The Air Guardsmen who provide 'honor with dignity' - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

The Air Guardsmen who provide ‘honor with dignity’

The mission of the Nellis Air Force Base Honor Guard is to represent the Air Force in a variety of ceremonial functions in Southern Nevada, California, Arizona and Utah. They are responsible for rendering military honors for funeral services and various Air Force ceremonies, as well as provide their services at various opening ceremonies.

For the guardsmen, excellence is the only way “to honor with dignity.” Every day they are fine-tuning their skills, or tweaking the slightest hesitation or shift until they can no longer get it wrong.


Devotion to duty

Under the hot desert sun, a group of airmen stand motionless. In two rows of three, they’re positioned opposite of each other, where the only sound is coming from a gentle wind passing through the formation. Between them rests an unfurled American flag draped over a spotless white casket.

Without so much as a whisper, they simultaneously grip the flag and, with each motion as precise as the next, they begin folding it. As the flag reaches the final fold, the last airman bearing the folded flag breaks the silence.

“Again,” he says.

He hands the flag back to the formation for the airmen to unfold and repeat the movements. The airmen didn’t make a mistake, but in their line of work, they don’t practice until they get it right; they practice until they can’t get it wrong.

The Air Guardsmen who provide ‘honor with dignity’

Airman 1st Class MaryJane Gutierrez, Nellis Air Force Base honor guardsman, salutes during after playing taps during a military honors funeral at the Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery, Sept. 14, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Andrew D. Sarver)

Before any guardsman is put on a detail, they have nearly a month of training to learn the basic movements. Afterwards, they continue to meticulously work out the slightest imperfections.

“Most of us will have put in about 80 hours of training in the weeks prior to a detail because we have to be perfect. We can’t afford to mess up,” said Airman 1st Class David Diez, Nellis AFB honor guardsman. “Every funeral we do should be as perfect as we would want our funerals to be.”

Grit for greatness

In the distance, the repeated percussion of hands smacking against wood and metal escapes the open doors of the Honor Guard practice room. Inside, three airmen stand shoulder-to-shoulder, staring into a mirror to analyze their every movement.

“Present arms!” commands Senior Airman Philip Spegal, Nellis AFB honor guardsman.

The airmen lift their rifles with both hands then remove one hand, hit it against the stock and hold the rifles vertically in front of them.

“Port arms!” commands Spegal.

Again, they hit their rifles then position them diagonally across their chests. After taking a brief moment to pause and discuss what needs to be fixed, the airmen pick up their rifles and start again.

The Air Guardsmen who provide ‘honor with dignity’

Nellis Honor Air Force Base Guardsmen march in formation after presenting the colors at the South Point 400 NASCAR race opening ceremonies at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Sept. 14, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Andrew D. Sarver)

“Honor Guard is pure teamwork,” said Tech. Sgt. Leon Spence, Nellis AFB Honor Guard Non-commissioned officer in charge. “You can’t go to a funeral or a colors presentation and do everything by yourself. You have to be confident in your abilities and confident in your fellow guardsmen’s abilities to execute each detail as precise as possible.”

Passion for perfection

Down a hallway, the soft brushing of lint rollers against freshly pressed uniforms competes with the sound of gentle laughter from a poorly delivered dad joke.

In a room, Staff Sgt. Victoria Schooley and Airman 1st Class Ashley Libbey, Nellis AFB honor guardsmen, sit eye-level with their uniforms. With a ruler in one hand and a butterfly clutch in the other, Libby is aligning her ribbons. Across the room, Schooley is running her fingers up and down every seam of her ceremonial dress uniform, combing for loose strings to cut away with nail clippers or melt down with a lighter.

For them, looking sharp is just as important to having a successful detail as performing the actual maneuvers.

“I joined because I wanted to do a lot more than my regular day-to-day job. I wanted to feel like I had a bigger purpose in the Air Force and a bigger picture of our impact as a whole,” Diez said. “It will teach you to pay attention to detail, when you realize something as little as a crease in the uniform or a slight hesitation in a facing movement can be the difference between precision and failure.”

“We’re here to serve our community and I want to challenge people to come by and tell us what we could do better or to just learn about us and see what it is we do,” echoed Spence.

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

6 of the greatest phrases you hear as lower enlisted

To the absolute surprise of no one in the military, being enlisted personnel can suck. Of course, the magnitude of that suckiness depends on your unit but, overall, there’s a very good reason it tops many peoples’ lists of “worst jobs in the world.”

Being the lowest guy on the worst totem pole isn’t all bad, though. There are genuine moments of levity that keep troops reenlisting — despite how much bile they spew about their unit.

Leaders in the military aren’t the troops’ mothers. They won’t pat them on the back for tying their boots properly or washing their hands like a big kid. What a good leader will do, however, is commend good troops when it’s warranted. And, to be completely honest, there was no better feeling than knowing you’ve impressed your chain of command.

As a lower enlisted, these are the six greatest things you’ll hear.


The Air Guardsmen who provide ‘honor with dignity’

The thing about being commo was that no one notices you until something goes wrong — and then it’s your fault. Being commended means a lot.

(U.S. Marine Corps)

“Huh… I guess you’re right”

Good troops will always try to better themselves in their given field. If they’re an infantryman, you know they’re going to try to be the best infantryman they can. If they’re a waterdog, you better believe they’ll be be best damn waterdog the world has ever seen.

Acknowledgement of one’s hard work is rarely direct. You’ll likely never hear, “good job, Pvt. Smith. You really cooked one hell of a batch of eggs this morning.” True gratification usually comes when a leader admits that they’ve been bested at a given task by the person they’re training.

Having a superior admit that you’re in the right is a sweet, sweet feeling.

The Air Guardsmen who provide ‘honor with dignity’

Or the commander could just have you mop the grass in front of the company. That’d be a surprise to everyone.

