Benjamin Breckheimer was a teenager when he watched 9/11 unfold. Like many other young Americans, the images spurred him into action. Right after high school, he enlisted in the Army as an operating room specialist.
The operating room is where Breckheimer served his comrades and met his closest mentor. As fate would have it, Breckheimer would end up on the operating table himself. Breckheimer received serious damages to his body after an improvised explosive device went off under the Stryker he was driving.
The road to recovery was a long one. Hopeless and angry at the world, Breckheimer’s life spiraled out of control to the point of suicidal thoughts. However, with the help of his family, mentor, and a strong support network, Breckheimer was able to get back on his feet.
To get better physically and also to challenge himself and others, Breckheimer started climbing. As time went on, his ascents grew to higher altitudes. To free himself from weight of the past , Breckheimer threw his problems off some of the highest peaks in the world. He is currently on track to be the first ever wounded combat veteran to climb the Seven Summits.
Breckheimer is now partnered with American300. American300 subject matter resiliency experts spend quality time with service members, offering not only their personal stories, but a knowing ear and shoulder heavy in experience. Working with military leadership, American300 tours place mentors in areas of operation repeatedly over the span of several years. Each return visit features different mentors who shed a light on making the impossible… possible.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
When a soldier, sailor, airman, or Marine is wounded, the clock starts ticking on the “golden hour” to save his or her life. The goal the Department of Defense had in the War on Terror was to get a wounded serviceman to definitive care within 60 minutes of being hit.
The term “golden hour” is a carryover from emergency medical care in the United States. The fact is if a wounded serviceman (or any trauma victim, for that matter) is seen at a hospital in the first 60 minutes after the injury, the chances for survival go up. This is why the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have seen only 8,398 coalition servicemembers killed in action over the 16-plus years that they have been fought, according to icasualties.org.
Why is this the case? According to a report by the Marine Corps Times, the DOD’s “golden hour” policy was put in place in 2009 and had the effect of creating a 98 percent survival rate. To do that, though, the military had to surge medevac and medical assets to the theater of operations.
“Our potential problem is air lift capacity, in certain scenarios we are not going to have enough capacity and so as opposed to right now, we are going to have to hold onto those patients much longer,” Rear Adm. Colin G. Chinn, the surgeon on the Joint Staff, said during a seminar at Marine Corps Base Quantico. He also cited equipment interoperability issues between the services, noting that a wounded Marine treated by a Navy corpsman may end up being treated in Air Force and Army facilities that have incompatible gear.
Chinn noted that the advantages the United States has now may not exist in a conflict with Russia or China. Even North Korea, which has drawn intense focus, could present problems in evacuating wounded troops due to the acquisition of new weapons and military technology.
“We need to be ready now. You fight tonight with what you have,” Chinn said.
Something strange has been happening in Eastern Colorado at night.
Since the week of Christmas, giant drones measuring up to six feet across have been spotted in the sky at night, sometimes in swarms as large as 30. The Denver Post first reported these mysterious drone sightings in Northeast Colorado on Dec. 23, 2019. Since then, sightings have spanned six counties across Colorado and Nebraska.
Phillips County Sheriff Thomas Elliot had no answer for where the drones come from or who they belong to, but he has a rough grasp on their flying habits. “They’ve been doing a grid search, a grid pattern,” he told the Denver Post. “They fly one square and then they fly another square.”
The drones, estimated to have six-foot wingspans, have been flying over Phillips and Yuma counties every night for about the last week, Elliott said. Each night, at least 17 drones appear at around 7:00 pm and disappear at around 10:00 pm, staying 200-300 feet in the air.
The Federal Aviation Agency told the Post it had no idea where the drones came from. Spokespeople for the Air Force, Drug Enforcement Administration, and US Army Forces Command all said that the drones did not belong to their organizations.
As the airspace in which the drones are flying is relatively ungoverned, there are no regulations requiring the drone operators to identify themselves. However, Elliott said that the drones do not appear to be malicious.
The Post spoke to commercial photographer and drone pilot Vic Moss, who said that the drones appear to be searching or mapping out the area. Moss said that drones often fly at night for crop examination purposes. It’s also possible that the drones belong to one of several drone companies based in Colorado, which may be testing out new technologies.
In the meantime, Moss urges residents not to shoot down the drones as they are highly flammable.
