75th Anniversary: 10 things you don’t know about the Battle of Iwo Jima - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

75th Anniversary: 10 things you don’t know about the Battle of Iwo Jima

The Marines will be the first to tell you they have “fought in every clime and place” from the “halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli.” The history of the Corps is steeped in legendary heroism and ferocious battles. From Chapultepec to Belleau Wood to Fallujah, the Marines have made a name for themselves throughout our country’s history.

But there is one battle that stands out.

Iwo Jima.


Ask any Marine about Iwo Jima, and you will see instant reverence in their eyes. “Uncommon valor was a common virtue” was the phrase used to describe the spirit of the men that fought that battle.

The landing on Iwo Jima took place 75 years ago today. Located about 750 miles from mainland Japan, Iwo Jima was a volcanic rock that both sides viewed as an important objective of the American’s island-hopping campaign. For the Americans, the airfields there meant both easier and shorter routes to mainland Japan as well as helping clear the air of fighters that would intercept such bombers.

The Japanese simply knew that the capture of Iwo put the Americans one step closer to their homeland.

What followed next was one of the most ferocious battles man has ever waged.

Much has been written about the battle and its effect on history. Here are some of the more interesting things about the battle of Iwo Jima.

Iwo Jima was first discovered by Spanish explorers. 

In 1543, a ship located the island and landed to explore the newly found land. They gave it the name “Sulphur Island.” When translated roughly to Japanese, it was called Io To, or Iwo Jima. The Japanese didn’t arrive at the island until the end of the 16th century.

The Japanese knew they were going to lose the battle. 

As historians poured over Japanese war records after the war was over, they found that the Japanese knew the battle was a sure loss. The Japanese Imperial Navy was all but vanquished in the Pacific. The Japanese Air Force was almost obliterated as well. The Japanese had lost quite a few planes and had to keep as many as close to their mainland as possible. Even worse than the lack of planes was a shortage of pilots. The Americans would send experienced pilots back home to train more pilots. The Japanese didn’t do that. They kept their experienced pilots out, and as they suffered heavy losses, there was a shortfall in experience and numbers.

As a result, the Japanese changed the strategy of the defense of the island to be one of attrition. They figured the Americans would win. They just wanted to make them pay dearly for it. Hideki Tojo, the Prime Minister of Japan, summoned Lieutenant General Tadamichi Kuribayashi to his office and told him to defend Iwo Jima to the last man as a means to buy time. Kuribayashi, who came from a Samurai family, accepted the mission and set off for the island to set up a unique defense that the Americans had not seen yet.

75th Anniversary: 10 things you don’t know about the Battle of Iwo Jima

The Japanese wanted to dissuade the Americans from attacking the mainland.

Kuribayashi changed the way the island would be defended. Instead of fighting the Americans on the beaches, he would allow them to land uncontested on the island. He knew the black volcanic sand, which had dunes up to 15 feet tall, could bog down the Americans, so he figured to let them all on before opening fire. He had the beach zeroed in by artillery and mortars to the last inch. On the island’s interior, he set up defensive positions in a new way. The fortifications and tunnels allowed the Japanese soldiers to retake positions that had already been overrun. On an island that was just eight square miles, there were over 11 miles of tunnels the Japanese could use.

The intended effect was to inflict as much damage as possible to the American forces. By dragging out this conflict and inflicting casualties, the Japanese hoped that the carnage would dissuade the U.S. from attacking the Japanese mainland.

The US thought the battle would last only a week.

It’s not that the Americans thought less of the Japanese. It was at this point they thought they knew what they were going to do. After victories through the South Pacific from Guadalcanal to the Philippines, the U.S. military thought they had a winning plan. Start with a devastating naval bombardment, get the men on the beach, provide them with close air support, and take the airfields quickly. They did that but realized way too soon that the naval bombardment didn’t do much damage, the Japanese actually wanted the Americans to land, and that they had to fight for every square inch of the island. The initial weeklong projection turned out to be five weeks of some of the worst fighting the Americans had seen to that point.

75th Anniversary: 10 things you don’t know about the Battle of Iwo Jima

The beach was hell on earth.

After taking the naval and air bombardment, the Japanese allowed the Marines to congregate on the beach. Many thought that the Japanese were killed in the immense bombardment, but unfortunately, they were wrong. Kuribayashi told his troops to wait one hour before opening fire. When the Marines were massed on the beach and started to move forward slowly through the volcanic ash, they were shocked to learn the hard way that the Japanese had every inch of the beach sighted in and had to race off the beach while under intense artillery, mortar, and machine gun fire.

One account from the beach …

Within a minute a mortar shell exploded among the group … his left foot and ankle hung from his leg, held on by a ribbon of flesh … Within minutes a second round landed near him and fragments tore into his other leg. For nearly an hour he wondered where the next shell would land. He was soon to find out as a shell burst almost on top of him, wounding him for the third time in the shoulder. Almost at once another explosion bounced him several feet into the air and hot shards ripped into both thighs … as he lifted his arm to look at his watch a mortar shell exploded only feet away and blasted the watch from his wrist and tore a large jagged hole in his forearm: “I was beginning to know what it must be like to be crucified,” he was later to say.

By the end of the first day, over 30,000 Marines had landed, and the island was cut into two. However, upon seeing the initial casualty lists from the day’s carnage, General Howlin’ Mad Smith remarked, “I don’t know who he is, but the Japanese general running this show is one smart bastard.”

For the only time in the war, the Marines had more casualties than the Japanese.

The Marines went into Iwo Jima with a 3:1 advantage in terms of troops. At the end of the five-week battle, they would have 26,000 casualties versus 18,000 for the Japanese. One of the men killed on the beach was Gunnery Sergeant John Basilone. Basilone was a hero on Guadalcanal who earned the Medal of Honor for his actions there. As the intense bombardment came down, Basilone was last seen yelling for men to move off the beach. He was among the many killed that day. By the end of the battle, many more would die. While the Marines had more casualties than the Japanese, they had about one third less killed. Of the 18,000 Japanese soldiers who fought on the island, only 221 were captured. Most of the captured were either knocked unconscious or incapacitated.

There were few banzai charges so the Americans improvised.

The Americans factored in banzai or human wave attacks when they did their initial estimate of the length of the battle. In fact, the Japanese general prohibited such attacks as he knew that they didn’t work. He wanted his men to fight to the death, but he wanted to take as many Americans out as they could.

The Americans wouldn’t deal with that. Realizing quickly that firearms and close air support weren’t cutting it, the Marines adapted on the fly as they have throughout their history. They started using flamethrowers, (badass men as well as on modified tanks) to eradicate the Japanese. Once they realized the tunnel system allowed the enemy to reoccupy positions that had been overtaken, they just started flame-throwing everything that they saw… over and over again.

It worked. The Japanese tunnel system ended up becoming the graves of countless Japanese soldiers. Only toward the end, when food and supplies were low, did Kuribayashi allow banzai charges so his men would die “with honor.”