(U.S. Marine Corps)

“The commander has a surprise for you at close out formation”

Surprises are almost never a good thing. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, it means that the poor Joe has to go clean the latrines or sweep all that sunshine off the sidewalk.

When it’s specifically noted that a surprise is coming “at close out formation,” however, it usually means either a promotion ceremony or an award. You know, the kind of surprises you actually want.

The Air Guardsmen who provide ‘honor with dignity’

If your barracks room actually does need cleaning, then it’s not a subtle clue. Clean your damn barracks room.

(U.S. Army)

“I got nothing else for you. Go clean your barracks room or something”

The military can’t stop for a single second. That’s just how it works. So, when the business day is reaching its close, the company area has already been cleaned for the seventh time that week, and there aren’t any pending connex layouts, leaders still need to find something for their troops to do.

There’s an understanding between good leaders and troops that the phrase “clean your barracks room” doesn’t always mean “clean the barracks.” Sometimes, it means go hide out in your room with your phone on. It definitely mean, “start drinking” — you’ll be called back in at any moment.

The Air Guardsmen who provide ‘honor with dignity’

Training rooms are like those sloths in Zootopia except the reason they’re so slow is because no one cares enough.

(U.S. Army)

“Your paperwork was pushed through”

You’d think that with the stupid amount of bureaucracy in the military, accountability of paperwork would be paramount. It isn’t. Not by a mile. When people tell you to make copies of everything and keep your originals, it’s not an off-handed suggestion. Things will get lost.

That being said, there are those once-in-a-blue-moon moments when everyone in the training room and battalion S-1 are in sync and absolutely nothing gets lost, torn, or rejected. When everything works in concert and a leave form is involved, it’ll bring a tear to your eye.

The Air Guardsmen who provide ‘honor with dignity’

All you can do is keep being the troop that your leader knows you to be.

(U.S. Army photo)

“My guy is one hell of a soldier/Marine/airman/sailor”

Leaders are in a perpetual pissing contest, trying to prove that they lead best. That’s part of the reason they push for their Joes to make the “Soldier of the Month” boards. Sure, it looks good for the soldier, but it’s more about getting some bragging rights over other leaders.

Still, knowing that you’re one of the guys that your leader is willing to put on a pedestal is one hell of a feeling.

“Zonk!”

This list wouldn’t be complete without the one-word phrase that makes a morning so much better:

“Zonk!”

It means that the first sergeant is fine with giving the troops a morning of PT off if they can sprint to their barracks room/car before they have time to change their mind. Legend has it that the first sergeant will do something if they catch someone — but nobody has ever been slow enough.

This is basically what it looks like.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This blunt Army officer has been nominated for chairman

President Donald Trump took to Twitter Dec. 8, 2018, to announce his nomination of General Mark Milley, 60, as the new chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the nation’s top military position.

“I am pleased to announce my nomination of four-star General Mark Milley, Chief of Staff of the United States Army — as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, replacing General Joe Dunford, who will be retiring,” wrote Trump.

Milley has served as chief of staff of the Army since August 2015.


He reportedly graduated from Princeton before serving as a Green Beret. He would go on to hold leadership roles in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The selection of Milley breaks the unofficial tradition of rotating chairmen by which service they’re a part of. Milley is replacing Dunford, a Marine, who took the reigns from an Army chairman.

The Air Guardsmen who provide ‘honor with dignity’

General Joe Dunford.

(DOD photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Dominique A. Pineiro)

The announcement comes surprisingly earlier, considering Dunford’s official tenure doesn’t end until October 2019. Trump went on to tweet, “Date of transition to be determined.”

Trump was expected to make the announcement at Dec. 8, 2018’s Army-Navy game, reportedly telling White House pool reporters on Dec. 7, 2018, “I have another one for tomorrow that I’m going to be announcing at the Army-Navy game, I can give you a little hint: It will have to do with the Joint Chiefs of Staff and succession.”

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

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7 amazing and surreal details of the Osama bin Laden raid

In the years since the west’s most hated terrorist was killed in a raid in Abbottabad, Pakistan, many new details have emerged. From Twitter leaks during the raid to the surprising conduct of Osama bin Laden’s fifth wife, here are 7 surprising and surreal details from the raid:


1. The Situation Room was catered by Costco

 

The Air Guardsmen who provide ‘honor with dignity’
When you need to feed this many people, you have to buy in bulk. (Photo: Pete Souza, White House)

 

Apparently, the White House is into getting a deal because they decided Costco sandwiches were the best finger foods for the table in the Situation Room where the senior leaders would watch the raid play out.

They weren’t the only ones to enjoy sandwiches for the occasion. Navy SEAL Rob O’Neill, “The man who killed Osama bin Laden,” reportedly ate a sandwich by the body the next day.

2. The first leak of the raid was a local on Twitter

Sohaib Athar, an IT consultant living in Abbottabad, heard the helicopters hovering over the compound and decided to mention it on Twitter. He didn’t know that he was live-tweeting the raid that would kill the world’s most notorious terrorist.

The CIA decided to one up Athar in 2016 by live-tweeting the entire raid as if it was happening right then.

3. Osama bin Laden’s porn stash was a terrorist cliche

 

The Air Guardsmen who provide ‘honor with dignity’
I guess that explains his grin. Photo: Hamid Mir

 

According to an extensive description of the 2011 raid in The New Yorker, Osama bin Laden’s famous porn stash was actually a common find in terror raids.

A special operations officer quoted in the piece said, “We find it on all these guys, whether they’re in Somalia, Iraq, or Afghanistan.”

4. The top-secret helicopter was first destroyed with a hammer

 

The Air Guardsmen who provide ‘honor with dignity’
A section of the crashed helicopter from the raid sits outside the Abbottabad compound. Screenshot: YouTube/CBS News

 

A helicopter notoriously crashed during the bin Laden raid, partially because of a difference in temperature between where pilots rehearsed the raid and the actual site. The temperature difference accelerated a loss of lift when the helicopter ended up in its own rotor wash.

