“Measured by its major accident rate per 100,000 flight hours, which is the military standard, the Harrier is the most dangerous plane in the U.S. military,” said Los Angeles Times reporter Alan C. Miller in the video below. “Overall the Marines have lost more than one-third of the entire Harrier fleet to accidents.”
The first Harrier model, the AV-8A had a Class A mishap rate of 31.77 accidents per 100,000 flight hours. The Marines improved the rate to 11.44 per 100,000 hours with the introduction of the AV-8B in the mid-1980s, according to Miller.
By contrast, the Harrier has more than twice the accident rate of the F-16, more than three times the rate of the F/A-18, and about five times the rate of A-10.
Despite its astronomical accident rate, the fighter is beloved and remains in service more than 40 years since its introduction in 1971.
“One Marine general who flew the plane early on described it as an answer to a prayer,” Miller said.
The Corps’ need for an aircraft with a vertical landing and short takeoff capability can be traced to the 1942 Battle of Guadalcanal. The Marines lost over 1,000 men during that fight and felt abandoned by the Navy to fend for themselves.
“Since then, the precept that the Marines in the air should protect the Marines on the ground has been an essential part of the Corps’ ethos,” Miller said.
This History Channel video shows how the Harrier supports the Marine Corps’ mission to fight anywhere, anytime regardless of the risks:
Five days after Hitler ate a bullet in his bunker in Berlin and two days before Germany would ultimately surrender, American and German troops were fighting together side by side in what has been dubbed World War II’s “strangest battle.”
It was the last days of the war on May 5, 1945 when French prisoners, Austrian resistance fighters, German soldiers, and American tankers all fought in defense of Itter Castle in Austria.
In 1943, the German military turned the small castle into a prison for “high value” prisoners, such as French prime ministers, generals, sports stars, and politicians. By May 4, 1945, with Germany and its military quickly collapsing, the commander of the prison and his guards abandoned their post.
The prisoners were now running the asylum, but they couldn’t just walk out the front door and enjoy their freedom. The Waffen SS, the fanatical paramilitary unit commanded by Heinrich Himmler, had plans to recapture the castle and execute all of the prisoners.
That’s when the prisoners enlisted the help of nearby American troops led by Capt. John ‘Jack’ Lee, local resistance fighters, and yes, even soldiers of the Wehrmacht to defend the castle through the night and early morning of May 5. The book “The Last Battle” by Stephen Harding tells the true tale of what happened next.
There are two primary heroes of this—as I must reiterate, entirely factual—story, both of them straight out of central casting. Jack Lee was the quintessential warrior: smart, aggressive, innovative—and, of course, a cigar-chewing, hard-drinking man who watched out for his troops and was willing to think way, way outside the box when the tactical situation demanded it, as it certainly did once the Waffen-SS started to assault the castle. The other was the much-decorated Wehrmacht officer Major Josef ‘Sepp’ Gangl, who died helping the Americans protect the VIPs. This is the first time that Gangl’s story has been told in English, though he is rightly honored in present-day Austria and Germany as a hero of the anti-Nazi resistance.
As the New York Journal of Books notes in its review of Harding’s work, Army Capt. Lee immediately assumed command of the fight for the castle over its leaders — Capt. Schrader and Maj. Gangl — and they fought against a force of 100 to 150 SS troops in a confusing battle, to say the least.
Over the six-hour battle, the SS managed to destroy the sole American tank of the vastly outnumbered defenders, and Allied ammunition ran extremely low. Fortunately, the Americans were able to call for reinforcements, and once they showed up the SS backed off, according to Donald Lateiner in his review.
Approximately 100 SS troops were taken prisoner, according to the BBC. The only friendly casualty of the battle was Maj. Gangl, who was shot by a sniper. The nearby town of Wörgl later named a street after him in his honor, while Capt. Lee received the Distinguished Service Cross for his bravery in the battle.
Veterans of the Persian Gulf War and the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan can’t expect to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery unless policies are changed — even if they were bestowed the Medal of Honor, a new report says.
There are 21 million living veterans in the U.S., but the cemetery has room for only 73,000 burials.
Currently, any veteran with an honorable discharge and at least one day of active duty is eligible for interment there at Arlington. That’s a lower bar than the cemeteries managed by the Department of Veterans Affairs, which require two years of active duty service. (RELATED: VA Insists On Paper Records, Slowing Payments To Private Docs But Creating Union Jobs)
Largely thanks to the one-day-minimum policy, the cemetery will be closed even to those killed in action — known as “first interments” — by 2042.
“If Arlington National Cemetery is to continue to operate under current policies, it must be expanded geographically and/or alter the iconic look and feel of the cemetery,” an Army report presented to Congress August 23 said. “If Arlington National Cemetery is to continue to operate without expansion, eligibility must change or it will close for first interments by mid-century.”