“It becomes a self-generating fire that burns until it burns itself out,” he told the Post. “If you shoot a drone down over your house and it lands on your house, you might not have a house in 45 minutes.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
“The measure of a man is how you react on a bad day.”
Powerful words that three-time World’s Strongest Man and Sports Hall-of-Famer Bill Kazmaier used to describe one of the newest Strongman competitors – Stevie Richardson – at the World’s Strongman competition in Ohio.
Richardson fulfilled a lifelong dream by serving his country in the Army but his service was cut short when an IED detonated in Afghanistan and took his legs. Soon after Richardson returned home and started his long road to recovery, he met a fellow vet, Royal Marines Commando and competitive Strongman, Kenny Simm, and was introduced to the world of Strongman competition.
IED – Improve Every Day – Official Trailer. BBC Scotland, Gravitas Ventures, TurnerGang Productions
The story of these two combat veterans and their journey to find purpose, camaraderie and pride after coming home from war is the basis for the new documentary IED: Improve Every Day. The film shows how a veteran’s bond is undying and that no injury, physical or psychological, can stand up to the strength forged by the military brotherhood.
Competing for Arnold in the World Strongman Championship is certainly a milestone event in the lives of these veterans but it also marks a new chapter for them on the road to recovery. Their journey of self-strengthening will be life-long but valuable lessons can be gleaned from the story told in Improve Every Day; that our strength can quite-often be measured by the comrades we keep around us and no matter how bad our days get, there is always a new, inspiring challenge waiting for us in the future.
Watch this multi-award nominated BBC documentary on Amazon Prime, Youtube, Google play and many other platforms. Search IED: Improve Every Day.
As the successor to the Soviet Army, the Russian Ground Forces inherited vast stocks of small arms to arm and equip a much smaller ground force. Stored in arsenals across eleven time zones were large numbers of sidearms for officers, vehicle crews, and political commissars alike. These pistols, as well as new designs, arm today’s Russian army, providing both a weapon for self-defense and a badge of authority for those wielding them.
One of the earliest Soviet Army issue handguns was the Tokarev or “TT” automatic pistol. (Note that in this context the term “automatic” refers to the loading process, not the firing process. Users of so-called “automatic” pistols must still pull the trigger for every shot fired.) Outwardly the Tokarev was utilitarian and unattractive—in other words, fitting very much into the Soviet military aesthetic. Like most Soviet weapons it was dead simple to use and reliable, though its lack of a safety required vigilance against an accidental discharge.
The Tokarev weighed 1.86 pounds loaded and took a magazine of eight M30 7.62mm pistol cartridges. Internally it borrowed elements from John Moses Browning’s pistol designs, including the 1911, using a swinging link to unlock the barrel from the slide on recoil. Most Tokarevs can even fire 7.63mm Mauser used by submachine guns and the famous “broomhandle” Mauser pistol—after all Soviet engineers had designed M30 based on the Mauser cartridge.
The Tokarev was produced by the Tul’skiy Oruzheynyi Zavod, Tula factory, which is where the “TT” nickname came from. Production in the Soviet Union ceased in 1952, but not before an estimated 1.7 million Tokarevs were manufactured. Variants were made, licensed or not, in Hungary, Poland, Yugoslavia, China and North Korea.
The next Soviet handgun also took inspiration from abroad. The Pistolet Makarova (PM) was a Soviet copy of the German Walther PP (Polizeipistole, or Police Pistol), one of many handguns issued by the German army in World War II. The Makarov, as it was informally known, was a copy of the PP/K series using fewer parts to simplify the manufacturing process. The result is a pistol that resembles a less attractive version of James Bond’s famous Walther PPK. The Makarov was adopted in December 1951, just as Tokarev was winding down.
The Makarov was both more compact and lighter than the Tokarev, with a shorter barrel. The pistol was chambered for the Soviet 9mm pistol round, a local design whose chief advantage seemed to be to prevent the Makarov from using foreign ammunition. The Soviet round is believed to have been developed from a German round, the 9mm Ultra, and is power-wise is fairly anemic by service pistol standards, somewhere between the 9mm Parabellum and the .380 ACP. Like its predecessor the Makarov carried eight rounds in the magazine.
