The man who took 42 Nazis captive with a longsword - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

The man who took 42 Nazis captive with a longsword

We’ve talked about British officer John “Mad Jack” Churchill before. He waded ashore on D-Day with his trademark Scottish claybeg sword, he killed at least one Nazi with his longbow, and he was an all-around BAMF having served in World War II, Israel, and Australia.

Today, we want to talk about that time he took approximately 42 German soldiers captive in World War II.


The man who took 42 Nazis captive with a longsword

Churchill leads a simulated assault during training for the D-Day assaults.

(Imperial War Museum)

The insane capture took place in 1943 during the invasion of Italy. Churchill, then the commanding officer of Britain’s No. 2 Commando, had taken part in the capture of Sicily and then landed at Salerno with other British troops. He and his men fought for five straight days, grinding through mostly German defenders. They were even lauded for defending a rail and road hub from a determined counterattack at Vietri, Italy, until U.S. armored vehicles arrived to relieve them.

The commandos were granted a short rest and the time for showers and bathing, though they had to avoid enemy mortar fire while enjoying it. Even that rest was short-lived, though. They were serving in reserve for the U.S. 46th Infantry Division, and German forces managed to grab three hills overlooking the division area, imperiling the American forces.

So the British soldiers of No. 41 Commando and No. 2 Commando were sent in to secure two of the three hills in two attacks. Churchill, as the commander of No. 2, was in charge of that second attack.

The man who took 42 Nazis captive with a longsword

Col. John “Mad Jack” Churchill after World War II.

(Cassowary Colorizations, CC BY 2.0)

The logistics of the assault were daunting. The men would have to attack uphill across terraces covered in vines and rocky terrain at night while trying to flush out and engage the enemy. Typically, commando attacks at night like this are conducted as silent, stealthy raids. But Churchill decided to bring nearly all of his men, broken into six columns so each column could support those to either side of it.

Churchill himself marched just ahead, spaced evenly between the third and fourth column. To ensure the columns didn’t drift apart or accidentally maneuver against one another in the darkness, he ordered them to yell “Commando!” every five minutes.

For the German defenders in the darkness, this created a sort of stunning nightmare. First, they heard No. 41 Commando take the nearby hill under heavy artillery bombardment as night was falling. Then, as pure dark set in, an unknown number of assailants began churning their way through the vines and across the terraces below, yelling to each other every few minutes. Whenever the Brits found Germans, they’d open up with Tommy guns, rifle fire, and grenades.

The man who took 42 Nazis captive with a longsword

Churchill examines a captured 75mm gun during World War II.

(Imperial War Museum)

It caused confusion in the German ranks, and the columns were able to take dozens of prisoners. Churchill, meanwhile, grabbed one of his corporals and went to hunt out those Germans still attempting to organize their defenses.

First, he and the corporal found an 81mm mortar crew and took them prisoner. Churchill led this attack with his trademark sword, a Scottish claybeg. Then, Churchill and the corporal began moving from position to position, grabbing all the German soldiers they could find. By the time the two men made it back to the rest of the commandos, they had taken over 40 Germans prisoner (Reports vary between 41 and 43, but the more authoritative books on the Salerno invasion typically agree on 42, so that’s the number we’re using.)

The rest of the commandos had grabbed plenty of prisoners, and the total for the night between No. 41 and No. 2 Commando was 135, more than the 46th had taken in the five previous days of fighting.

This was a big coup for the intelligence folks who suddenly had access to all these prisoners. More importantly, two of the hills over the 46th were now clear of potential attackers just hours after German forces had staged there to attack.

Churchill would fight through the rest of the war, earning new accolades despite being captured once in Italy and later in Yugoslavia. After World War II, he served in Palestine and then Australia before retiring from the military.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Americas don’t like Russia’s nuclear bomber deployment

The Organization of American States (OAS) has expressed the “greatest concern” about the arrival of nuclear-capable Russian aircraft in Venezuela.

In a statement released on Dec. 12, 2018, the OAS General Secretariat said it “takes note with the greatest concern of the news coming from Venezuela about the possibility that aircraft capable of using nuclear weapons from Russia are in its territory.”


