America's crazy flying aircraft carriers could have actually worked - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

America’s crazy flying aircraft carriers could have actually worked

As the United States shifts its posture away from ongoing counter-terror operations and back toward great power competition with nations like China, the U.S. is being forced to reassess it’s aircraft carrier force projection strategy. If U.S. carriers find themselves on the sideline for such a conflict, it may be worth revisiting the idea of a different kind of aircraft carrier: the flying kind.

China’s arsenal of hypersonic anti-ship missiles have created an area denial bubble that would prevent American carriers from sailing close enough to Chinese shores to launch sorties, effectively neutering America’s ability to conduct offensive operations against the Chinese mainland. Without the ability to leverage the U.S. Navy’s attack aircraft, combat operations in the Pacific would be extremely difficult. It is, however, possible (though potentially impractical) to develop and deploy flying aircraft carriers for such a conflict–the United States has even experimented with the concept a number of times in the past, and is continuing to pursue the idea today.

Gremlins air vehicle during a flight test at Dugway Proving Ground, Utah, November 2019 (DARPA)

DARPA’s Gremlins Program

The most recent iteration of a flying aircraft carrier comes from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, and has seen testing successes as recently as January of this year.

In January, DARPA successfully launched a Dynetics’ X-61A Gremlin UAV from the bay of a Lockheed Martin C-130A cargo aircraft. The program is aiming to demonstrate the efficacy of low-cost combat-capable drones that can be both deployed and recovered from cargo planes. DARPA envisions using cargo planes like the C-130 to deploy these drones while still outside of enemy air defenses; allowing the drones to go on and engage targets before returning to the airspace around the “mother ship” to be recaptured and carried home for service or repairs.

The test showed that a drone could be deployed by the C-130, but the drone itself was ultimately destroyed when its parachute failed to open after the completion of an hour-and-a-half flight. A subsequent test that would include drone capture was slated for the spring of this year, but has likely been delayed to due to the outbreak of COVID-19.

Between the success of this test and other drone wingman programs like Skyborg, the concept of a flying aircraft carrier has seen a resurgence in recent years, and may potentially finally become a common facet of America’s air power.

The plan to turn a Boeing 747 into a flying aircraft carrier

The Boeing 747 has already secured its place in the pantheon of great aircraft, from its immense success as a passenger plane to its varied governmental uses like being a taxi for the Space Shuttle or as a cargo aircraft. The 747 has proven itself to be an extremely capable aircraft for a wide variety of applications, so it seemed logical when, in the 1970s, the U.S. Air Force began experimenting with the idea of converting one of these large aircraft into a flying aircraft carrier full of “parasite” fighters that could be deployed, and even recovered, in mid-air.

Boeing AAC design sketch

Initial plans called for using the massive cargo aircraft Lockeed C-5 Galaxy, but as Boeing pointed out at the time, the 747 actually offered superior range and endurance when flying with a full payload. According to Boeing’s proposal, the 747 could be properly equipped to carry as much as 883,000 pounds.

Sketch of a micro fighter inside a 747 fuselage.

The idea behind the Boeing 747 AAC (Airborne Aircraft Carrier) was simple in theory, but incredibly complex in practice. Boeing would specially design and build fighter aircraft that were small enough to be housed within the 747, along with an apparatus that would allow the large plane to carry the fighters a long distance, drop them where they were needed to fight, and then recover them once again.

This graphic from Boeing’s proposal shows different potential flying aircraft carrier platforms and their respective ranges. (Boeing)

Boeing’s 60-page proposal discusses the ways such a program could be executed, but lagging questions remained regarding the fuel range of a 747 carrying such a heavy payload and about how the fighters would fare in a combat environment. Previous flying aircraft carrier concepts showed that the immense turbulence from large aircraft (and their jet engines) made it extremely difficult to manage the fighters they would drop, especially as they attempted to return to the aircraft after a mission.

Potential “micro-fighter” design (Boeing)

Further concerns revolved around how well these miniature “parasite” fighters would fare against the top-of-the-line Soviet fighters they would conceivable be squaring off with.

Ultimately, the proposal never made it off the page — but it did establish one important point for further discussion on this topic. According to the report, Boeing found the concept of a flying aircraft carrier to be “technically feasible” using early 1970’s technology. Technically feasible, it’s important to note, however, is not the same as financially feasible.

(Concept illustration)

The insane Lockheed CL-1201: A massive, nuclear-powered flying aircraft carrier

The Skunkworks at Lockheed Martin have been responsible for some of the most incredible aircraft ever to take flight, from the high-flying U-2 Spy Plane to the fastest military jet ever, the SR-71. But even those incredible aircraft seem downright plain in comparison to Lockheed’s proposal to build an absolutely massive, nuclear powered, flying aircraft carrier–the CL-1201.

The proposal called for an aircraft that weighed 5,265 tons. In order to get that much weight aloft, the design included a 1,120 foot wingspan, with a fuselage that would measure 560 feet (or about two and a half times that of a 747). It would have been 153 feet high, making it stand as tall as a 14-story building. According to Lockheed, they could put this massive bird in the sky using just four huge turbofan engines which would be powered by regular jet fuel under 16,000 feet, where it would then switch to nuclear power courtesy of its on-board reactor. The flying aircraft carrier could then stay aloft without refueling for as long as 41 days, even while maintaining a high subsonic cruising speed of Mach 0.8 at around 30,000 feet.

The giant aircraft would carry a crew of 845 and would be able to deploy 22 multirole fighters from docking pylons installed on the wings. It also would maintain a small internal hangar bay for repairs and aircraft service while flying. Unsurprisingly, this design didn’t make it past the proposal stage, but the concept itself stands as a historical anomaly that continues to inspire renewed attention to this day.

Convair GRB-36F in flight with Republic YRF-84F (S/N 49-2430). (U.S. Air Force photo)

The B-36 Peacemaker

This massive bomber weighed in at an astonishing 410,000 pounds when fully loaded with fuel and ordnance (thanks to its large fuel reserves and 86,000 weapon capacity). Development of the B-36 began in 1941, thanks to a call for an aircraft that was capable of taking off from the U.S., bombing Berlin with conventional or atomic ordnance, and returning without having to refuel. By the time the B-36 made it into the air, however, World War II had already been over for more than a year.

