This week’s meme roundup is dedicated to the friends you go to war with: Your battle buddies. These friends would do anything for you, even take a bullet, or in the case of Medal of Honor recipient Kyle Carpenter, jump on a grenade. The bond between battle buddies is second to none, and most people will never experience friendship on this level. Although it’s difficult to capture the bromance in 13 memes, here’s our attempt:
1. Battle buddies depend on each other.
When the leadership fails, your buddy won’t.
2. Battle buddies aren’t always human.
Man’s best friend is just as dedicated.
3. War is intense, so jokes and pranks are also elevated to the same level.
This is their version of “kick me.”
4. You get in trouble together.
No worries, it’s a just a mouth lashing.
5. You find creative ways to entertain each other.
This would make a great, “shut the fu– up Carl” meme.
6. Their idea of going to the movies is a little different.
Their camaraderie makes up for the lack of screen size.
7. They fight together, they watch movies together, and they also drink together …
… because sometimes you need someone to stagger home with.
8. Buddies look after each other, they don’t report each other.
To support ongoing domestic efforts to combat the spread of the coronavirus, which causes the illness COVID-19, the US military will provide millions of masks to support civilian public health agencies and other responders, Pentagon leadership said Tuesday.
“The Department of Defense will make available up to 5 million N95 respirator masks and other personal protective equipment from our own strategic reserves to Health and Human Services for distribution,” Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said.
“The first 1 million masks will be made available immediately,” he added.
“The Pentagon will be providing 5 million respirator masks and 2,000 specialized ventilators to aid in our whole of America Coronavirus response. This critical equipment will keep our health care providers safe as they care for patients,” Vice President Mike Pence said on Twitter.
COVID-19 has spread to more than 5,800 people and killed nearly 100 people in the US. As the illness spreads domestically, masks and other protective equipment are becoming harder to find.
Additional support measures include providing up to 2,000 deployable ventilators to HHS and making 14 certified coronavirus testing labs available to test non-DoD personnel. “We hope this will provide excess capacity to the civilian population,” Defense Secretary Mark Esper said.
He added that the Pentagon is also looking at the activation of National Guard and Reserve units to assist states as needed. The National Guard is already assisting in 22 states.
The military is preparing its hospital ships for possible deployment to assist during the crisis, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The US Navy has two hospital ships available, the USNS Comfort in Norfolk, Virginia, and the USNS Mercy in San Diego.
“The Comfort is undergoing maintenance, and the Mercy is at port.” Esper told reporters Tuesday, revealing that the Department of Defense has already given Navy orders “to lean forward in terms of getting them ready to deploy.”
The defense secretary explained that US military assets like hospital ships and field hospitals are designed for trauma response rather than matters like infectious diseases, so these assets would likely be used to take the pressure off civilian medical facilities with regard to trauma care.
Esper also said that the Army Corps of Engineers could be made available to assist states in need but suggested there might be more effective options.
The secretary stressed to reporters that “if we can dramatically reduce the spread of the virus over the next 15 days, together we can help restore public health and the economy and hasten a return to our normal way of life.”
Update: This post has been updated to include the vice president’s tweet, as well as clarify that the masks are going to HHS to support civilian public health agencies and other responders.
A French air force flying team will roar over the Air Force Academy on April 19 to celebrate the nations’ bonds built in the sky during World War I.
Patrouille de France, that nation’s equivalent of the Air Force Thunderbirds, will arrive over the academy about 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, April 19, for a brief air show. It’s a big flying team with eight Dassault/Dornier Alpha Jets, a twin-engined light attack fighter that’s known for its nimbleness.
“I think folks in Colorado Springs will get a great miniature airshow,” said Lt. Col. Allen Herritage, an Air Force Academy spokesman.
The first Americans to reach the aerial battlefields of France, though, were American airmen of the French air force’s Lafayette Escadrille, a fighter unit with American pilots that was established a year before the United States entered the war.
America’s first flying aces came from the small French unit, including Maj. Gervais Lufberry, who was credited with downing 16 planes before he was killed over Francein 1918.
The relationship built over the trenches between French and American pilots is still celebrated at the Air Force Academy today.
Herritage said the school has a French officer on the faculty and French exchange cadets on the campus. One of the pilots on the French flying team, Maj. Nicolas Lieumont, was an exchange student at the Colorado Springs school.