That’s only 26 years into the future, meaning veterans of recent wars, including in Iraq and Afghanistan, have little hope of burial there when they die later in life. “With current policies, Veterans of the Gulf War, Somalia, [Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Operation Enduring Freedom] era cannot expect to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery, even if awarded the Medal of Honor,” the report says.
Between 1967 and 1980, burial at Arlington was limited to those killed in action (KIA), retired career, and medal of honor recipients. If the policy is changed to limit the cemetery to KIAs only, the cemetery will have enough space for hundreds of years.
But doing so would disenfranchise Vietnam veterans, the youngest of whom will be octogenarians around 2040 and many of whom already felt mistreated by their country.
Besides changing policy, the cemetery can consider more compact and above-ground burials, which would risk losing the “serene and ordered look … with its rows of white headstones, trees, and tasteful historical and ceremonial spaces.”
It could also expand, either by acquiring neighboring land — which is hard to come by in Arlington — or at a new site. One such expansion is already taken into account in the projections.
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The AV-8B Harrier has been a mainstay of the United States Marine Corps for over three decades. The same could be said about some other fixed-wing aircraft or helicopters (some of which have been around even longer), but the Harrier has a cachet about it that no others can match.
Part of its clout may stem from the fact that many of the Marine Corps’ most legendary squadrons have flown (or still fly) the Harrier. These squadrons include VMA-214, the famous “Black Sheep Squadron” led by Pappy Boyington, and VMA-211, the “Wake Island Avengers” who made a heroic stand at Wake Island and were tragically not reinforced.
The AV-8B Harrier has seen a fair bit of action, notably during Desert Storm, over the Balkans, and in the War on Terror.
The Harrier has the ability to hover – making for some interesting tactical possibilities. Its GAU-12 can bring about 85 percent of the BRRRRT of the A-10.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Jamean Berry)
But it’s not all history for the Harrier — performance counts, too. With Vertical/Short Take-Off and Landing (V/STOL) capability, the Harrier is much less dependent on usable runways than other jets (plus, hovering just above a landing site looks cool as hell). Upgrades in the 1990s gave the Harrier the APG-65 radar (as used on the F/A-18 Hornet) and the ability to fire the AIM-120 AMRAAM.
The Harrier first entered service with the United States in 1985. It can achieve a speed of 633 miles per hour and has a maximum range of 900 nautical miles.
The Harrier’s V/STOL capability allows it to operate from ships and way from conventional runways.
(U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Michael J. Lieberknecht)
The lake — of which India claims about one-third and China the rest — is more than 13,000 feet high on the Tibetan plateau and lies in the northern Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, at the eastern extent of China and India’s 2,175-mile mountain border.
A police official in the state said that confrontations along the de facto border, called the Line of Actual Control, were relatively common.
“These things happen every summer, but this one was slightly prolonged and more serious but no weapons were used,” a police source in the state capital, Srinagar, told AFP.
But the confrontation comes two months into a dispute between China and India near their shared border with Bhutan in the eastern Himalayas, and, the assessment added, the “use of force appears to be part of a considered design.”
“Use of stones unprecedented and unusual. Appears to be deliberate attempt to provoke and heighten tension without use of lethal weapons,” the assessment said. Steel bars and rifle butts were also used during the tussle.
On August 16, a previously scheduled border-personnel meeting was held between brigadier-rank officers from the Indian and Chinese armies. (Such meetings are usually held between colonel-rank officers).
But China’s People’s Liberation Army also declined an invitation to take part in ceremonial meetings on the border to mark India’s independence day this year — the first time the joint meetings haven’t been held since 2005, according to The Express. Another meeting usually held on the Chinese side of the border on August 1 was not held this year.
The contentious but nonviolent confrontation in the Doklam territory — known as Donglang in Chinese — near the two countries’ border with Bhutan started in mid-June, when New Delhi dispatched troops to stop Chinese construction of a road in the area, which is claimed by both China and Bhutan.
India viewed the construction as a threat because it brought Chinese personnel close to the “chicken’s neck” that connects India’s northeast territory to the rest of the country.
An Indian official said New Delhi had no choice but to act, as Chinese activity had come too close for comfort. New Delhi has also said both sides should withdraw their forces before any proper negotiation.
Beijing — which has said India is massing troops and building roads in its territory east of Doklam — has said India has no role to play in the region and that Indian personnel illegally crossed into Chinese territory. It has repeatedly asked for their unilateral withdrawal.
Chinese state media has warned India of a fate worse than its decisive defeat during a month-long border war in 1962 in India’s northeast Arunachal Pradesh state.
Chinese officials later admitted the war was launched to teach a lesson to India, which had granted asylum to the Dalai Lama and criticized China’s occupation of Tibet.
