How Air Force historians are aiding hurricane response - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

How Air Force historians are aiding hurricane response

In 2017, when Hurricane Irma, a monster Category 5 storm, barreled toward Florida’s southern peninsula and Homestead Air Reserve Base, The Air Force Reserve commander had a lot of decisions to make.

Thankfully, history – in the form of Air Force historians – was on her side.

The Air Force Reserve Command history office pulled data and information from three previous hurricanes, including Hurricane Andrew, a Category 5, which devastated the base 25 years ago. In just a few hours, the office had a timeline and a list of issues that came up in each of the three previous storms. Historians worked through the data with the Innovation, Analyses and Leadership Development directorate, or A9, and determined that the biggest issue was maintaining communications as Andrew had continued into Georgia, knocking out power to the AFRC’s battle staff.


The commander and staff then worked to prevent history from repeating itself.

The results were good communications throughout the storm, clean up and reconstitution. The base opened airfield operations and sustained 24-hour operations, offloading 112.8 short tons of cargo and relief supplies, including two UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters, cargo and personnel from the 66th and 920th Rescue Squadrons and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Those “good comms” resulted in the AFRC coordinating aircraft, relief supplies, Airmen and equipment with the right skills and the right gear to save lives. In previous years, relief efforts were delayed because nobody could talk.

“Now, did History do all that?” asked Dr. Jim Malachowski, a senior aerospace historian for the Air Force History and Museums Program at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia. “No but knowing what worked and didn’t work in the past gave her a good starting point to ask the right questions.”

Malachowski explained when the right knowledge is injected with historical perspective at the right point in the decision cycle it helps commanders make better decisions.

The history of Air Force history

Located in the heart of Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, is a gold mine and although it does not contain precious metals, the Air Force Historical Research Agency is filled with the world’s largest and most valuable organized collection of original documents concerning U.S. military aviation. The more than 100 million pages of Air Force history inside the repository chronicles the evolution of American military flight and provides a treasure trove of information for researchers, authors and historians.

While touching the pages of history is unique, said Malachowski, applying the historical lessons learned from the study of past wars is fundamental to the preparation for the next. This is why it is so crucial for the Air Force’s operational and institutional memory is preserved.

How Air Force historians are aiding hurricane response

Sam Shearin, a researcher with the Air Force Historical Research Agency looks through World War II unit lineage documents, June 7, 2018, at Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base, Ala. There are more than 70 million pages devoted to the history of the service, and represents the world’s largest and most valuable organized collection of documents on US military aviation.

(US Air Force photo by Perry Aston)

When he established the Army Air Forces (AAF) Historical Division in 1942, General Henry “Hap” Arnold, widely considered the architect of the Air Force, He assembled nine prominent historians from Yale, Princeton, Columbia, the University of Chicago, and Harvard and asked them how the Air Force should organize and run its history program. Following their recommendations, Arnold put trained historians in every unit to record history “while it is hot.” Historians had to be independent so history would be recorded accurately and factually “without an axe to grind.”

The collection of historical data for the Air Force began before the service’s inception, even pre-dating the Army Air Corps. Without a plan to preserve it, the bulk of airpower history from the First World War was lost. In 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt established the Committee on Records of War Administration to preserve an accurate and objective account of military experiences. By 1943 the AAF Archives had been established and historians began collecting, assimilating and organizing contemporary and historical information.

The creation of this archive dedicated to receiving, organizing and preserving the information gathered by these early historians has evolved into today’s collection.

The majority of AFHRA’s library consists of unit histories, written by unit historians, which chronicle Air Force operations and activities in peace and war from World War I to the present day. These materials provide the data and historical perspective to support planning and decision-making processes throughout the Air Force.

The archive was later moved to Maxwell AFB from Washington D.C., putting it in the direct control of the Air Force and at the disposal of professional military education students, faculty, and the public.

The history kept inside of AFHRA’s walls isn’t just sitting idle – it’s continually being added to, vigorously being researched and, most importantly, actively being interpreted by Air Force historians to get valuable information to leaders and decision makers to create a more efficient and lethal Air Force.

Collecting the data

Capturing Air Force history begins with aerospace historians. Today, there are just over 200 historians placed at wings and 10 major commands, which is 75 percent less than in 1990. Air Force civilians now fill all roles in collecting the history at wings and commands.

Air Force civilian and Reserve historians also support a continuous deployment rotation as combat historians to support combatant commands and joint staff tasking across the globe.

How Air Force historians are aiding hurricane response

A researcher at the Air Force Historical Research Agency, Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base, Ala., looks through microfilm to track down the shipment history of bomber aircraft that were shipped overseas to fight during WWII, June 7, 2018, at Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base, Ala. Private researchers can visit and use the AFHRA for research.

(US Air Force photo by Perry Aston)

Dr. Bill Harris, the Deputy Director of the Air Force History and Museums Program, says whether at home station or deployed the most important aspect of a historian’s job is being actively involved in their organizations.

“What Aerospace historians bring to the table is we are the only person in the room whose sole job is to capture and preserve the institutional memory,” said Harris. “Just documenting the events of this war will not help the leaders of the next. We also interpret. So, in history professor terms, interpreting is how we help decision makers understand and learn from the past.”

Harris explains when historians are operationally integrated into situations they observe while also collecting and recording what happens, documenting the “right now for the future.” A historian will understand the organization’s history and have a deep knowledge base of the mission set. They recognize patterns and can provide a quick write-up to inject information to leadership on that highlights how other people have navigated similar situations before decisions are made this time.”

The first priority for field historians at the wing and MAJCOM level is to complete and submit an accurate periodic history report, which are the official history of an organization and serves as its institutional memory in AFHRA’s archive.

“To do the job, you have to get out there and be part of the mission, collect hundreds of important documents, reports, and emails and then figure out where the holes are., We do that with interviews.” said Malachowski. “Research interviews are more QA to find out what’s going on inside the organization. Oral history interviews are a little bit more in-depth interviews conducted with key personnel whose memories and perspectives are recorded for future generations.”

Job two for historians is heritage.

The Air Force history slogan is history makes us smart, heritage makes us proud.

In addition to a dozen field museums, historians often work within their organizations to build squadron heritage rooms and displays to showcase physical reminders of the unit’s historical past to promote morale and serve as daily reminders of a unit’s identity.

