The Air Force's new virtual reality video game looks pretty awesome - We Are The Mighty
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The Air Force’s new virtual reality video game looks pretty awesome

The US Air Force’s latest recruiting tool is probably the closest you can get to jumping out of a military plane without having to leave your living room.


Called “Air Force Special Ops: Nightfall,” and jointly developed by the service and GSDM, its longstanding creative partner, this video game aims to demonstrate a key component of a number of special operations jobs to the general public — namely, jumping out of perfectly good aircraft at altitudes so high, you’d suffocate without specialized gear.

Using Sony PlayStation’s virtual reality headset, players find themselves immersed in a graphics-rich environment where they jump from planes and make their way to drop zone markers using their parachutes.

In the game, you enter the shadowy world of Air Force Special Operations Command as a recruit undergoing training. Players can choose to enlist as special operations weathermen (yes, that’s a real thing), pararescue jumpers, or joint terminal attack controllers.

In real life, each and every one of these specialties within AFSOC is trained to serve on the ground alongside infantrymen of the Army, Marines and special operations troops, gathering environmental data, directing airstrikes, and rescuing downed aviators.

While everything in the game is geared towards realism, you’ll probably be very thankful that you don’t have to go through any of the grueling training PJs or combat controllers undertake in their pursuit of joining AFSOC’s elite units. First-person shooter fans might be slightly disappointed – there won’t be any shooting involved.

The Air Force’s new virtual reality video game looks pretty awesome
A familiar sight in the game – looking out the open cargo doors of an MC-130 (Photo Air Force Special Operations: Nightfall via YouTube screengrab)

But for what the game lacks in machine guns and grenades, it makes up for with the experience of a combat jump. Players get a taste of high altitude low opening jumps from an MC-130 Commando II, the Air Force’s special operations version of the C-130 Hercules.

Daytime operations are easy enough in themselves, but night ops… that’s where you earn your keep.

In fact, the game is so realistic that your night vision goggles will likely wash out and possibly blind you for a few seconds when they’re turned on for the first time — just like a real airman.

All jokes aside, however, the game has already been well-received from airmen who’ve given it a whirl.

“It is so realistic I could almost smell the airplane and feel the wind,” says active duty combat controller Master Sgt. Brian Hannigan. That’s high praise, considering Hannigan’s line of work and real-world experiences as a member of AFSOC.

The Air Force’s new virtual reality video game looks pretty awesome
USAF special operations troopers jump from an MC-130J Commando II over Japan (Photo US Air Force)

And echoing real-life HALO training, the instructors can be very critical, especially if you fail a jump by opening your parachute too early, too late, land outside the drop zone or steer off course.

This isn’t the first time the US military has attempted to use video game as a recruiting tool. “America’s Army,” a first-person game that puts you in the boots of a soldier from basic training to deployment, was actually hailed a success when launched in 2002.

With the advent of virtual reality systems, the Army actually turned its game into a training tool, which is still used today.

It remains to be seen whether or not the Air Force’s venture into video games will turn out to be a hit or a miss, but if you’d like to judge that for yourself, you can download a copy for free via PlayStation’s store.

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This is what it’s like for families of terrorists

“Sir, my father was an Islamic State militant, but he divorced my mother in 2013,” said Jassem Mohammad, 21, pulling out his identification card and presenting it to the camp manager. “He now has two other wives.”


In a tiny patch of shade on the edge of a blistering desert camp outside of Mosul, the manager listened as Mohammad made his case. He wanted to leave the camp and go back to college. He had good scores, he said, and was never involved with IS.

Militant rule in Mosul has collapsed and IS fighters here are dead, fled, arrested, or in hiding. But as their relatives try to re-integrate into society, Iraqi authorities face impossible questions with only bad answers.

The Air Force’s new virtual reality video game looks pretty awesome
Women and children wait at a processing station for internally displaced people prior to boarding buses to refugee camps near Mosul, Iraq, Mar. 03, 2017. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Alex Manne

If someone loved or even tolerated an IS militant, is that person guilty? How do the relatives of the perpetrators make peace with the relatives of the victims?

Officially in Iraq, the answer to the first question is “no,” especially when speaking of small children. Women and children fleeing areas IS occupied are checked for bombs, and when cleared, they are considered civilians.

Unofficially, families of militants are shunned, feared and often separated from the “regular” people, all traumatized by violence and extreme poverty under IS. Many IS families now live in camps, like Mohammad, where they are not quite sure if they are being detained or protected. And both, in fact, are true.

“We’d need to see the divorce papers,” the camp manager explained to Mohammad. If Mohammad offered evidence that his father was not in his life during IS rule in Mosul, it might be possible for him to go back to school.

“I want to study and do humanitarian work,” Mohammad continued, pleading his case to a nearby journalist.

The Air Force’s new virtual reality video game looks pretty awesome
USAF photo by Senior Airman Vanessa Valentine

As Mohammad and the reporter chatted, the camp manager looked nonplussed and strolled away. A security officer, in contrast, was visibly annoyed and abruptly ended the conversation.

“You cannot talk to him without official permission,” he said, ushering all journalists out of the camp. Other Iraqi officers said they worry that news about camps set aside for IS families will make them look like monsters, locking up women and children.

“What can we do as the Iraqi government?” said a member of a community police force who didn’t want to be named because he was not authorized to speak to the media. “We are exposed to danger. They are families, but we can’t loose them without rehabilitation.”

