Air Force F-117 Nighthawks can still be seen around the US - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

Air Force F-117 Nighthawks can still be seen around the US

On July 26, 2018, two stealth aircraft were spotted taking off at the remote Tonopah Test Range in southwest Nevada, with one lingering over the base while the other appeared to head south.

Two stealth aircraft operating out of the secretive Tonopah base isn’t out of the ordinary. In this instance however, the two aircraft in question appeared to be F-117 Nighthawks — planes that were retired more than a decade ago.


The technology for the F-117 was developed in the 1970s, and the first F-117 unit reached initial operating capability in October 1983, becoming the first operational, purpose-built stealth aircraft.

It was designed to attack high-value targets without being detected. It could carry 5,000 pounds of internal payload, and two engines could push it to 684 mph. The plane, which took part in the invasion of Panama and the first Gulf War, was renowned for its precision.

Air Force F-117 Nighthawks can still be seen around the US

An F-117 Nighthawk flies over the Nevada desert.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Aaron D. Allmon II)

“It was the marriage of the GBU-27 to the F-117 that had a laser designator in its nose that made it such a precise, deadly platform,” former F-117 maintainer Yancy Mailes said in an Air Force release marking the 10th anniversary of the plane’s retirement, referring to a guided bomb . “It was best demonstrated during Operation Desert Storm when pilots snuck into Iraq and dropped weapons down the elevator shaft of a central communications building.”

Nighthawk pilots were nicknamed ” Bandits .” The maintainers, designated material application and repair specialists, were known as MARS, which eventually became ” Martians .”

While the plane was designed to elude detection, one was shot down by Yugoslavian air defenses in March 1999. The pilot bailed out and was rescued within hours, as enemy forces closed in.

After 25 years in service, the Air Force retired the F-117 on April 22, 2008. But the story didn’t end there. An Air Force official told Military.com in September 2017 that the service got permission to retire 52 Nighthawks but wanted to maintain them in case they were called back into service.

Rumors that the plane was still in flight continued for years. In late 2014, The Aviationist published photos showing F-117s in operation at Tonopah. It was suspected that the planes were being used for some kind of testing.

When asked by Defense News, the Air Force said a few weeks later that the Nighthawk was retired. Sort of.

The aircraft were being kept in Type 1000 storage, meaning they were being maintained in case they needed to be recalled to active service. That meant keeping them in their “original, climate-friendly hangars” at Tonopah, rather than building new storage facilities for them elsewhere, the Air Force said at the time.

In accordance with the Type 1000 program, or “flyable storage,” the service added, “some F-117 aircraft are occasionally flown.”

In October 2010, footage emerged that appeared to show the aircraft flying near Groom Lake Air Force Base, which is part of Area 51, and near Tonopah Test Range.

Air Force F-117 Nighthawks can still be seen around the US

An F-117 Nighthawk stealth fighter refuels from a 100th Aerial Refueling Wing KC-135R Stratotanker based at RAF Mildenhall in the UK, March 27, 1999.

(US Air Force photo)

Four years on, the shadowy Nighthawk is still seen skulking through the sky over the American West.

About six F-117s are kept in flyable condition at any one time, according to The War Zone , which reported that the planes are likely flown by contractors. That may be why there haven’t been official references to the Nighthawk’s activities, which may involve testing of low-observable technology.

Two Nighthawks were spotted flying together over Nevada in July 2016. In November 2017, what appeared to be an F-117 was spotted being hauled under cover on a trailer near Creech Air Force Base in Nevada. The next day, an F-117 was observed in flight north of Rachel, Nevada, being chased by a two-seat F-16 in what may have been a test of some kind of anti-stealth technology, The Aviationist said at the time.

But the Nighthawk’s time may finally be nigh.

According to the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, the Air Force is to remove four F-117s from service every year, a process known as demilitarizing aircraft, a service official told Military.com in September 2018.

“We had to keep all the F-117s in flyable storage until the fiscal ’17 NDAA gave us permission to dispose of them,” the official said.

It will be some time before the last F-117 leaves the flight line for good, and the expense of keeping them maintained in a museum may be prohibitive, meaning the Air Force could scrap them outright, according to The War Zone. But some vestiges of the Nighthawk may live on.

“It was a unique experience,” retired Col. Jack Forsythe, who first flew a Nighthawk in 1995 and led the final formation flight in 2008, said in early 2018 “It’s probably the same feeling that a lot of our (single seat) F-22 (Raptor) and F-35 (Lightning II) pilots feel today.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

6 easy-to-miss things your spouse needs to do before deployment

Hey, I get it: When you’re preparing for deployment, the last thing you want is a honey-do list from your spouse. You have your own gear to take care of, paperwork to complete, and stuff to pack. Your spouse, on the other hand, will be at home during the months that you’re away. Can’t some of their to-do list wait until you’re gone? After all, they’ll have the whole deployment to take care of it. What’s the rush, right?

Here’s the deal: Just as you must prepare your gear and put your things in order to prepare for your deployment, your spouse has to get the house and the family ready for their own “mission.” It’s pretty much guaranteed that as soon as you walk out the door, something’s going to go wrong: the car will break down, appliances will leak, or the dog will get sick. If you don’t help your spouse prepare for those emergencies, then they won’t be fully equipped to handle their mission. You wouldn’t send troops off to train without first arranging logistics and ammo. In the same way, you have to take care of some logistical details at home before you deploy and leave your spouse as the only adult responsible for the entire household. There are several things you can review with your spouse to make everyone’s deployment go more smoothly.

Don’t skip these mission-essential pre-deployment tasks with your spouse.


