'The Rock of Chickamauga' is the only Union General who never lost a battle - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

‘The Rock of Chickamauga’ is the only Union General who never lost a battle

There’s ongoing debate among historians and military history buffs about which general was better, Grant or Lee? Or maybe the question should be Sherman or Jackson? The name you never hear in these debates is George H. Thomas, who is arguably better than all of them, because he would not publicize himself or allow history to give him the credit he richly deserves.


Thomas cut his teeth in the Mexican War under General Zachary Taylor. There, he learned the harsh lessons that come with poor planning and poor logistics. He also learned to trust the fundamentals of fielding an Army and keeping it secure — a lesson that would later earn him the nickname “The Soldier’s Soldier” from enlisted Union Men.

But when Civil War came, Gen. Thomas was not well-trusted by President Lincoln, seeing as Thomas was born a Virginian — and your home state really meant something at the time. Thomas remained a loyal Union man because his wife was born in the North and, considering his skill as a leader, we should be glad he was. Still, his family turned their backs on him, President Lincoln never accepted him, and other officers never trusted him, but that didn’t matter. He did whatever was asked of him with whatever tools his superiors gave him without complaint.

‘The Rock of Chickamauga’ is the only Union General who never lost a battle
Because real bosses don’t need to talk shit.

The main tool they gave him was the battered, bloodied, and often undisciplined rabble from Tennessee, Kentucky, and Ohio, many of whom were basically thrown into the meat grinder at Shiloh by General Ulysses S. Grant (whose mismanagement of the battle nearly lost it for the Union). Conversely, Thomas, known by his fellow officers at the beginning of the war as “Slow Trot,” emphasized planning, preparation, and attention to detail — and how it made a difference when the bullets started to fly.

Thomas did not get an easy start in the Civil War, however. His first opponent was General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson’s cavalry shortly before the Battle of Bull Run. Though first Bull Run pitted even numbers of Northern troops against Southern, the North performed terribly. They broke and ran in a disastrous rout — all except Thomas’ cavalry. Thomas earned a promotion to brigadier for manhandling Jackson’s cavalry.

His next opponent was Albert Sidney Johnston, the Texan whom Confederate President Jefferson Davis considered the best officer before Robert E. Lee’s rise. The North needed a win — any win — to boost morale. Thomas gave it to them, plowing the Confederates at Mill Springs and pushing them into the Cumberland River. In doing so, he completely smashed Johnston’s hold on Kentucky.

‘The Rock of Chickamauga’ is the only Union General who never lost a battle
Epic mustaches, all of them.

By 1863, Thomas was moving into Tennessee as second to Gen. William Rosecrans, pushing Confederate General Braxton Bragg out of Chattanooga. Believing Bragg was in full retreat, Rosecrans marched the Army of the Cumberland into a trap. Bragg hit Rosecrans at a place called Chickamauga Creek — “the River of Death” according to the the Cherokee.

As James Longstreet committed his men, veterans returning from the fighting at Gettysburg, to the battle, the Union right flank began to fold. Rosecrans began riding for Chattanooga, some of his officers in tow — but Thomas wasn’t going anywhere. As fleeing men came into his sphere, he reorganized them along a ridge and implored them to hold the line at any cost. With the support and guidance of General Thomas’, or “Old Reliable,” as he was called by his men, they held off the Confederates long enough to save the Army of the Cumberland, along with the Union hold on Tennessee.

Rosecrans lost his job, but Thomas, now called “The Rock of Chickamauga,” inherited the Army.

Grant wrote off Thomas’ army as used-up during the Battle for Chattanooga. Thomas and the Army of the Cumberland were to hold until all the attacking armies in position to advance on Chattanooga. But when Grant’s plan fell apart, Thomas had to move his army to support General Sherman’s troops, who were struggling. Not only did Thomas’ men relieve Sherman’s troops, they forced the Confederate Army from the field.

‘The Rock of Chickamauga’ is the only Union General who never lost a battle
Because once you take one hill, you just can’t stop.

Despite his higher rank and superior ability, Grant instead chose William T. Sherman to lead the march on Atlanta. Still, Thomas commanded most of Sherman’s infantry and protected the column as it moved south into Georgia. After they took the city, Confederate General John B. Hood moved North, deftly avoiding the Union Army and moving into Nashville. Sherman reduced the Army of the Cumberland and ordered Thomas to take the remaining troops north in pursuit.

He destroyed Hood’s entire army, earning the nickname the “Hammer of Nashville.”

After the war, Thomas stayed in the military for the rest of his days. He was never celebrated like his contemporaries and he never bothered to publish memoirs of his time in combat. He even deliberately burned his notes to keep someone else from doing it in his stead. Grant, Sherman, and Sheridan would sometimes give him credit, but always with the caveat that he was slow.

“Time and history will do me justice,” Thomas said before his death in 1870.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of May 17th

I’ve already made up my mind that if the Space Force starts opening up its doors to include combat arms within my lifetime, I’d be at the recruiting office in a heartbeat. It doesn’t matter that knowing how I’d react, I’d probably be a random Red Shirt who’d have his back turned at the worst possible moment and say something ironic like “the coast is clear!” before getting eaten by something.

Then Senator Ted Cruz in a Senate hearing advocating the Space Force planted the ultimate idea in my head… Space Pirates. Sure, the memes were taken slightly out of context because he was referring to rogue nations attacking satellites and not the swashbuckling buccaneers we’re thinking of. But is it a bad thing that kinda makes me want to join the Space Force even more?

It’ll take far too long for us to make first contact with aliens yet it’ll only take a few decades for space travel to be affordable enough for us to get down on some Firefly or Babylon 5-type action. We’re counting on you, Elon Musk. Make this dream come true!


While we wait for the cold dark reality that the Space Force will probably be far less exciting in our lifetimes than pop culture expects, here are some memes.

‘The Rock of Chickamauga’ is the only Union General who never lost a battle

(Meme via Not CID)

‘The Rock of Chickamauga’ is the only Union General who never lost a battle

(Meme via Air Force Nation Humor)

‘The Rock of Chickamauga’ is the only Union General who never lost a battle

(Meme via Team Non-Rec)

“I don’t know, Hanz, he said something about my mother being a hamster and my father smelling like elderberries.” 

Fun fact: The insult from Monty Python was actually implying that King Arthur’s mom reproduced fast like a small rodent and his father was a drunk who could only afford the lowest quality wine. The more you know!

‘The Rock of Chickamauga’ is the only Union General who never lost a battle

(Meme via Infantry Follow Me)

‘The Rock of Chickamauga’ is the only Union General who never lost a battle

(Meme via Army as F*ck)

‘The Rock of Chickamauga’ is the only Union General who never lost a battle

(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

‘The Rock of Chickamauga’ is the only Union General who never lost a battle

(Meme via Hooah My Ass Off)

‘The Rock of Chickamauga’ is the only Union General who never lost a battle

(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)

‘The Rock of Chickamauga’ is the only Union General who never lost a battle

(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

‘The Rock of Chickamauga’ is the only Union General who never lost a battle

(Meme via Pop Smoke)

‘The Rock of Chickamauga’ is the only Union General who never lost a battle

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

‘The Rock of Chickamauga’ is the only Union General who never lost a battle

(Meme via U.S. Veterans Network)

‘The Rock of Chickamauga’ is the only Union General who never lost a battle

(Meme via Weapons of Meme Destruction)

MIGHTY SPORTS

Why Bill Belichick doesn’t wear NFL ‘Salute to Service’ gear

It’s safe to say that no one would describe the NFL’s third most-winningest coach as a fashion maven. During most Patriots games, head coach Bill Belichick can be seen on the sidelines, wearing some version of a Patriots sweatshirt. Over the course of the man’s 18-year career as the Patriots’ HMFIC, he’s committed more fashion penalties than anyone ever seen on television.