Inside the city, at the base of a long-dormant Ferris wheel, a short row of tents served as a collection point for families fleeing Mosul in the final days of battle.

The Air Force’s new virtual reality video game looks pretty awesome
A young boy pushes a cart outside of a market in Mosul, Iraq, July 4, 2017. Army photo by Cpl. Rachel Diehm.

Women and children filed into the tents, some collapsing where they sat. Medics treated injuries and food and water alleviated some of the most pressing pains. Many of the people had been hiding in basements for weeks, after months of water shortages. The smell of unwashed bodies was pungent and the heat in the stagnant tents was overwhelming.

“We were imprisoned,” said Khalifa, 46, a mother of three. Unlike the rest of the women in the tent, she wore no veil and her curly hair was tousled. “We tried to run away and militants locked us in a basement. For the past three days we’ve had no food or water.”

“Once they brought us food in the basement,” adds Hoda, 25, her daughter. “He came down wearing a suicide vest.”

Their story echoed tales from families all over Mosul and, even if their husbands or fathers were IS fighters, it could still be true. However, local authorities worried they were lying, casting themselves as victims, rather than somehow complicit.

The Air Force’s new virtual reality video game looks pretty awesome
Photo by Mstyslav Chernov

One man peppered Hoda with questions about the neighborhood she said she was from. IS militants in Mosul were often not stationed near their original homes. Hoda failed to identify the most famous church, mosque, and graveyard in the area.

“See, they are an IS family,” the man said. “They are lying.”

Another woman, Fatima, a mother of eight, said for relatives of IS omitting certain truths is a matter of survival. Sitting with an intelligence official, Fatima admitted she had two brothers that fought with IS. Both, she said, are now dead and she never supported their decision to join IS.

But when the officer walked away, she said at least one of her brothers is alive and now in Tal Afar, an Iraqi city still held by IS.

“We are afraid to tell them when we talk to family members who are with IS,” she whispered. “We don’t want to be blamed for what they did.”

MIGHTY MOVIES

The 9 best Vietnam War movies

It’s been 45 years since the last U.S. combat troops left Vietnam, but the conflict continues to play an outsized role in American politics and popular culture. From John Wayne’s stern-jawed performance in the 1968 propaganda film The Green Berets to Robert Downey, Jr.’s antics in the 2008 meta-comedy Tropic Thunder (a movie about a movie about Vietnam), the war’s complexity and social impact have made it an irresistible subject for generations of filmmakers and moviegoers. These nine films set the standard for the Vietnam War movie.


The Air Force’s new virtual reality video game looks pretty awesome

Photo Credit: Zoetrope Studios

Apocalypse Now

Fresh off an astonishing run of success that included The Godfather, The Godfather Part II, and The Conversation, Francis Ford Coppola set out to make a Vietnam War epic based on Joseph Conrad’s anti-colonialist novella The Heart of Darkness. It would turn out to be one of the most arduous productions in the history of cinema, taking over three years to complete and nearly destroying Coppola’s health and career in the process. But the result was nothing short of a masterpiece. With a star-studded cast including Marlon Brando, Martin Sheen, Robert Duvall, Harrison Ford, Laurence Fishburne, and Dennis Hopper, Apocalypse Now added the indelible phrases “I love the smell of napalm in the morning” and “Charlie don’t surf!” to the American vernacular and was ranked 14th on Sight and Sound‘s 2012 poll of the Top 50 Greatest Films of All Time.

Watch it now.

The Air Force’s new virtual reality video game looks pretty awesome

Photo Credit: Stanley Kubrick Productions

Full Metal Jacket

Stanley Kubrick’s darkly comic and deeply disturbing portrait of war’s dehumanizing effects follows a group of U.S. Marine Corps recruits from basic training on Parris Island to the Battle of Hue during the Tet Offensive. Adapted from Gustav Hasford’s novel The Short-Timers, the screenplay was co-written by Kubrick, Hasford, and journalist Michael Herr, author of the acclaimed Vietnam War memoir Dispatches. Starring real-life drill instructor R. Lee Emery as the virtuosically profane Gunnery Sergeant Hartmann, Full Metal Jacket met with criticism from some early reviewers who found the film’s second half unequal to the brilliance of the boot camp scenes. It’s now recognized as a classic of the war movie genre and ranked 95th on the American Film Institute’s 100 Years…100 Thrills list.

Watch it now.

The Air Force’s new virtual reality video game looks pretty awesome

Photo Credit: EMI Films

The Deer Hunter

Winner of five Academy awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Supporting Actor, The Deer Hunter is the saga of three Russian American steelworkers who leave their working-class Pennsylvania hometown to fight in Vietnam. Written and directed by Michael Cimino and starring Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken, Meryl Streep, and John Cazale (in his final role before succumbing to lung cancer), the film sparked controversy for its famous sequence in which sadistic Việt Cộng soldiers force POWs to play Russian roulette. There were no documented cases of Russian roulette during the war, but critics such as Roger Ebert defended Cimino’s use of artistic license, arguing that the deadly game is a “brilliant symbol” for how the conflict touched the lives of U.S. soldiers and their families.

Watch it now.

