A pilot describes his role in the historic Berlin Airlift - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

A pilot describes his role in the historic Berlin Airlift

Seventy years ago, with Adolf Hitler’s crumbled Third Reich still fresh in their memories and Joseph Stalin’s Soviet Union having a choke hold on their future, Berlin’s children were starving.

With the Nazi surrender in 1945, the Allies divided the defeated Germany. The French, British, and Americans took the western half of the nation spreading the ideals of democracy, while the Communist Russians occupied the eastern half of Germany. Berlin itself was divided into sectors between the allies, but was completely surrounded by the Soviet-controlled sector of Germany.


More than three years after World War II ended, Russian forces blockaded the Allied-controlled areas of Berlin on June 24, 1948, shutting off access to food, coal, and medicine to two million German citizens.

Berlin became the first front line of The Cold War and the nine-month old U.S. Air Force was charged with keeping Berliners alive while keeping the Cold War from turning hot.

The Berlin Airlift began two days later, with U.S. Air Force C-47 Skytrains and C-54 Skymasters delivering milk, flour, and medicine to West Berlin. Throughout the duration of the blockade, U.S. and British aircraft delivered more than 2.3 million tons of supplies. At the height of the Berlin Airlift, aircraft were landing every three minutes, supplying up to 13,000 tons of food, coal and medicine a day, according to the Air Force Historical Support Division.

A pilot describes his role in the historic Berlin Airlift

German children who live near the Tempelhof Air Base use model American planes which were sold in toy shops throughout the western sector of Berlin to play a game called “Luftbrucke” (air bridge) while pretending they are American pilots delivering food and supplies for “Operation Vittles” during the Berlin Airlift in West Berlin.

(National Archive photo)

Then-1st Lt. Gail Halvorsen, who retired from the Air Force as a colonel in 1974, was one of the American pilots flying around-the-clock missions from Rhein-Main Air Base in West Germany to Tempelhof Air Field in Berlin. He flew 126 missions delivering supplies and food from July 1948 to February 1949.

“We learned very clearly that the new enemy was Stalin. He was taking over where Hitler left off. We knew exactly what Stalin had in mind,” Halvorsen said.

However, some Airmen had mixed emotions about aiding the former enemy that had been shooting at American pilots just three years before. Halvorsen admitting that he had issues at first with the mission, but it quickly changed when he talked with a fellow crewmember.

“He told me that it is a hell of a lot better to feed them (rather) than kill them and that he was glad to be back. That is service before self. That is what causes your enemy to become your friend,” Halvorsen said.

On one of his first missions, the American pilot learned in a conversation with German youth through the perimeter fence at Templehof, that West Berliners may have needed food, but they were even more hungry for hope and freedom.

Between missions, Halvorsen was filming aircraft landings with his Revere movie camera when he encountered about 30 German children between the ages of 8 and 14, he said in his autobiography, “The Berlin Candy Bomber.”

A pilot describes his role in the historic Berlin Airlift

Lt. Gail Halvorsen, “The Candy Bomber,” greets children of isolated West Berlin sometime during 1948-49 after dropping candy bars from the air on tiny parachutes.

(US Air Force photo)

He greeted them with practically all the German he knew, but surprisingly, one of the group spoke English. Halvorsen was soon answering questions about how many sacks of flour and loaves of bread the airplanes carried and what other types of cargo were being airlifted.

He talked with the children for an hour before he realized not one had asked him for anything. Instead, they gave him something he didn’t expect: the best lesson on freedom he’d ever heard.

“I got five steps away from them, and then it hit me,” said Halvorsen, commonly known as the Berlin Candy Bomber. “I’d been dead-stopped for an hour, and not one kid had put out their hand. Not one.”

The contrast was so stark because during World War II, and dating all the way back to George Washington, if you were in an American uniform walking down the street, kids would chase you and ask for chocolate and gum.

“The reason they didn’t was they were so grateful to our fliers to be free. They wouldn’t be a beggar for more than freedom,” said Halvorsen. “Hitler’s past and Stalin’s future was their nightmare. American-style freedom was their dream. They knew what freedom was about. They said, ‘Someday we’ll have enough to eat, but if we lose our freedom, we’ll never get it back.’ These were kids, and they were teaching me about freedom. That’s what just blew me away… That was the trigger. I reached into my pocket, but all I had were two sticks of gum. Right then, the smallest decision I made changed the rest of my life.”

A pilot describes his role in the historic Berlin Airlift

Lt. Gail Halvorsen, “The Candy Bomber,” greets children of isolated West Berlin sometime during 1948-49 after dropping candy bars from the air on tiny parachutes.

(US Air Force photo)

When he reached into his pocket for the two sticks of Wrigley’s Doublemint gum, Halvorsen debated the wisdom of giving it to them. Perhaps they’d fight over it. Yet, he broke each in half and passed four halves through the barbed wire, then braced for the rush of children to the fence.

It never came.

The children who didn’t get any of the gum only asked for a piece of the wrapper so they could smell the aroma. Their reaction, along with the surprise the pilot felt when they didn’t beg for anything, led to his decision to do more for them.

The man the German children would later call “Onkel Wackelflugel” or Uncle Wiggly Wings, came up with an idea that would not only change the lives of those children, but would also help the West win the ideological war with the Soviets for Germany’s future.

Halvorsen told the kids he would drop something to them on his next landing at Templehof if they promised to share. He would signal them on approach that it was his plane by wiggling the wings, something he’d done for his parents after he received his pilot’s license in 1941.

Back at Rhein-Main Air Base, just 280 miles away, he combined his candy rations with those of his co-pilot and engineer, made parachutes out of handkerchiefs and string and tied them to chocolate and gum for the first “Operation Little Vittles” drop from his C-54 Skymaster July 18, 1948.

“The only way I could get back to deliver it was to drop it from the airplane, 100 feet over their heads, on the approach between the barbed wire fence and bombed-out buildings,” Halvorsen said. “A red light came on that said you can’t drop it without permission. But I rationalized it by saying that starving 2 million people isn’t according to Hoyle, either, so what’s a few candy bars?”

The amount of candy steadily increased, along with the number of waiting children, for three weeks until a Berlin newspaper published a photo of the now famous “Candy Bomber.”

Soon, stacks of letters began arriving at Templehof base operations addressed to “Der Schokoladen Flieger” (the Chocolate Flyer), or “Onkel Wackelflugel.”

A pilot describes his role in the historic Berlin Airlift

U.S. Air Force Lt. Gail Halvorsen, known as “The Candy Bomber”, reads letters from grateful West Berlin children to whom he dropped candy bars on tiny parachutes during the Berlin Airlift.