75th Anniversary: 10 things you don’t know about the Battle of Iwo Jima

Americans at home thought the battle was over fast.

The iconic photo by Joe Rosenthal, which showed Marines hoisting the flag on Mt. Suribachi, was the American people’s first view of the battle. It was taken on February 23, four days after the initial assault. The picture was released by the AP two days later, where it was published by virtually every newspaper in the free world. In an age, before social media, television, and satellite feeds, many assumed the battle was over based on the picture. It wasn’t.

As the battle raged on and the casualties mounted, Americans at home wondered why so many boys had to die for a small piece of rock.

How important was Iwo Jima and the effect of the battle?

Even before the battle’s conclusion, the U.S. military started using the airfields on Iwo Jima for bombing runs on Japan. Planes that were damaged during their runs now had a shorter trip to base, so they had a better chance of surviving. Fighters could now use the base to refuel, and accompany their bombers to Japan. However, people wondered if the same things could have happened had the Americans attacked elsewhere. The Americans also found out that the radar used by the Japanese on Iwo was not really beneficial as the Japanese already had other radar installations that did the same job. The battle’s need was a contentious matter as early as the end of hostilities on Iwo Jima.

One effect the battle did have was on the end of the war. After Iwo Jima, another horrible battle took place on Okinawa. By this point, the Japanese realized that Kuribayashi’s strategy worked. They could inflict major losses on the Americans and turn public opinion against the war. The Americans learned too and proceeded to unleash longer more devastating bombardments on Okinawa in the lead-up and more aggressive use of flamethrowers and incendiary devices on Japanese soldiers and civilians caught in the crossfire, to horrific results.

When the final obstacle to the Japanese mainland fell, Americans looked at other ways to end the war and avoid the bloodbath that Iwo Jima and Okinawa wrought.

They found it in recently developed atomic weapons.

Uncommon valor was a common virtue.

Regardless of if Iwo Jima was strategically worth it, the Marines still viewed the battle as a badge of honor. They were not part of the planning or strategy but were told to take the island. They did.

They asked for a 10-day bombardment and got three. They adapted to a terrible situation and came out ahead. They looked death in the face and, as Marines usually do, didn’t even get fazed.

Eighty-two Medals of Honor were awarded to Marines during World War II. Twenty-two of them (28%) were earned on Iwo Jima alone. There is only one awardee alive today, Woody Williams, who earned the medal for using his flamethrower to wipe out numerous enemy emplacements.

On this 75th anniversary, to those who fought in that terrible battle and to the families left behind, We Are the Mighty salutes you.

Semper Fidelis

Articles

America’s ‘most decorated woman’ fought from the Philippines to Korea

Ruby Bradley was an Army combat nurse on Dec. 7, 1941, when the Japanese bombed the island of Luzon in the Philippines. Bradley survived the attacks, days on the run, years as a prisoner of war, and years as one of the top combat nurses treating and evacuating the wounded from Korea.


She also rose to the rank of colonel and became one of America’s most decorated female veterans before retiring in 1963.

75th Anniversary: 10 things you don’t know about the Battle of Iwo Jima
Army Col. Ruby Bradley saved hundreds of lives as a prisoner of Japanese forces by stealing surgical tools and using them for 230 major operations. She also delivered 13 babies while in captivity. (Photo: U.S. Army)

Hours after the Pearl Harbor attacks began, other Japanese forces began striking U.S. troops and ships across the Pacific, including at bases in the Philippines which was a U.S. commonwealth at the time. Bradley ran a hospital in northern Luzon and treated patients there during the Japanese landings and follow-on attacks.

The 34-year-old evacuated the camp and hospital with other soldiers on Dec. 23 as the Army fell back. Bradley hid in the hills with another nurse and a doctor for five days before a local gave them up to the Japanese.

75th Anniversary: 10 things you don’t know about the Battle of Iwo Jima
POWs interned by the Japanese in the Philippines were malnourished and subject to brutal conditions. (Photo: U.S. Army Signal Corps)

For the rest of the war, Bradley was a POW. But she refused to stop treating the Americans and allies around her. The POW camp was established at Bradley’s former base, and she broke into the old hospital with a doctor and stole World War I-era morphine and a large number of surgical tools.

Their trip into the hospital had been risky. Japanese forces in World War II were known for treating prisoners harshly and for conducting sudden executions, but it paid off the very next day. Bradley took part in the emergency removal of an appendix the very next day.

75th Anniversary: 10 things you don’t know about the Battle of Iwo Jima
Surgery in the Pacific in World War II was challenging no matter the circumstances. (Photo: U.S. Army)

In a 1983 interview with the Washington Post, Bradley said of the incident, “The Japanese thought it was wonderful we could do all this without any instruments.”

Bradley assisted in hundreds of operations and the delivery of over a dozen babies during her time in captivity. None of the patients experienced an infection from their surgeries despite the conditions, most likely thanks to the firm attention to detail by the Army and civilian nurses who sterilized the area and tools before each procedure.

But Bradley didn’t just deliver babies, she also helped care for many of the children captured by the Japanese soldiers or born in the camp. Prisoners were allotted only one cup of rice per day. Bradley would save rice from her portions to give to children who were struggling.

The nurses even made birth certificates and stuffed animals for the children from hemp that they gathered from plants in and around the camp.

75th Anniversary: 10 things you don’t know about the Battle of Iwo Jima
Then-Cpt. Ruby Bradley is evacuated with other prisoners from a Japanese POW camp after its liberation. (Photo: U.S. Army)

The medical staff established a number of other lifesaving measures in the prison camp — everything from forced hand washing to making sure utensils were covered when not in use to assigning people to swat flies.

When the war ended, Bradley returned to normal service and earned a new degree in nursing. By the time the Korean War broke out, she was a major with experience running nurse teams. She was sent forward with the 171st Evacuation Hospital from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and evacuated troops wounded in combat.

75th Anniversary: 10 things you don’t know about the Battle of Iwo Jima
A U.S. soldier is evacuated by the Air Force 3rd Air Rescue Squadron in Korea. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

Her duties often took her to bases near the front lines. During the evacuation of Pyongyang, she refused to leave while any of her patients were still on the ground. She got the last one onto a plane and was running up the ramp when an artillery shell struck her ambulance.

Bradley later said, “You got to get out in a hurry when you have somebody behind you with a gun.”

The aircraft made it out safely and Bradley remained in the Army. The next year, she was featured on an episode of “This is Your Life,” a TV program that sought to tell the stories of amazing Americans.

She retired in 1963 as possibly the most decorated woman in military history to that point. She died on July 3, 2002, and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

5 best weapons from this famous calculator manufacturer

Texas Instruments is probably best known for making those graphing calculators that every student complains about using and every parent complains about buying. But, before Texas Instruments was making TI-83s and TI-89s, they made other stuff, like missiles and bombs, before selling their defense operations to Raytheon in 1997 for $2.95 billion.