The Indian intelligence assessment issued in the hours after the August 15 incident said the skirmish at Pangong Lake could be related to the standoff in the eastern Himalayas.
“Both nations recognize that there are big differences in perception about the Line of Actual Control, but these have been managed well and troops have quickly gone back to the respective positions,” Ashok K. Kantha, former Indian ambassador to China, wrote for The Print, noting that calm along the border has endured despite past incidents.
“Ensuring that these old modalities hold is extremely important,” he added. “The alternative is not good.”
War brings out the very best in technological innovation. Humans have shown themselves to be remarkably adept in devising new, creative ways to kill each other. The Vietnam War brought out this human capacity for creative destruction on a grand scale, even if it manifested itself a little differently on both sides.
The United States was blasting into the Space Age and, with that surge of technology, came chemical defoliants, like Agent Orange and jet aircraft that could break the sound barrier. The Vietnamese expanded their work on tried-and-true effective yet obsolete weapons, like punji stick booby traps. The two sides were worlds apart technologically, but when it came to murderous creativity, the combatants were close peers.
The XM-2 backpack mounted personnel detector.
1. People sniffers
The United States was desperately seeking a way to detect North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong movement across the DMZ and down the Ho Chi Minh trail, not to mention the bands of NVA and VC that were hiding in the dense jungles of South Vietnam. The U.S. infamously used the chemical defoliant Agent Orange to strip vegetation from entire areas, but it was more effective at giving everyone cancer than it was at outing hidden bands of the enemy.
So, the minds over at General Electric created a mobile cloud chamber that could detect ammonia, a component of human sweat. They called them the XM2 and XM3 personnel detectors, but the troops who used the devices quickly dubbed them “people sniffers.” While troops hated the XM2 backpack versions (and for good reasons, like the noise it made in an ambush area and the fact that it detected their sweat as well as the enemy’s), the XM3 saw widespread use on helicopters.
However, the enemy caught on and began to post buckets of urine around the jungle to create decoys for people sniffers. In the end, the device wasn’t even that great at picking up people, but it did detect recent cooking fires, which retained its usefulness.
Gross dog poop. …or is it?
It’s fairly well-known by now that the punji stick booby traps used by the Viet Cong during the were sometimes smeared with poop as a means to cause a bacterial infection in the victim. The idea was to try to take as many people and resources from the battlefield as possible: one injured soldier, at least one more to help cart him away, and maybe a helicopter could be lured into an ambush trying to medevac the wounded.
What’s not as well known is the Americans also used poop to their advantage. This is, again, the result of trying to track the movement of men and materiel down the Ho Chi Minh Trail. The United States placed sensors along the supposed routes of the Trail but when discovered, these sensors were, of course, destroyed. The U.S. needed to place sensors that wouldn’t be detected or destroyed. The answer was poop – in the form of a poop-shaped radio beacon.
An X-ray view of that same “poop.”
The Air Force dropped these sensors from the air and they would detect movement along the trail during the night, relaying the signal via radio. Since they looked like disgusting poop, the VC and NVA would often just leave them alone, thus ensuring the Americans would be able to listen along the trail.
3. “Lazy Dog” Flechettes
Imagine an explosive device filled with thousands of tiny darts or nails. It’s not difficult – many anti-personnel weapons use some kind of shrapnel or fragmentation to wreak havoc on enemy formations. Flechette weapons in the Vietnam War were no different. American helicopters, ground forces, and even bombers would fire missiles and rockets filled with thousands of these darts, launched at high speeds to turn any enemy cluster into swiss cheese.
A unique version of the flechette weapons however, came from B-52 Bombers, who would fly so high as to be pretty much silent to enemy Viet Cong or North Vietnam Army formations on the ground. When dropped from such a high altitude, the darts didn’t need an explosive to propel them, as they fell to Earth, they gained in velocity what they would have had from such an explosion. The result was a deadly blast of thousands of darts that was both invisible and inaudible – until it was too late and death rained from the sky.
Fun fact: When dropped from space, a large enough object could hit the ground with the force of a nuclear weapon.
Throughout the war, the Army wrestled with the problem of clearing vegetation to find Vietnamese hiding spots. Since Agent Orange took too long and could be washed away by heavy rains, the U.S. needed another way to clear paths for the troops. In 1968, they leased two vehicles designed for logging companies and sent them off to Southeast Asia. These became tactical tree crushers.
A 60-ton vehicle with multi-bladed logger wheels knocked trees over and chopped the logs as it drove. The U.S. military version would have a .50-cal mounted on the rear for self-defense, as well as a couple of claymores on the sides to keep the VC away from the driver. The vehicle was very effective at clearing trees, but the engine was prone to giving out and the large design made it an easy target for the enemy, so the military version was never made.
A team of sailors and scientists from the United State, Great Britain and France searched for the wreckage of Revolutionary War ship Bonhomme Richard in early September in the frigid waters off the coast of England.