“We feel lucky to have them stop in Colorado Springs,” Herritage said. “It marks our nation’s longstanding relationship with France.”
The academy is inviting locals to get a better view of the French team. Visitors are welcome at the academy on April 19 and can watch the show from a viewing area near the Cadet chapel.
Two Russian warplanes flew simulated attack passes near a U.S. guided missile destroyer in the Baltic Sea on April 11 and 12, according to the U.S. Navy, who captured the aggressive moves and posted them to YouTube and the official Navy website.
BALTIC SEA (April 12, 2016) Two Russian aircraft simulating attacks over USS Donald Cook (DDG 75) April 12, 2016. Donald Cook, an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer forward deployed to Rota, Spain, is conducting a routine patrol in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe. (U.S. Navy photo)
The USS Donald Cook (DDG 75) tried to contact the Russian aircraft via the radio, but received no response. Such incidents happened routinely during the Cold War, but a joint agreement in 1972 by then-Secretary of the Navy John Warner and Soviet Admiral Sergei Gorshkov ended the practice by creating a policy of avoiding provocative interactions at sea.
The Cook, a guided missile destroyer, was operating in international waters in the Baltic Sea when the events took place over the two days. On April 11, Cook was conducting deck landing drills with an allied military helicopter, once while the helicopter was refueling on the ship’s deck.
The U.S. military said the maneuvers were one of the most aggressive interactions in recent memory. Repeated flights by the Sukhoi SU-24 warplanes also flew so close they created wake in the water.
The SU-24 fighters made 11 passes, according to the Department of Defense. Although their maneuvers were aggressive, the planes carried no visible weaponry.
U.S. officials are using existing diplomatic channels to address the interactions while the incidents are also being reviewed through U.S. Navy channels. The nearest Russian-controlled territory was about 70 nautical miles away in the enclave of Kaliningrad, sitting between Lithuania and Poland.
The close calls on April 12 came when the Cook was still in international waters. This time a Russian KA-27 Helix helicopter conducted circles at low altitudes, making seven passes around the ship.
The Navy expressed its deep concerns about the Russian flight maneuvers, saying these actions have the potential to unnecessarily escalate tensions between countries and could result in a miscalculation or accident that could cause serious injury or death. Flight operations aboard the Cook were canceled until the Russians were clear of the area.
“In my judgement these maneuvers in close proximity to the Donald Cook are unprofessional and unsafe,” said Adm. Mark Ferguson, the Commander of U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa.
Starboard quarter view, taken while the USS Thresher was underway on April 30, 1961. (U.S. Navy/J.L. Snell)
Nearly six decades after a Navy submarine plummeted to the bottom of the sea during a deep-dive test, families of those lost in the tragedy are finally getting a look at hundreds of documents about the accident the service has long kept under wraps.
The Navy on Wednesday released the first 300 pages of a court of inquiry on the catastrophic 1963 loss of the nuclear-powered submarine Thresher. The documents provide details into the Navy’s worst undersea accident, which claimed the lives of 129 men onboard.
While Navy leaders say they’re committed to being transparent with the families and the public about what caused the Thresher — the first sub in its class — to sink, it took a court order to reach this point.
Capt. Jim Bryant, a retired Navy submarine officer, sued his former service in 2019 to get it to release the full 1,700-page report on the Thresher accident. A federal judge ordered the Navy in February to begin releasing portions of that report monthly to the public.
“I think I’m doing the Navy a favor,” Bryant told Military.com this week. “This is a significant historic event … and the reactions were very sound. It’s a really good story here for the Navy.”
Rear Adm. Bill Houston, director of the Undersea Warfare Division at the Pentagon, told reporters Tuesday that Navy leaders don’t believe the newly released Thresher documents “will shed any additional light on her loss.” Still, he added, the Navy is committed to releasing additional portions of the report monthly, despite much of it remaining classified.
“This process requires coordination between many organizations, and takes time to be done correctly,” Houston said. “But the Navy knows this is the right thing to do.”
He declined to comment on Bryant’s lawsuit prompting the documents’ release.
The first batch of documents released this week includes witness and exhibits lists, findings of facts, opinions, recommendations and initial testimony. Families were notified in a letter sent last month from Vice Adm. Daryl Caudle, commander of Naval Submarine Forces, that the Navy was working to declassify the documents and make them public.