The pilot completed a masterfully controlled crash and then got to work destroying classified parts. While the helo would eventually be burnt with thermite and other incendiaries, the first wave of destruction was completed with a common hammer kept on board for that purpose.

5. One of bin Laden’s wives was talking sh-t the whole time like a spouse on “Cops”

According to testimony in the New Yorker article, Osama bin Laden’s wife was all about attacking the SEALs. When bin Laden went to hide behind her and another wife, Amal al-Fatah made a motion to charge the Americans. She was shot in the calf.

But she wasn’t done. Even as she and other survivors were left in the courtyard near the burning helicopter and the SEALs were exfiltrating the compound, al-Fatah was screaming insults at the Americans like she was telling the police not to take her man away on an episode of “Cops.”

6. The President met the SEAL dog after the operation, and that scared the Secret Service

 

The Air Guardsmen who provide ‘honor with dignity’
The military working dog during the bin Laden raid, Cairo, is a Belgian Malinois like this other MWD. (Photo by Tech. Sgt. Jeff Walston)

 

When President Barack Obama went to Fort Campbell, Kentucky to meet the SEALs and other operators on the mission, the Navy SEAL military working dog who was on the raid was closed in an adjoining room because of a request by the Secret Service.

President Obama asked to meet the dog anyway but allowed his muzzle to remain in place.

7. Because no one thought to bring a tape measure, bin Laden’s height was measured by a SEAL lying next to him

When Adm. William H. McRaven called the CIA headquarters to try and make sure that the man killed in the raid really was Osama bin Laden, one of his questions was the exact height of the body. Bin Laden was between 6 feet, 4 inches and 6 feet, 5 inches tall.

No one at the site had a tape measure handy, so a SEAL laid down next to it. Reports vary on whether the SEAL was 6-foot or 6-foot, 4-inches. Regardless, the final verdict was that the body matched bin Laden’s height. DNA evidence would later prove that it really was the terrorist who was killed.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This admiral might be the bluest falcon that ever lived

Fleet Admiral Ernest King was one of the greatest military minds of his generation, rising to command the entire Navy fleet after the attacks on Pearl Harbor and ensuring that every theater of the war had its needed material, manpower, and great thinkers throughout World War II.

But he also slept with the wives of subordinates, enforced prohibition on others while being staggeringly drunk, and punished the intelligence genius behind the Battle of Midway for outguessing his own team. Ya know, like a Blue Falcon.


The Air Guardsmen who provide ‘honor with dignity’

Fleet Admiral Ernest J. King, U. S. Navy, arrives at his quarters and salutes a soldier during the Potsdam Conference in 1945.

(U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

Let’s start with his buddyf*ckery that actually affected the war. As mentioned above, King had an issue with the intelligence genius behind the Navy’s Midway success.

The problem came during the buildup to the battle. King’s staff briefed him that the most likely Japanese course of action was an attack on the U.S. West Coast and the Aleutian Islands of Alaska. Admiral Chester Nimitz’s staff intercepted and decoded Japanese radio transmissions that indicated an attack near Midway Island.

Both intelligence sections were actually correct. The Japanese did attack the Aleutian Islands in June, 1942, and occupy a few of them, but it was a relatively small and inconsequential action next to the massive attack at Midway that same week.

The Air Guardsmen who provide ‘honor with dignity’

Captain Joseph J. Rochefort led the team that cracked Japan’s naval code, then prioritized which messages to translate first, and then took the collected information to paint a clear picture of the coming attack at Midway in 1942. He was rewarded by being shipped off to pasture.

(U.S. Navy)

Nimitz pressured King into giving him the needed ships for a defense at Midway, staged one of the most decisive engagements of the war, crippled the Japanese Navy, and then put in the top intelligence officer for a Distinguished Service Medal.

Seems well-earned, right? Captain Joseph J. Rochefort had led the team that cracked the Japanese code, then used intelligence garnered from that break to prepare the fleet for a decisive engagement that led to a massive American victory.

King didn’t think so. He summarily denied the award and then transferred Rochefort out of Nimitz’s staff and into a lesser position even though Nimitz begged him not to.

Caw. Caw.

The Air Guardsmen who provide ‘honor with dignity’

The Japanese ship Mikuma slowly sinks during the Battle of Midway in 1942.

(U.S. Navy)

But King didn’t limit his Blue Falcon practices to the official realm. He also slept with the wives of his subordinates, and often sexually harassed them. Women knew not to sit next to him at official functions because he had a tendency to let his hands wander under the table.

One officer, Captain Paul Pihl, was friends with King. He and his wife, Charlotte Pihl, would regularly attend parties with him. King reportedly held his own parties with Charlotte, going to the Pihls’ farmhouse when Paul was away at sea. This happened so frequently that King’s wife, Mattie, knew to call the Pihl house if she couldn’t find her husband at the office.

But most subordinate officers were more familiar and resentful of King’s notoriety for enforcing the rules against his own subordinates while violating them himself. While there are plenty of examples of this from ship life and day-to-day operations, it’s perhaps most notable in King’s drinking.

The Air Guardsmen who provide ‘honor with dignity’

The USS Lexington in 1941. King had predicted the rise of naval aviation and commanded the Lexington during a mock attack on Pearl Harbor in 1932 that almost perfectly predicted the 1941 attack.

(U.S. Navy)

King was in the service during Prohibition, and he encouraged officers around and beneath him to strictly follow the rules, except when he wanted to get drunk. He was known to carry a flask with him and doled out drinks with it when he wanted to party, even if he was pouring for people whom he would otherwise punish for drinking.

He even encouraged the commandant of his flight school to enforce prohibition against enlisted men and young officers while simultaneously joining an officers club known for its rancorous and alcohol-fueled parties.

