In a day and age where the United States Air Force has a grand total of 76 B-52H Stratofortress, 62 B-1B Lancer, and 20 B-2A Spirit bombers in service, it’s fair to say the United States’ bomber force is quite potent. That said, there aren’t as many in service as there once were.
One plane that once supplemented the bomber force quite well was the F-111 Aardvark. This was a fast, all-weather strike plane that was originally designed to serve both the Air Force and Navy, much like today’s Joint Strike Fighter. While the Navy version didn’t pan out, the Aardvark, after some teething problems, emerged as a reliable strike asset by 1972.
The F-111 could deliver payload. According to Christopher Chant’s Encyclopaedia of Modern Aircraft Armament, the Aardvark could haul as many as 36 Mk 82 500-pound dumb bombs. By comparison, the B-52 can haul 51 of those same bombs. So, in terms of load, each Aardvark accounted for 70.5 percent of a legendary BUFF.
This F-111 has Durandal runway-cratering bombs loaded. As you can see, it carries a lot.
As aviation historian Joe Baugher noted, during the F-111A’s deployment to Vietnam as part of Operation Linebacker II, each F-111 was capable of dropping the bomb load of five F-4 Phantoms. Not only could the F-111 deliver one hell of a payload, it could do so very accurately due to advanced radars.
This F-111F is being prepared for the April, 1986, strike on Libya.
Three newer models of the F-111 — the F-111D, F-111E, and F-111F — all entered service in the 1970s. None of these variants saw action in the Vietnam War, but saw plenty of action elsewhere. The F-111F played a key role in the April, 1986, strikes on Libya and both the F-111E and F-111F saw action in Desert Storm.
An F-111 drops two dozen Mk 82 500-pound bombs – about half the load a B-52 can carry.
An electronic warfare version of the F-111, the EF-111A, also played a key role in Desert Storm — one even scored a maneuver kill against an Iraqi Mirage F-1!
The Super Bowl is known for a lot of things, but giving out free access isn’t one of them. For military members, veterans, and their families, the experience might be a little different. USAA, as a financial institution, isn’t just a major partner of the NFL — they’re integral to the league’s Salute to Service every November, and USAA is determined to give its members a chance to take part.
For those who have never been to the NFL’s biggest game, part of the experience is literally The NFL Experience. For days prior to Super Bowl Sunday, the league puts on a huge, open forum featuring player appearances, giveaways, games, food, and fun, along with a chance to kick a field goal, throw a touchdown pass, run the 40-meter dash (or the entire combine), and even play as an actual player through virtual reality.
Even if you don’t have tickets to the Big Game, the NFL experience is only , half that for USAA members. Best of all, military service members get a little something extra from their experience – all for free.
USAA has its own little corner of the NFL Experience called the Salute to Service Lounge, and it’s open to anyone with a Department of Defense or Veterans Affairs identification card. In this special room, attendees can sit, relax, enjoy free snacks and drinks.
Oh, and they get to listen to current and former NFL players talk about their time on the gridiron, answer any and all questions from their military fans, and even pose for photos, sign autographs, and shake hands — all at no cost. They all just want to do the most for the U.S. Military and its NFL fans, and they show it all year long, not just during Salute to Service Month.
Almost all the players who came to visit USAA’s Salute to Service Lounge also teamed up with USAA and other partners to donate tickets to the big game to a service member or their family.
NFL legend Roger Staubach (left) chats with WATM’s own August Dannehl
The 2019 Salute to Service Lounge saw NFL legend and Naval Academy graduate Roger Staubach come by and spend time with fans. Current Falcons Coach Dan Quinn and Atlanta Falcons Guard Ben Garland stopped by the lounge to talk about highlighting the military community and what it’s like to host a Super Bowl without being part of it.
Quinn and USAA teamed up to get tickets to the big game for the family of Marine Corps Pvt. 1st Class Zachary R. Boland, who died in 2016 during training at Parris Island. Garland, a former player for the Air Force Falcons, was this year’s Salute to Service Winner.
Colorado Air National Guardsman and Atlanta Falcons Guard, Ben Garland.
Also visiting the USAA Salute to Service lounge this year (who also visited USAA’s Super Bowl LII Salute to Service Lounge in Minneapolis in 2018) was the Arizona Cardinals’ future Hall of Famer Larry Fitzgerald. This year, Fitzgerald honored fellow Cardinal Pat Tillman during the NFL’s “My Cause, My Cleats” Campaign, which benefited the Tillman Foundation. He has a very close connection to the military, as he comes from a military family and wanted something to reflect his family’s service as well as Tillman’s.
Kirk Cousins answers some fans’ questions at the USAA Salute to Service Lounge
Other visitors to the lounge were Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins, Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey, Denver Broncos quarterback Case Keenum, and former Cleveland Browns offensive tackle Joe Thomas.
These NFL players and the many, many others like them are regular faces at USAA’s annual Super Bowl Salute to Service Lounge. They spend all season honoring military members past and present but make it a big point to show their military fans how much they’re appreciated.
An F-35B carried out a remarkable test where its sensors spotted an airborne target, sent the data to an Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense site, and had the land-based outpost fire a missile to defeat the target — thereby destroying an airborne adversary without firing a single shot of its own.
This development simultaneously vindicates two of the US military’s most important developments: The F-35 and the Naval Integrated Fire Control Counterair Network (NIFC-CA).
Essentially, the NIFC-CA revolutionizes naval targeting systems by combining data from a huge variety of sensors to generate targeting data that could be used to defeat incoming threats.
So now with this development, an F-35 can pass targeting data to the world’s most advanced missile defense system, an Aegis site, that would fire its own missile, likely a SM-6, to take out threats in the air, on land, or at sea.
