Airmen re-secure Tyndall Air Force Base - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Airmen re-secure Tyndall Air Force Base

Airmen from the 822nd Base Defense Squadron, Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, are always primed to deploy at a moment’s notice to secure and defend bases around the world. On Oct. 11, 2018, that moment came.

However, they weren’t traveling to faraway lands to set up security in foreign territory. They were driving to Tyndall AFB, Florida, to protect a base that had been ravaged by a category four hurricane one day prior.


“Our sole purpose is to be a global response force,” said Staff Sgt. Christopher Beil, 822nd BDS base defender. “We have to be prepared to deploy anywhere in the world, anytime, just like that, and secure an entire base.”

Tyndall is only a three and a half hour drive from Moody, but what the 822nd BDS defenders found when they arrived was outside of the expectations many had when setting out.

Airmen re-secure Tyndall Air Force Base

Airmen from the 822d Base Defense Squadron depart Moody Air Force Base, Ga., as they convoy en route to Tyndall AFB, Fla., to provide base security during Hurricane Michael recovery efforts, Oct. 11, 2018.

U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Greg Nash)

“Our group commander told us before we left to keep a sympathetic and empathetic mindset,” Beil said. “I tried to keep that in my head, but nothing could have prepared me for the damage that was done. The first thing that went through my head was that they definitely needed all the help they could get.”

For airmen accustomed to rapid global response, the call to action so close to home brought a whole new set of experiences.

“For them to have us come down here, this was definitely something new,” Beil said. “We’ve never done anything like this before. Once we took over, we had new procedures for making sure the right people were getting access to the base.”

Airmen re-secure Tyndall Air Force Base

Defenders from the 822d Base Defense Squadron load ammunition prior to departing Moody Air Force Base, Ga., to provide base security at Tyndall AFB, Fla., during Hurricane Michael recovery efforts, Oct. 11, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Greg Nash)

The many airmen who have joined the recovery team at Tyndall AFB have undertaken a demanding task and produced real results that lend hope to the future of the base.

“The key here has been adaptability,”Beil said. “That’s always been ingrained in us at the squadron, but coming out here to do this has been a true test of that.”

Among the experiences unique to securing a base within the United States, Beil has found comfort in lending a hand while at home.

“For me, it’s heartwarming,” Beil said. “These are Americans I’m surrounded by. They appreciate the work that we do for them. They appreciate how we’re here trying to represent the Air Force and making sure everyone is safe. We’re the first faces that they see when they come through the gate.”

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

Articles

These are the badass Strykers patrolling Syria

Kurdish forces and anti-Assad Syrian Defense Forces battling in Syria got a major boost in March when America allowed it to be public that Rangers, and most likely other special operators, were embedded within their ranks. That signaled to all fighters in the area that an attack against them could trigger a war with the U.S.


Since then, images of the Rangers and their vehicles — mostly Strykers with upgraded armor — have trickled out. And new video from Kurdistan24 and Rojava News gives an idea of what kind of firepower they’re packing. Hint: It’s a lot.

Airmen re-secure Tyndall Air Force Base
An M2 .50-cal and a Javelin allow the operators assigned to this vehicle to defend themselves from a whole lot of hurt. (Image: YouTube/Rojava News)

The first few weapons in the video are pretty standard .50-cals which can absolutely ruin someone’s day. But another Stryker has its minigun on full display. It’s almost certainly the M134 Minigun capable of firing 4,000 to 6,000 rounds per minute.

The Army usually deploys the minigun on helicopters for self-defense and landing zone suppression, but they’ve also appeared on everything from small boats to Humvees. The Navy Special Warfare Combatant Craft crews deploy it on boats to support Navy SEALs and quickly destroy enemy craft. So, mounting them on a Stryker probably wasn’t too tough.

Airmen re-secure Tyndall Air Force Base
The M134D Minigun only fires 7.62mm rounds, but it fires them at 4,000-6,000 rounds per minute. So, it can kill buildings despite the small caliber of the round. (Image: YouTube/LBT Fanatic)

At least three vehicles in the video are carrying Javelin missiles strapped to the outside. While the Rangers would likely call for air strikes if they were threatened by hostile armor, the Javelins guarantee that they have a way to annihilate tanks if no jets are available in time. The operators can also call on Marine and Army artillery in the country.

The Americans in the tape are flying large flags while driving through cities, which squares with reporting from March that the special operators are most likely there to deter forces by other nations against American partners.

Airmen re-secure Tyndall Air Force Base
If the huge American flag flying in the middle of a city doesn’t seem subtle, then it’s probably not supposed to be. (Image: YouTube/LBT Fanatic)

The Marines and special operators are both involved in the fight to retake Raqqa, though it isn’t clear how much frontline fighting either is expected to do. The Marines are artillery troops equipped with 155mm howitzers, so they can fight 20 miles from the front lines but are still susceptible to attack if ISIS or other forces maneuver quickly.

An Army HIMARS unit was present in the country in March and is believed to still be on the ground. If so, they can also provide lots of firepower from long range and will likely work to avoid direct fires with the enemy.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xfbORfDE4Ds
But the special operators, with Strykers, M2s, Javelins, and miniguns, are equipped for a frontline fight even if they want to avoid one. If they do want to get into the fight, woe unto all ISIS fighters defending Raqqa right now.
MIGHTY HISTORY

This reconnaissance unit has flown since before World War I

The young pilot struggled against dust and wind that swirled 10,000 feet above valleys sandwiched between Mexico’s Sierra Madre mountains. He had only a rudimentary pair of plain glass goggles to protect his face. Yet he was determined to find the trail of the rebel bandit Pancho Villa who had recently led a raid into New Mexico that killed eight U.S. Soldiers and 10 American civilians.

That young pilot, Capt. Benjamin Foulois, was in one of eight Curtis JN-3 “Jenny” biplanes participating in the search. The planes were powered with 90-horsepower engines that had a rough time just staying airborne, but they led a reconnaissance mission to kick off Gen. John J. Pershing’s punitive expedition into Mexico.


It was March 1916, little more than a decade after the Wright Brothers’ inaugural flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, and only seven years after Foulois was taught to fly by Orville Wright himself, becoming the first military aviator. He later became a major general, and in 1931 was appointed Chief of the U.S. Army Air Corps.

That small unit of Jenny biplanes, in search of Villa and his Mexican marauders more than 100 years ago, were members of the 1st Aero Squadron, the first aviation unit to participate directly in a military action, flying 346 hours on 540 flights during Pershing’s expedition. The first mission covered more than 19,300 miles, and included aerial reconnaissance and photography as well as transporting mail and official dispatches.

Airmen re-secure Tyndall Air Force Base

The first Curtiss JNÐ2s of 1st Aero Squadron at the Signal Corps Aviation School, North Island, Cali. Sgt. Vernon L. Burge stands under the propeller. In the cockpit is Capt. Benjamin Foulois and second man from the right is Jacob Bollinger.

The squadron was formed March 5, 1913, giving it the distinction of being the oldest flying squadron still in existence.

The unit has alternated between reconnaissance and bombing missions and had its name tweaked 14 times since the provisional 1st Aero Squadron unfurled its colors in Texas City, Texas. Its Airmen have flown 47 different types of aircraft and served in more than 50 locations throughout the world.

