President-elect Donald Trump is reportedly considering businessman Philip Bilden to serve as Secretary of the Navy. Bilden is somewhat of a surprise choice as former Congressman Randy Forbes (R-VA) and current Representative Duncan D. Hunter (R-CA) were seen as front-runners for the position.
According to a report by USNI News, Bilden spent nearly two decades living in Hong Kong as an investment banker. Prior to that, he was with HarbourVest in Boston and served ten years as an intelligence officer in the Army Reserve, reaching the rank of captain.
The Washington Examiner notes that Bilden has served on the Asia Advisory Council for the Emerging Markets Private Equity Association, and has been on the Asia Pacific Advisor board for Harvard Business School. The EMPEA web site notes that Bilden received a bachelor’s degree in Foreign Service from Georgetown University. He also serves on the Board of Directors for the Naval Academy Foundation.
The potential nomination received heavy criticism from the web site BreakingDefense.com. Editor Colin Clark wrote that “contributions to the Naval Academy Foundation, Naval War College Foundation and to the GOP, including Mitt Romney’s failed campaign” were used by Bilden to become a player.
Retired Admiral James Stavridis, a former Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, praised the potential pick, telling USNI News that Bilden “is a man of extraordinary expertise on maritime and nautical affairs. He is an expert on Asia and understands, in particular, China very deeply.”
Trump’s national security team also included retired Marine general James Mattis as Secretary of Defense, retired Army lieutenant general Michael Flynn as national security advisor, and Vincent Viola, a former Army officer who owns the NHL Florida Panthers as Secretary of the Army.
Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator (SEAL) Edward Byers, Jr. has never sought the limelight in the more than 17 years that he’s been in the Navy, but today the eyes of the nation were on him as he received the Medal of Honor from President Obama in a ceremony at the White House.
Byers was part of a SEAL Team Six rescue team sent to rescue an Dilip Joseph, American doctor and aid worker who’d been taken hostage by the Taliban. During the mission, Byers showed extreme courage and warfighting prowess by continuing into a room and shielding the doctor while taking out two insurgents after the SEAL in front of him, Petty Officer 1st Class Nicolas D. Checque, was hit by fire in the doorway.
The justification for the Medal of Honor was based largely on the Joseph’s testimony as captured in his book Kidnapped by the Taliban: A Story of Terror, Hope and Rescue by SEAL Team 6, which was published in 2014. In the book Joseph writes that he was sure his Taliban captors were going to kill him before the SEALs showed up.
The ceremony at the White House was attended by many members of the special operations community as well as other Medal of Honor recipients. Byers family was also present in force. During his remarks President Obama noted that in addition to the SEAL’s immediate family almost 50 members of his extended family were in attendance.
Obama also joked that Byers’ mother first question when she heard her son was receiving the Medal of Honor was, “Can I go to the ceremony?” Focusing on her in the audience the East Room, the president smiled and said, “Yes, mom, you can go.”
Byers has deployed 11 times since 9-11. His previous awards include the Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts. He is the eleventh living recipient of the Medal of Honor since 9-11.
SEAL Team 6, officially known as DEVGRU, which is short for “Development Group,” is a very secretive part of the special operations community used for the Pentagon’s most sensitive missions. DEVGRU came to the public’s attention in 2011 during Operation Geronimo, the mission to take out Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan.
Navy veteran and Food Network Allstar, August Dannehl cooks a four course meal for his fellow vets based on stories from their service. A braised pork belly inspired by the MRE’s feared dehydrated pork product, Chicken Tagine inspired by a training mission in Morocco – these elements provide the backdrop for a holiday celebration between veterans.
Donna’s first visit to Morocco was for a training mission with the Marine Corps. It was on this trip that she and her unit befriended the owner and crew of a small local restaurant. They would eat there so often that their business provided new clothing for all of the servers and their families and when it came to leave, they were made this delicious parting meal.