This means that an F-35 can stealthily enter heavily contested enemy air space, detect threats, and have them destroyed by a missile fired from a remote site, like an Aegis land site or destroyer, without firing a shot and risking giving up its position.
The SM-6, the munition of choice for Aegis destroyers, is a 22-foot long supersonic missile that can seek out, maneuver, and destroy airborne targets like enemy jets or incoming cruise or ballistic missiles.
The SM-6’s massive size prohibits it from being equipped to fighter jets, but now, thanks to the integration of the F-35 with the NIFC-CA, it doesn’t have to.
The SM-6, as effective and versatile as it is, can shoot further than the Aegis sites can see. The F-35, as an ultra connective and stealthy jet, acts as an elevated, highly mobile sensor that extends the effective range of the missile.
This joint capability helps assuage fears over the F-35’s limited capacity to carry ordnance. The jet’s stealth design means that all weapons have to be stored internally, and this strongly limits the plane’s overall ordnance capacity.
This limiting factor has drawn criticism from pundits more fond of traditional jet fighting approaches. However, it seems the F-35’s connectivity has rendered this point a non-issue.
Overall, the F-35 and NIFC-CA integration changes the game when it comes to the supposed anti-access/area denial bubbles created by Russia and China’s advanced air defenses and missiles.
“One of the key defining attributes of a 5th Generation fighter is the force multiplier effect it brings to joint operations through its foremost sensor fusion and external communications capabilities,” said Orlando Carvalho, executive vice president of Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, said in a statement.
“NIFC-CA is a game changer for the US Navy that extends the engagement range we can detect, analyze and intercept targets,” said Dale Bennett, another Lockheed Martin vice president in the statement.
“The F-35 and Aegis Weapon System demonstration brings us another step closer to realizing the true potential and power of the worldwide network of these complex systems to protect and support warfighters, the home front and US allies.”
Compounding the frustration of fans was Kentucky’s elite edge rusher Josh Allen was unexpectedly available at their pick. He was projected as the third or fourth player on many draft boards.
Allen could have made an immediate impact defensively for a team that has already said it was looking to win now and was sticking with Eli Manning as its quarterback for the 2019 season. Instead, they reached for a quarterback that could have been around for its second pick of the first round.
Winner: Jacksonville Jaguars
The ultimate beneficiaries of the Giants’ decision to reach for Jones with the sixth pick were the Jacksonville Jaguars, who were able to scoop up Josh Allen with the seventh pick of the night without hesitation.
The best teams are able to let the draft come to them, and the Jaguars made the right move as the board played out.
Winner: Washington Redskins
Another team that did a great job of letting the draft come to them was the Washington Redskins.
Washington didn’t panic when Jones came off the board early to the Giants. While some teams in need of a quarterback might have attempted to trade up in the draft, the Redskins stood pat at No. 15, and their top guy, Dwayne Haskins, was still on the board.
Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins.
Later in the draft, Washington got aggressive at the perfect moment, trading their second-round picks from this draft and the 2020 draft in exchange for the Indianapolis Colts’ 26th pick, which the team used to select Mississippi State edge rusher Montez Sweat.
Sweat has exceptionally high upside, with teams likely passing on him due to concerns about a heart condition that came up at the combine, but some reports from draft day claimed it was a misdiagnosis. Regardless, Washington got themselves two high values in the first round, one by waiting, and one by jumping into action at the right time.
Winner: Seattle Seahawks
Seattle was another team that mindfully waited for the draft to play out and took the position most beneficial to them.
The Seahawks traded back twice in the first round, first with the Packers, then with the Giants, turning the four picks into a whopping nine selections. Further, they still held on to a late first round pick, which Seattle used to select TCU defensive end L.J. Collier.
Collier was apparently high on the Seahawks’ board entering the night, but the biggest benefit the team has is those extra selections. With Russell Wilson getting a record contract at quarterback, young, affordable players are essential to the Seahawks plan to build around him. The two moves back the team made will go a long way in rebuilding their depth.
Jon Gruden and the Oakland Raiders had a lot of firepower heading into the first round of the draft, but used it questionably.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Louis Briscese)
Dealing away Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper, Gruden had three first-round selections. At No. 4, the Raiders picked Clelin Ferrell — a solid player but rated lower than Josh Allen on many boards. The with their two choices in the 20s, the Raiders nabbed running back Josh Jacobs and safety Jonathan Abram. Both are one of the best players at their position in the draft, and both fill a need for the Raiders, but neither are the type of billboard-topping, jersey-selling superstars many expected.
The Raiders didn’t have an awful first round, it was just fine, but just fine was somewhat below expectations after all Oakland did to put itself in the position.
Winner: Atlanta Falcons
The Atlanta Falcons took offensive linemen Chris Lindstrom out of Boston College and Kaleb McGary out of Washington. While beefing up the offensive line isn’t the most exciting way to spend two first-round draft picks, they immediately boost a weak point that was key to derailing the Falcons season in 2018.
After the Falcons’ Thursday night selections, no man in Atlanta is happier than Matt Ryan.
Loser: Running backs and wide receivers
This year was a rough one for standout running backs and wide receivers hoping to get selected in the first round. All told, just one running back (Josh Jacobs) and two wide receivers (Marquise Brown and N’Keal Harry) were taken on Thursday night, and none were in the first 23 picks.
With plenty of talent still available, there’s a good chance a run of receivers are taken through rounds two and three on Friday night, but the first round was undoubtedly disappointing for skill position players.
Winner: Iowa tight ends
Iowa tight ends were flying off the board.