Airmen re-secure Tyndall Air Force Base

In the year of the 1st Aero Squadron’s formation, Lt. Thomas D. Milling, instructor, and Lt. Fred Seydel, student, are at the controls of a Wright C., SC-16 Trainer on airfield in Texas City, Texas, May 1913. In front of the plane, 8 other soldiers in uniform and a civilian in white shirt and bow tie stand posed facing the camera.

Today, it’s the 1st Reconnaissance Squadron, a part of the 9th Reconnaissance Wing at Beale Air Force Base, California, with the responsibility of training high-altitude intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance RQ-4 Global Hawk and U-2S pilots and sensor operators.

The squadron has a reputation for being a pioneer in establishing ISR capability and establishing a legacy of supplying critical information to combatant commanders across the joint force.

“The legacy of the 1st Recon Squadron is a microcosm of the legacy of the Air Force,” said Richard Rodrigues, former 9th RW historian. “It was the organization that pioneered the first tactical deployment of U.S. military airpower, and it helped create some of our early leaders that had an impact on the Air Service and later the Air Corps.”

Airmen re-secure Tyndall Air Force Base

U.S. Air Force U-2S Dragon Lady Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Aircraft instructor pilots from the 1st Reconnaissance Squadron pose for a photo in front of a two seat U-2S Aug. 17, 2012 at Beale Air Force Base, Calif. Less people have piloted the U-2 than have earned Super Bowl rings.

A little over a year after its famous recon mission over Mexico, the squadron would enter World War I, traveling from New Mexico to New York, then by ship across the Atlantic to land in Le Havre, France and become the first American squadron to enter the war. The 1st Aero Squadron took on the role as an observation unit, initially flying the French Dorand AR 1 and 2 aircraft, a two-seater recon plane, and later the Salmson 2A2.

According to Rodrigues, the squadron was in constant action throughout the “Great War” supplying divisional commanders vital information as to where the front line elements actually were, where artillery barrages need to be laid down in advance of the infantry and for causing disruption to enemy forces behind lines. Later, as positions became stabilized, photographs were obtained behind enemy lines to learn the dispositions of enemy forces.

Airmen re-secure Tyndall Air Force Base

A Salmson 2A2 of the 1st Aero Squadron over France during WWI, 1918.

“The unit aided the stand of the Marines at Chateau-Thierry and prevented the German army from crossing the Marne River. The squadron also fought at Aisne-Marne, St. Mihiel and Meuse-Argonne, all important campaigns for the allies,” said Rodrigues. Those campaign victories represent the four Maltese crosses found on the 9th RW’s unit emblem.

Rodrigues added that although reconnaissance and artillery surveillance were the primary duties of the 1st AS, squadron pilots flying French SPAD fighters scored 13 aerial victories, represented by 13 Maltese crosses on the 1st Recon Squadron’s emblem. A total of 16 officers lost their lives, with three more missing in action.

After the war, the mission and the name of the unit changed to the 1st Observation Squadron, with the unit relocating to Camp Mills, New York. Its base would change names to Mitchel Field, and observation aircraft would be updated to the Douglas O-2, Curtiss O-1 and O-39. The unit would keep its observation role until 1935. They even used Douglass O-35s to deliver the U.S. Mail.

The unit then made a huge overhaul, going from observation unit to bomber squadron: the 1st Bombardment Squadron. The observation planes were replaced with Martin B-10 and Douglas B-18 bombers and the Airmen began learning new tactics at large training sites in Maryland, Florida, California, Michigan, and Virginia.

At the outset of World War II in 1942, the 1st BS moved to the island of Trinidad to strengthen defenses around the Panama Canal and defend against German U-boat attacks in the Caribbean and Atlantic. In October 1942 the squadron set up a tactics and bombing school in Florida.

Airmen re-secure Tyndall Air Force Base

A 1st Bombardment Squadron Boeing B-29-50-BW Superfortress tail number 42-24791 nicknamed the “Big Time Operator.” After storage at Naval Air Station, China Lake, Cali, the nose of the bomber was acquired by the Air Force Museum and was grafted onto museum building at Beale AFB, Cali. in 1986.

In February 1945, the squadron began flying B-29s from Tinian Island in the Marianas chain as part of the 20th Air Force. The squadron completed 71 combat missions, including bombing raids over Iwo Jima in preparation for its invasion by U.S. Marines and night incendiary raids on the Japanese home islands, winning two Distinguished Unit citations. After the Japanese surrender in 1945, a round-robin of assignments throughout the Pacific kept the squadron fully employed.

While stationed in Guam in 1947, the newly created Department of the Air Force issued orders to deactivate the unit.

However, the Air Force rescinded those orders and instead moved the unit to Topeka, Kansas, where it joined Strategic Air Command and became the 1st Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron. The squadron’s unbroken lineage remained intact.

With U.S. and the Soviet Union entering a global standoff known as the Cold War, the squadron returned to its bombing role, armed again with B-29s, including three nuclear-capable B-29MR bombers. It participated in several rotations between Travis AFB, California, and Guam during the Korean War. Then in 1953, it was transferred to Mountain Home AFB, Idaho, where it flew the B-47 Stratojet bombers.

Airmen re-secure Tyndall Air Force Base

Crew members in front of a B-47E Stratojet of the 1st Bombardment Squadron, 9th Bombardment Wing at Mountain Home AFB, Idaho in 1956.

For the next 12 years, the squadron would play an important part in America’s nuclear deterrent force and began a series of deployments to England, Guam, Okinawa and Alaska. Then the squadron’s mission would dramatically change once again with the secret development of a new plane by Lockheed Aircraft Company.

The SR-71 “Blackbird” was announced by President Lyndon B. Johnson and joined the Air Force inventory in 1966. This new, advanced surveillance aircraft gave the Air Force an intelligence weapon that could fly three times the speed of sound, at altitudes higher than 80,000 feet. The SR-71’s versatility included simple battlefield surveillance, multiple-sensor high-performance interdiction reconnaissance, and strategic surveillance over large areas of the world. It used the most advanced observation equipment in the world, carrying sensors with a 45 degree viewing angle on each side that could survey 100,000 square miles in an hour. It would totally change the future for the Air Force’s oldest flying squadron.

The 1st SRS was now in its heyday, gathering photographic and electronic intelligence products over Southeast Asian nations during the Vietnam War. The unit moved to its current location at Beale AFB in June 1966, and the 1st SRS was on its way to conducting missions that supported national intelligence-gathering requirements.

Retired Lt. Col. Tony Bevacqua was one of those early SR-71 pilots at Beale AFB and said what he and other pilots did in the 1960s was no different from Orville Wright or the Global Hawk flights today.

“We made history then, and we continue to make history today,” Bevacqua said.

He and Maj. Jerry Crew were on their first mission over Hanoi, their third over North Vietnam, when a SA-2 missile fired on them, passing just ahead and below their aircraft. It was the first time an SR-71 had ever been fired upon. By the time Bevacqua retired in 1973, he had logged nearly 750 hours in the Blackbird.

Airmen re-secure Tyndall Air Force Base

An SR-71B Blackbird sits on the runway after sundown.

After the war, 1st SRS Airmen logged some spectacular accomplishments. Of these the most notable were the SR-71 speed runs from New York to London and from London to Los Angeles. On Sept. 14, 1974, Maj. James Sullivan, pilot and Maj. Noel Widdifield, RSO, flew their SR-71 from New York to London in 1 hour, 55 minutes, 42 seconds for an average speed of 1,817 mph.