It said the presence of the foreign military mission violates the Venezuelan Constitution “because it has not been authorized by the National Assembly, as required [by the constitution].”

“Therefore, we consider such an act harmful to Venezuelan sovereignty,” added the OAS, which consists of all 35 independent nations of the Americas, including the United States.

Nuclear-Capable Russian Bombers Arrive In Venezuela | NBC News

www.youtube.com

Russia’s Defense Ministry on Dec. 10, 2018, sent two nuclear-capable strategic bombers to Venezuela, in an unusual display of Russian military force in South America, raising tensions with the United States.

The ministry did not say if they were carrying weapons.

The bombers’ arrival came just days after Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro visited Moscow, seeking Kremlin support for his country, whose economy is in shambles and deeply in debt to Russia.

Venezuela has purchased millions of dollars in military equipment from Russia in recent years.

The deployment of the aircraft drew a particularly pointed response from U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in a posting to Twitter.

“The Russian and Venezuelan people should see this for what it is: two corrupt governments squandering public funds, and squelching liberty and freedom while their people suffer,” Pompeo wrote.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Dec. 11, 2018, that Pompeo’s comments were “undiplomatic” and “completely inappropriate.”

On Dec. 12, 2018, the White House said it had been assured by the Kremlin that the planes would leave Venezuela on Dec. 14, 2018.

“We have spoken with representatives of Russia and have been informed that their military aircraft, which landed in Venezuela, will be leaving on [Dec. 14, 2018] and going back to Russia,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told Reuters.

Oil-rich Venezuela has been racked by economic and political crises since 2010 under leftist leader Hugo Chavez and has continued into Maduro’s presidency.

Millions have fled the country, driven by violence, hyperinflation, and major shortages of food.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Marvel stars respond to Spider-Man leaving the MCU

Spider-Man has officially been booted out of the MCU, and the Marvel stars are just as upset as we are. Earlier this week, it was announced that Sony and Disney were unable to reach a new deal on the new films, so Tom Holland’s Spider-Man would no longer be a part of the Marvel Universe. Fans are heartbroken over the news, and it looks like MCU actors Jeremy Renner and Ryan Reynolds are equally torn up.

Jeremy Renner, who plays Hawkeye in the Avengers franchise, called Sony out in an Instagram post last night. “Hey @sonypictures we want Spider-Man back to @therealstanlee and @marvel please, thank you. #congrats #spidermanrocks#? #please,” the actor wrote alongside a photo of himself as Hawkeye.


Even if Disney is technically to blame for the decision (they wanted a 50/50 co-financing agreement), fans were quick to cheer Renner on. “YES!!! Thank you for speaking up Renner!! #savespidermanfromsony” one user commented.

Deadpool star Ryan Reynolds also chimed in to support Spidey after a fan tweeted at him and Tom Holland: “Can we get a Spiderman Deadpool movie now?” Reynolds responded: “You can. But you can only see it in my heart.”

This was clearly too soon for heartbroken fans, as the replies are full of crying gifs and teary emojis. Some fans are even begging Reynolds to somehow step in and reverse the decision. “RYAN U HAVE MORE POWER THAN ANY OF US PLEASE DO SOMETHING” one Twitter user replied.

It’s likely that even Reynolds’ clout won’t change Spidey’s fate at this point, but as Spider-Man taught us: with great power comes great responsibility.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY MOVIES

4 reasons why John Wick has to be a Marine vet

John Wick’s backstory has never been explicitly explained in the films or accompanying comic series. Though the third film or prequel TV series may give us more concrete evidence, we’ve been given enough puzzle pieces to confidently say he served in the U.S. Marine Corps.


Given his extreme handiwork with firearms, hand-to-hand combat proficiency, cold demeanor, proper posture, and dispensation of absolute wrath towards anyone who harms the things he loves, it’s not too much of a stretch to say that he once was a Marine. No single point is definitive proof but it’s fun to speculate.

Chad Stahelski, the director of the franchise, was asked by Collider in a 2017 interview about John Wick’s backstory. He said that the series isn’t about overloading the audience with dry exposition, but rather shows the audience little things. Stahelski said,

“We’re giving you the pieces and I think it’s always good… Hopefully in five years, you and your buddies will talk about how ‘he’s this or he’s that.’ We’ll give you a couple more pieces and let you stitch it together.”