T.J. Hockenson was taken eighth overall by the Detroit Lions — the highest a tight end has been selected since Vernon Davis in 2006. Then, 12 picks later, Hockenson’s teammate Noah Fant was taken by the Denver Broncos with the 20th pick of the first round.
Skill position players may have had a tough Thursday night, but for the Iowa Hawkeyes, the night was proof that no school in the country produces better tight ends.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Everyone has their favorite piece of issued gear. It doesn’t matter why you love it, you just do. And chances are good that you loved it so much, it got “lost” during your last deployment.
Military people are good people, so I don’t like to use the word “theft.” We’ll call it the usual, “Strategic Transfer of Equipment to an Alternate Location.”
7. IR patches
Do you know which country’s troops are the toughest in combat? The United States. Now, do you know which country’s troops would be the most lethal for U.S. troops to fight? The United States.
Those backward flags worn U.S. military uniforms keep blue-on-blue accidents from happening at night. While in the field, they’re worn on the chest or arm. When the wearer transitions to veteran status, it goes on their ball cap.
No matter which brand you prefer, Gerber or Leatherman, this is one of the most useful things troops deploy with. The range of use is astonishing. You can use it for one of its many on-label functions, like a screwdriver. Or maybe you need to bend the lower receiver on a .50-cal back into place. Or maybe you need to pull some shrapnel out of your battle buddy. The multi-tool is what you need.
In your post-military life, your Gerber is likely to end up constructing Ikea furniture.
5. Gen-III cold weather fleece
Everyone knows a fleece jacket is both comfortable as hell while making you look 20 pounds heavier. The Army’s extreme cold weather fleece has the same problem with the added benefit of being a part of a bigger cold weather system that actually works.
The old issued M-65 field jackets were just like coats, in that you wear them, but they were about as protective as flip-flops.
4. Angle-head flashlights
In the event of nuclear war, two things will survive: cockroaches and your old, angle-head flashlight. These old things are beloved by veterans of many eras. Sure, they update the issued lights, they switched to surefire flashlights, and they even updated the angled heads on some models, but there’s a reason these are so iconic.
You may not have a daily use for a signal light, but chances are good this is in your home or car emergency kit — or even your bug-out bag.
3. The KA-BAR
This one only applies to Marines, but the KA-BAR is pretty much the utility knife. For whatever reason they might need a utility knife, Marines will always say their issued KA-BAR is indispensable. And none of them ever want to give it up at the end of the day.
Not every branch refers to the poncho liner as the “woobie,” but everyone can appreciate how useful this blanket is. It now even has a cult following of troops and veterans who turn their woobies into everything from smoking jackets to snuggies.
If you don’t think the Camelback is an amazing advance in issued military equipment, try to remember what it was like to haul around a canteen on your LBV.
You know what else is great about taking a camelback on a deployment? Or hiking, or boating, or literally anywhere else where you need to carry a lot of water? It doesn’t taste like sh*tty canteen water.
United States Army Air Forces airman Henry Eugene “Red” Erwin, Sr., who was presented the Medal of Honor for his actions in World War II. (Courtesy of Erwin family)
Red Erwin was in such bad shape, suffering from burns all the way to the bone, that then-Maj. Gen. Curtis LeMay put one of his legendary bull rushes on the regulations to get him the Medal of Honor before he died.
The medal was awarded and presented to Erwin within a week of his near-fatal injuries; it’s still believed to be the fastest approval on record of the nation’s highest award for valor.
Staff Sgt. Henry E. “Red” Erwin, the radio operator on a B-29 Superfortress over Japan in April 1945, beat long odds to survive and go home to Alabama, where he was welcomed at the hospital with a kiss from his wife Betty on the only part of his face that wasn’t scalded.
The doctors didn’t think he would see again, but he did. They thought he would lose his right arm, but he didn’t. Following more than 40 surgeries, Erwin would work for 37 years counseling burn patients and advising on benefits for the then-Veterans Administration in Birmingham, Alabama.
He and Betty would have four children. Following his death in 2002, son Henry Erwin Jr., who had become a state senator in Alabama, said his father “embodied all the ideals of the Medal of Honor. He wore them like a well-pressed suit.”
“He was honest, thrifty and patriotic,” the son told the Pentagon, “[and] treated everyone with courtesy and respect.”
There was never any doubt that what Erwin did on April 12, 1945, deserved the Medal of Honor — not among the other 11 crew members whose lives he saved and definitely not for LeMay, then-commander of the bombing campaign against Japan.
As the radio operator, Erwin was also in charge of dropping white phosphorus charges down a chute to signal rallying points for other bombers in the formation to proceed to targets.
On that day, something went terribly wrong with the “willy peter” charge. It either jammed in the chute or went off prematurely, bouncing back up and hitting Erwin in the face. He was blinded, part of his nose was burned off and his clothes were on fire. Flames were spreading through the aircraft.
Despite his injuries, Erwin picked up the white phosphorus charge, still burning at more than 1,300 degrees Celsius, or 2,372 degrees Fahrenheit. He groped and crawled his way to the cockpit, where he somehow unhinged a small desk blocking his way to a window. He heaved the charge out the window and then collapsed.
On Guam on April 19, 1945, Erwin’s entire body was covered in bandages when Maj. Gen. Willis H. Hale, commander of Army Air Forces Pacific Area, presented him with the Medal of Honor. It had been approved by the newly sworn-in President Harry Truman.
LeMay would later tell him: “Your effort to save the lives of your fellow Airmen is the most extraordinary kind of heroism I know.”
Erwin’s story has become part of Air Force lore, but the effort to honor his legacy and preserve it for new generations has taken on a new form to mark the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II.