The one thing you don’t see him in is the NFL’s annual November Salute to Service swag. The reason is simple, and if you know anything about the Pats’ head coach, it’s undeniably Belichick.


After five Super Bowl wins and an NFL-leading .628 winning percentage, it’s all come down to this: Why doesn’t Bill Belichick ever wear the NFL’s Salute to Service sweatshirts? This season, he actually answered the question for reporters. The first Sunday in November 2018 passed, and while every sideline in the country was adorned with olive green hoodies, one person was conspicuously still in his trademark, regular Patriots gear.

‘The Rock of Chickamauga’ is the only Union General who never lost a battle

Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy sports the NFL’s 2018 “Salute to Service” hoodie vs. the Patriots on Sunday, Nov. 4, 2018.

“Honestly, I don’t think what sweatshirt I wear is that important,” he told reporters during a Monday press conference. “What’s important to me is what your actions are, what you do, so I try to make those count.”

Belichick’s father was Steve Belichick, a World War II veteran and longtime coaching staff member at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis. Having spent much of his life in and around Naval officers and midshipmen, it’s probably safe to say the younger Belichick developed an appreciation for the U.S. Armed Forces.

As a matter of fact, it was his time spent at the Naval Academy as a youth that developed his proven approach to football.

‘The Rock of Chickamauga’ is the only Union General who never lost a battle

“Depending on the weather and so forth, I just wear the same thing for every game,” Belichick told reporters on Nov. 5, 2018.

In an interview with Nantucket Magazine, the coach described how the football program at Annapolis led to his direction of the New England Patriots.

“When I look back on it, one of the things I learned at Annapolis, when I grew up around the Navy football teams in the early sixties — Joe Bellino, Roger Staubach, Coach Wayne Hardin, and some of the great teams they had — I didn’t know any differently. I just assumed that’s what football was. Guys were very disciplined. They worked very hard. They did extra things. They were always on time, alert, ready to go, team-oriented, unselfish. I thought that’s the way it all was. I wasn’t aware of it at the time, but I can see how that molded me.”
‘The Rock of Chickamauga’ is the only Union General who never lost a battle

Beli-chic.

The Patriots’ coach is also well-known for his references to military history when discussing football strategy and on-field, in-game tactics with players and subordinate coaches. Military history and discipline is instilled in everyone in the Patriots organization, starting with the man at the top. Everyone has to go learn their military history, sources in the organization told the Wall Street Journal.

Bill Belichick isn’t about making empty gestures to the military, he and the New England Patriots live the idea behind ‘Salute to Service’ every day. So, when Bill Belichick’s cut-sleeves Patriots hoodie isn’t green during November, cut the guy some slack.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why only an idiot would render a  salute in a combat zone

It’s inevitable. Someone will get deployed, spot an officer, and render a proper salute as if they were back in the garrison only to be met with a look of disdain. We’ve seen it the other way around, too. A troop walks by an officer who gets offended when they aren’t given a salute.

Now, there’s no denying that it’s good military discipline to give a proper greeting to an officer whenever they cross your path — it shows respect worthy of their rank and position.

But when you’re deployed, the rules are different — and for good reason.


‘The Rock of Chickamauga’ is the only Union General who never lost a battle

There’s a time and place for a salute. Remember, the respect the salute is meant to convey is more important than the act itself.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Cody Miller)

First of all, if you actually take the time to read the regulations on saluting, you’ll notice there’s almost always a clause that states “except under combat conditions.” The regulations are very clear about not saluting under combat conditions — but there are other exceptions not explicitly outlined in the books.

It doesn’t make sense to render a salute when you’re in formation and you’ve not been given the command, when you’re carrying things with both hands, or while eating. Saluting in these moments is a great way to turn something respectful into a sign of disrespect.

‘The Rock of Chickamauga’ is the only Union General who never lost a battle

If you’re going to salute in combat, you’re wrong. If you’re going to salute with a rifle and it doesn’t look like the above photo, you’re even more wrong.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Damian Martinez)

Anyway, if you’re going to salute in a combat zone, at least do it right. If you’re deployed, chances are high that you’re carrying a rifle with you at all times. Giving a proper salute while carrying a rifle is actually only done when given the command to “present, arms.” Even then, it doesn’t involve putting your right hand to your brow.

But performing that motion requires you to raise the barrel of your rifle into the air. And if there’s even the slightest chance that there’s a round in the chamber (which, especially when you’re in a combat zone, is a possibility), swinging around the rifle is just asking for a negligent discharge…

‘The Rock of Chickamauga’ is the only Union General who never lost a battle

Yeah. Jokingly saluting an officer and saying “sniper check, sir!” suddenly became a little less funny, huh?

(National Archives)

Why is all of this important to note? Because you must assume that the enemy is always watching from a distance, ready to take their shot at the highest-ranking person they can. This has been a concern since the first scope was put on a rifle.

While there are many officers who’ve lost their lives to enemy snipers, it’s unclear just how many were killed directly after some moron announced their importance to the rest of the world. What we do know, however, is that the most famous American sniper took out a high-ranking enemy with the help of a salute.

Gunnery Sgt. Hathcock made his legendary shot at an NVA general from over two miles away. He was too far away to accurately tell which enemy was the general at a glance, especially when several people walked in a group. Take a single guess at how he identified who was who.

You can still show respect to officers while deployed without doing it improperly and risking their life. A simple, “Good afternoon, sir,” is much more appreciated.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Iran will withdraw from parts of the 2015 nuclear deal

On June 17, 2019, the Islamic Republic of Iran announced that it will scale back its compliance with the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action – also known as the Iran Nuclear Deal – that the United States withdrew from in 2018. According to Iran’s Tasnim News Service, the government will increase stocks of enriched uranium and the heavy water required to make more enriched uranium at its Arak heavy water site.


Heavy water is used in nuclear reactors to slow down neutrons so they are more likely to react with uranium-235, where the element will capture neutrons in a fissile manner. uranium-238 cannot sustain a nuclear reaction, but uranium-235 can. Heavy water reactors create plutonium as a waste material, plutonium that can be used in nuclear weapons.

‘The Rock of Chickamauga’ is the only Union General who never lost a battle

Iran has been making consistent nuclear advances since the reviled President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was in office.

The Islamic Republic also announced it would begin enriching uranium again as a result of the U.S. leaving the 2015 deal. This means Iran will begin creating more of the uranium-235 required to sustain nuclear reactions, using the heavy water in its reactors. Under the terms of the 2015 nuclear deal, Iran agreed to eliminate its stockpiles of medium-enriched Uranium and reduce its stock of low-enriched Uranium by 98 percent. It also agreed to limit its centrifuge production and use while limiting its future enrichment to uranium at on 3.67 percent.

Iran also agreed to limit the possibilities of nuclear proliferation by converting other sources of uranium enrichment and heavy water production to other purposes.

‘The Rock of Chickamauga’ is the only Union General who never lost a battle

The Arak Heavy Water Facility.