All-in-all, not the best example or steadiest hand at the wheel.

The Air Guardsmen who provide ‘honor with dignity’

Admiral Ernest King onboard the USS Augusta (CA-31) with Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox during a visit to Bermuda in September 1941.

(Naval History and Heritage Command)

But the Navy put up with him and promoted him all the way to fleet admiral, making him one of only a handful of American service members who have ever worn five stars. Only five admirals ever received the honor, four of them during World War II.

That’s because, for his many flaws, he was also a brilliant tactician, strategist, and organizer. He predicted the rise of submarine warfare and naval aviation, attending and graduating both Navy schools, while the rest of his contemporaries were focused on battleships.

And he was known for doing what needed to be done, even if he was a jerk while doing so. When he was promoted to Chief of Naval operations over eight more senior admirals after Pearl Harbor. Legend has it that a reporter asked why he thought President Franklin D. Roosevelt had picked him, and King responded, “when the shooting starts, they have to send for the sons of bitches.”

As Roosevelt might have put it, “He’s a SOB, but he’s our SOB.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is what happened to Argentina’s lost submarine

The loss of the submarine ARA San Juan this past November is the most significant loss of a submarine since an explosion sank the Russian Oscar-class nuclear-powered guided-missile submarine Kursk in 2000. All 44 sailors aboard the German-designed Type 209 diesel-electric submarine were lost when it went on eternal patrol.


The Air Guardsmen who provide ‘honor with dignity’

ARA San Juan pierside.

(Photo by Martin Otero)

It took over four months, but the story of what happened to the San Juan was finally revealed in August of 2018. According to a report by TeleSurTV.com, the submarine suffered a fire in her forward battery compartment on Nov. 15, 2017, after seawater went down the submarine’s “snorkel.”

The crew of the sub fought the fire for two hours as the submarine descended. The vessel then reportedly imploded, instantly killing all 44 sailors on board. Claims that the submarine was in poor material condition were denied by the Argentinean Navy. A massive rescue effort, which included a Lockheed P-3 Orion and a Boeing P-8 Poseidon from the United States Navy, went on for weeks before the search was called off.

The Air Guardsmen who provide ‘honor with dignity’

USS Cochino (SS 345) departing on her last mission. One civilian engineer was killed when she was lost, as well as six sailors from USS Tusk (SS 426).

(U.S. Navy)

In the years after World War II, the United States lost two Balao-class diesel-electric submarines. In 1949, USS Cochino (SS 345) suffered a pair of battery explosions that sank the ship despite a 14-hour effort to save the vessel. One civilian engineer on the Cochino and six sailors from USS Tusk were lost.

In 1958, USS Stickleback (SS 415) was taking part in a training exercise when she lost power, broached the surface, and was rammed by the John C. Butler-class destroyer escort USS Silverstein (DE 534). Efforts by the crews of both vessels, plus the submarine USS Sabalo (SS 302), the destroyer escort USS Sturtevant (DE 239), and the submarine rescue ship USS Greenlet (ASR 10) to save the Stickleback failed. The sub sank, but all aboard were rescued.

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What superpower each branch of the Armed Forces would have

In every parking lot on every military installation is a bumper sticker that reads, “not all heroes wear capes!” It’s a great message and all, but it’s always fun to speculate what life would be like if each branch of the U.S. Armed Forces was a superhero. What super powers would they have?


So, in a completely tongue-in-cheek response to a nice and sweet bumper sticker, here’s what the superhero branches would be.

Army

Powers: Generic super strength, speed, and durability.

Weakness: Entirely bland.

The largest and most self-sustaining branch among the Armed Forces would also be the most run-of-the-mill superhero.

In comic books, nearly every protagonist who gets superpowers pretty much just checks off the standard hero boxes: super speed, super strength, super durability, etc. Now, this doesn’t make for a bad superhero, but it’s also not the most interesting. A perfect fit for the most average branch of the Armed Forces.

Related: 8 Marvel superheroes that served in the US Army

 

The Air Guardsmen who provide ‘honor with dignity’
Just like our boy, Captain America. (Marvel)

Air Force

Powers: Flight.

Weakness: They are a gigantic douche about it.

Every branch has their own form of aviation, but the Air Force is almost entirely defined by their ability to fly.

Sure, there are superheroes that can fly and shoot lasers like the BRRRT A-10, but no one is really impressed by their abilities — except the Air Force.

Related: 6 superheroes who were also Air Force officers

The Air Guardsmen who provide ‘honor with dignity’
I recommend Airmen pick up a few Captain Marvel comics before the movie comes out. A huge part of it will be about her time in the Air Force. (Comic by Marvel)

Navy

Powers: Control over the seas.

Weakness: Everyone thinks they just talk to fish.

The Navy is far more powerful than anyone gives them credit for. Too bad the rest of the Armed Forces mock them for the beach volleyball scene in Top Gun.

This is not unlike D.C. Comics’ Aquaman.

The average moviegoer probably thinks the peak of Aquaman’s power is having a conversation with a few fishy friends. Nobody ever mentions his super strength…

The Air Guardsmen who provide ‘honor with dignity’
There are no Navy superheroes. There have been a few comics where Aquaman has worked with them, at least… (Warner Bros.)

Marine Corps

Powers: Shooting.

Weakness: Shooting is all he knows.

Every Marine proudly takes to their mean, drunk, fighting-machine stereotype. They are damn good at putting bullets and mortars in places they belong… but that’s about it.

Thankfully for the Marine Corps, there already is a hero that embraces the stereotype and proudly rocks his Eagle, Globe, and Anchor. That’s right: The Green Lantern.

Oh, yeah. And The Punisher.

Related: 7 superheroes who served in the Marine Corps

The Air Guardsmen who provide ‘honor with dignity’
Admit it, Marines. A whole lot of you guys have a Punisher tattoo. (Marvel)

Coast Guard

Powers: Invisibility

Weakness: No one cares.