WWII Hero’s Incredible Medal of Honor Story Now to Be a Movie
His grandson, Jon Erwin, in collaboration with author William Doyle, has written a book, to be published Tuesday, on Red Erwin’s astonishing sacrifice, his life after the war, and the strong Christian faith that saw him through hardship: “Beyond Valor: A World War II Story of Extraordinary Heroism, Sacrificial Love, and a Race against Time.”
In a 1999 History Channel documentary with other Medal of Honor recipients, Erwin said, “I called on the Lord to help me, and He has never let me down.”
Jon Erwin and his brother, Andrew, the director-producer team in a string of successful inspirational movies such as “Woodlawn” and “I Can Only Imagine,” also are at work on a movie about their grandfather.
For Jon Erwin, the book and movie are a way of coming to grips with the meaning of his grandfather’s legacy, which he may not have fully appreciated in his youth.
In a phone interview, he recalled being about six years old when his grandfather took him to the basement and retrieved the Medal of Honor from its display case.
“He let me hold the Medal of Honor in the basement,” but initially said nothing as the young boy tried to grasp what his grandfather was telling him, Jon Erwin said.
Then, Erwin leaned over his shoulder and said only, “Freedom isn’t free.”
The message was lost on him as a boy, Jon Erwin said, and he feels that he never truly comprehended through his teenage years his grandfather’s passion for duty and service.
“I think my generation doesn’t look back enough on the heroism that built this country,” typified by the World War II generation, he said. “I didn’t either. That’s my one lasting regret — that I didn’t take the time to listen.”
Jon Erwin said there is new material in the book, including a stash of letters that his grandparents wrote to each other during the war, interviews with Erwin’s crew members, and a quote from LeMay on his determination to get the Medal of Honor to Erwin quickly.
“I want to pin the Medal of Honor on that kid’s neck before he dies,” LeMay said.
Jon Erwin said his grandmother shared her husband’s general reluctance to dwell on what had happened during the war.
“He didn’t talk about it; that was my husband,” he recalled Betty saying.
‘He Cradled It Like a Football’
Red Erwin was born in Docena, Alabama, on May 8, 1921. His father, a coal miner, died when he was 10. He quit school to join the Civilian Conservation Corps, one of President Franklin Roosevelt’s “alphabet soup” agencies meant to ease the devastating effects of the Depression.
Erwin joined the Army Reserve in July 1942 and was called to active duty as an aviation cadet in the Army Air Forces in February 1943, training as a pilot in Ocala, Florida. He didn’t make it through flight school and later was trained as a radio operator and radio mechanic.
He was assigned to the 52nd Bombardment Squadron, 29th Bombardment Group, 20th Air Force, which left for the Pacific in early 1945.
From Feb. 25 to April 1 of that year, his unit participated in 10 missions against Japanese cities. On April 12, his B-29, called the “City of Los Angeles,” was the lead bomber in a formation on a low-level mission to attack a chemical plant at Koriyama, 120 miles north of Tokyo.
The following account of the mission is based on Air Force historical records, which included interviews with other crew members, Erwin’s medal citation and the interview with his grandson Jon.
Erwin’s job dropping the white phosphorus charge down the chute on the signal of Capt. George Simeral, the B-29’s flight commander, was crucial to the success of the mission. The bombers flew individually to Japan and would await the phosphorus signal to form up on Simeral’s aircraft.
Over the Japanese volcanic island of Aogashima, Simeral barked the order to Erwin, “Now.”
Erwin pulled the pin on the charge, which contained 20 pounds of white phosphorus, and dropped it down the chute.
There was supposed to be an eight-second delay on the charge, giving it ample time to clear the aircraft, but it either went off prematurely or caught in the chute. Erwin was kneeling over the chute when the charge shot back up and hit him in the face.
Erwin said later that he immediately sensed something was wrong as he lit the charge. “I knew that sucker was coming back. I was completely aflame.”
Thick white smoke spread through the aircraft. The charge, burning at 1,300 degrees Celsius, was eating its way through the metal bulkhead.
The navigator’s table blocked Erwin’s path to a window. He clutched the white-hot charge between his right arm and his chest — “he cradled it like a football,” other crew members said — and reached out with his left hand to unlock the table.
Erwin “stumbled into the cockpit, threw the bomb out the window, and collapsed between the pilots’ seats,” an Air Force report said.
“After Red threw that bomb out the co-pilot’s window, the smoke cleared out, and I could see the instruments. And, at that point, we were at 300 feet,” Simeral said. “If he hadn’t gotten it out of there, well then, why we probably would have gone on in.”
Simeral aborted the mission and headed back to Iwo Jima, the closest place where Erwin could be treated. The crew used a fire extinguisher to put out the flames on Erwin’s clothes, but the white phosphorus embedded in him continued to smolder.
Erwin was in agony but never lost consciousness. He kept asking, “Is everybody else all right?”
On Guam on May 7, LeMay asked Erwin what else could be done for him. He asked for his brother Howard, who was on Saipan with the 7th Marine Division.
Screen idol Tyrone Power, star of swashbuckler hits and a Marine Corps cargo pilot in the Pacific during World War II, flew Howard to visit him in the hospital on Guam.
“And so my brother was there the next morning,” Erwin said. “He stayed with me for 24 hours. I couldn’t see him, but I knew he was there and that was a great comfort.”
Erwin received a disability discharge from the Army in October 1947 as a master sergeant.
In a 1986 oral history for the Air Force, he said, “I love the military. Even though I was severely burned, if they had retained me, I would have stayed in.”
Reflecting on World War II, Erwin said, “We had the leaders, we had the logistics, and we had the brave men at the right place at the right time.”