Here are 5 of their masterpieces that, typically, aren’t issued to high schoolers:


75th Anniversary: 10 things you don’t know about the Battle of Iwo Jima

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Scott Henshaw, a 35th Maintenance Squadron load crew member, ensures all parts are correctly in place on the AGM-88 high speed anti-radiation missile at Misawa Air Base, Japan, Sept. 19, 2017.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Xiomara M. Martinez)

High-Speed Anti-Radiation Missile

The High-Speed Anti-Radiation Missile is a pretty brilliant weapon for taking out enemy air defenses. Defenders on the ground typically run mobile radar dishes to find and target enemy planes. Planes carrying this type of missile search for such radar signals and then fire the HARM, which rides the radar signals back to their source — which is, you know, the radar dish.

There are multiple warhead options, but the big two have 25,000 pre-formed steel fragments that are propelled out by the explosive, sending fragments through the radar and antenna.

75th Anniversary: 10 things you don’t know about the Battle of Iwo Jima

Airmen prepare a 2,000-pound Paveway-III laser-guided bomb for the Combat Ammunition Production Exercise in July 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Matthew Plew)

Paveway Guided Bomb

The Paveway laser-guided bomb is sort of like the JDAM in that it’s really a kit that’s added to old, dumb bombs to convert them to guided, smart bombs. In the case of the Paveway, the missiles are guided by laser designaters, wielded by ground troops or pilots.

The Paveway can be fitted to bombs packed with up to a couple thousand pounds of explosives and can be carried by anything from fighter jets and bombers to the MQ-9 Reaper drone.

75th Anniversary: 10 things you don’t know about the Battle of Iwo Jima

An F-35 with the Pax River Integrated Test Force conducts a test with a a Joint Stand-Off Weapon in 2016.

(U.S. Navy photo by Dane Wiedmann)

Joint Stand-Off Weapon

The Joint Stand-Off Weapon is a glide bomb that can fly as far as 63 nautical miles from the point at which it’s dropped, allowing Navy and Air Force ground attack and bomber planes to target anti-aircraft weapons or other enemy structures and emplacements from far outside of the enemy’s range.

The 1,065-pound weapon carries up to a 500-pound warhead but can also carry smaller bomblets and submunitions for dispersal over a wide area.

75th Anniversary: 10 things you don’t know about the Battle of Iwo Jima

A Marine with Weapons Company, 3rd Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, fires an FGM-148 Javelin Missile during Exercise Northern Strike at Camp Grayling, Mich., Aug. 14, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Niles Lee)

Javelin

The Javelin missile is one of the premiere anti-armor missiles with guidance so good that it has a limited anti-aircraft capability and a warhead so powerful that it can kill most any tank in the field today, usually by flying up high and then going straight down through the tank’s turret. It can also be used against bunkers and other fortifications.

When fired against a tank’s hull, its two-charge warhead first initiates any explosive reactive armor, and the second charge penetrates the hull, killing the crew and potentially detonating stored explosives or fuel.

75th Anniversary: 10 things you don’t know about the Battle of Iwo Jima

Texas Instruments pioneered the forward-looking, infrared camera used on everything from fighters and bombers to helicopters to ground vehicles to rifles. Here, the FLIR on a MH-60S helicopter is used to keep track of a rescue off Guam in 2017.

(U.S. Navy photo by Lt. j.g. Chris Kimbrough)

FLIR for tanks, fighting vehicles, the F-117, and F-18

Forward-Looking Infrared is exactly what it sounds like, sensors that allow jet, tank, and vehicle crews to see what’s ahead of them in infrared. Infrared, radiation with a wavelength just greater than the color red on the visible light spectrum that’s invisible to the naked eye, is put off by nearly any heat source. Sources of infrared include human bodies, vehicle engines, and all sorts of other targets.

So, tanks and jets can use these systems to find and target enemies at night, whether they just want to observe or think it’s time to drop bombs or fire rounds.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Army recruits from southern states ‘are significantly less fit’

Army recruits from 10 Southern states are the most unfit and prone to injury in training compared to other regions of the country, according to a new study.


The study finds that recruits from Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas “are significantly less fit, and consequently are more likely to encounter training-related injuries [TRI] than recruits from other U.S. states.”

Although the South is the top recruiting region, the study, based on U.S. Army data, shows that “male and female soldiers coming from these states are 22 to 28 percent more likely to be injured” in training.

The study was released by the Citadel, the military school in Charleston, South Carolina, in collaboration with the U.S. Army Public Health Center and the American Heart Association.

75th Anniversary: 10 things you don’t know about the Battle of Iwo Jima
Soldiers assigned to Schofield barracks are doing THIS for PT.  (U.S. Army photo by Kristen Wong, Oahu Publications)

“Our results suggest that the [Southern] states identified here pose a greater threat to military readiness than do other states,” the study says.

“Each recruit lost to injury has been estimated to cost the Department of Defense approximately $31,000,” says the study, published Jan. 10 by the Journal of Public Health Management and Practice.

A Citadel release said the study is the result of a four-year effort led by Citadel Health, Exercise, and Sports Science professor Daniel Bornstein, Ph.D.

Other participants in the study include Laurie Whitsel, Ph.D., of the American Heart Association and Keith Hauret and Bruce Jones, M.D., of the U.S. Army Public Health Center. Participants from the University of South Carolina include George Grieve, Morgan Clennin, Alexander McLain, Ph.D., Michael Beets, Ph.D., and Mark Sarzynski, Ph.D.

Read Now: Army goes dark with new PT uniform

“It is our hope that the states identified through this analysis, along with federal entities, work to establish policies and environments proven to support physically active lifestyles,” Bornstein said in a statement.

“If such actions were taken, physical fitness levels among residents of these states would rise and each state’s disproportionate burden on military readiness and public health could be minimized,” he said.

The report says, “Many states in the southern region of the United States are recognized for higher rates of obesity, physical inactivity, and chronic disease. These states are therefore recognized for their disproportionate public health burden.”

In addition, the 10 Southern states “are also disproportionately burdensome for military readiness and national security,” the report states.

The study notes the presence of “high physical inactivity and obesity prevalence” in the South, and says “physical inactivity and obesity are well recognized among the most critical public health challenges of the 21st century.”

75th Anniversary: 10 things you don’t know about the Battle of Iwo Jima
US soldiers lift a heavy log over their heads 20 times while competing in the Ivy Heptathlon during Iron Horse Week, January 28, 2015. Photo courtesy of the US Army

The study warns that the overall recruiting pool for the military is dwindling and cites estimates that 27 percent of Americans aged 17-24 are too overweight to qualify for military service, “with obesity being the second-highest disqualifying medical condition between 2010 and 2014.”

In comments to the Citadel on the study, retired Army Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling said the findings provide “critical insight into the real national security issues posed by recruits who are less physically fit and less prepared for military service than they have ever been in our history.”