Until now, other global powers have agreed with Iran ending its participation in some areas of the deal. Those powers are still signatory to the agreement. The most recent developments, the continuation in heavy water production and the increased production of enriched uranium, were not agreed upon by the other signatories to the deal. Iran warned the world in May 2019 that it would take these steps unless the sanctions on Iran were lifted as per the terms of the agreement.

It has been true to its word in all areas regarding the deal – and its dismantling – so far.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This MoH recipient had the most impressive last stand at Heartbreak Ridge

Standing among the greatest warriors are the troops who go above and beyond the call of duty for their comrades when the odds are at their slimmest. This is the story of Medal of Honor recipient Pfc. Herbert K. Pilila’au.

Herbert K. Pilila’au was a native Hawaiian, born and raised on the island of O’ahu. Those who knew him growing up would describe him as a gentle kid who would spend much of his time reading the Bible and listening to classical music.


He was drafted into the Korean War at the age of 22 and attended Basic Training at Fort Shafter. His peers were in awe as they watched the stillest, quietest soldier in their company turn out to be the most physically fit and strong of the recruits. Despite being the most talked-about soldier, he remained humble and continually wrote home.

‘The Rock of Chickamauga’ is the only Union General who never lost a battle
A home not too far from the Pilila’au Army Rec Center, lateru00a0named in his honor.
(Photo courtesy of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation – Hawaii)

Very shortly after basic training, he was attached to Charlie Company of the 23rd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division and entered the fray in Gangwon Province, Korea. He volunteered to be the squad’s automatic rifleman saying, “someone had to do it.”

He first showed his prowess in battle alongside the rest of the 23rd Infantry Regiment as they fought at the Battle of Bloody Ridge in August of 1951. This victory lead United Nations troops to march on what is now known as the Battle of Heartbreak Ridge.

‘The Rock of Chickamauga’ is the only Union General who never lost a battle
The battle for these hills would end up costing the lives of 3,700 American and French GIs.
(Courtesy of the National Archives)

Pilila’au would meet his destiny on September 17th, 1951, when his platoon was tasked with protecting the ridge-line of Hill 931. After suffering a barrage of North Korean artillery strikes on their position, his platoon was forced to retreat. As they started to rejoin the rest of the unit, North Korean infantrymen descended on their position.

Pfc. Herbert K. Pilila’au volunteered himself to cover the retreat of the rest of his platoon with his Browning Automatic Rifle. He laid fire into every North Korean that came his way until he ran out of bullets. He then switched to throwing every grenade he had with him. When the grenades were gone, he pulled out his trench knife and carved into any attacker he could while punching them with his free hand. It was only after his platoon was safe that he would be surrounded and, finally, fall to an enemy bayonet.

When his platoon retook the position the next day, they discovered the bodies of forty North Koreans around his. He was buried at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu. On June 18th, 1952, Pfc. Herbert K. Pilila’au was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor and became the first Native Hawaiian to receive the United States Military’s highest decoration.

hauntedbattlefields

MilSpouse lists its top 10 most haunted military bases

Spend a little time around any military installation, and you’re bound to hear tell of ghosts and urban legends. Often, the local gossip is just that, mere myth and fabrication.

But sometimes, an area is beset with enough spooky evidence that is hard to ignore, as is the case with the following ten haunted military bases.

You might want to turn the lights on before reading this list.


‘The Rock of Chickamauga’ is the only Union General who never lost a battle

10. West Point Military Academy, New York

With reports of a ghostly cavalry still reporting for duty, the academy often pops up on most haunted lists. In 2017, ‘Thrillist‘ named West Point the most haunted place in New York.

Of particular interest is Room 4714, where an opalescent figure is said to drift in and out of stone walls, terrifying first-year plebes as they settle into their new sleeping quarters.

Perhaps, not so coincidentally – Sleepy Hollow and West Point are a mere 42 minute drive apart. Maybe that’s also part of the reason Ed and Lorraine Warren – the famed ghost-hunters whose stories inspired films, “Annabelle,” “The Conjuring,” and “The Amityville Horror” – also lectured at the academy in the 1970’s.

9. Fort Leavenworth, Kansas

Fort Leavenworth’s Frontier Army Museum has documented nearly three dozen haunted houses, making Leavenworth one of the most haunted Army installations. The museum has dockets of stories captured throughout the base, and from the nearby correctional facilities of: U.S. Penitentiary Leavenworth, U.S. Disciplinary Barracks and Midwest Joint Regional Correctional Facility, where multiple inmates within the facilities are on death row.

The museum’s stories are so well-told, that their annual “Haunted Fort Leavenworth Tours” sell out weeks in advance.

‘The Rock of Chickamauga’ is the only Union General who never lost a battle

8. Francis E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyoming

F.E. Warren is old, having begun operations in 1867 as Fort D.A. Russell. Airmen stationed here have reported other-worldly screams so terrifying that they’ve called base Security Forces to report it. The responders understand, because in the Security Forces Group Building 34, K-9 units whimper and whine at the staircases. The building was once the base hospital, its basement, the morgue.

The base’s haunted reputation routinely fills seats on the Cheyenne Visitors Bureau “Haunted Halloween Trolley Tour,” and has attracted the Colorado Paranormal Investigation (CPI), a Denver-based team of ghost hunters, and the Rocky Mountain Paranormal Research Society. Both agencies have recorded unexplained paranormal activity.

On-base housing residents offer the following advice: “Want to know if your house is really haunted? Wait for Halloween, and see if the trolley tour pauses by your driveway.”

7. Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington

Under the shadow of Mt. Rainer, in what used to be mere uninhabited rugged wilderness, Joint Base Lewis-McChord has accumulated its share of the ephemeral. Once the site of a guest house called The Red Shield Inn, the Fort Lewis Military Museum has been a hub of paranormal activity with reports of hauntings dating back decades – including rumors of an exorcism to placate an actor’s restless spirit who was murdered in the inn.

Although records of the exorcism have not yet been officially substantiated by the Catholic Church, numerous accounts and reporting suggest the event might have indeed occurred.

6. Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana

When a state boasts tales of voodoo, spooky hotels, and ghost roads – it’s small wonder that when hospital and cemetery space is repurposed in Louisiana, the dead don’t get the message. Military members whose office space just happens to be along Davis Avenue, coincidentally the site of the former base hospital, have reported doors slamming shut, footsteps running down hallways, and objects thrown across the room. Even the Base Exchange and Commissary are haunted here, as both locations were built upon the former home of the Stonewall Cemetery.

As if the base hauntings weren’t scary enough, the nearby cities of Shreveport and Bossier-City are a hotbed of spookiness, including an eerie creek crossing called “Green Light Bridge” where unexplained green lights hover around the small, country bridge. Those who live near the area know, “green means go” and if you ever see the lights – run.

‘The Rock of Chickamauga’ is the only Union General who never lost a battle

5. Warner Robins Air Force Base, Georgia

The ghost stories swirling throughout the misty Georgia landscape are many. As the 13th Colony, the state certainly makes a good case for itself as being one of the most haunted in the continental U.S.

Warner Robins is located 18 miles south of Macon, Georgia – a city home to many haunted legends itself, including the chilling Hay House, named one of the “13 Most Beautiful Haunted Destinations in the World” by Architectural Digest. It’s a house where wedding photographers have captured the wedding party, and ghosts, on camera.

