This airman with a PHD now monitors for treaty violations - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

This airman with a PHD now monitors for treaty violations

It’s not often you see those three-letter titles A1C and Ph.D. used to refer to the same person. As a matter of fact, only one-hundredth of one percent of the Air Force’s enlisted force from E-1 through E-9 possess a doctor of philosophy degree, one of 33 enlisted airmen in the Air Force with a doctorate degree.

Yet one woman with a doctorate in chemistry found herself signing on the proverbial dotted line, completing basic training, and is now assigned to the Department of Defense’s sole nuclear treaty monitoring center.


Airman 1st Class Cynthia A. Schroll enlisted in the Air Force in December 2017, though her unique career journey began much earlier, soon after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

“I was in my senior year of high school in 2001, and after 9/11 happened, I told my parents I wanted to enlist,” Schroll said. “During the discussion, my mother said something that struck me even using the word ‘please’ and asking me to do something for the first time in my life instead of telling me to. She said, ‘please don’t enlist. I’ve been saving your whole life for you to go to college.’ I knew how much it meant to her and I respect my parents deeply, so I went to college.”

This airman with a PHD now monitors for treaty violations

Airman 1st Class Cynthia A. Schroll, a radiochemistry technician at the Air Force Radiochemistry Laboratory, Air Force Technical Applications Center, Patrick Air Force Base, Fla., pours solution from a test tube as she prepares reagent kits for AFTAC’s precious metals program.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Susan A. Romano)

Schroll attended Morehead State University in Kentucky and earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry in 2006. She bypassed the traditional path after her undergraduate studies and went straight into the doctoral program at the University of Cincinnati.

“It’s not uncommon for people looking into science degrees to forego a master’s program and go straight into a doctoral studies,” Schroll explained. “Most universities that offer a Ph.D. will let you obtain a master’s degree if you find yourself struggling with the Ph.D. work load.”

She joked, “someone once told me that the difference between a Ph.D. and a master’s degree is the Ph.D. project has to work in the end, while a master’s student can write up all the ways the project didn’t work!”

Upon completion of her doctorate in analytical chemistry with an emphasis in spectroelectrochemical detection of f-block elements, she went straight into the work force doing environmental sample preparation, product management and worked as a contract research assistant at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. She also taught general chemistry at the University of Cincinnati for two years. It was an enjoyable career, Schroll said, but military service was still on her mind.

“I had everything going for me: a great education, good job, supportive family, everything, yet I was still thinking about enlisting,” she said. “But I had some significant hurdles to overcome. I was overweight and knew that was going to be a factor as to whether I’d qualify or not. I had pets. I had a house and in 2014, I lost my mother to multiple myeloma, a form of blood cancer. It was devastating to my family and me. I took it quite hard and was lost without her influence.”

This airman with a PHD now monitors for treaty violations

Air Force Basic Training graduation photo of Airman 1st Class Cynthia A. Schroll.

From that tragedy, however, came the realization that she still wanted to serve her country and thought it would be a lasting tribute to her beloved mother.

“I knew deep down from the beginning she didn’t want me to join the service, but through all the grief I was experiencing, I had to find a path that would bring me greater reward,” she explained.

So after several months of careful thought, consideration and a solid work-out program, Schroll paid a visit to her local recruiter to change her title from ‘Doctor’ to ‘Airman.’

“Before I left for basic, I had several lengthy conversations with my sister who served in the Army for almost 10 years and I spoke to several other female friends who had also gone through the experience,” she said. “They all told me about the mind games I should expect from the military training instructors and some of the difficulties that arise when you put 40 women together in small quarters for several weeks at a time. Needless to say, I found basic training quite entertaining!”

During basic, trainees are selected to fill certain jobs and responsibilities given to each flight: dorm chief, element leader, chow runner, and entry controller, just to name a few. Schroll volunteered to be the flight’s academic monitor. When the MTI asked what made her qualified for the job, she nonchalantly mentioned she had taught classes before. The MTI did some digging and learned that Schroll had a Ph.D.

“It all came out from there,” she said. “I tried to downplay it as much as I could, and I offered to help any of my flight mates with their study techniques, because we were all in this together. We had one trainee who had such bad test anxiety and we were all worried she was going to run out of the classroom before she finished the end-of-course exam. When our MTI started reading off our test scores, we collectively held our breath when hers was read and we cheered like mad when it was a passing score. A few of us even cried. By far my proudest moment as the academic monitor was the fact we all passed our exams the first time through.”

This airman with a PHD now monitors for treaty violations

U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Daniel Stein, 17th Training Group superintendent, presents the 312th Training Squadron Student of the Month award to Airman 1st Class Cynthia Schroll, 312th TRS trainee, at Brandenburg Hall on Goodfellow Air Force Base, Texas, June 1, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Zachary Chapman)

She graduated basic training in February 2018 and was sent to Goodfellow AFB, Texas, to undergo special instruments training. While there, she became friends with a large contingent of Air Force firefighters.

“Our tech school was housed with the airmen who undergo firefighting training, and it was so much fun,” Schroll recalled. “I was selected to be a red rope, the person who oversees dorm activities, and they kept me so grounded. I had so much respect for them that on my last day I woke up at 3:30 a.m. to go to their daily formation so I could shake every single hand and say thanks. I love and respect them all so much.”

During her tenure at Goodfellow, she received a special visitor who requested to meet with her. She was surprised to learn it was a command chief master sergeant who made the trip to speak directly with her.

“I was pretty floored when I found out Chief Master Sgt. Michael Joseph came to the schoolhouse to discuss career options with me,” she said. “He introduced himself as the command chief for the Air Force Technical Applications Center, and said his commander was very interested in having me on his team at Patrick AFB. I can’t put my finger on it, but during my conversation with Chief Joseph, I realized this was my chance to live out my desire to serve, especially in the capacity of a scientist. I thought to myself, ‘These folks who have so much experience would know how best to use my skills,’ so I put my trust in them.”

Joseph was highly impressed when he met with Schroll.

“I heard about A1C Schroll as she was coming through the pipeline since AFTAC has a majority of the 9S100 airmen in the Air Force,” said Joseph. “Every airman has a story, and I wanted to hear hers. Her background was impressive — she had written two books and has a patent to her name, but it was her desire to serve that impressed me the most. With her chemistry background and our operational need for highly-skilled chemists, it seemed like a natural fit for her to come to AFTAC.”

Recruiting personnel who possess highly-technical scientific degrees and experience has been a challenge for the nuclear treaty monitoring center, but AFTAC’s senior enlisted advisor believes they’re seeking out ways to overcome that challenge.

Schroll is assigned to AFTAC’s radiochemistry laboratory working as a radiochemistry technician. She is responsible for preparing reagent kits in the lab’s tech room as well as co-managing the precious metals program.

“I love the responsibility that comes from knowing our chemists are counting on me to prep their reagents properly and in a timely manner,” said Schroll. “If anything goes wrong with the chemistry, the first place that is looked at is the reagent, so I want them to have confidence when they see my initials on the label that they were prepared correctly.”

When asked if she was looking at becoming a commissioned officer someday, Schroll said it’s not out of the question, but it’s not her immediate focus.

“Right now, I’m still brand new to the Air Force, so I am learning as much about it as possible. I’m an airman first class, and with that comes the responsibility of being the best A1C I can be. My focus is on doing the job I am fortunate to have, and doing it as best I can. When I look to the future, I only see broad opportunities. But I’ve never been one to look too far ahead because all too often we make this grand dream or goal, only to forget to focus on the little steps to get there. I’m focusing on the little steps right now.”