Chicken Tagine w/ Preserved Lemon and Saffron CousCous
Inspired by Donna’s Service in Morocco
8 lg. chicken thighs
2 tbs spice mix
1 head cauliflower, cut into bite-size florets
1 large white onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, diced
1 tbs grated fresh ginger
2 tsp saffron
2 tb tomato paste
2 cups low-salt chicken stock
1 cup castelvetrano olives
3 ½ tbs sweet paprika
1 tbs garlic powder
2 tsp cinnamon
3 tbs ground coriander
2 tbs ground turmeric
1 tbs ginger powder
½ tbs ground cardamom
2 ½ tsp ground allspice
3 cups couscous
3 cups low-salt chicken stock
4 tbs. unsalted butter
2 tsp. saffron threads (crumbled)
extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
½ bunch cilantro, leaves
Prepare the CousCous by heating the chicken stock, butter and saffron over medium-heat until boiling. Add couscous and reduce heat to low, and simmer for 10-12 minutes (until couscous is tender). Add salt, pepper and drizzle of olive oil to taste. Set aside.
Combine the spices in a dry sauté pan set over low heat, and toast them gently until they release their fragrance, 2 minutes or so. Transfer to a bowl, and allow to cool. Preheat oven to 350. Season the chicken thighs with the salt, pepper and 2 tablespoons of the spice mix, along with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil.
Heat the remaining olive oil in a large dutch over over medium heat, and sear the chicken in batches, starting skin-side down, until the thighs are browned. Remove all but two tablespoons of the fat in pan, then return it to the heat, and brown the cauliflower and add the chicken.
Reduce heat below the pan, and add the onion, garlic, ginger and saffron. Cook, stirring, until the onions are translucent, approximately 5 minutes. Add tomato paste, lemons and chicken stock and simmer until reduced by 1/3. Cover pot and transfer to over for 30 mins.
Serve with on top of couscous with cilantro garnish.
Amid a recent wave of anti-Muslim sentiment, current members and veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces are using social media networks to reassure all Muslim Americans, and specifically Sofia Yassini, a Texas-based 8-year-old, they will fight for the rights of all U.S. citizens.
Inspired the social media story of Sofia’s mother reacting to her daughter’s fear of being deported, the hashtag #IWillProtectYou started trending on Facebook and Twitter.
Sofia’s mother, Melissa Chance Yassini, originally took to Facebook to write about her daughter’s reactions to Donald Trump’s proposal to ban Muslims from entering the United States:
“She had began collecting all her favorite things in a bag in case the army came to remove us from our homes. She checked the locks on the door 3-4 times. This is terrorism. No child in America deserves to feel that way.“
The post was shared more than 20,000 times. The story was picked up by the Associated Press and Army veteran Kerri Peek of Colorado, also a mother, saw the story.
“I was up all night, it bothered me,” Peek told ABC News. “I’m a mom, for mother to mother … I know you want to protect your children from everything.”
She posted a photo of herself in her Army uniform with the message “Here’s a picture of me as a mom and soldier and I’ll come to protect you.” Peek then asked her veteran friends to do the same.
“Post on Facebook or Twitter with the #IWillProtectYou and your picture of uniform. Make this go viral so that these children see this.”
He partnered with Ford to unveil the 2018 Ford Mustang, and he decided to take it one step further by giving the car to combat Army veteran Marlene Rodriguez, who earned the Purple Heart for injuries received from an RPG while serving in Mosul.
Her reaction was stunned as she said, “I don’t deserve all this.” Johnson replied with, “You deserve more,” and we all lost our sh**.
His Instagram caption of the reveal was perfect (including the emojis–we’ve kept them intact for you):
This one felt good. Very good. ?? Our Ford partners asked me to unveil the never seen before, brand new 2018 FORD MUSTANG to the world. As their Ambassador, I’m happy to do.
With a twist.
Myself and Ford compiled a big list of US veterans and from that list, I chose Army combat vet Purple Heart recipient, Marlene Rodriguez to surprise and give it away to her.
It was such a cool moment that all of us in the room will never forget.
When Marlene, stopped and just looked at me and asked “Why?”, well that’s when I may or may not have gotten a lil’ emotional with my answer – in a bad ass manly way of course.
Why? Because of the boundless gratitude and respect I have for you, Marlene and all our men and women who’ve served our country. Just a small way of myself and the good people of FORD of saying THANK YOU.