Air Force F-117 Nighthawks can still be seen around the US
(U.S. Air Force photo by Gina Randall)

1. Paperwork

There’s a reason your CO keeps hounding you to complete your Power of Attorney, Will, and other documents — they’re actually really important! Without a Power of Attorney, your spouse will basically be treated like a second-class citizen on base. They won’t be able to renew or replace an ID card if they lose it while you’re away. They can’t change the lease, buy or sell a vehicle, or handle any banking problems that might arise. If you have children, it’s important that your spouse completes a Family Care Plan so that someone is designated to take care of the kids if your spouse ends up in the hospital from a car accident. Take the time to discuss this paperwork with your spouse so they won’t struggle during unexpected deployment situations.

Air Force F-117 Nighthawks can still be seen around the US

(Photo by Staff Sgt. April Davis)

2. Comm check

You may not know exactly what communication options you’ll have during deployment, but discuss your expectations with your spouse so you can both get on the same page. How will you handle the time difference? Will you try to call when early in the morning or in the evening? How often will you try to call, message, or video? What’s the protocol if one of you misses a call or doesn’t answer in time? Finally, make sure your spouse knows how to send a Red Cross message. If there’s a family emergency, the Red Cross can contact you even when you don’t have internet access. If your spouse knows how to get to the Red Cross website, it will take the weight off their shoulders during a major emergency.

(U.S. Army National Guard photo by 1st Lt. Leanna Litsch)

3. Discuss car maintenance

Have you ever returned from deployment only to discover that your car has a dead battery and flat tires? Save yourselves the cost and trouble with some simple preventative maintenance. If you’re typically the one responsible for vehicle maintenance, remind your spouse when to do an oil change and how often to get the tires rotated. If your vehicle will sit unused during the deployment, ask your spouse to start the engine and let it idle at least once a week. This will prevent the battery from dying. If they occasionally drive it around the block and park it in a different position, that’ll help prevent flat tires.

4. Review home maintenance

If you’re renting or living on base, just make sure your spouse knows how to contact maintenance or the landlord. If you own your home, things get more complicated. Walk through the house together and discuss areas of regular or seasonal maintenance. Air filters should get changed monthly. Gutters should be cleaned in Fall. Discuss outdoor chores, like lawn maintenance and snow removal. Your spouse should know the location of the breaker box and water shut-off valves, in case the dreaded “Deployment Curse” visits your house.

5. Adjust the household budget

You and your spouse both need to understand how the deployment will affect your family’s income, and then adjust accordingly. If you are making more money during deployment, how will you save or spend the extra? Will it go toward paying down debts? Or will you save up for a post-deployment vacation? Sometimes, deployments reduce the household budget. You might have to pay for food and Internet at your deployed location. Your spouse may decrease their work hours or register for a class. They may have additional costs for childcare or lawn maintenance. It’s better to discuss these changes and your intended budget before deployment so you aren’t both accusing each other of mismanaging money!

6. Write down your passwords

You wouldn’t send your team on a mission without clear instructions and the best equipment, right? Then don’t expect your spouse to manage the bills and your account memberships without passwords! Log into any banking or bill payment website you use, and write down your login name and password. Do the same for your gaming accounts, renewable memberships, etc. It’s likely that something will need to be suspended, renewed, or canceled during your deployment. Writing down the passwords will make it possible for your spouse to do that for you.

Air Force F-117 Nighthawks can still be seen around the US

Having these pre-deployment conversations now may not be easy or fun, but it’s definitely important to help your spouse feel squared away before deployment. This will reduce deployment stress for both of you, help your deployment communication go smoothly, and get you both prepared for your respective, upcoming missions.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Soldiers to get Army’s new uniforms in 2020 after finalized design

The Army plans to begin issuing its newly announced Army Greens to new soldiers beginning in summer 2020, the service’s senior enlisted leader said Nov. 19, 2018.

Army Secretary Mark Esper approved the Nov. 11, 2018 adoption of the much-discussed Army Greens, which all soldiers must wear by 2028. The new uniform, recently renamed by service brass, is a version of the iconic pinks-and-greens uniform Army officers wore during World War II.

“This uniform is still in the minds of many Americans. This nation came together during World War II and fought and won a great war,” Sergeant Major of the Army Daniel Dailey said in a briefing with reporters at the Pentagon. “That’s what the secretary and [Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Mark Milley] wanted to do, is capitalize on the greatest generation because there is another great generation that is serving today, and that is the soldiers serving in the United States Army.”


Soldiers currently serving in the active duty, National Guard and Reserves will be able to purchase the new uniform in summer 2020, but they do not have to buy it until 2028, Army officials have said. The current blue Army Service Uniform (ASU) will become the service’s optional dress uniform.

“I know it seems like a long time,” Dailey said, explaining that the extended phase-in period is designed to give enlisted soldiers time to save up their annual clothing allowance to pay for the new uniform. “We’ve got to give the soldier ample time to be paid for those uniform items prior to it being required for them to wear it.”

He said it would be “premature” to release the estimated cost of the new uniform.

Air Force F-117 Nighthawks can still be seen around the US

Soldier Models of the proposed Pink and Green daily service uniform display the outfits overcoat, as they render the hand salute during the National Anthem at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania during the Army-Navy Game Dec. 9, 2017.

“We have an estimated cost,” he said. “We are not done with any contracting at this point, so it would be premature to give you any of those costs. What we do know is that, because of the measures we are taking, it is going to be cost neutral to the taxpayer and the soldier in the long run.”

Dailey justified the cost of the new, more-expensive Army Greens uniform by saying it will last longer than the current-issue ASU.

“The estimated cost of the new [Army] Greens uniform is higher than that of the current service blue uniform … because it is a higher-quality uniform,” he said. “We could easily make it the same cost, but that’s not the intent here. The intent here is to increase the quality of the uniform, and that is why we extended the life of the uniform.”

