The Air Force is in dire need of more fighter pilots - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

The Air Force is in dire need of more fighter pilots

Air Force officials have been warning about the force’s dire pilot shortage, and a recent Government Accountability Office report illustrates just how bad the shortfall has gotten.

The report assesses the gaps between the actual number of fighter pilots that the Air Force, Marine Corps, and Navy have and the number of positions they are authorized to have.


Each service branch reported fighter-pilot shortages that have grown worse in recent years. “Service officials attributed these gaps to aircraft readiness challenges, reduced training opportunities, and increased attrition of fighter pilots due to career dissatisfaction,” the report says.

The Air Force had at least 92% of its fighter-pilot positions filled between 2006 and 2010, an 8% gap, and 104% of what it needed in 2011, a 4% surplus. But the gap has grown since 2012 and is currently the biggest of the three military branches, at 27%.

The Air Force, which has undertaken a number of training and retention initiatives, projected its shortfall to last through fiscal year 2023.

Growing shortfalls and falling retention

The Air Force is in dire need of more fighter pilots
Maj. Gen. Jay Silveria, U.S. Air Force Warfare Center commander, walks out to an F-35A Lightning II with Lt. Col. Matt Renbarger, 58th Fighter Squadron commander, before his final qualification flight Sept. 26, 2014, at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.
(U.S. Air Force photo)

Each branch has different levels at which the difference between authorized positions and actual staff levels becomes a shortage. Air Force officials told the GAO that “their established practice is that pilot communities with less than 100 percent of authorizations are considered to be insufficiently staffed.”

Changing authorization levels led to an excess in some Air Force career fields in 2011, but an increase in authorized positions in the past few years has led to a growing shortfall among fighter pilots — from 192, or 5% of authorized positions, that year to 1,005, or 27% of authorized positions, in 2017. (The Air Force said at the end of 2017 that its total shortage was “around 2,000” pilots.)

“According to briefing documents prepared by the Air Force, this gap is concentrated among fighter pilots with fewer than 8 years of experience,” the report notes.

Air Force officials told the GAO that between 2006 and 2017, “fighter pilot gaps were generally limited to non-operational positions, such as staff assignments at Air Force headquarters or combatant commands.”

But the GAO also found that the Air Force had been unable to fill all its operational positions since fiscal year 2014, with the gap between the operational positions it needed to fill and the actual staffing levels it had growing from 39 pilots, or 1% of authorizations, in 2014 to 399 pilots, or 13%, in 2017.

The Air Force is in dire need of more fighter pilots
The Air Force’s fighter-pilot shortfall has grown significantly over the past several years.

Several factors have contributed to these shortfalls, in particular reductions to overall active-duty military end strength.

Service officials said that personnel reductions after the 2008 drawdown in Iraq and cuts to funding stemming from the 2011 Budget Control Act both helped reduce the number of fighter pilots in the military.

The Air Force shed 206 fighter pilots in order to meet initial demand for pilots of unmanned aerial systems in 2011 and 2012 and then lost 54 more to early-retirement incentives in 2014 and 2015. That was compounded by changes to force structure — the decline in active and reserve Air Force fighter squadrons from 134 in 1989 to 55 in 2017 has reduced the opportunities newly trained pilots have to gain flying experience.

These factors have helped create a bottleneck in the Air Force’s training pipeline. The service has more pilots entering than it has resources to train. According to the GAO report, between 2006 and 2017 the Air Force trained 12% fewer new fighter pilots than its target amount.

“Fighter pilots told us that the need to prioritize the staffing of experienced pilots to deploying squadrons has limited the number of experienced personnel available to train newer pilots at home stations,” the report says.

A fighter pilot needs about five years of training to be qualified to lead flights, which costs between about $3 million to $11 million depending on the type of aircraft they’re being trained to fly, according to Air Force officials.

The Air Force is in dire need of more fighter pilots

Those training issues are exacerbated by the reduction in aircraft, as longer maintenance times for legacy aircraft, like the F-16 or F-15, leave fewer aircraft available for training. (A shortage of maintainer crew members has also hamstrung the Air Force, though it has made progress adding more of those personnel.)

The services have also struggled to retain pilots.

The GAO found that the number of Air Force pilots signing retention contracts fell from 63% in 2013 to 35% in 2017 — despite the service increasing its maximum aviation bonus contract to $225,000 at the start of 2013, which was the highest amount offered by any of the military service branches.

Stop-gap measures

Officials from the service branches told the GAO they had used various tactics to address their pilot shortfalls, including longer and more frequent deployments, putting senior pilots in junior positions, and “prioritizing staffing fighter pilots to flying positions that require fighter pilot-specific technical skills.”

The service branches has also tried to compensate for fighter-pilot shortages by drawing on pilots from other career fields.

The Air Force is in dire need of more fighter pilots
F-16 Fighting Falcons from the Arizona Air National Guard’s 162nd Wing fly an air-to-air training mission against student pilots April 8, 2015.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Jeffrey Allen)

The Air Force, for example, has drawn on mobility pilots — those that fly cargo and refueling aircraft — to fill instructor roles for basic training to free up fighter pilots for duties elsewhere.