A HUGE thank you to FORD, our SEVEN BUCKS PRODUCTIONS and everyone who was involved in making this awesome surprise come true.
Finally, thank you FORD for making the new 2018 Mustang straight ?, completely customizable for the world to enjoy. Thanks also for making sure I fit in it as well.
Marlene, fits better. ?. Enjoy your ride mama. Enjoy that Dodger game. You deserve it.
It’s okay if you get a little misty-eyed over this one. We did.
As we all know by now, the F-117 Nighthawk was America’s first combat-capable stealth aircraft. According to an Air Force fact sheet, it entered service in 1983, and was retired in 2008. It had a very effective career, serving in Operations Just Cause, Desert Storm, Allied Force, and Iraqi Freedom.
But one reason the F-117 was effective was because the Americans managed to keep it secret for the first five years it was in operation. As a result, many figured America’s stealth fighter would be named the F-19 – and in two techno-thrillers, the F-19 had major roles.
It was best-known as the F-19 Ghostrider in Tom Clancy’s “Red Storm Rising.” In that novel, the planes carry out a daring raid to destroy Soviet Il-76 “Mainstay” radar planes, enabling NATO to secure air superiority in the early stages of the war. One F-19 crew later takes out a Soviet theater commander.
Clancy’s F-19 was very different from the F-117. It had a crew of two, and was capable of breaking Mach 1. It also carried weapons externally, including Sidewinder air-to-air missiles, and had a radar. While some sources, like Combat Aircraft Since 1945, credited the F-117 Nighthawk with the ability to carry the AIM-9 Sidewinder, most sources claim that the F-117 has no air-to-air capability.
The other appearance of the F-19 was in Dale Brown’s “Silver Tower.” This time, it had the right name, Nighthawk, but it also had a crew of two. Brown didn’t go into the detail of his F-19 that Clancy did in Red Storm Rising. Brown’s F-19s had one notable success, where they bluffed their way in to attack a Soviet base in Iran during Silver Tower. Both planes were shot down and their crews killed.
After the F-117’s public reveal, the speculative F-19s were largely forgotten. But the “F-19” speculation helped keep the F-117 secret – and that secrecy was critical to the battlefield success of America’s first stealth fighter.
Margaret Corbin isn’t a household name. She should be. Born in Pennsylvania, Margaret was orphaned at age five when Native American raiders killed her father and took her mother captive (she never came home). Margaret survived because she was visiting an uncle at the time of the attack. In 1772, she married a Virginia farmer named John Corbin. Three years later, her husband joined the First Company of Pennsylvania Artillery for service in the Continental Army. Margaret wasn’t about to sit on the sidelines. She decided to follow her husband to Fort Washington, New York, where she spent her days cooking, doing laundry for soldiers, and tending to the wounded.
On November 16, 1776, 4,000 British and Hessian troops attacked Fort Washington—the last American stronghold on Manhattan. Margaret followed her husband onto the battlefield. Corbin was a matross, which meant he was in charge of loading the cannon. After her husband’s partner was killed, Margaret started loading so her husband could keep firing. Things only went downhill from there. John Corbin was killed instantly when a Hessian bullet struck him in the heart. Did Margaret give in to despair? Nope. She started firing the cannon alone. Other soldiers marveled at her excellent aim. Unfortunately for her, the British and Hessians did too. Desperate to take her out, they soon started targeting her with their cannons. The Battle of Fort Washington ended in a crushing American defeat. Margaret’s cannon was the last one to stop firing.
Once the smoke cleared, Margaret was found in critical condition on the battlefield. She was wounded in the chest and jaw and her left arm was almost severed. Her fellow soldiers took her to a hospital in Philadelphia, but she never fully recovered from her injuries (she was unable to use her arm for the rest of her life). She later joined the Invalid Regiment at West Point.