The new Greens jacket will be made of a 55-percent/45-percent “poly-wool elastique.” The pants will feature a gabardine weave made of a 55/45 poly-wool combination as well. The shirt will be made of a 75-percent/25-percent cotton-poly blend, said Army officials, explaining that service life of the Army Greens is six years compared to the ASU’s four years.

“We went for a higher-quality fabric. The uniform costs more as a result … but we intended to do that because one of the chief of staff of the Army’s directives to us was build a higher-quality uniform, which inherently costs more,” Dailey said. “And the way you offset that is you capitalize on the life of that uniform based upon its higher quality.”

Despite the recent adoption announcement, the Army Greens design is not yet finalized.

“There were some design changes all the way up until the week before the secretary made the decision,” Dailey said.

The uniform prototype Dailey wore recently at the Association of the United States Army’s annual meeting in October 2018 featured a jacket belt with a gold buckle, he said, adding that the final design will be more subdued.

“The chief of staff has made a slight change on the length of the collar on the male jacket,” Dailey said. “From a design perspective, it’s the right decision the chief made.”

The jacket buttons will also feature an antique finish instead of a brass color, Army officials said.

“The next set of photographs we want to get out to the media, we want them to be accurate” to show the final design, Dailey said.

Before the Army starts issuing the redesigned uniform to the force, the service intends to field 200 sets of Army Greens for a final evaluation.

“We are in the process of being able to produce about 200 uniforms that we want to issue out to designated forward-facing units … and when I say ‘forward-facing units,’ I’m really talking recruiters,” said Col. Stephen Thomas, head of Project Manager Soldier Protection Individual Equipment. “Then, what we will do is get feedback from those soldiers on how to better refine the uniform so that when we go to final production … we have a comprehensive uniform design that soldiers like.”

Officials from Program Executive Office Soldier said the process should be complete by summer 2019.

“This is a great day to be a solder,” Dailey said. “As I go around and have talked to soldiers in the last few days … they are very excited about it, and the overwhelming majority are just truly excited about the new uniform.”

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

Articles

These ladies attend every funeral at Arlington so no one is buried alone

Arlington National Cemetery averages upwards of 30 funerals per day.

Present at every one of those is a woman escorted by a member of the service honor guard who bows to the grieving, hands them two notes, and is escorted away.

Air Force F-117 Nighthawks can still be seen around the US

The notes include an official one from the service Chief of Staff and his wife – and a handwritten note from the woman herself.

She is what’s known as an “Arlington Lady,” officially representing the Chief of Staff and dedicated to the families of those who served. She’s not there to grieve, but to honor the fallen.

Since 1948, these ladies have attended every military funeral at Arlington to ensure that “no Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Coast Guardsman is buried alone.”


Air Force F-117 Nighthawks can still be seen around the US
Army Arlington Lady Anne Lennox and her Old Guard escort salute as Taps is played and Brig. Gen. Henry G. Watson, the “father of the Fife and Drum Corps,” is laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery, May 14, 2014. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Cody W. Torkelson)

After World War II, Air Force Gen. Hoyt Vandenberg would attend Arlington funeral services with his wife. The general noticed that many of the funerals were attended only by a chaplain. According to Arlington’s website, the Vandenbergs formed a group to ensure a member of the Air Force was present at every airman’s funeral.

Slowly, the other branches caught on, creating their own groups. Army Gen. Creighton Adams’ wife Julia started the Army’s in 1973. The Navy started in 1985 and the Coast Guard in 2006.

The Marines have always sent an official representative of the Marine Commandant to every funeral of a Marine or retired Marine.

“It doesn’t matter whether we are burying a four-star general or a private,” Margaret Mensch, head of the Army ladies, told NBC News. “They all deserve to have someone say thank you at their grave.”

Air Force F-117 Nighthawks can still be seen around the US

Mensch is married to a retired Army colonel. Many of the Arlington Ladies she organizes are also the spouses of veterans and soldiers.

Some of her ladies joined the Arlington Ladies after being visited by one, because they know first hand the crucial the role these women played when their own husbands died.

Joyce Johnson joined the Army Arlington Ladies in 2004. She lost her husband, Lt. Col. Dennis Johnson in the September 11, 2001, attack on the Pentagon.

“It was a way I felt I could honor my husband,” she told Soldiers Magazine. “I just wanted to help make someone else’s life better so I asked to join the Arlington Ladies. … It’s really an honor to be able to do this.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

PBS Memorial Day Concert to air May 24, 2020

Capital Concerts announced that a special presentation of the NATIONAL MEMORIAL DAY CONCERT, hosted by Tony Award-winner Joe Mantegna and Emmy Award-winner Gary Sinise, will air on PBS and feature new performances and tributes filmed around the country to honor all of our American heroes.

Due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the traditional live concert on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol will not be held – to ensure the health and safety of all involved.

The special 90-minute presentation of the NATIONAL MEMORIAL DAY CONCERT will air on Sunday, May 24, 2020, as a celebration to the heroes currently fighting COVID-19. This year marks its 31st year as a way to honor and remember our troops, Veterans, wounded warriors, all those who have given their lives for our nation and their families.


“In this unprecedented time, when the nation needs it most, we will bring Americans together as one family to honor our heroes,” said Executive Producer Michael Colbert. “This has been the mission of the NATIONAL MEMORIAL DAY CONCERT for 30 years, and we look forward to sharing stories and music of support, hope, resilience, and patriotism.”