Coasties are a part of the Armed Forces. They’re not always attached to the Department of Defense, but they’re still brothers-in-arms. The Puddle Pirates are out there constantly fighting the good fight, but no one really gives a damn about them. If they are remembered, it’s by other vets mocking them for being essentially the Navy National Guard.

On the bright side, at least the Coast Guard has one superhero: Spectrum, whose superpowers vary greatly. One of which she, coincidentally, shares with the U.S. Coast Guard – not being noticed.

The Air Guardsmen who provide ‘honor with dignity’
To be fair, it’ll be a long while before she gets her own solo series. (Marvel)

MIGHTY TRENDING

North Korea just returned the remains of 55 Korean War dead

The remains of US servicemen who died in North Korea during the Korean War were provided to the US military on July 27, 2018, after President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un agreed to work on repatriation efforts during their June 2018 summit.

North Korea is estimated to have returned 55 sets of remains on the same day of the 65th anniversary of the armistice that paused Korean War hostilities. Around 5,300 US remains are still believed to be in North Korea.


“We are encouraged by North Korea’s actions and the momentum for positive change,” the White House said in a statement. “The United States owes a profound debt of gratitude to those American service members who gave their lives in service to their country and we are working diligently to bring them home.”

“It is a solemn obligation of the United States Government to ensure that the remains are handled with dignity and properly accounted for so their families receive them in an honorable manner.”

The Air Guardsmen who provide ‘honor with dignity’

A United Nations Honor Guard member carries remains during a dignified return ceremony at Osan Air Base, South Korea, July 27, 2018.

(Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kelsey Tucker)

The remains will be airlifted to a forensic lab in Hawaii, where the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency will perform identification tests, according to The Washington Post . The process will take several years and attempt to determine where the servicemen were missing or buried.

A formal repatriation ceremony will be held on Aug. 1, 2018, according to The White House.

Plans to return the remains appeared to be scuttled earlier in July 2018, after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo returned to the US after visiting North Korea for negotiations — following his visit, Pyongyang ramped up its rhetoric against the US in numerous propaganda messages and railroaded negotiations with US officials at the North-South Korean border.

If the remains are confirmed, the repatriation signals a win for Trump, who remained optimistic on their return after his first meeting with Kim at Singapore in June 2018. In a joint statement during the summit, Trump and Kim said their two countries would to work towards the “immediate repatriation” of US remains to “contribute to the peace and prosperity of the Korean Peninsula and of the world.”

“Great progress was made on the denuclearization of North Korea,” Trump said onTwitter in June 2018. “Hostages are back home, will be getting the remains of our great heroes back to their families, no missiles shot, no research happening, sites closing … Got along great with Kim Jong-un who wants to see wonderful things for his country.”

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

Articles

An Army Black Hawk has crashed in southern Maryland

A UH-60 Black Hawk has crashed in southern Maryland.


According to a report by the Washington Times, the crash occurred near Leonardtown, Maryland, about 60 miles southeast of Washington, DC. The helo went down between the third and fourth holes of the Breton Bay Golf and Country Club, avoiding populated areas.

The Air Guardsmen who provide ‘honor with dignity’
An Army UH-60 Black Hawk. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Shane Hamann)

Two Maryland State Police medevac helicopters have been sent to the scene. An employee of the golf course told the Washington Times the helicopter was flying low, then started spinning.

FoxNews.com reported that the Black Hawk was based out of Fort Belvoir and had a crew of three on board. One was injured and taken to a local hospital, the other two were reported to be okay.

Earlier this month, a F-16 Fighting Falcon crashed near Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland. The pilot ejected from the aircraft.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This fighter pilot shot down more than 20 enemy aircraft, earning him the title ‘Quad Jungle Ace’

Sitting in the driver’s seat with his foot on the gas, Major Gerald “Jerry” Johnson drove to the Alert Tent in the early morning hours of Oct. 13, 1943, as jeeps carrying other pilots from the 9th Fighter Squadron, 49th Fighter Group, Fifth Air Force trailed in a column behind. On his mind were the names of other pilots who were lost in a mission the night before, friends of his with whom he had shared pancakes in the mornings and gambled his valuables away in late-night poker games. They were briefed on the mission and sat around for hours in boredom at Horanda Air Field, a large stretch of land that was formerly just another patch in the New Guinea jungle.

When Johnson and his squadron of eight P-38 Lightnings were alerted, they took to the air to intercept a massive aerial convoy of 18 dive bombers supported by 20 agile fighters. They were outnumbered and outgunned, but Johnson wasn’t entirely concerned about that as all he could focus on was reaching the enemy before they dropped their payload over Oro Bay, an advanced military shipping installation.


The Air Guardsmen who provide ‘honor with dignity’

9th Fighter Squadron, 49th Fighter Group. Squadron posing in front of a P-38 Lightning commemorating the first USAAF pilots to land and operate in the Philippines after the landing on Leyte, October 1944. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

As his plane climbed through the clouds, the bombers came closer into his sights. He maneuvered his aircraft and issued orders over the radio to communicate their approach. The Japanese were unaware that they were being trailed in the air when Johnson and his squadron ambushed the enemy, walking his rounds from the nose of the aircraft into one of the dive bombers, igniting the plane’s fuselage.

Black smoke and a flash of flames burst through the plane’s side as the bomber plummeted out of the sky. The Japanese zeros peeled off, and an all-out dogfight ensued. On numerous passes, Johnson evaded the tracers shot by Japanese fighters, diving and climbing, rolling and tilting before his rounds struck and downed a second enemy bomber. Their surprise attack netted him three aerial victories, two bombers and one enemy fighter, a solid day’s work that impeded the enemy formation from reaching its target.

