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 TRENDING

US bombed its anti-ISIS headquarters as Turkish troops advanced

The US military destroyed its own anti-ISIS headquarters in Syria, The Wall Street Journal reported Oct. 16, 2019, to prevent them from falling into the hands of fighters backed by Turkey.

According to WSJ, Turkish-backed troops advanced on the facility, which had been used to equip and train SDF fighters against ISIS, on Oct. 15, 2019, leading US officials to quickly withdraw US troops and destroy the base on Oct. 16, 2019.

As the Turkish-back fighters moved closer, US troops attempted to repel them, using F-15s and Apache helicopters as a show of force to warn them away while US troops were still there. But, according to The Wall Street Journal, the airpower failed to dissuade the Turkish-backed forces; SDF fighters fled and set fire to their part of the base, and US troops left before US assets destroyed the base.


Insider reached out to the US operation in Syria to request more information about what assets were used to destroy the base, but did not receive a response by press time. It is also unclear what was being held in the base, although The Wall Street Journal noted that it had previously been used to store light arms and ammunition for the SDF.

A pilot describes his role in the historic Berlin Airlift

An AH-64D Apache Longbow.

Oct. 11, 2019, Turkish forces fired at an American position in Syria; while no casualties were sustained it came after reassurances from Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley that Turkey knew where US troops were stationed. An officer familiar with the situation told The Washington Post that the incident was likely not accidental, as Turkish forces were aware of the US position, and had been for months.

“#Coalition forces continue a deliberate withdrawal from northeast #Syria. On Oct. 16, 2019, we vacated the Lafarge Cement Factory, Raqqa, and Tabqah,” Col. Myles. B. Caggins, a spokesperson for the US-led coalition to defeat ISIS, tweeted Oct. 16, 2019, referring to the base, the LaFarge Cement Factory, on which US forces carried out strikes.

Two F-15E Strike Eagles conducted an airstrike on the LaFarge factory to keep munitions and military equipment from the hands of the Turkish-backed armed groups, a coalition spokesman said.

A pilot describes his role in the historic Berlin Airlift

F-15E Strike Eagle.

Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo are on their way to Ankara to try and broker a ceasefire. The two officials are set to meet with Erdogan, according to The New York Times.

The US has already imposed sanctions on Turkey due to its incursion in what was Kurdish-controlled northeastern Syria, but pressing pause on a 0 billion trade deal between the two NATO allies and re-imposing a 50% tariff on Turkish steel exports has not deterred Erdogan. Pence and Pompeo, along with the State Department’s special envoy for Syrian affairs James Jeffrey and National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien, are expected to threaten harsher sanctions should Erdogan refuse a ceasefire.

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

Military Life

6 effective ways to discipline your troops without paperwork

Discipline is of paramount importance to the military’s operation. There are so many moving pieces in the armed forces that when one gear goes off course, many others feel the disruption. When a leader inevitably finds themselves in charge of a subordinate that’s not pulling their weight, it’s time to break out what the military is best known for: ass chewings.

A good leader knows that, even when it comes to discipline, every problem should be solved with the right tool — no using sledgehammers for thumbtack-sized problems. The “sledgehammer,” in this case, is paperwork. Paperwork should always be the last resort in a leader’s disciplinary arsenal.

For most problems an idiot may give you, there are more effective options outside of paperwork. You can get the same, if not better, results by using methods that don’t leave a blemish on a troop’s permanent record for being late to formation that one time.


A pilot describes his role in the historic Berlin Airlift

Any exercise is hard if you add 45 lbs of resistance.

(Photo by Spc. Nicholas Vidro)

Physical training

No single method is more tried and true than making someone do push-ups until you get tired of watching them push. “Sweating out the stupid” (as it was so eloquently put by one of my NCOs) should be the first response to anything that warrants a slap on the wrist.

But don’t just stick to the standard push-ups — that’s child’s play. Break out some of the free weights your supply sergeant has in the locker and really make them feel it.

A pilot describes his role in the historic Berlin Airlift

Find a relevant example for every problem. It may be other troops who’ve failed.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Benjamin Raughton)

Show them why it matters

Nobody’s perfect and mistakes happen. Most troops don’t know what they did wrong because they don’t understand why it’s wrong in the first place. By telling a troop why what they did was wrong, you’re applying the same logic used when the garrison commander places vehicles wrecked from DUI-related crashes near the main gate. That is what happens when people don’t follow the rules of drinking and driving and that is the result.

You could have a genuine heart-to-heart with your troop and explain the situation to them on an adult level — or you could take extremes. Say they missed shaving: take them to the CS chamber and they’ll quickly understand.

A pilot describes his role in the historic Berlin Airlift

Your knifehand should be sharp enough to make your drill sergeant proud.

(Photo by Sgt. Ken Scar)

A good, old-fashioned ass chewing

Sometimes, the easiest way to show someone they f*cked up is to let them know. When something looks more like a pattern of misconduct than a genuine mistake, it’s time to take action: Inform them of wrongdoing with a proper ass chewing.

You’re not yelling, you’re speaking with your rank. There should be no empathy in your voice. Showing signs of emotion distracts from the point. Don’t use body language — but if you do, only use knifehands.

A pilot describes his role in the historic Berlin Airlift

What would really drive the point home is to actually take their ass to the barbershop and dictate the haircut to the barber.

(Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jordan KirkJohnson)

Inverting the problem

Was a soldier ten minutes late to work call? Make them show up ten minutes early until they get it right. Is someone lacking a proper haircut? Shave their head bald. Did somebody lose their weapon? Make them carry something twice as heavy.

This one takes some creativity — each consequence should directly juxtapose each given problem. The goofier you can make the discipline, the more readily the lesson will stick.