The B-36 had a massive wingspan. At 230 feet, the wings of the Peacemaker dwarf even the B-52’s 185-foot wingspan. In its day, it was one of the largest aircraft ever to take to the sky. Despite it’s incredible capabilities, the B-36 never once flew an operational mission, but the massive size and range of the platform prompted the Air Force to consider its use as a flying aircraft carrier, using Republic YRF-84F Ficon “parasitic” fighters as the bomber’s payload.

The idea was similar to that of the later proposal from Boeing, carrying the fighters internally to extend their operational range and then deploying them via a lowering boom, where they could serve as protection for the bomber, reconnaissance assets, or even execute offensive operations of their own before returning to the B-36 for recovery.

View of the YRF-84F from inside the B-36 — the pilot could enter and exit the cockpit from within the bomber. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The U.S. Air Force ultimately did away with the concept thanks to the advent of mid-air refueling, which dramatically increased the operational range of all varieties of aircraft and made a flying aircraft carrier concept a less cost effective solution.

Using rigid airships as flying aircraft carriers

Although we very rarely see rigid inflatable airships in service to national militaries today, things were much different in the early 20th century. Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin’s airships (dubbed “Zeppelins”) were proving themselves to be a useful military platform thanks to their fuel efficiency, range, and heavy payload capabilities. These massive airships were not only cost-effective, their gargantuan size also offered an added military benefit: their vast looming presence could be extremely intimidating to the enemy.

However, as you may have already guessed, it was that vast presence that also created the rigid airship’s massive weakness: it was susceptible to being shot down by even the simplest of enemy aircraft. England was the first nation to try to offset this weakness by building an apparatus that could carry and deploy three Sopwith Camel biplanes beneath the ship’s hull. They ultimately built four of these 23-class Vickers rigid airships, but all were decommissioned by the 1920s. The U. S. Navy’s Bureau of Aeronautics took notice of the concept, however, and set about construction on its own inflatable airships, with both the USS Akron (ZRS-4) and USS Macon (ZRS-5) serving as flying aircraft carriers.

The airships were built with an apparatus that could not only deploy F9C-2 Curtiss Sparrowhawk biplanes, they could also recover them once again mid-flight. The airships and aircraft fell under the Navy’s banner, and the intent was to use the attached bi-planes for both reconnaissance (ship spotting) and defense, but not necessarily for offensive operations.

USS Akron (ZRS-4) Launches a Consolidated N2Y-1 training plane (Bureau # A8604) during flight tests near Naval Air Station Lakehurst, New Jersey, 4 May 1932. (U.S. Navy)

The biplanes were stored in hangars on the airship that measured approximately 75′ long x 60′ wide x 16′ high — or big enough to service 5 biplanes internally.

Sparrowhawk scout/fighter aircraft on its exterior rigging (U.S. Navy)

After lackluster performance in a series of Naval exercises, the Akron would crash on April 4, 1933, killing all 76 people on board. Just weeks later, on April 21, its sister ship, the USS Macon, would take its first flight. Two years later, it too would crash, though only two of its 83 crew members would die.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Should you enlist in the military or commission as an officer?

I know a lot of veterans who based their military careers on whichever recruiting office they walked into first. That’s one way to go about signing your life away to Uncle Sam, but it’s not what I would recommend. The military is a major commitment and will probably affect the rest of your life, whether you serve for four years or forty.

The biggest factors that go into your military experience are which branch you join and whether you enlist or commission as an officer. In this article, we’ll be going over some of the differences between officers and enlisted personnel across the five branches of the military.

We’ll cover everything from pay and benefits, mission execution to culture.


How to Join

Qualifications for enlisting in the military:

  • Be a U.S. citizen or resident alien
  • Meet the age and fitness requirements
  • Have a high school diploma
  • Pass the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test

For each branch, enlisted personnel begin their military experience with a form of boot camp. It is a strenuous introduction to military life, from the medical in-processing to the physical training to the hazing discipline. After about eight weeks of boot camp, enlisted personnel will receive their first duty assignments (probably at a job-specific training location) and they’ll be ready to actively serve in the military.

Qualifications for commissioning in the military:

  • Be a U.S. citizen or resident alien
  • Meet the age and fitness requirements
  • Have an undergraduate degree
  • Complete an officer training program

In order to earn a commission into the United States military, officer candidates must complete an officer training program. Two options for cadets without college degrees are to attend a military academy, such as West Point or the Air Force Academy, or to join the Reserve Officer Training Corps while attending the qualified college of their choice.

Academy cadets and ROTC cadets will learn about the military while completing their undergraduate or graduate degrees. Half-way through their studies, they will attend a summer boot camp, much like the enlisted boot camps except that cadets will already be expected to meet physical fitness and academic requirements. For officer candidates, boot camp is the rite of passage that will elevate cadets to the leadership fundamentals portion of their training.

Once academy or ROTC cadets graduate and receive their degrees, they commission into active duty and receive orders for their first assignment, which, like enlisted personnel, will probably include a job-specific training.

A third route to becoming an officer is to complete an Officer Candidate School (or Officer Training School, depending on the branch). Cadets who already have college degrees will undergo a three-month training program that includes military academics and leadership training as well as boot camp. Once complete, OCS/OTS cadets will commission just like academy and ROTC cadets.

Missions

Enlisted personnel make up 82% of the military. They are primarily responsible for carrying out military operations. The remaining 18% are officers, who are responsible for overseeing operations and enlisted personnel.

Officers will have a head-start on managerial experience, commanding personnel at the mid- to senior-level corporate executive level. They hold a commission from the President of the United States, a position that comes with more authority and responsibility.

Enlisted personnel, however, are the subject matter experts. They will have the hands-on application of the mission and as they rise in rank they will also rise in leadership authority and experience. Enlisted personnel are also expected to continue their education while on active duty and many earn degrees and vocational training that can translate to a civilian career after their service.