But fliers and squadron leaders told the GAO that these measures have had deleterious effects. Pilots and squadron leaders also said that some of these efforts to mitigate pilot shortages had helped drive down retention

A high operational tempo has limited the opportunities senior pilots have to train with junior pilots, which in turn limits the opportunities the service branches have to grow the number of pilots with specific qualifications. This also cuts into the services’ ability to rebuild readiness. Air Force officials said “high deployment rates … have resulted in less time for squadrons to complete their full training requirements because high deployment rates mean that there are fewer aircraft available for training at home stations.”

Moreover, increasing individual deployments undercut family stability, pilots said, affecting satisfaction with their careers.

The Air Force has taken steps to mitigate the effects the pilot shortage has had on pilots’ quality of life.

It has stood up teams dedicated to finding and implementing dozens of initiatives to reduce the fighter-pilot shortage.

The Air Force is in dire need of more fighter pilots
Maj. Tyler Ellison, a Thunderbirds pilot, administers the oath of enlistment to enlist Florida’s newest airmen during the Sun ‘n Fun International Fly-in and Expo Air Show at Lakeland, Florida, April, 25, 2015.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Manuel J. Martinez)

“For example, as the result of one initiative, 126 contractors have been placed in fighter squadrons to assist with administrative tasks and reduce workload for fighter pilots,” the GAO notes.

Air Force training squadrons have also taken steps to better apportion resources, including consolidating instructors among training units and altering the training process and syllabus, according to a February 2018 report by Aviation Week, but those shifts still put a strain on pilots and aircraft and represented “a leap into the unknown” for the units.

The GAO report also noted that the service branches had not reevaluated fighter-squadron requirements to reflect change conditions, the increased workload, and the effects of the increasing use of unmanned aircraft.

“Air Force officials told us that metrics that inform squadron requirements … have not been increased because the Air Force is instead prioritizing the effort to recapitalize its fleet of fighter aircraft,” the report said, adding that officials said they were also reassessing fighter-pilots’ nonoperational requirements, focusing on finding which ones could be reassigned to other pilots.

The report made recommendations for each branch, advising the Air Force to reevaluate those squadron requirements, “to include updating current assumptions of fighter pilot workload, and assessing the impact of future incorporation of [unmanned aerial systems] platforms into combat aviation.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Marine ‘Hero of Nasiriyah’ is retiring

While the saga of Private First Class Jessica Lynch, a soldier assigned to the 507th Maintenance Company who was captured by Saddam’s forces during Operation Iraqi Freedom, is well known, the incredibly heroic story of the attempt to rescue that unit isn’t. Now, the brave Marine behind that rescue attempt is retiring.

According to a report by the Marine Corps Times, Sergeant Major Justin LeHew is set to retire after 30 years of service in the Marine Corps. His most recent assignment has been with the Wounded Warrior Battalion — East, based out of Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.

LeHew became a legend while serving as a platoon sergeant with Company A, 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines, Task Force Tarawa during the initial stages of Operation Iraqi Freedom. When the chain of command learned about the dire situation the 507th Maintenance Company was in, they sent LeHew’s unit to try to rescue the soldiers.


According to his Navy Cross citation, when they arrived on the scene, LeHew helped his Marines evacuate four soldiers from the beleaguered maintenance unit. Then, an intense, three-hour-long firefight broke out. When an AAV-7 was destroyed, LeHew sprang into action.

The Air Force is in dire need of more fighter pilots

One of the AAV-7s destroyed in the Battle of Nasiriyah. Justin LeHew earned the Navy Cross for heroism in retrieving dead and wounded Marines from a similar vehicle.

(USMC photo by Master Sergeant Edward D. Kniery)

According to a release by the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, he made multiple 70-yard sprints to the destroyed vehicle, retrieving nine dead and wounded Marines, picking body parts out from the wreckage — all while under fire from the enemy.

He received the Navy Cross for his actions while on another deployment to Iraq with C Company, 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment. Around the time he was awarded the Navy Cross, he would again distinguish himself in combat — this time in Najaf. During a battle against insurgents, he repeatedly exposed himself to enemy fire, helping, once again, to evacuate the wounded, including taking one Marine with a sucking chest wound straight to a forward operating base. For his actions, he received the Bronze Star with the Combat Distinguishing Device in 2005.

The Air Force is in dire need of more fighter pilots

After his second tour in Iraq, LeHew held a number of senior leadership positions.

(USMC photo)

Since then, LeHew has held a number of senior NCO assignments. LeHew has also an obstacle in the Crucible named in his honor. In the opinion of this writer, LeHew also makes the short list of people who deserve having a ship named after them.

MIGHTY CULTURE

New Netflix documentary pulls back the curtain on military life

When the cheers of the viral military homecomings have dissipated and the videos stop playing, real life begins. Netflix’s new documentary, Father Soldier Son, pulls back the curtain and brings the viewer into the reality of the military family and the devastating cost of a 20-year war.

The public perception of a military service member leans toward words like heroic and exceptional. But they are human beings with real struggles as they live with the aftereffects of their commitment to this country. Father Soldier Son reveals that to the public. To create the documentary, two journalists from The New York Times spent 10 years (yes, 10 years) following American soldier Brian Eisch and his family.