A pilot describes his role in the historic Berlin Airlift

But if the company area actually does need cleaning…

(Photo by Lance Cpl. Austin Livingston)

Extra duty

If there’s one thing young troops have, it’s time. When it comes time for discipline, take advantage of that fact and fill that time.

Honestly, the more menial an extra duty the better. A troop shouldn’t think that what they’re doing is just part of the job — it’s punishment, and there should be no doubt in their mind of that fact. The reason they’re “giving the stones a new paint job” is because of their mistake.

A pilot describes his role in the historic Berlin Airlift

That’s what this is all about anyways. Not to hurt your troops but to make them grow.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Michel Sauret)

Give them responsibility over others

This may sound like the dumbest idea at first, but hear me out. Troops don’t usually see the bigger picture from where they’re standing in the formation. The moment someone else depends on a troop is the moment that many would-be NCOs step into the bigger world.

This is the most psychologically deep disciplinary action on this list. When others hold them accountable, any failure is compounded by all the troops who look to them for guidance. If the experiment fails, cut sling-load and take back over. If not, you just set up someone to be a fine NCO some day.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Israel is not even a little threatened by Iran – this tweet proves it

Israel trolled Iran on June 4, 2018, with a gif from the film “Mean Girls” after Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called for their complete annihilation.

Khamenei tweeted that Israel is a “cancerous tumor” that needs to be “eradicated,” and referenced the Palestinian “March of Return” movement which has seen several large-scale protests along the Gaza border in recent weeks.


The Israeli Embassy in the US responded to Khamenei’s colorful language with a gif from the 2004 film “Mean Girls,” in which Regina George, played by Rachel McAdams, Cady Heron, played by Lindsay Lohan’s character, “Why are you so obsessed with me?”

The embassy’s response has over 18,000 likes and 7,000 retweets.

Many of the commenters praised Israel’s witty response to Iran’s threats of annihilation. One user asked in Hebrew: “Who is the 15-year-old boy responsible for the embassy’s Twitter?”

—YaronR (@yaronriko) June 4, 2018

Some called for the poster to receive a raise.

Israel and Iran have recently been sparring online and offline; in May 2018, the two exchanged fire in Syria.

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

Articles

The Marine Corps’ Security Force Regiment is an old hand at special ops

The Marine Corps is a very tough and flexible force.


But perhaps the most versatile Marine unit is the Marine Corps Security Force Regiment — a dedicated security and counter-terrorism unit that’s used for everything from guarding nukes to rescuing diplomats.

In fact, the more famous counter-terror units like Delta Force, SEAL Team Six, the Special Air Service or GSG 9 are young whippersnappers compared to the Marine Corps Security Force Regiment. Tracing its lineage to the 1920s, the Marine Security Force Regiment was around long before the SAS was a gleam in the eye of David Stirling.

A pilot describes his role in the historic Berlin Airlift
Marines engage an armed objective during a room-clearing exercise at Advanced Interior Tactics training aboard Naval Support Activity Northwest Annex in Chesapeake, Va., Dec. 7. During the course, Marines were taught to identify the hands of an individual to determine whether or not they posed a threat, in order to control the scene and conduct thorough house clearings. (Official U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Kayla D. Rivera)

When the Navy’s part of America’s nuclear triad is in port, it’s these Marines that defend it.

The Security Forces Marines get the task for one simple reason: America’s SSBN force may be safe when it’s out at sea, but when in port, it is vulnerable to attack. Not only that, the UGM-133 Trident II ballistic missiles are usually not on the submarines and represent a perfect target for those seeking to cripple the sea-based deterrent.

Part of that effort includes the unit’s Recapture Tactics Teams. According to Military.com, these teams specialize in recovering materials, people, and property tied to the strategic inventory.

AmericanSpecialOps.com notes that they are called the CQB Team, and they are trained to act at the squad level.

According to its official webpage, the Security Force Regiment is also tasked with providing “forward deployed, expeditionary antiterrorism and security forces to support designated commanders and protect vital national assets” and “expeditionary antiterrorism and security forces, deployable from the United States, to establish or augment security as directed by the commander of U.S. Marine Corps Forces Command.”

A pilot describes his role in the historic Berlin Airlift
U.S. Marines and British Royal Commandos enter a building together in the first phase of security forces training in New Castle Upon Tyne, England, Sept. 21-25, 2015. Training included various breaching techniques, close-quarters battle, live-fire ranges, training simulators with various military and the state-of-the-art training facility in Gateshead with the Northumbria Police Department. (USMC photo)

The units sent in those cases are the Fleet Anti-terrorist Security Teams, and the companies in vulnerable commands are called FAST Companies. Platoons from a FAST company could be sent to bolster an embassy or consulate that has come under attack.

In 2012, those were the Marines called on in the aftermath of the Benghazi attack according to USNI News.

To see what FAST Marines can do, check out this video:

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is what Russia has to address to thaw relations with the US

The new U.S. national security adviser has told Russia’s U.S. ambassador that Moscow must address U.S. concerns on election meddling, the “reckless” nerve-agent attack in Britain, and the situations in Ukraine and Syria before relations can substantially improve.

A White House statement on April 19, 2018, said John Bolton, who took over from H.R. McMaster on April 9, 2018, made the remarks in a meeting with Russia’s ambassador to Washington, Anatoly Antonov.


“At the first meeting between the two in their current roles, they discussed the state of the relationships between the United States and Russia,” the statement said.

“Ambassador Bolton reiterated that it is in the interest of both the United States and Russia to have better relations, but that this will require addressing our concerns regarding Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, the reckless use of chemical weapons in the United Kingdom, and the situations in Ukraine and Syria,” it added.

Several global issues have raised tensions between Washington and Moscow despite President Donald Trump’s stated goal of improving relations between the two countries.