Mission requirements and experience will vary depending on your military career and assignment location. A career in cyber operations might mean the mission is conducted over the internet, where the officer’s role is to aggregate information collected by enlisted personnel. A career in the infantry might mean that an officer is coordinating weapons and targets as enlisted personnel fight in combat.

That being said, there are certain career fields only available to officers or enlisted. A prime example: Air Force pilots are officers.

Pay Tables

Officers will start out at a higher pay grade than enlisted personnel, though enlisted service members are eligible for a variety of bonuses that can be quite substantial. Officers will also receive higher benefits such as monthly Basic Allowance for Housing. You can see from the charts below, however, that year-for-year and promotion-to-promotion, officers tend to make about twice as much money as enlisted personnel from monthly basic pay alone.

Monthly rate of enlisted basic pay

Monthly rate of officer basic pay

Education

Let’s say you want to serve in the military to help pay for college.

Veterans (enlisted and officer) who meet qualifications are eligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill, a program that will help pay for college classes or an on-the-job training program after military service. The Post-9/11 GI Bill includes tuition and BAH (Basic Allowance for Housing) assistance so it’s a major benefit when veterans transition back to civilian life.

But it’s not precisely equal for everyone.

According to the VA, “If you have at least 90 days of aggregate active duty service after Sept. 10, 2001, and are still on active duty, or if you are an honorably discharged Veteran or were discharged with a service-connected disability after 30 days, you may be eligible for this VA-administered program.”

In other words, after a typical four-year service commitment, the average enlisted veteran will qualify for a paid college degree (and the Yellow Ribbon Program can supplement tuition that the GI Bill might not cover, at a private school for example).

The average officer, however, will not qualify for the GI Bill after a four-year service commitment. Here’s why:

Tuition and fees for the military academies is free for officer candidates. ROTC cadets also compete for varying degrees of scholarships to cover their college expenses in addition to receiving stipends during training.

In other words, most officers receive a college degree and then they serve in the military. If they want to earn Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits, they will have to serve additional time beyond their initial service commitment. Over time, officers accrue a percentage of the GI Bill.

So, if you’re still in high school and you’re trying to decide what you want to do in the military and what career you might want after the military, it could make sense to enlist first and gain professional experience then go to college courtesy of the GI Bill in the field you want to pursue.

As an alternative, you can complete your officer training and earn your first degree, serve in the military and gain professional experience similar to that of mid-level professionals, then either separate after your service commitment and pursue a civilian career or continue to serve longer and accrue GI Bill benefits for your next degree.

There are no wrong options here – it all depends on whether you know what career you want, whether it aligns with your potential military career and what kind of degree or vocational training would support you.

Culture

Officers tend to be older when they join the military, having already obtained their undergraduate degree. They are also trained with an emphasis on leadership and responsibility. Furthermore, active duty officers generally have the option of living off-base as opposed to barracks. For many of these reasons, officers get into less trouble than enlisted personnel while on active duty.

A 2015 Pew Research Center analysis of data from the Department of Defense revealed that 17% of active-duty officers were female – up from their share of 12% in 1990. And 15% of enlisted personnel were female in 2015, up from 11% in 1990.

According to the DoD’s 2018 Statistical Data on Sexual Assault, 88 percent of sexual assault reports were made by enlisted personnel.

Both officers and enlisted make critical contributions to the United States military. Their experiences will vary from location to location and job to job. They will also vary based on their branch. Be sure to read about the differences between each branch of the military to decide which one is best suited for you.

Articles

These are 6 other weapons legal for open carry in the United States

As we all know by now, the Second Amendment protects the right for citizens of the U.S. to bear arms. In 48 states and territories, it is also legal for Americans to carry their weapons in the open, in public, in plain sight. While these “open carry” laws allow users to wear various firearms, it doesn’t allow for all weapons. Some non-firearms are legal for open carry, some aren’t so much.


Depending on where you are in the United States, you’ll want to check the local ordinances before you strap on your other weapons. Seriously, this site is We Are The Mighty, not We Are The Lawyers — so check those laws.

1. Swords – California

In California, any fixed blade must be sheathed. But not only is it legal to openly carry a sheathed sword, it’s the law. Any kind of concealment for bladed weapons is a misdemeanor. Bladed weapons in most states where they are legal to carry, are usually illegal if they’re longer than five inches. Concealed blades, like cane swords, are always illegal.

Just one of the many things wrong with the movie Blind Fury.

2. Religious Knives – U.S. Military and all States

Because Sikh religious practices sometimes require the use of a kirpan, a small sword used in religious practices. Because the bladed weapon is anywhere from three to nine inches long, it can be illegal in most states, but many state courts and legislatures found this violates the Sikh’s religious rights. The U.S. military allows for Sikhs to wear the bladed weapons in uniform.

Also, turbans (photo via The Sikh Coalition)

3. Flamethrowers – Everywhere except Maryland and California

The perfect tool for melting snow and killing insects is now commercially available and legal for open carry in 48 states. Why? Because it runs on good ol’ 87 octane gasoline. Homemade flamethrowers were previously regulated based on the fuel they used. Now nothing can stop you from getting to work in those deep February snows.

Pesky mosquitos!

4. Tomahawks – Not California, Colorado, or Texas

Unless you’re carrying a tomahawk made of wood and stone (in which case you should also be wearing a Native American headdress and traveling with a construction worker, policeman, and cowboy), then a tomahawk is actually a pretty popular weapon. Battle tomahawks are legal to own in most states that allow a fixed blade, except Colorado. Texas prohibits “any hand instrument designed to cut or stab another by being thrown.” In California, you should be on your way to a re-enactment or camping while holding your tomahawk, otherwise the law can give you a headache over it.

But not the same headache you can give them.

5. Battle Axes – Washington State

Washington State Football Coach Mike Leach famously announced he uses a Viking battleaxe for home defense, instead of his firearms. It is legal to open carry any type of weapon in Washington State, so long as it is “not carried in a way that may cause others alarm.”

Time for a kinder, gentler battleaxe.