Underwater archaeologists from the Naval History and Heritage Command, Navy divers from Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit 2, sailors from Naval Oceanography Mine Warfare Center, sailors from the French Mine Clearance Dive Unit and members from Global Foundation for Ocean Exploration embarked on the Military Sealift Command rescue and salvage ship USNS Grasp (T-ARS 51) to survey a late 18th or early 19th century-shipwreck in the North Sea.
The site is interesting to researchers since it’s considered a region of the sea where the final battle of John Paul Jones’ famous warship Bonhomme Richard went down. While some evidence from the site suggests the wreck researchers found could be Jones’s ship, other information suggests it sank much later.
“The site has potential to be from the late 18th to early 19th century,” said George Schwarz, an underwater archaeologist from NHHC. “Although the site has some intriguing features, including a buried wooden hull, well-preserved organic artifacts and large concentrations of concreted iron objects, we also have later material on site such as sections of 19th century iron chain.”
Different Navy units surveyed areas around the shipwreck site using various pieces of equipment. NHHC used a magnetometer towed behind a rigid hull inflatable boat to map possible concentrations of iron along a predetermined grid over the site. NOMWC used unmanned underwater vehicles to survey other areas of the site and MCDU used a towed side scan sonar. MDSU 2 accompanied the mission and provided logistical and small boat support.
“The teams worked well together to collect seafloor and sub-seafloor features in and around the wreck,” said Schwarz. “These new data sets will aid considerably in the interpretation of the site, and we’re looking forward to future collaboration with project partners.”
Both NHHC and NOMWC often had to trade off using the RHI, but MCDU had their own and surveyed the site whenever weather and sea conditions allowed. The many hours they spent out on the water allowed them time to reflect on their mission and their part in it.
Acknowledging Bonhomme Richard was given to Jones and the U.S. Navy by France, one of the participating French scuba divers explained he’s glad to be a part of the survey mission.
The identity of the shipwreck under investigation is currently unknown but future surveys of the site are in the works. In addition to the wreck site surveyed, the teams conducted remote-sensing operations over an additional 2 square nautical miles, expanding the previously surveyed areas.
During the Revolutionary War, the French crown loaned Bonhomme Richard to the United States. Commanded by John Paul Jones, Bonhomme Richard’s crew was an early example of sailor toughness. The ship and her squadron were ordered to the United Kingdom to cruise for prizes off the coasts of Ireland, Scotland and England.
About a month into her mission Sept. 23, 1779, she encountered a convoy of merchant ships underway from Flamborough Head, which immediately turned back once they caught sight of Jones and his ships. Jones pursued and around 6:30 p.m. engaged HMS Serapis, which had been covering the retreat. More than three hours later, Bonhomme Richard emerged victorious-but mortally wounded. Jones shifted his colors to Serapis, the wounded were transferred over and her riggings were repaired. Bonhomme Richard sank somewhere in the North Sea.
Her logs were not updated in her final hours and so her resting place remains a mystery.
The Naval History and Heritage Command, located at the Washington Navy Yard, is responsible for the preservation, analysis and dissemination of U.S. naval history and heritage. It provides the knowledge foundation for the Navy by maintaining historically relevant resources and products that reflect the Navy’s unique and enduring contributions through our nation’s history, and supports the fleet by assisting with and delivering professional research, analysis and interpretive services. The command is composed of many activities including the Navy Department Library, the Navy Operational Archives, the Navy art and artifact collections, underwater archeology, Navy histories, ten museums, USS Constitution repair facility and the historic ship Nautilus.
Before D-Day, on June 5, 1944, some 90 teams of two to four men parachuted into Nazi-occupied France. They were members of the Office of Strategic Services, the predecessors of both the CIA and the modern-day Army Special Forces. These OSS teams were called “Jedburgh” teams and were highly skilled in European languages, parachuting, amphibious operations, skiing, mountain climbing, radio operations, Morse code, small arms, navigation, hand-to-hand combat, explosives, and espionage. They would need all of it.
The OSS teams’ job was to link up with resistance fighters in France, Belgium, and the Netherlands to coordinate Allied airdrops, conduct sabotage operations, and roll out the red carpet for the Allied advance into Germany. D-Day was to be the “Jeds'” trial by fire.
The Jedburghs preparing to jump before D-Day.
Fast forward to 75 years later: Europe is no longer a fortress and the OSS has since evolved into both the CIA and the US Army’s Special Forces. To honor that tradition, a team of Army Special Forces veterans, including SOF legend and 2017 Bull Simons Award Winner CSM Rick Lamb, are planning to recreate the Jedburghs’ famous nighttime jumps into Europe in June 2019 and those veterans just happen to be members of the ODA that rode into Afghanistan on horseback in the days following the 9/11 attacks — they are Team American Freedom.