And, if you fancy meeting a witch, just head a few miles outside of the base to “Gravity Hill.” Legend has it that locals were actually kind to the witch who lived here in the 1800’s, and interred her body in a grave upon her death. It’s believed she continues to repay the kindness by helping cars over the ridge. To see her work, place your car in neutral, and watch as it rolls…uphill, against gravity.

There is also plethora of unexplained phenomena that would send Mulder and Scully running, including multiple UFO sightings, and a strange incident from 1954. Still not completely understood, over 50,000 birds, representing 53 species flew straight into the base’s runway flood lights, and careened like projectiles into the ground. To date, the event remains one of the largest mass bird mortality incidents in recorded U.S. history.

4. Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio

Dubbed the “Birthplace of Aviation,” Wright-Patterson is one of the largest Air Force bases and also home to the USAF Aviation Museum – full of historic planes, where some of the former air crews…haven’t quite left.

But it’s Building 219 in particular that has presented the most paranormal activity. The three-story brick building was also the site of a hospital, the basement level of course serving as the morgue.

Hauntings there are so well known that the base featured on the SyFy Channel’s “Ghost Hunters” series. The production team actually received DoD permission to be escorted onto the base for an investigation, which heavily focused on Building 219. Several phenomena were recorded, including footsteps and incessant tapping.

When one of the ghost hunters asked the dark, empty air, “Give us two taps if you want us to leave,” and two taps quickly sounded – he said he felt obligated to honor his word and the team quickly left. Only later, while investigating their digital recordings did they hear women’s laughter following the taps.

3. Fort McNair, Washington D.C.

Following the assassination of Abraham Lincoln in April 1865, the arms of justice moved swiftly. After a 12-day manhunt, John Wilkes Booth was shot and killed by police, while his co-conspirators were quickly apprehended and imprisoned in the Washington Arsenal awaiting trial. Four would be sentenced to death by hanging, two others given life sentences.

One of the guilty sentenced to die included Mary Surratt, the proprietress of the boarding house where Booth and his associates developed the assassination plot. Although Surratt adamantly maintained her innocence, she was found guilty – and became the first woman executed by the U.S. federal government, with President Andrew Johnson himself signing the orders for execution.

The guilty watched from their jail cell windows as their own gallows were constructed in front of them, in the south part of the Washington Arsenal Courtyard.

The Washington Arsenal is now…none other than Fort McNair, where it is said an angry, restless spirit roams the grounds, shrouded in a dark bonnet and long black dress, melting snow in a path, as if still retracing her steps to the gallows…

‘The Rock of Chickamauga’ is the only Union General who never lost a battle

2. Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam

In a place that has experienced intense emotion and devastating tragedy, something is bound to be left behind.

Even before enduring one of the most tragic military attacks on U.S. soil, the Hawaiian Islands teem with stories of the supernatural. Locals warn to watch out for Pele – the goddess of fire who also has a proclivity for hitchhiking as the “White Lady.” There are the ghosts of ancient Hawaiian warriors called “Night Marchers” who drum their way across the sky during full moons, and of course, deities who guard the volcanoes, placing a curse on anyone foolish enough to take lava rocks from the Islands.

Bookended alongside the Islands’ own haunted history is the tragedy of Pearl Harbor. A total of 2,403 Americans were killed in the attack, the majority of deaths occurring in Pearl Harbor, while others occurred on neighboring installations, Schofield Barracks, and Wheeler Army Air Field. The torpedoed USS Arizona took 1,177 souls with her as she sank to the ocean floor, and still lies in memoriam.

Numerous military members have reported eerie noises from the harbor, disembodied screams, and appliances that seem to have a mind of their own. Those living in base housing have also reported mumbling voices, footsteps, and laughter, doors and cabinets that open…and close, on their own, and flickering lights, just to name a few encounters.

1. Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, Japan

Japan frequently tops the most haunted lists in horror film and literature, and the notoriety is warranted. Tales of terror stretch back in Japanese literature to the Heian period (794-1185), in a time so ancient that stories were inked onto scrolls, known as Gaki-zoshi, or “Scrolls of the Hungry Ghosts.”

Unsurprisingly, Kadena Air Base and the surrounding military community have reported all manner of terrifying activity. Ghosts have approached one installation gate so many times, that the activity has been captured in multiple videos.

Building 2283 on Kadena was once a tranquil single-family base housing unit built next to a daycare center, until an alleged family murder took place in the home. The USO used to hold ghost tours here, until curtains parted by themselves and a landline phone – long disconnected, rang in the house in front of terrified tour groups. Before the building was demolished in 2009, the next-door daycare teachers complained that their students kept throwing their toys over the fence. When questioned, the children replied, “the little kids on the other side asked us to.”

And the hair-raising terror continues in the Kadena Hospital Caves on the Banyan Tree Golf Course. The caves were once a former bomb shelter and hospital where 350 medical staff, and 222 nursing students from Japanese military units were assigned in WWII. When U.S. Forces came ashore, the caves were…evacuated. Some evacuated by ingesting potassium cyanide pills, others jumped to their death from nearby Maeda Point.

To this day, off the cliffs of Cape Maeda, scuba divers report seeing ghosts…underwater.

It’s worth knowing that in Japanese ghost folklore, water plays a critical role as a medium in which souls can travel to…and from, the world of the dead.

So, the next time you PCS, and you hear your new staircase creaking, or could have sworn you turned the lights off before bed…you might not be imagining things. You might just be right.

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

popular

AI wins flawless victory against human fighter pilot in DARPA dogfight

DARPA’s AlphaDogfight trials have officially come to a close with Heron Systems’ incredible artificial intelligence pilot system defeating not only its industry competitors, but going on to secure 5 straight victories against a highly trained U.S. Air Force F-16 pilot, without the human pilot scoring a single hit.


Eight teams were selected to create artificial intelligence (AI) “agents” that would be capable of simulating a real dogfight between fighters, referred to as within-visual-range air combat maneuvering, more formally. The first two rounds of this competition saw these virtual pilots engage with one another in simulated combat environments in November and again in January. This third round of AI dogfighting included similar competitions, with the four finalist firms squaring off in a round robin. The event then culminated with the hands-down victor, Heron Systems, taking on a real human fighter pilot in another simulated fight.

And Heron really brought the heat, with its artificial intelligence system ultimately securing the AI championship by defeating Lockheed Martin’s AI system.

Heron consistently proved to have the most accurate targeting apparatus of any AI agent, as it engaged opponents with laser-accurate gun strikes often in the first merge of the fight.

“It’s got to keep that opponent in that one degree cone to win the game,” Ben Bell, Heron’s Senior Machine Learning Engineer, told Sandboxx News.

“You saw that a lot with Lockheed, we’re both nose on, we’re both creating damage, but when their nose is off by that one degree, that’s where we were able to win a lot of these engagements.”

That superior aiming capability was on particular display when squaring off against the U.S. Air Force F-16 pilot representing humanity in this battle for what some consider to be the future of aviation. While the pilot’s name was not released due to OPSEC concerns, DARPA did provide his callsign: Banger. They also explained that Banger was not just a working fighter pilot, he’s a graduate of the Air Force’s Weapons Instructor Course, which could loosely be described as the Air Force’s “Top Gun” school, for the movie buffs out there. The real Top Gun, of course, is a Navy school called the United States Navy Strike Fighter Tactics Instructor program.