“I know firsthand the challenges faced in addressing the fitness levels of our youth after having served as commander of all U.S. Army basic training units,” said Hertling, now a CNN analyst.

“While commanding in combat, I saw the effect training-related injuries had on mission accomplishment,” and “in basic training, the number of unfit recruits forced changes to our physical training procedures and dining menus,” he said.

Articles

Marine Aviators will fly in the F-35 Vs. Super Hornet review

A recently launched Pentagon review comparing F-35C carrier-variant Joint Strike Fighters with F/A-18 E/F Super Hornets will involve Marine Corps aviators and aircraft, the Corps’ deputy commandant of aviation said Wednesday.


Speaking to reporters in Washington, D.C., Lt. Gen. Jon Davis said the review, commissioned by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Jan. 26, would study the two aircraft “apples to apples” to determine whether the 4th-generation Super Hornet can fill the shoes of the brand-new F-35C.

Related: A-10 vs. F-35 flyoff may begin next year

“Really, it is — looking across the mission sets — does a Block 3 Super Hornet match up, compare to an F-35C,” Davis said. “It’s for the carrier air wing of the future.”

75th Anniversary: 10 things you don’t know about the Battle of Iwo Jima
Pilots with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 exit F-35B Lightning II’s after conducting training during exercise Red Flag 16-3 at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, July 20, 2016. This is the first time that the fifth generation fighter has participated in the multi service air-to-air combat training exercise. Lance Cpl. Harley Robinson

The Marine Corps, Davis said, has already purchased 10 of the 67 F-35Cs it planned to buy and has six on the flightline at Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501 in Beaufort, South Carolina.

While the Navy is planning to purchase most of the F-35Cs, with a strategy to buy 260, the Corps has gone ahead of the other services to hit a number of F-35 milestones. Its F-35B jump jet variant was the first to reach initial operational capability in July 2015, and it was the first to forward base a squadron overseas in January.

Davis noted that the Marine Corps owns a significant portion of the program’s institutional wisdom as well.

“I probably have the most experienced F-35 pilots in the department of the Navy on my staff right now,” he said.

Mattis’ directive, aimed at finding ways to shave cost off the infamously expensive Joint Strike Fighter program, dictates that the review assess the extent that improvements can be made to the Super Hornet “in order to provide a competitive, cost-effective fighter aircraft alternative.”

75th Anniversary: 10 things you don’t know about the Battle of Iwo Jima
U.S. Marine Corps F-35 Lightning II aircraft and F-18 Hornets assigned to Naval Air Station Pensacola fly over the northwest coast of Florida May 15, 2013. | Department of Defense photo

Davis said that F-35 manufacturer Lockheed Martin and Super Hornet maker Boeing would have opportunities to make their case for the aircraft.

However, he said, he expects the study to validate the need to have the technologically advanced F-35C deployed aboard carriers in the future.

“I think it will be a good study, and my sense is we’ll probably have validated the imperative to have a 5th-generation aircraft out there on our nation’s bow,” he said.

If F-35Cs are taken out of the picture as a result of the review, attrition rates of the 4th-generation Super Hornet may become an issue, Davis said, suggesting such a move would limit the aircraft’s ability to deploy in some situations.

“We’re not going backward in time, we’re going forward in time,” he said. “The U.S. Navy and Marine Corps, we’re deployed, naval and expeditionary, and we want to make sure our Marines and our sailors have the very best gear in case something bad happens. And that’s 5th-generation airplanes.”

Articles

The first flying Scorpion carried nuclear rockets

The upcoming OA-X fly-off features the Textron Scorpion as one of the major contenders. This plane has been the subject of some hype since it first flew in 2013. However, if it wins the OA-X flyoff, it won’t be the first Scorpion to have flown for the United States.


In the 1950s and 1960s, the United States was looking to acquire interceptors to stop a horde of Soviet bombers. The big problem — the guns were just not packing enough punch. One answer to this was the F-89 Scorpion from Northrop.

75th Anniversary: 10 things you don’t know about the Battle of Iwo Jima
Three Northrop F-89 Scorpions. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The first definitive version of the Scorpion to achieve widespread service, the F-89D, addressed that problem by using air-to-air “Mighty Mouse” rockets. The Scorpions carried 104 of them, and had the option of firing all of them at once, or in up to three salvos. The F-89 Scorpion also had a lethal ground-attack capability, being able to carry 16 five-inch rockets and up to 3,200 pounds of bombs.

But the “Mighty Mouse” rockets proved to be more mouse than mighty, and the Scorpion’s armament was soon the subject of an upgrade. The F-89J was a F-89D modified to carry the AIR-2 Genie rocket — which carried a small nuclear warhead. The plane could also carry four AIM-4 Falcon missiles. The Genie had a warhead equivalent to 250 tons of TNT, and it had a range of six miles and a top speed of Mach 3. Early versions of the AIM-4 had a range of six miles, but later versions could go 7 miles. Most Falcons were heat-seekers, but some were radar-guided missiles.

75th Anniversary: 10 things you don’t know about the Battle of Iwo Jima
A F-89 Scorpion firing an AIR-2 Genie rocket. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The F-89 was eventually retired in favor of faster interceptors with more modern radars and missiles, but for most of two decades, it helped guard America’s airspace from Soviet aggression. Below is a video put out by the Air Force’s Air Defense Command about this plane.

popular

The reasons why you should shoot with both eyes open, according to a Green Beret

For years, military sharpshooting instructors taught their students to close their non-dominant eye as a fundamental of shooting. The idea behind this practice is to lower the activity of the half of the brain that isn’t technically being used, freeing it from distractions.


Over the years, well-practiced shooters have determined that closing one eye helps you line up your target more easily. So, why keep both eyes open?

Former Army Green Beret Karl Erickson will break down for you.

Related: This MARSOC recruiting video looks like a Hollywood movie

75th Anniversary: 10 things you don’t know about the Battle of Iwo Jima
Green Beret Karl Erickson spent 25 years proudly serving in the military.

When a hectic situation arises, and you need to draw your weapon, you’re going to experience physical and physiological changes. Most noticeably, the gun operator’s adrenaline will kick up, prompting the “fight or flight” response.

During this response, the body’s sympathetic nervous system releases norepinephrine and adrenaline from the adrenal glands, which are located right above your kidneys, as shown in the picture below.

75th Anniversary: 10 things you don’t know about the Battle of Iwo Jima

Once these naturally produced chemicals surge through your bloodstream, your heart rate increases and your eyes dilate and widen.

These physical changes occur because the human brain is screaming to collect as much information as possible. When these events take place, it becomes much more challenging for the shooter to keep their non-dominant eye closed.

Thoughtfully attempting to keep that non-dominant eye shut can potentially derail the shooter’s concentration, which can result in a missed opportunity for a righteous kill shot.

Also Read: How to kick in a door like a Special Forces operator

So, how do we practice shooting with both eyes open?