That identity is also visible in a unit’s heraldry. “Organizations use visible, enduring symbols to promote spirit de corps, morale and a sense of heritage,” said Jack Waid, a historian at Air Force Materiel Command Headquarters. “Air Force heraldry in the form of emblems gives Airmen a connection to the past and the motivation to live up to the proud lineage from which they come.”


How Air Force historians are aiding hurricane response


The Air Force Historical Research Agency keeps a repository on the unit’s emblem history, including original and re-designed emblems and the paperwork approving the artwork.

(US Air Force photo by Perry Aston)

With the newly authorized transition from the Airman Battle Uniform, which did not permit the wear of unit patches, to the Operational Camouflage Pattern, Airmen will once again be to wear their units on their sleeve.

Waid explains it’s important to understand, emblems and patches are completely separate entities and authorization to display them is approved and maintained by different Air Force offices as well.

“Our office deals with a unit’s official emblem, but anything that goes on the uniform, like patches, are approved through the AF/A1 (Office of Personnel) uniform office,” said Waid. “A unit’s history and lineage goes with an emblem whereas a patch is a wearable symbol of pride, history, warrior spirit and honor.”

With more than 7,000 emblems to convert into OCP patches, there is a huge demand for the production and supply chain. The Air Force estimates it will take the full-30 month OCP transition period to manufacture and distribute all the patches. For units with approved emblems, the MAJCOM/A1 office will notify them when their patches are ready to order.

Units without an approved emblem should contact their historian.

“Since June we have been doing everything in our control to help units make sure they have an accurate emblem,” said Waid. “More than two-thirds of AFMC’s units are without an emblem or possessing one that does not meet standards.”

“It is important to make sure the time-honored Air Force unit patch returns to the uniform properly so that units can display their heritage with pride. Wearing the squadron patch completes the family group, you have your name tape and then you have the greater family, the Air Force, but now these patches give Airman an opportunity to show how extended their family is and how rich their heritage is by wearing their unit’s emblem.”

Changing the paradigm

For decades, periodic history reports were written in narrative monograph format, a print-era framework that could reach hundreds of pages. It was long and time consuming to write and worse to search for answers. “Even with academic historians, the monograph just isn’t the answer anymore. Technology has changed, but our reports haven’t.” said Malachowski.

The Secretary of the Air Force recently directed that commanders would integrate their historians in operations at the wing-level and above and ensure they had access to data and information to complete timely history reports.

With fewer historians, a high-demand deployment schedule and mountains of data to ingest, historians have little time to write long, cumbersome reports and even less time if they want to be fully involved in their organizations.

Something had to change.

“With the help of the Air Force Survey Office, we asked more than 150 wing and group commanders what they needed from historians. The commanders are very adamant that they don’t want these hundred-page tombs. They want something much, much shorter because they don’t have whole lot of time and they want something focused more on their priorities,” said Harris.

A survey of historians said the same thing. Historians want to be more involved with their units and want a better process.

“If we lock ourselves away for half of our time to write we are not out in our units doing our job. So we have to refocus the writing and we have to improve our ability to put the right things into the archives for future researchers,” said Malachowski. “So all we can really do is record the present for the future and the real funny thing is it is exactly what Gen. “Hap” Arnold told us in 1943. He wanted us to record the present for the future. So we’re going back to the future, if you will.”

How Air Force historians are aiding hurricane response

General of the Air Force Henry H. Arnold was a pioneer airman who was taught to fly by the Wright Brothers, and commander of Army Air Forces in victory over Germany and Japan in World War II. He established the Army Air Forces (AAF) Historical Division in 1942, when he assembled nine prominent historians from Yale, Princeton, Columbia, the University of Chicago, and Harvard and asked them how the Air Force should organize and run its history program. Following their recommendations, Arnold put trained historians in every unit to record history “while it is hot.”

Arnold’s direction was to document the operations and activities of an organization immediately into a rough form that future historians would improve on. He believed the only reason a history program should exist is to further the operational efficiency of the Air Force.

The Air Force History program had to redesign itself in a dynamic new way and embrace change by revising their policies and revolutionizing their processes.

Now, a modular history report is being adapted that stresses accuracy, speed and relevance across the joint enterprise. It provides uniformity and consistency, which synchronizes history operations across the Air Force and focuses on unit activities and operations at the right level of warfare. This new system also creates one standard of writing for peacetime and wartime reports.

The four-part modular system reduces the writing complexity of history reports to a more short and concise process on what matters most to the commander, unit and mission. Short studies are written and published immediately, freeing up historians to be historians.

Another change is the creation of an Operational History Branch that is solely focused on war and contingency operations. All wartime history reports will be routed and evaluated through this fusion cell to write monthly and annual summaries that provide a holistic picture of combat operations.

“The way it’s designed the Operational Historian Branch will help us mature history at the Joint warfighting level, improve historical support to deployed commanders, and prevent several historians from deploying each year,” said Malachowski. “Most wings only have one historian so this saves us from turning out the lights at so many home station history offices.”

Focused on the past since its inception, the Air Force History Program has now reinvented itself by embracing its own past in order to create a more efficient future.

This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.

MIGHTY FIT

Morning stiffness is crushing your success

You know that old person feeling? Yeah you do. You wake up in the morning, and everything hurts. You don’t want to turn your head, stand up, or even open your eyes sometimes.

Ever think some variation of this thought? “I hope I die in my sleep so that there’s one less morning of going through this shit.”

…Just me?


As you could have guessed, there are some ways you can mitigate the pain and discomfort of the morning. Not only that, but there are some very real physical reasons you feel tight and sore in the morning…none of them involve you dying.

In this article we are going to walk through those reasons for feeling stiff in the morning and offer a daily fix for you to make a part of your morning routine. Also, a free ebook to kick start your morning AND guidance on how to be one of the first to get your hands on the new Mighty Fit Plan below!

How Air Force historians are aiding hurricane response

Standing in formation is the opposite of what your body needs in the morning.

(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Kregg York)

Why does my body hate me?

Ever hear the saying “Motion is lotion“?

That’s because it is.

When we move, a lot is going on deep inside us, and when we are still or sleeping for hours at a time, a lot is not going on. It’s normal.

You can think of movement like wringing out a towel to get the water out. When you move, fluid is excreted from the tissue surrounding your joints to literally lubricate them.

In the morning, you don’t have any of that lubrication going on. So you feel like crap until you start getting the juices flowing.

We’re talking about physical stress here, but what we’re talking about can help manage your entire allostatic load, just like resistance training.