The SR-71 crew of Capt. Harold Adams, pilot, and Maj. William Machorek, RSO, established a record for the London to Los Angeles route when they flew the 5,645 mile leg in 3 hours, 48 minutes on Sept. 13.

For budgetary reasons, the SR-71 was retired from the Air Force inventory in 1990. The Blackbird’s final journey was from California to Washington D.C. where it became part of the collection at the Smithsonian Institution. It was an SR-71 flown by the 1st SRS crew, which made the coast-to-coast trip in a record time of 68 minutes, 17 seconds—at a record speed of 2,242.48 mph.

Today, the squadron is the formal initial training unit for the U-2 Dragon Lady and RQ-4 Global Hawk.

The squadron recruits and trains all the U-2 pilots that fly high-altitude reconnaissance flights around the world. After initial interviews, orientation flights, and selection for the program, new pilots undergo approximately six months of extensive training, including 20 sorties in the U-2. The rigorous flying training programs produce 24 U-2S pilots, 48 RQ-4 pilots, and 36 RQ-4 sensor operators annually.

Upon graduation, crewmembers are not only mission-ready in the U-2, but also checked out in the T-38 companion trainer. They then transfer to the 99th Reconnaissance Squadron and prepare for a tour at one of the overseas detachments.

Airmen re-secure Tyndall Air Force Base

Airmen work on an RQ-4 Global Hawk after it returned to Beale Air Force Base, Calif., as part of a four-ship rotation out of the theater.

The 1st RS also trains mission planners. Mission planners have to know the wing’s mission, the aircraft and sensors capabilities, plus detailed information on target and threat assessment at specific locations. After planners complete training, they deploy to the overseas detachments and design flight tracks that allow pilots to gather the best data with the least personal risk.

According to former squadron commander Lt. Col. Stephen Rodriguez, the 1st RS’s mission isn’t that much different from the one over New Mexico 100 years ago.

“It’s interesting because the first mission with aircraft was to be the eyes for the troops on the ground,” said Rodriguez. “The old mission was an extension of the ground troops, but it’s evolved. We organize, train and equip our squadron members to be leaders in the ISR mission. We are the eyes and ears of the nation and our fighting forces, and we operate over a broad spectrum of conflict.”

The 1st RS aims to increase their level of experience with a new, innovative Aviation Fundamentals Training program funded through the Squadron Innovation Fund.

“We are having our RQ-4 student pilots receive additional training flying with the Beale Aero Club while they are going through the Formal Training Unit,” said Maj. Daniel, 13th Reconnaissance Squadron FTU flight commander. “It is a continuation of the training they receive in Initial Flight Training.”

The FTU partnered with the Beale Aero Club to ensure pilots receive more experience in the local airspace by taking to the cockpit and flying aircraft closer to those flown early in the previous century: Cessna 172s.

“We started it to give the new pilots more experience in the air,” said Daniel. “AFT is designed to essentially improve airmanship, communication and situational awareness. We just wanted to give them more experience for when they show up to their operational Global Hawk units.”

AFT has already shown promising signs, and if it continues to receive funding, it could become an integral part of Global Hawk pilot training.

“I think the more experience we can give a pilot flying in the air will pay dividends years down the road,” said Daniel. “They are going to be better pilots operationally flying the Global Hawk, which is a mission with huge implications. They will also be better pilots when they become instructors themselves.”

For nearly a century, the 1st RS, the Air Force’s oldest squadron, continues to play a vital role in America’s defense.

Airmen re-secure Tyndall Air Force Base

Crew members of the 1st Aero Squadron next to a Salmson 2A2 painted with the American flag squadron emblem during WWI in France in 1918.

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

MIGHTY MOVIES

‘The Mandalorian’ episode 6 recap: Mando makes bad choices

Is anyone else feeling some anxiety with regards to our Mandalorian’s decision-making? This week, he brings the Yoda Baby on a reckless adventure with very shady sidekicks. It’s just very irresponsible parenting, to be honest.

But hey, more fun guest stars.

Here’s your spoiler warning.


Airmen re-secure Tyndall Air Force Base

The Mandalorian, Disney+

Chapter six of The Mandalorian is called “The Prisoner” because Mando (I’m still struggling with this nickname…is every Mandalorian called “Mando”?) our Mandalorian accepts a job from Space Santa, officially known as Ranzar Malk (played by Patriot’s Mark Boone Junior), to release a prisoner from a New Republic prison ship.

We’re not really given a backstory into why he chose to go meet up with this dude from his past but it’s immediately clear that he walked into a hostile environment.

Usually in an ensemble heist situation, we’re introduced to a ragtag crew of lovable characters with specific skills, but here it’s just a list of annoying enemies.

There’s Mayfeld (played by Bill Burr), who will be running point on the operation because Space Santa is retired. Then there’s a Twi’lek named Xi’an (played by Game of Thrones’ Natalia Tena), who likes to do a full-body hiss and play with her knives, which I can appreciate. There’s the droid Zero (played by Apple Onion’s Richard Ayoade), who is a droid so our Mandalorian already dislikes him for reasons that haven’t been explained yet. And then there’s Burg (Clone Wars’ Clancy Brown), who Mayfeld immediately insults for his looks.

(Also, why do guys do this to their friends? I’m genuinely asking. Why do you guys insult each other all the time? I can’t imagine introducing my girlfriends and being like, “This is Sally, she’s our DD tonight, and that ugly slut is Jane, who has promised to buy the first round…”)

Airmen re-secure Tyndall Air Force Base

It’s like Guardians of the Galaxy meets Suicide Squad.

The Mandalorian, Disney+

So…when our Mandalorian accepted Space Santa’s job, he was under the impression that his Razor Crest wouldn’t be part of the deal. In other words, his plan was to — again — just leave the Yoda Baby alone on the ship and then fly off to some illegal and dangerous mission?

Instead, he’s surprised when all these greedy criminals, one of whom already bears a grudge (Xi’an, who also maybe used to have a sexual history) board his ship and fly it and the Yoda Baby into harm’s way.

And, like, literally the only thing keeping the baby hidden was a button? Which Burg immediately pushes during a skirmish where he tried to take off Mando’s helmet.

The only good thing about all this was Bill Burr’s reaction:

Airmen re-secure Tyndall Air Force Base

“What is that? Did you guys make that thing? Is it like a pet?”

The Mandalorian, Disney+

Just like in previous episodes, the Yoda Baby’s race is rare — none of these scoundrels recognize him or register his significance other than sensing he’s important to Mando. The Yoda Baby is then dropped again when the Razor Crest is yanked out of hyperspace and docked on the prison ship.

This kid is going to need a therapist, I swear.

Airmen re-secure Tyndall Air Force Base

The Mandalorian, Disney+

The distraction is enough to move the crew into the bulk of the episode. They board the prison ship, which is supposed to be manned by droids only. Our Mandalorian proves himself by taking out the first wave of them. Within the control room, however, they discover a young New Republic prison ward.

Unfortunately for this kid, he becomes collateral damage (RIP Matt Lanter), but not before activating a New Republic distress call. Now we’ve got a ticking clock, spurring the group into action.

They find their prisoner, another Twi’Lek named Qin (played by Berlin Station’s Ismael Cruz Cordova), who is Xi’an’s brother — stranded there by Mando. The crew rescue Qin and shove Mando into his cell, which actually made things interesting.