‘The Rock of Chickamauga’ is the only Union General who never lost a battle

Heron’s AI system racked up the first four wins against Banger in quick succession, leveraging its incredibly precise aiming to whittle Banger’s aircraft “life” down in a series of looping merges. In the fifth and final bout, Banger changed approaches, sweeping his aircraft out away from Heron’s F-16 and creating separation with high-G turns.

However, the new tactics only seemed to delay the inevitable, with Heron managing to kill Banger’s F-16 once again, without the human pilot managing to get a single shot on target.

Heron’s AI pilot was widely described as “aggressive” by DARPA staff and the Air Force pilots on hand throughout the competition. Under control of Heron’s AI, the virtual F-16 would practically play chicken with its opposition — something the human pilots were quick to point out would be a violation of training regulations in a real simulated dogfight. Of course, in an actual dogfight, there are no such limitations… but Heron’s aggression may still have been turned up just a bit too high to serve as a reasonable wingman.

“It’s important to realize that a BFM (Basic Fighter Maneuvers) engagement can occur in any direction and any altitude. We’ll often begin with a basic starting parameter to develop a site picture to reference, but a real engagement doesn’t have those cuffs,” Major Justin “Hasard” Lee, an F-35 Pilot instructor and former F-16 pilot, tells Sandboxx News.
“The enemy always has a vote, meaning they always reserve the right to do something you’re not expecting. When that occurs you have to find a creative solution to counter the unexpected problem. “

‘The Rock of Chickamauga’ is the only Union General who never lost a battleF-16 Fighting Falcon (DoD Image)

According to Bell, their AI agent placed an equal emphasis on damaging the opponent and minimizing its own risk.

“If the agent sees a 51% chance of scoring a kill as it heads into a neutral merge, it’s going to take it,” Bell explained.

Of course, aside from some really exciting video game playing, this entire exercise had official purposes too. DARPA is not only seeking to improve drone aircraft systems, they’re also looking to increase the level of trust between human pilots and AI systems. In the future, these same sorts of artificial pilots will likely be flying alongside humans, and other similar systems will fly along with them in the cockpit of their own aircraft.

By outsourcing some tasks to a highly capable AI, pilots can focus more of their bandwidth on situational awareness and the task at hand. We’ve already seen this approach lead to data fusion capabilities in advanced platforms like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which automates simple tasks and provides the data to the pilot by way of helmet mounted and heads up displays.

Bell explained that the current AI agent used to secure this victory could be adjusted to prioritize its own safety to a higher degree, which might make pilots a bit more comfortable with its approach to combat. He also pointed out, however, that just because something’s scary to human pilots, doesn’t mean it isn’t effective.

‘The Rock of Chickamauga’ is the only Union General who never lost a battleA U.S. Navy Grumman F-14A Tomcat of Fighter Squadron 213 (VF-213) “Black Lions” flown by CDR Greg “Mullet” Gerard and LTJG Don “Coach” Husten engages a General Dynamics F-16N Viper aggressor aircraft flown by Lieutenant Commander George “Elwood” Dom during training at the Navy Fighter Weapons School (TOPGUN) at Naval Air Station (NAS) Miramar, California. (US Navy Photo)

“Trust comes from being able to execute a mission with a high degree of success. There’s some point where you have to say you know that it works and in all the ways we tested it, it was superior to its opponent.”

He went on to clarify, however, that there will certainly be “some give and take” between their engineers and real pilots moving forward.

When asked about Heron’s ace in the hole, its incredibly accurate targeting system, Bell made sure to point out that the way in which this competition was executed was to the human pilot’s disadvantage. Banger was flying in a simulated environment using a VR headset, which doesn’t equate that well to a real fight in the real sky, and gives their computer pilot instant awareness of its surroundings.

‘The Rock of Chickamauga’ is the only Union General who never lost a battle

However, that VR environment may have also worked in Banger’s favor, as his final bout against Heron’s AI saw him executing a number of 9G maneuvers that would have taken a significant toll on a human pilot. Heron’s system, on the other hand, would not be physically affected by executing these maneuvers in a real aircraft.

“Dogfighting, or Basic Fighter Maneuvers as we call it, is an incredibly complex and dynamic environment. The most difficult part is perceiving what the adversary is doing,” Lee explains.
“You’re looking for minute changes in their lift-vector which foreshadows their next move. That’s why it’s important to have good vision (which can be corrected with glasses or surgery).”

While going undefeated against a highly trained human pilot is a great feather for Heron System’s cap, this doesn’t mean the end of human fighter pilots is near. DARPA’s goal isn’t to replace humans in the skies, but rather to supplement them with capable drone assets and an auto-pilot system that could conceivably make human pilots far more capable, by freeing up their mental bandwidth in a fight.

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

Articles

This is why US Navy sailors wear rating badges

Every branch of the military has a specific ranking system that takes time and effort to move up through. Although each branch has different names for their ranks, the Navy’s system is different in comparison to the Air Force, Army, and the Marine Corps.


You can look at any service member and clearly notice their rank either on their sleeves or collar devices. You can also imagine what experiences they’ve had based on that rank and the ribbons on their rack — but you wouldn’t have a clue on their specific job title.

If spot a modern era sailor walking around sporting his or her dress blues, look below that perched crow (E-4 to E-9) on their left sleeve, and you’ll be able to tell how they contribute to their country.

‘The Rock of Chickamauga’ is the only Union General who never lost a battle
The rating badge for a Senior Chief Hospital Corpsman. (Source: Vanguardmil)

The image above showcases a rating badge consisting of three-inverted chevrons, one-inverted rocker, a perched crow, a five-point star (which makes the sailor an E-8), and the well-respected caduceus medical symbol (the specialty mark).

Only Hospital Corpsmen are allowed to wear the caduceus, as it applies to their distinguished military occupation.

In 1886, the Navy authorized sailors to wear these rating badges and created 15-specialty marks to recognize various fields of expertise.

Up until the late 1940s, it was up to the sailor on which sleeve they wore the rating badge on if they had issues deciphering which side was port (left) or starboard (right) as a reminder.

‘The Rock of Chickamauga’ is the only Union General who never lost a battle
These sailors stand proud sporting their inspection ready dress blues.

After the time period, the Navy established the rating badge be worn on the left for uniformity purposes. That same tradition is followed today.

MIGHTY TRENDING

9 photos show why Coast Guard snipers are some of the best

Once the Coast Guard has a suspect vessel in its sights on the high seas, there’s usually nowhere for it to go, but getting it to stop isn’t always easy.

The crew of the Coast Guard cutter James returned to Florida in November 2018 with nearly 38,000 pounds of cocaine seized by it and other Coast Guard ships in the Pacific. Stacked on some of the bales of cocaine were clear signs of the Coast Guard’s precision.

“So what you see here are some engine cowlings,” said Capt. Jeffrey Randall, commander of the James, referring to the half-dozen plastic covers perched on bales of seized drugs like trophies.

“We pair up the capabilities of the ship, the sensors of the ship, with our helicopter detachment that’s back there,” he said, referring to the helicopter parked behind the crew on the James‘ aft deck.

“That helicopter has what we call an aerial-use-of-force capability. So we can shoot from the aircraft with precision marksman fire, and we direct it at the engines of the vessel to stop the vessels when they fail to heave to.”


‘The Rock of Chickamauga’ is the only Union General who never lost a battle

A helicopter crew from the Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron Jacksonville trains over the St. Johns River on Sept. 22, 2009.