The U.S. intelligence community has accused Russia of a widespread cyberhacking-and-propaganda campaign aimed at influencing the 2016 presidential election vote.

A pilot describes his role in the historic Berlin Airlift
Donald Trump campaigning for president.
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

The United States and Europe have slapped sanctions on Russia for its 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula and its support for separatists in eastern Ukraine.

The U.S. military has assailed Russia for its support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and says it holds Moscow responsible for an alleged chemical weapons attack.

Meanwhile, the United States has said it supports Britain in a dispute with Russia over the March 4, 2018 poisoning of former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, in Salisbury. Britain has blamed Russia for the attack.

Moscow has denied it interfered in the U.S. election, said it had nothing to do with the Skripal poisonings, and claimed the allegations of a chemical attack in Syria are false.

The 69-year-old Bolton, a former UN ambassador, has served as a hawkish voice in Republican foreign-policy circles for decades. Among his more controversial stands, he has advocated for preemptive military strikes against North Korea and war with Iran.

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

MIGHTY GAMING

8 reasons why ‘Apex Legends’ is the best Battle Royale game

It’s 1 a.m. again, and I’m wearily crawling into bed hours after my partner.

This is the effect of “Apex Legends” on my life — the latest major Battle Royale game to demand the attention of tens of millions of players. Since “Apex Legends” arrived in early February 2019, it’s become the standard background game in my life.

Unlike “Fortnite” or “PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds,” “Apex Legends” has its hooks in me deep and I don’t foresee them letting go anytime soon. Here’s why:


A pilot describes his role in the historic Berlin Airlift

There are ziplines in “Apex Legends” that defy the laws of physics in delightful ways.

(EA/Respawn Entertainment)

1. “Apex Legends” feels better to play, from gunplay to movement to strategy, than any other Battle Royale game available.

Everything about the act of playing “Apex Legends” feels good, and the more I dig into the game, the more I find to love.

The simple act of moving around is so thoroughly, thoughtfully detailed that it bears praising.

Here’s a very basic overview: Every character moves at the same speed, whether walking or running. While running, you can push the crouch button to slide — this offers you a minor speed boost if you’re on flat or sloping ground. Every character can jump, and if you hold jump while leaping into a wall you’ll clamber up the wall.

It’s a very simple set of rules, but the way that “Apex Legends” makes all movement feel so fluid and smooth is remarkable. It’s perhaps the most impressive aspect of “Apex Legends”: The game simply feels good to move around in. The same can’t be said for any other Battle Royale game.

A pilot describes his role in the historic Berlin Airlift

(EA/Respawn Entertainment)

2. It’s a tremendously detailed game, despite being straightforward and accessible to anyone.

Allow me an example: For the first few weeks, I rarely used hip-fire (shooting without aiming down the sights). Why would I do that if I could aim more carefully by aiming with a sight?

It turns out there’s a massive benefit to using hip-fire shooting in “Apex Legends,” and blending your shooting between aimed shots and hip-fire is a crucial component to successful play. Due to the relatively accurate spread of fire, hip-firing is critical for winning close-quarter fights with most weapons in “Apex Legends.”

That’s one tiny detail of myriad tiny details that make every little thing you do in “Apex Legends” feel so good. It’s actually my favorite component of the game: I’m still learning finer nuances of each specific weapon, of how to move through the environment more swiftly, of how to reach a place I didn’t know I could.

It’s a game that still feels remarkably fresh to me even after dozens of hours played.

A pilot describes his role in the historic Berlin Airlift

The full “Apex Legends” island.

(“Apex Legends”/Electronic Arts)

3. The way players can interact with the extremely detailed world in “Apex Legends” is a testament to its excellent world design.

On our way to the next circle, my friend pinged a location for me to see — a tiny little hole he’d discovered that could be used to sneakily get away in a desperate Skull Town fight.

It was the most recent discovery he’d made after over 100 hours spent running, sliding, and shooting through the single map in “Apex Legends.”

There are dozens of these little quirks to the map, and it’s clear that an absurd amount of attention was given to exactly how each area of the map was laid out. There are always more angles to take, or ways to flank enemies, or a carefully placed boulder that’ll have to serve as cover — the hands of the game’s development team are all over the map if you look close enough.

A pilot describes his role in the historic Berlin Airlift

“Fortnite” recently added a bus that acts a lot like the Respawn Beacons in “Apex Legends.”

(Epic Games)

4. “Apex Legends” is the evolution of Battle Royale — every other game in the genre feels old by comparison.

Watching a video recently of a popular Twitch streamer playing “PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds,” I was struck by how stiff it was. Movement had no sense of weight to it, and the sound of the player running made it look like they were tiptoe-running across a field.

Frankly, it looked outdated and unpolished compared to “Apex Legends.”

The closest any Battle Royale game gets, in terms of movement and gunplay and feel, is “Call of Duty: Blackout.” It’s quick, and has solid gunplay, and there are some interesting gameplay twists that make it unique. But it is inherently a “Call of Duty” Battle Royale mode, with all the baggage that comes with — movement isn’t very fluid, and guns mostly sound like toys.

And that’s before we start talking about the respawn system, or ziplines, or the pinging system, or dropships, or care packages, or the jumpmaster system, or any of the other dozen innovations that “Apex Legends” brings to the Battle Royale genre. It adds so much new stuff that it feels like a full step forward past every other game in the genre.

A pilot describes his role in the historic Berlin Airlift

Level 1 Shield here!

(EA/Respawn Entertainment)

5. The ping system!

It’s hard to overstate how impressive the ping system is in “Apex Legends.” It should be the number one takeaway for any game developer working on a new multiplayer shooter.