When using shooting glasses, spread a coat of chapstick across the lens of the non-dominant eye. This will blur the image and help retrain the brain to focus a single eye on the target, and, over time, will eventually lead to good muscle memory.

Check out Tactical Rifleman’s video below to learn the technique directly from a Green Beret badass.

(Tactical Rifleman | YouTube)
Articles

Here’s why the Army’s going to buy a lot of missiles and bombs next year

If Congress enacts the Trump administration’s 2018 budget request, many in the Army will be ecstatic. Weapons contractors, maybe not so much.


The $137.2 billion request ( $166.1 billion including overseas contingency operations funds) is up by 5 percent from a year ago. It would be the most money the Army has gotten since 2012.

75th Anniversary: 10 things you don’t know about the Battle of Iwo Jima
Spc. Alan Yearby, assigned to 2nd Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, makes sketches of the terrain while manning a mortar fire position near Mosul, Iraq, Feb. 28, 2017. A global Coalition of more than 60 regional and international nations have joined together to enable partner forces to defeat ISIS. CJTF-OIR is the global Coalition to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Alex Manne)

The budget is in tune with the priorities set by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis: Fix near-term readiness, but also make progress toward a more “modern, capable and lethal force,” said Army Budget Director Maj. Gen. Thomas A. Horlander.

The 2018 funding request is about “closing vulnerability gaps,” he said today at a Pentagon news conference. “This budget arrests Army readiness decline and sets conditions for future improvements.”

As expected, most of the money is going to personnel, operations and maintenance. The personnel account grows by $2.5 billion in 2018, and OM gets a $3.2 billion boost. Weapons modernization continues to be squeezed, with a modest increase of $600 million: procurement is slipping by $400 million but research and development is up by $1 billion from 2017.

Army personnel and readiness accounts increased significantly over 2017, while procurement declines slightly.

75th Anniversary: 10 things you don’t know about the Battle of Iwo Jima

Horlander ran through long list of modernization priorities, which mirror those cited in recent months by the Chief of Staff, Gen, Mark Milley, and senior Army leaders: Air and missile defense, long-range fires, munitions, mobility, active protection, protection of GPS navigation, electronic warfare, cyber warfare, communications and vertical lift. These capabilities are needed for the “A2/AD fight,” said Horlander, using the Pentagon’s codeword for Chinese and Russian weapons and tactics designed to deny U.S. forces their traditional advantages.

“Air missile defense and long-range fires are the most pressing capability needs,” Horlander said.

The budget, for instance, funds 131 Patriot missile modification kits, upgrades to the Avenger and Stinger air defense systems, 6,000 guided multiple-launch rockets, a 10-year service life extension for 121 expired ATACM surface-to-surface tactical missiles, 88,000 Hydra-70 rockets, 480 war reserve Excalibur precision-guided artillery rounds, and 998 Hellfire missiles.

75th Anniversary: 10 things you don’t know about the Battle of Iwo Jima
(Photo: U.S. Army Sgt. John Portela)

The Army also seeks funds to overhaul and modernize the Holston ammunition plant in Tennessee. The RDTE request funds next-generations systems such as high-energy lasers. These are the type of weapons that will “enable the Army to retain advantage against advanced adversaries and address a broader range of threats, as well as deter or defeat near-peer adversaries,” said Horlander.

To fund a surge of missiles and munitions production, the Army has had to make tradeoffs. It cut Abrams modernization from 60 tanks last year to 20 in 2018. And aviation spending — helicopters and drones — drops from $5.2 billion last year to $4.5 billion.

Aircraft procurement dropped while missiles, tracked vehicles, and other weapons rose.

The major target of all these new munitions is the Russians, and the Army plans to continue spending big bucks on the European Reassurance Initiative, started by the Obama administration to shore up U.S. allies against an increasingly aggressive Russian posture. The 2018 OCO budget seeks $3.2 billion for ERI, a $400 million bump. The money would fund rotations of Army forces, including a full armored brigade, a combat aviation brigade, a divisional mission command element and logistics support units.

75th Anniversary: 10 things you don’t know about the Battle of Iwo Jima
The Army’s budget is aimed in part at bolstering defenses against Russia.

The ERI and overall military support of European allies has become a rising concern on Capitol Hill. House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Mac Thornberry has directed thePentagon to study the cost of stationing Army brigades in Eastern Europe permanently, as opposed to rotating units there. “I’m not convinced it’s cheaper to rotate,” Thornberry said yesterday at the Brookings Institution. Rotations also create huge burdens on families, he said. Director of Force Structure, Resources and Assessment on the Joint Staff Lt. Gen. Anthony R. Ierardisaid the Pentagon has not begun to study that yet. “These are important questions we need to answer regarding ERI and our support of European allies,” he told me.

A growing concern going forward is how the Army will manage the elephant in its budget: its personnel account that continues to drain resources from everywhere else. With help fromCongress last year, the Army grew the active-duty ranks from 450,000 to 476,000. The addition of 26,000 troops inflates personnel costs by $2.8 billion per year. The kind of buildup that Trump has floated would bring 50,000 more soldiers into the force.

How would the Army cope financially? That’s a discussion now underway, said Horlander. After a strategic review is completed this summer, “we’ll have more information on what the true size of the force should be.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

A negative oil price? What in the world is happening?

The global economy has taken yet another unprecedented hit after coronavirus lockdowns around the world triggered a historic plunge in U.S. crude oil prices on April 20.

Stock markets across the world were reeling in volatility after some traders who had bought U.S. oil futures contracts were actually paying others to take the deliveries off their hands.


That left the U.S.-produced oil with a listed price of for the first time in history.

The price of both Brent Crude and Russian-produced Urals oil also declined markedly after the negative oil prices seen in the United States.

Here are answers to some of the main questions caused by the historic crash of U.S. oil prices.

75th Anniversary: 10 things you don’t know about the Battle of Iwo Jima

What is the cause of the historic fall of global oil prices?

The coronavirus pandemic has wreaked havoc on the global demand for oil, creating a supply glut and filling oil-storage facilities around the world to near capacity.

Due to the basic market forces of supply and demand, traders now have difficulty finding buyers willing to purchase futures contracts for crude oil deliveries in May or June.

That has sent the price of oil futures contracts spiraling downwards.

The benchmark price for North Sea Brent Crude on April 21 fell by nearly per barrel overnight for June deliveries, selling at an 18-year low of just per barrel.

That is a fall of more than 60 percent from January’s peak this year.

Brent Crude is easier and cheaper to transport than its U.S. counterpart because Brent Crude is extracted directly from the North Sea.

The West Texas Intermediary (WTI) price, the U.S. benchmark for light crude, fell well into negative territory for the first time in history on April 20 — with May futures selling as low as minus per barrel.

The WTI price recovered slightly on April 21 but was negative mainly before trading at about id=”listicle-2645815893″ per barrel in late afternoon trading.

In a nutshell, there is an enormous global surplus in oil supplies with little demand for it, and oil companies are running out of places to store it.