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

Articles

How that Iranian missile strike into Syria turned out to be a massive failure

Iran’s missile strike on the Islamic State on June 18 appears to have been a massive failure, after only two of the seven missiles fired actually hit their targets.


Two of the Zolfaqar short-range missiles missed their targets in Syria by several miles, while three others did not even make it out of Iraqi airspace, according to Haaretz. Despite the apparent failures, Iranian state-affiliated media heralded the attacks as a success, referring to them as a “new and major” stage in the country’s fight against ISIS.

The strike was “a great deal less impressive than the media noise being made in Iran around the launch,” Israeli military sources told Haaretz.

This airman with a PHD now monitors for treaty violations
The launching of an Iranian Fateh-110 Missile. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Iranian legislators claimed the strike was also a sign to the US that Iran’s ballistic missile program will not be deterred by sanctions.

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, a radical paramilitary wing, claimed it conducted the strikes in response to ISIS’s attack in Tehran earlier this month.

Iran’s larger, longer-range missiles have struggled with accuracy problems in the past, as many lack global positioning satellite receivers. The Zolfaqar missiles, a derivative of the Fateh-110 heavy artillery rocket, were fired from Iran’s western provinces, likely in an effort to maximize range and accuracy. June 18th’s strike was the first use of the missiles in combat, meaning it could have been as much a test as anything else. Iran has a large and diverse ballistic missile arsenal with weapons that comparatively more developed than the Zolfaqar.

MIGHTY TRENDING

President Trump issued a stern warning to North Korea’s dictator

President Donald Trump said he was going to “remain flexible” and left open the possibility of shelving highly anticipated talks between the US and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

“We’ve never been in a position like this with that regime,” Trump said during a joint press conference with Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe on April 18, 2018. “I hope to have a very successful meeting. If we don’t think that it’s going to be successful … we won’t have it. We won’t have it.”


Trump went further, and floated the possibility of leaving Kim during the summit.

“If the meeting when I’m there is not fruitful, I will respectfully leave the meeting,” he said.

The exact location and date of the proposed Trump-Kim summit is not yet clear, but Trump reportedly said it could happen by early June 2018. The president said five locations were being considered, but added that the US is not one of them

This airman with a PHD now monitors for treaty violations
Kim Jong Un

US officials confirmed that CIA director Mike Pompeo made a secret trip to North Korea during Easter weekend 2018, to meet with Kim. Pompeo visited the country as part of Trump’s advance envoy to lay the groundwork for the proposed summit, during which the two leaders are expected to discuss the regime’s nuclear weapons program.

“I like always remaining flexible,” Trump said. “And we’ll remain flexible here. I’ve gotten it to this point.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is the West’s new plan to counter Chinese influence

The US, UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand want to use economic initiatives and other elements of soft power to counter growing Chinese influence in Asia and Oceania, according to an Asia Times report.

Leaders from the UK, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada — which, along with the US, make up the Five Eyes defense partnership — have reportedly agreed to expand aid, trade, and diplomatic relationships in the region in response to Beijing’s inroads there, which includes aid and investment in infrastructure projects.


China’s growing economic relationships — many of which come as part of its expansive One Belt One Road initiative — are a source of concern for Western countries and others in the Asia-Pacific region.

India, for example, has expressed concern with Chinese partnerships with countries like Pakistan, the Maldives, the Seychelles, and Sri Lanka.

China has lavished aid on the town of Gwadar, Pakistan, the site of a commercial deep-water port that the US and India worry could one day host Chinese naval ships. Early 2018 tensions between New Delhi and Beijing briefly rose over the Maldives, where the pro-China government’s declaration of emergency spurred calls from the opposition for Indian intervention.

This airman with a PHD now monitors for treaty violations
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modiu00a0with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Sri Lanka has taken on huge debts to China but is struggling to pay them back. The government’s decision to lease the port of Hambantota and land around it to Beijing in December 2017, raised ire in India, which fears it could be used by China to establish a military presence in the Indian Ocean. In what may have been a counter to China’s Hambantota lease, India signed a 40-year lease for a virtually unused airport nearby.

Similar dynamics have played out in the Pacific. While many of the countries there are tiny and sparsely populated, their vast exclusive economic zones cover much of the Pacific.

After a 2006 coup in Fiji, which prompted sanctions from Australia and New Zealand, Beijing became a key source of aid for Fiji, Tonga, and Samoa. China also funded a fish-canning facility in Papua New Guinea, Australia’s closest neighbor in the region, on the condition Chinese companies did the construction. A Chinese firm also got permission and concessions to set up a fish farm in French Polynesia, after Beijing gave aid and subsidies to the government there. (Chinese fishing vessels trawling the region are also suspected of gathering intelligence.)

This airman with a PHD now monitors for treaty violations
People’s Republic of China Maritime Safety Administration ship Haixun 31.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Eric J. Chandler)

More recently, Australian media reported that the governments of China and Vanuatu had discussed establishing a Chinese military presence in the latter country, an island nation northeast of Australia.

While China has made investments in Vanuatu, Australian media said there had been no formal agreements, and both governments denied such talks had taken place. (Other observers suggested Vanuatu and others in the region may be trying to play the West and China off each other.)

At present, China has only one military base abroad, located in Djibouti. While Beijing refers to it as a “logistics facility,” it is still cause for concern. A senior US military official said it posed “very significant operational security concerns.”

The Vanuatu report, and others like it, fuel concerns China is trying to leverage financial ties for more advantageous positions in the region.

This effort has been called “debt-trap diplomacy.” US Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer has described it as “weaponizing capital.” IMF chief Christine Legarde has cautionedChina and countries doing business with it about the potential for mounting debts.

This airman with a PHD now monitors for treaty violations
US Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Armando Gonzales)

Between 2006 and mid-2016, Beijing committed more than $1.7 billion in aid to projects in the Pacific.

That is less than the $9 billion committed by Western countries, led by Australia, over the same period, but aid from Beijing often comes without the transparency and accountability stipulations that accompany Western aid.

The Five Eyes countries’ efforts to counter China in the Pacific will include military surveillance and intelligence gathering operations, according to Asia Times. But it will include soft-power elements, like British Crown Prince Charles’ visit to Vanuatu in early April 2018. UK officials have also said their government would ramp up aid, trade, and diplomatic relations with countries in the region.

Japan has increased efforts counter China’s financial outreach by increasing its own international partnerships and investments — including in both Sri Lanka and Vanuatu. Australia and New Zealand have both expressed interest in doing the same, but, according to Asia Times, their decisions to reduce aid commitments may hinder efforts to curry favor with their neighbors.

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

Articles

General ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis got Trump to rethink his position on torture in under an hour

President-elect Donald Trump often asserted that “torture works” on the campaign trail. But one meeting with legendary Marine Gen. James Mattis appears to have made him rethink that stance.


On Saturday, Trump met with the retired four-star general at his Bedminster, New Jersey, golf course for about an hour to discuss the possibility Mattis could be tapped to serve as defense secretary.

This airman with a PHD now monitors for treaty violations
General Mattis speaks to Marines in 2007. | U.S. Marine Corps photo

Details about the private conversation are hard to come by, but Trump did reveal an interesting bit Tuesday to reporters at The New York Times when asked about waterboarding.

From the Times:

“He said, ‘I’ve never found it to be useful,'” Mr. Trump said, describing the general’s view of torturing terrorism suspects. He added that Mr. Mattis found more value in building trust and rewarding cooperation with terror suspects: “‘Give me a pack of cigarettes and a couple of beers and I’ll do better.'” He added: “I was very impressed by that answer.”

Torture, Mr. Trump said, is “not going to make the kind of a difference that a lot of people are thinking.”