The Air Guardsmen who provide ‘honor with dignity’

A P-38 Lightning prepares to land after flying a heritage flight with the F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter April 3, 2016, during the Luke Air Force Base air show, 75 Years of Airpower. Photo by Staff Sgt. Staci Miller/U. S. Air Force, courtesy of DVIDS.

The large enemy force diverted away from their intended target as Johnson’s small but ferocious display of aerial finesse surprised and overwhelmed the Japanese. For his actions on this day he was awarded his first of two Distinguished Service Crosses. In his following tours, Johnson was a nightmare for the Japanese in the Pacific, earning 22 aerial victories with 21 probables to secure his status as a quadruple ace (five aerial victories are required to achieve “ace” status).

Sadly, while on a courier mission after the war, the B-17 or B-25 he was in entered severe weather, and a violent mixture of rain, lightning, and turbulence knocked out all radio communications. One of the passengers neglected to bring along a parachute, and knowing the consequences of giving up his own, Johnson handed it to the passenger, who then bailed out of the plane. Everyone with a parachute was rescued and survived, while Johnson fought with the controls until he perished. Accounts vary as to whether he was the pilot or a passenger on the plane.

Johnson’s remains were lost with the rest of the aircraft. Since he wasn’t on a combat mission, his heroic last act on Oct. 7, 1945, did not warrant a posthumous Purple Heart; however, he was awarded the Soldier’s Medal for heroism at the risk of life in a non-combat-related incident. A hero in the sky even on his final flight. Gerald R. Johnson is sometimes confused with Gerald W. Johnson, another ace pilot during World War II, but the latter’s aerial dominance was in the European Theater and not the Pacific.

Butch O’Hare: The Irish-American Who Became the US Navy’s First Combat Ace

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This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.


Articles

This is why Mattis isn’t losing sleep over threats from North Korea

US military strategists at the Pentagon have a military solution in place to address the growing threat emanating from North Korea, but they are holding their fire in favor of ongoing diplomatic efforts by Washington and its allies, Defense Secretary James Mattis said August 10.


The Pentagon chief remained largely mum on the details of that military solution, which theoretically would curb Pyongyang’s efforts to develop a nuclear-capable, ballistic missile arsenal, except to say any military option would be a multilateral one involving a number of regional powers in the Pacific.

“Do I have military options? Of course, I do. That’s my responsibility, to have those. And we work very closely with allies to ensure that this is not unilateral either … and of course there’s a military solution,” Mr. Mattis told reporters en route to meet with senior leaders in the technology sector in Seattle and California.

The Air Guardsmen who provide ‘honor with dignity’
Defense Secretary James Mattis. (DOD photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)

The former four-star general declined to provide any additional insight to a statement released August 9, warning that the North’s continued provocations — including alleged plans for an attack against US forces in Guam by Pyongyang — “would lead to the end of its regime and the destruction of its people.”

Instead, Mr. Mattis reiterated that the administration’s diplomatic efforts to quell tensions on the peninsula remained the top priority for the White House.

“We want to use diplomacy. That’s where we’ve been, that’s where we are right now. and that’s where we hope to remain. But at the same time, our defenses are robust” and ready to take on any threat posed by the North Korean regime, Mr. Mattis said.

US defense and national security officials have repeatedly touted the capabilities of the US missile defense shield over the last several weeks, in the wake of a pair of successful test launches by North Korea of its latest intercontinental ballistic missile in July. President Trump has made revamping US missile defense systems a top objective for the Pentagon since taking office.

The Air Guardsmen who provide ‘honor with dignity’
Photo from North Korean State Media.

That impetus has only grown among administration officials amid reports this week that Pyongyang had built a nuclear warhead small enough to fit atop one of the country’s long-range missiles.

On August 9, Mr. Trump threatened to rain down “fire and fury like the world has never seen” if North Korea did not curb its nuclear programs. In response, North Korea announced it was developing plans for a missile strike against Guam.

On August 10, Mr. Mattis declined to comment whether he was taken aback by Mr. Trump’s harsh rhetoric.

“I was not elected, the American people elected the president,” he said. “I think what he’s pointing out is simply these provocations … [and] his diplomatic effort to try and stop it,” Mr. Mattis said.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How Joker fighting the evil within resonates with veterans

Most people don’t think about evil. The force of evil is certainly out there, but it’s on a different street, a different city or across the ocean. Evil is something we see as a plot in Hollywood, in movies like Joker. It isn’t something most people give much thought to.

But for veterans, it’s different.


I sat at a table with a veteran friend of mine, sipping coffee in a local cafe. He looked around as we talked about where we’d been and things we’d done. “They’ll never know,” he said. “I mean, how could they?” Our fellow patrons were having conversations a million miles away from ours, talking about things like kids, yoga and groceries, not darkness or things that haunt us. “I suppose it’s better that way,” he added.

Maybe it is, I thought, but maybe not.

The recent depiction of The Joker has become the highest grossing R-rated release in box office history. Joaquin Phoenix’s performance is now an Oscar front-runner for his personal dive into villainy. For a society that doesn’t understand or talk about evil, The Joker has clearly found an audience. Phoenix’s rendition of Arthur is not the villainous story you might guess though, instead, it’s a man driven by his quest for love and entertainment; he hardly seems like a villain.

Phoenix said he prepared for this role by identifying with “his struggle to find happiness and to feel connected. To have warmth and love.” It’s an interesting juxtaposition: how does one end up being evil if all they want is love? This is the question and the genius of Joker. The same question haunts many veterans today. What is the difference between the pursuit of love and evildoing? Seems obvious, right? Maybe not, if evil never seems to be the aim. Yet, somehow people end up there – doing things that destroy the world around them. Even Hitler, a real life villain, once said, “I can fight only for something that I love.”