One trailblazing action group is working on getting restrictions to battle axes lifted in Texas.

6. Ninja Stars – Montana

In Montana, it is legal to openly carry any weapon that is legal to own. So, throwing knives, lightsabers, ninja stars, you name it: anything not expressly forbidden by case law or state legislation is fair game. Go nuts, ninjas in Montana!

Cowboy ninjas rejoice!

MIGHTY HISTORY

Most stressful hand receipt ever: The ‘Little Boy’ nuke

Remember that first time you had to sign for more than $10,000 in gear? Or, hell, even that first real clothing hand receipt when you saw that the military was handing you what they saw as a couple thousand dollars worth of uniforms and equipment, and they could hold you accountable for every stitch of it?

Now imagine signing a hand receipt for a nuclear bomb, the only one of its type in existence in the world at the time.


The Little Boy bomb is prepped on Tinian island for insertion into the Enola Gay’s bomb bay.

(U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

America had learned in 1939 of German efforts to weaponize the power of nuclear energy from just years before. Experiments in 1935 and 1938 had proven that uranium, when bombarded with neutrons, underwent the process of fission. Scientists had argued about whether a sustained nuclear reaction could be created and, if so, if it could be used for the industry or war.

It may sound odd today, but there was plenty of reason to suspect that nuclear fission was useless for military designs. No one had yet proven that fission could be sustained. But the Roosevelt Administration, understanding the existential threat that fascism and the Third Reich posed to the rest of the world, decided it couldn’t wait and see if German efforts came to fruition.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt created the Advisory Committee on uranium and quickly funded research into nuclear chain reactions.

The USS Shaw explodes in Pearl Harbor during the Dec. 7, 1941, attack.

(U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

The group would go through two name changes and multiple reorganizations as the scientific research progressed. While America was bombed at Pearl Harbor and entered the war, America’s scientists kept churning away at the problem of how to enrich uranium and create “the bomb.”

But in that same month, Germany shelved its own plans to create a nuclear bomb, opting instead to dedicate its best scientists and most of its research funds into rocket and jet research. Germany had been at the forefront of research, but would now essentially cease progress.

America, unaware that none of its rivals were still developing the bomb, pressed ahead, dedicating vast resources to gathering, enriching, and testing uranium and plutonium. This would eventually result in material dedicated to one uranium device and a number of plutonium ones.

The Trinity explosion was the first human-controlled nuclear explosion in history.

(U.S. Department of Energy)

The first nuclear explosion took place on July 16, 1945, in the deserts of New Mexico. The Trinity test used a plutonium implosion to trigger the blast. The Trinity “Gadget” was tested because America was having better luck gathering and preparing plutonium for use, but wasn’t sure the design would actually work.

It did, releasing as much energy as 21,000 tons of TNT from only 14 pounds of plutonium.

But at the same time, the nuclear elements of the Little Boy device were already headed across the Pacific on the USS Indianapolis. Of course, this being the military, there was a form for shipping dangerous materials, and the form specifically tells users to avoid remarks that would make the document classified.

An Army form shows the transfer of materials for components of the Little Boy bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan.

(U.S. Army Heritage Education Center)

This resulted in a “Receipt of Material” form describing “Projectile unit containing…kilograms of enriched tuballey at an average concentration of ….” Hopefully, if the form ever had fallen into Japanese hands, they would’ve been smart enough to suspect something was amiss when famous physicist and member of the Secretary of War’s staff Dr. Norman F. Ramsey was signing over a single bomb to Army Brig. Gen. Thomas Farrell.

Not the way most bombs units are transferred to the Pacific, we’d wager.

The materials were transported to Tinian Island where they were used to assemble the “Little Boy” bomb which, at the time, was the only uranium bomb that had ever existed. Capt. William Parsons, the Enola Gay’s weaponeer and commander, signed for the bomb and was in charge of verifying that it was returned to the base or expended in combat.

An atomic cloud rises over Hiroshima after the Little Boy bomb was dropped.

(509th Operations Group)

On Aug. 6, 1945, the Enola Gay dropped the bomb at approximately 8:15 on the city of Hiroshima, Japan. Parsons, seemingly consulting his watch while it was still set to time on Tinian Island, wrote: “I certify that the above material was expended to the city of Hiroshima, Japan at 0915 6 Aug.”

It’s one of the most mundane ways possible of annotating the destruction of a city, but it satisfied the requirements of the form. Over the ensuing years, Farrell got notable members of the mission and the Manhattan project to sign the form, creating the most-stacked piece of nuclear memorabilia likely in existence.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How D-Day would go down today

The invasion of Normandy, known today as D-Day, was one of the seminal moments of history. It was a massive operation that included airborne drops, amphibious assaults, and a host of other missions. The fact that all of these moving parts were orchestrated using the (relatively) primitive technology of the time is an amazing accomplishment — one that culminated in a decisive victory for Allied forces.

But how would it all go down if it happened today?


While the use of paratroopers would be similar to that of D-Day, today’s transports can deliver a lot more than just troops.

(US Army)

The overnight airborne drop

The airborne operation as part of a hypothetical, modern-day Normandy Invasion would be fairly similar to that of World War II. We’d still have paratroopers make their jump in the middle of the night, but there’d be a few key differences. Firstly, we’ve gotten a little better at putting paratroopers where they aught to be — this means more troop concentration and fewer “Little Groups of Paratroopers.”

Secondly, today’s paratroopers can drop alongside HMMWVs equipped with heavy firepower, like the M2 machine gun, the Mk 19 automatic grenade launcher, and the BGM-71 TOW missile. Additionally, each soldier now has either a M72 Light Anti-tank Weapon or the M136 AT-4.

Today’s bombardment would intelligently target Nazi positions using advanced systems, like the Joint Direct Attack Munition.

(USAF)

The pre-attack bombardment

On D-Day, five battleships, including USS Nevada (BB 36), provided fire support for the massive operation. America no longer has any battleships in service. Today, the biggest guns would be on the Zumwalt-class destroyers, which can launch a variety of munitions.