It amounts to a “remarkable” reversal for the president-elect, as the Times put it. It also somewhat contradicts the position of  Trump’s national security adviser, retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who has said that “all options are on the table.” Before he campaigned for Trump, however, Flynn criticized the practice.

If indeed Trump has changed his tune on the use of torture, that’s good news to a number of national-security experts who expressed concerns in light of Trump’s election win.

“I don’t think it’s going to come back,” Tom Nichols, a professor at the Naval War College speaking of his personal views, said recently. “But that’s more hope than anything else.”

Mattis appears to be the frontrunner for the job of defense secretary. Trump told the Times he was “seriously considering” the retired officer for the position.

The debate over waterboarding in enhanced interrogations has a larger legal barrier than what President George W. Bush faced in the past. While Bush authorized the practice after the 9/11 terror attacks through legal memos, President Barack Obama ordered the practice to stop through an executive order. That order was later codified into law in 2015.

Gen. Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in March that the use of waterboarding is “inconsistent with the values of our nation.” Dunford previously served as Mattis’ deputy at 1st Marine Division.

MIGHTY MOVIES

These veterans were given a chance to perform standup at Gotham Comedy Club

The Armed Services Arts Partnership (ASAP) is an organization based in Virginia that builds communities for veterans, service members, and military families through classes, performances, and partnerships in the arts. As part of their mission, ASAP offers a Comedy Bootcamp for veterans to explore and develop their comedic abilities. 
These three veterans are alumni of the Comedy Bootcamp program and have been given the unique opportunity to perform their standup routines at the Gotham Comedy Club in New York City. Backed by veteran headliners PJ Walsh and Dion Flynn, the alumni put on a great show for their New York audience and proudly represented the armed services on the big stage.


MIGHTY HISTORY

How the legendary Memphis Belle was brought back to life

Through the cockpit windscreen, Capt. Robert Morgan saw flashes of light from the wings and engine cowling of a German Focke-Wulf Fw 190 at his 12 o’clock and closing at an incredible rate. Each wink of light from the fighter’s wing root meant another 20mm cannon shell was heading directly at his B-17F Flying Fortress at over 2,300 feet per second.

Having no room to dive in the crowded formation of B-17 bombers of the 91st Bomb Group, he pitched up. The Luftwaffe fighter’s shells impacted the tail of the aircraft instead of coming straight through the windscreen.


Over the intercom Morgan heard his tail gunner, Sgt. John Quinlan, yelling that the aircraft’s tail was shot to pieces and what was left was in flames.

This airman with a PHD now monitors for treaty violations
(U.S. Army Air Forces photo)

It was January 23, 1943. Morgan and his nine crewmen aboard the “Memphis Belle” had just fought their way through a swarm of Luftwaffe fighters, dropped their bombs on a Nazi submarine base in the coastal city of Lorient in occupied France and were fighting to survive the return trip to the Eighth Air Force base in Bassingbourn, England. Morgan began calculating if the crew should bail out and become prisoners of war before the tail tore completely off the bomber trapping the crew in a death spiral culminating in a fiery crash.

A moment later, Quinlan reported that the fire in the tail had gone out. The “Memphis Belle” and its crew would survive the mission; the crew’s eighth and the bomber’s ninth.

This airman with a PHD now monitors for treaty violations
(U.S. Army Air Forces photo)

They would have to survive 17 more missions to complete the required 25 to rotate home. All would be flown during a period of World War II when the Luftwaffe was at the height of its destructive powers.

Against all odds, the “Memphis Belle” crew flew those missions, their last to once again bomb the U-boat pens at Lorient on May 17, 1943, before returning safely to England for the final time. Bottles of Champagne were uncorked and radio operator Tech. Sgt. Robert J. Hanson collapsed onto the flightline and kissed the ground.

This airman with a PHD now monitors for treaty violations
(U.S. Army Air Forces photo)

For the “Belle” itself, it was only mission 24 and the plane had to fly once more with an alternate crew on May 19.

The B-17 and its crew would be the first to return alive and intact to the U.S. They were welcomed as heroes and immediately embarked on a 2 ½-month, nationwide morale tour to sell war bonds. The tour was also to encourage bomber crews in training that they too could make it home. It made celebrities of both the “Belle” and its crew.

Ironically, the two and a half months of press conferences, parties and glad-handing officers and politicians was about the same amount of time during the “Belle’s” combat tour that 80 percent of the 91st Bomb Group’s B-17s and their crews were lost to German fighters and anti-aircraft fire.

“Eighty percent losses means you had breakfast with 10 men and dinner with only two of those 10,” Morgan said in an interview after the war. During the totality of the air war over Europe more than 30,000 U.S. Airmen aboard heavy bombers, like the B-17, would be killed.

This airman with a PHD now monitors for treaty violations
(U.S. Air Force photo)

Seventy-five years to the day after that 25th mission, the Museum of the U.S. Air Force will honor the bravery of those bomber crews, some of the first Americans to take the fight to the Nazis in WWII, when they unveil for public display the largely restored B-17F, Serial No. 41-24485, “Memphis Belle” as part of a three-day celebration, May 17-19, 2018.

This airman with a PHD now monitors for treaty violations
Download the Museum Brochure Here

According to the museum curator in charge of the “Memphis Belle” exhibit, Jeff Duford, the weekend will include more than 160 WWII re-enactors showcasing their memorabilia, WWII-era music and vehicles, static displays of other B-17s, flyovers of WWII-era aircraft and presentations of rare archival film footage. The “Memphis Belle” will be the centerpiece of an exhibit documenting the strategic bombing campaign over Europe.

“The ‘Memphis Belle’ is an icon that represents all the heavy bomber crewmen who served and sacrificed in Europe in World War II,” Duford said, “In many ways the ‘Memphis Belle’ is the icon for the United States Air Force.

“You look at the U.S. Marines, they have this wonderful icon of the flag being raised over Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima and everyone recognizes that. It symbolizes service and sacrifice and tenacity and teamwork. Well, the Air Force has that symbol too, and it’s this airplane. It demonstrates teamwork. The crews had to work together. The planes in formation had to work together. The formations had to work together with the fighter escorts.”

The service and sacrifice of the young men still leaves Duford awestruck even after working on the “Belle” project for a decade.

This airman with a PHD now monitors for treaty violations
(U.S. Army photo)

“How does one climb inside of this aircraft knowing that they are probably not going to come home? And they don’t do that one time; two times; three times; 10 times – they have to do it 25 times,” said Duford. “Once they got inside the airplane, they had no place to run. There were no foxholes to be dug. The skin on those airplanes is so thin that a bullet or flak fragment would go through it like a tin can because that’s essentially what it was.

“The odds were that every 18 missions, a heavy bomber was going to be shot down. So when you think the crew had to finish 25 missions to go home, statistically it was nearly impossible. It was one-in-four odds that a heavy bomber recruit would finish their 25 missions. Those other three crew members would’ve been shot down and captured, killed or wounded so badly they couldn’t finish their tour.”

The fact the “Memphis Belle” crew survived their tour was of great value to the U.S. Army Air Forces in maintaining support for the daylight strategic bombing campaign over Europe, which was still, in fact, an experiment.

“Back then, there was no book on high altitude strategic bombing. The generals didn’t know any more than we did. They had to figure bombing strategy as we went along,” said Morgan in a book he would write after the war, “The Man Who Flew the Memphis Belle”.

The B-17 was named the “Flying Fortress”, because it was bristling with .50 caliber machine guns covering every angle of attack by German fighters, save one. The theory was that all that defensive firepower would be amplified by heavy bombers flying in tight formations, called “boxes”, enabling them to protect each other from attacking fighters.