People want to believe that evil is something they can spot, as if it wears an enemy’s uniform and is clearly recognizable as “the bad guy.” The reality is, evil isn’t just lurking in a dark alley, waiting to sneak up on you when you least expect it. For some veterans, evil isn’t only external, although it certainly may have started that way. Evil isn’t something in a far-off land for us. It’s something we’ve carried home and something with which we have to deal. Carl Jung once said, “Knowing your own darkness is the best method of dealing with the darkness of other people.” What most veterans don’t know, but soon find out, is that facing evil out there means facing it inside of ourselves, too.

I have witnessed this realization many times in veterans, sitting next to them as they struggle with how the world could be this way. How could it be? Where is the good? As a chaplain and a social worker, I have seen, even been part of, people losing their hold on a world that they can picture themselves living in. The feelings of helplessness and sadness are overwhelming when facing a world with all its deficiencies.

It can be horrifying to think that we have something in common, even sharing the air, with the Jokers of the world. The genius of Phoenix’s performance is that most of us can see parts of ourselves in his character. This is what makes coming back from war so difficult; there is no shutting your eyes. Facing the realities of evil post-war is harder in a society that also wants nothing to do with it.

Service in the military shocked my own naiveté, forcing me to grasp with my own encounters with evil around me, even in me. War, more than any other environment, is the great tester. It reveals all of the little cracks and strengths. It is the great kiln of life. Perhaps facing these demons is a reason for the stubborn rising suicide rate and extreme isolation we see in veterans post-war. It also explains why veterans so often take roles in protecting people from it — serving in law enforcement and security.

For those who haven’t served, who has not felt the pain of betrayal, neglect or helplessness at an abuse of power? Allowing ourselves to experience the abyss of evil is “fearless”, as one critic said of Phoenix’s performance. Who has not found themselves filled with thoughts of revenge? Perhaps a better question then is: Why aren’t all of us Jokers? Why don’t we all go mad? Maybe we are. Maybe there’s a little villain in all of us.

Not all veterans can face their demons. Not facing the villain, outside and in, leads to a space you can’t share, a place where you join the Jokers of the world. This would explain why some veterans think of suicide as an honorable thing, saving the world from the Joker they have become. Some just drive faster, drink more, turn up the music and close their eyes when these evils start to appear.

There is good reason to avoid looking – we might not be prepared to fight the evil we see. Heath Ledger’s plunge into the character of evil may have led him to places that he could not find his way out from. Encountering true evil and the thin veil that separates us leads most to question our own capacity to overcome it.

Evil hides in omission — our lack of doing as much as our acts of doing. Stopping evil does not mean that we weaken or blind ourselves. Instead, as many veterans do, they choose to see the enemy, even if it’s within, rather than hide. The confrontation is fraught; not just with evil’s existence but in the failure to do good when they can. Veterans who find their way back home learn this. Veterans like Chase Millsap who saw local nationals murdered after working with U.S. soldiers and created a way for them to be safe with nooneleft.org. Veterans like Noel Lipana, who couldn’t make sense of his actions and has found a way to tell his story and shape others through an art performance piece. They could not omit. They decided that the way back is to do good. To exert agency over their helplessness in the face of evil. Is this not the only way? To do good, in the face of evil.

The last decade has brought new thinking on this as well, rethinking post-traumatic stress disorder toward a term called Moral Injury because it tracks better to veterans’ experience of war — that evil, sometimes our own, shocks our worldview. To see evil and the ugliness of humankind can shake you to your core and leave you with lingering questions. An abbreviated definition of Moral Injury refers to the lasting impacts of actions that violate a service member’s core moral values and expectations of self or others. Perhaps another definition is that Moral Injury is the impact of coming face to face with evil, even if it’s our own. Facing evil in the world can leave you with more questions than answers. Fortunately, these questions aren’t new, they just aren’t often talked about. Maybe that’s why evil and veil are just letters rearranged differently; both are thinly seen.

The story of the Joker is the story that veterans know all too well. Today’s society leaves most willfully blind to the struggles and evils in the world, leaving many veterans grasping for answers to questions that their neighbors are not asking. At first glance, it does seem easier to omit them, but closing our eyes to them will not save us. Perhaps the reason the Joker has garnered so much international attention is because it’s telling a story we all know, but don’t like to look at. A story that needs to be told.

We don’t say things we should. We don’t look at injustice if we can avoid it. We avoid confrontation when possible. We choose to close our eyes, rather than see.

The Joker invites all of us, not just veterans, to manage our own shadows by doing the good we know to do. Veterans don’t have the market cornered on this, most just signed up for it and are learning how to live with the evil around us.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Arctic Strategy Unveiled

In his last public appearance in 1935, Billy Mitchell, a former U.S. Army brigadier general and airpower visionary, testified before Congress that Alaska was the most strategic place in the world. From there, he said, U.S. Army aircraft could reach any capital in the northern hemisphere within nine hours. Mitchell cited, “Whoever holds Alaska will hold the world.” An Arctic presence enables global reach for whoever holds this region and the same is true today – although the flight times have drastically decreased.


Arctic – Strategic Importance

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Activity in the Far North is heating up, both environmentally and with competing sovereign interests. With the changing of maritime access due to receding land and sea ice, Russia has been refurbishing airfields and infrastructure, creating new bases, and developing an integrated network of air defense, while seeking to regulate shipping routes. China is also seizing the chance to expand its influence to obtain new sources of energy and faster shipping routes.

“The Arctic is among the most strategically significant regions of the world today – the keystone from which the U.S. Air and Space Forces exercise vigilance,” said Secretary of the Air Force Barbara Barrett.

The Air Guardsmen who provide ‘honor with dignity’

Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. David Goldfein, left, Secretary of the Air Force Barbara Barrett and Chief of Space Operations Gen. John Raymond attend a video conference at the Pentagon with members of the Atlantic Council think tank to discuss the rollout of the Arctic strategy, Arlington, Va., July 21, 2020. They discussed the Department of the Air Force’s first guiding strategy for operating in the Arctic region. (U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO // ERIC DIETRICH)

Barrett unveiled the new, comprehensive Department of the Air Force Arctic Strategy July 21. The strategy outlines the Department’s unique regional role and efforts to optimize Air and Space Force capabilities throughout the region in support of the National Defense Strategy.