It’s the minor details that give one troop away to another in the civilian world and, right about now, our veteran radars are going off.

The man who took 42 Nazis captive with a longsword

(Summit Entertainment)

The tattoo

The most obvious indicators of military service are his tattoos. While most point to his faith, the Latin phrase on his shoulders is a dead giveaway.

John’s tattoo reads, “Fortis Fortuna Adiuvat,” or “fortune favors the brave” in Latin. This is also a lose translation of the motto of the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marines — although their spelling is “Fortes Fortuna Juvat.” This is common enough that it’s not conclusive evidence alone, but it’s definitely a starting point.

The man who took 42 Nazis captive with a longsword

(Summit Entertainment)

His watch

Another blink-and-you’ll-miss-it detail almost exclusive to the military community is the style of his watch and how he wears it. It’s got a leather band and he wears it on the inside of the wrist of his non-dominant hand.

War fighters chose not to wear anything reflective as to not give away their position and, by wearing it on the inside of the wrist, it’s easy to keep from breaking. This, however, would also be common among professional hitmen.

The man who took 42 Nazis captive with a longsword

(Summit Entertainment)

His relationship with Marcus

It is strongly hinted at that Marcus was a mentor to John in the past — he taught him everything he knows about firearms and helped bring him into the world of underground wetwork. Given that their age difference isn’t too extreme, it would make sense that Marcus was once his NCO. This would also explain why after John walked out on the life of crime, Marcus was able to stay — because he was there before they both became hitmen.

This theory is also backed up by the film’s color palette. Everything in the film is cold or red — except things dear to John. Take, for example, his wife’s gold bracelet, his dog’s tag, and Marcus’ clothing and home decor. There’s definitely a closeness here; it’s up to us to speculate why.

The man who took 42 Nazis captive with a longsword

(Overkill Software)

Apperance in ‘Payday 2’

This one should be taken with a massive grain of salt because it involves evidence from Payday 2, not the John Wick franchise. He was a community unlock in 2014 and had more DLC added during the second film’s theatrical release.

The game doesn’t hold back on explicitly saying that John was a Marine and was brought into the Payday Gang by a series regular, Chains, who is very open about his prior military service.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The new ‘unlimited range’ missile just embarrassed the Russian military

A Russian cruise missile that the country touted as having “practically unlimited” range appears to be falling short, sources with knowledge of a US intelligence report told CNBC.

The cruise missile, which Russian President Vladimir Putin unveiled at a Russian Federal Assembly in March 2018, only flew for around two minutes and traveled 22 miles before it lost control and crashed, CNBC reported May 21, 2018. Another missile test reportedly lasted just four seconds with a distance of five miles.


Russia tested the missile four times between November 2017, and February 2018, at the behest of senior officials, even though engineers voiced doubt over the program, according to CNBC’s sources.

Putin previously touted a new generation of weapons in a presentation that displayed missile trajectories going from Russia to the US. In addition to the cruise missile, Putin teased unmanned underwater drones purportedly capable of carrying a nuclear warhead, and a hypersonic glide vehicle.

The man who took 42 Nazis captive with a longsword
graphic showingu00a0an ICBM payload in space.

“I want to tell all those who have fueled the arms race over the last 15 years, sought to win unilateral advantages over Russia, introduced unlawful sanctions aimed to contain our country’s development: All what you wanted to impede with your policies have already happened,” Putin said in a speech. “You have failed to contain Russia.”

Russia’s cruise missile capabilities may have missed the mark, but sources said it succeeded in other aspects. The hypersonic glide vehicle, which is believed to be able to travel five times the speed of sound, would render US countermeasures useless and could become operational by 2020, according to CNBC.

“We don’t have any defense that could deny the employment of such a weapon against us,” US Air Force General John Hyten, the commander of US Strategic Command, said at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing in March 2018.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is the story of Abraham Lincoln’s forgotten sword duel

Dueling was still a big deal in mid-19th Century America. So much so, it actually decimated the U.S. Army’s officer corps. It seemed no one was immune, from President Jackson on down to the common man. One such common man was future President Abraham Lincoln. The young politician made the mistake of publicly denouncing an Illinois banker. The banker demanded satisfaction while Lincoln demanded the public challenge be fought with swords.