If the name “American Freedom” sounds familiar, it’s because they’re also the founders of American Freedom Distillery, a Florida-based premium spirits brand, makers of Horse Soldier Bourbon and Rekker Rum. And it’s not only the Special Forces veterans jumping from the lead aircraft on June 5th, they’re in good company. Joining them in the jump will be retired Army Ranger Bill Dunham, who lost a leg in Panama in 1989, the Gold Star mother of another Army Ranger and some of her late son’s fellow Rangers, and a 97-year-old World War II veteran.
The American Freedom Distillery Team
“This group will represent every major known and unknown conflict for the past 30 years – every group who inserted early and fought with little recognition,” says American Freedom co-founder and Special Forces vet Scott Neill. “This is the last big World War II anniversary (other than VJ Day) that World War II vets and these generation will share. The very special part is that we will also share this with our families. Our wives who took care of the home front and our kids who watched daddy go away again and again. It’s a way to show our family why we did it.”
For the entire summer of 2019, France and England will be celebrating the D-Day landings and the start of the liberation of Europe. The D-Day airdrop is just the beginning, other events will include parades, military encampments, and showcases featuring World War II uniforms.
Good work if you can get it.
The team is set to stage out of Cherbourg, France and tour some of the areas where the most intense fighting occurred. On June 5th, they will jump out of a C-47 Skytrain, just like their forebears did 75 years ago, and hit the dropzone at around 11a.m. They won’t be coming empty-handed. They will also be dropping a barrel of their Horse Soldier Bourbon to support the festivities on the ground as 200 more jumpers hit the drop zone throughout the day.
(Image courtesy of Scott Neil, American Freedom Distillery)
If you want to support Team American Freedom as they remember the brave men who landed behind enemy lines a full day before the Allied invasion of Europe, you can help by contributing to their GoFundMe page. You will be enabling generations of special operators, CIA veterans, and Gold Star Families, many of who have lead insertions into modern day areas of operations attend this historic event.
Army Sgt. Joe Kieyoomia was captured by Japanese forces in 1942 as the Philippines fell to the Japanese war machine. Unfortunately for him, that was the start of 43 months of captivity that began with the infamous Bataan Death March and only ended with the surrender of Japan.
When he was captured by the Japanese, Kieyoomia – like tens of thousands of other Filipino and American POWs – was forced to walk some 60-70 miles in the sweltering heat, under constant enemy mistreatment. When he finally arrived at a prison camp, he watched as his captors forced them to dig their own graves and then shot them.
Kieyoomia was eventually sent to the Japanese mainland, because of his looks and his name. The enemy assumed he was Japanese American, but unfortunately for Kieyoomia in this instance, he was a Navajo. When he arrived on the mainland, he was beaten and tortured daily.
“They didn’t believe me,” he told The Deseret News when he was 72 years old. “The only thing they understood about Americans was black and white. I guess they didn’t know about Indians.”
But Kieyoomia wasn’t a code talker. He was deployed to the Philippines with New Mexico’s 200th Coast Artillery. When the Japanese needed to know what the Najavo code was, they came to Kieyoomia – but he didn’t know the code. He didn’t even know about the existence of the code.
The Japanese then had him listen to radio broadcasts – he was surprised to hear his native language. The broadcasts made no sense. His jailers didn’t believe that he couldn’t understand the messages and he was forced to stand naked in six inches of snow on a parade ground in below freezing temperatures.
Kieyoomia’s feet froze to the ground. When he was forced back inside, his skin stuck to the ground and he left a bloody trail on the parade ground. He was tortured for months on end.
“I salute the code talkers,” he said in the interview with Deseret News. “And even if I knew about their code, I wouldn’t tell the Japanese.”
The Japanese came to Kieyoomia with written words, transliterated into English. The Japanese tortured him to learn the Navajo code, but it was very different from mere words from the language. Kieyoomia couldn’t tell them if he wanted to it was gibberish, and it was designed to sound that way, even if someone spoke the language.
The Navajo soldier tried to end his own life with a hunger strike, but that only earned him more beatings from his Japanese captors.
His troubles were only ended by the second atomic bomb dropped on Japan. On Aug. 9, 1945 “Fat Man” detonated over the city, killing 40-75,000 people instantly.
Kieyoomia miraculously survived the nuclear blast because of the way he was sitting next to the concrete wall in his cell. He was abandoned for three days before a Japanese officer freed him.
After the war, Sgt. Joe Kieyoomia returned to the Navajo nation, recovered from his wounds, and lived to age 77. He died in 1997.
The Russian military will be replacing its standard issue AK-74M rifle with the AK-12 and AK-15, according to Military Times, citing Russian state-owned media.