The Air Force’s new virtual reality video game looks pretty awesome

Photo Credit: Orion Pictures

Platoon

The first Hollywood film to be written and directed by a Vietnam veteran, Platoon was based on Oliver Stone’s real experiences as an infantryman during the war. Charlie Sheen, son of Apocalypse Now star Martin Sheen, plays a naive college student who volunteers for combat duty in 1967. Assigned to an infantry platoon near the Cambodian border, he is caught up in a bitter rivalry between two veteran NCOs: hard-edged and cynical Staff Sergeant Barnes (Tom Berenger) and the more compassionate and idealistic Sergeant Elias (Willem Dafoe). Winner of four Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director, the film achieved its consummate authenticity by hiring retired USMC Colonel Dale Dye to put the principal actors through an intensive 30-day boot camp before filming started.

Watch it now.

The Air Force’s new virtual reality video game looks pretty awesome

Photo Credit: Touchstone Pictures

Good Morning, Vietnam

A brilliant blend of comedy and drama, this Barry Levinson film is loosely based on the experiences of real-life Armed Forces Radio Service DJ Adrian Cronaeur. Robin Williams, who improvised most of his broadcast scenes, stars as Cronauer, a wild card whose irreverent sense of humor and love of rock and roll infuriated his immediate superiors but made him hugely popular with the enlisted men. Set in Saigon during the early days of the war, the screenplay offered a more nuanced portrait of the Vietnamese people than previous Hollywood films and earned Williams his first Academy Award nomination.

Watch it now.

The Air Force’s new virtual reality video game looks pretty awesome

Photo Credit: Anabasis N.V.

First Blood

Based on David Morrell’s novel of the same name and starring Sylvester Stallone as a former Green Beret who fought in Vietnam and received the Medal of Honor, First Blood is the opening chapter in the hugely popular Rambo series. Set in the fictional town of Hope, Washington, the plot revolves around John Rambo’s escalating confrontation with a tyrannical local sheriff played by Brian Dennehy. Forced into the wilderness outside of town, Rambo relies on his survival and combat skills to escape capture by hundreds of state troopers and national guardsmen. By turning its veteran hero into a guerrilla fighter like the Việt Cộng, this blockbuster action film played an influential role in America’s reckoning with its first military defeat and helped raise awareness about PTSD.

Watch it now.

The Air Force’s new virtual reality video game looks pretty awesome

Photo Credit: Ixtlan

Born on the Fourth of July

Oliver Stone’s second film about the war is based on the bestselling autobiography by Ron Kovic, a patriotic Long Islander who enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps and served two tours of duty in Vietnam before a firefight left him paralyzed from the mid-chest down. Struggling to adjust to life in a wheelchair and haunted by his role in the death of a fellow soldier, Kovic battles alcoholism, depression, and PTSD before eventually finding redemption as a leading activist in the anti-war movement. Tom Cruise received his first Academy Award nomination for his portrayal of Kovic, who thanked the actor by giving him the original Bronze Star Medal he received after the war.

Watch it now.

The Air Force’s new virtual reality video game looks pretty awesome

Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures Corporation

Casualties of War

Directed by Brian De Palma, written by Tony Award-winning playwright David Rabe, starring Michael J. Fox and Sean Penn, and based on Daniel Lang’s New Yorker article and follow-up book, Casualties of War is the story of the Incident on Hill 192, a notorious war crime committed by U.S troops in 1966. Penn plays Sergeant Tony Meserve, an experienced squad leader who seeks revenge for his friend’s death by ordering his men to kidnap and rape a Vietnamese girl. Fox is Private First Class Max Eriksson, the only member of the patrol brave enough to stand up to Meserve. Told in flashback, the film has a hopeful ending that resonated with viewers seeking to put the horrors of the war behind them. Quentin Tarantino has called it “the greatest film about the Vietnam War.”

Watch it now.

The Air Force’s new virtual reality video game looks pretty awesome

Photo Credit: BBS Productions

Hearts and Minds

According to Michael Moore, it’s “the best documentary I have ever seen” and the movie that inspired him to pick up a camera. But Hearts and Minds polarized audiences even before it was released. Columbia Pictures refused to distribute it, and an interviewee unhappy with his portrayal obtained a temporary restraining order against the producers. Despite the controversy, Peter Davis’s searing indictment of America’s involvement in Vietnam won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature in March 1975–one month before the fall of Saigon brought an end to the war. Featuring interviews with subjects on all sides of the conflict, from General William Westmoreland to Daniel Ellsberg to a Vietnamese coffin maker, and a wealth of archival news footage from the font lines and the home front, this landmark film is a must-see for anyone seeking to understand the meaning and significance of the Vietnam War.

Watch it now.

This article originally appeared on Explore The Archive. Follow @explore_archive on Twitter.

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How a case of hemorrhoids might have changed Europe forever

A sense of purpose and a new mission are important for any veteran after their time in service ends. This is one of the reasons transitioning to a civilian can be so hard. It may be true for all veterans but one historical figure is a prime example of just how detrimental inactivity can be after leaving the military. 

When Napoleon was finally defeated (for the first time) in 1814, he was exiled to the island of Elba, cut off from his forces, his country and his loyal citizens. The Bourbon King Louis XVIII took his place on the throne of France. But Napoleon wasn’t destined to die on Elba. 

While the Coalition Allies who had unseated the emperor and sent him into exile were arguing about what a post-Napoleonic Europe would look like, the man himself escaped the island and landed in Marseilles. He landed with 1,000 men and met no resistance on his way to Paris, gathering supporters along the way. When he arrived, the king fled and Napoleon was once again the master of France. 