Next is the part where I talk about morning routines/movement.

How Air Force historians are aiding hurricane response

Mornings are tough. They’re even tougher if you fight your need to move.

(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Joe Harwood)

Culturally the West hates itself

I was stationed in Japan for three years. In that time I visited/worked in about a dozen countries. Do you know what a lot of Asian people do that I rarely see at 0600 in the good ole’ USofA?

They move.

On my drive to the formerly named MCAS Iwakuni, I would drive by a Japanese barber doing his morning calisthenics on his porch every morning. Then when I got on base, I witnessed dozens of Japanese construction workers (working on the expansion of the base) in perfect unit alignment doing a warm-up routine before they started any construction activities for the day.

Fast forward to walking into the office and interacting with my fellow Marines, some of which were still groggy from rolling out of their rack 10 minutes prior (if there wasn’t unit PT), others who sported coffee mugs that read aggressive sayings like “Don’t f*@k with me until I’ve had my coffee.”

Coffee is a great pre-workout, by the way.

Obviously, that wasn’t everyone, but the military is an elite cross-section of society. If that’s going on in the Marine Corps, just imagine what the Air Force is like, or better yet a small-town accounting firm in Indiana (I see you Phil).

Point being that culturally The United States sucks at waking up in the morning and does little to help with that morning soreness.

How Air Force historians are aiding hurricane response

It’s our duty to get a little better each day. That’s what you signed up for…

(U.S. Army Photo by Scott T. Sturkol, Public Affairs Office, Fort McCoy, Wis.)

How Air Force historians are aiding hurricane response

Side benefit of waking up early is getting to enjoy sunrises like these.

(Photo by Capt. Amit Patel)

Step 1: Drink

Synovial fluid is that stuff that lubricates your joints. It’s mostly water that transports a bunch of other valuable molecules to your joints and ensures you move smoothly.

Drink some water. Drink it before your coffee. Drink it religiously.

When you wake up, thank your Creator for the gift of another day and give thanks for access to clean drinking water.

Don’t be that backwards thinking jacka…errr person that says things like: “I don’t drink water. Fish have sex in there!”

That’s something a child who learned about sex too young would say.

You lose body water throughout the night due to breathing, sweating, and peeing (or prepping to piss in the morning). You need to restore it if you want step two to be even more effective.

How Air Force historians are aiding hurricane response

You don’t need to jump out of a plane. You just need to dedicate 5-10 minutes of your time.

(Army photo/John Pennell)

Step 2: Move

The great American Poet Christopher Brian “Ludacris” Bridges was talking about you first thing in the morning when he said:

“Move b*@$h, get out the way”

Although I don’t necessarily agree with the negative self-talk, Luda has a point. If you want to feel good, be successful, and healthy, you need to move in the morning. Help yourself get out of your own way.

Now that you’ve restored your synovial fluid with your water, your body will have an even easier time greasing up your joints and spine to make you feel like your limber self.

Besides, just making it more comfortable to live movement helps transport all the cellular workers of your body to decrease inflammation (reduce soreness) and increase recovery (that means you’ll be able to train harder and longer sooner.)

How Air Force historians are aiding hurricane response

Running to get the new Mighty Fit Plan like…

(U.S. Army Reserve photo by Sgt. Jennifer Shick)

Congratulations

You’re now better than the 80% of Americans that don’t get the recommended weekly dose of activity.

You can always do more, don’t let your exercise for the day stop here. Remember that momentum is a powerful thing. If you start the day with three big wins every morning by:

  • making your bed (like ADM McCraven told you to),
  • rehydrating,
  • and getting 5-10 minutes of movement in, then the rest of the day is just gravy.

Check out my morning routine ebook here for specific recommendations on morning movement.

Don’t forget to join the Mighty Fit Facebook group!

A new Mighty Fit Plan is coming out at the start of the new year, email me at michael@composurefitness.com to be one of the first to get your hands on it!

How Air Force historians are aiding hurricane response

My email is michael@composurefitness.com

MIGHTY TRENDING

‘Everything is on the table but Crimea’ at the Trump-Putin summit

The Kremlin says Russian President Vladimir Putin is open to searching for compromises with his U.S. counterpart on “all” issues except the status of Ukraine’s Crimea region, which Moscow claims is part of Russia.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov made the comments on July 2, 2018, ahead of a planned summit between Putin and U.S. President Donald Trump in Helsinki on July 16, 2018.

Relations between Moscow and Washington have deteriorated to a post-Cold War low over issues including Russia’s seizure of Crimea in March 2014, its role in wars in Syria and eastern Ukraine, and its meddling into the 2016 U.S. presidential election.


Peskov said on a conference call with reporters that Putin “stated multiple times and explained to his interlocutors that such an item as Crimea can never appear on the agenda, considering that Crimea is an integral part of Russia.”

How Air Force historians are aiding hurricane response
President Donald Trump

“All the rest are matters [subject to] consensus, discussion, and a search for possible points of contact,” he added.

Trump, asked on June 29, 2018, whether reports about him dropping Washington’s opposition to the Russian annexation of Crimea were true, said, “We’re going to have to see.”

White House national security adviser John Bolton, who met with Putin in Moscow on June 27, 2018, later ruled out the possibility of abandoning Washington’s opposition to the takeover.

“That’s not the position of the United States,” he told CBS on July 1, 2018.

The European Union, the United States, and other countries have imposed sanctions against Russia over actions including its seizure of Crimea and its role in a war that has killed more than 10,300 people in eastern Ukraine.

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

Articles

This film festival rolls out the red carpet for military veterans

Founded in 2006 and held every year in Washington, D.C., the G.I. Film Festival celebrates filmmakers and military veterans as they come together to showcase their compelling narratives featuring real heroes and real stories.


This year the G.I.F.F. kicks off its 11th annual festival with a Congressional Reception on Capitol Hill to shine a spotlight on veteran health and transition.  The 5-day event begins May 24th and includes screenings of feature, documentary, and short films at various venues, as well as filmmaker panels and a Pitchfest for the aspiring talent.

Related: This Army veteran started his own festival to help fellow military filmmakers

This year, 20 filmmaking contestants will be allowed to pitch their best ideas to a panel of expert judges made up of managers, agents, and producers all within a friendly and constructive atmosphere. The winner will receive a prize package in front of their peers.

With more than 50 film projects ready to be screened, the G.I. Film Festival provides the perfect mix of entertainment and networking for our nation’s veterans with stories to tell.