Margaret’s injuries made it difficult for her to bathe and dress herself. On 26 June 1776, the state of Pennsylvania awarded her $30.00 in recognition of her bravery. Since this wasn’t enough for her to retire to a life of luxury, Margaret stayed at West Point until her death in 1800. According to contemporary accounts, her favorite pastimes included smoking her pipe and chatting with the soldiers. In 1779, Margaret received a lifetime disability pension of one-half pay from the Continental Congress—making her the first woman in U.S. history to receive a pension from Congress for military service. In 1782, she married a fellow wounded soldier. Sadly, he died a year later. Still struggling to pay the bills, she requested a rum ration—which was often given to soldiers. The government approved her request. Although she resented the fact that she had only been granted half-pay, she was happy about the rum.
Margaret wasn’t a stranger to controversy. During her tenure at West Point, she was called “Captain Molly by the locals, but Dirty Kate behind her back.” According to the National Woman’s History Museum, the Philadelphia Society of Women had planned to erect a monument honoring Corbin soon after the battle. “However, when they met with her they discovered that she was a rough woman who was poor and drank too much and decided to cancel the monument,” the museum notes. Although she never got her monument, three commemorative plaques honoring the Revolutionary war heroine can be found in the area near the Fort Washington battle site.
In 1926, her story resurfaced when the New York Daughters of the American Revolution found her records in the West Point archive. Determined to find her grave, the DAR enlisted the help of a retired riverboat captain who claimed that his grandfather helped with the burial in 1800. On April 14, 1926, Margaret’s remains were re-interred with full military honors at the cemetery of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
The South China Sea is a powder keg, and one senior Chinese military officer seems interested in lighting the fuse.
Dai Xu, a People’s Liberation Army Air Force colonel commandant and the president of China’s Institute of Marine Safety and Cooperation, suggested at a conference in Beijing on Dec. 8, 2018, that the Chinese navy should use force to counter US freedom-of-navigation operations in the South China Sea, Taiwan News reported.
Taiwan News cited a report from Global Times, the nationalist, state-backed Chinese tabloid that hosted the conference, that quoted him as saying: “If the US warships break into Chinese waters again, I suggest that two warships should be sent: one to stop it, and another one to ram it … In our territorial waters, we won’t allow US warships to create disturbance.”
Dai, known for his hawkish rhetoric, argued that the US Navy’s operations are provocations aimed at undermining China’s sovereignty rather than an attempt to ensure freedom of navigation in international waters. The US Navy regularly sails destroyers and cruisers past Chinese-occupied territories in the South China Sea, while US Air Force bombers tear past on routine overflights that often ruffle Beijing’s feathers.
In the latest operation, in late November 2018, the US Navy sent the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville to challenge China’s claims near the Paracel Islands.
The Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville.
The Global Times is known for its often provocative articles, designed to differ from the more rigid state media outlets like Xinhua and appeal to an alternative audience. Dai’s rhetoric at the conference appears consistent with that, as he seemed to welcome an increase in tensions and suggest that confrontation in the South China Sea could create an opportunity for mainland China to retake Taiwan.
“It would boost the speed of our unification of Taiwan,” he was quoted as telling the conference, adding: “Let’s just be prepared and wait. Once a strategic opportunity emerges, we should be ready to take over Taiwan.”
Dai’s comments about the use of force in the South China Sea came on the heels of a near-miss incident in September 2018, in which a Chinese Luyang-class destroyer confronted the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Decatur during an operation in the Spratly Islands.
During the incident, which the US characterized as “unsafe,” the Chinese vessel appeared to make preparations to ram the American warship and force it off course. A foreign-policy expert described the showdown as “the PLAN’s most direct and dangerous attempt to interfere with lawful US Navy navigation in the South China Sea to date.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Just about every military unit has a motto of sorts, but some are way cooler than others.
From “get some” to “fire from the clouds,” we looked around the world for some of the military’s best mottos. Here’s what we found:
1. “Whatever It Takes”
1st Battalion, 4th Marines: Stationed at Camp Pendleton, California, 1/4 is an infantry battalion that has been fighting battles since its first combat operation in the Dominican Republic in 1916. That’s also where 1st Lt. Ernest Williams earned the Medal of Honor — the first for the battalion.