The Air Force’s new virtual reality video game looks pretty awesome
Napoleon Bonaparte. (Wikimedia Commons)

He had little time to change much, although he tried anyway. The nations of the Coalition that had sent him to Elba gathered their forces once again. Napoleon called up his armies to come to the defense of France. The emperor also decided he wouldn’t just defend France’s borders, he would go on the offensive. His goal wasn’t to crush the enemy armies, but bring them to the peace table and leave himself in power.

Belgium was his first stop. He hoped to defeat the British troops while they were thinly spread and largely unready for European-style combat. They unseated Prussian defenses, held the British at Quatre Bras and soundly defeated the Prussian army at Ligny. The French army then set its sights on Waterloo. 

Waterloo, as everyone knows, was a disaster for the French. The British held off repeated French attacks and were able to link up with a Prussian force that had escaped a weaker French force near Wavre earlier in the day. The battle turned into a rout for the French and Napoleon was forced to retreat to Paris. 

The Battle of Waterloo has been digested over and over again in the decades since the outcome of it. Much has been discussed about Napoleon’s judgement and performance, especially compared to his earlier victories in the face of similar odds. The difference at Waterloo compared to other battles, might be the emperor’s fading health. 

The Air Force’s new virtual reality video game looks pretty awesome
Napoleon leaving the island of Elba at the port of Portoferraio. (Wikimedia Commons)

While on Elba, the usually vigorous and hardworking former artillery officer was noticeably depressed. Although on the island for just a little more than 9 months, Napoleon began to go gray, look more aged, and gained a bit of weight due to inactivity. He also began to experience health problems, including the inability to urinate, and he picked up a harsh case of hemorrhoids. 

The French Emperor was basically falling apart with nothing to do but sit and think about what might have been if he was still the leader of France. Maybe if he knew escape was possible before he decided to actually do it, he might have taken better care of himself. 

At Waterloo, those hemorrhoids might have had a huge impact on the battle. The emperor, in command of his forces, was unable to sit on his horse for long periods of time. This means he was also unable to get a good survey of the battlefield and the battle itself as it unfolded. 

Napoleon’s command style in the days before his exile was one that allowed him to make fast and significant adaptive changes to the way his troops were fighting during a battle, which allowed the French to take advantage of an enemy’s mistakes. If Napoleon couldn’t sit on his horse, he couldn’t see the battle, nor could he adapt to the changes. He was doomed to failure.

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Coalition launches 84 strikes against ISIS as Iraqi army squeezes Mosul

Coalition air power had a busy Veterans’ Day Weekend while attacking the Islamic State of Iraqi and Syria, also known as ISIS.


The Air Force’s new virtual reality video game looks pretty awesome
A U.S. Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker from the 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron refuels a F-15 Strike Eagle in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Nathan Lipscomb)

Across Iraq and Syria, 84 airstrikes were carried out against the terrorist group, 27 of which were around the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, which Iraqi forces have been trying to liberate from ISIS since October.

The attacks took place as Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, visited the region. Iraqi forces are moving towards the city, in an offensive expected to take months, according to a DOD News article.

“In my judgment, what Mosul does is reduce ISIL inside of Iraq back to an insurgency with terrorist actions and get them to a level where Iraqi security forces with a minimum level of outside support will be able to manage the violence inside Iraq,” Dunford said. “It denies ISIL freedom of movement and sanctuary inside Iraq.”

The terrorist group was in retreat as their eastern defenses around Mosul collapsed, and the Iraqi Army claimed to have secured the Intisar district of the city, and was moving into the neighborhood of Salaam.

As Coalition forces move in, there have been reports of increasing atrocities carried out by ISIS. According to VOA news, one video released by the terrorist group showed four children — none older than 14 — being forced to execute alleged spies. ISIS had developed “hand grenade” drones and was using them around Mosul.

In other news about the fight against ISIS, the BBC reported that ISIS carried out a half-dozen bombings around Baghdad, and a tweet from CombatAir reported that a Russian MiG-29K Fulcrum operating from the Admiral Kuznetsov was lost.

According to a Nov. 11 release, 24 air strikes were carried out by coalition forces, seven of which took place near Mosul. The Mosul-area strikes destroyed or damaged seven mortar systems, an artillery system, three vehicles, and two weapon caches. Other targets hit that day included a command and control node, oil production facilities, three supply routes, fighting positions, heavy machine guns, a storage container, and a bulldozer.

A Department of Defense release on Nov. 12 reported that five out of 23 strikes that day took place near Mosul. Those five strikes hit a fighting position; five mortar systems; two tunnel entrances; two heavy machines guns; four vehicles; a vehicle bomb; and a weapons cache. The other 18 strikes blasted a number of other targets, including a headquarters building; six oil wellheads; five fighting positions; and six ISIS “tactical units.

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Pentagon says US military ‘advisers’ are fighting inside Mosul

The US military spokesman for the coalition against ISIS in Iraq and Syria acknowledged on Wednesday that American military advisors have been knee deep in the offensive to retake the city of Mosul.


“They have been in the city at different times, yes,” Col. John Dorrian, spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve, told reporters, according to ABC News. Though, he said, “they’ve advised Iraqi Security Forces as they’ve moved forward. They remain behind the forward line of troops.”