In the business of movie-making, Jon Erwin said that he and his brother try to tell stories that “have the power to uplift and inspire people,” adding that their grandfather’s story is the best example.
“The lessons of Red Erwin inspire us with the ideals of endurance and perseverance,” which can mean the difference between success and failure, he said. “And I’ve found that the people who are successful are the people who can go above and beyond. I learned that from my grandfather.”
Imagine your spouse or family member is deployed on a carrier. Now, imagine it’s during a global pandemic, which has notoriously infiltrated cruise ships, rendering hundreds of passengers ill. Finally, imagine you learn that your loved one’s ship is impacted by scrolling through Facebook and reading a headline.
Unfortunately, this imagined scenario is one military spouse’s reality.
Elizabeth (whose last name we won’t use for personal security reasons) was looking at Facebook, taking a much-needed break from quarantine with her four kids, when she saw a friend (whose husband is deployed with hers) had posted an article by Business Insider that immediately stopped her scroll: “There has been a coronavirus outbreak aboard a deployed US Navy aircraft carrier.” The article states that there have been three confirmed cases of COVID-19 on the USS Theodore Roosevelt – Elizabeth’s husband’s ship.
Her heart sank. “We haven’t heard from them in awhile,” she said in an interview with WATM. “Anytime anything noteworthy happens, communication goes down whether on purpose or by coincidence,” she shared. She immediately got on the phone with other spouses to see if anyone had heard through official or personal channels what was going on.
Communication varied. One spouse got a voicemail from her sailor that he was fine. Another received a quick email saying there were only two cases on the ship, while one other had heard 15 sailors had it. This rumor mill is exactly why comms are shut down, to prevent misinformation for families desperate for an update.
When asked if she was upset she hadn’t heard from her husband, Elizabeth laughed. “Oh, I’m not surprised,” she said. “He’s a team player. I know he would make sure all of his people had a chance to use the phone or email if there was an opportunity to do so before he did. He’s been in for 14 years and he’s been deployed a lot — he’s had almost six years of sea time. Really, this is not even the worst communication he’s had on a deployment. I’ve gotten used to that — nobody has all of the information; you just hope for the best and wait for your family member to contact you.”
But in the meantime, Elizabeth feels the weight of the gravity of the situation.
“I’m trying not to go into panic mode yet,” she said. “It’s the military, you just don’t know, but I hope if my husband was sick, someone would tell me.” Elizabeth also wants to know what protective and preventive measures are being taken. “It sounds like from the article that the sick sailors were medevaced and now it’s just business as usual. But in my mind, the likelihood of it being isolated is very small. They’re on top of each other in close quarters and there are 5,000 of them. They use the same phones, touch the same doors, eat together, share work space. It’s a floating petri dish. I want to know what they’re doing to sanitize. How closely they’re monitoring things. Is someone asking them every day? Are they taking temperatures? Are they really doing everything they can to keep our sailors safe?”
While Elizabeth is worried about her husband, she also has a healthy dose of perspective and a great sense of humor. She’s thankful to be surrounded by family and a community that continues to support her. “I don’t know what I’d do without them,” she said. Elizabeth and her husband have a five year old, three year old and twins who are just one and a half. “We had a lot of time on shore duty,” she laughed. “We got cocky thinking we would have one more and then boom: twins.”
When asked how she’s really coping with four kids in quarantine and a spouse deployed on a “floating petri dish,” Elizabeth took a long sigh but said, “Honestly, I feel like military spouses are better prepared for this than anyone. With military life, we spend a decent amount of time figuring it out on our own. I wouldn’t say this is even the most isolated I’ve ever been. The ‘not knowing what’s going to happen,’ not knowing what the schedule is going to be in a few weeks or months, it’s par for the course for us. I’ve been through the ringer enough times with the Navy, but for a lot of our friends, this is their first deployment. Mostly my heart has been with the ones who haven’t been through this before because I remember how it felt when all of this was new.”
Elizabeth shared the importance of reaching out. “Military community is so, so important. I love that the word encourage literally means to impart courage … that’s who the military spouse community is for me — it’s courage by proxy. The news is full of stories of women who are worrying they might be forced to give birth alone due to coronavirus restrictions, but military spouses have been giving birth to babies without family or husbands there, often overseas, for as long as time. They’ve moved alone, pursued careers alone, overcome all of these obstacles. One of the things you deal with is that feeling of isolation, which is so perfectly themed for where we are in the world right now. But you’re never really alone.”
Elizabeth continued, “It was so hard to hear the news of coronavirus on the ship, but it was so great to be surrounded by so many people who exactly know what we’re going through. There is strength in numbers. We’re not the only family going through this. We’ll be okay.”
On Jan. 25, 2019, officials from Boeing and the Air Force gathered at Everett Field in Washington state to see off the first two KC-46 Pegasus tankers, celebrating with specially made cookies and classic rock.
When the tankers landed at McConnell Air Force Base in Kansas for delivery to the Air Force, it was the culmination of two decades of work, coming after two years of delays and more than $3 billion in penalties incurred by Boeing.
Fire engines from the 22nd Civil Engineer Squadron fire department salute the first KC-46A Pegasus delivered McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas, Jan. 25, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Michaela Slanchik)
In their markup of the 2019 defense budget in June 2018, members of the Senate Armed Services Committee expressed concern about growing threats to “large high-value aircraft in contested environments.”
The Air Force’s tankers allow greater operational availability and range for fighters and bombers, but “these assets are manned and increasingly difficult to protect,” the committee said.
“Given the increasingly challenging operating environments our potential adversaries are presenting, it is prudent to explore options for optionally unmanned and more survivable tankers that could operate autonomously as part of a large, dispersed logistics fleet that could sustain attrition in conflict,” the committee added.