Would the crew take off with the Yoda Baby in the Razor Crest, leaving Mando locked in a New Republic prison? Potentially forcing him to team up with them as he builds toward the season finale?

Oh. No. He busts out in two seconds. He busts out so quickly that he’s able to also track down and imprison each of the other crew members before they were able to reach the ship?

Airmen re-secure Tyndall Air Force Base

Holy crap, he’s so cute.

The Mandalorian, Disney+

Speaking of which, back on the Razor Crest, Zero has learned that the Yoda Baby is an expensive asset and sets off to hunt him. Right before he’s able to shoot the child, the Yoda Baby readies his adorable little Force powers and BOOM the droid drops.

Cute moment when the Yoda Baby thinks he did it, only to reveal that Mando is standing behind the droid, having just shot him.

This leaves Qin, who tells Mando he’ll go clean and urges the bounty hunter to just do his job and deliver the bounty.

I was kind of hoping to see the Twi’Lek in carbonite but apparently it wasn’t necessary.

Mando delivers Qin to Space Santa, who abides by the “no questions asked” policy with regards to the missing crew, and takes off.

As he leaves, Space Santa orders an attack ship to kill him…

…but in a fun twist, Qin discovers the New Republic distress beacon on his person right before an echelon of X-Wings drop out of hyperspace and destroy the ship.

https://twitter.com/sithmando/statuses/1205413491269656576
baby yoda was shook #TheMandalorianpic.twitter.com/qZ0CWBXdYS

twitter.com

With two episodes left, I still have no idea where this show is going. It’s a fun ride but I’d love to see some more mystery and back story. What do you think?

Reminder, Chapter 7 will air on Wednesday, December 18, because Rise of Skywalker will open on December 19 and people will be busy all weekend watching that.

See you then.

#TheMandalorian Chapter 6 spoilers without context. #StarWarspic.twitter.com/rTti3gpvBe

twitter.com

Articles

7 signs you’re a Blue Falcon

Everyone knows being a Blue Falcon is bad, but no one believes that they’re the blue falcon. Here are 7 indicators that maybe you should start shopping for nests.


1. When someone asks for volunteers, you immediately start thinking of who isn’t doing anything.

Airmen re-secure Tyndall Air Force Base

Look, it’s the platoon sergeant’s or the chief’s job to figure out who is doing what. If they don’t have a grip on their troop-to-task, that doesn’t make it O.K. for you to start naming who’s free for a tasking.

2. You find yourself saying, “Well, so-and-so did it earlier, first sergeant.”

Airmen re-secure Tyndall Air Force Base
Blue falcons have their own barracks.

Keep your mouth shut, snitch. First sergeant doesn’t need to know who snuck to the barracks first during those engrossing Powerpoint presentations battalion put together. Let him yell at you until he runs out of steam, then go back to the stupid briefings and suck it up.

3. You make the kind of mistakes that trigger company recalls.

Airmen re-secure Tyndall Air Force Base

Everyone screws up a few times a year, which is normal. Not everyone screws up so badly that the entire rest of their unit has to come in Saturday morning. Maybe keep your infractions a little more discreet in the future.

Or, make your mistakes epic enough that the unit will enjoy the recall just because they get to hear the story. “Wait, we’re here because Schmuckatelli crashed the general’s car with the installation command sergeant major’s daughter in the front seat? Can I make popcorn before you start, first sergeant?”

4. You frequently hear bus sounds or the words, “Caw! Caw!”

Airmen re-secure Tyndall Air Force Base

Yeah, your friends are trying to give you a hint, dude. You’re throwing people under the bus and then buddy f-cking them as they crawl out.

5. You take too much credit — especially for stuff you didn’t do with your own hands.

Airmen re-secure Tyndall Air Force Base

Always share credit. When you’re praised for rifle marksmanship, mention who helped you train. If you perform superbly at the board, mention the guys in your squad who quizzed you.

But, when you weren’t there, you shouldn’t take any credit. Say who actually did the work. Do not take the recognition, do not take the coin, do not tell stories about it later.

6. You’re always the guy that the team or squad leader has to pull aside.

Airmen re-secure Tyndall Air Force Base

Look, sucking at your job is a version of being the blue falcon. It’s not as malicious or direct as being a credit hog or a snitch, but not learning how to fulfill your position in the squad screws everyone else over. Read the manuals, practice the drills, watch the other guys in the squad. Learn your role.

7. Someone sent you this list or tagged you on Facebook in the comments.

Yeah, there’s a reason someone thought you, specifically, should read this list. Go back through it with a comb. Read each entry and keep a tally of which apply to you. Then, stop being a blue falcon. Caw caw.

NOW: The 7 biggest ‘Blue Falcons’ in US military history

MIGHTY CULTURE

This WWII veteran evaded 4,000 enemy troops over 4 months

Some of our nation’s greatest treasures aren’t places, they are people. Leo LaCasse survived three crash landings and evaded 4,000 enemy troops during World War II. He now lives at a VA Community Living Center in Salem, Virginia. Here is his story:

Born on July 4, 1920, Leo LaCasse was one of five children–all of whom were born on birthdays of former presidents. At the age of 15, he joined the New Hampshire National Guard, and later the Army Air Corps, where he was assigned to a recruiting command. The private was soon promoted to corporal, then sergeant, as he traveled New England recruiting pilots from colleges and universities.

One day, Leo learned that he was accepted to flight school. It was a reward from his commanding officer who had submitted the application on his behalf. Despite never having gone to college, the Army sent Leo to college under an accelerated learning program, and when he graduated, he became a B-17 bomber captain.


Soon, flying planes “felt like home” to Leo.

“Some of them [planes] were cramped, but it didn’t make any difference to me because I was the pilot. When you’re packed in an aircraft and don’t have the room to move your body in the cockpit, any airplane you fly after that is good.”

In June 1943, Leo was assigned to the 8th Air Force, Bomb Group 548th in Suffolk, England, where he served under General Curtis Lemay.

Leo LaCasse flew 35 missions over Germany and other occupied countries, and survived three crash landings. During World War II, Leo evaded 4,000 enemy troops over 4 months.

One of Leo’s crashes landed in France, which was then occupied by Germany. He instructed his crew to head for the front lines, to surrender and tell whoever interrogated them that he was headed for Berlin. Instead, Leo left for Luxembourg to meet up with the French Resistance, where he crossed the Pyrenees Mountains, and made his way to Portugal.

In all, he spent four months avoiding Nazi capture. When the war was over, he was sent to Berlin for debriefing. That’s where he met and befriended a German general who recognized Leo’s name and revealed there had been 4,000 German troops looking for him following the crash landing in France.

Airmen re-secure Tyndall Air Force Base

Captain Leo LaCasse in front of his B-17 Bomber.

Leo retired from the military as a Brigadier General. For his service he has received numerous medals including the Silver Star Medal, Distinguished Flying Cross, Purple Heart, Legion of Merit Air Medal, Air Force Commendation Medal, Air Force Combat Medal, Joint Services Commendation Medal, World War II Victory Medal, European and Middle East Campaign Medal, Army Air Force Medal, Armed Forces Reserve Medal, and the American Defense Medal.

On June 5, 2016, Leo received the Legion of Honor Medal, France’s highest honor.

Leo now resides at Salem VA Medical Center’s Community Living Center located in Salem, Virginia.