Also read: This is one of the oldest Middle East deployments of American troops you’ve never heard of

The battle to retake Mosul began in October, and Iraqi forces have encountered fierce resistance and significant casualties. For example, Iraq’s elite “Golden Brigade” of special operations troops have suffered upwards of “50 percent casualties” in the fight, which could eventually make them combat ineffective, according to a Pentagon officer who spoke with Politico.

The Air Force’s new virtual reality video game looks pretty awesome
Special Operations Command photo

Casualties have also hit US forces as well. Since October, the number of Americans wounded in combat has nearly doubled since OIR kicked off in August 2014.

That’s likely due to US forces working more closely with their Iraqi counterparts. Though US officials have often downplayed the role of American troops in the region as merely training, advising, and assisting Iraqi forces, the latest situation report from the Institute for the Study of War says that US and coalition forces have “embedded their advisors at lower-levels in the [Iraqi Security Forces].”

In other words, US special operations forces are often not remaining behind the front lines — especially considering a “front line” in the anti-ISIS fight is murky at best — but instead, are right in the thick of it with Iraqi troops.

The military has more than 5,000 troops on the ground in Iraq currently, a number which has steadily crept up since roughly 300 troops were deployed to secure the Baghdad airport in June 2014.

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The Navy converted side-wheel paddle steamers into WWII aircraft carriers

Paddle steamers are usually associated with 19th century cruises on the Mississippi river. Modern representatives like the Mark Twain Riverboat at Disneyland preserve this quaint and picturesque scene in American culture. However, during WWII, two side-wheel paddle steamers found themselves in a very different type of scene. Desperate for more ships, the Navy converted these two-paddle steamers into aircraft carriers.

The Air Force’s new virtual reality video game looks pretty awesome
Luxury cruise ship Seeandbee in 1919 (Public Domain)

To be fair, these makeshift flattops were not truly weapons of war. Unlike purpose-built aircraft carriers like USS Hornet (CV-12) and USS Lexington (CV-16), the steam-powered carriers lacked armor, a hangar deck, elevators and weapons of any sort. Additionally, the flight decks built on top of the steamers were shorter and lower than regular carriers. However, the converted carriers weren’t built for combat; they were built to train aviators.

The Air Force’s new virtual reality video game looks pretty awesome
Greater Buffalo on its way to be refit in 1942 (U.S. Navy)

In 1942, the Navy purchased the side-paddle steam cruise ships Seeandbee and Greater Buffalo. The Great Lakes passenger ships were acquired as a cost-saving measure to build trainer aircraft carriers for flight students at the Naval Air Technical Training Center.

Both ships were stripped of their superstructures and luxury cabins during the Navy refit. To become aircraft carriers, the steamers were fitted with a bridge island, arresting cables, and of course, a flight deck. Seeandbee’s flight deck was made of wood while Greater Buffalo’s was made of steel. Following their refit, Seeandbee and Greater Buffalo were renamed USS Wolverine (IX-64) and USS Sable (IX-81), respectively.

The Air Force’s new virtual reality video game looks pretty awesome
USS Wolverine and USS Sable docked at Navy Pier in 1945 (U.S. Navy)

Supporting NATTC training, Wolverine and Sable moored at and operated from Chicago at what today is known as Navy Pier. Wolverine began her training duty first in January 1943. Sable followed in May that same year. Together, the Great Lakes carriers were nicknamed the “Corn Belt Fleet.”

The Air Force’s new virtual reality video game looks pretty awesome
An FM-2 Wildcat takes off from USS Sable on Lake Michigan (U.S. Navy)

Pilot training on the carriers took place seven days a week. They provided critical training to thousands of naval aviators and a smaller number of Landing Signal Officers. One of these naval aviators was future president George H. W. Bush, who trained on Sable.

The Air Force’s new virtual reality video game looks pretty awesome
An FM-2 Wildcat barrier crash aboard USS Sable (U.S. Navy)

After WWII ended, the need for the Corn Belt Fleet had run its course. In November 1945, Wolverine and Sable were decommissioned, struck from the Navy register, and sold for scrap.

Together, the two ships trained 17,280 naval aviators in 116,000 carrier landings. They remain the only freshwater, coal-driven, side-wheel paddle steam aircraft carriers used by the Navy.

The Air Force’s new virtual reality video game looks pretty awesome
USS Wolverine takes on coal at anchor on Lake Michigan (U.S. Navy)

Feature Image: U.S. Navy photo

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This veteran A-10 pilot has three Super Bowl rings

The Air Force’s new virtual reality video game looks pretty awesome
Chad Hennings played for the Dallas Cowboys and was part of three Super Bowl winning teams. Before his NFL career, he flew an A-10 Thunderbolt II in 45 combat sorties over northern Iraq during two deployments in 1991 and early 1992. (Courtesy photo/Dallas Cowboys)


Chad Hennings won three Super Bowls with the Dallas Cowboys during the 1990s, and his first appearance was within a year’s time of flying his A-10 Thunderbolt II in a combat sortie in northern Iraq.

Hennings, a 1988 Academy graduate, led the nation with 24 sacks and was awarded the Outland Trophy during the 1987 season — an award that recognizes the nation’s best interior lineman.

Committed to serve

Following graduation, Hennings — now a member of the College Football Hall of Fame — was drafted by the Cowboys in the 11th round of the 1988 draft. Before he could even suit up in the NFL, Hennings had to first fulfill his military commitment, a move that was initially hard to accept.

“I wouldn’t say there were regrets, (but) it was an emotional struggle because I wanted to be able to compete,” Hennings said.