Take a look at this year’s GIFF compilation trailer.

(GIFF 2017, Vimeo)
MIGHTY HISTORY

Watch what it was like to parachute into Normandy in 4K video

“You’ve probably been wondering what it was like to make my first trip into combat,” writes Pfc. Jim “Pee Wee” Martin, a paratrooper with the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne. Martin made the jump into Normandy on June 6, 1944, along with thousands of other Allied troops. “… the sky was full of orange and red blossoms of fire… I stepped out to meet a ladder of flak and tracers.”


The words in Pfc. Martin’s letter to his wife and family are brought to life by Academy Award-nominated actor Bryan Cranston. The images of paratroopers flying the most important one-way trip in history are restored in full 4K video by the team over at AARP, dedicated to preserving the words and deeds of America’s aging Greatest Generation.

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How Navajo code talkers saved Marines in WWII

Growing up on the Navajo reservation in New Mexico and Arizona, Chester Nez endured many indignities at the hands of the U.S. government.


During the Great Depression, the federal government slaughtered his family’s sheep herd, destroying their livelihood. Shipped off to Bureau of Indian Affairs boarding schools at the age of eight, he wasn’t even allowed to keep his Navajo name — administrators assigned him the name Chester in honor of President Chester A. Arthur. If teachers caught him speaking his native language, they beat him or washed his mouth out with a bar of soap.

Yet when U.S. Marine Corps recruiters arrived in Tuba City, Arizona in the spring of 1942, looking for young men fluent in Navajo and English, Nez volunteered for duty. It was less than six months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and the Navy had suffered a string of defeats in the South Pacific.

“I thought about how my people were mistreated,” he later said. “But then I thought this would be my chance to do something for my country.”
How Air Force historians are aiding hurricane response

Chester Nez during World War II

Nez’s amazing sense of patriotic duty was a perfect fit for the secret program he was about to enter. The program was the brainchild of Philip Johnston, a 50-year-old civil engineer and World War I veteran who had read about the military’s need for a fast and secure means of encoding battlefield communications. As a member of the American Expeditionary Force in France during WWI, Johnston knew that Native American soldiers had transmitted messages in their tribal languages by telephone. The dialects, including Choctaw, Comanche, and Cherokee, were completely unknown to any Germans who might be listening in, giving the army a crucial advantage. Choctaw soldiers even developed a code based on their language for extra security, although it was never used in battle.

Johnston believed that Navajo represented an even greater opportunity to develop an indecipherable code — especially since the Germans had studied Choctaw in the interwar period. The son of missionaries, Johnston had grown up on the Navajo reservation and was fluent in the language, whose syntax and tonality make it incredibly complex. Depending on inflection and pronunciation, a single word can have as many as four distinct meanings. At the time, there was no Navajo alphabet — it remained an unwritten language spoken only on the reservation. While German anthropologists and journalists, including the Nazi propagandist Dr. Colin Ross, had studied other Native American tribes in the years after WWI, they did not make a subject of the Navajo. Johnston estimated that less than thirty people outside of the tribe had any familiarity with the dialect.

How Air Force historians are aiding hurricane response

A group of code talkers who took part in 1943’s Bougainville campaign

(USMC)

In February 1942, Johnston traveled to Camp Elliott in San Diego, California to present his idea to Lieutenant Colonel James E. Jones of the Signal Corps. Initially Jones was skeptical, but he gave Johnston the go-ahead to stage a demonstration for Major General Clayton B. Vogel, commander of the First Marine Division, Amphibious Corps of the Pacific Fleet. Johnston recruited four Navajos from the Los Angeles shipyards and brought them to San Diego for the test. They were divided into teams of two, sent to opposite ends of the building, and given six messages to encode and transmit via field telephones. After some quick word substitutions — “dive bomber” became “chicken hawk” (gini) — the Navajos were able to accurately translate the messages from English into Navajo and back again within seconds. Using standard cryptographic equipment of the day, the same task would have taken 30 minutes to complete.

Impressed by the demonstration, Vogel submitted a request to the Commandant of the Marine Corps to recruit and train 200 Navajos as communications specialists. The first 29 enlistees, Chester Nez among them, arrived at the San Diego Marine Corps Recruit Depot in May, 1942. Most had never been off the reservation before, and some had never even taken a bus or a train. Many had lied about their ages in order to sign up. After completing basic training, the members of 382nd Platoon, nicknamed “The Navajo School,” were sent to Camp Pendleton in Oceanside, California, and tasked with developing a code that was simple, fast, and reliable enough to be used in battlefield conditions.

The code they developed with the help of Signal Corps officers had two parts. First, hundreds of common military terms were assigned Navajo synonyms. “Submarine” became “iron fish” (besh-lo). “Colonel” became “silver eagle” (atsah-besh-le-gai). “Battleship” was “whale” (lo-tso); “fighter plane” was “hummingbird” (da-he-tih-hi); “America” was “our mother” (ne-he-mah); and so on. Next, each letter of the Roman alphabet was given up to three corresponding Navajo words. For example, “A” could be encoded as wol-la-chee (“ant”), be-la-sana (“apple”), or tse-nill (“axe”). “N” was tsah (“needle”) or a-chin (“nose”). Using this system, the Navajos could spell any English word while minimizing the repetitions that might allow enemy listeners to break the code.

In August 1942, the first group of Navajo code talkers completed their training and reported for duty at Guadalcanal. They were assigned to combat units and given field telephones and radios to transmit bombing coordinates, tactical orders, troop movements, etc. Messages written in English were encrypted by a code talker and radioed to a compatriot who had committed the entire code to memory. He would render the message back into English and pass it along; the written copies were destroyed immediately. In his memoir, Code Talker, Chester Nez recounted his first transmission: Beh-na-ali-tsosie a-knah-as-donih ah-toh nish-na-jih-goh dah-di-kad ah-deel-tahi (“Enemy machine gun nest on your right flank. Destroy”).

How Air Force historians are aiding hurricane response

Three of the original code talkers being honored by President George Bush in 2001

All told, more than 400 Navajo code talkers served in WWII. They played key roles in every major Marine engagement in the Pacific, including Okinawa, Tarawa, Bougainville, Saipan, Guam, and Peleliu. At Iwo Jima, six code talkers worked round the clock for the first two days of the battle, relaying more than 800 messages without error. According to Major Howard Connor, a signal officer in the 5th Marine Division, “were it not for the Navajos, the Marines would never have taken Iwo Jima.”