Joy MacMillan and her brother Tim Noonis lost their father, Walter “Jack” Noonis, to the Thresher accident. Both credited Bryant for the time he put into pushing the Navy to release the documents. The decision to do so “should have been automatic,” MacMillan said.
“We would definitely want to know,” she said. “We know it won’t bring them back, but it does help to understand how something like that could have happened to our family.”
MacMillan’s mother, who passed away in 2016, had four children under the age of 10 when the Thresher sank.
“It was intense, but I think my mom did a fabulous job picking her boots up and marching forward, but I would never say that it was easy,” MacMillan said. “I feel that it would’ve been an honor to all the moms to get this information.”
Bryant said the families — along with the rest of the public — deserve access to the answers.
“Naval history is important,” he said. “And when the technology is no longer of danger to national security — well, I think we should know about it.”
How Tragedy Led to Change
The Thresher had just completed a months-long overhaul period when — on April 10, 1963 — the sub began dive tests off the coast of Massachusetts.
It was accompanied by the submarine rescue ship Skylark, which received garbled communications about the Thresher experiencing minor difficulties.
The court of inquiry determined that the Thresher sank due to a piping failure that resulted in a loss of power and the inability to blow ballast tanks quickly enough to avoid sinking. Houston said this week that the Navy stands by those initial determinations.
Bryant wanted to know more, though, and was unsatisfied with the Navy’s original decision to publicly release just 19 of the 1,700 pages of documents from the court of inquiry. It was only after a Freedom of Information Act request failed to shake loose the documents that he took the Navy to court.
The families and the public have a right to know more about the decisions that led up to the accident, he said. In 2018, Bryant wrote a piece for the U.S. Naval Institute’s Proceedings magazine arguing that data showed the Thresher “very likely had already sunk below her 1,300-foot test depth limit when she reported minor difficulties.”
“The result,” he wrote, “was a hull collapse that could have been avoided with more testing and better planning.”
Noonis, who said he’s read everything he could find publicly on the Thresher, said he’d like the Navy to further analyze acoustical recordings of the Thresher accident that were picked up by the Navy’s Sound Surveillance System, known as SOSUS.
Bryant described an analysis Navy Reserve Lt. Bruce Rule provided during 1963 testimony about what the SOSUS picked up on the Thresher’s sinking. According to Bryant’s April 2020 Proceedings article titled “USS Thresher (SSN-593) Disaster: Ten Questions Our FOIA Lawsuit Hopes to Answer,” Rule’s observations reject the Navy’s assessment that there was major flooding on the sub before implosion.
While Noonis said he’d like to see the Navy take another look at that claim, he isn’t holding out much hope — especially since the service isn’t releasing the documents by choice.
“They were forced to release it,” he said. “I don’t have a lot of faith in the government coming out and changing their conclusion. … Bureaucracies aren’t fond of finding fault with themselves.”
People who study technology need access to any information available about major accidents to understand the decisions leading up to them, so they don’t repeat the same mistakes, Bryant said this week.
Despite the battle over the documents, though, Bryant credits the Navy with taking important steps in the aftermath of the Thresher tragedy to help prevent other undersea mishaps. That’s why he said he wants to see the service share any documents it has that can help others understand what went wrong.
Houston said the Thresher remains a defining event for the submarine service. Every new Navy submariner learns about the vessel.
“From day one, every new submariner checking onboard discusses the impact of Thresher to the submarine force, and the significant improvements that transpired as a result of her loss,” he said.
The Navy’s Submarine Safety program, known as SUBSAFE, was born out of the Thresher accident. SUBSAFE has “drastically improved quality control and assurance in the fabrication, construction and maintenance of submarines,” Houston said.
“Since the program’s inception, no SUBSAFE-certified submarines have been lost at sea,” he said.
MacMillan said she’s grateful the accident led to change, but said without the Navy releasing the full probe, no one can be certain all possible steps have been taken to prevent something similar from happening again.
“Was it the main coolant pump? Was it just a push too fast for a deeper dive in the Cold War?” she said. “It really does feel like it’s been [more than enough] time to know what really occurred.”
Now, as the Navy begins releasing never-before-seen documents on the accident that prompted those changes, Houston said the service must balance being transparent while still protecting information relating to national security.