(US Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Michael Hulme)

‘The Rock of Chickamauga’ is the only Union General who never lost a battle

Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Paulo Cheng, a maritime enforcement specialist and student of the Precision Marksmanship School, shoots at known distance targets with an M110 Semi-Automatic Sniper System during the Precision Marksmanship Course at the Spartan Ranch Tactical Training Center in Maysville, July 26, 2018.

(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Nicholas Lubchenko)

‘The Rock of Chickamauga’ is the only Union General who never lost a battle

Petty Officer 1st Class Jesse Pitrelli and Petty Officer 1st Class Peter Purcell at Army Sniper School at Fort Benning, Georgia, February 16, 2016. Pitrelli and Purcell are the first active-duty Coast Guardsmen in history to graduate from Army Sniper school.

(US Coast Guard photo)

“We conduct training on the flat range weekly, do various range and yard lines, concentrating mostly on snaps and movers,” a Coast Guard Maritime Security Response Team member told Military.com, referring to targets that appear suddenly and change position. “Because that’s where your bread and butter is. I mean, shooting moving targets is it.”

“The relationship between the shooter and the spotter is extremely important. The spotter’s job is probably the hardest He’s evaluating the factors with the wind,” the MRST member said. “The spotters responsibility is to actually see what the wind is doing and give the shooter the correct information so that he can make that accurate shot.”

‘The Rock of Chickamauga’ is the only Union General who never lost a battle

Pitrelli and Purcell participate in training during Army Sniper School at Fort Benning, Georgia.

(US Army photo)

‘The Rock of Chickamauga’ is the only Union General who never lost a battle

Petty Officer 2nd Class Anthony Phillips, a precision marksman at Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron, displays the weaponry used by a HITRON during missions, Feb. 23, 2010.

(US Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Bobby Nash)

Coast Guard marksmen have also shown their prowess in head-to-head competition. In 2017 and 2018, Coast Guard teams finished 3rd and 9th, respectively, in the International Sniper Competition hosted by the US Army. In both those years, the Coast Guardsmen beat out the Marines, who finished 7th in 2017 and 10th in 2018.

The 2017 and 2018 results have brought derision for Marine snipers and praise for Coast Guard marksmen.

‘The Rock of Chickamauga’ is the only Union General who never lost a battle

A gunner in an MH-68 Stingray helicopter from the Helicopter Interdiction Squadron from Jacksonville, Florida, patrols a drug transit zone alongside the Coast Guard cutter Gallatin from Charleston, S.C.

(Photo by Chief Warrant Officer Donnie Brzuska)

‘The Rock of Chickamauga’ is the only Union General who never lost a battle

A Coast Guard aerial marksman from Air Station San Francisco sights in on a target during counter-terrorism training, in San Pablo Bay, California, June 11, 2009.

(US Coast Guard photo)

On shared waterways of ports and rivers, the Coast Guard has to determine who is just a boater and who has malicious intent. “We have a continuum, what we call a use-of-force continuum,” Capt. Jason Tama, commander of Coast Guard sector New York, told Business Insider in October 2018. “The last thing we want to do is, certainly, use deadly force, but we’re prepared to do that if we have to.”

Coast Guard marksmen are often armed with Robar RC-50 anti-material rifles, which are designed to take out machinery and are also used by US Special Operations Command.

Coast Guard helicopters and surface vessels, like the 45-foot small boats used in the use-of-force demonstration in New York Harbor in October 2018, can be armed with mounted M240 machine guns.

“Our first move, we’ll move out to intercept them, try to determine their intent and get the vessel to stop, using lights and sirens just like you would on any street in America,” Lt. Cmdr. Devon Brennan, head of the Coast Guard’s Maritime Safety and Security Team in New York, said during a use-of-force demonstration in October 2018. “If radio call-outs and communications doesn’t work, the next step will be to deploy the warning shots. … If they still don’t comply, then we escalate the steps to disable their engines.”

The Coast Guard’s Maritime Safety and Security Teams, or MSSTs, and Maritime Safety and Response Teams, or MSRTs, were set up after the September 11 to respond to terrorism and other threats to US ports and waterways.

There are now 11 MSST teams whose assignments include security for UN General Assemblies, national political conventions, hurricane-response efforts, and major sporting events.

MSRTs are a ready-alert force for the Coast Guard and Defense Department combatant commanders for both short-notice operations and planned security needs. MSRTs provide subject-matter expertise for security, training, and disaster-response events and recent operations include presidential inaugurations and NATO summits.

‘The Rock of Chickamauga’ is the only Union General who never lost a battle

The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Harriet Lane approaches a suspected smuggling vessel while a helicopter crew from the Coast Guard Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron monitors from the air on Feb. 25, 2018.

(US Coast Guard photo)

‘The Rock of Chickamauga’ is the only Union General who never lost a battle

A helicopter crew from the Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron Jacksonville demonstrates warning shots fired at a non-compliant boat off the coast of Jacksonville, Sept. 24, 2009.

(US Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Michael Hulme)

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Retired Navy pilot looks to continue his service in Congress

Editor’s note: We Are The Mighty is a non-partisan outlet and does not officially endorse any candidate for office. However, we’re always happy to report and celebrate veterans doing important things.

Retired Navy Commander Todd Chase has a deep rooted belief in service. Raised by a single mother who was a social worker, she instilled in him the vital importance of serving others. He took those lessons from her with him as he raised his right hand to defend this country. Chase hopes to now continue that legacy of service to the halls of the United States Congress.


Chase was commissioned into the Navy in 1988 and went to flight school, becoming a pilot. He went on to fly the P-3 for hundreds of different missions. He served during the Cold War, tracking Russian nuclear submarines. He vividly remembers when the Soviet Union collapsed and watching those Russian submarines came up to the surface to head home. Chase decided to go into the reserves after eight years serving actively so that he could raise his children.

He was then accepted into Harvard Business School and there earned his Master of Business Administration degree.

Despite having his Ivy League education backing him, he wanted to continue serving in the Navy reserves. When he was home he was investing and building businesses. But when he wasn’t, he was flying to serve the needs of the country. He flew missions across the Libyan coast to combat terrorist activity and completed drug interdictions in South America. While doing all of this, he began to see things in his own town that he didn’t like. Rather than complaining about it, he said he decided to change it by running for office on the Gainesville City Commission.

He won.

He held that position for six years. When he left office, he went on to retire from the Navy in 2016 after 26 years of serving actively and in the reserves. He shared that he feels he is ready to bring his life experience and military service into Congress to continue serving.

“That sense of service when you serve in the military, the longer you do it – the more it grows in you…. we are at a point in this country where I believe that it is critically important that we have members of Congress who are experienced military veterans,” he explained. Chase shared that he felt service to this country is essentially a vital ingredient needed for successful leadership.

Following the Vietnam War, around 75% of Congressional members were veterans. That number has steadily been on the decline ever since then. In the 116th Congress, less than 20% of Congressional members have served in the military. He’s hoping to change that.
Republican Todd Chase For Congress

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“It should give the entire country comfort to know that we have people [in Congress] who have served collectively together to fight for this country and then go on to serve for the good of the country as they set policy and govern it,” said Chase. He went on to explain that he feels it’s important that this country have people who believe in this country enough that they’ll volunteer to serve and possibly die for her.