However, the real heavy lifting would be done by Joint Direct Attack Munitions on the fortifications. On D-Day, Allied forces dropped a lot of bombs and fired a lot of heavy shells towards the Nazis in hopes of hitting something vital. Since then, our aim has improved. JDAMs can hit within 30 feet of an aimpoint. Laser-guided bombs are even more accurate.

On the morning of D-Day, the first wave of the attack could very well be helicoptered by CH-53E Super Stallions.

(Photo by FOX 52)

The amphibious assault

Perhaps the most iconic element of D-Day was the amphibious landings. Higgins boats hit the shores en masse and under extremely heavy fire as Allied troops spilled out and onto the sand. Today, we’d likely use helicopters to get behind initial defenses. Heli-borne assaults would likely take place overnight, focusing on key objectives, like Pegasus Bridge.

At this stage, Apache and Cobra helicopter gunships would provide covering fire, using AGM-114 Hellfire missiles to knock out — or at least suppress — any German positions that survived the precision-guided munitions.

A-10 Thunderbolts will roam behind the beach, bombing targets or dropping CBU-89 GATOR mines to tie up German reinforcements.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Matthew Bruch)

Past the beach

All throughout a modern D-Day, there’d be deeper strikes. Aircraft like the F-15E Strike Eagle, the A-10 Thunderbolt, the Tornado GR.4, and the B-1B Lancer would be dropping bombs on German units further inland. Some of the bombs would be GATOR mine systems, which are, essentially, air-dropped minefields, to delay reinforcements long enough for American, Canadian, and British troops to consolidate a beachhead.

In short, the Nazis of World War II had a slight chance of stopping the Allies on D-Day. Today, there’d be no stopping it.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How vets kicked out under DADT can upgrade their discharges

On Sept. 20, 2011, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was repealed. The policy served as a sort of compromise between people who wanted to continue to ban gay men and women from serving in the military, which had been the case prior to 1993, and those who felt that Americans should be eligible to serve regardless of sexual orientation.

In other words, until Sept. 20, 2011, service members were punished and even discharged with prejudice for being gay or bisexual. Now, it’s time to restore their honor and give them the benefits they deserve. Here’s how:


82-Year-Old Gay Veteran Receives Honorable Discharge

www.youtube.com

There are several different types of discharges:

  • Honorable — For service members who meet or exceed the required standards of service. An honorable discharge comes with four major benefit programs, including disability compensation and medical care as well as pension programs and education.
  • General — For service members whose performance is satisfactory but is marked by a considerable departure in duty performance and conduct. A general discharge will also come with the benefit programs available to those honorably discharged.
  • Other Than Honorable — The most severe form of administrative discharge, representing a serious departure from the conduct and performance expected of military members. The majority of veterans’ benefits are not available to individuals who receive an Other Than Honorable discharge.
  • Bad Conduct — A punitive discharge that can only be given out by a court-martial. Virtually all veterans’ benefits are forfeited by a Bad Conduct Discharge.
  • Dishonorable — A punitive discharge handed out by a court-martial for the most reprehensible conduct, including sexual assault and murder.

Downgraded discharges not only result in the loss of benefits, they carry with them shame and stigma, as well.

As reported by The Bay Area Reporter, “Advocates for LGBT veterans estimate that roughly 114,000 U.S. service members were “involuntarily separated” from the military due to their sexual orientation between the end of World War II and the repeal in 2011 of the homophobic “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy that barred LGBT people from serving openly in the military. While many of those veterans could likely qualify to correct or upgrade their discharges, just 8% had done so as of 2018, according to a report presented that April at a conference held at the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School.”

Vets can also receive help from non-profit organizations like Modern Military Association of America, dedicated to advancing fairness and equality for the LGBTQ military and veteran community, or Swords to Ploughshares, which provides assessment and case management, employment and training, housing, and legal assistance to veterans.

Veterans are being encouraged to upgrade their discharges to finally receive the benefits they deserve. Veterans can start by reading some of the literature shared by Swords to Ploughshares about what to expect from the process. They can reach out to a non-profit to ask for help and advocacy, or they can go directly to the Veterans Affairs website and apply for a Discharge Update.

Military Life

Why airmen call Chief Master Sergeant Wright ‘Enlisted Jesus’

Kaleth Wright is the incumbent Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force. He is the 18th CMSAF and only the second person of color to hold the rank. In the 27 years preceding his appointment, Chief Master Sgt. Wright (obviously) lead an illustrious career. But in late November of 2016, something miraculous happened.

One day, in a manger, a legend was born. It was nearly Thanksgiving in the cold, far-away land of the District of Columbia when the story of the man who come to be known as “Enlisted Jesus” first took root. On the following Valentine’s Day, Chief Master Sgt. Wright took the helm and, almost instantly, began to rain down blessings upon the world’s greatest airpower.

There are countless reasons airmen shower Enlisted Jesus in praise, but here are three very real, very specific justifications for his quickly-spreading moniker.


Come o’ ye little children

Enlisted Professional Military Education overhaul

Rumor has it that one of the first items on the agenda of Enlisted Jesus was to free up the time and energy of his airmen so that they could better serve this great nation. His first, well-known, crack at freeing up that time? EPME 21.

The new system did not get rid of the requirement, but it did get rid of the Time-in-Service bit that automatically signed up service members according to how long they’ve been in uniform, regardless of rank, and too often stripped them of the chance to attend EPME courses in-resident.

Have you heard of his goodness?

(Air Force Nation)

EPR? Not for E-3 and below!

One of the most dreaded moments in many an airman’s career is Enlisted Performance Review time! Even if you’ve been blessed with a sharp supervisor and have recorded all of your accomplishments meticulously, it’s still going to give you a spike in cortisol. They get easier to do as time goes along, but those first few can be downright scary.

For the supervisor — especially the young supervisor — this time is a fiery trial of skill and fortitude. You have your supervisor, who is getting sh*t from their supervisor, who is getting sh*t from their supervisor, who’s getting sh*t from the 1st Sgt, up your ass to get this done on time, even if you’re early.