What initially began as a film to document a battalion’s year-long deployment in 2010 during a troop surge evolved into an unexpected new project for directors Leslye Davis and Catrin Einhorn.

The Air Force is in dire need of more fighter pilots

“We really wanted to tell the stories of American soldiers and Brian was just one of many [in that deployment]. But his kids were just so captivating and they spoke with such honesty, openness and emotion about what they were going through. They really stuck with us,” Einhorn explained.

The documentary begins with Eisch’s sons, Issac and Joey. They share their feelings about their dad being deployed overseas and their deep fears for his safety. This is another unique perspective of this film; the public is given a glimpse of how deployment impacts military children.

The viewer then witnesses the joyful reunion for the boys when their dad comes home for a break in his deployment. It’s not unlike the homecomings that go viral on social media. But then, the directors bring you in deeper with the emotional, compelling moments when the boys have to say goodbye; something not many members of the public ever witness.

When Eisch returned to combat in Afghanistan, he was shot.

The Air Force is in dire need of more fighter pilots

Viewers are then brought on Eisch’s journey of being a wounded warrior. “We were able to show the before and what the boys were going through while he was away and the anxiety and fear that they have. Then we showed what happened after,” Einhorn explained. She continued, “There’s this sort of iconic idea of a hero, but what does that really mean? What is the sacrifice? Brian had a truck drive into a field and then jumped out of it to try and rescue this wounded ally of his. That is a very heroic thing by all accounts and he received an award for that. But what did that mean for him and his life afterward?”

Every time the directors thought the film was done, things kept happening in Eisch’s life that brought them back. “We got to take this personal and deep dive into this family to show how it [war] impacted them over time,” Davis said.

Three years after his combat injury, the constant pain forced Eisch to undergo a leg amputation.

The events that unfold after following that are a reality for many service members experiencing physical or invisible wounds of war. This film will bring viewers on a journey filled with hope, but also devastating loss and pain. “As journalists we really wanted to make it a window into a military family…These quiet consequences and how they can ripple through a family and reshape things. That’s what we witnessed with this family and felt hadn’t been explored,” said Einhorn.

The Air Force is in dire need of more fighter pilots

Directors Catrin Einhorn (left) and Leslye Davis (right).

Both directors were asked how the family reacted to the documentary once it was revealed.

“We got to watch it with the family…He [Eisch] thinks it’s true. He thinks the story accurately depicts his life. The first time the family watched it – it was very retraumatizing. They were in grief watching it, and shock. But it seems that it has their seal of approval,” Davis shared. Einhorn added, “He said it was both joyful and devastating for them to watch it. He turned to us at the end and said, ‘It’s true, I am struggling.'”

“We look forward to what people take away from the film,” Davis said.

The documentary is available at midnight on July 17 to Netflix subscribers. The directors shared that the New York Times will be releasing a follow up a few days after the release to give viewers an update on the family.

When watching the film, it will take viewers into the unadulterated reality for military families. Father Soldier Son is a stark reminder of the far reaching ripple effects of war.

popular

5 good reasons you can’t have pets in the barracks

Animal companions are a highlight of the post-service life of veterans. Loyal, trained to take care of your health needs and they keep depression at bay. Watching your dog get into mischief and then freezing in place when you catch them red-handed is priceless. Pets are best reserved for the transition into civilian hood. Pets are not allowed in the barracks for 5 valid reasons.

1. The quad would be a biohazard

Imagine morning formation followed by the routine physical fitness time. The detail leader rounds the group over to the quad and everyone stretches. The group assumes the push up position when suddenly you feel something very warm, oozing between your fingers. Not everyone picks up after their animals — that’s why we passed laws forcing people to do it. Now imagine 5,000 troops in a battalion with a furry friend.

pets in the barracks
Do his business on the lawn? Pugsly would never.

The benefit of those pristine training areas is that you do not have to worry about animal waste like you would in a park. The threat of slipping on a log that is an incubus of viral plague would become an everyday occurrence. Most people would pick up after their animals but enough people would not that it would affect the readiness of our warfighting organizations.

2. Field Ops

The animal’s health and wellbeing are also a concern when troops have to go on weeklong field ops. Other times troops train across state lines for months at a time. Who is going to feed the pet? Pets get lonely too. Pets, like people, become resentful when they feel abandoned. A person can be made to understand why you are absent from their life but an animal, in their innocence, cannot.

3. Not everyone is a pet person

Let’s face the ugly truth head on, some people aren’t meant to raise an animal. How many times have you seen a pet owner do the bear minimum to keep their pet a live? Why even have one at all. Statistically speaking, an increased rate of pet ownership is going to increase the rate of abuse. Neglect is a type of abuse, just feeding an animal subpar food with no attention or exercise is cruelty. Now, I’m not saying service members would intentionally neglect pets. However, the opportunity for that problem to exist in a barracks setting is a realistic concern.

Imagine the noise of all those cats, dogs and birds housed closely together. Now imagine every time the duty roves his post he sets off every single one of them into a barking frenzy at 0300.

4. They would escape

Animals are curious and full of energy. Naturally, some would want to explore the world by any means necessary. Room inspections would become near impossible. Troops would go UA and AWOL looking for their pets not caring about the consequences. It would present a new kind of discipline problem. Never underestimate the loyalty an active duty troop would have to their pet.