From a character perspective, he knew without a doubt what he needed to do because he made a commitment and he was going to stick to it. The drive to compete, however, made his transition from school to pilot training and then into his active-duty squadron a difficult one. That void would eventually be filled with friendly competition as an A-10 pilot.

“We did compete on the range; we competed for performance,” he said. “There (was) always competition and it was a healthy competition.”

After pilot school, Hennings was stationed in the U.K. and deployed twice to Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, in 1991 and 1992. While deployed, he flew 45 combat sorties in northern Iraq in support of Operation Provide Comfort, an international relief effort after the Gulf War.

After getting settled into the Air Force, Hennings said he contemplated making a career out of it.

“Football was a distant memory and something in the past that I never really thought about until the Air Force went through the reduction in force and they started the waivers in the spring of ’92,” he said.

Pro player

Hennings separated from active-duty Air Force in April 1992 and transitioned to the Air Force Reserve. He continued to serve in the Reserve individual mobilization augmentee program for almost 10 years.

The next month, Hennings found himself in Dallas working out for the Cowboys.

“It was extremely stressful, initially transitioning in ’92, because I’m leaving one career for another,” he said. “I’m moving from one continent to another, taking on a whole new different position. There were a lot of just stress factors there, and it wasn’t assured that I would make the team.”

Hennings said it was tough coming into the league and competing at a level of competition that was much higher than he experienced before.

But all the downtime spent in the weight room and working out when he wasn’t flying during his deployments and TDYs paid off. He would go on to secure a spot on the team, and kick off what would eventually be a nine-year career with the Cowboys, playing in 119 games and recording 27.5 sacks.

In his first season, Hennings and the Cowboys would go on to beat the Buffalo Bills in Super Bowl 27.

“It was pretty surreal,” he said. “I essentially flew a combat mission and then played in the Super Bowl all within a year’s time.”

He compared that Super Bowl experience to his first combat mission. He said he knew he had a job to do, and being around a set of guys who were experienced made it easier to navigate and process all of his emotions.

During his next three seasons, Hennings would go onto win two more Super Bowls with the Cowboys.

“You got to a point in our culture of being a Dallas Cowboy, that that’s what was expected. We knew we were the best team out there,”

Hennings said. “I kind of compare that analogy to being a fighter pilot. It’s kind of that confident arrogance, where you know you’re good, you know your abilities; you walk out there, you don’t flaunt it, but you walk with an extreme amount of confidence.”

It wasn’t until the latter part of Hennings’ career that he fully appreciated winning three Super Bowls, he said.

Two decades after he appeared in his last Super Bowl, beating the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl 30, Hennings has a sincere admiration for those moments in time and truly appreciates how special those teams really were.

“As a kid growing up, all your heroes, the role models that you looked up to on the gridiron — you know those guys — they were able to hold that trophy up,” Hennings said. “I was a Minnesota Vikings fan, so they went there four years and they never won one, and that’s where I realized too how difficult it is, not only to just get to the Super Bowl, but to win one — how truly special that is.”

Hennings said one of the best memories is from Super Bowl 30, where he recorded two sacks — a Super Bowl record that he shared with several other players before it was broken the next year.

Humble beginnings

Being a solid performer on the gridiron and in his jet, Hennings has always tried to strive for excellence.

Growing up in Elberon, Iowa, Hennings would sometimes put in 12-plus-hour days helping his father and grandfather on their farm, where they predominately raised corn and a feedlot operation for cattle. He’d help wherever needed, whether feeding the cattle, bailing hay, driving tractors, or performing maintenance.

“The work ethic came from watching my father, my grandfather, but a lot of it I can attribute it to my older brother, who really pushed me to workout with him,” he said.

Hennings’ older brother, Todd, was a couple years older and was the quarterback for their high school football team. Hennings said he was a tight end, and he recalled his brother dragging him off to run routes and lift weights.

“When I started to see the success of all the hard work that I put in, then it became more of a self-driving motivation than having somebody externally motivate me,” he said.

That motivation to be a better player and better person carried over when it was time to attend college. Hennings had several scholarships, but said he wanted a “holistic experience.” He yearned to be challenged academically and wanted to have the experiences a typical college graduate wouldn’t have.

Looking back, the leadership skills gained, the experience of flying jets, and the camaraderie within his fighter squadron are things that gave him skills he used on the gridiron and in his everyday life.

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Chad Hennings graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1988 and went on to fly 45 combat sorties over northern Iraq in an A-10 Thunderbolt II in support of Operation Provide Comfort. Hennings received a waiver in 1992 to be released from active duty as part of the Air Force’s Reduction in Force. He would go on to serve almost 10 more years in the Air Force Reserve Individual Mobilization Augmentee program. During his time as a reservist he also played for the Dallas Cowboys for nine seasons. He was part of three Super Bowl winning teams and played in 119 games, recording 27.5 sacks. (Courtesy photo)

“You know, it all worked out great,” Hennings said. “I had an experience flying that I would never trade. If I had to do it all over again, I would do it exactly the same.”

Where he is now

Today, Hennings lives outside of Dallas, where he’s a partner in a commercial real estate company and does a lot of public speaking, which he said is his way of giving back.

“That’s my passion now in this last half of my life, is to be an evangelist, in essence, for that aspect of a need of character in our community and for us as individuals,” Hennings said.

An author of three books, he’s also married with two children, who are both in college.