(US Air Force photo)

One day, after he returned from Berlin, Halvorsen was summoned by Col. James R. Haun, the C-54 squadron commander. Haun had received a call from Brig. Gen. William H. Tunner, deputy commander of operations during the airlift, who wanted to know who was dropping parachutes over Berlin.

Halvorsen knew he was in trouble when Haun showed him the newspaper with the picture of little parachutes flying out of his C-54.

“You got me in a little trouble there, Halvorsen,” Haun told him.

“I’d had a long relationship with him, but he was put out because he was sandbagged,” Halvorsen said. “So when I talk to kids, especially high school kids, I say, ‘when you get a job, don’t sandbag your boss.’ He said to keep [dropping candy], but keep him informed. It just went crazy after that.”

Fellow pilots donated their candy rations. Eventually, they ran out of parachutes, so they made more from cloth and old shirt-sleeves until noncommissioned officers’ and officers’ wives at Rhein-Main AB began making them.

Later, the American Confectioners Association donated 18 tons of candy, mostly sent through a Chicopee, Massachusetts school where students attached it to parachutes before sending to Berlin through then-Westover Air Force Base.

By the end of the Berlin Airlift in September 1949, American pilots had dropped 250,000 parachutes and 23 tons of candy.

“Willie Williams took over after I left Berlin,” Halvorsen said. “And he ended up dropping even more candy than I did.”

Since the Berlin Airlift ended, Halvorsen has met countless Germans whose lives were changed because of “Operation Little Vittles.”

A pilot describes his role in the historic Berlin Airlift

During the Berlin Airlift, then Lt. Gail S. Halvorsen dropped candy attached to parachutes made from handkerchiefs to German children watching the airlift operations from outside the fence of the Tempelhof Airport in West Berlin. One of those children was then seven-year-old Mercedes Simon whose father was killed during WWII. She and Halvorsen became pen pals and friends meeting many times later in life. The beginning of their friendship is recounted in the children’s book, “Mercedes and the Chocolate Pilot” by Margot Theis Raven held by Halvorsen.

(US Air Force photo)

One of them, a 7-year-old girl named Mercedes, wrote in a letter in 1948 that she loved “Der Schokoladen Flieger,” but was concerned for her chickens, who thought the airlift planes were chicken hawks. Mercedes asked him to drop candy near the white chickens because she didn’t care if he scared them.

Halvorsen tried, but never could find Mercedes’ white chickens, so he wrote her a letter and sent her candy through the Berlin mail.

The two would finally meet face-to-face 24 years later when Halvorsen returned to Berlin as Templehof commander in the early 1970s.

Mercedes’ husband, Peter Wild, convinced the Templehof commander to come to his home for dinner. Mercedes showed him the letter he’d written her in 1948, along with the chickens she’d written about in her own letter.

It was a friendship immortalized in Margot Theis Raven’s children’s book, “Mercedes and the Chocolate Pilot.”

A pilot describes his role in the historic Berlin Airlift

Crews unload planes at Tempelhof Airport during the Berlin Airlift.

(US Air Force photo)

Halvorsen has returned to Berlin nearly 40 times since the airlift. In 1974, he received one of Germany’s highest medals, the Grosses Bundesverdienstkreuz, and carried the German team’s national placard into Rice-Eccles Stadium during the opening march for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.

Halvorsen participated in a re-enactment of “Operation Little Vittles” during the 40th and 50th anniversaries of the Berlin Airlift and also dropped candy from a C-130 Hercules during Operation Provide Promise in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Even at the age of 97, Halvorsen keeps a busy schedule as he and his wife, Lorraine, split their time between their homes in Arizona and Utah. Several times a year he would fly the C-54 “Spirit of Freedom,” with FAA certification to fly second-in-command.

He’s also visited many schools, both stateside and overseas, and visited Iraq to review Air Mobility Command transport operations and visit troops deployed in Southwest Asia.

Seventy years since the Berlin Airlift, the colonel remains universally beloved as the “Candy Bomber,” but enjoys one thing about his perpetual notoriety the most.

“The thing I enjoy the most about being the ‘Candy Bomber’ is seeing the children’s reaction even now to the idea of a chocolate bar coming out of the sky,” he said. “The most fun I have is doing air drops because even here in the states, there’s something magical about a parachute flying out of the sky with a candy bar on it.”

Halvorsen believes the praise he receives for bringing hope to a generation of Germans through his candy bombing deflects much of the credit to that first group of children at the barbed wire fence at Templehof.

Their gratitude and thankfulness for the pilots’ efforts to keep them free during the Berlin Airlift inspired him to reach into his pocket for those two sticks of gum.

That “smallest decision,” as Halvorsen calls it, led to 23 tons of candy dropped from the sky to the children of West Berlin and changed countless lives, not to mention the life of the Candy Bomber, himself.

Halvorsen’s dedication to helping those in need didn’t end after he retired with 31 years of service in the Air Force. In 1994, his request to assist in another humanitarian airlift was approved. He would fly with the Air Force again, this time delivering food to 70,000 refugees fleeing from the conflict in Bosnia.

“We have our freedom to choose, and when the freedom is taken away, air power is the only quick way to answer a crisis like that,” he recalled.

A pilot describes his role in the historic Berlin Airlift

Retired U.S. Air Force Colonel Gail S. Halvorsen, known commonly as the “Berlin Candy Bomber” stands in front of C-54 Skymaster like the one he flew during WWII at the Pima Air and Space Museum in Arizona.

(US Air Force photo)

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

MIGHTY GAMING

This is how much human blood you need to make a longsword

There’s a meme that occasionally makes the rounds on social media that claims you’d have to kill 359 people in order to save up enough human blood to get the iron required to make a longsword. Forging a weapon of war from the blood of your enemies? Sign us up.

But that number seemed a little suspect, so we decided to dig deeper.

It’s true, there is iron in red blood cells — mostly in hemoglobin — but trying to extract that iron from someone’s blood is no simple process. And, with a little math, we’ve determined that if you’re somehow able to get the iron out, the number of people you’d need to drain would be way higher than the meme suggests. Let’s explore this bloody question.


A pilot describes his role in the historic Berlin Airlift

Yes, this scene. Side note: This is why they had Mystique inject iron into the blood of the guard — to keep this scene scientifically accurate.

(20th Century Fox)

First of all, there are roughly 5 million red blood cells in a microliter of blood. Accounting for the tiny fractions of iron in red blood cells and the amount of blood in the body, the amount of iron within an average human body totals 4 grams, enough for about eight paperclips. We’re thinking that whoever invented the meme took this number, did the division, and came to the conclusion that you’d need 359 unfortunate souls to complete the diabolical process. But we’re not finished — not by a long shot.