America’s national night of remembrance will feature new appearances and performances by distinguished American statesman, including: General Colin L. Powell, USA (Ret); Tony, Emmy and Grammy winner and two-time Oscar nominee, Cynthia Erivo; world-renowned four-time Grammy Award-winning soprano superstar Renée Fleming; country music star and Grammy-nominated member of the Grand Ole Opry, Trace Adkins; Grammy Award-winning gospel legend CeCe Winans; Tony Award-winning Broadway star Kelli O’Hara; Tony Award-nominated actress Mary McCormack; members of the National Symphony Orchestra under the direction of top pops conductor Jack Everly; and a special message from General Mark A. Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Broadway and television star Christopher Jackson will open the show with a performance of the national anthem. The broadcast will also feature performances from previous concerts by Academy Award-nominated actor Sam Elliott; Oscar nominee and Emmy and Tony-Award winner Laurence Fishburne; and actor/producer/director Esai Morales.

Woven throughout the program will be messages of thanks and support from prominent guest artists for active-duty military, National Guard and Reserve and their families, Veterans, and Gold Star families; the messages include gratitude for for first responders, doctors, nurses, grocery clerks, truck drivers, postal workers – all those who are on the front lines, putting their lives at risk now in the fight against this virus.

Hosts Joe Mantegna and Gary Sinise will also share several powerful segments that highlight stories of generations of ordinary Americans who stepped forward and served our country with extraordinary valor in its most challenging times.

The NATIONAL MEMORIAL DAY CONCERT airs on PBS Sunday, May 24, 2020, from 8:00 to 9:30 p.m. E.T., as well as to our troops serving around the world on the American Forces Network. The concert will also be streaming on Facebook, YouTube and www.pbs.org/national-memorial-day-concert and available as Video on Demand, May 24 to June 7, 2020.

Other participants

Also participating in new and some past selected performances are members from the U.S. Army Herald Trumpets, the U.S. Army Chorus, the U.S. Army Voices and Downrange, the Soldiers’ Chorus of the U.S. Army Field Band, the U.S. Navy Band Sea Chanters, the U.S. Air Force Singing Sergeants, and Service Color Teams provided by the Military District of Washington, D.C.

The program is a co-production of Michael Colbert of Capital Concerts and WETA, Washington, D.C. Executive producer Michael Colbert has assembled an award-winning production team that features the top Hollywood talent behind some of television’s most prestigious entertainment awards shows, including the ACADEMY AWARDS, GRAMMY AWARDS, COUNTRY MUSIC AWARDS, TONY AWARDS, and more.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This was the greatest artillery exchange of the Civil War

The Civil War was a revolutionary conflict for the planet with steam power, repeating rifles, and improved cannons all changing the face of warfare. European powers sent observers to see how battles were fought, and how the rules of combat evolved as the conflict wore on.


Air Force F-117 Nighthawks can still be seen around the US

A cannon sits on Powers Hill at Gettysburg National Military Park.

(National Park Service)

This changing industrial warfare led to butchery on a grand scale. There are a lot of ways to measure the war, but one of the greatest artillery exchanges of the war was an almost two-hour duel at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, that, tragically for the Confederate infantrymen, immediately preceded Pickett’s Charge but failed to dislodge the Union guns.

The exchange came on the morning of July 3, 1863. Two days earlier, on July 1, Confederate scouts had pushed against Union forces near the crossroads at the center of the small town of Gettysburg. Neither side’s generals had chosen the ground, but they both reinforced their men in contact and stumbled into one of the most iconic and deadly battles of the war.

On July 2, Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee attacked Union positions on hilltops near the city, attempting to push them off the high ground before more Union reinforcements arrived. Confederate troops were in Union territory, and the balance of power would shift against them more and more the longer the battle wore on.

Air Force F-117 Nighthawks can still be seen around the US

Civil War reenactors play as Confederate artillery crews in 2008.

(Daniel Schwen, CC BY-SA 4.0)

The July 2 attacks were fierce, and Union forces suffered heavy losses and ran low on ammo in some positions. On Little Round Top, for example, Union forces barely survived by launching a bayonet charge down the hill after most of the men ran out of shot, leaving them vulnerable to a Confederate assault.

By July 3, it was clear that Lee’s invasion of the north would have to either succeed on this day or likely fail altogether. The Union troops, on the other hand, despite some missteps, had improved their positions, and it would take great skill and a bit of luck to dislodge them.

Union forces under Maj. Gen. George Meade were arrayed on a series of ridges, and attackers were able to push Confederate troops out of a nearby field in the early hours of the morning. In a bid to re-seize the initiative and soften Union defenses in the early afternoon, Lee ordered a massive artillery bombardment of the Union troops, focused on Seminary and Cemetery ridges where he hoped to attack and pierce the lines.

Battle of Gettysburg – The Artillery Duel

www.youtube.com

The total number of guns on each side was similar. A Civil War Trust map of the artillery positions shows 126 Confederate guns and 128 Union guns covering the battlefield, with over 50 Union guns either on Cemetery Ridge or immediately adjacent to it. A HistoryNet count of the weapons engaged pegs it at 150 Confederate guns that took part against 75 Union guns.

When the afternoon artillery duel began, guns on each side began a disciplined but heavy bombardment of the opposing forces. For over 90 minutes, Confederate artillery tried to pick off Union guns and crews as the men ran back and forth from the caissons and ammo dumps to the guns to keep the rate of fire up. Good crews on either side could fire two rounds per minute. Thousands of rounds crisscrossed the field.

It’s the largest artillery barrage ever in the western hemisphere. The Union leaders ordered many of their crews to cease fire in an attempt to fool the Confederates into thinking the Union cannon crews were broken.

If the Confederate bombardment were successful, it would create a temporary gap in the Union defenses, an area where battered riflemen and depleted artillery crews would be hard-pressed to hold the line while reinforcements were moved in.

Air Force F-117 Nighthawks can still be seen around the US

Union artillery holds its position at the Battle of Gettysburg.