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Today in military history: Napoleon enters Moscow

On Sep. 14, 1812, just one week after crushing the Russian Army at Borodino, French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte and his Grand Armée entered the city of Moscow.

The Emperor controlled most of the European Continent – except Britain. In an effort to starve Britain into submission, Napoleon created the Continental System, forbidding trade from Europe with the British Isles – essentially a blockade. The Russian Czar wouldn’t have it because the system devastated the Russian economy.

To intimidate the Russian Czar, Napoleon massed the largest land army the world had ever seen, right on the Russian border with Poland. 

He had just finished wiping the floor with the Russians five years prior and thought a half million men at the Czar’s doorstep would make him comply with the Continental System. When that didn’t happen, Napoleon invaded and moved to capture Moscow.

When he took the city, there was no one to accept surrender from and no one to sue for peace. Muscovites started a fire that destroyed much of the city later that night, reminiscent of the scorched-earth tactic the Russians were using to starve the French.

The war continued into the Winter, which Napoleon didn’t count on. Napoleon eventually left the city, and left Russia, his army dwindling, freezing, starving, and harassed by Cossacks the whole way.

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Here’s how the team behind ‘John Wick: Chapter 2’ made reloading cool

Professional pain-factory John Wick (Keanu Reeves) is back for a sequel. And once again, there’s a whole cadre of well-dressed people who want him dead.


In anticipation of the film’s release on Feb. 10, We Are The Mighty talked to director Chad Stahelski and stunt coordinator and Army vet J.J. Perry about John Wick’s gunplay style, and how they made mag changes cool.

Watch the trailer for “John Wick: Chapter 2” here.

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Despite having a 5th-generation jet ‘in name only,’ Russia is pushing ahead for a 6th-generation plane

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A prototype of Russia’s fifth-generation jet, the PAK FA. | Wikipedia Commons


In spite of criticisms and concerns that Russia’s fifth-generation is actually fifth-generation “in name only,” the Kremlin is pushing ahead with plans for its sixth-generation jet.

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said on Wednesday that Sukhoi has delivered plans for its new sixth-generation fighter, TASS Newsreports.

“I’m referring also to new design concepts briefly presented by the Sukhoi design bureau and by the general designer appointed for all aircraft systems and armaments,” Rogozin told reporters, accordingto TASS.

“They have really come up with the designs for the creation of the sixth-generation fighter.”

And, as TASS reports, Commander of the Russian Aerospace Forces Viktor Bondarev told reporters on Wednesday that the potential sixth-generation jet will be produced in both manned and unmanned versions. Meaning, essentially, that the new jet will be planned to be able to function in some conditions as a drone aircraft.

However, beyond that hint, the Kremlin delivered few other details about its new potential jet. The plans for the new jet comes as Russia is continuing to test its fifth-generation PAK FA fighter. Although, as the National Interest notes, it is not uncommon for militaries to begin testing and designing the next generation of aircraft decades in advance.

Currently, Russia’s PAK FA is expected to enter into service sometime in the next six years. However, the aircraft has been called fifth-generation “in name only” due to a host of complaints affecting the aircraft’s radar cross signature, its avionics, and its engines.

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Looking to hire veterans? Here’s how to attract and retain them

This past May marked six years since I left the Marine Corps for a civilian career. After nearly 30 years in the military, I was unsure of what exactly to expect in a civilian job. I saw my unit as a family and had grown very comfortable with military customs and traditions. Now, I was concerned if any civilian workplace would know how to evaluate my career and experience.

More than 250,000 service members transition out of the military every year, looking for engaging, valuable work. They are highly skilled, dedicated and motivated to be productive members of a new team, facing new challenges and opportunities. I was fortunate enough to get a job with Navy Federal Credit Union, an organization whose primary customer base is members of the military and their families. Based on their understanding of a service member’s career needs and experience, my transition was relatively smooth, but that’s not always the case.

July 25th is Hire A Veteran Day, which is meant to be a call to action for employers to seriously consider veteran and transitioning candidates. With 45% of our employees directly tied to the military, Navy Federal understands what service members need when looking for a satisfying civilian career, and how to attract and retain veteran talent.

Employers and workplaces are as diverse as the women and men who serve our country, however, there are still some common characteristics that make your organization attractive workplaces for veterans: 

  • Clear Path to Advancement/Development: In the military, your path to advancing is clear – work hard, follow the rules, go above and beyond – and veterans look for the same thing in new employers. Many also look for professional development opportunities and additional training that not only helps build their skill set, but allows you as an employer to show them the value you place on them. 
  • Mission-Driven/Team-Focused: In choosing a new line of work, veterans often look for opportunities that are focused on a mission or vision, and/or positions that have a focus on team operation. Many are drawn to these types of opportunities for the same reasons they were drawn to military service: a desire to work with others in advancing a cause they believe in that is greater than themselves.
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Soldiers with the 1st Battalion, 297th Infantry Regiment, Wyoming Army National Guard, prepares to assault an objective during a combat exercise at the National Training Center, Fort Irwin, California, June 12, 2021. The 1-297th is supporting the 155th Armored Brigade Combat Team’s, Mississippi Army National Guard, training rotation at NTC. (Mississippi National Guard photo by Sgt. Taylor Cleveland)
  • Match With Their Skills: The military provides service members with years of training in their occupational specialties, and veterans joining a new organization bring that real world experience to the new job. Our research from Best Careers After Service, in tandem with Hire Heroes USA, surveyed military veterans in the workplace and found that many veterans join industries knowing that their skill sets match and they would be an asset on day one. If you want to attract and retain veterans, make sure your job postings and recruiters clearly communicate how their skills would be valuable. The top industries, based on our research, include health care, government and/or public administration, defense contracting, and information technology.
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Marines with Marine Corps Forces Cyberspace Command in cyber operations room at Lasswell Hall aboard Fort Meade, Maryland. MARFORCYBER Marines conduct offensive and defensive cyber operations in support of United States Cyber Command and operate, secure and defend the Marine Corps Enterprise Network. USMC Photo.
  • Competitive Salaries and Benefits: This one should go without saying; everyone looks for a competitive salary and benefits. But more than most candidates, veterans bring the technical skills, leadership/team experience, and discipline to deliver results, which is why they should be highly sought after and recruited in the hiring process. Your salary ranges and compensation packages should reflect that worth. 