On July 4, 2019, Leo will celebrate his 99th birthday.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is what happened to the USS Constitution’s original guns

If you visit the USS Constitution in Boston these days, the cannons you’ll see on her gun deck aren’t the originals launched with the ship. The guns aboard the ship are replicas, and only two of them are capable of firing salute charges. Even when the sailors aboard Constitution fire salutes, it’s a far cry from the way cannons were loaded and fired when Old Ironsides was first laid.

In fact, they’re inaccurate replicas, with 18 of them even bearing the Royal Cipher of King George II.


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The creator thought the ship’s original guns were confiscated from the British. He was wrong.

(USS Constitution Museum Collection)

USS Constitution was first launched in 1797 and saw action against the Royal Navy during the War of 1812. She took down five British warships, victories that stunned not only the Royal Navy, but the rest of the world. Her most famous victory was against the HMS Guerriere, the victory that earned her the nickname “Old Ironsides” when the Guerriere’s 526-pound broadsides bounced off Constitution’s hull as if it were made of iron. But the 30 24-pounder long guns and 20 32-pounder carronades it launched with weren’t captured from the British during the Revolution.

The guns aboard Constitution were never designed to stay solely aboard the ship, as weapons at that time were moved as needed. Shortly before the Civil War, she took an illegal American slaver as a prize off the coast of Angola and was decommissioned. The ship was turned into a training ship for Midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy. Eventually, she was turned into housing for sailors until the turn of the 20th Century.

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The Constitution being refitted as training ship for Midshipmen.

It was around 1906 that Congress decided to restore Constitution to her former glory. After public outcry against the ship being used for target practice by the Navy halted its planned sinking, 0,000 was appropriated to restore the ship as a museum. This included new casts of cannon for her decks. Some 54 guns were going to be cast for the restoration. But the Naval Constructor in charge of the armaments, believing there was no documentation about the original guns, used a French design instead. So rather than long guns and carronades, the designer saved money by using the same gun on every deck.

In 1925, the Navy rectified this and went all-out in restoring Constitution. The new restoration scrapped all of the 1906 guns for being historically inaccurate. After four years in drydock, the guns the Navy used to replace the 1906 guns were also inaccurate. These were the aforementioned British-style weapons – but at least they represent the kinds of weapons found on the gun decks and spar decks. Two of them even fire salutes.

The two saluting guns aboard Constitution were retrofitted to fire 40mm shells of black powder just in time for the United States Centennial in 1976. On Nov. 11, 1976, the commanding officer of the ship decided to fire the salute guns in the morning and in the evening from the ship’s mooring in Boston Harbor – a tradition it has carried on ever since.

Articles

The Army’s multi-mission launcher protects soldiers from enemy rocket, mortar and artillery fire

The Army fired an interceptor missile designed to protect forward-deployed forces on the ground by destroying incoming enemy fire from artillery, rockets, mortars, cruise missiles and even drones and aircraft, service officials explained.


The successful live-fire test, which took place at White Sands Missile Range N.M., demonstrated the ability of a new Army Multi-Mission Launcher to fire a weapon called the Miniature Hit-to-Kill missile. It is called “hit-to-kill” because it is what’s called a kinetic energy weapon with no explosive. Rather, the interceptor uses speed and the impact of a collision to destroy approaching targets, Army officials explained.

The idea is to give Soldiers deployed on a Forward Operating Base the opportunity to defend themselves from attacking enemy fire. The MML is configured to fire many different kinds of weapons; they launcher recently conducted live-fire exercises with an AIM-9X Sidewinder missile and an AGM-114 Hellfire missile. This MML is engineered to fire these missiles which, typically, are fired from the air. The AIM-9X is primarily and air-to-air weapon and the Hellfire is known for its air-to-ground attack ability.

The Multi-Mission Launcher, or MML, is a truck-mounted weapon used as part of a Soldier protection system called Integrated Fire Protection Capability – Inc. 2. The system, which uses a Sentinel radar and fire control technology to identify and destroy approaching enemy fire and protect forward-deployed forces.   The technology uses a command and control system called Integrated Air and Missile Defense Battle Command System, or IBCS.

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U.S. Army photo

The MML launcher can rotate 360 degrees and elevate from 0-90 degrees in order to identify and knock out approaching fire from any direction or angle.

“The MML consists of fifteen tubes, each of which can hold either a single large interceptor or multiple smaller interceptors. Developed using an open systems architecture, the launcher will interface to the IBCS Engagement Operations Center to support and coordinate target engagements,” an Army statement said.

With ISIS rocket fire killing a U.S. Marine at a firebase in Iraq recently, this emerging ground-based troop protection is the kind of system which could quickly make an operational difference for forces in combat situations.

Ground-Launched Hellfire

Recent test-firings involved an adaptation of the Hellfire missile, a 100-pound tank-killing weapon typically fired from aircraft such as Gray Eagle, Predator and Reaper drones and Apache attack helicopters, among others.

The Hellfire was also fired as part of a development force protection technology called “Indirect Fire Protection Capability Increment 2-Intercept (IFPC Inc. 2-I).”

The Hellfire fire exercise demonstrated the ability to fire a second interceptor type because the Multi-Mission launcher has also fired a ground-launched Stinger anti-aircraft missile and a AIM-9X missile, an air-to-air attack weapon adapted for ground-fire troop protection.

“We are fully integrated with AIM-9X and Longbow (Hellfire). This is a monumental effort by our PEO family,” Col. Terrence Howard, Project Manager, Cruise Missile Defense Systems Project Office, PEO Missiles and Space told Scout Warrior.

The Multi-Mission launcher works in tandem with radar and fire-control software to identify, track, pinpoint and destroy approaching enemy air threats with an interceptor missile.

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An AGM-114 Hellfire missile hung on the rail of a US Air Force (USAF) MQ-1L Predator Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV).

IFPC Inc 2-I is a joint collaborative effort between the Army’s Program Executive Office for Missiles and Space’s Cruise Missile Defense Systems Project Office and the Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center, an Army statement said.

“This is a capability that, when fully matured and fielded, will match and counter a very wide variety of sophisticated airborne threats. MML will greatly help protect our ground troops from harm’s way under the most stressing battlespace operating conditions,” James Lackey, Director of AMRDEC, told Scout Warrior in a statement.”MML (Multi-Mission Launcher) gives me confidence we can do more of these types of efforts when it comes to future prototyping.”

The live-fire demonstration involved Army subject matter experts, industry participants and international partners interested in the systems’ development.

“This is a marked achievement that proves the open systems architecture of the IFPC capability works as designed.  We have demonstrated the ability to offer a multiple interceptor solution to defeat multiple threats. True multi-mission capability” Lt. Col. Michael Fitzgerald, IFPC Product Manager, said.

Weapons development experts have been using telemetry and data collection systems to assess the results of the live fire with a mind to quickly preparing the system for combat use. The weapon should be ready for combat within three to five years.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Female veterans pose on same ship that carried WW2 troops

Award-winning nonprofit Pin-Ups for Vets is releasing its 13th annual fundraising calendar to raise money for VA hospitals; ill, injured, and homeless veterans; deployed troops; and military families. The 2019 calendar, photographed on the iconic Queen Mary in Long Beach, CA, features 19 female veterans decked out in World War II inspired fashion.