A single molecule of hemoglobin is comprised of 2952 carbon atoms, 4664 hydrogen atoms, 832 oxygen atoms, 812 nitrogen atoms, eight sulfur atoms, and a whopping four iron atoms. You’d have to strip away the rest of the elements in the molecule to get to said iron. So, now we have to talk extraction — and since you’re probably already thinking of that scene from X2, let’s talk magnets.

A pilot describes his role in the historic Berlin Airlift

The quality of the iron in the blood might be tied to the healthiness of each individual — but we’re just going to assume that’ll average out over the several thousand souls required…

(Photo by Tamahagane Arts)

The iron in the metalloprotein hemoglobin isn’t in a metallic state, which is great for anyone who has ever encountered a magnet. This is why you don’t immediately collapse from a clogged artery when a magnet comes close to your veins. Instead, oxygenated hemoglobin is diamagnetic — meaning it repels magnets — at an extremely low level. The blood that travels between the heart and the lungs is deoxygenated, however, making it paramagnetic, so that’s the first place any chaotic-evil blacksmith should begin.

If you could manage to create a machine to pump and deoxygenate large quantities of blood, like a modified, artificial heart, it would then be prepped for a super-magnet to pull the raw iron out of the blood. Take the blood that’s been pulled out by a super magnet and set it on fire to burn away any remaining oxygen and hydrogen and, voila, you have something to work with — in theory, anyway. Nobody’s tested this, probably because they don’t feel like being labelled a mad scientist.

What you’d be left with is something similar to iron sand. You officially have a workable material for first step in the smelting process. But there’s a huge difference between raw materials and iron that’s able to be forged.

In the real world, for every 1 kg of workable iron ingots created, you end up with an average of 3.181 kg of impurities and slag byproduct — and that’s when working with the highest quality iron sand, stuff from Gampo, South Korea. We’ll give our theoretical blood-iron the benefit of the doubt and assume it’s about the same in terms of quality.

So, you’ll need a total of 4.181 kg of blood-iron sand to get 1 kg of workable iron. Now, let’s get back to the math.

A pilot describes his role in the historic Berlin Airlift

At this point, you’d already be considered a monster, so let’s keep going! To get 25 kg of usable blood-steel for a full suit of armor would require a messy 179,376 blood bags — which, surprisingly, is less than the amount of people killed annually by sugary drinks worldwide.

(Bethesda Game Studios)

An average longsword has a finished weight of around 1.5 kg — but typical generates an additional 0.75 kg of waste. That means we’ll need 2.25 kg of workable iron to make the sword. 2,250 grams of workable iron, factoring for the ratio of impurities, means we’ll need 9,407.25 grams of raw material — of blood-iron sand — to start. At 4 grams per person, you’d need at least 2,352 completely drained donors to make a iron longsword out of blood.

But if you’re going that far, why stop at iron? Why not work it into steel, which makes objectively better weapons?

Continuing folding and forging, removing the impurities, and adding carbon (which, presumably, could be found in the garbage shoot after all the work you’ve done so far) can harden that bad boy into something more durable. Granted, you’d need more blood-iron sand at a magnitude of 1 kg of blood-steel ingots to 27.7 kg of waste. That puts you at 64,749.9 grams of blood-iron sand, or a genocidal 16,188 doomed souls to create a single steel blade.

To put that in perspective, you’re looking at killing roughly half as many people as the bubonic plague did in 1625 London.

Brutal.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This Ranger fought in Mogadishu before becoming a country music star

On October 3, 1993, Task Force Ranger conducted a raid in the Black Sea neighborhood of Mogadishu, Somalia to capture high-ranking lieutenants of the Aidid militia. The task force was an all-star special operations team composed of elements from the 75th Ranger Regiment, 1st SFOD-D, 160th SOAR, Navy SEALs from DEVGRU, and PJs and CCTs from the 24th Special Tactics Squadron.


As Nightstalker MH-6 Little Birds inserted Delta Operators on the target building, Rangers fast-roped down from MH-60 Blackhawks to the building’s four corners to secure a perimeter. During the insertion, Pfc. Todd Blackburn missed the rope and fell to the street below. Undeterred, the rest of the Rangers fast-roped out of the Blackhawks to establish security. The last Ranger out of the Blackhawk in front of Blackburn’s was team leader Sgt. Keni Thomas. As he reached for the rope, Thomas turned to the Blackhawk’s crew chief who yelled to him, “NO FEAR!”

“SCREW YOU!” Thomas responded as he dropped into the gunfire below. In his mind, it was easy for someone to say “no fear” if they’re the ones that get to fly away from the bullets. But Thomas was a Ranger, one of America’s elite, highly trained warriors. He led his team and maintained the perimeter around the target building from the Somali militia who were shooting at them, but mostly missing by his account.

Thirty-five minutes later, the target individuals were secure, loaded up on the trucks, and everyone was ready to return to base. With everything looking good, Thomas’ thoughts drifted as he thought about how he was now a bona fide combat veteran and could qualify for a VA loan. It was then that CW3 Cliff Wolcott and CW3 Donovan Briley’s Blackhawk was shot down. What was supposed to be a quick mission on a day off had turned into a battle against an entire city; after all, an American Soldier will never leave a fallen comrade.

Super 61 went down about five blocks from the target building. As the Rangers stepped off to secure the crash site, Thomas’ squad leader was shot in the neck. As the medics treated the squad leader’s neck wound, the platoon sergeant came up to Thomas and told him, “You’re in charge now.”

“What do you mean I’m in charge sarn’t?” Thomas asked, not wanting the increased responsibility.

“Hey, hey, sarn’t Thomas,” Sgt. Watson snapped his fingers to focus Thomas’ attention. “You’re in charge.” It was then that Thomas’ NCO training kicked in and he rogered up. Taking his squad leaders’ radio, he reassigned positions in his own team and took lead of the squad. The Rangers continued to make their way to the crash site as they took fire from unseen enemies.

Suddenly, one of the Rangers spotted a hostile Somali. “He’s in the tree sarn’t! He’s in the tree!” Pfc. Floyd, Thomas’ SAW gunner, yelled out frantically.

“Well if you see him, why don’t you shoot him?” Sgt. Watson responded self-evidently. It dawned on Floyd that he had, in fact, joined the Army and was allowed to shoot at people who shot at him. But rather than firing in 3 to 5 second bursts, Floyd proceeded to let out a constant stream of cyclic fire until Thomas hit him and told him to stop.

With the barrel of his machine gun glowing from the heat, Floyd stood up, lifted his goggles, and asked naively, “Did I get him?”