The “5.45mm AK-12 and 7.62mm AK-15 are officially approved and recommended by Russian Ministry of Defense for issue to Infantry, Airborne and Naval infantry troops of Russian Armed Forces,” the Russian defense manufacturer, Kalashnikov Concern, which also made the AK-47 and AK-74M, said in a press statement in January 2018.
The AK-12 and AK-15 have 30-round magazines and can shoot 700 rounds per minute, the Kalashnikov statement said. They’re also equipped with “red dot, night and IR sights to underbarrel grenade launchers, forward grips, lasers and flashlights, sound suppressors and more.”
The two new weapons will be part of Russia’s “Ratnik” program, a futuristic combat system that includes modernized body armor, a helmet with night vision and thermal imaging, and more.
The first-generation Ratnik suit was reportedly given to a few Russian units in 2013, and some pieces of the suit were spotted on Russian troops in Crimea.
Russia claims the second-generation suit will be operational in 2020, and the third-generation suit will be operational in 2022.
See more about the AK-12 and AK-15 in the short Kalashnikov video below:
Staring at the fire blazing in front of him, the airman basic began to sweat — a reaction that could only partly be blamed on nerves and adrenaline. It was an oven inside of the aircraft, and Daniel Brum knew the temperature was only going to rise when the fire hose turned on. His studies had taught him that water expands to 1,700 times its original volume when it turns to steam, and sure enough, as he shot water at the base of the fire, the air around him turned into an instant sauna.
For a brief moment, Brum freed one hand to wipe at his face shield. It had fogged up with mist. Once he could see again, he redoubled his efforts to calm the intense flames lighting up the cargo hold.
Though the aircraft interior fire was staged – a scenario intended to aid with training – Brum treated it like it was the real thing. The training was indicative of a possible situation the apprentice firefighter might come across in the future and he needed the experience.
“There’s a big painting on the wall out there that says, ‘Train as if someone’s life depends on it, because it does,” Brum said. “So when it’s training, it’s all serious. You have to learn what you’re doing, so that way … when you’re in a fire situation and someone’s life depends on you, you will be able to help that person out.”
The phrase Brum recited is prominently displayed above one of the Louis F. Garland Department of Defense Fire Academy building’s main entryways. The words state a responsibility accepted by the men and women who walk those halls. Within the academy at Goodfellow Air Force Base, Texas, are firefighters from every branch of the military, as well as those training in hopes of one day joining their ranks.
The academy provides entry-level fire protection instruction for all DOD firefighters, and it’s also a location for advanced training courses within the career field. Each year, the school accepts nearly 2,500 students, 1,400 of which are initial entry, or apprentice, firefighters, said Lt. Col. Mathew Welling, the 312th Training Squadron commander. The training accomplished here is predicated on standards set by the National Fire Protection Association but is also tailored to fit the military mission.
“We have unique aircraft, munitions, and other special requirements that really (make it necessary for) us to provide a different level of training than your civilian firefighter would be used to,” Welling said, indicating an additional emphasis on airport firefighting applications and a joint effort between all DOD firefighters.
Students may come from the Air Force, Army, Navy and Marine Corps, but in class they are all integrated together. During deployments, military firefighters work as joint service teams, and therefore the academy reinforces that concept throughout their instruction with a lack of service specific courses and a strong emphasis on teamwork.
Tech. Sgt. Jeff Trueman, an emergency medical response course instructor, is able to impart to his students the importance of the joint training via his own experiences. During his first deployment he worked hand in hand with the Navy to provide crash fire rescue for aircraft assigned to a drug interdiction mission. Trueman has been embedded with the Army as well.
“It’s interesting to be able to combine both of those worlds, and to see the differences and nuances between the services,” he said. “It’s definitely career broadening. Until you actually have that opportunity to work with other services, I don’t think you fully develop within your profession.
“That’s why I like being here,” Trueman said of the technical school. “We have instructors from so many different services and they bring a lot of different information.”
With a “train as you do” philosophy, the academy students are given an education that sets them up for success in most situations they might face while serving at their home stations and abroad. To ensure apprentice firefighters are prepared to do their jobs upon graduation, the entry-level course is split into three blocks, with each gradually addressing a more advanced set of skills.
According to Welling, block one introduces the students to firefighting basics, such as ropes, knots and ladders, how to put on personal protective equipment, and how to create ventilation. Block two continues with more in-depth firefighting principles like water supplies, fire hoses, vehicle extraction, fire department communications, interior fires, wildfires, etc. By block three, the students begin EMR certification.
The trainees learn to race into situations others would run from when everything in their bodies is telling them to go in the other direction.
“I think it takes a lot of courage, especially for 18-19 year olds coming out of high school,” said Marine Corps Staff Sgt. George Preen, a hazmat instructor and supervisor within block three of the training course. “We’re teaching them to do something that’s basically the opposite of their normal instinct, which is (to flee from danger). We’re essentially trying to reprogram them to go in and do the right thing.”
