Insight Crime. The same organization also noted that 75% of homicides in Guatemala involve a gun.

United States

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That’s nice, Ted.

Although Mexico and Guatemala both have a constitutional right to bear arms, the US is in a league of its own simply because it is the only country without restrictions on gun ownership in its constitution.

The second amendment states: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

Those words were adopted in 1791 and have since inspired other countries around the world to provide their citizens with the right to own guns. Only 15 constitutions (in nine countries) “ever included an explicit right to bear arms,” according to The New York Times.

They are Bolivia, Costa Rica, Colombia, Honduras, Nicaragua, Liberia, Guatemala, Mexico, and the US. All of those countries, excluding Mexico, the US, and Guatemala, have since rescinded the constitutional right to bear arms.

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