“Fans of Art Deco will appreciate the look of the upcoming calendar that reflects the vintage glamour of this 1936 cruise liner, now permanently docked in Long Beach, CA as a floating hotel,” said Pin-Ups For Vets Founder, Gina Elise, who established Pin-Ups For Vets in 2006, as a way to honor the WWII service of her grandfather.

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Gina Elise, Founder

Gina has devoted her life to giving back to the military community. To date, Pin-Ups For Vets has donated over ,000 to help hospitals purchase new therapy equipment and to provide financial assistance for Veterans’ healthcare program expansion across the United States.

The 2019 calendar is officially ready for pre-order at www.PinUpsForVets.com. All 2019 Pin-Ups for Vets calendar pictures were taken by Shane Karns Photography — and let me just tell you…he really nailed it.


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Kirstie Ennis, U.S. Marine Corps veteran

From a linguist, to a Human Intelligence Collector, to a combat photographer, to a combat medic, to a motor transportation operator, to a heavy equipment transporter driver leading convoys in Iraq, to a helicopter door gunner in Afghanistan, these ladies also include an above-the-knee amputee veteran (Marine Corps veteran Kirstie Ennis — who, by the way, at the time of this publishing was climbing Mount Denali in support of Service to Summit to raise money for Building Homes for Heroes, a nonprofit organization that builds or modifies homes and gives them to veterans in need).

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Julie Noyes, Army veteran

Army veteran Julie Noyes says, “It can be so difficult as a female service member to feel empowered in her beauty without feeling like she may betray the professionalism of her uniform when we only seek to be treated like our male counterparts. I feel that Pin-Ups for Vets does a superb job at raising money and awareness for our elderly, wounded vets and our currently deployed troops while also showcasing the class and beauty of female veterans without objectifying them. What Pin-Ups Vets Founder Gina Elise has done with this publication and non-profit is nothing short of empowering and inspiring.”

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Naumika Kumar, Navy Veteran

“I will always be thankful to the Navy. I met my husband in the Navy who is also a veteran now and I graduated from National University with Master’s Degree in 2012 as well. I am happy to see there are organization such as Pin-Ups For Vets who are doing so much to support the military and Veterans. I am happy that I got an opportunity to be part of the organization.”

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Patti Gomez, Army veteran

Patti is a veteran of the United States Army, where she proudly served in the New York Army National Guard as a 35M (Human Intelligence Collector) of the 42nd Infantry Division, located in Glenville, New York. She volunteered to attend JRTC in Fort Polk, Louisiana, alongside the 27th Infantry Brigade Combat Team in July 2016. She also trained at Warfighter at Fort Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania, with her unit in October 2017. Patti attended Basic Combat Training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and attended Advanced Individual Training at the United States Army Intelligence Center of Excellence in Fort Huachuca, Arizona.

“Pin-Ups for Vets is an incredible organization with an important mission. Being a part of a nonprofit that helps veterans and empowers women at the same time is truly an honor and one that I couldn’t pass up when I was asked to be a part of the 2019 calendar. As the reigning Mrs. New York America, my platform is veteran organizations — and Pin-Ups for Vets is truly among the best of them!”

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Check out that cover image!

The 2019 calendar can be purchased at: www.PinUpsForVets.com or by check to: Pin-Ups For Vets, PO Box 33, Claremont, CA 91711.

MIGHTY MOVIES

This classic Disney and ‘Full Metal Jacket’ mashup is great

It’s definitely not canon, but this video of Gunnery Sgt. Donald Duck ripping into new recruits from the Disney Universe is hilarious, featuring Goofy trying to pull off a satisfactory war face as Pluto attempts to keep a straight face and the Duck rips into them both. Full Metal Jacket has never been so whimsical.



Xavier Avalos

www.facebook.com

In the clip, made with a little audio engineering and one of the best scenes from Full Metal Jacket, Goofy, Pluto, and Mickey join the Marine Corps and run right into one of the angriest characters from classic Disney, Donald Duck, now a gunnery sergeant and drill instructor in the “beloved corps.”

Duck had a long and storied military career by the time the Vietnam War rolled around, jumping behind enemy lines and attacking Japanese camps during World War II. But, oddly enough, Pluto served in the same war. He was a private in the Army during World War II, assigned to guard artillery emplacements against attacks by saboteurs and chipmunks.

He wasn’t particularly great at it, so maybe that’s why, two decades later, he’s just a recruit in Marine Corps basic.

Or, you know, alternate theory: The Full Metal Jacket mashup is just a fun joke on the internet and not actually part of the characters’ storylines. Since it’s clearly not sanctioned by Disney and features Donald Duck letting out a string of profanities and a few colorful suggestions, we’re gonna go out on a limb and say this isn’t canon.

Still pretty funny, though.

Avalos has some other good Full Metal Jacket mashups in his Facebook feed, but I still think the best Full Metal Jacket mashup came from YouTuber Tyler P. who put the movie’s audio over Santa’s workshop from the old claymation Christmas movies.

Full Metal Jacket and the late, great R. Lee Ermey are the gifts that keep on giving. The movie and the man have taught us life lessons, made us laugh out loud, and even had leading roles in our favorite video games.

Articles

Air Force announces first 30 enlisted drone pilots

The first 30 board-selected enlisted airmen will begin training to fly the RQ-4 Global Hawk drone, the Air Force announced Wednesday.


The service’s inaugural Enlisted Remotely Piloted Aircraft Pilot Selection Board picked two senior master sergeants, five master sergeants, nine technical sergeants, 14 staff sergeants and five alternates from about 200 active-duty applicants from various job assignments, according to a release.

Related: 6 ways to use those retired Predator drones

“These 30 Airmen join the Enlisted RPA Pilot program along with the 12 other Airmen from the Enlisted Pilot Initial Class, four of whom started training in October 2016,” it states. “The Air Force plans for the number of enlisted RPA pilots to grow to 100 within four years.”

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Tech. Sgt. William, 432nd Wing/432nd Air Expeditionary Wing sensor operator, flies a simulated mission June 10, 2016, at Creech Air Force Base, Nevada. The 432nd WG trains and deploys MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper aircrews in support of global operations 24/7/365. | U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Christian Clausen/Released)

The selection board met in February to deliberate and choose from 185 active-duty enlisted airmen who made it past an initial qualifying phase of the program. Airmen holding rank from staff sergeant through senior master sergeant and having six years of retainability from course graduation date were considered for the board, the release said. Those considered also had to complete the Air Force’s initial flying class II physical examination, plus a pilot qualification test.

Two airmen from the board are expected to begin the Initial Flight Training program at Colorado’s Pueblo Memorial Airport by April, Air Force Personnel Center spokesman Mike Dickerson told Military.com last month. Subsequently, two enlisted airmen will be part of each class thereafter throughout this fiscal year and into early next fiscal year, Dickerson said.

Also read: Here’s how bad the Air Force’s pilot shortage really is

The Air Force announced in 2015 it would begin training enlisted airmen to operate the unarmed RQ-4 Global Hawk remotely piloted aircraft.

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U.S. Air Force photo

The AFPC said in November that 305 active-duty enlisted airmen had been identified to apply for the selection board. The center saw a surge of interest from potential RPA airmen during the application process that began last year, AFPC said at the time. It received more than 800 applicants, compared to a typical 200 applicants.