(Alfred Waud)

Lee prepared a massive infantry column, the core of the assault coming from Maj. Gen. George Pickett’s 4,500-man division, with about 10,000 more men coming from other brigades, for an attack directly into the Union center. This would break the Army of the Potomac in half and force Union Maj. Gen. George C. Meade to withdraw or allow his men to be cut apart.

Despite the quiet Union guns, despite the massive infantry column, some of the Confederate generals still believed that the infantrymen could not possibly capture the hill. Lt. Gen. James Longstreet was one of the top detractors of the plan, respectfully telling Lee that he didn’t think 15,000 men existed who could take the hill.

He would be proven right. The Union guns had been mostly sheltered by trees and fortifications during the exchange, and they survived the Confederate artillery attack in good order. Many of the guns on Cemetery Ridge were still in perfect order with ready crews manning them.

The 15,000 Confederate troops faced a march with .75 miles of open ground between the last spot of cover and the first Union defenses. For the entire distance, the Union cannon crews could hit them with balls and shot.

In what would become known as Pickett’s Charge, the Confederates came anyway. The artillery shredded their lines, but still, the Confederates advanced. Units faltered and were slaughtered wholesale on the open field, but the Confederates were undeterred. Fences at the start and end of the march had to be climbed or dismantled under fire, but the Confederates came anyway.

Union troops who had suffered devastating losses the year before at the Battle of Fredericksburg were merciless as the Confederate troops fell, yelling “Fredericksburg” at the fallen.

The Confederate troops did make it into infantry range, once charging at Union lines from only 80 yards away, but Union troops behind stone walls, fallen timbers, or raised terrain slaughtered even these attackers.

In total, Union forces lost 1,500 soldiers. The Confederate losses are estimated to have been over 6,000. The day featured what was, by some measurements, the greatest artillery exchange in Western Hemisphere history. It was an easy contender, by most measures, as the top exchange of the Civil War.

But it had failed to carry the day, failed to achieve its objective.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

How medically-discharged vets can get a disability rating boost

Hardeep Grewal was a 29-year-old Air Force computer operations specialist suffering a mild case of pneumonia when he deployed to Saudi Arabia and a series of other Southwest Asian countries in 2003.

The staff sergeant stayed ill and returned to the United States “looking like a scare crow,” he said. He was diagnosed with asthma, which would require two medications daily for the rest of his life. By December 2004, Grewal was medically discharged with a 10 percent disability rating and a small severance payment.


The Air Force physical evaluation board “lowballed me,” he recalled in a phone conversation on April 25, 2018, from his Northern Virginia home. “They were trying to get rid of people” from a specialty that, after offering an attractive reenlistment bonus, quickly became overmanned.

Grewal promptly applied to the Department of Veterans Affairs for disability compensation and his initial VA rating was set at 30 percent. Full VA payments were delayed until Grewal’s Air Force severance was recouped.

Twelve years later, in August 2016, he got a letter inviting him to have his military disability rating reviewed by a special board Congress created solely to determine whether veterans like him, discharged for conditions rated 20 percent disabling or less from Sept. 11, 2001, to Dec. 31, 2009, were treated fairly.

“I waited like almost two months to apply because I didn’t know if somebody was pulling my leg,” Grewal said. “I talked to a lot of people, including a friend at Langley Air Force Base, to find out if it was legit. He said other service members he knew who had gotten out were saying, ‘Yeah, it’s legit. You can look it up.’ “

Grewal had to wait 18 months but he received his decision letter from the Physical Disability Board of Review (PDBR) in April 2018. It recommends to the Air Force Secretary that Grewal’s discharge with severance pay be recharacterized to permanent disability retirement, effective the date of his prior medical separation.

If, as expected, the Air Force approves a revised disability rating to 30 percent back to December 2004, Grewal will receive retroactive disability retirement, become eligible for TRICARE health insurance and begin to enjoy other privileges of “retiree” status including access to discount shopping on base.

Air Force F-117 Nighthawks can still be seen around the US

Congress ordered that the PDBR established as part of the 2008 National Defense Authorization Act after a mountain of evidence surfaced that service branches had been low-balling disability ratings given to thousands of service members medically separated over a nine-year period through recent wars.

The PDBR began accepting applications in January 2009. So far only 19,000 veterans have applied from pool of 71,000 known to be eligible for at least a disability rating review. All of them were medically-discharged with disability ratings of 20 percent or less sometime during the qualifying period.

A bump in rating to 30 percent or higher bestows retiree status including a tax-free disability retirement and TRICARE eligibility. And yet only 27 percent of veterans believed eligible for a rating review have applied. Indeed, applications to the PDBR have slowed to a trickle of 40 to 50 per month.

For this column, Greg Johnson, director of the PDRB, provided written responses to two dozen questions on the board’s operations. Overall, he explained, 42 percent of applicants receive a recommendation that their original rating be upgraded. Their service branch has the final say on whether a recommendation is approved but in almost every instance they have been.

To date, 47 percent of Army veterans who applied got a recommendation for upgrade, and 18 percent saw their rating increased to at least 30 percent to qualify for disability retirement.

For the Navy Department, which includes Sailors and Marines, 34 percent of applicants received upgrade recommendations and 17 percent gained retiree status. For Air Force applicants the approval rate also has been 34 percent, but 21 percent airmen got a revised rating high enough to qualify for disability retirement.

The top three medical conditions triggering favorable recommendations are mental health issues, including post-traumatic stress, back ailments and arthritis.

Air Force F-117 Nighthawks can still be seen around the US

As Grewal learned, decisions are not made quickly. The current wait, on average, is eight to 12 months, Johnson said. But that is faster than the 18-to-24-month wait that was routine in earlier years.

Also, veterans need not fear that a new review will result in a rating downgrade. The law establishing the PDBR doesn’t allow for it.