The Japanese were skilled code breakers, yet they never managed to decipher the Navajo code. Even a Navajo soldier captured at Bataan (who was untrained as a code talker) could make neither heads nor tails of the encrypted messages he was forced to listen to–the strings of unrelated words sounded like gibberish to him. After the war, he told his Navajo comrades, “I never figured out what you guys who got me into all that trouble were saying.”

In addition to storming beaches, hunkering down in foxholes, and enduring the stifling heat and humidity of jungle combat, the code talkers faced an unexpected danger: U.S. soldiers who mistook them for the enemy. At Guadalcanal, a Navajo named William McCabe was in a chow line when someone yelled, “Halt, or I’m gonna shoot!” and dragged him off to be interrogated. Chester Nez was “captured” by US troops on the island of Anguar. They put a .45 pistol to his head and accused him of being a Japanese soldier impersonating a Marine. A superior officer had to step in to defuse the situation.

How Air Force historians are aiding hurricane response

Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton hosts a commemoration ceremony for the Navajo Code Talkers at 1st Marine Division Headquarters, Sept. 28, 2015.

(USMC photo by Cpl. Asia J. Sorenson)

After the war, Nez and his fellow code talkers returned to face the hardships of life on the reservation. New Mexico did not grant Navajos the right to vote until 1948. Jobs were scarce, and although the G.I. Bill provided veterans with financing for a home loan, many banks refused to grant loans to Navajos because they held reservation land parcels in trust and had no proof of title. When he went to a federal building in his USMC uniform to register for an identity card, Nez was told that he wasn’t a “full citizen” of the United States. To make matters even more difficult, the Navajo code was so valuable that the program remained classified for more than two decades after the war. The code talkers weren’t allowed to discuss the details of their service, and their incredible skill and bravery went unrecognized.

Thankfully, all that changed in 1968, when the code program was finally declassified. In 1971, President Richard M. Nixon presented the code talkers with a certificate of appreciation for their “patriotism, courage, and resourcefulness.” In 2001, the original members of The Navajo School were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor by President George W. Bush. Theirs is one of the most incredible stories of WWII: As boys, they were forbidden to speak their native language. As young men, they used that same language to save thousands of American lives, help to turn the tide of the war in the Pacific, and create one of the only unbroken codes in the history of modern warfare.

This article originally appeared on Explore The Archive. Follow @explore_archive on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

No one wants Russia’s new fighter — they want the F-35

Russia recently grabbed a bunch of publicity for its new Su-57 fifth-generation jet by sending a pair of the supposedly stealth fighters to practice dropping bombs in Syria — but it looks like the F-35 could squash the program in its infancy.


Multiple experts recently told Business Insider that Russia’s program to acquire and field the Su-57 desperately needs an infusion of cash from an international investor, like India.

Initially, India was a partner in the Su-57 program, and intended to help develop, build, and, eventually, buy scores of the advanced fighter jet pitched as a rival to the US F-22 and F-35, but those talks soured and Russia never saw the money.

Also read: Russia’s new Su-57 ‘stealth’ fighter hasn’t even been delivered yet — and it’s already a disappointment

Experts now allege that Russia’s deployment of the underdeveloped, underpowered fighters to Syria, a combat zone where they’re hardly relevant as air-superiority fighters not facing any real air threats, was a marketing ploy to get more investment.

But while Russia rushes off the Su-57s for a deployment that lasts mere days and demonstrates only that the supposedly next-generation fighters can drop bombs, the US has made real inroads selling the F-35 to countries that might have looked at the Su-57.

How Air Force historians are aiding hurricane response
(Photo by Alex Beltyukov)

The US sent F-35s to the Singapore Air Show in February 2018 as part of an international sales pitch. President Donald Trump’s administration has loosened up regulations on who the US can sell weapons to, and the F-35, once a troubled program, finally seems to have hit its stride.

“The Russian economy is a mess,” retired US Air Force Lt. Gen. David Deptula, now head of the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies, told Business Insider. “One of the things they can actually get money for is the advanced tech in their weapons systems.”

More: These are the 11 Russian military aircraft in Syria right now

But with the Su-57 seeming like a long shot with trouble ahead, and the F-35 now ready to buy, the Trump administration’s expressed strategy of punishing the Kremlin’s cash flow with military sales might bear fruit.

Asked if the F-35’s export to countries like India posed a threat to Russia’s Su-57 program, Deptula gave a short answer: “Yes.”

The Su-57’s death blow could fall in a boardroom in New Delhi

How Air Force historians are aiding hurricane response
India wants a single-engine fighter jet. It could by the F-16 or F-35. (US Air Force)

Japan and South Korea are both thinking about buying more F-35s, but most importantly, The Diplomat rounded up several reports indicating that India’s Air Force formally requested a classified briefing on the F-35A, and it may buy up to 126 of the jets.

At around $100 million per airframe, such a purchase would likely leave little room in the budget for India to buy Su-57s, which would require vastly different support infrastructure than the US jet.

Related: The Navy’s first-ever F-35 carrier just deployed in the Pacific

“Having been to India and met with their Air Force leadership, while they are a neutral country, their culture is one that fits very well with English-speaking nations around the world,” said Deptula, who said the US trying to sell F-35s to India would be “worthwhile.”

If India decided to buy F-35s, or really any Western jet, Russia would have its struggling Su-57 and one fewer customer for it. Meanwhile, Russia has only ordered 12 of the Su-57s, not even enough for a full squadron.

So, while jet enthusiasts have long debated who would win in a fight between the F-35 and the Su-57, we may never find out.

The US’s F-35 is a real jet — three real jets, actually — that has significant money behind it to keep it flying in air forces around the globe for decades to come. Russia’s Su-57 has no such security.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

NASA just selected astronaut Jeanette Epps for a historic space mission by Boeing — 2 years after the agency abruptly bumped her from a first flight

NASA astronaut Jeanette Epps may finally be traveling to space.

The agency said Tuesday that it has assigned the 49-year-old rookie astronaut to Boeing’s Starliner-1 mission, slated to launch sometime in 2021.


The mission is actually the second that NASA picked Epps to fly. But she never made the first one, a Russian Soyuz flight that lifted off in June 2018, because the agency abruptly bumped her from the crew about five months ahead of launch.