The whole row started with a public debate about banking in 1842. Lincoln was a young man at this time, a lawyer and member of the Illinois State Legislature. Even then, Lincoln’s rhetoric was formidable. His debating skills were feared by opponents, and as a lawyer, his closing arguments were near-perfect. The debate that got Lincoln into a duel was one about banking in Illinois with state auditor James Shields.

Lincoln criticized the closing of the bank and its refusal to accept its own issued currency. Farmers in Illinois now had worthless money while the bank would only accept gold and silver as payment on debts. In a letter to the Sangamo Journal newspaper, Lincoln wrote an editorial criticizing the bank, the Democratic Party, and personally insulting Shields. Shields demanded a retraction, and when he didn’t get one, he demanded a duel. Lincoln, the challenged, got to choose the weapon.

The man who took 42 Nazis captive with a longsword

Awesome.

Honest Abe chose cavalry swords because he knew if he were to choose pistols, Shields would likely kill him. Lincoln, a very tall man by the standards of the day, was also very strong, so his reach and his power gave him the edge in a sword fight. Lincoln did not want to kill his opponent, instead intending to use his seven-inch advantage in height and reach to disarm the man.

When the time came, the two men met at Bloody Island, Mo. for the match. There, they received the swords and stood apart with a plank dividing them. Neither man could cross the wooden board. Instead of swinging at Shields, Lincoln lopped a branch off a nearby tree with a single blow. Shields understood the demonstration and called a truce.

In an interesting historical footnote, Shields would later lead Union troops in the Shenandoah Valley as a Brigadier and was the only General to defeat Stonewall Jackson in battle during the campaign. It cost him a lot – he was nearly killed in the process. Lincoln awarded his former rival a promotion to Major General for the action.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Looks like soldiers won’t be fighting in space anytime soon

Soldiers aren’t likely to don space suits and blast off into space to fight an enemy, the head of Army Space Command said this week.

But the domain is going to play a big role in the way the Army trains and fights in the future, Lt. Gen. James Dickinson, commanding general of Army Space and Missile Defense Command, told reporters at the annual Association of the U.S. Army meeting in Washington, D.C.

“We need to make sure we’re going to be able to protect what we have in space,” the three-star said. “But I don’t think that lends itself necessarily to formations in space.”


Space as a future conflict zone led President Donald Trump to direct Pentagon leaders last year to create a Space Force. The U.S. has since stood up Space Command, a new unified combatant command that’s serving as a precursor to the future Space Force.

The man who took 42 Nazis captive with a longsword

(NASA)

“Space is very important,” Dickinson said. “It’s gotten a lot of national senior leader attention over the last year or so, and the Army is excited to be part of that.”

The service is developing a new space training strategy, he added, which will likely be completed in the next three or four months. That could lead to changes across the force about how soldiers train for ground fights.

There are a lot of space-based tools on which soldiers currently rely, he said, that could be jammed or degraded by adversaries. The Army will need to place soldiers at the unit level who understand those risks and challenges.

The man who took 42 Nazis captive with a longsword

(NASA)

“We need soldiers that are subject-matter experts who know about space in formations,” Dickinson said.

The Army’s upcoming training strategy could suggest how those formations will be organized, he said. It’s also going to outline how security challenges in space will affect future operating environments.

“The training strategy … will give you fundamentals on what we need to look for as far as environments we’re going to operate in and what we see in terms of those formations and who will be in those types of formations,” he said.

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

MIGHTY MOVIES

Army Ranger Tyler Grey achieves directorial debut with ‘SEAL Team’

“[Directing has] been a dream of mine for as long as I can remember,” shared Tyler Grey, who self-declares on Instagram as “a geeky kid trapped in the body of a nerdy adult.” For those who know his story, however, he’s got a pretty respectable warrior side, too.

A former Delta Force operator and sniper-qualified Army Ranger, Grey’s military career came to an end when he was “blown up in Sadr City” (his words, not mine), resulting in a medical retirement. His right arm still bears the scars from that attack — but he hasn’t let it keep him from actively supporting the military community.