As the tree fell over, cut down by Floyd’s gunfire, Thomas said sarcastically, “Floyd, I don’t know if you got him, but you got the whole tree.”

Thomas and his squad continued to fight their way to the crash site and defended it until the bodies of the crew were recovered the next day. Incredibly and in spite of their casualties, their chalk was the only one to return with everyone alive that day. Thomas credits this accomplishment to the skill of their medic and the leadership of Sgt. Watson.

After Somalia, Thomas went on to serve in the Ranger recon teams. He ended his military career in 1997 as a Staff Sergeant, having earned the Master Parachutist Badge, the Military Freefall Parachutist Badge, the Special Operations Diver badge, British and Belgian jump wings, and a Bronze Star for Valor with a “V” device.

A pilot describes his role in the historic Berlin Airlift

Thomas served in the Army with distinction (Photo from KeniThomas.com)

Upon leaving active duty, Thomas worked as a youth counselor and eventually became a motivational speaker, drawing on his experiences in the Ranger Regiment. He also served as a consultant on We Were Soldiers and Black Hawk Down where he was portrayed by actor Tac Fitzgerald. However, it was Thomas’ passion for music that he focused on most after the army.

Thomas formed the country music band Cornbread and began his music career by performing in and around Columbus, Georgia. By the late 90’s, the band started to make a name for itself, playing shows on college campuses like Auburn University. In the 2002 movie Sweet Home Alabama, Thomas and Cornbread perform a cover of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Sweet Home Alabama as the movie’s featured song. To date, the band has released three albums as Cornbread and four under Keni Thomas’ name. Thomas has also performed several times at the prestigious Grand Ole Opry, with his most recent performance in May 2014.

Though he’s broken into the country music world, Thomas has not forgotten his military roots. He has performed overseas on USO tours during which he takes the extra time to connect with each servicemember that he meets and exchange stories. His favorite venues are the remote outposts where he performs for groups as small as a platoon. He also donates some of his proceeds to the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, a non-profit that provides scholarships and financial aid to the children of wounded or deceased operators.

A pilot describes his role in the historic Berlin Airlift

Thomas performing in Kuwait on a USO tour in 2006 (U.S. Navy photo)

From the streets of Mogadishu to the music halls of Nashville, Thomas has lived up to both the Soldier’s Creed and the Ranger Creed in never leaving a fallen comrade. He continues to tell the stories of his fallen brothers in his music and his motivational talks. Rangers like Thomas lead the way…all the way!

MIGHTY TRENDING

Army Emergency Relief is poised to assist all service members during pandemic

Army Emergency Relief (AER) was formed in 1942 with the mission to alleviate financial stress on the force. Since they opened their doors they’ve given out $2 billion dollars in aid. They remain a part of the Army, and assistance is coordinated by mission and garrison commanders at Army bases throughout the world. With the continual threat of the coronavirus looming, AER is ready and not just to serve soldiers – but all branches of the military.


Lieutenant General Raymond Mason (ret.) has been the Director of AER since 2016 and feels passionate about his role at AER and what the organization can do for military families. He shared that the one thing that keeps him up at night is the soldier or military member that doesn’t know about AER.

A pilot describes his role in the historic Berlin Airlift

“If a soldier, airman, sailor, marine or coast guardsman is distracted by something in their life…. like finances, they probably aren’t focused on their individual training. They aren’t focused on their unit mission and if we send them into a combat zone with those distractions they are a danger to themselves and their buddies on their left and right,” said Mason. That’s where AER comes in.

AER is a 501c3 non-profit and receives no federal funding; instead they rely on the generous donations of others to make their mission a reality. Mason also shared that AER has close relationships with all of the other services relief organizations, with them often working together to serve those in need. For example, a coastie can walk into an AER office on post and get the same help as a soldier, although the representative they work with has to follow the guidelines of their branch’s relief organization.

Their biggest concern right now is information. “I want to make sure everyone from private to general knows about our program,” said Mason. He touched on the new environment of social media and the exploding availability of aid to military families. While he shared that it can be a good thing that there are so many organizations devoted to supporting the military; there are also some really bad agencies out there. Mason shared that AER is working hard on more strategic communication and marketing of their relief program to prevent that.

“This isn’t a giveaway program, it’s a help up. You get back on your feet and get back in the fight,” said Mason. AER is also open to all ranks, knowing that anyone can need assistance at any time. They can walk into AER and know that they’ll have their back. AER maintains a 4 out of 4 star rating with Charity Navigator, shared Mason, and it’s something they are very proud of.

There are military members who are reluctant to request help through relief agencies out of fear of reprimand or negative impacts to their career. While AER encourages members to go to their chain of command with their needs, even granting approval for first sergeants to sign checks up to 00 – Mason understands it isn’t always easy. As long as they are outside of their initial trainings and have been serving over twelve months, they can go through direct access to get help without involving command.

As the military orders a stand down on travel due to the coronavirus, guard families are concerned. Many of them are unable to hold civilian jobs due to the frequent schools, trainings, TDYs and deployments. With orders being canceled or held, this means financial ruin could be just a paycheck away. AER will be there for those families and stands ready to serve them.

A pilot describes his role in the historic Berlin Airlift

But all of this costs money, something that AER will always need to continue to support military members and their families. They are stepping up their donation requests by engaging with American citizens and corporations. “We’ve never done that throughout our history and we are doing it for the first time,” said Mason. He continued by sharing although they’ve received support from them in the past, they’ve never asked. Now they are asking.

AER just began its annual fundraising campaign, which kicked off on March 1 and will run through May 15, 2020. For the first time, they are really involving the bases and have turned it into a fun event that each group can make their own, Mason shared. There will be an awards ceremony later on in the year to celebrate those who went the extra mile.

He also shared that AER and most relief societies receive a very low percentage of donations that are actually received from active duty, which is concerning. Mason stated that it isn’t about the amount that they give, but that they do give. “Military members fight for each other. When in combat you fight for your buddy on your left or right. If you aren’t willing to reach in your back pocket to help your buddy on your left and right, we have a problem,” said Mason.

“Leave no comrade behind” is the army’s creed – it is a motto that all should take to heart, especially at home.

To learn more about AER and how you can help their mission, click here.

MIGHTY HISTORY

20 rarely seen 9/11 photos

When we think about September 11, we picture where we were, what we saw and how it felt. Iconic images and video from the moments before, during and after the attacks sit in our hearts and minds.

So maybe that’s why these lesser-seen photos have so much power. They serve as reminders of both what we lost that day and the resolve we gained.

On September 11 we pause and remember where we were, what we saw and how it felt.


Where were you when the towers fell? When the Pentagon burned? When heroes forced the plane to the ground in Pennsylvania, sacrificing themselves and saving others?