5. Troops would be happy

Troops would be happy, especially Marines. We can’t have Marines getting off work happy — it would be pandemonium. The world would end, there would be peace on earth, even Jesus would come back. No one would end their active service or retire. America needs her troops to be mean and lethal. No one is going to be angry enough to invade another country when they feel fulfilled in life.

popular

Watch this rarely seen footage of the assault on Hamburger Hill

Hamburger Hill, also known as Hill 937, was a 10-day battle that was considered one of the bloodiest campaigns of the Vietnam war. The battle resulting in over 400 U.S. casualties and sparked controversy back home.


Dubbed Operation Apache Snow, the mission was to disrupt the North Vietnamese from penetrating Laos and cutting them off from access to the key cities of Da Nang and Hue.

General Melvin Zais, the commander of the 101st Airborne Division, ordered allied forces to commence an assault on a well-fortified North Vietnamese 29th Regiment on May 10, 1969.

The hill was considered by many not to have any real significant military value.

Related: Rarely seen footage from the Battle of the Bulge

The Air Force is in dire need of more fighter pilots
This image shows wounded Troopers being loaded onto a UH1H Aca,!A”HueyAca,!A? helicopter operating in a Aca,!A”Dust OffAca,!A? or medical evacuation role. Operation Apache Snow, May 1969. (Melvin Zais Photograph Collection). (Photo Credit: USAMHI)

Both sides took heavy casualties during the fighting in the Ap Bia mountains, which includes heavy airstrikes, massive waves of artillery bombardments, and nearly of a dozen ground assaults. Most of the battle took place during the Vietnamese monsoons.

At one point, reports indicated a friendly-fire incident involving U.S. troops and the gunships that were meant to provide air support.

Also Read: Aerial footage of the Abraham Lincoln super carrier drifting

The battle that took place at Hill 937 was referred by reporters covering the story as “Hamburger Hill.” After the 10 brutal days of fighting, allied forces successfully secured the hill.

The Air Force is in dire need of more fighter pilots
U.S. troops positioned on the top of Hill 937.

Unfortunately, just five days after the U.S. claimed victory on the hill, troops abandoned the remote location, forcing many to wonder why so many died to take a hill that was abandoned shortly after victory.

The bloody attack was recreated and brought to the big screen in 1987’s “Hamburger Hill” directed by John Irvin.

Check out History Channel’s video to see this intense Vietnam war combat footage for yourself.

History Channel

MIGHTY CULTURE

Army enlists Nine Inch Nails member for new coronavirus-themed recruiting video

The U.S. Army recently released a new advertising video targeting young people living in a society crippled by the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The short video, titled “Unbelievable,” is the latest addition to the “What’s Your Warrior” ad campaign, which is designed to show members of Generation Z how their service is needed.

The video first aired Friday on YouTube and is making its way around social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. It features stark images that hint at post-apocalyptic life due to the COVID-19 pandemic and shows soldiers with medical and research specialties responding to the crisis.


When the unbelievable happens, we get to work. Learn more at https://go.usa.gov/xv9wN . #GoArmypic.twitter.com/HkKQqAftD4

twitter.com

The Army launched the “What’s Your Warrior” campaign Nov. 11, focused on trying to get young people to think about what type of warrior is inside them.

“We don’t want to sound opportunistic at all but, at the same time, we are very involved in the fight. The Army has a role in this,” said Laura DeFrancisco, spokeswoman for the Army Enterprise Marketing Office.

The video flashes the message, “When the unbelievable happens … the unbelievable rise to meet it.”

“There is the one shot of the soldier looking at a microscope; that is real world,” DeFrancisco said. “But just in general being a part of an organization that is involved in something that supports your community right here at home, which is an unusual role, especially for the active Army.”

The Army has deployed thousands of National Guard and Reserve soldiers in communities across the country, as well as hundreds of active-duty troops to provide medical support to hospitals trying to cope with the virus.

The video’s eerie background music, which builds in intensity, “was actually done for us by [Atticus Ross from] Nine Inch Nails,” DeFrancisco said. Ross, an English musician from the alternative rock band, wrote and performed the music for the ad.

“He created it for us just in the last two to three weeks,” she said.

The Army tested out the concept for the video last week by running 15-second, picture-to-picture stories on Instagram with the same “call to service” theme, DeFrancisco said.

“We were getting really good response from that, so that’s why we went forward with this video,” she said.

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to correct a quote and clarify who wrote and performed the music for the ad.

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

Articles

Get your tissues — The Rock just surprised a combat vet

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is a big supporter of the troops, and this isn’t the first time he’s surprised a vet, but his sincerity and flare always make for a heart-catching watch.


He partnered with Ford to unveil the 2018 Ford Mustang, and he decided to take it one step further by giving the car to combat Army veteran Marlene Rodriguez, who earned the Purple Heart for injuries received from an RPG while serving in Mosul.

Her reaction was stunned as she said, “I don’t deserve all this.” Johnson replied with, “You deserve more,” and we all lost our sh**.

His Instagram caption of the reveal was perfect (including the emojis–we’ve kept them intact for you):

This one felt good. Very good. ?? Our Ford partners asked me to unveil the never seen before, brand new 2018 FORD MUSTANG to the world. As their Ambassador, I’m happy to do.