Now put together a new supervisor and a green troop. What does this combination yield come EPR? A stressed out, ineffective set of airmen.

Enlisted Jesus decided to kill that noise by removing the requirement for anyone who is promotion-eligible.

But first, let us take a selfie

(Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force’s Instagram)

OCPs

No, Enlisted Jesus likely didn’t make the call to bring the OCP and move away from that sage grey, tiger stripe getup so many of us loathe. Hell, he probably didn’t even have too much of say in that decision at all.

He has, however, been very vocal in support of them and is largely seen as the face and force behind them finally becoming the official duty uniform of the Air Force.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

In first, Air Force flies B-1 Bomber with externally mounted stealthy cruise missile

The U.S. Air Force just proved it can externally mount an advanced stealth cruise missile on the B-1B Lancer for the first time, a step forward in plans to have the B-1 carry future ordnance — like hypersonic missiles — outside of its internal bomb bay.

In the demonstration, carried out by Air Force Materiel Command and Boeing Co., the B-1 carried an inert AGM-158 Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile, known as JASSM, on an external pylon. Then, the aircraft demonstrated its “ability to safely release” a mounted AGM-158 separation test vehicle, according to Air Force Global Strike Command spokesman Lt. Col. David Faggard.

“The captive-carry event is actually not a test, but a demonstration to revalidate the previously dormant external carry capability pre-existing on the B-1,” Faggard told Military.com. “No major modifications were needed.”

He added, “This demonstration may pave the way possibly for the B-1B to carry hypersonic weapons externally.”

Members of the 412th Test Wing’s 419th Flight Test Squadron, Global Power Combined Test Force, carried out the proof-of-concept over Edwards Air Force Base, California, on Nov. 20.

“Adapting a small number of our healthiest B-1s to carry hypersonic weapons is vital to bridge between the bomber force we have today, to the force of tomorrow,” Gen. Tim Ray, head of AFGSC, said in a statement.

Service officials said the demo does not affect its request to retire 17 B-1B bombers in 2021, reducing the fleet to just 44 aircraft in order to better sustain the most viable planes. The service plans to retire the entire fleet by 2036.

Earlier this year, the House Armed Services Seapower and Projection Forces subcommittee said it would allow the bomber retirements as long as the service keeps 24 combat-coded aircraft; lawmakers previously demanded the service keep at least 36 bombers always ready for combat.

“My goal is to have a limited number of B-1s modified to become the roving linebacker of the western Pacific and the North Atlantic,” Ray said.

Some of those missions are already underway: This year, B-1s have been spotted conducting multiple high-visibility patrols in these regions, most notably across the East and South China Seas. In May, bombers from Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota, also held their first-ever training mission over Sweden near the Arctic.

The weapons’ trial “is a true testament to the engineering and operations’ teams who took this idea from concept to rapid test in a short amount of time,” Ray added. He has previously advocated steps to make the remaining bombers even more lethal.

“This is a major step forward in our global precision fires capability and it is important we pursue these technologies to remain ahead of our competitors,” he said.

Treaty Constraints

The external hardpoints on the B-1B were once built to carry nuclear-tipped cruise missiles — a mission the long-range aircraft no longer has. The conversion process to make the B-1 non-nuclear began under the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, with the final conversion taking place in 2011.

While the external carriage demonstration reactivates the original design and inherent capability, the aircraft “will remain treaty-compliant,” Faggard said. “The expanded capabilities will be conventional-only,” he said.

If the Air Force pursues permanent modifications, the B-1’s hard points would be reconfigured to carry modern conventional weapons and the right-forward hardpoint that currently supports the targeting pod pylon — a tracking device used for target detection and identification — that has been in operational use for the past 15 years, Faggard said.

Kingston Reif, the director of disarmament & threat reduction policy at the Arms Control Association, pointed out the Air Force has publicized increasing the B-1’s weapons’ payload — particularly with JASSM — for months now.

“This would not violate the treaty because the bomber is still only carrying conventional weapons,” Reif said Tuesday. “They’re not reinserting the electronics that would be required to make the bomber nuclear-capable, or to carry nuclear weapons.”

He added, “They’re doing something to reverse what they’ve previously done, but that doesn’t mean it’s a violation of the treaty.”

Upgunning the Missiles

The variable sweep-wing aircraft is capable of carrying both precision-guided and conventional bombs.

During the Syria strike in 2018, the B-1 struck targets using 19 JASSMs, marking the first operational use of any variant of the missile (the standard JASSM-A missile variant was used, not the new extended-range variant, known as JASSM-ER).

In August 2019, the Air Force proved it could transform the Lancer to hold more ordnance, a first step toward carrying hypersonic weapons payloads. The test, also conducted by Edward’s 419th Flight Test Squadron, demonstrated that crews could fasten new racks onto the B-1’s external hardpoints as well as reconfigure its internal bomb bays to hold heavier weapons.

The B-1 is also capable of carrying the Long Range Anti-Ship Missile, or LRASM. A single B-1B can carry up to 24 LRASMs; the Navy missile, which can autonomously locate and track targets while avoiding friendly forces, achieved early operational capability on the bomber in 2018.

The current initiative enables the B-1 “to carry 24 JASSMs [and or] LRASMs internally with 6 to 12 weapons externally,” Faggard said. The proposed increase means that two bombers would equal three bombers’ worth of weapons, he said.

The trial also determined that the B-1 can still carry a full, internal weapons complement even if JASSMs are positioned outside the bomb bay, Faggard said. Furthermore, the B-1 is able to employ internal weapons “without expending external weapons first,” he said.

Engineers are now reviewing the data collected during the Nov. 20 flight before the service moves on to the next phase of the demonstration: an external weapons release, Faggard said.

“This extensive engineering review will help the Air Force understand areas where we need to focus in order to maintain the B-1B as a multi-mission weapon system, potentially laying the groundwork for integration of future weapons on the aircraft,” he said.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

High-tech body armor of the future could come from spider butts

The silk spiders produce is tougher than Kevlar and more flexible than nylon, and Air Force researchers think it could be key to creating new materials that take the load and heat off troops in the field.