2. “Get Some”
3rd Battalion, 5th Marines: Based at the northern edge of Camp Pendleton, California, the “Dark Horse” battalion is one of the most-decorated battalions in the Marine Corps.
3. “The Only Easy Day Was Yesterday”
US Navy SEALs: SEAL training isn’t easy, and neither is the day-to-day job. While individual SEAL Teams, stationed in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Coronado, Calif., and Little Creek, Va., have their own mottos and phrases, the community’s feeling about hard work is summed up in this motto.
4. “Balls of the Corps”
3rd Battalion, 1st Marines: “The Thundering Third” is stationed at Camp Pendleton, California, and has a notable former member in Gen. Joseph Dunford, the current commandant of the Marine Corps.
5. “Peace Through Strength”
USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76): Commissioned in 2003, the Ronald Reagan is a nuclear-powered supercarrier homeported in Coronado, Calif. Named after the 40th president, the “Gipper” takes its motto from a mantra Reagan adopted while countering the Soviet Union.
6. “We Quell the Storm, and Ride the Thunder”
3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines: “The Betio Bastards” of 3/2 are based at Camp Lejeune, and have been heavily involved in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. The battalion is perhaps best known for its fight on Tarawa in 1943.
7. “Retreat Hell”
2nd Battalion, 5th Marines: It was in the trenches of World War I where 2/5 got its motto. When told by a French officer that his unit should retreat from the defensive line, Capt. Lloyd Williams replied, “Retreat? Hell, we just got here!” With combat service going back to 1914, 2/5 is the most decorated battalion in Marine history.
8. “Molon Labe” (Greek for “Come and take them”)
I Army Corps (Greece): This former Greek Army unit (disbanded in 2013) had the Spartans’ King Leonidas to thank for its awesome motto. When the Persians told them to lay down their weapons at the Battle of Thermopylae, Leonidas defiantly responded in the most badass way possible.
9. “Better to die than to be a coward”
The Royal Gurkha Rifles (United Kingdom): The Gurkha Rifles are a very unique regiment of the British Army, since its members are recruited from Nepal. Known as the “bravest of the brave,” the battlefield heroics of the Gurkhas made international headlines in 2010, with the actions of Cpl. Dipprasad Pun.
While alone at a Helmand checkpoint that became surrounded by 12 to 30 Taliban fighters, Pun shot more than 400 rounds, chucked 17 grenades, set off a Claymore mine, and even threw his tripod from his machine gun at a bad guy. He received the second highest military award for his heroics, The Daily Mail reported.
10. “Facta Non Verba” (Latin for “Deeds, Not Words”)
Joint Task Force 2 (Canada): Based out of Ottawa, Canada, JTF 2 is an elite special operations force. It’s basically Canada’s version of Navy SEAL Team 6. The unit has deployed all over the world, although most of its actions remain secret.
11. “Mors Ab Alto” (Latin for “Death from Above”)
7th Bomb Wing: Stationed at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, it’s one of only two B-1B Lancer bomber wings in the Air Force.
12. “Ready for All, Yielding to None”
2nd Battalion, 7th Marines: Stationed at Twentynine Palms, California, the battalion’s current motto is a slight variation on its Vietnam-era one: “Ready for Anything, Counting on Nothing.”
13. “Si vis pacem, para bellum” (Latin for “If you wish for peace, prepare for war.”)
Royal Navy (United Kingdom): The Royal Navy’s motto is a lot like the USS Ronald Reagan’s “peace through strength,” except a bit more badass. The latin phrase comes from Publius Flavius Vegetius Renatus, a Roman author who penned the Iron Age version of a military technical manual.
14. “Lerne leiden ohne zu klagen!” (German for “learn to suffer without complaining!”)
Kampfschwimmer (Germany): This elite unit from Germany wants its members to know they should just suck it up. Which makes sense, since the Kampfschwimmers of the German Navy are that country’s version of US Navy SEALs. Like most other special operations forces, its size and operations are classified.
15. “De Oppresso Liber” (Latin for “To liberate the oppressed”)
U.S. Army Special Forces: Created in 1952, Special Forces is known for producing elite warriors, with a primary focus on unconventional warfare and foreign internal defense. With those tasks, many soldiers have lived up to the motto, by going to both friendly and un-friendly nations to train and support militaries, rebel groups, and engaged in combat around the world.