For the past few years, that has meant portraying Trent Sawyer in front of the camera on SEAL Team while helping to produce and act as a military consultant behind the scenes. With Unbecoming an Officer (Season 3 Episode 10), he finally puts on a very coveted hat: director.


[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/B5vyuZ1n41t/ expand=1]Tyler Grey on Instagram: “So the episode I directed airs next Wednesday 12/11! Here is a promo for it and excuse me right now for the fact that I will post about it…”

www.instagram.com

Check out the episode promo:

Most veterans agree that watching shows and films about military service can feel frustrating. It’s hard to get the nuances of military culture right — especially when storytellers are focused on either placing heroes on a pedestal or exposing their trauma.

SEAL Team has been a show actively committed to getting it right by hiring veterans as architects for the story. Grey is not the only service member CBS has brought on board. In a particularly poignant Season 2 episode, the show explored veteran suicide, a tragic issue that hits the military community at too-high a rate. The episode was written by former frogman Mark Semos.

Also read: We have to talk about this week’s SEAL Team

[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/B56ANDwngdU/ expand=1]Tyler Grey on Instagram: “He is another clip from tomorrow nights episode. Sadly it won’t let me post more than a minute but you get the idea. The guy at the…”

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Grey’s leadership qualities are clear even from a distance. He’s quick to give his team credit for successes (and quick to accept blame for any shortcomings — even in jest).

He’s also great at balancing the line between Hollywood and reality.

“95% of the time if there is something technically wrong on the show there is a TV or dramatic reason for it,” he clarified in advance of the, I’m sure, flood of comments about unused NODS in an episode.

[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/B3skAiRn-hP/ expand=1]Tyler Grey on Instagram: “Episode 3 airing tonight at 9/8c. So one thing I’ll mention here that I get asked a lot about in reference to the show is why things aren’t…”

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To be clear, directing for television is a highly competitive gig. Throw in stunts, battle scenes, smoke, and special effects and you’ve got a major learning curve for a first-timer.

This is where military training really does bring excellence to the surface. A good leader knows who to turn to for guidance (the NCO or SNCO, always…), how to identify and utilize the strengths of the team, when to be definitive, and when to ask for help.

“On a serious note I hope those who watch it enjoy — a lot of people worked really hard to help this come together,” he shared.

[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/B50yidLHIrc/ expand=1]Tyler Grey on Instagram: “No idea what I was talking about looking at this picture but I probably didn’t know then either.. Thanks again to the crew, the cast and…”

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It’s great to see a huge network recognizing the capabilities of veterans in the filmmaking industry — especially in military terrain. Service members give up years of their creative careers while their civilian colleagues build resumes. During that time, however, vets rack up some marketable skills and experiences that benefit a set.

SEAL Team is one show that is really paving the way for veterans to show what they’re made of. It’s an opportunity, not a right, and the professionals know it. When they do step up, however, it makes the series stronger.

Grey isn’t the only veteran who has directed for the show. U.S. Marine Michael Watkins, who has an impressive television resume that includes The Blacklist, Quantum Leap, and Prison Break, has also taken the helm.

[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/B5Y6jdAnTGg/ expand=1]Tyler Grey on Instagram: “Tonight’s episode directed by Marine Veteran Michael Watkins. So this one was rough as we lost our location that all the action was based…”

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From its consultants to its writers and directors to its cast and, yes, even down to its three-line co-stars, SEAL Team gives members of the military community the opportunity to excel after service.

[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/B4vYabMHtdo/ expand=1]Tyler Grey on Instagram: “Define irony: Working on a military show, as a veteran, on Veterans Day. Just kidding I appreciate the opportunity and truly love this…”

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Make sure you check out Grey’s episode Wednesday Dec. 11 at 9 eastern on CBS and let him know you’ve got his six.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of April 20

The stimulus checks have started to appear in everyone’s bank accounts and we’re sure they’re on the way if they’re going through mail. On one hand, it’s fantastic news for the folks that have been hit hard financially by the coronavirus. Hell, we all kind of need it after paying rent last week.