Thus, some traders on April 20 essentially began paying buyers to take extra oil off their hands.

What is an oil futures contract?

An oil futures contract is a legal agreement by traders to buy or sell oil for a set price at a specified date in the future.

Those who enter a futures contract are obliged to carry out the deal at the specified price and date.

That means traders are essentially making a bet on what the price of oil will be in the future.

They hope to profit from the difference between the price specified in their futures contract and the actual price of oil on the date that the futures contract comes due.

storage.needpix.com

How can the price of oil be negative?

“This has never happened before, not even close,” says Tim Bray, a portfolio manager at GuideStone Capital Management in Dallas, Texas. “We’ve never seen a negative price on a futures contract for oil.”

The WTI’s negative price suggests it is traders who’d bought May oil futures who are offering to pay somebody else to deal with the oil due to be delivered next month.

75th Anniversary: 10 things you don’t know about the Battle of Iwo Jima

But many analysts describe the negative oil price as technical, saying it is related to the way futures contracts are written.

They note that most buyers are purchasing oil for delivery in June, not May.

Energy strategist Ryan Fitzmaurice of the Dutch-based Rabobank says negative oil prices are “more technical in nature and related to the futures contract expiration.”

“We could see isolated incidents where oil companies pay people to take their oil away as storage and pipeline capacity become scarce but that is unlikely on a sustained basis,” Fitzmaurice says.

Why hasn’t Moscow’s deal with Saudi Arabia to cut oil production protected the Russian economy from falling oil prices?

The impact of coronavirus restrictions on global oil prices has been devastating for Russia’s petrostate economy — which depends upon revenues from oil and natural-gas exports.

The price of Russia’s Urals variant of oil is determined by the global price index for Brent Crude.

Generally, Urals oil costs a few dollars less per barrel than Brent Crude.

Tumbling WTI and Brent Crude benchmarks mean dramatic declines for the price of Russian oil as well.

Meanwhile, many traders fear that an April 12 OPEC+ oil-production agreement between Russia and Saudi Arabia does not go far enough to compensate for the historic fall in global demand.

That deal calls for 23 oil-producing countries, including Russia and Saudi Arabia, to reduce their total output by 9.7 million barrels per day for May and June, cutting about 10 percent of the global supply.

What knock-on effects do falling oil prices have on Russia’s economy?

The oil markets have shown a cautious response of traders to the OPEC+ deal.

Now Russia’s stock market indices and the value of the Russian ruble also are falling.

Of course, oil shares have been the biggest losers on Russia’s stock market indices.

In early trading on April 21, the RTS Index lost 4.3 percent of its value while the MOEX Index was down by 1.8 percent.

On foreign-currency exchanges, Russia’s ruble early on April 21 had fallen about 2 percent from its value just 24 hours earlier. It fell even further later in the day.

“Taking into account the mood in the oil market, the risks for the Russian currency temporarily point towards further weakening,” Nordea analyst Grigory Zhirnov says.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

Articles

A retired Navy SEAL commander explains 12 traits all effective leaders must have

75th Anniversary: 10 things you don’t know about the Battle of Iwo Jima
Retired Navy SEAL Task Unit Bruiser commander Jocko Willink. Photo: Courtesy Jocko Willink and Leif Babin


Jocko Willink is the retired commander of the most highly decorated special operations unit of the Iraq War: US Navy SEAL Team Three Task Unit Bruiser, which served in the 2006 Battle of Ramadi.

In his new book “Extreme Ownership: How US Navy SEALs Lead and Win,” co-written with his former platoon commander Leif Babin, he and Babin explain the lessons learned in combat that they’ve taught to corporate clients for the past four years in their leadership consultancy firm Echelon Front.

During his 20 years as a SEAL, Willink writes that he realized that, “Just as discipline and freedom are opposing forces that must be balanced, leadership requires finding the equilibrium in the dichotomy of many seemingly contradictory qualities between one extreme and another.” By being aware of these seeming contradictions, a leader can “more easily balance the opposing forces and lead with maximum effectiveness.”

Here are the 12 main dichotomies of leadership Willink identifies as traits every effective leader should have.

‘A leader must lead but also be ready to follow.’

Willink says a common misconception the public has about the military is that subordinates mindlessly follow every order they’re given. In certain situations, subordinates may have access to information their superiors don’t, or have an insight that would result in a more effective plan than the one their boss proposed.

“Good leaders must welcome this, putting aside ego and personal agendas to ensure that the team has the greatest chance of accomplishing its strategic goals,” Willink writes.

‘A leader must be aggressive but not overbearing.’

75th Anniversary: 10 things you don’t know about the Battle of Iwo Jima
Photo: Courtesy Ecehlon Front

As a SEAL officer, Willink needed to be aggressive (“Some may even accuse me of hyperagression,” he says) but he differentiated being a powerful presence to his SEAL team from being an intimidating figure.

He writes that, “I did my utmost to ensure that everyone below me in the chain of command felt comfortable approaching me with concerns, ideas, thoughts, and even disagreements.”

“That being said,” he adds, “my subordinates also knew that if they wanted to complain about the hard work and relentless push to accomplish the mission I expected of them, they best take those thoughts elsewhere.”

‘A leader must be calm but not robotic.’

Willink says that while leaders who lose their tempers lose respect, they also can’t establish a relationship with their team if they never expression anger, sadness, or frustration.

“People do not follow robots,” he writes.

‘A leader must be confident but never cocky.’

Leaders should behave with confidence and instill it in their team members.

“But when it goes too far, overconfidence causes complacency and arrogance, which ultimately set the team up for failure,” Willink writes.

‘A leader must be brave but not foolhardy.’

75th Anniversary: 10 things you don’t know about the Battle of Iwo Jima
Task Unit Bruiser SEALs look up at an Apache flying overhead Ramadi in 2006. Photo: Courtesy Jocko Willink and Leif Babin

Whoever’s in charge can’t waste time excessively contemplating a scenario without making a decision. But when it’s time to make that decision, all risk must be as mitigated as possible.

Willink and Babin both write about situations in Ramadi in which delaying an attack until every detail about a target was clarified, even when it frustrated other units they were working with, resulted in avoiding tragic friendly fire.

‘A leader must have a competitive spirit but also be a gracious loser.’

“They must drive competition and push themselves and their teams to perform at the highest level,” Willink writes. “But they must never put their own drive for personal success ahead of overall mission success for the greater team.”

This means that when something does not go according to plan, leaders must set aside their egos and take ownership of the failure before moving forward.

‘A leader must be attentive to details but not obsessed with them.’

75th Anniversary: 10 things you don’t know about the Battle of Iwo Jima
Navy SEALs on a roof overlook in Ramadi in 2006. (Faces have been blurred to protect identities.) Photo: Courtesy Jocko Willink and Leif Babin

The most effective leaders learn how to quickly determine which of their team’s tasks need to be monitored in order for them to progress smoothly, “but cannot get sucked into the details and lose track of the bigger picture,” Willink writes.