These photos are reminders of those moments and the patriotic fervor that welled inside us in the days that followed.

Never forget.

A pilot describes his role in the historic Berlin Airlift

President George W. Bush turns around to watch television coverage of the attacks on the World Trade Center Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001, as he is briefed in a classroom at Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida. (Photo by Eric Draper, courtesy of the George W. Bush Presidential Library)

A pilot describes his role in the historic Berlin Airlift

The aftermath in Washington of the terrorist attack on the Pentagon, Sept. 11, 2001. (Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Robert Houlihan)

A pilot describes his role in the historic Berlin Airlift

An aerial view of the damage at the Pentagon two days after Sept. 11, 2001. On that day, five members of al-Qaida, a group of fundamentalist Islamic Muslims, hijacked American Airlines Flight 77, a Boeing 757-200, from Dulles International Airport just outside Washington and flew the aircraft and its 64 passengers into the side of the Pentagon. (Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Cedric H. Rudisill)

A pilot describes his role in the historic Berlin Airlift

View of a damaged office on the fifth floor of the Pentagon. (Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Larry A. Simmons)

A pilot describes his role in the historic Berlin Airlift

President George W. Bush talks with Vice President Dick Cheney, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice and other advisors during meetings at the President’s Emergency Operations Center, Sept. 11, 2001. (National Archives)

A pilot describes his role in the historic Berlin Airlift

A clock, frozen at the time of impact, inside the Pentagon. (Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Larry A. Simmons)

A pilot describes his role in the historic Berlin Airlift

Vice President Dick Cheney sits with National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice in the President’s Emergency Operations Center during meetings on the day of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. (National Archives)

A pilot describes his role in the historic Berlin Airlift

Smoke rises from the site of the World Trade Center, Sept. 11, 2001. (Photo by Paul Morse, courtesy of the George W. Bush Presidential Library)

A pilot describes his role in the historic Berlin Airlift

Burned and melted items sit atop an office desk inside the fifth floor of the Pentagon. (Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Larry A. Simmons)

A pilot describes his role in the historic Berlin Airlift

President George W. Bush talks on the telephone Sept. 11, 2001, as senior staff huddle aboard Air Force One. (Photo by Eric Draper, Courtesy of the George W. Bush Presidential Library)

A pilot describes his role in the historic Berlin Airlift

Secretary of State Colin Powell gets briefed inside the President’s Emergency Operations Center, Sept. 11, 2001. (National Archives)

A pilot describes his role in the historic Berlin Airlift

Wearing a gas mask, a New York National Guard soldier from the “Fighting” 69th Infantry Division pauses amid the rubble at ground zero. (New York National Guard)

A pilot describes his role in the historic Berlin Airlift

President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney meet in the President’s Emergency Operations Center during the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. (National Archives)

A pilot describes his role in the historic Berlin Airlift

New York National Guard soldiers from the 69th Infantry Division and New York City firefighters band together to remove rubble from ground zero at the World Trade Center in downtown Manhattan following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. (New York National Guard)

A pilot describes his role in the historic Berlin Airlift

President George W. Bush grasps the hand of his father, former President George H. W. Bush, after speaking at the service for America’s National Day of Prayer and Remembrance at the National Cathedral in Washington, Sept. 14, 2001. (Photo by Eric Draper, Courtesy of the George W. Bush Presidential Library)

A pilot describes his role in the historic Berlin Airlift

The president greets firefighters, police and rescue personnel, Sept. 14, 2001, while touring the site of the World Trade Center terrorist attack in New York. (Photo by Eric Draper, Courtesy of the George W. Bush Presidential Library)

A pilot describes his role in the historic Berlin Airlift

Vice President Dick Cheney and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice look on inside the President’s Emergency Operations Center during meetings on the day of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. (National Archives)

A pilot describes his role in the historic Berlin Airlift

President George W. Bush greets rescue workers, firefighters and military personnel, Sept. 12, 2001, while surveying damage caused by the previous day’s terrorist attacks on the Pentagon. (Photo by Eric Draper, Courtesy of the George W. Bush Presidential Library)

A pilot describes his role in the historic Berlin Airlift

Soldiers from the 3rd Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) render honors as firefighters and rescue workers unfurl a huge American flag over the side of the Pentagon while rescue and recovery efforts continued following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack. The garrison flag, sent from the U.S. Army Band at nearby Fort Myer, Virginia, is the largest authorized flag for the military. (Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Michael Pendergrass)

A pilot describes his role in the historic Berlin Airlift

Sandra Dahl, left, is the widow of Jason Dahl, the pilot of United Airlines Flight 93, which went down in Somerset, Pennsylvania, on Sept. 11, 2001. The plane was believed to have been en route to the White House. Here, she holds an American flag along with Air Force Lt. Col. Mike Low after flying in the back seat of his F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter. (Air Force photo by Tech Sgt. Darin Overstreet)

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

MIGHTY BRANDED

One of the world’s largest cable companies was founded by a World War II sailor

Ralph Roberts didn’t leave the Navy with the dream of starting the world’s biggest telecommunications provider. When he left the service, television was an emerging technology and radio still dominated the airwaves. The company he would soon found would go on to be America’s largest cable provider at one point – and one of the biggest supporters of military veterans.


The story of Ralph Roberts isn’t a stereotypical rags-to-riches tale set in early 20th Century America. The young Roberts was the son of a wealthy family of immigrants who owned a number of pharmacies in the New York City area. When he was still a boy, his father died of a heart attack and, having lost their fortune, they went to live in Philadelphia. His new stepfather was also a business owner, running a successful cigar company. This early exposure to the freedom of running a self-owned business no doubt influenced Ralph’s decision to attend the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania.

It was 1941 when Roberts graduated. Later that year, the United States would be pulled into World War II with the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Roberts, like many wealthy businessmen, could have probably avoided service with a draft deferment or through government connections. He didn’t. Instead, he opted to join the Navy, where he served for the duration of the war at the Philadelphia Navy Yard.

A pilot describes his role in the historic Berlin Airlift

Roberts married his wife Suzanne during his first year in the Navy.

After the war, Roberts became a “serial entrepreneur.” He started by selling a series of golf clubs, most notably a putter with which he persuaded legendary Hollywood personality Bob Hope to pose with, asking him to do a veteran a favor. He marketed it as the “Bob Hope Putter.” He then went to work in subscription sales for the Muzak company, which made… muzak, music for entertainment productions that could be easily licensed and replicated. Eventually he started working for the Pioneer Suspender Company, a business which he eventually owned. When beltless polyester pant hit the market in the early 1960s, Roberts worried it was the death knell for his business, so he began to look elsewhere.