“I don’t know where the decision came from and how it was made, in detail, or at what level,” Epps said during a conference in 2018 conference, but noted it was not medically related. “There were Russians, several of them, who defended me in the sense that it’s not safe to really remove someone from a crew that has trained together for years.”

NASA told Business Insider in a statement that a “number of factors are considered when making flight assignments,” adding that “decisions are personnel matters for which NASA doesn’t provide information.”

Despite the disappointing turn of events, Epps kept her composure over the years.

“Sometimes things don’t go the way that you planned,” she told “Business Insider Today” in 2019. “But I’m still in the astronaut corps.”

With her fresh assignment, Epps is once again poised to make history. The mission is to scheduled to be the first operational flight of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft, which should follow an uncrewed launch (possibly later this year) and a crewed flight test in 2021.

How Air Force historians are aiding hurricane response

The International Space Station. NASA

Epps will live and work aboard the space station for half a year

NASA selected Epps, an aerospace engineer, to be an astronaut in 2009. Prior to that, she worked at Ford Motor Company as a research scientist before moving on to the Central Intelligence Agency, where she was as a technical intelligence officer for more than seven years, according to her biography.

The Starliner-1 mission’s destination is the International Space Station, a facility that orbits 250 miles above Earth, and which people have inhabited continuously for 20 years. During her new upcoming mission, Epps will live and work aboard the 0 billion, football field-size laboratory for about six months.

Epps has not yet flown to space. She will join fellow spaceflight rookie Josh Cassada and veteran Sunita Williams. Williams, the Starliner-1 mission’s commander, has worked with Boeing and SpaceX over the past six years on the design and functionality of their new spaceships through NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

“I can’t wait for her to join our crew,” Williams said in a video she tweeted on Tuesday.

Cassada tweeted a humorous video congratulating Epps, who grew up in Michigan, on her crew assignment.

“Just a couple of things I think we need to get sorted out. I know we both claim Michigan, I’m not going to arm-wrestle you for it — I’ve seen you in the gym. So maybe we can split it?” Cassada said. “The only other thing we need to get sorted out is, on the Starliner, I call shotgun.”

Starliner launched and landed on its first uncrewed mission, called Orbital Flight Test, in December 2019. However, the spacecraft experienced two “high visibility close calls” that might have resulted in the loss of the spacecraft, NASA said earlier this year.

How Air Force historians are aiding hurricane response

The Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft is seen after it landed in White Sands, New Mexico, on December 22, 2019. Bill Ingalls/NASA

Boeing is now fixing its software, systems, and procedures to rectify the problems, and — at a cost of 0 million to the company — plans to refly the mission later this year. Assuming there are no further issues, veteran astronaut Mike Fincke, retired astronaut Chris Ferguson, and rookie astronaut Nicole Mann will fly the first experimental crewed flight in 2021.

NASA appears unfazed by a small air leak aboard the ISS, which a three-person crew is currently helping root out and repair.

Had NASA allowed Epps to fly on the 2018 Soyuz mission, she would have been the first Black astronaut to live and work aboard the ISS for an extended amount of time. However, that honor will likely go to Victor Glover, who’s slated to fly NASA’s next commercial mission with people, called Crew-1. (SpaceX successfully launched and returned its first astronaut crew on an experimental flight earlier this year.)

Similar to Starliner-1, the Crew-1 mission will be SpaceX’s first operational flight of its commercial spaceship, called Crew Dragon. That mission is slated to fly to the space station as soon as October 23, and Glover will launch with fellow astronauts Shannon Walker and Mike Hopkins, as well as JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Soichi Noguchi.

The Starliner-1 mission could prove especially important to Epps’ career, in that she is one of 16 active female astronauts in NASA’s corps who may return humans to the moon. Jim Bridenstine, the agency’s administrator, has repeatedly said NASA’s Artemis program will fly the first woman and the next man to the lunar surface in 2024.

“Business Insider Today” asked Epps about that possibility during a 2019 interview.

“It’s mind-blowing to think about being the first [woman] to step on this object that you see in the night sky,” she said. “I would hope that my mission would inspire the next generation of women, of all engineers and all scientists to kind of propel us forward, even beyond Mars.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

US Navy warship has been quarantined at sea for two months due to rare virus

A US Navy warship deployed to the Persian Gulf has been quarantined at sea for more than two months because of a virus outbreak, a rare move the US Navy revealed March 13, 2019, after an inquiry from CNN.

Parotitis, a viral infection with symptoms similar to the mumps, has spread across the USS Fort McHenry, a Whidbey Island-class dock landing ship, affecting a total of 25 sailors and Marines. Symptoms of the illness appeared for the first time in December 2018.


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Sick sailors were quarantined aboard the vessel and treated in the onboard medical facilities while their living areas were cleaned and disinfected. No one had to be medevaced off the ship, CNN reported March 13, 2019, but it’s very unusual for US warships to spend more than two months at sea without a port call.

How Air Force historians are aiding hurricane response

USS Fort McHenry.

“None of the cases are life-threatening and all have either already made or are expected to make a full recovery,” Fifth Fleet said in a statement emailed to Business Insider. Since the first case was detected at the end of 2018, 24 of the 25 infected individuals have returned to duty.

The US Navy told Business Insider that port calls were canceled, effectively quarantining the ship at sea while medical teams worked to get the situation under control. Exercising caution, it was determined that all of the more than 700 service members on the Fort McHenry would receive booster vaccinations for measles, mumps, and rubella.

Viral parotitis is an infection of the saliva glands on either side of the face that’s typically caused by the mumps, which can be prevented through vaccination.

The Fort McHenry, which carries elements of the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit, is currently operating in the Persian Gulf. A US military medical team specializing in preventative care will be deploying to the Fort McHenry in the near future to assess the crew and MEU’s health.

A US Navy spokesman told Business Insider that a ship is like a college dorm, locker room, or even a first-grade class. People are living in close proximity, and illnesses make the rounds from time to time, but this situation is quite unusual. The Navy said that it believes it has a handle on the situation.

As only a small portion of the crew has been affected by the virus, routine unit-level training operations have continued with some modification to the training schedules.

CNN reported that the Navy made no mention of the virus outbreak aboard the Fort McHenry until the outlet asked about it.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Irreverent Warriors combat PTSD with comedy and community

If you’ve had difficulty recovering from combat trauma, Captain Danny Maher, USMC (Ret), and best friend, Sergeant Ryan Loya, USMC have a prescription: camping, karaoke, and going on a 22-mile hike in your underwear.