Bryant said he and his attorney feel the Navy’s plan to release about 300 pages connected to the Thresher probe every month is reasonable, but noted they’ll be closely monitoring what is held back or redacted.
If the Navy refuses to declassify information they feel should be made public, Bryant said, “We’re going to fight them over it.”
MacMillan said she hopes the documents being released prove to the public that it’s possible to take on powerful organizations that might be reluctant to release information. Bryant didn’t have a stake in the Thresher accident, she said, but fought to do the right thing.
“If you work long and hard enough, you can get to the truth,” she said. “… As a 6-year-old child kind of still frozen in that time period, I think it’s high time that they come up with something.”
VA and the U.S. Digital Service announced their launch of an improved Appeals Status tool to increase transparency and enable veterans to track the progress of their benefits claims appeals.
“It’s important that our Veterans have the opportunity to track their appeals process in a timely and efficient manner,” said VA Secretary Dr. David Shulkin. “For the first time ever, Veterans can see their place on the Board of Veterans’ Appeals’ docket, including the number of appeals that are ahead of them.”
The tool, which went live March 21, 2018, on VA’s Vets.gov website, will allow Veterans to access detailed information about the status of their benefits appeals and will include alerts about needed actions, as well as estimates of how long each step of the process takes.
Some Veterans who have previewed the new tool said it had given them hope and helped them understand that the process might take longer than expected.
The announcement that Senator John McCain (R-AZ) is fighting brain cancer was stunning. The news was flooded with statements, most of which offered thoughts and prayers for McCain and his family, although many also noted that John McCain was a fighter.
However, this has not been the only time John McCain’s had to fight through a situation.
His lengthy time in captivity during the Vietnam War was notable, not only due to the fact he was awarded the Silver Star for his heroism, but also for his refusal to return home early.
McCain served as a chaplain among the POWs, per his Legion of Merit citation. McCain also cheated death when his plane was shot down on Oct. 26, 1967.
Prior to his Vietnam War service, he survived three mishaps, including a collision with power lines in an A-1 Skyraider. McCain had another close brush with death before his shootdown, when his jet was among those caught up in the massive fire on the carrier USS Forrestal (CV 59).
Despite suffering shrapnel wounds, he volunteered to transfer to the Essex-class carrier USS Oriskany (CV 34).
The cancer Senator McCain is fighting, a brain tumor known as glioblastoma, is a very aggressive form of cancer that was discovered after an operation to remove a blood clot near his eye.
As of this writing, Senator McCain is considering treatment options, but he is also still at work. When President Trump canceled a program to arm some Syrian rebels, McCain issued a statement condemning the decision, proving once again that you can’t keep a hero down.
On July 2nd, 2021, the Pentagon’s top spokesman announced that command of U.S. military operations in Afghanistan would be transferred to the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) from NATO’s Resolute Support Mission, which previously commanded U.S. forces in the country, and which was most recently led by former U.S. Army former Delta Force officer, General Scott Miller. CENTCOM commander General Frank McKenzie, a career U.S. Marine officer, will now command the U.S. forces remaining in the country.
Embedded in that announcement — in addition to the fact that command of U.S. forces in Afghanistan will now fall under a regional combatant commander instead of a specific operational commander — was the news that a new operational command was being established in Afghanistan: U.S. Forces Afghanistan Forward, to be led by Navy SEAL Rear Admiral Peter Vasely.
What exactly do these announcements signify, as far as the nature of future American military operations in Afghanistan? Are we not completely pulling out of the country, as has been alluded to by members of the Biden administration, as well as by some press reports and commentary? It would appear that we are not, or at least, not so comprehensively.
The establishment of the new U.S. Forces Afghanistan Forward command was described in the press release as a “smaller security mission,” based in Kabul, which would report directly to CENTCOM and be supported by the Defense Security Cooperation Management Office – Afghanistan, based in Qatar and led by U.S. Army Brigadier General Curtis Buzzard. We can glean an assessment of the nature of the U.S. mission going forward in Afghanistan by looking at these latter two commands, and who is leading them.