That’s when he discovered a small cable television provider in Tupelo, Miss. that serviced some 1,200 people. Back in the early days of television, rural customers struggled to get clear reception from over-the-air broadcasters like NBC, CBS, and ABC. The focus was in providing services to major metropolitan areas. In those days, cable wasn’t a package of new and diverse channels, it was just a way to get clear reception using cable instead of a broadcast antenna.

Roberts sold his suspenders company and and bought American Cable Systems. He soon redubbed it Comcast.

A pilot describes his role in the historic Berlin Airlift

Comcast would eventually become the country’s largest cable provider, a conglomerate that would acquire other, smaller cable companies and internet service providers, all with Ralph J. Roberts in his trademark bowtie at the helm. Though Roberts died in 2015, the company still regards serving veterans as a core corporate responsibility, supporting National Guard and reserve troops when they’re activated, providing low or no-cost internet services and computers to low-income veterans, pledging to hire 21,000 veterans by 2021, and funding veteran-related initiatives through partner organizations.

One such organization is the Military Influencer Conference, a three-day event that brings together important and emerging entrepreneurs, influencers, creatives, executives, and leaders who are connected to the military community. The annual conference focuses on delivering actionable insights from the stories of others and fostering an environment where people of diverse backgrounds and skill sets are motivated to forge legitimate relationships through conversation that lead to powerful collaborations.

For more information on the Military Influencer Conference, visit MilitaryInfluencer.com. To learn more about Comcast’s initiatives for veterans, visit its corporate page.

WATCH

How this patrolman engaged 50 enemy troops with a single M60 will make you proud

On Aug. 2, 1969, David Larson was serving as a gunner’s mate on a patrol boat as it steered up the Saigon River, transporting a seven-man ambush team.


The team was a part of the Army’s LRRP — or Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol. After cruising up river for a time, they set up an ambush position during the day near the riverbank.

As night fell, they silently settled into their discrete position. Little did they know, all hell was about to break loose.

A pilot describes his role in the historic Berlin Airlift
A river patrol boat similar to Larson’s as it maneuvers through the water’s narrow lanes in Vietnam. (U.S. Army Center of Military History)

Later that night, the spec ops team engaged four enemy troops who, unknown to them, happened to be a part of a massive force. Almost immediately after engaging, the unit began taking accurate rocket and small arms fire, which, sadly, killed half of the team outright.

Also Read: 5 countries that tried to shoot down the SR-71 Blackbird (and failed)

One of the LRRP members called to the boat for support. This caught Larson’s attention, getting him fully engaged in the firefight.

The motivated gunner’s mate leaped out of the patrol boat with his M60 in hand and blasted the weapon system on full auto — holding off a force of nearly 50 enemy combatants.

Nothing used to clear the way like an M60. (Image via Giphy)Standing in the direct line of fire, Larson provided enough covering fire for the wounded to clear from the area. When asked, “what goes through your mind during something like that?” David Larson stoically offered a hero’s response:

“At the time, it just comes to you that you need to do it to get the job done.”

For his brave actions, Larson received the coveted Navy Cross.

Check out the Smithsonian Channel’s video below to hear this heroic tale straight from Vietnam veteran David Larson himself.

(Smithsonian Channel, YouTube)

MIGHTY FIT

Soreness should not be the goal of your workout

Soreness is not a sign of a good workout. In fact, it can sometimes be an indication of a bad training plan.

What’s your goal when you walk into the gym? If it’s to make yourself sore, you’re doing it wrong. Working out to get sore is an inefficient way to build muscle or increase performance.

Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) should not be the desired result of training. Getting bigger and/or stronger should be.


A pilot describes his role in the historic Berlin Airlift

Marathons cause the opposite of gains….losses

(Photo by Zac Ong on Unsplash)

Soreness is not necessary for muscles to grow

Muscle soreness is a function of waste accumulating in your muscles, and does not relate to actual muscle growth directly. DOMS is often believed to be the result of lactic acid building up in the muscle, but this is not true. Lactic acid leaves the muscles within a few hours of working out and does not explain the feeling of soreness 24 to 72 hours after a workout.

Exercise that produces growth of muscles, also known as GAINZ, such as lifting, is typically associated with soreness, but aerobic endurance exercise such as running a marathon can also produce significant soreness with no gains in muscle size. Just ask any Kenyan runner what size skinny jeans they wear, and you’ll learn everything you need to know about distance running and #assgainz.

On the other hand, bodybuilders are able to increase mass in all muscles, not just muscles that are prone to DOMS. They talk about how certain muscles almost always get sore, while others nearly never do. Nevertheless, there is marked growth in all their muscles. This fact further discredits the idea that you need to be sore the day after a workout in order to have initiated growth.

A pilot describes his role in the historic Berlin Airlift

Kryptonians don’t get sore. If you’re from krypton, you can stop reading now.

(pixabay.com)

Fewer workouts equal less gains

The pain caused by muscle soreness isn’t even the worst side effect. What happens to your follow-on workouts is. You shrivel into non-existence like Benjamin Button.

Not actually, but you will feel like your muscles are eating themselves from missed workouts.

Increased DOMS decreases the frequency of your workouts, which reduces overall total volume, which allows for less growth. In other words, when you’re sore, you want to rest, not workout.

Most normal people are averse to pain of any kind, unlike the masochists that tend to join the military. If the first workout back in the gym causes extreme soreness, the chances of getting back in the gym are slim. Not only is soreness not physically beneficial but it is also mentally detrimental.

A pilot describes his role in the historic Berlin Airlift

One workout a week will make you so weak even pickles will beat you.

(pixabay.com)

Let’s make the assumption you aren’t a mental midget, and a little soreness won’t keep you out of the gym. Even if you make it in the door, your ability to workout will be negatively affected by the soreness you caused yesterday. Some studies have shown that exercise form breaks down from soreness, which then leads to reduced muscle activation and fewer gains.

Fewer gains over time kills motivation. If your goal is to get bigger, but you still look like your little brother after months in the gym, you will be less likely to adhere to your plan and more likely to stop going altogether.

No one has gotten bigger on one workout a week. I often see people trying to get by on this model. They workout on Monday, are sore till Thursday, Friday is time to party, and the weekend is time to “rest.” Before you know it, Monday rolls around, and you’ve only trained one out of seven days.

Frequency is a major factor in getting in better shape. The minimum frequency for most people is two to three days a week. Excessive DOMS destroys this template.
A pilot describes his role in the historic Berlin Airlift

Having a plan is the best way to guarantee gainz and limit soreness.

(Photo by Hope House Press – Leather Diary Studio on Unsplash)

How to prevent DOMS in the first place.