‘A leader must be strong but likewise have endurance, not only physically but mentally.’

Leaders need to push themselves and their teams while also recognizing their limits, in order to achieve a suitable pace and avoid burnout.

‘A leader must be humble but not passive; quiet but not silent.’

The best leaders keep their egos in check and their minds open to others, and admit when they’re wrong.

“But a leader must be able to speak up when it matters,” Willink writes. “They must be able to stand up for the team and respectfully push back against a decision, order, or direction that could negatively impact overall mission success.”

‘A leader must be close with subordinates but not too close.’

“The best leaders understand the motivations of their team members and know their people — their lives and their families,” Willink writes. “But a leader must never grow so close to subordinates that one member of the team becomes more important than another, or more important than the mission itself.”

“Leaders must never get so close that the team forgets who is in charge.”

‘A leader must exercise Extreme Ownership. Simultaneously, that leader must employ Decentralized Command.’

75th Anniversary: 10 things you don’t know about the Battle of Iwo Jima
Photo: Amazon

“Extreme Ownership” is the fundamental concept of Willink and Babin’s leadership philosophy. It means that for any team or organization, “all responsibility for success and failure rests with the leader,” Willink writes. Even when leaders are not directly responsible for all outcomes, it was their method of communication and guidance, or lack thereof, that led to the results.

That doesn’t mean, however, that leaders should micromanage. It’s why the concept of decentralized command that Willink and Babin used in the battlefield, in which they trusted that their junior officers were able to handle certain tasks without being monitored, translates so well to the business world.

‘A leader has nothing to prove but everything to prove.’

“Since the team understands that the leader is de facto in charge, in that respect, a leader has nothing to prove,” Willink writes. “But in another respect, a leader has everything to prove: Every member of the team must develop the trust and confidence that their leader will exercise good judgment, remain calm, and make the right decisions when it matters most.”

And the only way that can be achieved is through leading by example every day.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US Coast Guard is a drug busting monster

On March 22, 2019, the crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Tampa (WMEC-902) offloaded approximately 27,000 pounds of cocaine at Base Miami Beach worth an estimated $360 million wholesale seized in international waters in the Eastern Pacific Ocean.

The drugs were interdicted off the coasts of Mexico, Central, and South America and represent 12 separate, suspected drug smuggling vessel interdictions by the U.S. Coast Guard:

  • The Coast Guard Cutter Dependable (WMEC-626) was responsible for two cases, seizing an estimated 2,926 pounds of cocaine.
  • The Coast Guard Cutter Tampa (WMEC-902) was responsible for six cases, seizing an estimated 18,239 pounds of cocaine.
  • The Coast Guard Cutter Venturous (WMEC-625) was responsible for four cases, seizing an estimated 7,218 pounds of cocaine.

    Tampa’s crew is extremely proud of the work they accomplished over the past three months. There are few things more frustrating to our sailors than idle deployments, and none more gratifying than accomplishing a very important mission with impacts that resound across our Nation. For many of the crew, this will be their last deployment on Tampa, and it’s one they will always remember.” said Cmdr. Nicholas Simmons, commanding officer of the Tampa.

    The Coast Guard increased U.S. and allied presence in the Eastern Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Basin, which are known drug transit zones off of Central and South America, as part of its Western Hemisphere Strategy. During at-sea interdictions in international waters, a suspect vessel is initially located and tracked by allied, military or law enforcement personnel. The interdictions, including the actual boarding, are led and conducted by U.S. Coast Guardsmen. The law enforcement phase of counter-smuggling operations in the Eastern Pacific is conducted under the authority of the Coast Guard 11th District headquartered in Alameda, California.

    75th Anniversary: 10 things you don’t know about the Battle of Iwo Jima

    Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Mason R. Cram wraps a palette of cocaine in preparation for a drug offload March 22, 2019, at Coast Guard Base Miami Beach.

    (Coast Guard Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Brandon Murray)

    The cutter Tampa is a 270-foot medium endurance cutter homeported in Portsmouth, Virginia. The cutter Venturous is a 210-foot medium endurance cutter homeported in St. Petersburg, Florida. The cutter Dependable is a 210-foot medium endurance cutter homeported in Virginia Beach, Virginia. LEDET 107 is permanently assigned to the Pacific Area Tactical Law Enforcement Team in San Diego, California.

    75th Anniversary: 10 things you don’t know about the Battle of Iwo Jima

    Coast Guard Vice Adm. Daniel Abel speaks to the press about the Coast Guard Cutter Tampa (WMEC-902) crew’s drug smuggling interdictions and offload, March 22, 2019, at Coast Guard Base Miami Beach.

    (Coast Guard Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Brandon Murray)

    Numerous U.S. agencies from the Departments of Defense, Justice and Homeland Security are involved in the effort to combat transnational organized crime. The Coast Guard, Navy, Customs and Border Protection, FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement along with allied and international partner agencies play a role in counter-drug operations. The cutter Tampa even participated in the first joint boarding in recent memory between the United States and Ecuador. The fight against transnational organized crime networks in the Eastern Pacific and the Caribbean Basin requires unity of effort in all phases from detection, monitoring, and interdictions, to prosecutions by U.S. Attorneys in Florida, California, New York, the Gulf Coast, Puerto Rico, and elsewhere.

    MIGHTY TRENDING

    Why the Air Force now faces a shortage of maintainers

    The Air Force’s protracted pilot shortage has garnered considerable attention.


    Air Force officials said this spring that the force was 1,555 pilots short — about 1,000 of them fighter pilots. But the shortage of pilots continued to grow during the 2017 fiscal year, which ended in September.

    At that point, it had expanded to 2,000 total force pilots — active duty, Air National Guard, and Air Force Reserve. That includes nearly 1,300 fighter pilots, and the greatest negative trends over the past two fiscal years have been among bomber and mobility pilots, Air Force spokeswoman Erika Yepsen told Business Insider.

    Read More: This is why the Air Force pilot shortage is only getting worse

    But fliers aren’t the only ones absent in significant numbers

    According to Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein, the lack of maintainers to keep planes flying has also become a hindrance on the service’s operations.

    “When I started flying airplanes as a young F-16 pilot, I would meet my crew chief … and a secondary crew chief at the plane,” said Goldfein, who received his commission from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1983, in a briefing in early November, adding:

    We’d walk around the airplane. I’d taxi out. I’d meet a crew that was in the runway, and they’d pull the pins and arm the weapons and give me a last-chance check. I’d take off. I’d fly to a destination [where] different crew would meet me. Here’s what often happens today: You taxi slow, because the same single crew chief that you met has to get in the van and drive to the end of the runway to pull the pins and arm the weapons. And then you sit on the runway before you take off and you wait, because that crew chief has to go jump on a C-17 with his tools to fly ahead to meet you at the other end. This is the level of numbers that we’re dealing with here.