First, Rear Admiral Vasely is a Navy SEAL officer, he previously served at SEAL Team 6, he was recently assigned to Joint Special Operations Task Force (JSOTF) Afghanistan, and he has also served at the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA). All of that tells us that he has experience operating in and commanding SOF in theatre, as well as in Department of Defense HUMINT collection (from a management position, anyway). Secondly, General Buzzard (this author exercises great restraint in not referencing a potential new GI Joe villain name) was previously assigned to a number of G3 (staff operations) positions in the U.S. Army, including in the 3rd Infantry Division, the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, and the 82nd Airborne. This tells us that he has largely specialized in operational planning at the command level, presumably including in areas like force demobilization and allocation of resources.
In other words, we know that remaining in Afghanistan is this forward operations element (ostensibly for security, but commanded by a Navy SEAL flag officer), which reports operationally to the combatant commander of U.S. Central Command, and is supported by a more staff-oriented command with “defense security cooperation management” in its name. In addition, there are undoubtedly CIA operations personnel — both core collectors and likely paramilitary officers — who will remain in place in the country, dispersed throughout various strategic locations as they have been for two decades.
The conclusions we can draw based on these facts are:
— Some number of U.S. Special Operations Forces will remain in country, “advising and assisting” Afghan forces on the ground in their struggle against the Taliban, and providing some level of quick reaction force to respond to both American and Afghan forces in extremis. This will likely entail seeing at least some amount of combat operations. Those same U.S. SOF will also possibly be involved in operations directed against various high-value terrorism targets that pop up in the country from time-to-time.
— U.S. military and intelligence cooperation, including a financial component, will continue for the foreseeable future, though no longer emanating from the platform of a large deployed force at war. The relationship will likely shift to a more advisory-focused one, and for simplicity’s sake, can likely be described as an enhanced Foreign Internal Defense/Counterterrorism relationship. The day-to-day logistics and details of that relationship will likely be handled by a mix of diplomats, CIA officers, and military/DOD personnel such as General Buzzard.
— U.S. intelligence operations will continue in the country, and throughout the wider theatre, with counterterrorism personnel primarily focused on preventing a resurgence of al-Qaeda and other transnational terrorist groups, and additional intelligence personnel focused on issues related to great power politics. I am, of course, assuming that such a shift — to a greater focus on traditional intel targets in addition to counterterrorism targets — was not already effected by the CIA in recent years.
Frankly, the above configuration of missions and forces seemed the most likely to take shape when the Biden administration first announced its intention to bring “all American forces home” from Afghanistan by 9/11/2021. Realistically, the United States was never going to completely abandon its hard-won strategic foothold in Central Asia, especially with a still-active al-Qaeda and ISIS there, and strategic rivals like Russia, China, and Iran located in the same general neighborhood. That would have been strategically short-sighted, and such a move would have been argued against — undoubtedly vociferously — by the national security establishment in Washington.
It appears, given what we know at this time about the American stay-behind elements that will remain in Afghanistan, that those national security voices ultimately prevailed on the politicians serving in the Biden administration.
While experts acknowledge that Iran is “playing with fire” against the best navy in the world, don’t expect these incidents to stop any time soon.
“The number of unsafe, unprofessional interactions for first half of the year is nearly twice as much as same period in 2015, trend has continued. There’s already more in 2016 than all of 2015,” Commander Bill Urban of the Navy’s 5th fleet told Business Insider in a phone interview.
Urban stressed that despite the Iranian navy fast-attack craft being several orders of magnitude less potent than US Navy ships, the threat they pose in the gulf is very real.
“Any time another vessel is charging in on one of your ships and they’re not talking on the radio … you don’t know what their intentions are,” said Urban.
Urban confirmed that Iran sends small, fast attack ships to “swarm” and “harass” larger US Naval vessels that could quite easily put them at the bottom of the ocean, but the ships pose a threat beyond firepower.
According to Urban, these ships are “certainly armed vessels with crew-manned weapons, not unarmed ships. I wouldn’t discount the ability to be a danger. A collision at sea even with a much larger ship is always something that could cause damage to a ship or injure personnel.”
In the most recent episode at sea, Urban said that an Iranian craft swerved in front of the USS Firebolt, a US Coastal Patrol craft, and stopped dead in its path, causing the Firebolt to have to adjust course or risk collision.
“This kind of provocative, harassing technique risks escalation and miscalculation.”
The messages Iran wants to send
“In my view, Khamenei (Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic) decided it’s time to send a message — I’m here and I’m unhappy,” Cliff Kupchan, Chairman of Eurasia Group and expert on Iran, told Business Insider in a phone interview.