High levels of soreness are detrimental to overall progress in the gym. Here’s what you can do to prevent it in the first place.

  • Keep a high frequency of weekly workouts, where your total weekly number of sets and reps is spread out, instead of all on one day.
  • Only change your exercise selection when your current exercises stop making you stronger. Forget the idea of “muscle confusion”; it’s complete BS and will make you more sore than is necessary for growth. Each week try to lift 2.5-5 more lbs than you did last week. Once you can’t do that anymore, choose new exercises.
  • Exercising to failure every set of every exercise will cause soreness but will not necessarily cause more growth than if you stop 1-2 reps short of failure. Lift smarter: at 80-90% of your max weight, you will get the same gains you would at 100% AND will guarantee that you can get in the gym tomorrow instead of being too sore to sh*t right.
A pilot describes his role in the historic Berlin Airlift
MIGHTY TRENDING

B-52 conducts ‘provocative’ training mission through South China Sea

The US Air Force flew B-52H Stratofortress heavy, long-range bombers through the disputed South and East China Seas on March 4, 2019.

“Two B-52H Stratofortress bombers took off from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, and participated in routine training missions, March 4, 2019,” US Pacific Affairs told ABC News, explaining that while one bomber “conducted training in the vicinity of the South China Sea,” the other trained near Japan in cooperation with the US Navy and Japanese forces.

Online flight-tracking data for the flights indicates that one flew near the Philippines while the other conducted operations around Japan.


The last time the US Air Force sent bombers through the South China Sea was in November 2018. The US repeatedly sent bombers through the area in 2018.

The B-52 bombers stationed in Guam are there in support of the US Air Force’s Continuous Bomber Presence (CBP) mission intended to deter any country with adversarial intentions.

A pilot describes his role in the historic Berlin Airlift

The B-52H Stratofortress.

Bomber flights over the South and East China Seas are perceived as challenges to China, which has attempted to assert its dominance over the strategic waterways. The US has, in the past, sent bombers to Korea in a show of force to the North in the wake of hostile actions.

As it does with US Navy freedom-of-navigation operations, Beijing has previously criticized US bomber flights over the South and East China Seas, calling them “provocative.”

The US has conducted two freedom-of-navigation operations in the South China Sea in 2019, and the US Navy has also twice sent US warships through the Taiwan Strait.

In response, China has issued warnings, urging to steer clear of these areas, and even flexed its muscles by showing off its anti-ship weaponry, such as the “carrier killer” DF-26 intermediate-range ballistic missile.

B-52 bombers are high flying heavily-armed aircraft. Some are nuclear-capable bombers, while others have been denuclearized. It is unclear whether the B-52 bombers flying above contested waterways are nuclear-capable aircraft.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

NASA just released 14 awesome new photos of Jupiter

It’s been a busy and exhilarating couple of months for scientists who study Jupiter— and space nerds fascinated by the gas giant.

On July 18, 2018, a team of researchers announced the discovery of 12 new Jovian moons, bringing Jupiter’s total up to 79. In July 2018, scientists revealed that data from NASA’s $1 billion Juno mission suggested there may be a previously undiscovered volcano on Jupiter’s moon Io. And in June 2018, the team behind Juno figured out that Jupiter’s lighting is more similar to Earth’s than previously thought — which solved a 39-year-old mystery.


But most excitingly, NASA confirmed in June 2018 that Juno, which has orbited Jupiter since July 2015, will cheat death for at least three more years. The probe was scheduled to crash into Jupiter’s clouds in July 2018, but instead the mission has been extended until at least July 2021.

That gives scientists a chance to complete the mission’s main goal: to map Jupiter’s magnetic and gravitational fields.

This work is done by flying Juno over Jupiter’s cloud tops at speeds roughly 75 times as fast as a bullet. These flybys, called perijoves, happen once every 53.5 days. The most recent one (Juno’s 14th perijove) occurred on July 16, 2018, and the prior flyby was on May 24, 2018.

The high-speed trips have allowed NASA to document the gas giant like never before. An optical camera called JunoCam captures beautiful images of Jupiter each time, and the space agency uploads the raw photo data to its websites. Then people around the world can download that data and process it into stunning color pictures.

Here are 13 mesmerizing images from the latest perijove, along with a few highlights from past flybys.

A pilot describes his role in the historic Berlin Airlift
A pilot describes his role in the historic Berlin Airlift

This high-contrast photo was processed by NASA software engineer Kevin M. Gill, who processes raw data from each perijove soon after it becomes available. You can find more of his work on Twitter or Flickr.

A pilot describes his role in the historic Berlin Airlift
A pilot describes his role in the historic Berlin Airlift

A 3D illustration of Jupiter’s stormy north pole made using infrared photos taken by NASA’s Juno probe.

A pilot describes his role in the historic Berlin Airlift
A pilot describes his role in the historic Berlin Airlift
A pilot describes his role in the historic Berlin Airlift

Jupiter’s Great Red Spot looks like a leering ruddy-red eye in this processed image from Juno’s 12th perijove.

A pilot describes his role in the historic Berlin Airlift
A pilot describes his role in the historic Berlin Airlift
A pilot describes his role in the historic Berlin Airlift

Doran also made this mysterious portrait of the planet, in which you can see the twinkle of myriad stars in the background.

You can see more of Doran’s work on his Twitter or Flickr pages, and he also sells some of his Jupiter images as posters through the platform Redbubble.

A pilot describes his role in the historic Berlin Airlift

An illustration of NASA’s Juno probe flying over Jupiter’s Great Red Spot superstorm.

A pilot describes his role in the historic Berlin Airlift

Half of Jupiter’s icy moon Europa as seen via images taken by NASA’s Galileo spacecraft in the late 1990s.

A pilot describes his role in the historic Berlin Airlift

Jupiter as seen by the Juno probe during its 10th perijove.

For the next three years, though, we’ll continue to get new batches of incredible images from the farthest solar-powered spacecraft ever launched from Earth.

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

Articles

This is what a Mk 38 Bushmaster can do to an Iranian speedboat

You’ve probably followed the reports of how Iranian speedboats have harassed U.S. Navy vessels. Frustrating, aren’t they? Well, think about it this way… we’ve been “showing restraint.”


The thing is, those speedboats are not really Iranian Navy. Instead, they belong to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy. These speedboats, which are often equipped with heavy machine guns, rockets, and other weapons, got a reputation for attacking merchant traffic in the Iran-Iraq War. Back then, they were called “Boghammars” after the Swedish company that built the first boats used by the Iranians.