Once received, applications are scanned into the PDBR data base and the board requests from the service branch a copy of their physical evaluation board case file. Also, PDBR retrieves from VA the veteran’s treatment records and all documents associated with a VA disability rating decision.

After paperwork is gathered, a PDBR panel of one medical officer and two non-medical officers, military or civilian, reviews the original rating decision. All panelists are the rank of colonel or lieutenant colonel (for Navy, captain or commander) or their civilian equivalents. The board has 34 voting members plus support staff, which is more than PDBR had in its early years, Johnson said.

The wait for a decision is long because of the time it takes to retrieve records, the thoroughness of the review and the complexity of the cases, Johnson said.

About 70 percent of applicants have been Army, 20 percent Navy or Marine Corps veterans, 10 percent Air Force and less than one percent Coast Guard.

PDBR notification letters have been sent to eligible veterans at last-known addresses at least twice and include applications and pre-stamped return envelopes. Grewal said he had moved four times since leaving service which might be why he never heard of the board before the notification letter reach him in 2016.

At some point Congress could set a deadline for the board to cease operations but it hasn’t yet. The board advises veterans, however, to apply as soon as they can. The longer they wait, it notes on its website, “the more difficult it may be to gather required medical evidence from your VA rating process, your service treatment record or other in-service sources [needed] to assess your claim.”

If an eligible veteran is incapacitated or deceased, a surviving spouse, next of kin or legal representative also can request the PDBR review.

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

Articles

This is how US Army uniforms have changed since the Revolutionary War

In the 241 years since the US declared independence from the English in 1776, the uniforms of those serving in the US Army have changed drastically.


Over the years, as the nation grew, uniforms, too, have evolved to fit the times and take advantage of changes in tactics and technology. In some cases, as this paper from US Army History notes, the changes were minor affairs, while in other cases, the look of the US Army was radically changed.

We have highlighted some of the major advancements in US Army uniforms in the graphic below.

Air Force F-117 Nighthawks can still be seen around the US
Business Insider infographic by Dylan Roach

Articles

The world’s most expensive bomber traces its roots to World War II

The B-2 Spirit is the most expensive bomber ever built, with a $500 million fly-away cost that climbs much higher when the RD costs are taken into account. The B-2’s story, though, really starts in World War II – because the B-2 was the culmination of an idea.


Aviation historian Joe Baugher notes that Jack Northrop, the founder of Northrop Aviation, had been pursuing the flying wing since 1923. By 1940, he got a technology demonstrator up.

The next year, the U.S. Army Air Force was looking for a long-range bomber that could hit Europe from bases in the U.S. in the event England were to be knocked out of the war.

Air Force F-117 Nighthawks can still be seen around the US
XB-35. (USAF photo)

Northrop submitted a four-engine propeller-driven design that the Army Air Force designated the B-35. It was to have a range of 8,150 miles, a top speed of 391 miles per hour, and a maximum bomb load of 51,070 pounds. Production versions were to have up to 20 .50-caliber machine guns for defense.

The plane had a difficult development, and fell behind schedule. The Army Air Force, though, saw potential and kept it as a research project. Northrop was asked to develop a jet-powered version known as the YB-49, replacing the propeller-driven engines with eight jet engines. While this increased the top speed to 493 miles per hour, it cut the range down to about 4,000 miles.

Air Force F-117 Nighthawks can still be seen around the US
YB-49 takes off. (USAF photo)

The plane had its share of problems. Keeping the plane steady was very difficult in the best of times, and it was missing targets when it dropped bombs. Then, one of the YB-49s crashed on June 5, 1948, killing all four crew, including United States Air Force Capt. Glenn Edwards.

There were also hot disputes over the plane’s manufacturing. Northrop insisted on having his company build the B-49 and its variants, while the Air Force wanted Northrop to work with Convair, which had designed and built the B-36 Peacemaker and B-32 Dominator bombers. Jack Northrop would later claim that the Secretary of the Air Force had demanded that Northrop agree to a merger of his company and Convair.

Air Force F-117 Nighthawks can still be seen around the US
Photo by U.S. Air Force

Northrop would abruptly retire and sell off his interest in the company he founded. However, shortly before his death in 1981, he was returned to Northrop, where Air Force officials took the extraordinary step of showing him a scale model of what would become the B-2 Spirit. The B-2 would be able to reach operational status in 1997, largely because by this time, the technology to address the stability issues had been developed.

Today, 20 B-2s are in service with the Air Force, and the service plans to buy another flying wing, the B-21 Raider.

MIGHTY HISTORY

These were Britain’s ‘manned torpedoes’ in World War II

You’ve probably heard about Japan’s Kamikaze tactics, and maybe you’ve even heard about Japan’s manned rockets and torpedoes. But, oddly enough, Japan wasn’t the only combatant in World War II that had manned torpedoes. Britain used manned torpedoes and did so years before Japan.


Air Force F-117 Nighthawks can still be seen around the US

A Kaiten Type 10 manned torpedo. Japanese manned torpedoes were a little more “terminal” than British ones.

(Kansai Man, CC BY-SA 2.0)

But there is an important distinction between the two programs. Britain’s manned torpedoes were designed with a focus on getting the pilots back safely after the mission, while Japan’s program was essentially Kamikaze tactics, but under the water.

For Britain, it all started in December 1941. Less than two weeks after Pearl Harbor, Britain suffered its own surprise naval raid on December 19. Two British battleships and a tanker suffered serious damage in the Port of Alexandria in Egypt when large explosions ripped through their hulls from outside.