Really? Let’s back up.

Ryan’s comrade in arms Sgt. Jeremy Sears committed suicide on Oct. 6, 2014 and six months later, Danny’s good friend L.Cpl. Artem Lazukin took his own life on March 29, 2015. Both men suffered from combat PTSD.

Also read: 13 ways vets with PTSD can get some freakin’ sleep

The loss of these two brave souls was profound, but in typical military style, Ryan and Danny decided to go to work. The conclusion that they came to: hanging out with guys who have experienced war and having a good belly laugh in the face of adversity is damn fine medicine.

What started as the “Silkies Hike, 22, with 22, for the 22”, a 22-mile hike for vets on July 25, 2015, has become a nationwide community 20,000 strong. The number 22 is significant because it is estimated that 22 vets commit suicide each day in the US.

Sporting official Irreverent Warriors “ranger panties”, these guys go on excursions that take them out into nature (or sometimes right through the city) where they can goof off, bond, and get a little respite from the demands of civilian life.

To get a sense of just how outrageous these guys are, check out this video:

Irreverent Warriors “Silkies Hike” from fredgraver on Vimeo.

While the event is high-spirited, the goal is a serious one: to let other vets know that they are not alone, that help is available, and that suicide is not the answer. It also helps spread awareness among the civilian population to ensure these brave men and women get the support they need.

The US Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that PTSD affects 31% of veterans and there is a substantial link between combat injuries, PTSD and suicide.

There are many things you can do if you experience PTSD symptoms, which include:

  • Uncontrolled aggression
  • Reliving the trauma
  • Depression
  • Isolation
  • Impulsivity
  • Substance dependence
As one vet put it, “You forget how to have fun.”

The first step in conquering PTSD is knowing that there is no way to think your way out of it. It’s actually your body’s sophisticated method of protecting you, a response known as “fight, flight, or freeze”. It’s got nothing to do with bravery and everything to do with having a fully functioning parasympathetic nervous system.

Related: Why did these vets ride their motorcycles wearing silkies?

Though we have made remarkable headway as a nation in understanding the threat of PTSD and its relationship to suicide, often, family members do not grasp the effects combat has on our minds and bodies. What starts off as a legitimate medical condition can spiral out and destabilize the dynamics of our homes.

The Irreverent Warriors are not just a good group of guys willing to help and have fun, they also partner with other military-friendly organizations that supply vets with much-needed services, everything from buying a home to starting a business.

Brotherly love and humor is not the cure-all for PTSD, but it can go a long way in speeding up the healing process and preventing tragedy. If you or a veteran family member is exhibiting symptoms of PTSD, reach out to the big-hearted guys at Irreverent Warriors.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why these combat vets turn to CBD for injuries and recovery

As states continue to reduce restrictions on cannabis use, more and more military veterans are rejecting opioids and prescription pain medications while experiencing positive results from cannabis products. CBD products are being used over prescription drugs to help treat pain and symptoms of PTSD, as well as for anxiety or sports recovery.

Combat veterans, like world-record base jumper and skydiver Andy Stumpf and Omar “Crispy” Avila, are huge proponents of CBD, specifically the hemp-derived offering available from Kill Cliff, a veteran founded/run organization that makes clean sports beverages.

I had the chance to chat with both guys and find out a little more about their military background and why they turn to CBD, as well as which strands/methods they prefer to utilize.

Former Navy SEAL Andy Stumpf set world records as a BASE jumper and skydiver.

(Courtesy photo)

Andy Stumpf enlisted in the U.S. Navy while he was still in high school, hell bent on becoming a Navy SEAL. While on a combat deployment, he was shot at close-range by an insurgent. Despite the severity of the injury, Stumpf continued his SEAL career by becoming a BUD/S instructor and the first E-6 selection commissioned through the Limited Duty Officer Program in the history of Naval Special Warfare. After commissioning, he joined SEAL Team Three for his final combat tour in Afghanistan. He was medically retired after seventeen years of service and hundreds of combat operations throughout the world.

In 2015 he jumped from 36,000 feet and flew over 18 miles in a wingsuit in an effort to raise one million dollars for the Navy SEAL Foundation.

“In the military, if you went to the medic with any symptoms, whether headache or bodyache, they used to give — and I’m not judging when I say this — a literal sandwich bag of 800mg Motrin, which certainly works for pain suppression but also liver liquidation and stomach upset. I could have asked for narcotics, but my body never responded well to it,” reflected Stumpf.

Now, he uses hemp-derived CBD for pain relief and the ability to sleep. He enjoys the Kill Cliff CBD drink after a two-hour training session to help “round the edges.” The 25mg CBD recovery drink gives him zero neurological suppression which is why he prefers it over something like a sublingual edible or a topical product.

“I’ve tried everything from topicals, salves, pills, and they all have a time and place. What I like about this product is that I can use it to maximize my recovery and health,” he shared.

Omar “Crispy” Avila on active duty before his life-threatening attack.

(Courtesy photo)

Omar “Crispy” Avila shipped out to Iraq in 2004 for what would be his first and last deployment. Near the end of his 11 months in country, his convoy was ambushed and his Humvee was struck by an IED that hit the fuel tank and exploded violently, propelling the vehicle into the air and killing one soldier instantly.

Avila climbed into the turret of his Humvee to provide cover fire for his team as flames engulfed the vehicle. He caught fire as grenades and ammunition succumbed to the heat, forcing him to jump from the roof of the burning vehicle. He broke both of his femurs and attempted to extinguish the flames.

He woke up three months later at a VA hospital in Texas. More than 75 percent of his body was covered in third and fourth degree burns and part of his right foot had been amputated.

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“I weaned myself off a lot of medications and I find myself waking up every single day with a lot of pain. I’m not saying that this CBD drink is the cure for everything but at least for me, it brings the pain and anxiety down,” Avila stated.

Avila opened up about anxiety (“it creeps up on you like a mother f***er”) and said the Kill Cliff drinks help him at the end of the day or when anxiety builds but he still wants to feel productive.

Launched in June 2019, Kill Cliff CBD is the fastest growing CBD brand in the country. The bioavailability of a CBD beverage is superior to other forms of CBD. It is nano-encapsulated and easily dissolved in the stomach before going straight into the bloodstream. Kill Cliff offers three flavors: The G.O.A.T., Orange Kush and Mango Tango.