A pilot describes his role in the historic Berlin Airlift

Today, their primary threat to an American warship could be as a suicide craft. That said, American ships have options to address these craft. Two of the most prominent are the Mk 38 Mod 2 Bushmaster and the M2 heavy machine gun. The M2 is a legend. It’s been used on everything from tanks to aircraft to ships, and against just about every target you can imagine.

Now, the Mk 38 Mod 2 Bushmaster is not as well-known. That said, it’s been in quite common use. It got its start on the M2/M3 Bradley Fighting Vehicle, where the Army calls it the M242.

It needs a lot of luck to kill a tank, but it can bust up other infantry fighting vehicles, trucks, groups of infantry, even helicopters and aircraft. The Bushmaster made its way to the Marine Corps LAV-25.

A pilot describes his role in the historic Berlin Airlift
A Task Force Liberty Soldier from 3rd Infantry Division stands guard in an M3A3 Bradley Fighting Vehicle near an Iraqi police checkpoint in Tikrit, Iraq. The Bradley main armament is the M242 25mm (Bushmaster) Chain Gun. The standard rate of fire is 200 rounds per minute, and has a range of 2,000 meters making it capable of defeating the majority of armored including some main battle tanks. (DOD photo)

The Navy put the Bushmaster on ships, and it comprises the main armament of the Cyclone-class patrol craft. Each Cyclone has two of these guns, one of which is paired with a Mk 19 automatic grenade launcher. The guns are also used on other surface combatants as well. The guns can do a lot of damage.

You can see the Mk 38 and the M2 go to work on a speedboat in the video below. One almost an imagine that the Iranian speedboat crews may be asking themselves the question that Harry Callahan told a bank robber to ask himself: “Do I feel lucky?”

Well, do they?

popular

This is what happens when the rules of engagement are loosened

We’ve all heard the saying: “All is fair in love and war.” While it may hold true for love, the war part couldn’t be further from the truth for our troops.


According to the “Sanremo Handbook on Rules of Engagement” posted by the International Institute of Humanitarian Law, the rules do not dictate how the troops achieve results. But they do say what’s unacceptable.

Related: 8 of the most terrifying Vietnam War booby traps

Simply put, the rules of engagement establish bounds. And like in sports, stepping out of bounds can result in penalties — war crimes convictions.

These rules can make your job more challenging. As Mike Downs — a Marine during the Vietnam War — found out the hard way.

When he reported to Hue City, Vietnam, to assist a brother division, he realized the law of war was making U.S. efforts and firepower useless.

“We were not to use any indirect fire weapons, interpreted by us to be artillery,” Downs said in the video below.

But that all changed when the new commander relaxed the rules.

“If you even suspect there’s enemy in the building, blow the building down,” he said. “This was war as we understood.”

This American Heroes Channel video shows how the enemy’s fighting chance dissipated when the rules of engagement were loosened:

MIGHTY TRENDING

8 facts you didn’t know about the US Coast Guard

Today marks 230 years that the Coast Guard has been serving the United States. The Coast Guard supplies a unique and valuable service to our country and is the only military organization within the Department of Homeland Security. To help celebrate its 230th birthday, let’s take a look at some fun facts about the Coast Guard that you might not know.

1. Writers, take heart.

Alex Haley, who wrote the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, “Roots,” was the Coast Guard’s first journalist. After graduating high school at age 15, Haley enlisted in the Coast Guard in 1939 at the age of just 18 as a Mess Attendant Third Class, one of the only two ratings available to Black service members at the time. During his long patrols, Haley started writing letters to his friends and family – sometimes as many as 40 a week!

A pilot describes his role in the historic Berlin Airlift
(U.S. Coast Guard Photo)

 

2. Swimmers, brush up on your freestyle.

Becoming a Coast Guard rescue swimmer is exceptionally difficult. In fact, more than half the people who try out for this assignment fail. Fitness standards for rescue swimmers include being able to function for thirty minutes in heavy seas. Swimmers must be able to think, perform challenging tasks and react, all while either being submerged, holding their breath or being tossed around by high waves.

3. Flags for all occasions.

The Coast Guard has two official flags – the CG Standard and the CG Ensign. The Ensign is flown by cutters and shore units, while the Standard flag is used at ceremonies. The Standard is used to represent the Coast Guard, but the Ensign flag is something altogether different. Since law enforcement is one of the Coast Guard’s core missions, the ensign flag is the visible symbol of law enforcement authority and is recognized globally.

4. Coast Guard deploys. No, really.

Service members of the Coast Guard have served valiantly in 17 wars and conflicts in US history. The CG was America’s first afloat armed force. It predates the Navy by several years and is older than most other federal government organizations. The Coast Guard’s motto, Semper Paratus (Always Ready), is proven time and again in its readiness to deploy.

A pilot describes his role in the historic Berlin Airlift
(NOAA/Flickr)

5. Protecting the US is just a small part

In addition to protecting the United States’ coastlines, Coast Guard service members serve all over the world. You can find CG ships as far north as the Arctic, as far south as Antarctica and everywhere in between.

6. The Coast Guard isn’t very big

A pilot describes his role in the historic Berlin Airlift
U.S. Coast Guard photograph by Petty Officer 2nd Class NyxoLyno Cangemi

With roughly 40,000 active duty service members, the Coast Guard is just a little larger than the NYPD. Compared with over 554,000 in the Army and roughly 200,000 in the Marine Corps, the Coast Guard is definitely much smaller. What the branch doesn’t have in personnel, it makes up for in might. Since its service members have acting law enforcement authority, their mission goes a long way to keeping America’s coastlines safe.

7. Coast Guard families don’t have the same resources

Resources available to other military families like Military One Source and MyCAA are inaccessible to CG families. In most situations, these DoD resources aren’t inclusive to members of the Coast Guard. Instead, CG personnel and families receive support through the Coast Guard Office of Work-Life, as well as the CG SUPRT organization.

8. It’s not easy to join 

A pilot describes his role in the historic Berlin Airlift
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Richard Brahm

The Coast Guard is one of the most difficult branches of the military to get into because it accepts such a low number of recruits. In addition to having to undergo a credit check and a security clearance, you should probably also have a college degree in hand. The branch requires a minimum of 54 points on the ASVAB, and if you have a shellfish allergy, you’re eliminated from applying! Basic training takes place at just one location, Coast Guard Training Center Cape May, in Cape May, New Jersey. It’s a good idea to know how to swim before joining, and if you’re selected, you should be comfortable jumping off a five-foot platform into a pool, swimming for 100 meters and then treading water for five minutes.

So there you have it! It turns out that the Coast Guard is one of the most elite branches of our military. As part of DHS, its service members help keep America’s 95,000 miles of shoreline safe. Maybe in time, DoD resources will open up to these valuable service personnel and their families. Until then, happy birthday, Coast Guard!

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