But the captain of the HMS Valiant had captured two Italian divers just before the explosions, and one of them had asked to meet with him just before the blasts. Coincidentally, they had been detained in the room just above the damage to the hull. So he summoned those dudes again and asked what, exactly, had happened to his ship and the two others. (A fourth ship was damaged by the blasts, even though the Italian teams had only hit three targets.)

Air Force F-117 Nighthawks can still be seen around the US

Two British sailors on a manned torpedo, the Chariot Mk. I.

(Royal Navy Lt. S.J. Beadell)

Four other divers were captured by Egyptian police in the following days, and Britain pieced together how the attacks were carried out. The men had launched from an Italian submarine on a torpedo modified to propel the divers through the water. These torpedoes not only had warheads, but they also had two little seats for the divers.

Basically, imagine a two-person motorcycle, but shaped to fit in a large torpedo tube and propelled by a propeller instead of wheels. Now attach a mine to the front. Or you could’ve just looked at the picture above, but whatever. Let’s keep going.

Britain saw this and was all, “Hey, Brits can be strapped to metal tubes, too! We should strap dudes to metal tubes.” So they developed the Chariot starting in April 1942 and attempted the first manned torpedo mission that October.

Air Force F-117 Nighthawks can still be seen around the US

A British Chariot Mk. 1.

(Imperial War Museums)

The British Chariot Mk. I was about 22 feet long, 3 feet wide, and weighed over 1.75 tons and had a 600-pound Torpex warhead, equal to almost a 1,000 pounds of TNT. The plan was that divers would get onto the torpedo and steer it through the water to a target. Then the divers would remove the warhead from the torpedo and place it on the target ship’s hull with a timer, and then pilot the submersible away.

If all went to plan, the 600 pounds of high explosive would then blow a large hole in the target.

The first Chariot mission failed after the torpedoes were lost at sea as a ship delivered them into range of their target. Their target, by the way, was the German battleship Tirpitz, which would’ve made for an epic combat debut if it had succeeded.

But Britain modified submarines to carry the new torpedo and began sending the Chariot into combat.

Air Force F-117 Nighthawks can still be seen around the US

U.S. Navy SEALs prepare to fly through the water in a SEAL Delivery Vehicle.

(U.S. Navy Chief Photographer’s Mate Andrew McKaskle)

Chariot torpedoes were used against Italian ships, the beaches of Sicily, and Japanese ships in Phuket, Thailand. And, yeah, it turns out those massive warheads do work. Britain even made a new design of Chariot, the Mk. II Terry Chariot, that was faster, had a warhead twice the size, and a larger combat radius.

But if it was so good, why aren’t there a bunch of manned torpedoes zipping around today? Well, there are actually a few. The U.S. Navy has the SEAL Delivery vehicle which is, basically, a manned torpedo that SEALs use to get to targets, but the Navy is looking to can it and get mini-subs instead. These would perform the same mission, but SEALs wouldn’t need to be exposed to the outside water in the mini-subs.

But yeah, manned torpedoes have mostly given way to submersibles and mini-subs because manned torpedoes were really valuable for delivering divers. When it comes to delivering warheads, even during World War II, it made more sense to fire conventional torpedoes.

Today, guided torpedoes make the use of manned torpedoes for explosive delivery completely unnecessary.

popular

This common health concern hits vets more than anyone — but nobody talks about it

Not feeling “in the mood” when your partner is trying to get you there. Erectile dysfunction. Sexual dysfunction.

There are a lot of ways to describe it, but there’s no denying what it is. For many men, sexuality is tied to masculinity — it’s a part of a man’s identity — and not getting there can shake a returning veteran’s confidence at every level.

Despite all of the pharmaceutical ads that make the issue seem like it’s an “old man’s problem,” it hits younger veterans — even those in their 20s — at an alarming rate. It might not make the best dinnertime conversation, but there’s no shame in it. It’s a very real problem for veterans of all ages and it’s something that you shouldn’t avoid discussing with your significant other — or a healthcare professional, at the very least.


This article was created in partnership with hims, a men’s wellness brand dedicated to helping guys be the best version of themselves.

Air Force F-117 Nighthawks can still be seen around the US
Air Force F-117 Nighthawks can still be seen around the US

The loss of confidence in one major aspect could be the catalyst in sending veteran spiraling downwards.

(U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Mauricio Campino)

There are two primary causes of erectile dysfunction: There’s the physiological component that affects blood circulation, preventing it from reaching the right spots at the right moment. This aspect is most common among older men, men who maintain sedentary lifestyles, and those who make unhealthy lifestyle choices — like smoking two packs a day, eating fast food five times a week, and generally avoiding exercise. A gym membership or walking the dog an extra lap around the block can do wonders for that, but that’s a conversation best held between you and a medical professional.

The problem that hits many returning veterans is rooted in psychological trauma — and it’s an often-neglected side effect of post-traumatic stress. It seems pretty obvious when you think about it, right? Nobody wants to think about sex when their mind is still back in the war.

Air Force F-117 Nighthawks can still be seen around the US

And, well, if your mind is here… it’s not in the bedroom.

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew Smith)

Follow our logic here for a little more understanding: If you’re a veteran, think back to your days at boot camp or basic training. Chances are high that you didn’t sport wood a single time during the entire nine weeks. While there, you probably caught wind of some BS rumor about saltpeter being put in the drinking water to prevent it from happening, but the logical side of your brain knew that it was because of the stress you were enduring.

Take that same stress and amplify it by the daily struggles that veterans who live with post-traumatic stress deal with. Of course, the severity of the situation varies. It ranges from just having the occasional “bad night” that a veteran would rather just sleep off to replaying a single tragic moment over and over, like some kind of broken record from Hell.

It’s becoming a little easier to understand how common this issue really is among veterans, right?