16. “Semper Malus” (Latin for “Always Ugly”)
Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 362 (HMH-362): This helicopter unit nicknamed “Ugly Angels,” is stationed at Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii and holds the proud distinction of being the first aircraft unit ashore in Vietnam.
17. “Fire From The Clouds”
33rd Fighter Wing: Stationed at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, the wing’s mission is to train F-35 pilots and maintainers.
18. “Swift, Silent, Deadly”
1st, 2nd, and 3rd Recon Battalions: Reconnaissance Marines are trained for special missions, raids, and you guessed it: reconnaissance. For these three battalions, stationed at Camps Lejeune, Pendleton, and Schwab, the motto pretty much sums up what they can do.
19. “Make Peace or Die”
1st Battalion, 5th Marines: Nicknamed “Geronimo,” the Camp Pendleton based 1/5 has been involved in every major U.S. engagement since World War I. Most recently, the battalion has been deployed to Darwin, Australia as the Corps tries to “pivot to the Pacific.”
This week’s Borne the Battle podcast features Dr. Albert Weed, whose career has taken him from enlisted Green Beret Army medic to an Army medical officer to VA surgeon. Weed discussed his name, and how his family’s military background and medical experiences led him to, among other things, peacekeeping in Egypt, swimming in Saddam Hussein’s pool, and receiving four different DD-214s.
Weed traces his journey’s beginnings from high school and later to Special Forces training, where he volunteered to work as a medic. The future doctor realized during training that he wanted to stay in the medical field. He was inspired to become an Army medical doctor while doing his clinical. He had just finished a late shift helping labor and deliveries and was planning to take a nap when he was called to the operating room to help. After the operation, Weed went out for a run instead of taking his nap. In that moment, he realized he wanted to pursue a medical career.
Peacekeeping with the MFO in the Sinai 1987 – 1 of 7
There’s an unspoken creed within the military-veteran community: no veteran should ever be buried alone.
The U.S. military is a system designed to break its members of the individuality that defines Americans to create members of single team — a unit. This bond endures as veterans transition out of the service. It’s one of the defining characteristics of veteran life.
Nowhere else in life is this more true than in death. For those without family buried in Arlington Cemetery, the Arlington Ladies will make sure they aren’t alone. But Iowa-born Vietnam veteran Stanley Stoltz wasn’t going to Arlington and had no known family. Then, his obituary went viral.
Stoltz was 73 when he died on Nov. 18, 2018 in Bennington, Nebraska. His obituary in the Omaha World-Herald said that he had no family. Although he worked in Bennington, he spent the end of his life around medical caregivers. While it was eventually revealed that Stoltz had a brother and an ex-wife, hundreds of people who never knew the deceased came out to pay their last respects.
Unfortunately, Stoltz didn’t get to see the outpouring of respect and appreciation for his service that he and so many other Vietnam veterans sorely lacked upon returning home from the war.
“No vet deserves to die alone,” attendee Dick Harrington told WOWT-TV, the Omaha NBC affiliate. “We looked around and said, ‘Here’s his family.’ It’s true. Veterans. We’re all family. That’s just the way we roll.”
Despite the frigid Nebraska weather, hundreds of people who never knew Stanley Stoltz — including many who have never met a Vietnam veteran or a veteran of any war — flooded Bennington to ensure he received the send off worthy of his service to their country.
The cemetery estimated that upwards of 2,000 people came to the funeral. The services were even delayed so stragglers to the event wouldn’t miss a moment. Traffic was backed up, bumper-to-bumper along Interstate 80 to give a final salute to a passing veteran.
A-7E Corsair II aircraft line the bow of the aircraft carrier USS Independence (CV 62) about the time of the air strike against Syrian gun emplacements in Lebanon. (Photo: U.S. Navy)
American air power going against targets in the Middle East didn’t start with Operation Enduring Freedom or even Desert Storm. The first significant strike was conducted in December of 1983 by carrier-based assets against Syrian anti-aircraft positions in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, and it was in many respects a disaster, one that radically changed the way the U.S. Navy conducted strike warfare.