The idea is simple: See an enemy? Tap the right bumper on your gamepad, and your character will call out those enemies and even mark their last movement for your teammates. See ammo your teammate needs? Tap the right bumper! It’s a brilliant, robust system for “spotting” various things — from items to enemies.

Smarter still, that system is contextual. If you’re looking at a level-three helmet and “spot” it, your character shouts out, “Level-three helmet here!” and marks it for your teammates. It’s this system that enables teammates to communicate a wealth of information without having to literally speak to strangers.

The spotting system cannot be overstated in its importance — it’s such a smart innovation that I outright expect it to show up in most multiplayer shooters going forward. It better!

A pilot describes his role in the historic Berlin Airlift

Even with a sight, shooting someone from this distance with an Alternator is a tricky proposition.

(EA/Respawn Entertainment)

6. It’s the best shooter of any Battle Royale game — shooting specifically.

The team behind “Apex Legends” has a serious pedigree behind it, having created the “Call of Duty” series and the “Titanfall” series.

It’s no surprise, then, that the shooting in “Apex Legends” feels so good — it’s from developers who more or less set the standard in video-game shooting.

To this end, bullets fall appropriately over a distance. Gunshot sounds are directional. Headshots feel substantial, and submachine guns feel like high-powered BB guns.

The shooting looks, feels, and sounds as good or better than the best shooting games, from the latest “Call of Duty” to “Destiny 2.”

This may sound obvious but, in the most popular Battle Royale games, the shooting is pretty terrible. “Fortnite” has notoriously lackluster shooting mechanics. The only great Battle Royale shooter is “Call of Duty: Blackout,” and that shooting is held back by the relatively stiff movement of the game.

A pilot describes his role in the historic Berlin Airlift

(EA/Respawn Entertainment)

7. Since each Legend has their own abilities, learning how to mix those abilities with your friends is a blast.

In “Fortnite,” every character you play as has the same abilities. It’s a third-person shooter with building mechanics, and every avatar — visuals aside — is identical.

The same can be said for “PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds” and the Battle Royale mode in “Call of Duty: Black Ops 4.”

But in “Apex Legends,” each player has unique abilities. There are various “classes” of characters — soldiers, tanks, healers, etc. — and various specialties within each class. In this way, “Apex Legends” is more similar to “Overwatch” than its direct competition.

And blending those characters into a team made up of complementary players is part of the delight of “Apex Legends.” Better yet: The game’s developer, Respawn Entertainment, has already added one new character, Octane. And more are promised for the future.

So, what are these powers? They range from the ability to conjure a healing drone that can heal multiple teammates at once, to a grappling hook for reaching high places, to the ability to deploy noxious-gas containers. Using Bangalore’s smoke grenade combined with Gibraltar’s air strike ultimate is one combination I’ve been particularly enjoying.

Since it’s still early days for “Apex Legends,” many of the best ways to use various abilities are still shaking out. And that’s thrilling! There’s a “meta” to “Apex Legends” that is deeper and smarter than games like “Fortnite.” It feels like there are many ways to win, with a variety of different team setups, rather than a “best” way to win. And that leads to the kind of experimentation that keeps the game fresh.

A pilot describes his role in the historic Berlin Airlift

Picking up wins with friends is absolutely delightful.

(EA/Respawn Entertainment)

8. Playing with friends is critical, and makes the game so much more enjoyable.

I’ve had lots of good matches of “Apex Legends” with total strangers. I’ve won many games where my teammates and I never spoke a word, using only the in-game pinging system to communicate while moving from fight to fight. It is entirely possible to play this game with strangers and have a blast.

But nothing is better than playing with friends, using both your voice and the game’s pinging system to detail your words. Saying “Enemies right here” and pinging the location at the same time is a great way to immediately convey complex information to your teammates. Even better is the tactical planning you convey to each other afterward as you head into battle. “I’ll take left flank,” for instance, or “Getting height” — common refrains while sneaking up on an opposing squad.

Better still, you learn each other’s strengths and compliment each other’s chosen character. You laugh at each other’s faults and call out items you know friends are looking for — yes, I’m always looking for an R-301. Thank you for remembering!

It’s why I’ve been staying up way past my normal bedtime almost every day to play more “Apex Legends.” It’s the best game that’s come out this year by a longshot, and by far the best Battle Royale game available.

Apex Legends Gameplay Trailer

www.youtube.com

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

A World War II widow discovered her husband is a hero in France

Peggy Harris was married for six weeks when her husband went missing in action over France during World War II. No one ever tried to tell her about her husband’s fate. A fighter pilot, Billie Harris’ last mission came in July 1944. That’s when the confusion started, a confusion that is much more circuitous than the regular fog of war.


Billie Harris was listed as Missing in Action when he failed to come home from a mission over northern France that day in 1944. Then, the Army Air Forces informed his wife that he was alive and coming home. They then rescinded that as well. To her horror, he was killed and buried in a cemetery in France. And then they told her he was in a different cemetery. Then she was informed by the War Department that they weren’t even sure if the remains they had were Billie’s.

His devoted wife waited and waited, for years and decades, waiting for news about her husband. Until she finally decided to write her Congressman about the issue. Over and over for decades she waited and wrote to members of Congress – all the way through 2005.

A pilot describes his role in the historic Berlin Airlift

In 2005, she got an answer from the Representative from the Texas panhandle, Mac Thornberry. His office informed Peggy that Billie was still listed as MIA, according to the National Archives and Records Administration. Billie’s cousin took it upon himself to look for Billie’s remains personally, to give Peggy some peace. His first stop was requesting the service and medical records for his missing cousin. The records that came back actually revealed his final resting place: Normandy.