Air Force F-117 Nighthawks can still be seen around the US

(U.S. Navy)

Whatever your case, not getting your private to stand at the position of attention really isn’t something to be ashamed of. Have an open dialogue with your significant other. Ask for their patience, their understanding, and their help in getting you to relax — foreplay is a two-way street, after all.

If you’re still having difficulties, don’t be afraid to reach out for help. It’s actually an extremely common thing brought up at the VA and there are plenty of treatment options out there.

If you’re interested in clinically tested medication, you can try the solutions offered by hims for just for the first month. hims will connect you with US-based, licensed doctors online so that you can find the right solution for you from the comfort and privacy of your own home.

And remember, there actually is a rating for ED that can only be brought up by talking to a medical professional.

This article was created in partnership with hims, a men’s wellness brand dedicated to helping guys be the best version of themselves.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

These airmen re-skin lethal F-16 Falcons

Upon entering a room lined with panels and LED lights, described solely as something out of a science fiction movie, people in polar white suits are ready to re-skin a new beast.

The airmen working across two shifts in the work center, paint and renovate the aircraft and equipment assigned to the Air Force’s largest combat F-16 Fighting Falcon wing.


The work being performed on the aircraft is intended to provide a protective finish that prevents damage to the structure and enhance the aircraft’s overall lifespan.

“Our mission here is to remove defective aircraft coatings,” said Tech. Sgt. Ryan Tinsley, 20th Equipment Maintenance Squadron corrosion control noncommissioned officer in charge. “We also inspect for corrosion and reapply coats should the aircraft need it.”

Air Force F-117 Nighthawks can still be seen around the US

Airmen assigned to the 20th Equipment Maintenance Squadron corrosion control paint barn, work on an F-16CM Fighting Falcon at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., Nov. 13, 2018.

Tinsley went on to say the flight helps identify and troubleshoot paint fatigue that may be caused by consistent flights.

Within the facility, a locker room houses the protective gear of the airmen assigned to the 20th EMS aircraft structural maintenance flight.

“When we paint, no matter what we are working on that day, we keep safety in mind at all times,” said Tech. Sgt. Joseph Harris, 20th EMS corrosion control shift lead.

Each job requires the airmen to gear up from top to bottom to prevent any damage or poisoning that could be caused by the exposure to paint fumes.

During the painting process, corrosion control airmen inspect the aircraft for any cracks or wear that may have been caused through various aerial missions.

“Our airmen are the ones out there doing the hard work,” said Tinsley. “They are either sanding or painting anything that may come into the paint barn … they’re the real work horses, they’re killing it.”

With the continued support of these technicians the mission of the 20th Fighter Wing can thrive and allow the pilots to accomplish the suppression of enemy air defenses mission anytime, anywhere.

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Bringing back the original meaning of Memorial Day – with flowers

For me, Memorial Day has always been about more than just picnics and barbecues. I have five members of my family buried in Arlington National Cemetery. The earliest served in the Spanish American War, and all the way to World War II. It’s important that their service be honored and remembered — especially on Memorial Day.

In early May 2011, I was looking for some way to give back to my country. I worked as a flower grower in Ecuador and I had an idea. Memorial Day used to be called Decoration Day. After the Civil War, people would go to cemeteries and decorate gravesites with flowers.


I met with two other Ecuador-based American flower growers, and together we were able to coordinate a massive donation of fresh flowers. I called up the administration at Arlington National Cemetery and said, ‘We’ve got 10,000 roses for you, for Memorial Day.'” And they happily accepted the offer.

Air Force F-117 Nighthawks can still be seen around the US

Memorial Day Flowers Foundation at Fort Logan National Cemetery.

And that was how the Memorial Day Flowers Foundation had its start. Scouts and other volunteers place a flower in front of each headstone. Volunteers quietly read every headstone and note the dates and circumstances. This moment of reflection and remembrance is important. It’s a very personal tribute.

What began at Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day in 2011 with 10,000 roses, has expanded to dozens of cemeteries around the country. Last year, the foundation distributed 400,000 flowers at 41 cemeteries and other Memorial Day observances around the country.

That expansion would not have been possible without volunteers and broad-based partnerships and support. These days, the foundation sources flowers from 80 to 90 farms, including farms in California, Colombia, Ecuador, and Ethiopia.

Since 2013, we have worked with local groups to organize floral tributes for Memorial Day at National Cemeteries and Veterans Cemeteries across the U.S.

Our growth would not have been possible without the guidance and involvement of the National Cemetery Administration. Cemetery directors find our efforts provide a way for the general public to connect with their mission to honor our late veterans and instill an appreciation for the sacrifices they make.

Air Force F-117 Nighthawks can still be seen around the US

Memorial Day Flowers Foundation volunteers prepare roses at the Houston National Cemetery.

We also distribute bouquets of flowers to gold star families attending the TAPS National Military Survivor Seminar over Memorial Day Weekend, organized by the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors.

In 2019, more than 100 cemeteries are participating in the Memorial Day Flowers Foundation’s efforts around the country.

The numbers amaze me every time I look at them. Now we talk about tens of thousands of flowers. We still have a long way to go, before every veteran’s gravesite is recognized on Memorial Day, but we are well on our way to reaching that goal.

I also know the difference just one flower can make. One year, as we gave out flowers on Memorial Day, I handed a rose to an older woman. She thanked me and said, “His father brought me roses the day he was born.” Then she invited me to walk with her to visit her son’s gravesite. And as we stood there together in the hot sun and she told me her son’s story, I knew one flower could mean everything to one person

Placing a flower for Memorial Day to honor a fallen service member or veteran is a quiet tribute; a heartfelt reminder of just what flowers can mean to people — and what it means to honor the sacrifices of U.S. military members and their families. It brings together people from all walks of life to honor those who have served our country and it helps all of us learn more about our history.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.