Scientists at the Air Force Research Lab and Purdue University have been examining natural silk to get a sense of its ability to regulate temperature — silk can drop 10 to 15 degrees Fahrenheit through passive, radiative cooling, which means radiating more heat than it absorbs, according to an Air Force news release.


Spc. Arielle Mailloux gets some help adjusting her protoype Generation III Improved Outer Tactical Vest from Capt. Lindsey Pawlowski, Aug. 21, 2012, at Fort Campbell, Ky.

(US Army photo by Megan Locke Simpson)

Those researchers want to apply that property to synthetics, like artificial spider silk, which is stronger than Kevlar, the polymer typically used in body armor, and more flexible than nylon.

Enhancing body armor and adding comfort for troops is one of many improvements hoped for by a team led by Dr. Augustine Urbas, a researcher in the Functional Materials Division of the Materials and Manufacturing Directorate.

“Understanding natural silk will enable us to engineer multifunctional fibers with exponential possibilities. The ultra-strong fibers outperform the mechanical characteristics of many synthetic materials as well as steel,” Urbas said in the release. “These materials could be the future in comfort and strength in body armor and parachute material for the warfighter.”

In addition to making flexible, cooler body armor, the material could also be used to make tents that keep occupants cooler as well as parachutes that can carry heavier loads.

Artificial spider silk may initially cost double what Kevlar does, but its light weight, strength, flexibility, and potential for other uses make it more appealing, according to the release.

Air Force researchers are also looking at Fibroin, a silk protein produced by silkworms, to create materials that can reflect, absorb, focus, or split light under different circumstances.

It’s not the military’s first attempt to shake up its body armor with natural or synthetic substances.

Maj. James Pelland, team lead for Marine Corps Systems Command’s Individual Armor Team, jumps over a log to demonstrate the mobility provided by a prototype Modular Scalable Vest, the next generation body armor for the Marine Corps.

(USMC photo by Monique Randolph)

Two years ago, the Army said it was looking into using genetically modified silkworms to create a tough, elastic fiber known as Dragon Silk.

Dr. James Zheng, chief scientist for project manager Soldier Protection and Individual Equipment, told Army Times at the time that while the Army is developing and testing material solutions all the time, “Mother Nature has created and optimized many extraordinary materials.”

At the end of 2016, then-Air Force Academy cadet Hayley Weir and her adviser, professor Ryan Burke, successfully tested a kind of viscous substance that could be used to enhance existing body armor. Weir did not reveal the formula for the substance, but she used plastic utensils and a KitchenAid mixer to whip up the gravy-like goo, placing it in vacuum-sealed bags and flattened into quarter-inch layers.

The material was designed to be lighter than standard Kevlar and offer more flexibility for the wearer. During tests, when struck by bullets, the gooey material absorbed the impact and stopped the bullets.

“Like Under Armour, for real,” Weir told the Colorado Springs Gazette.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Russia plans hypersonic missile, F-35 killer for top fighter

Russia reportedly plans to arm its most advanced fighter jet with a powerful hypersonic air-to-air missile that can take aim at aircraft nearly two hundred miles away, making them a potential threat to critical US air assets.

The Su-57 multipurpose fighter jet, a fifth-generation stealth fighter built for air superiority and complex attack operations that is still in development, will be armed with the new R-37M, an upgraded version of an older long-range air-to-air missile, Russia Today reported Sept. 27, 2018, citing defense officials.

The Russian Ministry of Defense is reportedly close to completing testing for this weapon, the development of which began after the turn of the century.


With a reported operational range of 186 to 248 miles and a top speed of Mach 6 (4,500 mph), the R-37M is designed to eliminate rear support aircraft, critical force multipliers such as early warning and aerial refueling aircraft. Russia asserts that the missile possesses an active-seeker homing system that allows it to target fighter jets during the terminal phase of flight.

While Russia initially intended to see the weapon carried by the MiG-31 interceptors, these missiles are now expected to become the primary weapons of the fourth-generation Su-30s and Su-35s, as well as the next-generation Su-57s. The weapon’s specifications were modified to meet these demands.

The Russians are also apparently developing another very long-range air-to-air missile — the KS-172, a two-stage missile with a range said to be in excess of the R-37M’s capabilities, although the latter is reportedly much closer to deployment.

Mockup of the KS–172 in front of a Sukhoi Su-30.

China, another US competitor, is also reportedly developing advanced long-range air-to-air missiles that could be carried by the reportedly fifth-generation J-20 stealth fighter. The China Daily reported in January 2017 that photos of a J-11B from the Red Sword 2016 combat drills appeared to show a new beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile.

“China has developed a new missile that can hit high-value targets such as early-warning planes and aerial refueling aircraft, which stay far from conflict zones,” the state-run media outlet reported, citing Fu Qianshao, an equipment researcher with the People’s Liberation Army Air Force.

Slow, vulnerable rear-support aircraft improve the overall effectiveness of key front-line fighter units, such as America’s F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter, which just conducted its first combat mission. The best strategy to deal with this kind of advanced system is to “send a super-maneuverable fighter jet with very-long-range missiles to destroy those high-value targets, which are ‘eyes’ of enemy jets,” Fu told the China Daily, calling the suspected development of this type of weapon a “major breakthrough.”

The missiles being developed by US rivals reportedly have a greater range than the American AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM), giving them a potential edge over US military aircraft.

The Russian Su-57 is expected to enter service in 2019, although the Russian military is currently investing more heavily in fourth-generation fighters like the MiG-29SMT Fulcrum and Su-35S Flanker E, which meet the country’s air combat needs for the time being. Russia canceled plans for the mass production of the Su-57 in July 2018 after a string of development problems.

There is some evidence the aircraft may have been active in Syria in early 2018, but the plane remains unready for combat at this time. Military analyst Michael Kofman previously told Business Insider that the Su-57 is “a poor man’s stealth aircraft,” adding that it doesn’t quite stack up to the F-35 or F-22.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

These pics of an F-35 in the snow-covered mountains are epic

The stunning photographs in this post were taken on Feb. 21, 2019, by our friend and photographer Christopher McGreevy.