According to Kupchan, the Iranian navy carries out these stunts under directions straight from the top because of frustrations with the Iran nuclear deal. Despite billions of dollars in sanction relief flowing into Iran following the deal, Kupchan says Iran sees the US as “preventing European and Asian banks from moving into Iran and financing Iranian businesses,” and therefore not holding up their end of the Iran nuclear deal.
But despite their perception that the US has under delivered on the promises of the Iran nuclear deal, Kupchan says Iran will absolutely not walk away from the deal, which has greatly improved their international standing and financial prospects.
The lifting of sanctions on Iran’s oil has resulted in “billions in additional revenue … They’re not gonna walk away from that.”
So Iran seems to be simply spinning their wheels to score political points with hardliners, but what if the worst happens and there is a miscalculation in a conflict between Iranian and US naval vessels resulting in the loss of life?
“The concern is miscalculation,” said Kupchan. “Some guy misjudges the speed of his boat, people could die. There is a lot on the line.”
According to Kupchan, as well as other experts on the subject, Iran’s navy doesn’t stand a serious chance against modern US Navy ships.
“Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps boats and the Iranian Navy are not very capable or modern,” said Kupchan. The fast-attack craft we’ve seen challenge US Navy boats have simply been older speed boats, some Russian-made, outfitted with guns.
The Iranian craft can certainly bother US Navy ships by risking collisions and functioning as “heavily armed gnats, or mosquitoes” that swarm US ships, but a recent test carried out by the Navy confirms that the gunships wouldn’t have much trouble knocking them out of the water. The ensuing international incident, however, would dominate headlines for weeks.
“The wood is dry in US and Iranian relations,” said Kupchan, suggesting that a small miscalculation could spark a major fire, and that harassing these ships is “one of the ways the Iranian political system lets off steam.”
“Hardliners on both sides would go nuts,” said Kupchan, referencing both the conservative Islamist Iranians and the conservative US hawks who would not pass up any opportunity to impinge Obama over his perceived weakness against the Iranians.
Yet Kupchan contends that even a lethal incident would not end the deal. Both sides simply have too much riding on the deal’s success: Obama with his foreign policy legacy, and Iran with their financial redemption and status in the region as the main adversary to Western powers.
However Iran’s Khamenei may be sending a second message to incoming US leadership, specifically Hillary Clinton, who seems likely to be the next commander in chief. “They know Clinton is tough,” said Kupchan, and Khamenei may be addressing Clinton with a second message, saying “Madame Secretary, I’m still here, I know you’re tough, but I’m ready.”
For now, Kupchan expects these incidents at sea to carry on as Iran vents about their larger frustrations, and that a violent exchange would “not be the end of the deal,” or the start of a larger war, “but a serious international incident.”
Helicopter pilots have it easy in some ways — they do not need runways to take off or land — just a clearing. Well, one look at this video taken on Oct. 26, 2016, showing a Royal Danish Navy Sikorsky MH-60R landing on one of that navy’s Thetis-class oceangoing patrol vessels, will how just how tough a landing can be sometimes.
In this video, the Thetis-class patrol vessel is in the midst of a storm. Note the very expert technique the Danish pilot uses to match the vessel’s speed, and the very deft touch used to keep from slamming the helicopter into the pitching deck.
The MH-60R is a multi-role maritime helicopter capable of carrying Mk 46, Mk 50, or Mk 54 lightweight torpedoes. It also can carry AGM-114 Hellfire air-to-surface missiles. According to the official MH-60 website, it has a crew of three, a top speed of 140 knots, and can stay up for over two and a half hours.
According to Naval-Technology.com, the Thetis-class ocean patrol vessels displace 3,500 tons, have a top speed of 20 knots, hold 60 crew, and are 369 feet long. The Danish Navy has four of these vessels in service. Two entered service in 1991, two entered service in 1992.
A new monument at Arlington National Cemetery, near the U.S. capital, will honor American helicopter crews who flew during the Vietnam War.
The Military Times reports Congress has approved the monument, which will be near the Tomb of the Unknowns.
Spearheading the memorial campaign is retired Air Force Lt. Col. Bob Hesselbein, who flew AH-1 Cobra gunships in Vietnam. Hesselbein says Arlington has the greatest concentration of helicopter-crew casualties from the war.
Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin says the monument will create a “teachable moment” for people to understand the story of pilots and crew members. The U.S. relied heavily on helicopters to transport troops and provide support to ground forces near enemy soldiers in Vietnam.
The nonprofit Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association is paying for the monument.
The United States Air Force gets a lot of (brotherly) hate from its sister branches, many claiming that we Airmen (and women, but big “A” here) have it easy. Though we often try to justify our already awesome branch, the others aren’t always entirely wrong. Here are what some think are the top 10 Air Force luxuries that almost make an airman feel guilty.
1. Barracks? We don’t need no stinking barracks!
Unless we’re stationed in Korea or a single digit number of other near-war zone areas, the airmen who must live on base get to do so in the comfort of single, double or quad-style apartment dormitories as opposed to 20 or more person barracks.
We live the college kid life of having our own bed, sink and closet with more often than not the only thing we share being bathrooms, kitchens and common areas. I don’t know about you, but I can really get behind not having my roommate’s snoring keep me awake.
2. Not Quite Hogwarts, but still…
When it comes to eating – grub, chow, mess, food – everyone looks to the Air Force as the “presidential” treatment. You want two slices of cake? Feel free. What’s that? A Twix or a Snickers bar for the road? They’re right there waiting for you.
I’ve never met anyone from a non-USAF branch that didn’t think we had the best DFACs and the best quality of food in ’em. And if it’s so late that the Chow Hall isn’t open, there’s probably a flight kitchen near the flight line to grab a good ol’ Box Nasty.
However, I don’t know if I could call a chicken sandwich, coke, bottle of water, apple/orange and a Snickers nasty. It’s good to be the fly guys.
3. TDYs: A Thing of Beauty
Whenever my unit was given a TDY (a temporary duty assignment – and know that I was with several units), the NCOICs were almost always able to get us an off-base hotel, usually in a Hilton. Free pool, free gym, queen size bed (minimum), no more than 2 to a room, etc. TDYs were mini-vacations for us and we pocketed that lovely per-diem while eating on-base for meal plan prices.
The TDYs were filled with nights of going out and days of 9-5 work, so it was almost as if we went to a medical convention or a business convention. I am almost certain that no other branch would tolerate that, but the Air Force allows that luxury for the NCOs who know their way around and take care of their people.
4. By Basic Training, We Mean Basic:
Let me put an end to this now and say that Stress Cards are not, have not and will never be a thing. We’ve all heard that each branch gets these mythical things, but it just isn’t true. That being said, the Air Force does have one of the shortest (at 8 weeks) Basic Training requirements.
We do have the BEAST in 6th or 7th week (it may have changed since I graduated basic), but it was surprisingly easy with the base area pre-assembled and most of the time practicing EOD sweeps and questioning people coming in. There were no smoke bombs, flashbangs, no sim grenades, land nav or anything extremely strenuous that some other branches have. While it’s no walk in the park, it’s not exactly limit-pushing either.
5. Look at the Size of my Wallet!
The USAF had an estimated budget of $160 billion in FY2015. While this was slightly less than the Navy’s budget (by less than 10%), the Navy has to pay for both itself and the Marine Corps. Because the Air Force doesn’t suffer from the split personality of our brothers and sisters in the Department of the Navy, we’ve got the largest per person budget in the military.
This means that we have the coolest toys, best planes, largest office supply budget and more. While we claim that we do more with less, we often do more with more.
6. Consistency of the workday
The stereotype holds true, it seems, that the Air Force is the branch with the most consistent workdays. Barring weeks where we had to do an exercise (which for my unit was 2-3 weeks every 4 months) we pretty much always got in after PT at 0900 and left at 1630.
For units that don’t have field exercises as often, it is almost always a consistent workday. “People First, Mission Always” is one of the mottos. I believe it rings true in this area, and for that, many of us airmen are grateful.
7. There’s Strong, and Then There’s Air Force Strong
We may only get 60 seconds compared to Army 120 for calisthenics on PT tests, but our numbers are much easier to manage than any other branches’. To pass by bare minimums, one needs only run a 1.5 mile in 13:14, have a 37.5-inch waistline, and perform 44 push ups plus 46 situps in a minute each.
“He’s doing a push-up, for god’s sake, help him!”
This pales in comparison to the USMC’s 15 pullups, 75 crunches, and 22-minute, 3-mile run. While the Air Force isn’t full of fatties, for sure, we have the greenest grass in the field.