But there’s a little voice in the back of my head telling me that not everyone’s going to spend it on rent, utilities, essential groceries or whathaveyou, and wonder where it all went. Maybe it’s because I saw way too many young troops look at their clothing allowance as beer money…

Don’t worry if you’re like 99% of lower enlisted seeing a comma in their bank account. At least these memes won’t cost you a cent!


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(Meme via SFC Majestic)

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lh5.googleusercontent.com

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(Meme via US Army WTF Moments Memes)

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(Meme via Call for Fire)

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(Comic by Claw of Knowledge)

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(Meme via The Army’s Fckups)

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(Meme via Hooah My Ass Off)

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(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

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(Meme via ASMDSS)

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(Meme via Private News Network)

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(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

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(Meme via fuSNCO)

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Air Force Academy and the experiment of enlisted faculty

Enlisted airmen have been part of the Air Force Academy in both instructor and mentor positions. But now they have a chance to be considered full time accredited faculty teachers.

The Air Force Academy was established in April 1954 after several years of consideration. Long before the Air Force was its own branch of the military, senior leadership argued they needed a school that would be directly focused on the war in the air – they needed a place to train future airmen.


In 1948, a year after the formal establishment of the Air Force, the Stearns-Eisenhower Board was formed to study existing military academies. They concluded that the Air Force absolutely needed its own school and that at least 40 percent of all future officers should be service academy graduates.

It took seven years for leadership to reach a consensus on site location and to receive funding. In 1955, construction began on the Academy in Colorado Springs. That same year, the first class of 306 officers were sworn-in at a temporary site – Lowry Air Force Base in nearby Denver, Colorado. Lt. Gen. Hubert R. Harmon was recalled from retirement by President Eisenhower to become the Academy’s first superintendent.

Women were allowed to enter the Academy beginning in 1975, and the first women cadets graduated in 1980. That flagship-class included the Academy’s first woman, who would later be superintendent, Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson. To date, the Air Force Academy has graduated more than 50,000 officers.

Since its inception, the Air Force Academy has provided a corps of officers dedicated to upholding the standards of their profession and of the Air Force. In turn, the Academy offers cadets the right kind of access to a diverse and varied faculty. Now that faculty is even more diverse than ever.

After its first year, the Air Force Academy says that having noncommissioned officers serve as faculty shows real promise, but there needs to be further evaluation to decide if it’s worth keeping. The Academy is the first service academy that features enlisted service members as official faculty.

A report issued this summer, written by Chief Master Sgt. Sean Milligan and Senior Master Sgts. Ecaterina Garcia and Gloria Kuzmicki was released a year after the test pilot began. The Air Force reports that it will need several more years to explore the sustainability of the program, but initial findings are very promising – both for cadets and for the current faculty on staff.

The four enlisted Academic instructors, including the Chief mentioned above MSgt. Milligan, Senior MSgt. Garcia and Kuznicki, along with Senior MSgt. William Baez. Milligan manages the enlisted instructors and teaches part-time in the management department. Garcia teaches military strategy studies, Kuzmicki teaches leadership and behavior science, and Baez teaches intro statistics.

In a statement to Air Force Times, Milligan said that the program proves that the Air Force can select and hire appropriately qualified enlisted instructors to help increase faculty diversity. He went on to say that it seems like having an enlisted faculty component helps to have a positive effect on the cadets. The diversified faculty might also help cadets have a more collaborative learning environment, leading to greater career growth – not to mention significant experience with enlisted airmen.

The Air Force Academy created three enlisted teaching positions for the senior noncommissioned officers, all of whom hold advanced degrees.

After being hired, each instructor receives their department assignment and teaches classes relevant to their subjects of expertise. This initiative’s main goal is to provide enlisted airmen who have advanced degrees with a chance to put their education to work while continuing to serve the Air Force.

The report concludes that cadets will ultimately be better served with a more diverse staff. It still remains to be seen how the program will continue to unfold, but it seems clear the Air Force is committed to providing the right proving ground for America’s next generation of Air Force officers.

popular

The 6 dumbest things I thought I knew about the military before joining

When I joined the military, I didn’t have a lot of time for things like “background research” or “making an informed decision about doing something that might affect the rest of my life.” I didn’t even look into which branch I should join. I just walked up to the line at the recruiters’ offices. Like a drunk stumbling through the streets late at night on the hunt for food, I went with whatever was open at the moment I got there.