    75th Anniversary: 10 things you don’t know about the Battle of Iwo Jima
    U.S. Air Force Senior Airmen Krystalane Laird (front) and Helena Palazio, weapons loaders with the 169th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, South Carolina Air National Guard, download munitions from an F-16 fighter jet that was just landed after a month-long deployment to Łask Air Base, Poland. (South Carolina Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Caycee Watson)

    ‘The tension on the force right now is significant’

    The pilot and maintainer shortages are part of what Air Force officials have called a “national air-crew crisis” that has been stoked by nearly 30 years of ongoing operations, hiring by commercial airlines, as well as quality-of-life and cultural issues within the force that drive airmen away. In recent years, pressure from budget sequestration has also had a impact on Air Force personnel training and retention.

    The maintainer shortage has been a problem for some time. In 2013, the total shortage was 2,538. But the force’s drawdown in 2014 — during which the Air Force shed more than 19,800 airmen — added to the deficit. Between 2013 and 2015, the shortage of maintainers grew by 1,217, according to Air Force Times.

    By the end of fiscal year 2015, the service was short some 4,000 maintainers, Yepsen told Business Insider.

    75th Anniversary: 10 things you don’t know about the Battle of Iwo Jima
    Blue Angels pilots greet Thunderbirds maintainers.

    The shortage of maintainers created hardship for the ones who have remained.

    The commander of the 52nd Maintenance Group at Spangdahlem Air Force Base in Germany told Air Force Magazine in late 2016 that workdays had stretched to 13 or 14 hours, with possible weekend duty meaning air crews could work up to 12 days straight. In the wake of the 2014 drawdown, maintainers at Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina saw their workdays extend to 12 hours or more, with weekend duties at least twice a month.

    “There comes a point where people stop and say it isn’t worth it anymore,” Staff Sgt. Stephen Lamb, an avionics craftsman from the 20th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at Shaw, told Air Force Times in March. “I’ve seen, in the past few years, a lot of good friends walk out the door.”

    As with pilots, the Air Force has made a concerted effort to improve its maintainer situation. In 2016, the force quadrupled the number of jobs eligible for initial enlistment bonuses — among them 10 aircraft maintenance and avionics career fields.

    The Air Force has also offered senior crew chiefs and avionics airmen perks, such as reenlistment bonuses and high-year tenure extensions. At the end of 2016, 43 Air Force specialty codes, many of them flight-line maintainers, were being offered bonuses averaging $50,000 to remain in uniform for four to six more years.

    75th Anniversary: 10 things you don’t know about the Battle of Iwo Jima
    Air Force Airman 1st Class Nathan Kosters, a crew chief with the 34th Aircraft Maintenance Unit, prepares to launch an F-35A Lightning II joint strike fighter during Red Flag 17-1 at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Feb. 7, 2017. (U.S. Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw)

    Lt. Gen. Gina Grosso, the Air Force’s deputy chief of staff for manpower and personnel services, said earlier this year that the service closed 2016 with a shortage of 3,400 maintainers, warning that the ongoing shortage held back personnel development.

    “Because of this shortage, we cannot generate the sorties needed to fully train our aircrews,” Grosso told the House Armed Services’ personnel subcommittee at the end of March.

    According to Yepsen, the Air Force spokeswoman, that shortage has continued to decline, falling to 400 personnel at the end of fiscal year 2017. Several Air Force officials have said they hope to eliminate the maintainer shortage entirely by 2019.

    But the health of the Air Force maintainer force won’t be solved by simply restoring its ranks. The complex aircraft the Air Force operates — not to mention the high operational tempo it looks set to continue for some time — require maintainers with extensive training. Air Force units can only absorb and train so many recruits at one time.

    Read Now: If you’re a retired military pilot, the Air Force wants you back

    “We have to have time to develop the force to ensure that we have experienced maintainers to support our complex weapons systems,” then-Col. Patrick Kumashiro, chief of the Air Force staff’s maintenance division, told Air Force Magazine in late 2016. “We cannot solve it in one year.”

    Heftier bonuses for senior air-crew members are also a means to keep experienced maintainers on hand for upkeep of legacy aircraft and to train new maintainers, with the addition of those new maintainers allowing experienced crew members to shift their focus to new platforms, like the F-35 fighter and the KC-46 tanker.

    “While our manning numbers have improved, it will take 5-7 years to get them seasoned and experienced,” Yepsen told Business Insider. “We are continuously evaluating opportunities to improve our readiness as quickly and effectively as possible.”

    “We’re making the mission happen, but we’re having to do it very often on the backs of our airmen,” Goldfein said during the November 9 briefing. “The tension on the force right now is significant, and so we’re looking for all these different ways to not only retain those that we’ve invested in, but increase production so we can provide some reduction in the tension on the force.”

    MIGHTY MOVIES

    One of Disney’s most-loved characters came to be a leader of Marines

    For the entirety of his Marine Corps career, Donnie Dunagan feared his fellow Marines discovering his pre-Corps life. The last thing he wanted was to be known forever as “Major Bambi.” It was a nightmare he’d harbored for 21 years of Marine Corps service – and it almost came out just weeks before retirement.


    75th Anniversary: 10 things you don’t know about the Battle of Iwo Jima

    Donnie Dunagan as a Marine Corps officer in 1974.

    (Donnie Dunagan)

    Dunagan was a Marine recruiter’s dream – except he was never recruited. He was drafted into the Corps in 1952, which certainly made his life interesting, but it was already interesting. As a young child, Dunagan’s family struggled with poverty in Tennessee. After young Dunagan won 0 in a talent competition, the family moved to Hollywood where he became something of a child star. His last role was as the voice of Disney’s beloved baby fawn, the title role of Bambi.

    His Hollywood past was a sharp contrast to his teen years. He earned money as a lathe operator in a boardinghouse before being drafted into the Marine Corps. But he took to the life of a Marine. He was promoted 13 times in his 21 years, which was a record at the time. He was also the youngest drill instructor to ever don the campaign hat. All the while, he harbored a secret he was desperate to keep from his fellow Marines.

    75th Anniversary: 10 things you don’t know about the Battle of Iwo Jima

    This f*cking adorable secret could have wrecked him.

    He fought three tours in Vietnam and over the years earned a promotion to Major along with a Bronze Star and three Purple hearts. A few weeks before he was set to retire from the Corps, secret intact, he was called into his CO’s office. The CO wanted him to “audit the auditors” – and When the Major asked when he would ever have the time to do what his commander asked, the CO patted a big red folder and said:

    “You will audit the auditors. Won’t you, Maj. Bambi?”

    His secret finally caught up to him.

    75th Anniversary: 10 things you don’t know about the Battle of Iwo Jima

    Things like this don’t just go away when you’re a Marine.

    “I have some holes in my body that God didn’t put there. I got shot through my left knee. Got an award or two for saving lives over time,” Dunagan told StoryCorps. “But I think I could have been appointed as the aide-de-camp in the White House, it wouldn’t make any difference — it’s Bambi that’s so dear to people.”

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