The Air Force said its next call for nominations for the 2018 enlisted RPA pilot selection board is scheduled for next month, the release said.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Army Veteran recalls his time as POW during Vietnam

On Dec. 8, 2020, U.S. Army Veteran David Harker will celebrate his 75th birthday. He may recognize the accomplishment while on his daily five mile walk, or by taking a drive in his 47-year-old car – a 1973 Corvette he’s owned since it was given to him by classmates when he returned from Vietnam after spending more than five years as a prisoner of war.

A native of Lynchburg, Virginia, Harker is the third of seven children. He was an athlete in high school and received his associate’s degree from Bluefield College before transferring to Virginia Tech in 1966. By 1967, however, his fortunes had changed.


David Harker stands next to the 1973 Corvette he received.

Drafted

“I was doing my junior year at Virginia Tech and my grades were low, so I had to take a quarter off in 1967 and during that time, because I wasn’t a full-time student, I had to let the government know. They got me,” he said.

When the draft notice came, Harker’s father, an electrical engineer took the news hard.

“My dad was really upset. He had worked for a power company during World War II and so was exempt from the draft,” Harker recalled. “I didn’t think about the possibility of being killed. My dad’s supervisor said he could get me in the National Guard, but I thought that would be shirking my responsibility. I was called on to serve my country and that’s what I was going to do.”

After basic and advanced infantry training, Harker was approached and offered an opportunity to go to Officer Candidate School.

“I was interested in flying helicopters, but they said I’d have to extend for another year or two, so I said, ‘no, I’ll do my two and go home’.”

Heading to Vietnam

The trip to Vietnam brought Harker through Hawaii, and Guam, before landing in Vietnam Nov. 15, 1967. The recollection of arrival is still fresh even 53 years later.

“There were men on the airstrip who had finished their year and were going to take the plane we had arrived on back home. So, they open the door and it was such a rude awakening when the door opened. The oppressive heat – and I’m sure Vietnam Vets will tell you – the country had a smell of its own.”

The soldiers on their way home watched them deplane and Harker heard them say, ‘there’s my replacement.’

“They wished us well,” Harker said.

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David Harker stands next to the 1973 Corvette he received.

Although trained on a vehicle-mounted recoilless rifle, Harker was made an infantryman upon arrival in-country and reassigned from the 9th Infantry Division to the 196th Light Infantry Brigade. Six weeks later, he was a POW.

“I was in the 3rd of the 21st in an area of operations at Que Son,” Harker said. “We operated out of a fire base, with one company pulling security while the other three were out doing search and destroy missions. While out, we’d move about 1,000 meters a day and get resupplied every fourth day with c-rations if the helicopters could get through.”

As a 22 year old, Harker was among the older men in his unit. His commanding officer, Capt. Roland Belcher, told the company while they were enjoying in-country RR at brigade headquarters in Chu Lai, that he was proud of the work they were doing.

“Captain Belcher had been in a province southwest of Saigon where we were providing security for elections,” Harker said. “He said it meant a lot to him that we were able to do that – to make sure those people could go to the polls and not get hurt. I remember that because he died in the rice paddies when we were ambushed.”

Harker’s first sergeant, nicknamed Top, was a 41-year old Veteran of World War II and Korea who had earned a Silver Star before joining the company.

“After the ambush, he was the ranking person and he held us together.”

Capture

Harker and his company were on patrol when they broke contact with the enemy in a creek bed. The North Vietnamese unloaded on the unit and killed two men. As the most forward man, Harker was pinned down.

“I’m thinking, ‘I’m going to die.’ Top is behind me telling me to switch to auto and fire. They tried to get behind us and eventually I hear a Vietnamese voice and do a 90 degree and within arm’s reach at the top of this creek bank is an NVA soldier with a pith helmet and Top is there with no helmet. There’s a guy with a rifle telling me to get up. The NVA are stripping everything off us – anything they can use. I tried to bury my M-16 in the creek bed but I think they got it.”

After being taken, Harker was left with a soldier with a sidearm who walked in front of him, leading him away from the creek.

“I thought it was odd he was in front of me and I had been taught that you always try to escape. Next thing I know my hand is over his mouth and I have his arm at his side. I know I have to kill him and do it silently, but his bayonet won’t come out of the scabbard, and by that time my hand has come off his mouth and he’s yelling bloody murder. Before I could get his .45, he stabs me in the side with his bayonet. By that time there are a bunch of rifles pointing at me. I’m surprised they didn’t just shoot me, but they took some commo wire and duck-winged me that night.”

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A newspaper clipping from the time shows support from his hometown.

Of the 15 men who entered the rice paddy that evening, only four made it out. More men would join Harker in his prison in the Trung Son Mountain Range where he would spend the first three years of captivity. By Harker’s estimation only about 150 U.S. soldiers were captured in South Vietnam – most of whom were taken during the Tet Offensive.

Harker’s first prison was in Quang Nam Province, a difficult, mountainous country that made food scarce and meant deplorable living conditions for the POWs.

“We buried nine Americans there,” Harker said. “That’s how horrific our living conditions were. We had very little to eat so people died from starvation, infectious diseases – malaria was rampant – dysentery. Between September of 1968 and Jan. 4, 1969, we buried six, including the youngest person we had there, a 19-year-old Marine.

“That first year of adjustment to jungle life was really hard on us. You didn’t know what to do. At first you looked out for yourself, but as time went on, you got more altruistic – you realize, it’s not about me, but about the guy next door and you realize you had to take care of each other. We came together really well in that respect.”

During the Vietnam War only one American doctor was ever taken prisoner. Hal Kushner, who grew up in Danville, Virginia, was injured in a helicopter crash in late November. By Dec. 4, North Vietnamese forces found him and marched him toward the camp where he found, according to a speech he gave in February 2018, “four of the saddest looking American creatures I had ever seen in my life.”

“They wouldn’t let him practice medicine,” Harker said of Kushner. “We couldn’t call him doc, but he was a big source of information and help to us. He led the way and showed us how to nurse and take care of men, and that became our goal – to make people in their last hours and days as comfortable as possible – it was our mission, and he was a big inspiration to us.”

In the mountains the men had to forage for food, mostly the manioc root, also known as kasava root.

“There wasn’t a place to grow food, so most of our calories came from manioc,” Harker said. “We were under a 1-to-1 prisoner-to-guard ratio, and the guards would trade manioc and so we would put baskets on our backs and go back and forth over miles of mountain trails carrying 70-80 pounds of root. It’s amazing to think that we could even do it, but we did what we had to do. The little bit of rice they gave us as a ration wasn’t enough to keep a bird flying, so the roots kept us going.”

The guards of Trung Son didn’t physically abuse their prisoners. They didn’t need to.

“We were separated from civilization in the middle of nowhere and we couldn’t communicate; had no food, and no medical attention – that’s torture enough for an individual. We were interrogated when we were captured,” Harker said, “but we knew the Code of Conduct and so we’d give that information. But they’d have a guy with a lantern and they’re asking for information about your unit, it’s size, and I just kept repeating. They didn’t pursue it much. They wanted to get us away from the battlefield but a few days later they did it again. When you have a rifle and you’re in front of the enemy, it’s different. But if they put a blindfold on you and all you can hear is round being chambered – that’s different too. In the north they beat pilots and used a lot of torture techniques.”

Moving day

On Feb. 1, 1971 there were a dozen men still alive in the mountains and they were taken in groups of six to begin their march north up the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Harker watched battalions of Vietnamese troops heading south during the 60-day march, as they ground out 10 to 15 miles a day. During the journey an interpreter would give them extra rice.