While the German Messerschmitt and Focke-Wulf fighters sometimes paid a price for attacking the formations, they soon developed tactics that exploited a design weakness in B-17Fs, like the “Memphis Belle”.

This airman with a PHD now monitors for treaty violations
German Luftwaffe models used in fighter pilot training show the fields of fire covered by the machine guns of the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress.
(U.S. Army Air Forces photo)

While twin .50 caliber machine guns in top and belly turrets and the tail and single .50 cal. gunners protected the bomber, the 12 o’clock position was covered by a lone .30 caliber machine gun – no match for the German fighters. Because the bomber formations had to fly straight and level to initiate their bombing run, the Luftwaffe fighter pilots began attacking the formations head on. The ensuing carnage was ghastly.

“The secret to the B-17 was the capability of flying in tight formations, so tight that the wings were often almost touching,” wrote Morgan. “We were able to put out an amazing amount of firepower… but, I also positively feel that was a bit of divine intervention for our crew.”

While the addition of Allied fighter escorts helped fend off some German attackers, the fact that the B-17s had to fly at 25,000 feet or lower to maintain any semblance of accuracy on target put them in the range of the deadly German 88mm anti-aircraft gun. No amount of machine guns or friendly fighters could counter the dense flak approaching targets while flying straight and level.

Bomber crews had to just grit their teeth and pray.

“They felt like they were a great crew. They were tightly knit, confident and dedicated to what they were doing,” said Duford. “However, being in those formations, flying straight and level with enemy anti-aircraft and fighter aircraft, there certainly was a little bit of luck for them too.”

Luck, both good and bad, was also a factor in the “Belle” crew, despite not being the first crew to complete 25 missions, being the one to return to the U.S. for a bond and morale tour.

The “Belle’s” selection for the morale tour was the result of a film project about the strategic bombing campaign that was the brainchild of USAAF Gen. Hap Arnold and a Hollywood director, William Wyler, who had volunteered to serve his country in the best way he knew how.

It was hoped that a film documenting a bomber crew as they successfully completed a combat tour would calm new recruits, who were hearing stories of the carnage overseas, and assuage the doubts of the public, press and politicians that strategic bombing was a failure.

Wyler, an immigrant who was born in the Alsace region of modern-day France when it was part of the German Empire prior to World War I and who would go on to win three Best Director Academy Awards, including one for “Ben-Hur”, was commissioned as a major and headed to England with a film crew to document the fight in skies over Europe.

Wyler and his cameraman flew with B-17 combat crews and began filming missions of a B-17F of the 401st Bomb Squadron of the 91st Bomb Group named “Invasion II”. His staff also began interviewing and making publicity photographs of the crewmembers, as they drew closer to completing 25 missions.

However, on April 17, 1943, the reality of war spoiled the Hollywood ending during their 23rd mission to Bremen, Germany. Invasion II crashed after being hit by flak over Borhmen, Germany, setting the cockpit and wing on fire. The crew managed to bail out, but all became prisoners of war.

Wyler regrouped and found a plane and crew with the 324th Bomb Squadron that was also close to completing their combat tour. The “Memphis Belle”, named for Morgan’s girlfriend, Margaret Polk of Memphis, Tennessee, and its crew took center stage.

This airman with a PHD now monitors for treaty violations
The crew of the 358th Bomb Squadron Boeing B-17F ‘Hell’s Angels’ completed its 25th mission on May 13, 1943.
(U.S. Army Air Forces photo)

While the crew of “Hell’s Angels” completed their tour on May 13, 1943, four days before the “Belle”, there was no film of that plane and crew. Consequently, it was the “Belle” and its crew that would fly mission 26 back to the U.S. and receive a hero’s welcome.

Wyler’s film, “Memphis Belle: A Story of a Flying Fortress”, would be released and distributed by Paramount Pictures the following year.

This airman with a PHD now monitors for treaty violations
(National Museum of the U.S. Air Force photo)

It was a film that came with a high price tag. One of Wyler’s cinematographers, 1st Lt. Harold J. Tannenbaum, a veteran of World War I, was killed in action during the filming when the bomber he was in was shot down over France on April 16, 1943.

Until the end of the war, the “Belle” was used as a training aircraft, but instead of being torn apart for scrap like most of the other 12,700 B-17s built during the war, the city of Memphis, Tennessee, put the aircraft on display for nearly 50 years.

The historic aircraft came to the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in October 2005, when work began on a careful, multi-year conservation and restoration effort including corrosion treatment and the full outfitting of missing equipment.

Casey Simmons arrived shortly after the “Memphis Belle” as a restoration specialist for the museum.

This airman with a PHD now monitors for treaty violations
(Photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.)

From the beginning, it was apparent that priority one in the restoration was getting it right. His first assignment was to fabricate a glycol heater that was missing from inside the left wing. No visitor to the museum would ever see it.

“I know it’s there and that’s cool because it’s going to get all the parts that it needs to be a complete aircraft,” said Simmons. “When you don’t have the part you try and find a part from another airplane or you go to the blueprints and make the part completely from scratch.”

While the museum has other B-17s in its collection, the “Memphis Belle” requires a whole other level of patience and dedication.

This airman with a PHD now monitors for treaty violations
(Photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.)

“Other restoration projects are typically a general model of a certain aircraft. So it represents a lot of them. This one is a specific aircraft, so you have to get it right; exactly to the rivet,” said Simmons.

The museum specialist did not try to restore the “Belle” to how it rolled off the Boeing line, but utilized films, photos and records from its time in combat to bring the B-17F back to fighting trim, scars and all.

“There are certain damage spots on the “Memphis Belle” that were fixed over time, so we have to make sure that those show up on the aircraft the way they were,” said Simmons. “If they put five rivets in an area as opposed to the standard four that are supposed to be there, we have to get that correct… When you go through video footage, old film footage, or photographs, and you do find a little glimpse of what you’re looking for, that’s a big moment. We have to get it right for those bomber crews.”

The bravery of those bomber crews continued after all the whoopla back home died down. Even Morgan was eager to get back in the fight.

While on a morale tour stop in Wichita, Kansas, Morgan caught a glimpse of the future of strategic bombing, the still secret B-29 Superfortress. He volunteered immediately to train on the new bomber and earned command of his own squadron of B-29s that deployed to Saipan in the Pacific Theater.

On November 24, 1944, his 869th Squadron of the 497th Bomb Group was the first, other than Doolittle’s Raiders in 1942, to bomb Tokyo. He would go on to complete another 24 combat missions in the B-29 before the end of WWII. He retired from the U.S. Air Force Reserve in 1965 as a colonel.

While the restoration and display of the “Memphis Belle” will ensure the story of the dedication, bravery and airmanship of its 10 crewmembers that returned home safely in 1943 honors all the Airmen that fought in WWII, Duford is particularly enthusiastic that the exhibit will allow Museum of U.S. Air Force visitors to learn the story of the little known 11th crewmember of the “Memphis Belle”.

As much as any Airman, he embodied the spirit and sense of duty shared by all the heavy bomber crews.

“It’s the story of one of the waist gunners, Emerson Scott Miller,” said Duford. “You don’t see him in any of the war bond photos and you don’t see his name listed as one of the ‘Memphis Belle’ crew members. He came overseas as a technician repairing the autopilot systems on B-17s. He was safe. He didn’t have to fly the missions but he decided he wanted to do more and volunteered to fly in combat. He joined the ‘Memphis Belle’ crew after they had flown about nine or 10 of their missions. So he had flown 16 of his missions when the rest of the ‘Memphis Belle’ crew completed their 25th.