Committee members recommended an extra million in spending on Air Force research, development, testing, and evaluation — bumping the total to .4 million.
A KC-46A Pegasus aerial refueling tanker connects with an F-15 Strike Eagle test aircraft, Oct. 29, 2018.
(US Air Force photo by Master Sgt Michael Jackson)
Those lawmakers are not the first to broach the adoption of unmanned tankers.
Boeing is researching automation for its commercial aircraft, though that is partly an effort to address a protracted pilot shortage affecting commercial and military aviation. Russian aircraft maker Ilyushin is working on a similar project, aiming to develop an unmanned transport aircraft for use remote or difficult-to-reach areas.
In 2016, the Air Force’s Air Mobility Command chief, who oversees tankers and other transport aircraft, said the service was looking ahead to advanced technology for the KC-Z — a tanker that could enter contested areas and refuel advanced aircraft.
But Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said this weekend that the service is no longer looking for at single platforms to address major challenges.
A KC-46A crew member starts to unload cargo at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, Sept. 17, 2018.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt Steven M. Adkins)
“The days of buying individual platforms that we then described as game changers — those days are behind us,” Goldfein said when asked about potentially buying a stealth tanker to support fifth-generation fighters like the F-35, according to Aviation Week.
“There actually are no silver bullets on the horizon,” he added.
The Air Force chief has said the service should look to prepare for a networked battlefield, fielding assets that can connect and share with each other. He returned that theme this weekend, while flying to Andrews Air Force Base.
A KC-46A crew member inspects the refueling boom at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, Sept. 17, 2018.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt Steven M. Adkins)
“I actually don’t know if the next version of tanker operates in the air or operates at low Earth orbit,” he said, according to Aviation Week. “I don’t know if it’s manned or unmanned, and I actually don’t care that much as long as it brings the attributes we need to win.”
That new approach may see the head of Air Mobility Command working on the next tanker in coordination with the Air Force Space Command, which Goldfein said “makes perfect sense to me.”
While the future of the Air Force’s tankers remains open-ended, the KC-46 — of which the Air Force expects at least 36 by the end of 2019 — still has definite goals to meet. Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson, the service’s top civilian official, confirmed this month that the tanker’s wing refueling pods won’t be certified by the FAA until 2020.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Ahhhh! Fall is officially here — even for you stationed in the South, still sweating away the Autumn months. Even if in theory, it’s a time for longer sleeves and cooler weather, and a season where we’re hopeful for regularly scheduled football games. So breathe it in, that crisp fall air, and take a look at some of our favorite fall-centric memes that the military has to offer.
Christmas is a time for giving. Yeah, family and friends share gifts with one another, but the spirit of Christmas is also about giving to those in need. Every year, you’ll find boxes placed by Toys for Tots, waiting to catch donations of new, unwrapped presents from giving, good-willed samaritans. These gifts go toward brightening up a less-fortunate child’s Christmas morning.
Though you might not know it, this gesture of good will is made possible by the Marine Corps Reserves. Since 1995, Toys for Tots has been listed as an official mission of the Marines to be conducted around the holidays.
I know the Marines were there, accepting toys with a smile, but a salty Gunny knife-handing civilians who didn’t donate would arguably be more effective.
Toys for Tots got its start in the winter of 1947, when Diane Hendricks, wife of Maj. Bill Hendricks of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves, wanted to gift a bunch of homemade dolls to kids in need. Diane made the dolls with the hope of giving a happy holiday to some less-fortunate girls — but she quickly realized that there was no such organization to help her help others.
Maj. Hendricks, inspired by his wife’s generosity, gathered his fellow Marine Corps Reservists buddies and placed giant boxes outside of movie theaters across Los Angeles to help attract others to their cause. Off-duty Marines were to accept donated gifts in their Blues and personally thank each donor.
The first Christmas was a massive success. Their small team gathered 5,000 toys and gave them to the children of Los Angeles. It was such a success, in fact, that they were able to elevate the charity to the national level the very next year.
Doing every little bit to make Santa’s job a little easier this Christmas.
Even as the movement gained national recognition, it remained a fairly small-scale operation, done by Marines reservists between drill weekends — but this mission of good will was eating into the time that the Marines needed to spend being Marines.
By 1980, the stipulation that stated gifts had to be “new and unwrapped” was added because the young Marines spent way too much time refurbishing all of the used toys parents didn’t want anymore.
Toys for Tots had grown far bigger far faster than anyone imagined. The Marines knew they needed to expand the program to keep giving toys to children that needed them, but they couldn’t do it at the expense of being Marines. So after 44 years of being an unofficial program of Marine Reservists, they sought official recognition from the Pentagon to keep going. In 1991, The Marine Toys for Tots finally became an actual charity.
So, help out your fellow Marines and donate a toy or two when you see their boxes. It really will go a long way.
This new recognition came with many perks — and one huge drawback. First, it allowed the charity to work with organizations to take on large-scale donations and financial assistance. It also meant that people could now mark off any given resent as a “charitable donation,” which comes in handy just before tax season. New employees, outside of the Marines, could come handle some of the legwork. And, to top it all off, the organization was able to use funds to get needed materials, like boxes and wrapping paper, without the Marines spending their personal money on it.
But this all came in direct conflict with the military’s stance on staying out of the public sector. Despite being a program made by Marines, carried out by Marines for 44 years, and having “Marine” in the title (its full name is the “Marine Toys for Tots Foundation”), the United States military is not supposed to endorse any civilian organization, company, or charity.