“He was a military guy who had fought in Laos as a 17-year old in the early 1960s, and he looked out for us. I think he understood the condition – there was a common situation and appreciation among soldiers.”

“We’d get to a camp every day where we got hot white rice – better than we had at the mountain camp. The next morning they’d put a ball of rice on a banana leaf and we’d carry that with us for lunch as we moved. Eventually we were put on a train, in a box car, and taken to Hanoi, to Plantation Garden, an old French plantation with bars in the walls. We were kept in a 15×17 warehouse – six of us on a wooden pallet. Unlike the mountain camp we couldn’t roam around, and the boredom would overtake you and the heat was oppressive, but we had plenty to eat compared to the south. We also had better medical care there as they had a doctor to attend to us.”

In October of 1972 the Vietnamese allowed prisoners to be outside together for the first time since they arrived, and it looked like the war might be over.

“We had a communication system where we’d put a note on the lid of the waste bucket, or use the tap code, and we had to do that because we were only allowed out of our cell for about an hour a day, and never more than one cell was let out at a time. So, when they let everyone out, and then gave us reading material, they knew it was over. Or they thought it was, because before you know it, the doors are all slammed shut again.”

Soon after, Linebacker II started. From Dec. 18-29, 1972, the U.S. Air Force conducted an operation called Linebacker II, a ‘maximum effort’ campaign to destroy targets using B-52 heavy bombers that dropped more than 15,000 tons of ordnance on more than 30 targets.

“B-52s bombed all night long after talks broke down. The SAMs (surface-to-air missiles) shot down a bunch of planes on the third night, after they figured out the flight patterns, and one night they pulled up a deuce and a half and told us to crawl in the back. We thought we were being taken to China.”

Harker would spend his last three months as a prisoner at the Hanoi Hilton.

Repatriation

Half a world away, in Paris, a peace accord was signed January 27, 1973, and soon after Harker and other American POWs heard the news they had longed to hear.

“We were ecstatic,” Harker said. “We’d hear doors open and activity and they came and said, ‘you’re going, and you’re going, and you’re going’ dividing us up into groups that would be repatriated. They gave us western clothing and a travel bag and when they pulled us out of a holding cell wearing our red-striped pajamas we were given the clothes. By noon, nothing had happened. They gave us food and told us the peace agreement was broken – and we were right back down in the depths of despair. But a few days later we got out.

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A newspaper clipping shows when David Harker returned home.

“I remember saluting an Air Force general who was sitting with a North Vietnamese officer, and when we saluted, we had been officially repatriated. On the plane home, the pilot told us when we had entered international airspace and there was a great cheer.”

The cheers continued when they landed in the Philippines, Hawaii, and Andrews AFB, Maryland. From Maryland, Harker went to Valley Forge in Pennsylvania where he went through medical treatment and rehabilitation, and he was reunited with his family.

“It was different,” Harker said. “I had brothers who were married, and children had been born, but it was exciting coming home. A private airline flew me and my father back and the local TV station had sent a reporter who interviewed me all the way back. There must have been 10,000 people at the Lynchburg airport when we arrived – I had no idea there would be that welcome and response – my big extended family – the high school band was there. It was a long journey and I was glad to be home and for them to be there for me meant so much. I was led to a blue 1973 Corvette and handed the keys. A group of school mates had gotten together and sold bumper stickers for a dollar each to buy me a car and they handed me the keys and a check for id=”listicle-2647726394″,100.”

Being home with his family, Harker said he learned how much anxiety and frustration and worry his parents went through while he was captive.

“Every POW gets a casualty assistance officer whose job it is to let the family know when they hear something – anything – about their son,” Harker said. “My family never heard anything from their CAO. It wasn’t until 1969, when three prisoners were released that they knew I was alive. My parents found out that a couple of those who were released were at Fort Jackson, and so they went there and got onto base and met with them and heard from them that I was alive. That’s all the knew for five years. So they became involved in the National League of Families who organized and tried to have some involvement with North Vietnam to get information about prisoners and try to make the process more transparent as far as information was concerned.”

Life after war

After he returned from Vietnam, Harker took some time off, but eventually returned to Blacksburg and finished his business degree from Virginia Tech in 1976 and found his way to work as a probation and parole officer. In 1977 he married Linda, his high school sweetheart whom he had dated since 1962.

His family now includes his two children, Megan and husband Mike, and Adam and his wife Anza. David and Linda also enjoy their grandchildren: 13-year old Emily, 11-year old Ethan, and 6-year old Eli, children of Megan; and Adam’s 23-month old daughter Ava.

While Harker is open to discussing his time in Vietnam to serve as an education for younger people, he said it was a part of his life that he’s put behind him.

“Kush and I talk about that all the time – we’re not professional POWs. By the grace of God and the help of other men, we made it out. We all serve our country one way or another. This country is what we love. My life has been a real blessing since then, and the staff at the VA hospital, what they do is marvelous, and I appreciate each one of them. I know they have a heart for those Veterans, or they wouldn’t work there,” Harker said. “I love the Veterans, too, and appreciate their service, and institutions like the VA are a great service to our country.”

In the early 2010s Harker had the Corvette he received in 1973 – the car he and his youngest brother Louie drove across the country after his return – restored. He still drives it today.

“I think of all the love behind it every time I drive it.”

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

Humor

The 13 funniest military memes for the Week of Jan. 1

It’s finally 2018. One year closer to that sweet blended retirement.


Just kidding, it’s not sweet. Never trade a guaranteed pension for some goofy plan that depends on the market.

If you’ve already opted in, console yourself with these memes. Remember, if you don’t laugh, the terrorists win.

13. If Game of Thrones was set in the modern day (via USAWTFM)

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…and Westeros also built by the lowest bidder.

12. Time to call a 20-year E7 (via Pop Smoke)

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He doesn’t care what Country Captain Chicken tastes like.

11. Reason number 3,469 why I didn’t join the Navy (via Decelerate Your Life)

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If you’re cold, they’re cold.

10. How staff NCOs are raised (via Salty Soldier)

Airmen re-secure Tyndall Air Force Base
Maybe ITT Tech was a bad idea.

9.  The flattest flat tops in North Korea are reserved for one man (via Air Force amn/nco/snco)

Airmen re-secure Tyndall Air Force Base
She’s a keeper.

8. L-T: “Don’t push this button” (via Air Force Memes Humor)

Airmen re-secure Tyndall Air Force Base
Respect my rank!

7. Google it (via Coast Guard Memes)

Airmen re-secure Tyndall Air Force Base
Bet you did Nazi that coming.

6. Accept who you are

Airmen re-secure Tyndall Air Force Base
We would also accept dip and an empty bottle to spit in.

5. There just aren’t that many in MXS

Airmen re-secure Tyndall Air Force Base
But when you find one…

4.”I’m never gonna use this, I’m joining the Army” (via Why I’m Not Re-enlisting)

Airmen re-secure Tyndall Air Force Base
Grab a calculator.

3. Reason number 245,091 to leave the Middle East (via Pop Smoke)

Airmen re-secure Tyndall Air Force Base
Everything else is also terrible.

2. You can tell he’s not still in because he appreciates a chuggable red (via Pop Smoke)

Airmen re-secure Tyndall Air Force Base

1. There’s some disagreement about where the Army’s pit of misery is

Airmen re-secure Tyndall Air Force Base
Fort Polk disagrees.

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