With a twist.

Myself and Ford compiled a big list of US veterans and from that list, I chose Army combat vet Purple Heart recipient, Marlene Rodriguez to surprise and give it away to her.

It was such a cool moment that all of us in the room will never forget.

When Marlene, stopped and just looked at me and asked “Why?”, well that’s when I may or may not have gotten a lil’ emotional with my answer – in a bad ass manly way of course.

Why? Because of the boundless gratitude and respect I have for you, Marlene and all our men and women who’ve served our country. Just a small way of myself and the good people of FORD of saying THANK YOU.

A HUGE thank you to FORD, our SEVEN BUCKS PRODUCTIONS and everyone who was involved in making this awesome surprise come true.

Finally, thank you FORD for making the new 2018 Mustang straight ?, completely customizable for the world to enjoy. Thanks also for making sure I fit in it as well.

Marlene, fits better. ?. Enjoy your ride mama. Enjoy that Dodger game. You deserve it. 

It’s okay if you get a little misty-eyed over this one. We did.

popular

General Petraeus returned to duty days after being shot in the chest with an M-16

There are a lot of reasons for soldiers to visit sick call. Sure, there are a lot of skaters among the ranks of U.S. troops, but most of the military is looking to stay away from doctors and stay in the fight — especially while deployed. No officer exemplifies this more than Gen. David Petraeus, who was shot in the chest due to a negligent discharge.

The doctors were not thrilled at the prospect of letting then-Lt. Col. Petraeus walk out of the hospital. Just days before, the colonel was participating in a live-fire exercise at Fort Campbell, KY when a soldier under his command tripped. The fall caused the soldier to fire his M-16 rifle, hitting Petraeus in the chest.

Of course, Lt. Col. Petraeus survived.


The Air Force is in dire need of more fighter pilots

“Ooh, good attempt, Private Dipsh*t. If you had tried that at the range, you might have a sharpshooter badge.”

I remember standing for a moment and then going down to my knees and slumping to the ground,” said Petraeus. “The next I recall was being worried about the effect on the unit and delaying training. So I instructed the leaders to just prop me up against a tree with a canteen.”

Then, like a true soldier, he instructed medics not to cut off his load-bearing equipment because it took him so long to get it together and put it on. Medics then tended to his wound just like it says in the Soldier’s Manual. They then airlifted him to Blanchfield Army Community Hospital where doctors were forced to tend to his wounds without anesthesia. He was later rushed to Vanderbilt University Medical Center for more care. 

Despite having been shot, Petraeus couldn’t just languish in the hospital for months at a time. He was the commander of the Iron Rakkasans, not the Wet Paper Bag Rakkasans. He may not look like it at first glance, but the decorated Army officer is tough as nails and is willing to prove it. That’s exactly how he was able to leave the hospital soon after.

The Air Force is in dire need of more fighter pilots

“Come at me, son. My life has its own Konami Code.”

The surgeon that operated on David Petraeus that day in Nashville would later go on to work with Petraeus as a General. Republican Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist helped save the young officer’s life and later took testimony from the general on how he intended to train Iraqi troops.

Before that, however, Lt. Col. Petraeus needed to get out of the hospital. To prove to his civilian doctors that he was fine and ready for duty, Petraeus did 50 pushups without resting – just days after being shot by a 5.56 round in the chest from 40 meters and then undergoing surgery to repair the damage.

(It) feels like a combination of the most enormous blow imaginable and being hit in the back with a massive hammer from the force of bullet exiting the body,” Petraeus told The Leaf-Chronicle.I was very fortunate that the bullet did not sever an artery… I was also very fortunate that the bullet hit over the ‘A’ in ‘Petraeus’ rather than the ‘A’ in ‘U.S. Army.’

Articles

This is what happens to the personal effects of fallen warriors

The months following the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001, would forever shape the way the military does business.


In an effort to provide some sense of comfort to the families of those who perished that September day, the US Army Human Resources Command established the Joint Personal Effects Depot at present day Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, in Arlington, Virginia.

Its close proximity to the Pentagon made Arlington the perfect area to account for and process personal items of fallen warriors, return them to the families, and help provide closure.

The Air Force is in dire need of more fighter pilots
Staff Sgt. Luis Quinones speaks to the media about inventory process April 14, 2011, at the new Joint Personal Effects Depot at Dover Air Force Base, Del. USAF photo by Roland Balik.

But as America’s resolve strengthened, the young men and women of this country took up arms to defend the freedoms of its citizens against an unconventional new enemy in a war against terror thousands of miles away.

With the possibility of a rising number of casualties stemming from this new war, America’s military was faced with a new challenge — how to care for its fallen?

The History

As the war on terror intensified, the need for an expanded personal effects facility soon became evident and the JPED was relocated from Arlington to Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland.

Working out of old and sometimes dilapidated World War II era warehouses, workers at the JPED ran an assembly line operation without heat in the winter or air conditioning in the summer until 2005, when the decision was made to consolidate the Joint Personal Effects Depot, along with the services’ mortuary, to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.