“Capt. Robert Morgan really wanted Scott Miller to come back on the war bond tour, but Miller hadn’t finished his 25th mission, so he had to stay. While the ‘Belle’ crew was celebrated and famous and there were parties for them, Scott Miller was still flying in combat.”

Fittingly, Miller finished his 25th mission aboard another B-17 on July 4, 1943, but for him, there were no parades, no press conferences, no meeting movie stars and no special duties.

“We got in touch with Scott Miller’s family,” said Duford. “They donated a trunk full of artifacts, and so Scott Miller has a place in the exhibit and his story will be told… He could have just simply done his duty repairing those autopilot systems and gone home safe. But he put his life on the line and then was forgotten. Now he’s going to be remembered now and for generations to come.”

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Get a taste of freedom with SIG Sauer’s latest AR

The AR-15 is one of the most multi-faceted guns of our time. Whether you’re a competition shooter, a hunter, an avid self-defense proponent, or you just love to customize, this highly versatile rifle is one of the most popular among gun owners today. SIG Sauer recently unleashed their newest model of the AR-15, calling the M400 Tread “the new face of freedom.”

Whatever your reason for owning an AR-15, one thing everyone appreciates about the firearm is its modularity. These rifles are among the easiest to customize and tailor-fit to your personal needs and preferences. The struggle most face is cost — the firearm itself is a large investment, making aftermarket customizing more of a wish-list than a reality. SIG Sauer took notice of this and acted.


This airman with a PHD now monitors for treaty violations

(Photo courtesy of SIG Sauer)

“SIG Sauer has created a premium rifle, at a moderate price point, that is packed with innovation and flexibility, and does not sacrifice the quality that our consumers demand from SIG,” Tom Taylor, the company’s chief marketing officer and executive vice president, said in a press release.

Out of the box, the M400 Tread is impressive. This budget-friendly rifle comes ready with features that typically cost extra and are considered upgrades. The Tread features a 16-inch stainless steel barrel with a free-floating M-LOK handguard; a single-stage, polished/hardcoat trigger; ambidextrous controls; a mid-length gas system; a Magpul MOE SL-K six-position telescoping stock; and is available in 5.56 NATO. Again, this is out of the box with an affordable MSRP of 1 — and we all know you’ll pay less at the gun counter. Suddenly, customization has gone from “wish list” to reality.

This airman with a PHD now monitors for treaty violations

The author appreciated the total package provided by the SIG Sauer Tread, including the Romeo5 red dot optic.

(Photo by Karen Hunter/Coffee of Die Magazine)

But how does it run? SIG cut zero corners in quality with the Tread. I spent a great deal of time running this “new face of freedom” and found that it holds its own among its costlier counterparts. I used a variety of ammunition, from inexpensive to higher quality, and the Tread never wavered. I even tried non-SIG magazines to see if that would induce seating or feeding issues. Intermixing various Elite Tactical Systems (ETS) magazines with the SIG magazines did not make a difference. So, to all you clear magazine junkies, fear not — the Tread can handle them.

Staying true to the tagline “the new face of freedom,” SIG wanted Tread owners to be able to freely and affordably customize their rifle. With the launch of the Tread, they created a full line of Tread-branded accessories. One I fell in love with was the Romeo5 optic. The Romeo5 is a 2-MOA red dot sight with 10 illumination settings. It is Picatinny rail compatible, waterproof up to three feet, fog proof, motion activated, has a 40,000-hour battery life, and comes with a low mount riser and co-witness riser mount — the latter meaning you can see your iron sights through the optic.

This airman with a PHD now monitors for treaty violations


tested these features at a Close Quarter Combat (CQB) training course with Alliance Police Training in Alliance, Ohio. This was a 36-hour course running drills, including low light/no light inside their shoot house. The Romeo5 was phenomenal! The Ohio weather was rainy and cold — with the shoot house having no ceiling, we were exposed to the weather, but the optic served me well. Never once did I have to deal with fog or a blurred view. I zeroed the optic before the course, and it never lost its zero. The accuracy was spot on, and I was able to attain quick sight alignment while taking headshots on each target.

This was my first time in this type of training environment, and the targets can be tricky. The goal is to eliminate the threat, and the best way for me to achieve said goal was headshots. We were allowed two shots per threat. Most of my shots landed right between the eyes with a grouping of less than an inch and half; some of the rounds were even going through the same hole. I was totally enamored with this optic and very thankful to put it through its paces in such an environment.

The other accessories included in the Tread-branded line include: an M-LOK handguard with lightening cuts to reduce weight, available in 13- and 15-inch lengths; a three-chamber compensator; an ambidextrous charging handle made of aircraft aluminum and a dual roll pin design; adjustable flip-up front and rear iron sights; an M-LOK front sight adapter with co-witness height made of lightweight aluminum; multiple configurations of M-LOK grip kits; factory upgraded flat blade and single-stage triggers.

“The new face of freedom” is here. With the M400 Tread, having an AR-15 that is tailored to your desires and needs is not only affordable, but also comes with the quality and precision that we have come to expect from SIG Sauer.

This airman with a PHD now monitors for treaty violations

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

How the Green Berets stemmed the communist tide in El Salvador

The era of the 1980s through the mid-1990s was a great time to be a member of the U.S Army’s 7th Special Forces Group, 7th SFG(A). The unit had barely escaped the ax during the post-Vietnam drawdown. It had also survived the malaise of the Carter years, when Special Operations, and specifically Special Forces, was a four-letter word. (Being an SF officer in those days was the kiss of death for an officer’s career.)

Yet, during that time, a danger was looming: Latin America was close to being lost to communism.


Background

Latin America was a hot spot. Marxists had taken over in Nicaragua. They were looking, like the Cubans, to export their vision of communism to the rest of the hemisphere. El Salvador and Guatemala were embroiled in bloody civil wars, Honduras was going through a “latent and incipient” insurgency, which no one but the Group believed existed. Active civil wars were ongoing with insurgents in Colombia (FARC), Peru (Shining Path/Sendero Luminoso), and to a lesser extent in Bolivia. Compounding the problem, all three countries had issues with narco-terrorists that further destabilized the governments. Other countries, such as Argentina and Paraguay, seemed to have military coups far too frequently.

But all of that began to change in 1981 when Ronald Reagan was elected President. Reagan was not going to stand for that. Hence, there were plenty of places for the Green Berets of 7th SFG to practice their training, or as my first team sergeant said, “Do Green Beret shit.”

El Salvador was the first area where the President drew a line in the sand. The Salvadorian government was weak and ineffective. The military was backward, characterized by little professionalism, and was committing numerous human rights abuses. In 1980, the country was on the brink of falling. The Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN), an umbrella organization formed in 1980 out of five separate Marxist-Leninist groups, had the government on the precipice.

In 1981, the Salvadorian Army numbered around 11,000. It was a poorly led, poorly equipped, and badly trained army. It was basically a static, defensive force. The FMLN was close to winning the war: Its forces operated freely in much of the country and owned the night.

Slow Beginnings and Limits on Troop Support

The U.S.’s first priority was to give the Salvadorian army updated vehicles and equipment; then improve the forces’ quality through training and better tactics. By 1990, the size of the Salvadorian military had quadrupled to more than 45,000. By the mid-1980s, the training of the troops had progressed to where the army was capable of conducting offensive operations. It, therefore, moved into previously FMLN-held areas and maintained a firm hold on the population centers. While doing so, it whittled the FMLN down to size, from a high of about 13,000 in 1980 to about 7,000 in 1990.

The FMLN resorted to kidnappings and assassinations. Town mayors were a frequent target: in 1989 alone 214 of 262 were threatened with assassinations. Twelve were assassinated and 90 resigned.