Chase hopes that more veterans will consider running for government positions, bringing their sense of service and devotion with them. As the country just celebrated Memorial Day, it’s never been more important that we remember the cost of freedom and the importance of maintaining it.

It is with that in mind that Chase held a virtual Memorial Day event on Facebook Live attended by Gold Star family James and Donna Islam, Gold Star Mom Ronna Jackson, Gold Star Spouse Krista Simpson Anderson and Retired U.S. Army Major General David Kratzer. All of the families shared stories of their loved ones lost in service to this country. Throughout the discussion, one point was very clear. Each person remains devoted to ensuring that they are remembered. It’s not only about how they died, but that they lived.

Memorial Day is a somber reminder of loss but also a meaningful day to the families of the fallen. They know that on this day, the entire country stands in gratitude and love. Although the weight of their loss will always be heavy, the burden is lightened for them every time someone says their name. Their sacrifice will never be forgotten.

Chase shared his own story of losing a fellow pilot and the impact that it has had on his life. It’s been 30 years but he still struggles with survivor’s guilt saying, “It could have been me.” That loss stays fresh in his mind as a reminder of how fragile life can be and how important it is to get it right. Chase shared that he’s spent his life trying to make the world better in any way he can. He’ll take this vision, purpose, and commitment to continued service with him to his next fight; a seat in the United States Congress.

To learn more about Todd Chase and his campaign for the United States Congress, head over to his website.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Air Force may train enlisted pilots for the first time in 75 years

Eugene Taylor remembers how eager enlisted airmen like him were to fly.

Taylor, who enlisted in 1968 and deployed to Vietnam, first worked as an avionics technician. Nearly a decade later, Taylor, a tech sergeant, became a T-37 and T-38 flight simulator instructor with the 71st Flying Training Wing at Vance Air Force Base, Oklahoma. He became so adept that he was occasionally given the chance to fly the T-38, with permission from the pilot, during stateside flights.


It has been decades since enlisted airmen had the chance to sit in the cockpit. But as the Air Force faces the greatest pilot shortages since its inception, service leaders are contemplating a return to a model that includes enlisted pilots. A Rand Corp. study, set to be completed this month, is exploring the feasibility of bringing back a warrant officer corps for that purpose. And another, separate Air Force study is examining, in part, whether enlisted pilots could benefit from new high-tech training that leverages artificial intelligence and simulation.

With these moves, the Air Force is inching just a few steps closer to someday getting enlisted airmen back in the cockpit, on a formal basis, for the first time since World War II.

“We have enlisted airmen in our Guard and reserve component who have private pilot’s licenses and fly for the airlines. So it’s not a matter of can they do it, or hav[ing] the smarts or the capability, it’s just a matter of us, as an Air Force, deciding that that’s a route that we want to take,” said Chief Master Sgt. Kaleth O. Wright, the 18th Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force.

Military.com sat down with the service’s top enlisted leader in February 2018, to talk about enlisted aviators and reinstituting the warrant officer program.

“It’s something we walked away from years ago, and I won’t say that we haven’t been willing to relook at [it],” Wright said, of having enlisted pilots. “It’s nothing that we can’t overcome.”

Creating a Cadre

Wright noted there may be a few bumps in the road before an enlisted cadre could be instituted.

The main challenge would be to structure an appropriate career development path for the airmen, answering questions regarding when and how they would promote and when they would rotate to a new squadron. Wright said thus far officers “naturally float” to a flight commander or squadron commander from base to base, according to a system that has been in place for decades, but questioned whether the same system would work for enlisted pilots.

Additionally, the service would have to study whether enlisted airmen should be granted the right to employ weapons from an aircraft.

“Whether it’s manned or unmanned, if there’s an enlisted airman that’s going to be flying and employing weapons, it requires certain authorities we would have to get by,” Wright said.

For example, enlisted airmen are currently only authorized to be remotely piloted aircraft pilots on the RQ-4 Global Hawk drone, a surveillance-only platform.

‘The Rock of Chickamauga’ is the only Union General who never lost a battle
One of Eugene Taylor’s trainees at Vance AFB, Oklahoma, straps into a flight simulator, circa 1978-79.
Photo courtesy of Eugene Taylor

“That’s just part of our age-old doctrine, that the employment of weapons, that the authority and responsibility lies with officers,” he said.

Reinstituting the warrant officer program could also help leaders decide on acceptable policies that would “determine if it makes us a more lethal and ready fighting force,” Wright said.

“What this is about is not just aviation or flying — it’s about maintaining the technical expertise,” Wright said. “In some cases, having warrant officers will allow us retain that talent and keep those folks doing what they love.”

The Air Force in the past has commissioned studies to look into bringing back warrant officers, with another study from RAND, a nonprofit institution that provides research and analysis studies on public policy, on the way.

“The Air Force is partnering with RAND for a study on the feasibility of warrant officers and we are projecting a completion by the end of March 2018,” Air Force spokeswoman Capt. Kathleen Atanasoff told Military.com.

February 2018, the Air Force began a separate study on whether it could benefit from someday allowing enlisted pilots.

Air Education and Training Command said the study, called the pilot training next initiative, explores how pilots can learn and train faster “by using existing and emerging technologies that can decrease the time and cost of training,” but with the same depth of understanding to produce quality pilots.

That includes using virtual reality simulation and A.I. to get airmen in an aircraft faster, with the potential of expanding the streamlined training.

The study is expected to conclude in August, in hopes of advancing all 20 students in the program: 15 officers and five enlisted airmen.

Foundation of Skills

Taylor, the Vietnam-era airman, served in the 341X1 career field for T-37 and T-38 trainers, which would quickly disappear once the Air Force reasoned enlisted personnel were needed elsewhere.

Once airmen were taught scenarios in a classroom, they would go to him to practice the maneuvers in the simulator.

“I was one of those people as an enlisted instructor, and it was the best job I ever had,” Taylor said in a recent interview with Military.com.

Through months of simulation tech school paired with his past experience working on planes, Taylor had gained the skills he needed to know the aircraft. Taylor’s instructor career field, however, dissolved only a year later, and he moved back into avionics at Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi. But he remembers his “flight time” and experience with the T-37 and T-38 fondly.

“As a master avionics superintendent, I did get to fly in the back seat of the [T-38] aircraft six times to perform aircraft maintenance at off-station sites,” he said. “I told the pilot that I was a flight simulator instructor pilot at Vance. And when I flew, the pilot would say, ‘You know how to fly this, you do it.’ So, I would,” Taylor said.

Taylor recalled flying the aircraft from Columbus to MacDill Air Force Base,Florida.

“I [then] repaired another T-38 from our base and flew the aircraft back to Columbus. The pilot made the takeoff and landing on both legs of the flight, but I did all radio calls, and navigation,” he said.

Taylor would fly similar routes twice more with the same pilot.

“So yes, enlisted people can definitely perform the job,” he said.

According to a 1992 paper for the Air Force Enlisted Heritage Research Institute, the 341X1 and 341X2 career fields, born out of very early service ideals that enlisted members should work side-by-side with officer pilots, were Analog and Digital Trainer Specialists. The fields were part of the larger Aircrew Training Devices 34XXX specialty.

“The contributions of the enlisted men and women in the training devices career field were great,” noted the paper, written by Air Force student Senior Master Sgt. G. A. Werhs of the Senior Noncomissioned Officer Academy. “From its very beginning in 1939 until its end in the late 80s, [the 34XXX] was [an] entirely enlisted career field. All maintenance and operations were performed by highly skilled personnel. Every aircraft in the Air Force inventory had a simulator associated with it and enlisted members were there to operate and maintain it.