The Air Force is in dire need of more fighter pilots
Nelson Delgado, operations management specialist (right) and 1st Lt. Marcus Hull, summary court martial officer, both with the Joint Personal Effects Depot, review personal effects inventory paperwork in processing line number 3 June 29, 2012, at Dover Air Force Base. USAF photo by Roland Balik.

“I was assigned to the depot in Aberdeen as a mortuary affairs specialist with the Army Reserve and I can say it was less than ideal conditions to work in,” said Nelson Delgado, JPED operations management specialist and retired Army Reserve master sergeant.

“Back then, everything was moved from station to station,” he said. “It was cramped and there was too much room for mistakes. One day, General Schoomaker (retired Gen. Peter Schoomaker, 35th Chief of Staff of the US Army) showed up and asked us what we needed.

“That’s how we got to Dover.”

In March 2011, construction of the current 58,000 square-foot state-of-the art facility was finally completed by the Philadelphia District Corps of Engineers at a cost of $17.5 million. A few months later in May, the first personal effects processed there.

The Air Force is in dire need of more fighter pilots
The JPED building on Dover Air Force Base, Del. Army photo by Tim Boyle.

Staffed by a mix of active and Reserve component Soldiers, Airmen, and Marines, as well as a handful of Department of the Army Civilians and contractors, the JPED, along with the Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations facility provides dignity, honor, and respect for the families left behind.

The Process

When Soldiers make the ultimate sacrifice in theater, their personal effects are inventoried, packed, and rushed to the JPED, usually within five days.

“If it comes through the front door, it has to be accounted for by us and sent to the family,” said Delgado. “We don’t throw anything away.”

“Sometimes, what might seem insignificant to you and me may, in fact, be very important to the families. We’ve actually had instances where families have called back asking for something like a gum wrapper that was given to the service member by a child,” he said.

The Air Force is in dire need of more fighter pilots
Nelson Delgado, Joint Personal Effects Depot operations management specialist, demonstrates operating one of two x-ray machines at the JPED located at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, Oct. 24, 2017. Army photo by Master Sgt. Brian Hamilton.

As items arrive at the depot, they are carefully x-rayed and screened for unexploded ordnance in a blast-proof corridor before they are ever brought into the main facility.

From there, items are brought into an individual cage where they are inventoried and packed for shipment to the service member’s primary next of kin.

“All the preparations are done, from start to finish, in one single room,” Delgado said.

Also Read: How Marines honor their fallen heroes — on the battlefield and at home

“We ensure there are two Soldiers present in the cage at all times in addition to a summary court martial officer. This gives us a system of checks and balances and also reduces the risk of cross contamination of items,” he added.

Each cage is equipped with photographic equipment, washers and dryers, and cleaning materials. As items are inventoried, they are carefully inspected and then individually photographed. Soldiers go through great pains to ensure each item is soil-free and presentable for the family members.

The Air Force is in dire need of more fighter pilots
At the two-year anniversary of the creation of the Joint Personal Effects Depot at Dover Air Force Base, Del., the command continues to process fallen service members’ personal belongings with unparalleled dignity and respect. Pictured here, personnel from the JPED process the personal effects of someone who was killed in support of overseas contingency operations. Army photo by Tim Boyle.

“We want to make sure everything that the individual service member had with them in theater is returned to the family,” Delgado said. “What we don’t want to do is make a difficult situation worse.”

“If an item is soiled or bloodstained, we will stay here as long as it takes to get it clean so it can be returned. Besides memories, this is all the families have of their loved ones,” he said.

The Presentation

After items are cleaned and inventoried, they are carefully packaged into individual plastic foot-lockers.

Each item is pressed and folded. They are placed neatly in the containers, and wrapped tightly with several layers of packaging paper and bubble wrap. Smaller items, such as rings, watches or identification tags, are placed into small decorative pouches, inscribed with the service member’s individual branch of service.

The Air Force is in dire need of more fighter pilots
The entire process, from start to finish is done in one location to help eliminate items from becoming misplaced or cross contaminated with other service member’s personal items. Army photo by Master Sgt. Brian Hamilton.

Items such as Bibles, flags, or family photos are placed at the top of the first box, so that they are the first things the families see upon opening it.

“We emphasize box one, because that is usually the box the families will open first. But that doesn’t mean we neglect box two, or box six, or even box 10,” Delgado said. “We treat each box the same way because we really want the families to know we care about their loved one.”

“That’s why we take our time and make sure items are neat and presentable, not just stuff thrown in a box.”

After the items are finally packaged and sent to the transit room, Soldiers scour the cage one last time and sweep the floor before exiting. Great attention to detail is given to make sure everything is accounted for and nothing is overlooked.

The Air Force is in dire need of more fighter pilots
Items that move through the JPED are carefully cleaned, packaged, and sent to the families who have lost a loved one. Army photo by Master Sgt. Brian Hamilton.

The Connection

Soldiers at the JPED are meticulously screened for duty fitness by HRC’s Casualty and Mortuary Affairs Operations Division before they are ever assigned there.

Assignments at the JPED can be emotionally taxing on the Soldiers working there.

Soldiers regularly attend resiliency training to help them cope with the tasks they are asked to perform. The JPED chaplain is as much there for them as he or she is for the grieving families attending dignified transfers.

“This is a job that not a lot of people want, or can do, but at the same time, this can be the most rewarding job you will ever do,” Delgado said.