“This Arctic Strategy recognizes the immense geostrategic consequence of the region and its critical role for protecting the homeland and projecting global power,” Barrett said.

The strategy outlines how the Air and Space Forces will enhance vigilance, reach and power to the nation’s whole-of-government approach in the Arctic region through four coordinated lines of effort: vigilance in all domains, projecting power through a combat-credible force, cooperation with allies and partners and preparation for Arctic operations.

Vigilance

The number one Department of Defense priority is homeland defense.

“The strategic value of the Arctic as our first line of defense has reemerged and (U.S. Northern Command) and (North American Aerospace Defense Command) are taking active measures to ensure our ability to detect, to track and defeat potential threats in this region,” Air Force Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy, recently told the Senate Armed Services Committee. He is the commander of NORAD and USNORTHCOM.

As the combatant commander charged with homeland defense, O’Shaughnessy is seeing the front line of homeland defense shifting north, making it clear the Arctic can no longer be viewed as a buffer. In a recently published commentary, O’Shaughnessy stated, “The Arctic is a potential approach for our adversaries to conduct strikes on North America and is now the front line in our defense.”

The Air Guardsmen who provide ‘honor with dignity’

North American Aerospace Defense Command F-22s, CF-18s, supported by KC-135 Stratotanker and E-3 Sentry AWACS aircraft, intercepted two Russian Tu-142 maritime reconnaissance aircraft entering the Alaskan Air Defense Identification Zone on Monday, March 9th. (U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO)

When it comes to the Arctic, U.S. Air and Space Forces are responsible for the majority of DoD missions in the region, including the regional architecture for detecting, tracking and engaging air and missile threats. Space Professionals in the region are responsible for critical nodes of the satellite control network that deliver space capabilities to joint and coalition partners, as well as the U.S. national command authority.

“Integrating space capabilities into joint operations fuels the joint force’s ability to project power anywhere on the planet, any time,” said Chief of Space Operations Gen. Jay Raymond. “The Arctic is no different. Spacepower is essential to Arctic operations, allowing us to see with clarity, navigate with accuracy, and communicate across vast distances.”

Projecting Power

Protecting America’s interests in the homeland and abroad entails more than a vigilant defensive posture. Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson and Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, present combat capability with fifth-generation fighters as well as mobility and refueling aircraft. The Air Force provides the capability to reach remote northern locations via the New York Air National Guard’s 109th Airlift Wing which operates ski-equipped LC-130s that can land on ice.

“Our unique positioning in locations like Alaska, Canada and Greenland are integrated with multi-domain combat power,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein. “These locations harness powerful capabilities, and their unwavering vigilance to protecting the homeland represents a strategic benefit that extends well beyond the region itself.”

Cooperation with Allies and Partners

Alliances and partnerships are key in the Arctic, where no one nation has sufficient infrastructure or capacity to operate alone. Interoperability is especially critical in the Arctic due to the terrains, limited access, and low density of domain awareness assets. Many regional allies and partners have dedicated decades of focus to the Arctic, developing concepts, tactics and techniques from which the joint force can greatly benefit. Indigenous communities possess millennia of knowledge about the Arctic domain passed down through generations. Working with indigenous communities helps Air and Space Forces understand the Arctic environment, enriches training and exercises, and ensures recognition of their contributions to Department of the Air Force activities.

The Air Guardsmen who provide ‘honor with dignity’

Airmen with the 109th Airlift Wing cooperate with the Royal Canadian Air Force’s 440th Squadron to load equipment on their Twin Otter aircraft in support of Air National Guard exercise Arctic Eagle February 23rd, 2020. (U.S. AIR NATIONAL GUARD PHOTO // TECH. SGT. JAMIE SPAULDING)

“Strong relationships with regional allies and partners, including at the local level, are a key strategic advantage for the U.S. in the Arctic,” Barrett said. “U.S. Air and Space Forces are focused on expanding interoperability with peers that value peaceful access in the region, and we appreciate our local hosts that have welcomed Department of the Air Force installations, Airmen and Space Professionals as part of their communities for decades.”

Preparation for Arctic Operations

The Arctic’s austerity requires specialized training and acclimation by both personnel and materiel. The ability to survive and operate in extreme cold weather is imperative for contingency response or combat power generation.

“Spanning the first airplane flights in Alaska in 1913 to today’s fifth-generation aircraft and sophisticated space monitoring systems operating in the region, the Arctic has consistently remained a location of strategic importance to the United States,” Barrett said. “While the often harsh weather and terrain there call for appropriate preparations and training, Airmen and Space Professionals remain ready to bring the nation’s Arctic air and space assets to bear to support the National Defense Strategy and protect the U.S. homeland.”

The Air Guardsmen who provide ‘honor with dignity’

354th Security Forces Squadron Combat Arms Training and Maintenance (CATM) instructors oversee Airmen preparing to fire an M-249 Squad Automatic Weapon at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, Jan. 9, 2020. CATM instructors are responsible for training Airmen how to use various small arms weapon systems. (U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO // SENIOR AIRMAN BEAUX HEBERT)

Eighty-five years have passed since Mitchell’s proclamation about Alaska, made just eight days before his death, and his words still ring true. The same could be said about his foretelling of the attack on Pearl Harbor or his vision of building the world’s mightiest Air Force. During his military career, his outspoken predictions were met with ridicule, which ultimately led to him resigning his commission. Mitchell’s strategic foresight on Alaska is no coincidence to the Air Force’s long history and appreciation to the Arctic, which has now led to the forward-looking approach by leadership to stabilize the region for years to come.

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


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