They show a 461th FLTS F-35A from Edwards Air Force Base, at low level, on the Sidewinder low level route, enroute to the famous “Jedi Transition.”

While we are used to see some great photographs of the F-35s, F-16s, and many other types thundering over the desert in the “Star Wars” canyon, the rare snow days in California provided a fantastic background for these shots McGreevy shot from an unusual spot, deep in the Sierra Mountains.


As mentioned several times here at The Aviationist, what makes the low level training so interesting, is the fact that aircraft flying the low level routes are involved in realistic combat training. Indeed, although many current and future scenarios involve stand-off weapons or drops from high altitudes, fighter pilots still practice on an almost daily basis to infiltrate heavily defended targets and to evade from areas protected by sophisticated air defense networks as those employed in Iran, Syria or North Korea. While electronic countermeasures help, the ability to get bombs on target and live to fight another day may also depend on the skills learnt at treetop altitude.

To be able to fly at less than 2,000 feet can be useful during stateside training too, when weather conditions are such to require a low level leg to keep visual contact with the ground and VMC (Visual Meteorological Conditions). Aircraft involved in special operations, reconnaissance, Search And Rescue, troops or humanitarian airdrops in trouble spots around the world may have to fly at low altitudes.

Even a stealth plane (or helicopter), spotted visually by an opponent, could be required to escape at tree top height to survive an engagement by enemy fighter planes or an IR guided missile.

That’s why low level corridors like the Sidewinder and the LFA-7 aka “Mach Loop” in the UK are so frequently used to train fighter jet, airlifter and helicopter pilots.

And such training pays off when needed. As happened, in Libya, in 2011, when RAF C-130s were tasked to rescue oil workers that were trapped in the desert. The airlifter took off from Malta and flew over the Mediteranean, called Tripoli air traffic control, explained who they were and what they were up to, they got no reply from the controllers, therefore continued at low level once over the desert and in hostile airspace.

H/T to our friend Christopher McGreevy for sending us these shots. Make sure to visit his stunning Instagram page here.

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Air Force just got new tankers – and they’re already too late

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.


It also came more than six months after Congress made an official suggestion about the Air Force’s next tanker.

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.

MIGHTY CULTURE

More leaders need to get punched in the face

“Kick his ass!” was one of the multiple jeers I heard through the litany of booing as I stepped on the mat at Dragoon Fight Night, the 2d Cavalry Regiment’s combative showcase. A few weeks prior, I had posted a video on social media to over 4,000 Dragoons challenging any Soldier to fight their Command Sergeant Major. My opponent, Sergeant Zach Morrow, stood across the ring, he was 50 pounds heavier, nearly 20 years younger, and had a cage fighting record. I was about to be punched in the face.

Getting punched in the face is exactly what I needed and what the 700 people in attendance and those watching online needed to see. Often young leaders hear, “Never ask Soldiers to do something you are not willing to do,” but how do leaders, echelons above the most junior Soldiers on the front line, demonstrate this?


As NCOs and officers move up in positions the number of opportunities to exhibit leadership by example diminishes. Getting past the fear of failure, identifying opportunities to highlight priorities with action, and understanding Soldiers are always watching their leaders provides us the chance to inspire and positively impact the formation.

As leaders, we cannot be afraid of failure. When Sergeant Morrow approached me about my challenge, I knew the odds were against me. I was overmatched and fully understood I could be twisted into a pretzel or even worse, knocked out in front of my entire formation. But why shouldn’t I step into the ring? I didn’t make it to this position without losing a few battles or failing occasionally. Fear of defeat or failure cannot dissuade leaders from setting the example, it should inspire them to be better!

Recently, two majors in the 2d Cavalry Regiment attempted to get their Expert Soldier Badge (ESB). As they passed event after event the staff buzzed with excitement. Here were two staff primary officers who had taken time out of their schedule, risking failure to earn something they didn’t even need. They accepted risk and delegated responsibilities to ensure they could accept a challenge. Even after they failed on the third day of testing, their peers and subordinates saw them with a level of respect and admiration.

It would have been easier for those officers to avoid a challenge or risk of failure using busy work schedules as an excuse. Their evaluations were already written by their senior rater at that point. But they stepped in the ring and took a punch in the face earning respect and loyalty of their Soldiers even in failure. Any leader taking a risk and puts their reputation on the line is more inspirational than one who just shakes Soldiers’ hands after a fight.

There are many ways officers and NCOs can set the example at all echelons of leadership. As leaders accept challenges, it provides them with an opportunity to highlight command emphasis. Command Sgt. Maj. Robert Fortenberry (United States Army Infantry School) earned his Ranger Tab between battalion and brigade command. It echoed the importance his command team placed on the fundamentals and leadership lessons all Soldiers, regardless of rank, can learn at Ranger School.

Recently, Command Sgt. Maj. Frank Lopez (Brigade Support Battalion, 82nd Airborne Division) earned his ESB. He didn’t need it for a promotion or another badge on his chest. By earning it, he demonstrated to the NCOs and Soldiers the ESB is important and if he is willing to take a figurative punch in the face, so should every subordinate below him.

Soldiers always watch their leaders. They see the ones who “workout on their own” instead of joining them for challenging physical fitness training. Soldiers notice leaders who are always in their office while they face blistering wind during weekly command maintenance in January or scorching heat during tactical drills in July. In addition, senior leaders have fewer chances to lead from the front. They must actively look for opportunities to get punched in the face.

After three brutal rounds, Sergeant Morrow connected with a perfect strike to my upper eye. While the physician assistance superglued my eyebrow back together an unsettling quietness took over the gym. When I stepped back onto the mat the crowd erupted, it wasn’t about the Sergeant Major getting his “ass kicked” it was about a leader who accepted a challenge and wouldn’t quit or accept defeat. A few minutes later, I stood beside Sergeant Morrow, the referee raised his hand. The standing ovation was the loudest of the evening. The audience didn’t care their Command Sergeant Major was defeated, they were excited to see a good fight and a leader enter the ring and take a punch to the face.