The FMLN launched a desperate country-wide offensive in November 1989 in a final attempt to take over by encouraging the citizens to rise up. It failed and lost over 2,000 guerrillas.

Beginning in 1983, following the recommendations of Green Beret trainers, the Salvadorian armed forces adopted better COIN tactics to deny the FMLN from gaining popular support. For example, the Salvadorians started attacking the insurgents’ sanctuaries, movement routes, and supplies. They started to deploy smaller, air-mobile units. And they used small units to patrol more frequently at night when most guerrilla activities occurred. But we have jumped ahead…

When it came to the trainers, the U.S. was in a vastly different place politically than it is today. We had just pulled out of Vietnam. Thus, the U.S. was not going to tolerate another long-drawn-out conflict with massive amounts of troops involved. Beginning in 1981, the first U.S. trainers in El Salvador were an A-Team of 12 Green Berets. They were “permitted” to only carry sidearms for protection.

Congress decided to cap the number of trainers at just 55. Two Americans would be assigned to each Salvadorian brigade. There were very strict rules for the training advisors. A-Teams and other conventional troops would be brought in for just the ridiculously short time span of two weeks. During that time, they had to conduct whatever training could be accomplished before they would be forced to leave.

But the SF community found ways around the Congressional limitations. It started bringing Salvadorian battalions to the United States to be trained by members of the 7th SFG. The first one to be brought to the U.S. was the Atlacatl Battalion. It was brought to Ft. Bragg, NC. The Atlacatl Battalion was a quick reaction, counter-insurgency unit. More battalions were later brought to the U.S.

But a better alternative awaited just over the border with El Salvador’s traditional enemy, Honduras.

The U.S. set up a Regional Training Center in Trujillo, Honduras. Salvadorian units could rotate through there for training. Later the training Honduran troops were trained as well.

The cost was high for a “peacetime” effort. During the war in El Salvador, 22 U.S. troops died defending the country. One SF advisor, Greg Fronius, is the subject of an earlier article.

In another engagement, a “not in combat” SF A-Team, ODA-7 from 3/7th SFG, defended a Salvadorian barracks. The battle was the subject of an excellent piece by Dr. Charles H. Briscoe.

Congress and the Pentagon, in an effort to snow the American public from what exactly the advisors in El Salvador were dealing with, refused to admit that the troops were in a combat situation, even though, combat pay had been authorized in 1981. Thus, Fronius was denied a combat decoration. He was instead given a Meritorious Service Medal (MSM) which is a peacetime award.

Human Rights Record

The Salvadorian Army had a terrible human rights record dating back to 1980. One of the things that the trainers accomplished was to incorporate human rights training in all levels of the military.

This also meant that at times, at peril to the advisors themselves, they’d report abuses by the military to the MILGP in San Salvador. Greg Walker, who was one of the 55 advisors on the ground there detailed one such incident.

“I was the Special Forces advisor who reported being shown a guerrilla’s skull (at the unit’s base in El Salvador) that had been turned into a desk lamp. My report was delivered to the U.S. Embassy in El Salvador at the time through the proper chain of command.

The vast majority of SF advisors serving in El Salvador did likewise as this was part of the mission statement. For example, there was a senior Special Forces advisor at El Mozote the day/night of the massacre (and only one). He attempted multiple times to dissuade Colonel Domingo Monterosa to spare the victims. When Monterosa ignored him, the advisor departed by foot and made his way, alone, back to San Salvador. There he made a full report to embassy officials of what the unit and Monterosa were doing in El Mozote.”

The subject was a very touchy one. Yet the Green Berets made their reputation known even amongst the FMLN. In Walker’s book, titled “At the Hurricane’s Eye” he recounts when the FMLN asked for the U.S. SF to remain during the initial peace process to ensure that everyone was protected.

“At the conclusion of the war as brokered under a UN peace agreement, it was the guerrillas of the FMLN that requested US “Green Berets” remain with Salvadorian military units during the early stages of the accord. This because the guerrillas had learned of our commitment to human rights, and the sometimes dangerous reporting we made to the US embassy regarding thugs like Monterosa.”

Walker was one of several SF soldiers who led the fight for the men who did their time in El Salvador to finally be recognized for what were essentially combat tours. Everyone who rotated through there is now eligible for an Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal while many are authorized CIBs and combat awards. The men of ODA-7 were finally recognized 14 years later. They were awarded CIBs, four Bronze Stars with “V” device, and an ARCOM with “V” device.

The 7th SFG’s record in El Salvador was one of great success. El Salvador was on the brink of falling. And through the combined military and political efforts of many Americans, it was saved. This one was an example of how a small group of dedicated SF soldiers can turn the tide in a brutal civil war.

This article originally appeared on SOFREP. Follow @sofrepofficial on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

What to do when your ship pulls in to Rota, Spain

Naval Station Rota, Spain (NAVSTA Rota) is a beautiful Navy base located in Southern Spain. Called “the Gateway to the Mediterranean,” the port sits on the Atlantic Coast, but is only a few hours from Gibraltar, Mallorca, and other Mediterranean destinations. It’s a small base, with the main buildings all within a mile of the port. There are busses to take you from port to the NEX shopping Center, and from there, you can walk or grab a taxi to the destinations below.

There’s plenty to do on base, off base, and in the surrounding towns, so keep reading and make your libbo plans before the ship pulls into port!


Top 7 things to do in Rota, Spain

1. Get essentials from the NEX. When ships pull into port, they can almost double the on-base population. This means longer lines for everything and a shortage of supplies at the NEX and Commissary. If you need to stock up on cigarettes, razors, snacks, or other essentials, then go here directly from the ship. That way, you’ll avoid the empty shelves at the end of the weekend.

This airman with a PHD now monitors for treaty violations

2. Check out MWR tours. Rota is an active base with a small number of permanent personnel stationed there, but a large number of troops come through on ships — some of who remain for a deployment. The base MWR office plans weekly activities. You can find them listed in the Vamos magazine, on their website, or by calling 727-1517 (on base). MWR plans bus rides to local towns, flamenco shows, and castle visits. They handle the transportation and the local guide, so you can just relax and take in the sights.

3. Sign up for Outdoor Rec. Whether you want to rent a bike or SCUBA gear, go on a rock climbing excursion, find local hiking trails, or ride quads in Tarifa, the Outdoor Rec Center is the place to begin. They can fill you in on group activities (listed in the Vamos magazine) or help you plan your own adventure.

4. Visit the Liberty Center: If you need a place to relax or get Internet access, the Liberty Center has a lounge, TVs, computers, and pool tables to enjoy. They also host regular events for single service members, like movie and bowling nights, sports competitions, or trips to local restaurants.

This airman with a PHD now monitors for treaty violations

5. If you don’t have a car, walk through Rota: You can easily walk out the Rota gate and downhill through the town. There’s a Welcome Center to your left just as you walk out the gate where you can grab a map or ask questions. Visit the town hall (a 13th century castle), a medieval church, the beach paseo (boardwalk), and have lunch at any of the restaurants near the water.

6. Go golfing. The base has a nice golf course with low rates for service members. They host regular tournaments and events, or you can rent clubs and play a round on your own. If golf isn’t your thing, round up some friends to enjoy the Foot-Golf course, which is set up to play with a soccer ball.

This airman with a PHD now monitors for treaty violations

7. Enjoy Spanish food. While Spanish food is not at all like Mexican food (it’s much more mild and based on fresh, Mediterranean ingredients), it is refreshing and delicious. To eat, try paella (rice and seafood), tortilla (an egg and potato dish), gazpacho (cold tomato soup), or any fresh seafood. To drink, don’t miss out on sangria (chilled wine with fruit) or a cerveza (beer).