“[H]ow many people realize that for nearly 50 years those pilots received much of the initial training on the ground from enlisted soldiers and airmen[?]” Werhs asked.

Taylor suggested the career field closed because the service didn’t want enlisted troops to get to that next level: flying among officers. The service, he said, also had an abundance of pilots at the time.

“The Vietnam War had wound down, so they had more pilots than the Air Force needed,” Taylor said. “By taking away the enlisted instructors, it let them use the pilots that were qualified to fly the T-38 instead of kicking them out of the service.”

But there are many who believe that enlisted airmen, in some capacity, deserve the chance to once again get up in the air.

Rooted in History

Before the Air Force became a breakout service independent of the Army, enlisted pilots were known as “flying sergeants,” receiving a promotion to staff sergeant once they completed pilot training.

Enlisted pilots, in one form or another, date back to 1912. But it wasn’t until 1941, when Congress passed the the Air Corps Act of 1926 and Public Law 99, that enlisted troops were able to receive qualified training.

“We never thought about whether we wanted to be an enlisted pilot or an officer pilot,” said retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Edward Wenglar, a former enlisted pilot. “We just wanted to be pilots, and we would gladly have stayed privates forever just to have the chance to fly,” Wenglar said in a 2003 service release.

Wenglar, who served overseas during World War II, holds the distinction of “achieving the highest rank of any former enlisted pilot,” according to the Air Force. He died in 2011.

‘The Rock of Chickamauga’ is the only Union General who never lost a battle
Will Stafford stands third from left in this 1977 photo.
Photo courtesy of Eugene Taylor

During World War II, whoever was in the cockpit got grandfathered in and could remain flying. But in 1942, the passage of the Flight Officer Act meant new enlisted recruits no longer got the chance to fly.

The act, Public Law 658, replaced the program’s sergeant pilot rank with the warrant officer rank.

When the Air Force was created in 1947 out of the Army Air Forces, it would bring more than 1,000 legacy warrant officers in. The service stopped the program in 1959, the same year it created the senior and chief master sergeant ranks. The last warrant officer would retire from active duty in 1980.

With more than 3,000 enlisted sergeant pilots throughout the service’s history, 11 of them would become generals and 17 would become flying aces, according to information from the Air Force. More than 150 enlisted pilots would be killed in action.

“Our careers as enlisted pilots made us better men and gave us opportunities later in the civilian world that we never would have been offered,” Wenglar said in 2003.

New Focus on Warrant Officers

“If the Air Force is so very concerned about the pilot shortage, they should consider warrant officers in … the transport pilot, flight engineer, boom operator and drone pilot fields,” said Will Stafford, a former staff sergeant with similar maintenance, tech and simulator experiences as Taylor.

While in the Air Force in the 1970s and 80s, Stafford, outside of his military duties, would fly smaller aircraft such as Cessna 310s, Beechcraft Model 18s and some Douglas DC-3s. On his own, he would eventually become qualified “on 25 different makes and models of fixed-wing aircraft,” he told Military.com.

“If the [Air Force] wants their veteran airmen and airwomen to return, then they had better look at how it has squandered the talent, training and dedication that many of us had, and make some serious changes, beginning with the restart of the warrant officer corps,” Stafford said, referencing the Air Force’s initiative to bring back retirees into staff-rated positions to balance out the ongoing pilot shortage.

“This is cost-effective, and many professional fully-rated civilian pilots who have military experience would have no problem,” he said.

Stafford has tried, unsuccessfully, to start a White House petition on Whitehouse.org to get the administration’s attention about reinstituting the warrant officer corps. He has even tried to petition the Air Force directly by writing to then-Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton A. Schwartz, who Stafford got the chance to meet and work with when Schwartz was just a captain.

Schwartz told Stafford it just wasn’t in the Air Force’s plans.

Key Decisions Ahead

Wright says the new RAND study may give him and Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. David Goldfein fresh perspectives.

“We have to be smart about this, right?” Wright said. “This can’t just be, ‘Oh, this is nice to have.’ We have to know exactly what we’re buying [into] and we have a plan to implement it.”

Wright said cost-benefit analysis would play into the decision.

“I’m looking to learn, and the boss [Goldfein] is looking to learn, again, that simple question: Will this make us a more lethal force? Will it make us more efficient?” Wright said.

“There is a chance through the RAND study and through some of our internal studies that the evidence reveals and the analysis reveals that warrant officers won’t move the needle that much,” he said.

While Wright said it’s hard to say when enlisted pilots or a warrant officer program may come back into the Air Force’s ranks, he believes the feat can be achieved in roughly five to 10 years.

“I think it would help would shortages in career fields, I think it would help with retention, I think it would help with career development.

“Now there’s nothing that says that, within our current system we can’t do that same thing. But if you’re asking me what the obvious benefits are,” he said, ” … I think it’s a good thing.”

MIGHTY FIT

5 back exercises that can cure ‘ILS’

Go to nearly any gym, and you can spot one or two patrons who are walking around with the terrible physical ailment known as “imaginary lat syndrome.” You know those guys whose arms are fanning out away for the rest of their body because they want you to think that they’re so jacked.

Well, it’s not fooling anybody. In fact, having ILS makes you look like a complete moron while you’re trying to show off something off you don’t have.


Thankfully, there is a proven solution if you’ve tested positive for ILS and it’s composed of targeting the lateral muscles that make up your back.

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Low cable row

First, appropriately adjust the weight, so it’s manageable, but provides a comfortable level of resistance. Using a close-grip bar, sit on the bench, facing the weight, and with a slight bend in your knees pull the resistance backward. Now, keep your straight maintaining a 90-degree angle with your hips and complete it rep when your elbows also bend to a 90-degree angle.

Make sure you squeeze those lateral muscles once you bend your elbows, then slowly release your arms back toward the weight, working on the negative aspect of the set.

Now, complete two to three more sets of 8-12 reps each.

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Straight arm pushdown

In a standing position, slide your feet about shoulder length apart and hold onto the cable rope. Pushdown the individual rope ends until it touches the outside portion of your hips while squeezing those lats before slowly bringing those rope ends back to its original position.

Now, complete two to three more sets of 8-12 reps each.

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Close-grip pull down

In a seated position, grab onto the close-grip bar, pull the bar down toward middle chest while slightly leaning backward, and squeeze those lats before slowly bringing the close-grip bar back up. Remember to keep your elbows as close to your sides as possible.

Now, complete two to three more sets of 8-12 reps each.

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Underhand pulldown

While staying in a seated position, place your hand on the bar, with a reverse grip (palms facing you), and pull the bar toward your middle chest while slightly leaning backward, and squeeze those lats before slowly bringing the bar back up.

Simple, right?

Now, complete two to three more sets of 8-12 reps each.

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Underhand barbell row

With a slight bend in your knees, place your hand on the bar, just outside of your knees and slowly lift up on the manageable weight. Before completing the first rep, make sure your back isn’t arching, and your eyes are looking forward. Now, pull up on the bar toward your navel and slowly bring the bar back toward the starting position.

This exercise can cause lower back pain if your form is off or you’re using to much weight. Make sure you check your ego at the door.

Now, complete two to three more sets of 8-12 reps each.

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