The list of things I didn’t know is a mile long. Life in the military was like a big black hole of awareness to me. Like most civilians (maybe), I assumed that what I saw in television and movies was more than a little exaggerated. So, what it was really like to live that military life was as foreign to me as the Great Wall of China.

The man who took 42 Nazis captive with a longsword

You’ll never get with 1980s Cher in that outfit, guys.

1. Sailors wear crackerjacks all the time.

I’m pretty sure the Navy wanted everyone to think that sailors wore white crackerjacks 24/7 as a marketing gimmick. By 2001, when I was at Fort Meade, I didn’t know who the hell those people in the dungarees were.

The man who took 42 Nazis captive with a longsword

And the learning curve for calling these guys “Soldiers” is harsh.

(U.S. Marine Corps)

2. We were all Soldiers.

Yeah, I didn’t know any better and I still don’t blame civilians for not knowing that only Army troops are called “Soldiers.” I learned I would never be called “Soldier” when I got to Air Force basic training.

The man who took 42 Nazis captive with a longsword

Pictured: 20+ second lieutenants who all made more money than me on my best day. And have zero student-loan debt.

(Photo by Greg Anderson)

3. Enlisting is the only way to join.

There’s a difference between officers and enlisted people. That’s a no-brainer to me now, but back then, I seriously thought signing up at recruiter was the only way in. I knew the military paid for college, but I thought enlisting was the only avenue toward getting that benefit.

4. Enlisting is non-stop adventure.

If an airman’s additional duties count as “adventure,” then sign me up for the next squadron burger burn!

The man who took 42 Nazis captive with a longsword

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, if you’re on a base full of airmen and it’s being overrun and there aren’t any airmen with berets on, you’re in deep shit.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Lindsey Maurice)

5. Everyone wearing camo could end up in the infantry.

I didn’t know that every new recruit goes to technical training. Regardless of the branch you join, you’re more than just a generic troop. Even if you’re in the actual infantry, you still have a military specialty. It’s more likely that you’ll end up in a technical field than in the dirt.

The man who took 42 Nazis captive with a longsword

And for good reason.

(U.S. Air Force)

6. All airmen fly planes. That’s what we do.

The closest I ever got to the controls of any plane was taking video of the cockpit. Despite being in the Air Force and the new title of “Airman” I just earned, I would never, ever be taught to fly a plane.

Articles

Finding beauty in the ‘Boneyard’

Commonly referred to as the “Boneyard,” the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., contains about 5,000 retired military aircraft throughout 2,600 acres.


Crews at the Boneyard preserve aircraft for possible future use, pull aircraft parts to supply to the field, and perform depot-level maintenance and aircraft regeneration in support of Air Force operations. | U.S. Air Force video/Andrew Breese

An F-86 Sabre sits forlorn in the field, in the shadow of its former glory. The old plane is in parts now, its wings detached and lying beside it. The canopy is missing, along with most of the interior parts of the cockpit, and the windshield is shattered – now bits of broken glass hang precariously from a spider web of cracks.

To retired Col. Bill Hosmer, it’s still beautiful. He walks around the old fighter and stares in admiration. He slides a hand over the warped metal fuselage and a flood of memories rush over him.

“I haven’t been this close to one of these in years,” he says. “Of course, that one was in a lot better shape.”

So was Hosmer. Time has weathered and aged them both, the plane’s faded paint and creased body match Hosmer’s own worn and wrinkled skin. Even the plane’s discarded wings stand as a metaphor for Hosmer’s own life now – a fighter pilot who can’t fly, standing next to a fighter jet with no wings.

Age has grounded them both, but they share something else time can’t take away: A love of flight.

“Retiring from flying is not an easy thing,” Hosmer said. “Flying is a bug you just can’t shake.”

Hosmer has done his share of flying, too. He spent more than 20 years in the Air Force, where he flew the F-86, the F-100 Super Sabre and the A-7 Corsair II. He even served a stint with the USAF Thunderbirds, the service’s air demonstration team that chooses only the best pilots.