If you have a car:

You can rent a car on base at the airport, or off base, just outside the Rota gate. You just need ID and a valid American driver’s license to reserve a vehicle. It will be more cost-effective if you team up to rent with some friends. Rental cars are typically stick shift, so make sure someone in the group can drive manual. Having a car will give you access to the town of El Puerto (just a few miles outside the base Puerto gate) and any other towns in Southern Spain that are within your liberty limits.

Here are some of the most popular:

1. Spend a day in Cadiz. This city just 40 minutes from Rota has a great history museum, church, and amazing seafood. It’s a gorgeous city with plenty of parks and unique architecture, and it holds the honor or being one of Europe’s longest continuously-inhabited cities — 2,000 years of constant development and counting!

2. Drive to Seville. Over an hour North of Rota is the royal city of Sevilla, once the port where all the New World gold passed through. The medieval cathedral and alcazar (castle) are both gorgeous and worth the visit. This is also a great location to purchase colorful Spanish pottery.

This airman with a PHD now monitors for treaty violations

3. Go to Gibraltar for a day. You’ll need a passport to visit Gibraltar because it is not part of Spain! The town actually belongs to England as an overseas territory. The residents there speak English, eat fish and chips, and have occasional parades of British soldiers. After enjoying lunch at one of the pubs around the main square, take the tour up the Rock to see the monkeys and the Pillar of Hercules.

​4.See Roman ruins. The Roman town of Baelo Claudia has been excavated and partially restored, near the Spanish city of Bolonia. A quick day trip will let you walk through the ancient avenues, see the amphitheater, and marvel at the pillars of the public forum. This seaside port was once a bustling Roman town, and on a clear day you can see the coast of Africa. There are other places to see Roman ruins in Spain (statues in the history museums of Cadiz or Seville, aqueducts in Segovia, the theater in Merida), but Baelo Claudia is the closest day-trip to Rota.​​

Things NOT to do in Rota, Spain:

1. Avoid the forbidden clubs. Your libbo safety brief will probably include a list of establishments not to visit within the town of Rota. There are a few bars and clubs that are off-limits to service members. These establishments are on the list either because of illegal substances, or because they have experienced too many service member-related fights inside. Steer clear. Shore Patrol knows these locations and will check them regularly.

2. Don’t go to Morocco: Although the African city of Tangiers is just a ferry ride away from the Spanish town of Tarifa, service members are generally restricted from traveling to Africa. Not only would you need a passport, but you also need written permission from your CO because of occasional political unrest in Morocco.

Articles

Fear of killer flood prompts pause in Syria offensive

U.S.-backed forces in northern Syria paused military operations near a dam held by the Islamic State group on March 27 to allow engineers to fix any problems after conflicting reports about its stability.


The decision by the Syrian Democratic Forces came a day after conflicting reports over whether civilians had begun evacuating the nearby city of Raqqa — the extremists’ de facto capital — due to concerns about the Tabqa dam on the Euphrates River.

Some activist groups opposed to IS have said residents are seeking higher ground, fearing that the collapse of the dam could cause severe flooding, while others said people were remaining in place. Conflicting reports are common in areas controlled by IS, which bans independent media.

The SDF, a U.S.-backed and Kurdish-led force, has been fighting IS in the area since Friday in an attempt to capture the dam, one of the main sources of electricity in northern Syria.

The SDF said in a statement that the cease-fire expired at 5 p.m. local time, after their engineers inspected the structure and found no faults. Photos credited to an embedded freelance journalist indicated they had just inspected the dam’s spillway, which is on SDF-controlled territory. The main dam structure and the gates lie 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) away and are still held by IS militants.

The SDF said the request for a cease-fire was made by the dam’s administrators, without specifying whether they were part of the Syrian government or IS, which operates a quasi-state in the areas under its control.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said technicians inside IS-held Tabqa did not reach the dam during the cease-fire, to reactivate its main power controls. There was no explanation given.

The engineer Ahmad Farhat, who oversaw the mechanical administration of the dam, said that it is “equipped with the necessary precautions for its own protection,” but there needs to be technical personnel on site to engage them. He spoke with The Associated Press from the rebel-held northwestern Syrian province of Idlib.

Engineer Aboud al Haj Aboud who was the head of the electricity division of the dam said on social media that if indeed the control room is busted and the gates of the dam cannot be opened, it will still take at least a month for the waters being held back by the dam to overflow the top of the structure.

The U.S.-led coalition said it is taking every precaution to ensure the integrity of the dam. “To our knowledge, the dam has not been structurally damaged,” it said on its Twitter account.

SDF fighters on Sunday captured a strategically important air base from IS in Raqqa province, marking their first major victory since the United States airlifted hundreds of forces, as well as American advisers and artillery, behind enemy lines last week.

The SDF announced they had captured the Tabqa air base, 45 kilometers (28 miles) west of Raqqa.

On Monday, IS fighters detonated a car bomb on the southern edge of the air base, but it was not clear if it inflicted casualties among SDF fighters, the activist collective Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently and the Observatory reported.

Fighting is ongoing in areas near the air base, both activist groups said. The SDF said in another statement that its fighters captured two villages north of Tabqa on Monday.

Elsewhere in Syria, authorities resumed the evacuation of the last opposition-held neighborhood in the central city of Homs in an agreement to surrender the district to the government.

Opposition activists have criticized the agreement, saying it aims to displace 12,000 al-Waer residents, including 2,500 fighters. The Observatory has called the evacuees “internally displaced” people.

The government has rejected allegations that the Homs deal and similar agreements in other besieged areas amount to the forced displacement of civilians.

On Monday, 667 militants, along with their families, for a total of 2,009 residents, were taken by bus in the direction of the rebel-held city of Jarablus, near the Turkish border, according to an official in the Homs Governorate administration.

The official requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

Syrian state TV had forecast that some 700 people would leave, far fewer than the final tally.

The evacuation was planned to take place on Saturday, but no reason was given for the delay.

Opposition fighters agreed to leave al-Waer after years of siege and bombardment at the hands of pro-government forces. They were guaranteed safe passage to rebel-held parts of northern Syria.

The evacuations are expected to last weeks, after which the government will be able to claim control over the entire city for the first time in years.

Associated Press writers Albert Aji in Damascus, Syria, and Philip Issa in Beirut contributed to this report.

Articles

5 basic things you should know about the thrift savings plan

This airman with a PHD now monitors for treaty violations


Retirement planning can be stressful, but figuring out how to finance it takes a great deal of the stress away. Enter the government’s Thrift Savings Plan, or TSP. The first step in understanding TSPs is answering five basic questions: who, what, where, when, and why.

This airman with a PHD now monitors for treaty violations

Who: The thrift savings plan is available to federal employees and members of the uniformed services. It is managed by BlackRock, a financial planning and investment firm headquartered in New York City.

This airman with a PHD now monitors for treaty violations

What: TSP is a retirement savings plan similar to a private sector 401(k). Federal employees and military personnel can contribute up to a certain percentage of their base pay to their TSP. BlackRock assigns a broker to manage TSP accounts. Brokers are not held to the same standards as fiduciaries in that a broker has no vested interest in your funds; rather a broker’s only job is to invest money in suitable securities.

This airman with a PHD now monitors for treaty violations

When: If you are a federal employee who joined your agency after 2010, you’re automatically enrolled in TSP with 3 percent of your base pay sent to your TSP; your agency matches this contribution automatically. If you joined your agency before 2010, an automatic 1 percent of your base pay is sent to TSP; your agency matches your additional contributions above the 1 percent. Military members must set up their own contributions and there is no matching contribution from the military.