First Lieutenant Billie D. Harris died July 17, 1944, the day he went missing. His headstone is one of the hundreds of bright white crosses that adorn the grounds of Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial. So what happened? A CBS report found that Thornberry’s office never searched for the record. When CBS did the search, they found Harris listed as KIA.

Thornberry would later send Peggy an apology for bungling the search.

A pilot describes his role in the historic Berlin Airlift

Ever since discovering her husband’s final resting place, she sent his grave a bouquet of flowers ten times a year. Cemetery officials say Peggy Harris is the last widow of World War II’s killed in action who still visits the grave of her departed husband. But that’s not the only news the family discovered in their investigation.

His plane was shot down over Les Ventes, a small French town and he was a legend among the locals of the town – Billie D. Harris managed to avoid crashing into the village and instead went down in the nearby woods. The villagers buried him in their local cemetery, so grateful for his sacrifice. Ever since, the residents of the small town have walked down the main street of Les Ventes every year – a street called Place Billie D. Harris – to remember his sacrifice.

Ever since Peggy discovered her husband’s final hours and gravesite, she’s visited the cemetery and Les Ventes every year to celebrate her husband’s life and talk to the people who remember Billie D. Harris as a fallen hero.

MIGHTY GAMING

Watch this YouTuber take on the DoD Cyber Awareness Challenge

All members of the Department of Defense, including troops, must undertake an annual training to test their knowledge of cyber awareness. A few years back, they changed the test up just slightly to make it far less of a bore and more like a crappy 90s text-based video game.

Everyone freaking hates this training and, if it weren’t mandated at the Pentagon level, no one would willingly subject themselves to it. That is, of course, with the exception of YouTube’s biggest star, PewDiePie.


A pilot describes his role in the historic Berlin Airlift

He had only the trophies and Jeff to keep him company.

(PewDiePie)

Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg, known by most as “PewDiePie,” grew in popularity through his video-game related content — particularly his “Let’s Play” format, through which fans could watch him play games as he delivered hilarious commentary.

His videos have actually created success for many smaller, indie games, particularly in the horror genre. He’d showcase otherwise-ignored games, give them a glowing review or overreact to intense moments, and his rabid fans would immediately buy said game, propelling it into the spotlight. He has since become the biggest YouTuber, currently sitting at 65 million subscribers.

Recently, he finally took on the dreaded Cyber Awareness Challenge — with commentary provided throughout, of course. Being the avid gamer that he is, the ‘Challenge’ proved trivial, but he actually took it far more seriously than anyone in the military does.

Unlike the god-awful test of old, the modern training awards “trophies” for getting everything correct, so PewDiePie gave it his all.

A pilot describes his role in the historic Berlin Airlift

That’s literally the exact same answer that everyone gives for that question. The dude stole a phone in the Pentagon… You better go grab that phone!

(PewDiePie)

As he slogged through, he coincidentally ripped the exact same moments of the training that troops mock relentlessly. The training wastes no time in offering pieces of painfully obvious guidelines. For example, the very first tip the government puts out there in promotingcyber awareness is “don’t look at pornography at work.”

He also ran into many of the overly stupid characters that populate the training, like Tina, the coworker that constantly tries to get you to download stuff, and Jeff, the IT manager that tells you just how proud of our work he is in the most monotone fashion possible — but for some odd reason only has a box of tissues on his desk?

Pewds, who never served in the U.S. military, was ill-prepared for many of the minute details — like taking your CAC/PIV out of the computer whenever you walk away — but actually did very well. He did, however, fallfor some of the traps that seem to violate common sense.At one point in the training, your phone is stolen and you’re given the opportunity to chase down the thief, and so he did. But the correct answer is to”alert the security POC.”

A pilot describes his role in the historic Berlin Airlift

BZ, PewDiePie. You managed to sit through the same crap all troops do without clawing out your eyes. BZ.

(PewDiePie)

PewDiePie passed the DoD Cyber Awareness Challenge with flying colors and was given the Certificate of Completion that every member of the Department of Defense needs to turn in.

He says he’ll print it, which is exactly what you’re supposed to do. Instead of turning it in to his S-6 to reinstate his government computer permissions, I’m sure he’ll hang it on his wall or something.

To watch the same training that sucks the soul out of the military (complete with hilarious commentary), check out the video below.

Humor

6 disappointing things new recruits discover after basic training

Civilians have grandiose ideas about what happens in the military. Those fantasies drive eager, bright-eyed youngsters into recruiters’ offices who land in basic training thinking they’re going to be the most badass Green Beret sniper who’s ever lived.


Sadly, the actual number of badass Green Beret snipers out there is a tiny fraction of the people who think they can cut it. Keep that chin up, recruit. Ending up just another cog in the machine isn’t a bad thing.

A pilot describes his role in the historic Berlin Airlift

An entire unit sweeping the sidewalk? It’s more common than you think.

(Photo by Glenn Sircy)

A solid 95% of military service is about cleaning and bureaucracy

So, you’ve learned that “Green Beret sniper” isn’t something you can enlist into right away and you’ve picked a far more boring job. Well, if it makes you feel any better, you likely won’t be doing that job, either.

You’ll actually end up somewhere between janitor and secretary. This isn’t even a grunt vs POG thing — if anything, grunts will be doing far more cleaning than anyone else. Everyone scrubs floors until they make rank enough to do paperwork on the guy who didn’t want to scrub floors.

A pilot describes his role in the historic Berlin Airlift

Or you’ll be using gear your NCO just picked up at Walmart

(Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Kyle Steckler)

You rarely do the things you learn in schools

Not only will you be spending god-knows-how-many weeks learning your less-fun profession, you can basically forget almost all of it because it’s either out of date, doesn’t apply to your unit, or your unit does things completely differently.