The firefighting instruction begins in-classroom and through hands-on exercises at the academy’s outdoor training pad. The area resembles a flightline, but instead of expanses of hangars and rows of aircraft lining the concrete strip, there are towers with zip lines and ladders, buildings made to fill up with smoke, and charred aircraft frames simulating possible crash and recovery scenarios.
The profession is well known for combatting blazes; however, firefighters constantly delve into another area of expertise.
“It’s a big misconception,” Trueman said. “Out there, people think firefighters just put the wet stuff on the hot stuff, when in fact, about 70 percent of our calls as firefighters in the Department of Defense are actually medical.”
Though unusual, Trueman first fell in love with the EMR aspect of the fireman’s job before that of fighting fires. As a child he’d won a coloring contest hosted by his local fire station, and, as a reward, he was given a tour of the fire house. When a call came in requesting a response to a medical situation, the assistant fire chief let him jump in the car and ride along to the incident. From that moment on, he was inspired, and now he instructs on the subject that first captured his attention.
Being a firefighter is anything but easy, and after serving 12 years in the career field, Trueman knows that while on call his students will be exposed to many traumatic situations that will test their ability to bounce back.
“The most difficult response that I went on involved an individual who’d attempted suicide,” he said. “It was a young lady, and being a father myself, I put myself in her parent’s shoes, and you know it’s just something that I hadn’t experienced. I’d trained for it, I had the skills to handle it, but emotionally … it’s one of those things where I had to talk to my mentors to kind of get me over that hump, because it definitely affects you the next day.”
Dealing with the emotions and trauma firefighters experience individually can be overwhelming, so that’s why they learn to look to each other for support.
In just about any type of training or military situation teamwork is critical, but Brum believes that his fellow classmates have gone beyond simply helping one another, they’ve become like family.
“All I hear is that when you’re at a base, at a fire station, it’s like a second family to you,” Brum said.
Even though he wasn’t actively working at a fire station yet, the young Airman had already found support through a team of fellow apprentice firefighters. At the academy and faced with stressors ranging from academics to physical fitness requirements, the students learned to lean on each other.
Though it is a strenuous course, the most difficult part for Brums was being away from family for nearly six months during the combination of basic training and technical school. Though he could Skype them or call, the separation sometimes tested his resolve. His teammates, however, were able to make the separation more bearable.
“If you’re serious all the time you’re just going to go crazy, so we like to have fun with each other, lighten the mood,” Brum said. “Having my friends in class, (when) I’m having a bad day … they know how to cheer me up to keep me going.
Even with his classmates’ support, Brum says life without his family can be stressful. But with a bit of technology and a dose of imagination and patience, he says he will be able to see it through.
“My wife and daughter, they are the reason I’m here,” he added. “After a hard day of training … my first thought is, ‘Oh, I have to wake up at 3:30 tomorrow morning and start it all over again. But then going to the dorm and being able to sit at a computer to Skype with my family – just seeing them and knowing how proud I’m making them, it gives me the motivation to get up that next morning and give my all.”
Trueman believes that despite the long hours, stress of learning new things and separation from family and friends, his students end up with a set of skills and values they will carry with them throughout their careers. He added that the aspect of his job he values the most is the difference he can make through each new student he teaches.
“Now I’m influencing the future of our career field and I really get to shape it by sending out quality (DOD firefighters),” he added. “The folks we send out there aren’t going to falter the first time they see a real world incident. They’ll be able to fall back on their training, and use that framework to push them over that hump.”
But Trueman made clear that this technical training is really only the beginning. He said a combination of advance courses, on-the-job training and experience in the field will be key to their successful future as firefighters.
“We produce a lot of graduates every year for the entire DOD,” Welling said. “One of the things we try to impress upon them as they graduate is ‘your training’s not done.’ You may be able to wear the firefighter badge, but you need to continue to train and prepare, because you never know what … situation you’re going to be responding to. When the bell goes off and you’re asked to go do your job, you need to be ready, because someone’s life does depend on it.
In September 2005, Mexican Marines arrived under the Mexican flag to Harrison County, Miss. It was the first time in 159 years that Mexican troops operationally deployed inside the United States. There, they met U.S. Marines and U.S. Navy sailors. But they weren’t there to do battle; they were there to clear the debris.
Harrison County was hit by one of the most intense hurricanes ever to hit the United States. Harrison County was devastated by the strongest winds of the whole storm.
Hurricane Katrina making landfall on the U.S. Gulf Coast, August 2005.
Hurricane Katrina was the fourth most intense storm ever to hit the United States. The storm killed more than 1,800 people, making it the deadliest to hit the United States since 1928. It was also the costliest hurricane in terms of physical damage done to the areas affected by the hurricane. In all, the total price tag for Katrina’s damage came to a whopping 5 billion – but just throwing money at a problem doesn’t fix it.