This awkwardness needed to be addressed and, in 1995, the Marine Toys for Tots Organization became the one and only organization to earn an exception when Secretary of Defense William J. Perry added “assisting the Toys for Tots” as an official mission of the United States Marine Corps.
“The war began in my front yard and ended in my parlor.” This statement about the start and the end of the U.S. Civil War was spoken by Wilmer McLean and is surprisingly almost perfectly true.
Wilmer McLean was born on May 3, 1814, in Alexandria, Virginia, one of fourteen children. When his parents passed away at an early age, McLean was raised by various family members. At 39, McLean married a widow by the name of Virginia Mason, who had two daughters from a previous marriage. Mason also inherited her family’s 1,200 acre Yorkshire plantation located in Bull Run, Virginia.
Life was peaceful at the Yorkshire plantation with McLean working as a fairly successful wholesale grocer. As tensions mounted between the North and South, McLean, a retired military man (former member of the Virginia militia with the rank of Major) and current slave owner, offered to let his plantation be used by the Confederate army and it was soon put into service as the headquarters for General P.G.T. Beauregard of the Confederacy.
McLean welcomed General P.G.T. Beauregard to stay at his house on July 17, 1861. The next night, July 18, 1861, General Beauregard was sitting at McLean’s dining room table when a cannonball exploded through the fireplace and into the kitchen. General Beauregard wrote about the event in his diary, “A comical effect of this artillery fight (which added a few casualties to both lists) was the destruction of the dinner of myself and staff by a Federal shell that fell into the fireplace of my headquarters at the McLean House.”
Cannons at Manassas National Battlefield Park.
What followed was the First Battle of Bull Run (also known as “The Battle of First Manassas”). Although the Civil War technically started at Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861, besides being the first major land battle of the war, the First Battle of Bull Run is generally marked as the point when the war began in earnest.
During the Battle of Bull Run, the Union soldiers were initially able to push back the Confederate troops, despite the impressive efforts of Confederate Colonel Thomas Jackson — Jackson earned his nickname “Stonewall”, for holding the high ground at Henry House Hill (shown in the background of the picture above). In the afternoon, Confederate reinforcements arrived and were able to break through the Union lines. The Union troops were forced to retreat all the way back to Washington D.C. Their retreat was a slow one, as it was delayed by onlookers from Washington who wanted to watch the battle unfold.
After the First Battle of Bull Run, the McLean household was used as a Confederate hospital and a place to hold captured Union soldiers. The Confederate army paid rent to the McLean family during their stay, a total of 5 (about ,000 today) over the course of the war. McLean also made a small fortune running sugar and other supplies through the Union blockade to the Confederacy.
McLean started to fear for the safety of his growing family when the Second Battle of Bull Run started in 1862. His house and land were in disarray from the war, so he decided to make a fresh start in southern Virginia. After scouring the area, McLean found a nice two story cottage in Appomattox, Virginia about 120 miles south of his home in Bull Run. Here he hoped to stay away from the war and all of the problems it had caused for his family.
The McLean family enjoyed a few years of peace and quiet in this way, but in 1865 McLean found the Civil War at his front steps once again with the Battle of Appomattox Court House started on the morning of April 9, 1865.
Prior to this battle, General Robert E. Lee was forced to abandon the Confederate state capital of Richmond, Virginia after the Siege of Petersburg. Heading west, Lee hoped he would be able to connect with Confederate troops in North Carolina. The Union troops pursued Lee and his forces until they were able to cut off the Confederate retreat. Lee then made his final stand at Appomattox Court House and was forced to surrender as his troops were overwhelmingly outnumbered, four to one.
General Robert E. Lee.
A messenger sent to McLean informed him of the Confederates intentions to surrender and asked him to find a location where the surrender could take place. On the afternoon of April 9, Palm Sunday, General Robert E. Lee met with Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant in McLean’s parlor to officially surrender. The terms of the surrender were generous to Lee and his army: none of his soldiers were to be held for treason or imprisoned; his men could take their horses home for spring planting; and the starving Confederate troops received food rations.
While this time around McLean’s house didn’t get partially blown up, after the Confederates surrendered, Union soldiers started taking tables, chairs, and any other household items from McLean as souvenirs to remember this historic event. A few soldiers gave McLean money as he protested the theft of his household items. For instance, the table that General Lee signed the surrender document on was purchased by General Edward Ord for (about 00 today).
In the days that followed the surrender, the McLean house was used as the headquarters for Major General John Gibbon of the United States Army. It was also at this time that local civilians started visiting the house… and taking any part of the home that they could get their hands on. McLean did manage to continue to make some money off of this for a time, selling many items supposedly in the house during the signing; he reportedly sold enough items in this way “to furnish an entire apartment complex”.
General Lee was offered the position of the head of the Union army by Abraham Lincoln, but decided to lead the Confederate army instead as he couldn’t bring himself to lead troops against his native Virginia. Despite the Confederates being vastly outnumbered and not as well equipped as the North, Lee and his right hand man, Stonewall Jackson, managed to post victory after victory against the North, primarily due to Lee’s brilliance, Jackson’s audacity, and the North’s moronic and sometimes timid Generals.
Albert Woolson was the last known person to die who fought in the Civil War, living all the way until August 2, 1956. He was a member of the Union Army.
Joshua L. Chamberlain was the last Civil War soldier to die of wounds incurred in the Civil War, managing to live until 1914 with lingering health problems from wounds inflicted during the war. He also has the distinction of being one of the few soldiers to be battlefield promoted to General.
It is estimated that during the First Battle of Bull Run, there were 4,700 total casualties during this battle, 2,950 for the Union and 1,750 for the Confederacy.