Take radios, for instance: New radios are fielded left and right. The last people to get the new stuff, however, are the schools. This means you’ll spend months trying to master a Vietnam-era radio system only to later be grilled at your unit for not knowing satellite communication.

A pilot describes his role in the historic Berlin Airlift

There will also be so much commotion going on that you’ll forget how to PLF and probably eat sh*t upon landing.

(Photo by Spc. Henry Villarama)

You’ll find out that the things you learn at the “fun” schools still suck

Nearly every school that troops try to get into is fully booked. Most of the time, you’ll attend the ones that occasionally help make you more valuable to your unit. But every now and then, you’ll be thrown a bone and wiggle your way into something awesome, like Airborne or Air Assault school.

Just how “awesome” are these schools, really? First, you’ll be required to learn all the technical specs of every aircraft you may, possibly, one day (maybe) jump out of. Then, when it’s time to actually jump, well, the military has ways of making that less fun, too. Airborne jumps usually involve 14 hours of waiting for two minutes of action that you barely have control over.

A pilot describes his role in the historic Berlin Airlift

Don’t worry, shared pain will get you there.

(Photo by Sgt. William A. Tanner)

Camaraderie isn’t given to you — it’s earned

You’ll hear the phrase “one team, one fight” echoed by nearly every NCO to help motivate the formation. They’ll even assign you a battle buddy to help keep an eye on you. They’ll even toss you into the barracks where there’s basically a party every night.

But no one will automatically give a sh*t about you. You need to earn your right to make a brother for life.

A pilot describes his role in the historic Berlin Airlift

Even grenades become boring once you learn they don’t explode like in the movies.

(Photo by Lance Cpl. Christian J. Robertson)

You won’t be having much fun at the range

The most satisfying moment of any military career is range day — but don’t get your hopes up. The range safety NCO will rarely call weapons free. And when they do, don’t worry — the big green weenie knows how to suck the fun out of that, too.

Nearly every time you go to the range, it’s to qualify or to learn the fundamentals of marksmanship. There’s a lot of time, money, and effort that goes into setting up a range for a single unit.

A pilot describes his role in the historic Berlin Airlift

On the bright side, you’ll laugh at people who think the wait at the DMV is bad…

(Photo by Jesse Weinstein)

Most of your career will be spent waiting.

The one skill learned by all troops of all ranks across all eras is how wait in one place for long periods of time, doing nothing but standing still in absolute silence. You’ll wait on formation. You’ll wait on Pvt. Snuffy to arrive with the arms room key. You’ll wait on mission SP, on guard duty, and on the tarmac to fly anywhere.

If you think the waiting ends when you get out of the service, think again. Let me welcome you to the biggest waiting room of them all: the VA healthcare system.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US military is using ‘isolation in motion’ to protect crews on its biggest planes from the coronavirus

A 60-day stop-movement order from the Pentagon in late March, meant to help stem the spread of the coronavirus, threw the lives of many US military personnel into uncertainty, keeping them from leaving for or returning from deployment or from traveling to new duty stations.

But the military remains a vital to the US government’s response to the pandemic, of which its mobility element, the air component in particular, has been a major part.


“There are critical missions that cannot stop,” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein, the service’s top uniformed officer, said last week. “I don’t believe that we’re going to get any relief, nor should we expect any relief, on the global mobility [mission].”

Transportation Command, which manages that mobility mission, has seen “a reduction in movements” because of that order, Army Gen. Stephen Lyons, head of Transcom, told reporters on March 31. “But we are also seeing a necessity to continue to operate for mission-essential tasks and operations.”

Transcom is focused on protecting the force against the outbreak, maintaining mission readiness, and remaining ready to support the FEMA and other interagency efforts to counter the outbreak, Lyons said.

Operations by Air Mobility Command, Transcom’s air component, are “consistent” with the those priorities, Lt. Gen. Jon Thomas, AMC’s deputy commander, told reporters on April 3.

Below, you can see what Transcom and AMC are doing to safeguard their aircrews as they carry out that response.

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Air Force Lt. Gen. Jon T. Thomas, deputy commander of Air Mobility Command, briefs the media via telephone at the Pentagon, April 3, 2020.

The Air Force has given local commanders authority to act to stay ahead of the threat and is encouraging airmen to follow CDC guidelines, Thomas said.

“We’ve implemented staggered shifts, exercised telework options, and employed Health Protection Condition Charlie measures at all our installations to promote physical distancing” to help limit the spread of the coronavirus, Thomas said.

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87th Medical Group members screen patients outside as a preventative measure to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, March 30, 2020.

To maintain operational capability, Thomas said, “we’re doing things like medical screening, temperature checks, and other measures for aircrew and passengers transiting areas of COVID-19 risk.”

“As necessary, for certain locations, we’re also taking measures to ensure that AMC forces that are moving globally from one location to another do not pose undue risk for the host units as we transit those locations,” Thomas told reporters at the Pentagon.

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1st Lt. Bryan Burns and 1st Lt. James Conlan shut down their C-17 at the Memphis Air National Guard Base after delivering COVID-19 test kits from Aviano, Italy, April 2, 2020.

“Obviously when you’re in the cockpit, there’s no way to get 6 foot apart,” Lyons said when asked about social distancing in aircraft. “The way that we’re managing our flight crews is unique in many ways, and we’re trying to create an isolated system of systems, if you would, even in motion.”

“Where we billet them is controlled. Where they eat from, their food is delivered. So we’re trying to create a very concerted cocoon, if you would, over our entire flight crew apparatus,” Lyons told reporters at the Pentagon.

“And knock on wood, that seems to be working to date. It allows us to continue mission and protect the force at the same time,” Lyons said. But “you can’t telework and fly a plane,” he added, “so there are exceptions that we’re working through.”