Damage wrought on communities by storms like Katrina require an all-hands approach to recovery, especially in the immediate aftermath. Charitable organizations like the American Red Cross, Oxfam, and Habitat for Humanity responded. So did many members of the international community, even those considered to be at odds with American foreign policy at the time. Those who offered assistance included traditional allies Germany, the UK, and Canada. But even those who did not have the considerable resources of the West, like Mexico. That’s how Mexican Marines ended up clearing timber from schools around Mississippi.
Sailors from the Dutch and Mexican navies distribute water and Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs) to residents of D’Iberville, Miss.
(FEMA photo by Mark Wolfe)
In the immediate aftermath of the hurricane, then-President of Mexico Vicente Fox sent a message to the United States, saying:
“In the name of the people and of the government of Mexico, I assure you of my deepest and most sincere condolences for the devastating effects caused by Hurricane Katrina.”
Mexico’s Red Cross sent Rescue Experts to New Orleans while the Mexican Navy deployed off the American Gulf Coast with helicopters, ATVs, amphibious ships, tankers, medical personnel, and tons of food aid. The Mexican Air Force later flew 200 more tons of food in as a convoy of trucks from Mexico shipped hundreds of tons more. It was the first time since the Mexican-American War (which ended in 1848) that Mexico’s troops were inside the United States, and they were here to help.
The Mexicans also helped clear debris and distribute supplies to Harrison County, hit especially hard by Katrina’s intense winds. Gulfport, Miss. took the brunt of the damage, but the surrounding areas were devastated as well. The following month, having finished cleaning up and distributing supplies, the mission ended, and Mexico went home.
No other aircraft or air defense system in the world can touch it.
Stealthy, fast, incomparably lethal, the F-22 Raptor is without a doubt the deadliest and most advanced fighter jet ever built. And the Air Force, after a lengthy congressional-backed review, will not be getting any new Raptors to supplement its undersized fleet.
The Raptor, built by Lockheed Martin, was originally created as a follow-on to the F-15 Eagle, the previous mainstay of the Air Force’s fighter fleet. Taking in the strengths of the Eagle and improving vastly with new capabilities such as thrust vectoring for supermaneuverability built into a platform optimized for stealth, the Raptor was everything fighter pilots hoped for and dreamed of.
It would be able to fly the air superiority mission like no other, while also being able to carry out air-to-ground strikes with ease.
Initially, the Air Force planned on buying over 750 units to replace its massive Eagle fleet. Over time, that number was drawn down significantly, thanks to evolving missions and changing threat scenarios. By 2009, Congress voted to cap the Raptor’s overall production run at 187, severely below the minimum figure of 381 units the Air Force projected it would need to fulfill the air superiority mission.
According to Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson, the sheer costs alone makes restarting the Raptor production line, defunct since 2012, completely unfeasible. Revamping manufacturing spaces in addition to rebuilding and redesigning jigs and the tooling necessary to build further Raptors would cost anywhere between $7 to $10 billion, and that’s only the tally on the infrastructure required. Estimates on each Raptor’s flyaway price rang up a whopping $200 million per unit cost, a $60 million jump over the aircraft’s unit cost when its production run ended. The study on bringing the F-22 line back to life was ordered by Congress in April 2016.
Though not wholly unexpected, the recommendation to not pursue a restart of the Raptor line will reduce the Air Force’s options in retaining dominance in its air superiority mission. Earlier this year, the service let on that the F-15C/D Eagle will more than likely face an early demise by the mid-2020s, thanks to an expensive fuselage refurbishment deemed impractical by its brass.
Eagles have long served the Air Force as its dedicated air supremacy fighter, excelling in the mission in the 1990s where it first tasted combat in the Persian Gulf, and later in the Balkans. The Eagle fleet was originally to be overhauled and kept in service until the early 2040s, when it would be replaced by a new 6th generation fighter.
Instead, the Air Force will move on with its plan to refurbish and extend the lives of its F-16 Fighting Falcons, multirole fighters which can also fly the air superiority mission with a considerable degree of success. Critics, however, argue that the F-16 is unequal to the aircraft it seeks to supplant. Smaller, shorter-range, and limited in terms of the amount of munitions it is able to carry, the Fighting Falcon has still served the Air Force and Air National Guard faithfully since the late 1970s and beyond.
A possible byproduct of this news could be the Air Force’s push to develop its 6th generation fighter on an accelerated timeline, bringing it into service earlier than expected. This would minimize the reliance the service would have to place on its aging F-16s, while bringing online a fighter built to work in tandem with incoming next-generation assets like the F-35 Lightning II. This would also potentially reduce the burden placed on the F-22 to shoulder more of the Eagle’s prior workload once it is retired, keeping the small Raptor fleet viable and in service longer.