For what it’s worth, I had the chance to try out the (very delicious) Mango Tango and it launched me into a calm state of concentration. Their promise that it “won’t alter your routine” held up remarkably well.

Anyone curious about trying it out for themselves can find the CBD products and other Kill Cliff clean energy drinks online and take comfort in knowing that the company was founded and is run by former Navy SEALs as a sustainable way to give back to the special warfare community through the Navy SEAL Foundation. Since 2015, Kill Cliff has donated over one million to military charities.

MIGHTY TRENDING

AF Chief of Staff is all jokes and optimism after diagnosis

On Feb. 23, 2018, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Dave Goldfein announced that he has Bell’s palsy, a form of temporary facial paralysis resulting from damage or trauma to the facial nerves. In his speech to airmen at the Air Force Association Air Warfare Symposium, he reassured the group that the condition was reversible and he would continue to serve as chief of staff.


“I woke up last Saturday morning with half of my face completely frozen, and it turns out it’s this thing called Bell’s palsy. So here’s the good news: It’s fully recoverable, I’m on the mend, and it only hurts you when I laugh,” he joked.

Goldfein is certainly not the first service member to be diagnosed with the condition — General Curtis LeMay, another Chief of Staff of the Air Force, reportedly had Bell’s palsy. While every military medical waiver is made on a case-by-case basis, service members with Bell’s palsy have a good record of receiving those waivers.

How Air Force historians are aiding hurricane response
Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James A. Cody congratulates Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein after the general swore in during a ceremony at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., June 1, 2016. Goldfein is the 21st Chief of Staff of the Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo by Andy Morataya)

According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, the prognosis for individuals with Bell’s palsy — roughly 40,000 Americans each year — is generally very good. Some cases are mild and subside on their own while others require various treatments, including medication and other therapeutic options.

Also read: 7 awesome airpower quotes from General Curtis LeMay

With few exceptions, the condition does not appear to prevent service members from deploying indefinitely and therefore should not subject them to the Pentagon’s recent policy update on military lethality.

Goldfein, with jokes and light-hearted humor, reassured troops that he was optimistic about his prognosis and eager to continue to serve.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Air Force F-117 Nighthawks can still be seen around the US

On July 26, 2018, two stealth aircraft were spotted taking off at the remote Tonopah Test Range in southwest Nevada, with one lingering over the base while the other appeared to head south.

Two stealth aircraft operating out of the secretive Tonopah base isn’t out of the ordinary. In this instance however, the two aircraft in question appeared to be F-117 Nighthawks — planes that were retired more than a decade ago.


The technology for the F-117 was developed in the 1970s, and the first F-117 unit reached initial operating capability in October 1983, becoming the first operational, purpose-built stealth aircraft.

It was designed to attack high-value targets without being detected. It could carry 5,000 pounds of internal payload, and two engines could push it to 684 mph. The plane, which took part in the invasion of Panama and the first Gulf War, was renowned for its precision.

How Air Force historians are aiding hurricane response

An F-117 Nighthawk flies over the Nevada desert.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Aaron D. Allmon II)

“It was the marriage of the GBU-27 to the F-117 that had a laser designator in its nose that made it such a precise, deadly platform,” former F-117 maintainer Yancy Mailes said in an Air Force release marking the 10th anniversary of the plane’s retirement, referring to a guided bomb . “It was best demonstrated during Operation Desert Storm when pilots snuck into Iraq and dropped weapons down the elevator shaft of a central communications building.”

Nighthawk pilots were nicknamed ” Bandits .” The maintainers, designated material application and repair specialists, were known as MARS, which eventually became ” Martians .”

While the plane was designed to elude detection, one was shot down by Yugoslavian air defenses in March 1999. The pilot bailed out and was rescued within hours, as enemy forces closed in.

After 25 years in service, the Air Force retired the F-117 on April 22, 2008. But the story didn’t end there. An Air Force official told Military.com in September 2017 that the service got permission to retire 52 Nighthawks but wanted to maintain them in case they were called back into service.

Rumors that the plane was still in flight continued for years. In late 2014, The Aviationist published photos showing F-117s in operation at Tonopah. It was suspected that the planes were being used for some kind of testing.

When asked by Defense News, the Air Force said a few weeks later that the Nighthawk was retired. Sort of.

The aircraft were being kept in Type 1000 storage, meaning they were being maintained in case they needed to be recalled to active service. That meant keeping them in their “original, climate-friendly hangars” at Tonopah, rather than building new storage facilities for them elsewhere, the Air Force said at the time.

In accordance with the Type 1000 program, or “flyable storage,” the service added, “some F-117 aircraft are occasionally flown.”

In October 2010, footage emerged that appeared to show the aircraft flying near Groom Lake Air Force Base, which is part of Area 51, and near Tonopah Test Range.

How Air Force historians are aiding hurricane response

An F-117 Nighthawk stealth fighter refuels from a 100th Aerial Refueling Wing KC-135R Stratotanker based at RAF Mildenhall in the UK, March 27, 1999.

(US Air Force photo)

Four years on, the shadowy Nighthawk is still seen skulking through the sky over the American West.

About six F-117s are kept in flyable condition at any one time, according to The War Zone , which reported that the planes are likely flown by contractors. That may be why there haven’t been official references to the Nighthawk’s activities, which may involve testing of low-observable technology.

Two Nighthawks were spotted flying together over Nevada in July 2016. In November 2017, what appeared to be an F-117 was spotted being hauled under cover on a trailer near Creech Air Force Base in Nevada. The next day, an F-117 was observed in flight north of Rachel, Nevada, being chased by a two-seat F-16 in what may have been a test of some kind of anti-stealth technology, The Aviationist said at the time.

But the Nighthawk’s time may finally be nigh.

According to the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, the Air Force is to remove four F-117s from service every year, a process known as demilitarizing aircraft, a service official told Military.com in September 2018.

“We had to keep all the F-117s in flyable storage until the fiscal ’17 NDAA gave us permission to dispose of them,” the official said.

It will be some time before the last F-117 leaves the flight line for good, and the expense of keeping them maintained in a museum may be prohibitive, meaning the Air Force could scrap them outright, according to The War Zone. But some vestiges of the Nighthawk may live on.

“It was a unique experience,” retired Col. Jack Forsythe, who first flew a Nighthawk in 1995 and led the final formation flight in 2008, said in early 2018 “It’s probably the same feeling that a lot of our (single seat) F-22 (Raptor) and F-35 (Lightning II) pilots feel today.”

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