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437th Maintenance Group instructors teach squadron flying crew chiefs how to disinfect the interior of a C-17 at Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina, April 2, 2020.

Lyons said Transcom was working to keep aircrews “very, very isolated” to avoid picking up the disease. “You might characterize it as isolation in motion.”

Those crews go “straight from the aircraft into billets” upon arriving in another country, Lyons said. “They don’t go out for food. They don’t leave the billet until their next mission, and it’s a very, very controlled environment.

“That’s how we mitigate moving from a country that might be a level-three country,” a designation that covers much of Europe, Lyons added. “They never actually leave that base. And even inside that base, they’re very, very controlled.”

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Dane Coward, left, 436th Aerial Port Squadron ramp supervisor, marshals a Humvee off a C-5M Super Galaxy, at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, March 26, 2020.

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US Air Force aircrew unload COVID-19 testing swabs at the Memphis Air National Guard Base, March 19, 2020.

Transcom and AMC continue to support the coronavirus response by moving supplies and equipment across the country and around the world.

Air Mobility Command C-130s have moved equipment and personnel to help set up Army field hospitals in New York and Washington state, Thomas said.

“We’ve got Air Mobility liaison officers that are helping to coordinate those movements as well as commercial air movements totaling nine missions, transporting 7.8 tons of cargo and hundreds of personnel to those locations,” Thomas added.

Since mid-March, Air Force C-17s have also delivered 3.5 million swabs for coronavirus test kits from Italy to Memphis, Tennessee, for distribution in the US.

The seventh shipment arrived on April 2, when a C-17 landed in Memphis with about 972,000 swabs, Thomas said on April 3, adding that the eighth mission was to arrive that day and the ninth was scheduled to arrive this week.

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A 437th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron flying crew chief prepares to simulate disinfecting a C-17 at Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina, April 2, 2020.

Transcom and AMC have also moved COVID-19 patients, which poses a different set of challenges.

“We did move a COVID-positive patient this past weekend AFRICOM, specifically from Djibouti, up to Landstuhl in Germany to get the level of support that particular patient needed,” Lyons said March 31.

“We are also working, candidly, to increase our capacity to be able to meet these kind of requirements because we know they’re increasing.”

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A US Air Force C-17 is prepped to transport a Transportation Isolation System during a training exercise, March 6, 2019.

“Our approach to patient movement for COVID, particularly for highly contagious patients, is to move them in an isolation system,” either via air ambulance or with the Transportation Isolation System developed during the Ebola crisis, Lyons said.

“We’re working with scientists around the Air Force and Defense Threat Reduction and NASA and some others to really study the aircraft circulation flow and implications of the movement of those particulates and potential impacts on crews, so that we can indeed move COVID-positive patients and passengers without an isolation unit adequately protecting the crew,” Lyons added.

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A simulated Ebola patient in an isolation pod is put in an ambulance at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland during an Air Mobility Command exercise, August 16, 2016.

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Flight nurses and critical-care air-transport team members prepare a Transport Isolation System for simulated Ebola patients during an exercise at Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina, October 23, 2019.

The TIS allows in-flight treatment of infected patients without exposing the aircraft’s crew. Thomas said Friday that his command hadn’t gotten specific requests to move a patient in that system and that AMC had “not conducted any evacuations of a COVID-19-infected patient to date.”

“But the combination of transporting large volumes of patients with a highly infectious disease — the transmission of which we still don’t completely understand — on a pressurized aircraft within which the air constantly circulates, and potentially making these movements from remote and austere locations over intercontinental distance, all while protecting the flight and medical crew from infection so that they remain available for future missions is a challenging task even for the Air Mobility Command,” Thomas said.

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An airman picks up lunch at the Patterson Dining Facility at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, March 30, 2020. The tables in front of the counter are meant to help enforce social distancing and mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

AMC has interim COVID patient movement capability on alert in several places around the planet, Thomas said, adding that “in the event increased volume of patient flow is required, AMC will be prepared to increase throughput using other means.”

Asked about coronavirus outbreaks within AMC, Thomas avoided specifics, saying there had been “manifestations of COVID-19 on our military installations” but no manifestation “on our installations that would suggest that we’ll have any difficulty executing our missions at this point.”

“The extent of it, I don’t think I want to get into a significant amount of detail on,” Thomas said. “It is something that we have to be cognizant [of] and constantly watching.”

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A C-17 on the flight line during an Air Mobility Command exercise at Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina, August 16, 2016.

Lyons also declined to discuss specifics when asked how many Transcom personnel had tested positive for COVID-19. But he said his command’s positive rates were “very, very low — single digits across the entire mobility enterprise.”

“That will change over time. I acknowledge that,” Lyons added. “Every day we’re making a concerted effort to understand how do we protect the force and maintain a level of resiliency to operate this global mobility enterprise for the department.”

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why your future bunkers might be made of wood

Sticks and stones may break your bones, but they’re also great building materials. And the Department of Defense is eyeing a return to stick-based construction in some places where it currently uses concrete and similar materials. Fire and blast tests have already gone well, and the Army is working with universities to test its performance against ballistic weapons.


It’s all thanks to a new material that all the cool architects are talking about: cross-laminated timber. The footnotes version on this stuff is that it’s timber assembled in layers, and each layer is placed at 90 degrees from the previous one.

So, think of a Jenga tower, but with lots of glue so the blocks don’t slide apart. Believe it or not, this actually creates a super-strong structure, so strong that architects are certain they can make skyscrapers with the stuff, though buildings of about five stories are the norm right now and the tallest completed so far is 14 stories.

A pilot describes his role in the historic Berlin Airlift

Believe it or not, this is a passing fire test. Cross-laminated timber passed the test for fire resistance, but organizers were a little disappointed that it never self-extinguished. It was hoped that as the wood charred, which greatly reduces its flammability, the flame would run out of fuel.