This airman with a PHD now monitors for treaty violations

Where: Military members can set up contributions to TSP through MyPay. Which type of funds you decide to invest in will determine when you can access the funds from that investment. There are L Funds, which are “lifestyle funds” that you can withdraw from at a predetermined time. Then there are G, F, S, C, and I funds, which rely on you to make your own investment decisions with a broker, according to the government’s TSP summary.

This airman with a PHD now monitors for treaty violations

Why: A thrift savings plan gives you the ability to participate in a long-term retirement savings and investment plan. Additionally, you can choose between a regular TSP and a Roth TSP. Traditional TSP is tax free as you contribute, but you’ll pay taxes when you withdraw the funds. A Roth TSP allows you to pay taxes upon investment, and withdraw at a later date tax free. The upside to utilizing the government’s TSP is that you won’t pay fees to invest, and you’ll have a broker to manage the funds.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Marines and airmen train together for the first time

Sunbaked skin presses against the butts of rifles, as sweat runs down foreheads, brimming along chin straps and soaking into shirt collars. Their eyes scan the urban terrain, searching for enemies from the surrounding grassy hills of Camp Guernsey, Wyoming.

Marines and airmen from around the globe trained together for the first time in the advanced tactical course from June 9-20, 2019.

“Move, I have you covered,” said Marine Corps Sgt. Justin Roman, Marine Corps Security Forces Training Company instructor.

Shots ring out and echo through a desolate neighborhood of tan shipping containers stacked and strewn about. Feet pound and guns sway as a small-fire team run to their next sheltering place. A cadre calmly walks behind, eyes watching for mistakes.


“A small mistake in training could cost you your life in a real-world situation,” said Staff Sgt. Jesse Koritar, 90th Ground Combat Training Squadron training instructor. “Correcting mistakes in a controlled environment will instill muscle memory and effective tactical decision making will become normal.”

A machine gun lets loose from a dark window aimed for a dilapidated shack near their shelter. The sound reverberates through their rib cages as they press forward to their objective.

This airman with a PHD now monitors for treaty violations

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Nicholas Ponce, 90th Security Support Squadron tactical response force member, holds down a tactical angle during the advanced tactical course at Camp Guernsey, Wyo., June 19, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ashley N. Sokolov)

“It’s important to break their fears,” Koritar said. “When it comes to ‘the moment’ we don’t want them to freeze and cause the potential death of others.”

Getting the students into a normalcy of hearing gunfire and moving forward, despite inner fears, is paramount to molding a successful tactical response force and is one of the goals of ATC.

The team stacks up for their next move, communicating each other’s positions. All the while, covering down on different tactical angles, with their M4 carbine, watching for a shooter.

From a window overlooking an open courtyard, shots are fired. With the distraction from another fire team, they can move towards their objective. Passing by windows, one member scans for possible targets, while his partner watches their back.

“Clear. Move,” Roman said after each window.

This airman with a PHD now monitors for treaty violations

Marine Corps Sgt. Spencer Hockaday, Marine Corps Security Forces Training Company instructor, rappels Aussie-style down the Cheyenne Fire Department training facility in Cheyenne, Wyo., June 17, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ashley N. Sokolov)

The modified shipping containers now tower overhead, blocking them from view of their counterparts in the courtyard windows.

They clear out a makeshift building, planning to move farther into the city. Lined up at the door, an airman sends out cover fire as the team makes a run for shelter.

Pop! A plume of white smoke escapes a training improvised explosive device set off by the first airman’s advance between two buildings.

“The first two,” said Staff Sgt. Mathew Nason, 90th GCTS training instructor. “You’re dead.”

The mission must press on.

“We get them exposed in the urban environment or with the payload transporter van so they know what to look for,” Koritar said. “The trip wire and IED training is important, it’s a simple attack and the threat is real.”

This airman with a PHD now monitors for treaty violations

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Ryan Mason II, 91st Security Support Squadron tactical response force member, and Senior Airman Kevin Freese, 341st Security Support Squadron TRF, navigate terrain during the advanced tactical course at Camp Guernsey, Wyo., June 19, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ashley N. Sokolov)

In the clouds a UH-1 Huey from Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, banks to land in an open field for infiltration and exfiltration exercises down the road. Another team runs, heads tucked down, below swishing blades to load up.

Over the course of 11 days, the students learned a multitude of skills, including: urban operations, rappelling down a 56-foot rappel tower, helicopter operations, close quarters combat and PT van and vehicle assaults.

“I am learning a lot of new stuff I haven’t seen before and the stuff I already know, I am just practicing and getting better at it,” said Airman 1st Class Jose Villalvazo-Vazquez, 91st Security Support Squadron tactical response force member. “At the end, no matter if you know it or not, practice is what helps you perfect it.”

Not only does every student need to polish their individual skills, they also learn to work as a cohesive team.

“At the beginning of this course one of the classes’ weaknesses was team cohesion,” Koritar said. “We have guys who come from different bases, who have never worked together. When they walk into our door we teach them to have accountability, to take care of their people and to meet and rise to a higher standard every day.”

This airman with a PHD now monitors for treaty violations

Airman 1st Class Benjie Phillips and Senior Airman Alvaro Aguilera, 91st Security Support Squadron tactical response force members, clear a multi floored building during training at the Cheyenne Fire Department training facility in Cheyenne, Wyo., June 17, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ashley N. Sokolov)

The course mixes the members into groups and expects them to quickly learn how to communicate and work as a cohesive team. Communication is important during combat situations; however, there is a more prominent reason for a team like this to bond together.

“I tell these guys, you’re going to eat together, sleep together, you’re going to hang out on your off time together, to build that foundation to trust their buddy,” Koritar said. “You want all of your guys on the same page, that tight-knit community where they are ready to die for their buddy if need be.”

Creating a team that would walk through hell together isn’t a tranquil task. It leaves sweat stains, dirt-streaked faces and bruised and bloody limbs.

“We have been failing, we’ve been growing, we’ve been getting to know each other. That’s what it means to learn,” said Villalvazo-Vazquez.

To protect one of America’s greatest assets, it takes dedication, pride and a well-taught team. The perfect team is constantly looking for improvements, budding to be the best and is willing to train and work in the most grueling of conditions.

“The goal is to take a trained member from any base and have the tactics across the board to be the same throughout,” Koritar said.

The ATC had their first blend of students including Marines and airmen from around the globe; some traveling from as far as, Aviano Air Base, Italy and Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska.

This airman with a PHD now monitors for treaty violations

U.S. Air Force Airmen disembark a UH-1 Iroquois, during the advanced tactical course at Camp Guernsey, Wyo., June 19, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ashley N. Sokolov)

“Integration of different people including Marines, allows us to see different aspects in training,” said Airman 1st Class Damion Rodriguez, 91st SSPTS TRF member. “The mixed course forces us to get to know other people, how they see things, and how they work and cope with responsibilities and tasks given.”

The learning and improvement observed throughout the training wouldn’t be a possibility without a central location and experienced cadre shaping members to TRF standards.

“These exercises are beneficial to the students because they don’t always have the training areas or the equipment and resources to actually make these complex scenarios happen,” Koritar said. “At Camp Guernsey we have the training ranges, time and cadre to help evaluate and mold these guys and help them become successful and do the TRF mission.”

After gallons of water have been converted into sweat and uniforms abused by rocks and dirt, the students skilled in all areas of the TRF mission earn the right to graduate. Thus allowing them to be placed on any fire team and not miss a beat, ensuring America is continuously under protection from adversaries around the globe.

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