The man who took 42 Nazis captive with a longsword

The Sabre has always had a special place in his heart, though. It was the first plane he flew and his favorite.

“We’ve shared a lot of time together, me and this plane,” he said, patting the plane’s weathered hulk.

Ironically, Hosmer’s favorite plane is also the one that almost made him give up flying. He was in pilot training, learning how to fly the F-86, when he crashed one. The physical injuries weren’t all that bad – a busted mouth, some fractured bones and multiple bruises – and he healed from them without issue.

The damage to his psyche, though, that was a different story.

“I was scared to fly for a while after that crash,” he said. “It took me a long time to get the courage to get back in the cockpit.”

Eventually, his love to fly overtook his desire not to and he hopped back in the cockpit and rekindled his love affair with flight.

So, looking at the old F-86, Hosmer doesn’t see a broken, battered and discarded jet; he sees past glories, feels loving memories and is saying hello to an old friend.

“I made a living flying this plane,” he said. “It seems like just yesterday I was in the cockpit. But, it was really a long time ago.”

Like Hosmer’s memories, the Sabre is also a thing of the past. The plane is replaced with newer, sleeker and more technologically advanced airplanes, and those few that do remain are typically found in museums and airshows.

The man who took 42 Nazis captive with a longsword

The one Hosmer is standing next to is different. This one now sits as part of the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz. Commonly referred to as “the Boneyard,” the AMARG is basically a 2,600-acre parking lot and storage facility for about 5,000 retired military aircraft.

The planes range from older ones, like the F-86 and B-52 Stratofortress, to newer ones, like the C-5 Galaxy. Though retired from active duty, each aircraft still performs a vital mission.

“Parts,” said Bill Amparano, an aircraft mechanic with the 309th AMARG. “These planes offer parts to the fleet. If a unit can’t find a replacement part for one of their aircraft, they’ll send us a request and we’ll take the part off one of our planes and send it to them.”

In other words, the AMARG is like a giant “pick-and-pull” for the Air Force, offering hard-to-find parts to units around the world. And, while it’s said the Boneyard is where planes go to die, it’s the opposite that’s true.

“They don’t come here to die, they’re just taking a break,” Amparano said.

When a plane arrives at the AMARG, it goes through an in-depth preservation process. Guns are removed, as are any ejection seat charges, classified equipment and anything easily stolen. Workers then drain the fuel system and pump in lightweight oil, which is drained again, leaving an oil coating that protects the fuel system.

A preservation service team then covers all the engine intakes, exhaust areas and any gaps or cracks in the aircraft with tape and paper and plastic. This job can take about 150 hours per aircraft.

Larger openings, such as bomb outlets and large vents, are then covered with a fiberglass mesh to keep out birds.

The man who took 42 Nazis captive with a longsword

“If you don’t catch them in time, they can really do some damage,” said Jim Blyda, also an aircraft mechanic with the group.

This preservation process doesn’t just prepare the planes for storage; it also keeps them ready. The fully preserved planes can be called back into military service, be used as firefighting planes or even be sold to customers.

“Although some of them look like they are sitting here dead, if we reverse the process, in a couple of days, they are ready to roll,” Amparano said.

The AMARG also performs depot-level maintenance and aircraft regeneration in support of Air Force operations. Each year, the Boneyard receives and teams preserve nearly 400 aircraft, dispose of nearly another 400 aircraft and pull and ship some 18,000 parts.

Even the AMARG’s location serves a purpose. Because of Tucson’s low rainfall, low humidity and high-alkaline soil, corrosion and deterioration are kept to a minimum.

“The weather here is really perfect for storing all these planes,” said Col. Robert Lepper, 309th AMARG commander. “So if we need them, they’re ready. Some have been sitting here for decades.”

For Hosmer, this is a good thing. Without the AMARG and its preservation of the thousands of planes confined within its fences, he would not be able to stand in a field, rubbing his weathered hands over the warped, aged fuselage of an old F-86.

Neither he nor the jet fly anymore, but just the sight of the old fighter brings back memories Hosmer had long since forgotten.

Remembering them now, the memories are brought back to life – just like many of the planes within the AMARG are waiting silently, patiently, to do.

Watch this video from Airman Magazine to take a tour of the Boneyard:

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