The Bekaa Valley strike was supposed to be in direct retaliation for the Beirut barracks bombing that killed 241 Marines on October 23, but the mission was delayed for months by lawmakers in Washington and the operational planners at the European Command in Germany. Finally Syrians firing SAMs at F-14 reconnaissance flights over Lebanon compelled decision-makers to action.
The strike planning process was cumbersome and not tactically agile. Pentagon and EUCOM higher-ups made the call on strike composition, weapons loadouts, ingress and egress routes, and times on target. As a result, aviators who would ultimately fly the mission had little say in how it would be carried out.
The 28-plane strike package launched from two carriers – Kennedy and Independence (both decommissioned now) – on the morning of December 4, which proved to be the perfectly wrong time as the metrological conditions made it hard for the attack aircraft to see their targets (remember, these were the days before smart bombs, when pilots had to actually maneuver their airplanes toward the ground and pickle their bombs with a high level of skill). At the same time the weather and sun angle highlighted the American airplanes in the sky for Syrian anti-aircraft gunners. The strike package also flew toward their targets along the same route, which made it easy for gunners to train their weapons.
The Syrians managed to shoot down two A-7E Corsairs and an A-6E Intruder. One of the A-7 pilots and the A-6 pilot were killed. The other A-7 pilot – who also happened to be the Air Wing commander aboard the Independence – managed to get his jet over the Mediterranean before he ejected. He was picked up by Lebanese fisherman and eventually returned to the Americans unharmed.
The A-6 bombardier/navigator, Lt. Robert Goodman, was captured by Syrian troops and taken as a hostage. The month-long stalemate between governments on his release was finally broken by Jesse Jackson, who took an interest in the young aviator because he was an African-American.
As a result of this fiasco the U.S. Navy established the Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center at the air station in Fallon, Nevada, basically taking a page from the Top Gun playbook a decade or so earlier when that school was created to fix the problem of fighters getting shot out of the skies over North Vietnam because of inferior tactics. The staff at NSAWC studied better ways of getting bombs on target while surviving intense SAM environments, and their research yielded more thorough mission planning processes (including streamlining strike coordination up and down the chain of command), off-axis attack profiles, and the improved use of jammers to better suppress the SAM threat.
Although times have changed in recent years with the advent of stealth technology and precision-guided munitions, many of the lessons learned from Bekaa Valley are still relevant today.
The squadron recently completed two successful sorties where a B-52 released eight PDU-5/B leaflet bombs over the Point Mugu Sea Test Range and eight more over the Precision Impact Range Area on Edwards Air Force Base.
“We are primarily looking to see safe separation from the external Heavy Stores Adapter Beam,” said Kevin Thorn, a 419th FLTS B-52 Stratofortress air vehicle manager. “We are ensuring that the bombs do not contact the aircraft, and/or each other, creating an unsafe condition. Additionally we are tracking the reliability of the bomb functioning.”
The PDU-5/B is a new-use or variant of an older Cluster Bomb Unit. The original designation for the weapon was the MK-20 Rockeye II, SUU-76B/B, and/or CBU-99/100. The designator changes depending on the type of filler used in the bomb, said Thorn. Having leaflets as a filler designates the bomb as a PDU-5/B.
According to the Air Force, PDU-5/B canisters can deliver about 60,000 leaflets and were deployed in Operation Iraqi Freedom before any Air Force munitions began hitting targets in Baghdad.
The dispenser bomb can be dropped from helicopters and fighter jets, and now the 419th FTS is trying to see if the B-52 fleet can be used as well.
“The PDU-5/B is just another tool that the B-52 uses in its vast and reliable tool box,” said Earl Johnson, the B-52 PDU-5/B project manager. “Without the capability to carry PDU-5s on the B-52 aircraft, the impending shortfall on leaflet dispersal capability will jeopardize Air Force Central Command information operations.”
Johnson said testing the PDU-5/B on the B-52 is complete for now. The program is forecasted to return at a future date to test PDU-5/B releases from the B-52’s internal weapons bay.