8. “Vacation All I Ever Wanted, Vacation Had to Get Away”
Interestingly, I had a friend fear for his life after receiving his deployment orders. He was genuinely frightened and filled out paperwork to make out his will and to give someone power of attorney over his assets should something happen to him. Being a good friend, I asked him where he was going. I wanted to give him all the support I could. He told me he was going to Qatar. At that moment, I was torn between being a good friend and offering my support and being a great friend and mocking him.
For those not in the know, Qatar deployments include daily alcohol allowances (most Middle Eastern countries don’t allow any) and other amenities that make it more like a vacation with a work component than a deployment into a dangerous war zone. While it’s not a vacation exactly, there are as many pros as cons with many of our deployments.
9. Performance Evals are Broken
While this recently underwent a change, the yearly EPR system used to be a “gimme,” with an overwhelming majority of airmen getting “firewall 5s” or perfect scores on their eval.
Now the brass has finally realized after over a decade that this is ridiculous and are attempting to change the system to make a “5” rating mean something. The jury is still out on this, and also how it will affect the promotion cycle. But up until recently, airmen could be assured that by being average, they would be graded “The best of the best.”
10. Living On High
To be honest, this one does make me feel a little guilty. So, my friend was stationed at an Army base for tech school. On his first LES, he sees an additional allowance. So it’s not actually called substandard living pay, it’s something like that. While not all Air Force bases are cushy, if you are living in quarters that the DoD deems not up to USAF standards, the airmen will get an additional allowance not to exceed 75 percent of BAH for their rank.
There are many considerations that go into this, but suffice it to say that the reasoning is because the Air Force was the first “all volunteer” branch, and to attract high-quality airmen, the USAF needed higher quality housing.
The cyber threat is now our greatest national security challenge, a 21st Century “weapon of mass destruction” that is currently having serious impacts on America and is getting worse – militarily and economically – across public and private sectors, and socially across all segments of society.
Our adversaries around the globe, from rivals like Russia and China to belligerents including ISIS, Iran, and North Korea, have developed significant cyber capabilities. This “global cyber proliferation” is serious and growing worse by the minute. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, the emerging Cold War’s battlefront included the Space Race with the Russians, and eventually a symbolic American on the moon. Today, we have a similar situation: A “Cyber Space Race” which will represent the dominant high ground for decades to come.
We are being hacked and attacked every day in America. Our personal accounts and lives, our critical infrastructures, and there are undoubtedly many serious incursions that we have not detected or have gone unreported. A few recent examples illustrate this point: State-backed Iranian hackers conducted a denial of service attack against US banks to attack United States infrastructure, and not just the banks themselves.
While America’s public and private sector cyber defenses have grown since the mid-1990s, the threat to all elements of national power has grown even more rapidly. America is at high risk. Of particular concern is our soft commercial-sector underbelly, which comprises 85% of Internet use in the United States. Cyber breaches present an unprecedented and often disastrous risk to the value of commercial entities.
Consider the Target, Home Depot, Sony, and Equifax cyber intrusions. Each cost the companies billions in market valuation, lost revenue, employee productivity, reputation, and expenses. While it is harder to quantify than a stock price, companies and institutions are successful in large part due to trust. An individual company violating that trust with their customers can have devastating effects for that company, but the magnitude of recent data breeches strikes fear in the hearts of all Americans and undermines trust in the fundamental institutions of our society.
Cadets, pay attention — our future could be in your hands. (U.S. AF photo by Raymond McCoy)
Just as techniques and technology developed in America’s space program resulted in innovations benefitting the full range of American life, so, too, can military-grade cyber capabilities be leveraged to harden vulnerable government and commercial entities. Techniques and technologies such as the commercial sector onboarding of military-grade technologies, implementing network segmentation to protect sensitive information, applying advanced encryption techniques to protect large databases, ensuring protection from insider threats, and using advanced analytics to uncover risks to commercial internal or external networks.
America must win the 21st Century “Cyber Space Race.” We must mobilize the entire spectrum of American enterprise, from the cyber education of our children to the highest levels of academia, business, and government. The US commercial sector must do everything possible to protect themselves, their customers, and this nation. This includes using military-grade cyber defense capabilities to ensure commercial viability, thus securing America’s increasingly vulnerable economic engine.