The Air Force is in dire need of more fighter pilots
Nelson Delgado, Joint Personal Effects Depot operations management specialist, stands in cage one at the JPED located at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, Oct. 24, 2017. Army photo by Master Sgt. Brian Hamilton.

“Taking care of the personal effects is the last part of the process. This is what helps bring some sense of closure to the families. The families don’t see what goes on here, but we get to know the service members and their loved ones by working here. We develop a closeness and connection with them,” he added.

For Delgado and others working at the JPED, that connection sometimes hits close to home.

“Sometimes you see kids as young as 19 years of age coming through here,” he said. “I have a 19-year-old kid at home. Sometimes it hits a little too close to home. I don’t know anyone working here that hasn’t cried at one time or another.

“I spent 23 of my 25-year Army Reserve career as mortuary affairs and I was blessed to get assigned to the JPED. This is our way of giving back to the families of the fallen. It’s an honor to do this.”

Articles

Army picks Sig Sauer to replace M9 service pistol

The U.S. Army on Thursday awarded Sig Sauer a contract worth $580 million to make the service’s next service pistol.


Sig Sauer beat out Glock Inc., FN America and Beretta USA, the maker of the current M9 9mm service pistol.

“I am tremendously proud of the Modular Handgun System team,” Army Acquisition Executive Steffanie Easter said in a Jan.19 press announcement. “By maximizing full and open competition across our industry partners, we have optimized private sector advancements in handguns, ammunition and magazines, and the end result will ensure a decidedly superior weapon system for our warfighters.”

The Army did not offer any details about what caliber the new Sig Sauer pistol will be.

Related: The Marine Corps has ordered Leathernecks to use PMAGs for their rifles

The service launched its long-awaited XM17 MHS competition in late August 2015 to replace its Cold War-era M9 9mm pistol. One of the major goals of the effort is to adopt a pistol chambered for a more potent round than the current 9mm. The U.S. military replaced the .45 caliber 1911 pistol with the M9 in 1985 and began using the 9mm NATO round at that time.

Army weapons officials informed Beretta USA and FN America at SHOT Show 2017 that they had been dropped from the XM17 Modular Handgun System in a recent down-select decision, according to a service source who is not authorized to speak to the press.

The decision formally ends the Beretta’s 30-year hold on the Army’s sidearm market.

Beretta has fought hard to remain to remain the Army’s pistol maker. In December 2014, Beretta USA submitted its modernized M9A3 as a possible alternative to the Army’s Modular Handgun System program.

The Air Force is in dire need of more fighter pilots
A soldier fires a Beretta M9 pistol. | US Army photo

But the Army rejected the improved M9A3 which featured new sights, a rail for mounting lights and accessories, better ergonomics and improved reliability.

Beretta was not finished yet. It developed a new striker-fired pistol, the APX and entered it into the APX.

The Army began working with the small arms industry on MHS in early 2013, but the joint effort has been in the works for more than five years. It could result in the Defense Department buying nearly 500,000 new pistols.

Current plans call for the Army to purchase more than 280,000 handguns, according to Program Executive Office Soldier officials. The Army also plans to buy approximately 7,000 sub-compact versions of the handgun.

The other military services participating in the MHS program may order an additional 212,000 systems above the Army quantity.

“As MHS moves forward into operational testing, the due diligence taken by all of the stakeholders will ensure a program that remains on-budget and on-schedule.” Easter said.

MIGHTY GAMING

‘Fortnite’ announces ‘The End’ as final season powers down

The final “Fortnite” season 10 event ended suddenly, with every player’s screen going black and showing a black hole graphic instead. As millions of gamers tuned in to streams and their own games, they suddenly lost the ability to login (the only action on the display is an “Exit” button), and the official “Fortnite” Twitter account tweeted “This is The End.”

It’s likely not the actual end of “Fortnite,” the wildly popular battle royale game that overtook the gaming community starting in 2017. Rather, the gameplay map that fans have used the past two years is likely going to be replaced with a new setting.


If the tweet wasn’t enough confirmation, “The End” was definitely a planned sequence by “Fortnite” creator Epic Games, as the “lobby” of the game showed a special galaxy collapse animation for those who were in it at the time of the server power-down.

Other players in the game saw the world collapse in front of them, and the “Fortnite” status menu showed the phrase “Anomaly Detected” for all its different features.

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

popular

Watch a skilled archer hit targets from around corners

What you are about to see is not the stuff of medieval legend… although it should be. If someone were able to do this in the middle ages, they would likely have been set on fire for witchcraft. That’s how amazing it is to watch an able archer hit a target from around a corner.

For once, the reality of something is way cooler than it could ever be shown in the movies, thanks to archer Lars Andersen.


The Air Force is in dire need of more fighter pilots
This would be almost as impressive if it were real. (Brooksfilms)

 

Andersen is a Danish archer who is kind of like the Mythbuster of the archery world. He shows how amazing feats in archery can still be done in the modern world, without a modern bow and arrow set up. He’s proven that ancient Saracen archers could really fire off three arrows in 1.5 seconds, as history recorded. He can catch arrows in mid-flight, just like your Dungeons and Dragons character. He can deflect an incoming arrow with another arrow. He even demonstrates how to catch an arrow the use it to shoot another target.