As service members transition to a civilian career, many of us simply want the opportunity to advance our skills and education, to provide for our families, and to start a rewarding career. Employers who can offer that opportunity to veterans absolutely should. In my experience, you certainly won’t regret it. 

By Clay Stackhouse, US Marine Corps (Ret.) and Regional Outreach Manager at Navy Federal Credit Union 

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This cursed Soviet submarine nearly caused a nuclear disaster in the Atlantic Ocean

An old sailor’s myth claims that any ship which fails to break a bottle of champagne during its christening ceremony is cursed forever.


This seemed to be exactly the case with the Soviet ballistic missile submarine K-19, later nicknamed “Hiroshima” by its crew after an accident in 1961 which almost resulted in a nuclear accident which would have rivaled the size and effect of Chernobyl, years later.

If it was any consolation to the horrified sailors who witnessed the champagne bottle bounce intact off the K-19’s stern during its induction ceremony, the sub was already thought to be cursed thanks to the deaths of a number of shipyard workers involved in its construction. Upon its acceptance to the Soviet Navy, its 35-year old captain, Nikolai Zateyev called the ship unfit for service, noting that the USSR’s rush to catch up to American submarine advances had caused the country to cut corners in designing its new vessels.

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K-19 underway in the Atlantic, as seen from a US Navy helicopter. (Photo from US Navy)

Regardless, the K-19 entered into active service and set sail on its maiden voyage in 1961, operating in the North Atlantic below the shipping lanes that crisscrossed the Atlantic. On the 4th of July — while millions of families made their way to parks to barbecue and watch fireworks in the United States — the K-19’s powerplant experienced a leak in its cooling system while the vessel was submerged southeast of Greenland.

In a matter of minutes, the situation worsened when the ship’s twin reactors began heating up uncontrollably.

If something wasn’t done to solve the cooling issue immediately, a nuclear meltdown would have followed, causing untold amounts of radiation to spew over the North Atlantic, and almost certainly travel over into Western Europe or even parts of Canada and the United States.

Zateyev ordered his crew to devise a “jury-rigged” cooling system, using scrounged-up parts and components of the submarine to re-route water into tubes around the reactors. In the meanwhile, members of the crew volunteered to go into the reactor spaces to attempt to fix the system, receiving fatal doses of radiation almost instantaneously.

None of the ship’s engineering crew would survive, and many more died from radiation poisoning in the years after the near-meltdown. Many of these sailors were later buried in lead coffins, quietly and away from the public eye.

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K-19 in distress after a crippling fire in the years following its near nuclear disaster. (Photo Soviet Navy)

According to David Miller in his book “Submarine Disasters,” a distress signal emitted from the K-19 was soon picked up by nearby American warships, whose crew offered to assist the stricken sub and her complement. However, Zateyev, worried about losing his ship to the United States — then the enemy during the height of the Cold War — decided instead to sail towards a nearby Soviet diesel submarine. That linkup allowed the K-19’s crew to offload safely.

In the aftermath of the near-catastrophe, the Soviet Navy sought to downplay the nature of the incident, forcing the crew of the K-19’s 1961 cruise to swear an oath of secrecy; violations would result in a lengthy stay at a gulag.

Nevertheless, a number were still decorated for bravery and their role in preventing what could have been an unmitigated disaster. Zateyev went on to serve in the Soviet Navy for another 25 years, passing away eventually from lung disease. The official report on the condition of the sick sailors stated that they were suffering from a form of mental illness.

That, however, wasn’t the end of K-19’s story. Now widely known throughout the Soviet Navy as “Hiroshima,” the ship was repaired and reentered into active duty.

In 1969, a collision with an American submarine disfigured Hiroshima, ending its patrol prematurely. In the 1970s, the submarine suffered a series of fires that killed 30 sailors and wounded scores more. The K-19 was clearly, by this point, living up to its curse.

The oath inflicted upon the 1961 cruise sailors was lifted after the fall of the Soviet Union, and what was once a closely-guarded secret was told to the world. In 2006, former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev made public the courageousness of the crew in a letter to the Nobel Prize committee, nominating the survivors for a Nobel Peace Prize.

K-19 was finally retired from service in 1991 having been active for nearly 30 years, and accumulating hundreds of thousands of miles transiting through the world’s oceans. Instead of preserving the ship as a monument to the men who served aboard her, and had a hand in saving millions from nuclear poisoning, the Russian government elected to dismantle and dispose of the vessel, finally ridding its navy of the cursed ship.

 

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