(YouTube/Sisekaitseakadeemia)

But the Pentagon isn’t eyeing the material for tall office structures, or at least not exclusively for that. They allowed the Forest Products Laboratory, part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, to test CLT structures against blasts. Yeah, they want to know how the buildings will do against bombs.

The FPL has already tested the material when set on fire, when exposed to extreme moisture, and when shaken as it would in an earthquake. The wood did great in the earlier tests, but the military didn’t want to adopt new materials that would get destroyed the first time a big, bad wolf tried to blow it up.

The blast tests were done in 2016 and 2017 at Tyndall Air Force Base. This was before the hurricane wiped out many of the base’s structures (which were not CLT).

A pilot describes his role in the historic Berlin Airlift

That blast looks stronger than the Big Bad Wolf, but somehow, the stick-buildings are still standing.

(Air Force Civil Engineering Center AFCEC, Tyndall Air Force Base)

The wood performed well during the tests, flexing and twisting in some cases but—in most of the tests—surviving the blasts. The panels did rupture during the final test, a test designed to overwhelm the timbers and push them well beyond their design limits. But even then, the buildings were safe to enter and walk through.

Now, Georgia Tech in Atlanta is working on a ballistics test with the Army at Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland. The tests are slated to include additional blast testing as well. So, yeah, the Army wants to figure out whether it makes tactical and strategic sense to have wood buildings and structures, even in some places where it might currently use concrete.

All-in-all, CLT is a promising material for the military, and it’s achieved a lot of acceptance in the civilian world. It’s much better for the environment than concrete, which releases CO2 both in production and construction, and steel, which is energy intensive to mine, smelt, forge, and ship.

Timber, in contrast, actually removes carbon from the atmosphere as it’s created and grown, and it’s very lightweight, so it doesn’t cost as much fuel to move the material.

Currently, though, the material is quite expensive to purchase as there are only a few manufacturers making it. Prices are expected to come down over the next couple of decades. An ambitious plan for a 7-story building is slated for completion in 2041, partially because building right now would require that the builders buy up all available CLT, making the project cost as much as double what normal construction would.

Lists

6 fictional armies that would suck to fight against

When a writer needs to think up some great, imposing force to pit against their protagonist, sometimes they go a little overboard. Yeah, it’s great to see some young farmboy find the strength within needed to lead a rebellion against an evil, galactic empire, but most times, the troops fighting alongside the protagonist don’t have magic space powers (we’re looking at you, Luke).


A pilot describes his role in the historic Berlin Airlift

And yet anyone who’s never seen the show will still think they’re just silly little robots…

(BBC)

The Daleks (Doctor Who)

At first glance, the Daleks are kind of silly. A rolling pepper shaker with two sticks for arms might not seem imposing — until you realize they’re almost impossible to kill inside their shells.

Fighting a near-undying force that’s backed by a ridiculous amount of troops hellbent on your extermination isn’t ideal — it doesn’t matter that you could just put a hat over their eyestalk.

A pilot describes his role in the historic Berlin Airlift

Yep. And the other villains in the game try to capture these things — doesn’t work like that.

(Bioware)

The Reapers (Mass Effect)

Normally, giant, spacefaring warships are hard to kill. They’re even harder to kill if they’re sentient and are capable indoctrinating entire galaxies under their control.

Reapers are massive beings often confused with space ships. They dominate entire star systems by slowly brainwashing their inhabitants. Or, if that takes too long and they just need some troops fast, they can shoot out robot appendages to turn anyone fighting them into lifeless, obedient husks. Every conquered world joins their ranks, becoming a new enemy that our heroes must fight physically and psychologically.

A pilot describes his role in the historic Berlin Airlift

A rocket launcher may be overkill, but you don’t want to take any chances.

(Bungie)

The Flood (Halo)

What’s worse than fighting zombies? Fighting space zombies. One of the most deadly things about the Flood is that they can destroy their enemies with a single touch.

They cover battlefields in disease, meaning any step may lead to infection. The Flood is so terrifying that it takes two great armies, the humans and the Covenant, to band together and defeat them.

A pilot describes his role in the historic Berlin Airlift

Poor bug. No one ever takes them seriously.

(TriStar Pictures)

The Arachnid (Starship Troopers)

No good military satire is complete without an insane enemy that comes in insane numbers and is armed with insane psychic abilities.

One of the most deadly things about the Arachnids was how mindless they seem. Everyone who initially thought, “oh, just a giant bug” was in for a rude awakening when they discovered they can communicate telepathically and shoot down spaceships in orbit.
A pilot describes his role in the historic Berlin Airlift

The Borg even managed to assimilate the great Captain Jean-Luc Picard. And adding Picard to their ranks definitely gives them an edge.

(Paramount Television)

The Borg (Star Trek)

These guys are the culmination of all the terrifying things on this list. Put together highly advanced technology, overwhelming numbers, near invulnerability, and mass assimilation and you end up with the Borg.

With most sci-fi hiveminds, destroying their leader usually means the destruction of their entire force. But with the Borg, it just means another Queen must take their place.

A pilot describes his role in the historic Berlin Airlift

Who would win: 40 millenia of technological advancements or one Orky boy?

(Games Workshop)

The Orks (Warhammer 40k)

To be fair, every army in Warhammer 40k is a force to be reckoned with. But even in a universe filled with futuristic demons, robot zombies, and blood-thirsty elves, the Orks are considered the most successful intergalactic conquerors.

When the space savages aren’t fighting among themselves, they’ll band together to overwhelm their foes — even if those foes are Chaos gods, alien samurai, or whatever the hell Tyranids are.

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