The Air Force is in dire need of more fighter pilots
Sploosh.

In the 2017 video below, he’s demonstrating a technique used by English and Arab bowmen from the days of yore: shooting heavy arrows around corners – he even says it can be a really easy thing to do for any archer, you just lace the arrow on the string in the wrong place, slightly off-center. The off-center firing causes the air resistance to kick the arrow back, making it rotate into a turn.

He even demonstrates a “boomerang” shot, where the arrow turns completely around a corner.

The arrows will not hit the target on a turn with the same force as it would a straight-on target, so it’s unlikely to kill someone taking cover from your arrow barrage, but it will make them think twice about the cover they’ve chosen.

MIGHTY MOVIES

5 of the worst errors the living made at the Battle of Winterfell

If you haven’t yet seen the third episode of the final season of Game of Thrones, then stop reading this, go watch it, then come back and finish reading this. If you have, and you were reasonably frustrated for most of the episode, then this posting is for you. Be sure and comment about the tactical and strategic decisions you would have made. They can’t be much worse than the brain trust running Winterfell right now.


Strategically, their premise was flawed. They hinged their success on killing the Night King, something they could only do if he revealed himself, if they could kill him at all. Everyone else was expected to just fall back to a series of positions, expecting to be overrun. This plan fell apart immediately, except for the plan to fall back expecting to die – that part went just as they all thought it would.

The Air Force is in dire need of more fighter pilots

“Now you guys will at least see what is about to kill you.”

They deployed their maneuver forces first.

Not only did they send the Dothraki horde against the undead, the Dothraki were sent charging in head-strong against an enemy they couldn’t even see. The Dothraki have zero experience fighting in the dark, in the cold, or against an army that isn’t already afraid of them by the time they arrive. There was no reason to send them into the fighting first or to rely on them to do much damage to an overwhelming undead wave.

Reliance on maneuvering troops in an overly surrounded stronghold is what ended the French Army in Indochina, and it almost ended the army of the living.

The Air Force is in dire need of more fighter pilots

Why are you not using this superweapon? You know the Night King will.

They made little use of air superiority.

Everyone talks about these dragons as if they’re going to level the playing field or give Daenerys Targaryen the perpetual upper hand. And if I were a ground troop at Winterfell, I would have felt pretty good about the dragonfire death from above we had at our disposal. So what were Daenerys and Jon Snow waiting for? Dany was the least disciplined person on their side anyway, so once the plan went out the window, the dragons should have been playing tic-tac-toe all over the undead horde.

The enemy dragon didn’t show up until halfway through the battle and was using undead dragonfire like it was the key to beating the living because it was.

The Air Force is in dire need of more fighter pilots

If only they had some source of unlimited fire that not only killed the enemy but also lit the battlefield…

They had no eyes on the battlefield.

Every time the dragons lit up part of the enemy, it not only took enemy soldiers off the battlefield but it gave them living targets for their artillery and archers. A huge chunk of Winterfell’s defenders were barely used because they couldn’t see the incoming enemy. The Dothraki rode straight into the swarm, quickly overrun by a force they couldn’t fight because they couldn’t see them.

The only time the living army had any kind of chance or was able to use their natural abilities to their advantage was when they could see the enemy to shoot at them. Ask Theon Greyjoy and the crew from the Iron Islands as they stood around defending the group project’s least productive partner. They made every arrow count. If Arya Stark hadn’t actually killed the Night King, then Melisandre would have to be Winterfell’s MVP – she actually gave the defenders light to see.

The Air Force is in dire need of more fighter pilots

Another Tarley being recruited by the Night King.

They failed to plan for the enemy’s reserves.

All the Night King had to do was raise his arms by 90 degrees to bring in an entirely new wave of fresh troops to finish off whoever was left standing among the living. No fewer than 10 of the Winterfell defenders knew this, but failed to relay that message. Would it be so hard to take a swing at a corpse with your dragonglass just to make sure you don’t have to fight your friend later on?

Still, everyone was surprised and overwhelmed when the Night King raised the dead. Especially those who decided to hide out in a crypt.

The Air Force is in dire need of more fighter pilots

You know things are going badly when the Air Force has to pick up weapons.

The living still somehow managed to underestimate their enemy.

As Jon Snow ran up behind the Night King, the enemy leader stopped, turned, and raised another army of the dead. Jon Snow seemed very surprised by this. Why wasn’t the Night King giving him the one-on-one duel of honor Jon Snow knows he deserved? Because the Night King doesn’t care about things like that. All he does is win. He has no problems with winning a lopsided fight, even if he never has to fight it himself.

Jon and Daenerys thought they could just swoop down and kill the night king with dragonfire, despite there being a huge lack of evidence that he could be killed at all, let alone with fire. Then they assumed he would just reveal himself and allow himself to get splattered with fire. In their plan, every minute they didn’t know where the Night King was hiding or flying, there were hundreds of troops fighting for their lives and souls. Every minute their dragons weren’t spewing fire on anything else, the Night King was heavily recruiting for the White Walker Army Reserve.

Thank the old gods and the new for Arya Stark. Somewhere, CIA agents from the 1960s are nodding their heads in approval.

Do Not Sell My Personal Information