Even though McLean made some money during the war by renting out his house and much more running sugar for the Confederacy, he had little to show for it after the war. McLean was paid entirely in Confederate notes — a currency that no longer existed after the fall of the Confederacy. In 1865, his house was foreclosed on for ,060 (about ,000 today).
After losing the house and having very little money to his name, McLean moved his family back the Alexandria, Virginia. There McLean lived out the rest of his life as an IRS auditor. He retired at the age of 66 and passed away two years later.
The McLean cottage in Appomattox lay in ruins until Congress bought the house in 1930 and rebuilt it. The Appomattox house became a tourist site starting in 1949. Today, McLean’s Yorkshire plantation no longer remains but there is a historic marker where it once stood.
1 in 13 veterans of the Civil war became amputees because of the war.
During the American Civil War, the Union soldiers blocked many supply lines to the Confederacy. Due to this, there were mass shortages of a variety of things. One such shortage that resulted was that newspaper offices ran out of paper. Instead, some took to using wallpaper to print their newspapers (this was not ripped from parlor walls as some books mistakenly state, but rather new rolls of wallpaper that were available). Some editions of the Confederate papers were even printed on other substitutes like brown wrapping paper, blue ledger paper, and even tissue paper.
This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.
From fighting pirates in the First Barbary War of 1801 to seizing the Kandahar International Airport in 2001 and beyond, Marine Corps infantrymen have been fighting and winning our nation’s battles for more than 200 years.
Known as “grunts,” infantrymen receive specialized training in weapons, tactics, and communications that make them effective in combat. And while many things have changed for grunts over time, they continue to carry on the legacy that was forged from the “small wars” to the “Frozen Chosin” to the jungles of Vietnam.
After more than a decade of war following the 9/11 attacks, many grunts have deployed to combat …
… In Iraq, where they earned their place in history at Nasiriyah, Najaf, and Fallujah (shown here), and many others.
While others deployed to Afghanistan, into the deadly Korengal Valley …
… Or more recently to Marjah, in Helmand Province.
But before infantrymen join their units, they need to complete initial training. For enlisted Marines, that means going to the School of Infantry, either at Camp Pendleton, California or Camp Geiger, North Carolina.
For officers, their training at Infantry Officer Course in Quantico, Va. involves both tactics and weapons, along with a more intense focus on how to lead an infantry platoon.
While most enlisted grunts become 0311 riflemen, others receive more specialized training, like 0331 machine-gunners, which learn the M240 machine gun (shown here), the MK19 grenade launcher, and the M2 .50 cal.
0341 Mortarmen learn how to operate the 60 mm (shown below) and 81 mm mortar systems, which help riflemen with indirect fire support when they need a little bit more firepower.
0351 Assaultmen learn basic demolitions, breaching, and become experts in destroying bad guys with the SMAW rocket system. The Shoulder-launched Multipurpose Assault Weapon (SMAW) is shown below.
Packing even more punch that’s usually vehicle-mounted, 0352 Anti-tank missilemen learn their primary M41 SABER (below) heavy anti-tank weapon and the Javelin, a medium anti-tank weapon.
Some more experienced infantrymen go into specialized fields, such as Reconnaissance or snipers (below).
Always present is a focus on mission accomplishment, and to “keep their honor clean” — to preserve the legacy of the Corps …
… That grunts are proud of. Always remembering heroics from the Chosin Reservoir Marines in Korea …
… To those who fought in Vietnam jungles, or the storied battles of Hue and Khe Sanh.
Since Vietnam, grunts have been repeatedly been called upon for minor and major engagements, such as Operation Desert Storm in 1991 and Operation United Shield in Somalia in 1995 (below).
Luke Skywalker may have claimed the Millennium Falcon was a “piece of junk” when he first saw it (even though it could, you know, make point-five past lightspeed) — but he probably wouldn’t be saying that about United Airlines’ shiny new Boeing 737-800.
To celebrate the December 2019 theatrical release of “The Rise of Skywalker,” billed as the last film in the nine-film Skywalker saga, the airline has launched a special “Star Wars”-themed plane — and though it can’t travel at lightspeed, it does look pretty spiffy, or at least nothing at all like the heavily modified ship of a certain scruffy-looking nerf herder (sorry, Han Solo).
The plane made its first flight earlier this month, from Houston to Orlando, Florida. Though there were plenty of evil First Order stormtroopers on hand, thankfully no one was taken away for questioning by Kylo Ren.
Here’s what the plane is like inside.
The “Dark Side” portion of United Airlines’ new “Star Wars”-themed plane.
The “Light Side” portion of United Airlines’ new “Star Wars”-themed plane.
Exterior detail on United Airlines’ new “Star Wars”-themed plane.
Exterior details on United Airlines’ new “Star Wars”-themed plane.
Headrests with the symbol of the Resistance on United Airlines’ new “Star Wars”-themed plane.
Headrests with the logo of the First Order on United Airlines’ new “Star Wars”-themed plane.
Amenity kits on United Airlines’ new “Star Wars”-themed plane.
First Order stormtroopers aboard United Airlines’ new “Star Wars”-themed plane.
A First Order stormtrooper confronting a passenger, presumably asking to see some identification.
First Order stormtroopers in the terminal.
First Order stormtroopers at the airport in Orlando, Florida.
The droid BB-8 at the maiden launch of United Airlines’ new “Star Wars”-themed plane.
The United Airlines “Star Wars”-themed plane as seen on Flight Aware.
United Airlines’ “Star Wars”-themed plane.
Rear detailing on United Airlines’ new “Star Wars”-themed plane.
United Airlines’ new “Star Wars”-themed plane.
The tail of United Airlines’ new “Star Wars”-themed plane.
This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.