Like all Soviet small arms, the Makarov was distributed far and wide beyond the Soviet Union, to client states and revolutionaries worldwide. Armies from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe used and still use the Makarov, and American troops have encountered the pistol in Afghanistan, Grenada, Laos, Iraq, North Vietnam and Syria. The Makarov also armed Soviet vehicle crews stationed in Eastern Europe during the Cold War, and would have rolled west with the Soviet Army and the Warsaw Pact if the war had ever turned “hot.” In 1990 the PMM, a newer version that featured a 33 percent larger magazine was introduced.
In the 1990s, Russian weapons designer Vladimir Yarygin introduced his Pistolet Yarygina or “PYa” pistol. Known as the MP-443 Grach, or “Rook” in Russian army service, PYa is a mixture of old and new designs. Like the TT, the new handgun is all steel and uses an internal mechanism reliant derived from John Browning’s Browning Hi-Power pistol. The pistol uses a modern “double action” design, which means that a single, long trigger pull will both cock the hammer and fire a round. It can also function as a single action pistol, with both hammer cocking and trigger pulling separate actions. Unlike the TT, the pistol accepts 9mm Parabellum cartridges, the standard 9mm cartridge in use worldwide.
Unlike the safety-less TT, the PYa both an external safety that locks the slide—another John Browning innovation—and a second, internal safety that prevents the firing pin from falling forward without the trigger being pulled. Like most modern “double stack” pistols, the PYa’s magazine holds eighteen rounds, more than twice as many rounds as its predecessors.
Although the PYa is more modern than previous Soviet/Russian designs, the current configuration lacks more recent features in Western pistols, including an under barrel rail for attaching lasers and flashlights, a loaded chamber indicator, and a decocker that uncocks the firing pin. First introduced into Russian Armed Forces use 2003, introduction of the PYa has been slow due to the large number of PM/PMM pistols already in use.
Russia’s service handguns are simple, rugged and reliable, made to be built—and used—in wartime. While they may lack the amenities found in many modern American pistols, such as the U.S. Army’s new M17 Modular Handgun System, an emphasis on functionality means they will get the job done under extreme conditions.
US Air Force Pararescue specialists, or PJs, are one of the most elite special operators in the world.
Consisting of about 500 airmen, PJs “rescue and recover downed aircrews from hostile or otherwise unreachable areas,” according to the Air Force.
These “highly trained experts perform rescues in every type of terrain and partake in every part of the mission, from search and rescue, to combat support to providing emergency medical treatment, in order to ensure that every mission is a successful one.”
“One of the challenges [in Afghanistan] is the altitude and terrain because we are surrounded by mountains,” Maj. Jason Egger, 83rd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron commander at Bagram Airfield, said in a Defense Department news release on the training.
“We overcome that challenge by working with the Army pilots, which gives us the capability to get to the altitude we need and insert the teams,” Egger added.
Here’s how PJs rescue troops in the mountainous terrain of Afghanistan.
US Air Force PJs on the ground during a training mission in Afghanistan on Nov. 5, 2018.
(US Air Force photo)
A CH-47 Chinook helicopter takes off during a PJ training mission in Afghanistan in November 2018.
(US Air Force photo)
After getting a call, the PJs load into an Army CH-47 Chinook, which they often use for transports in rescue missions in Afghanistan.
“Most of the central and northern Afghanistan area is very high altitude, and that’s where the CH-47s can really provide some special capability because of their ability to get to that high altitude area and insert the team,” Eggers said.
PJ operators perform rescues during a training mission in Afghanistan in November 2018.
(US Air Force photo)
A PJ operator helps an service member with a simulated injury during a training mission in Afghanistan in November 2018.
(US Air Force photo)
PJs provide first aid to wounded service members during a training mission in Afghanistan in November 2018. The wounds were simulated for the training’s realism.
(US Air Force photo)
PJs flying in Chinook helicopters during a training mission in Afghanistan in November 2018.
(US Air Force photo)
PJs carrying a service member with a simulated wound during a training mission in Afghanistan in November 2018.
(US Air Force photo)
PJs conduct combat arms training Nov. 1, 2018 at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan.
(US Air Force photo)
But PJs also undergo intense combat arms training as well, which is needed in certain rescue scenarios.
“The PJs and the combat rescue officers have a pretty broad skill set, and it’s pretty difficult to stay sharp on all those skills,” Eggers said. “So continuing to keep them engaged through training, it keeps those skills sharp throughout the entire deployment.”
Watch the full interview with Eggers here, and the PJ training videos here, here and here.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Nearly 74 years ago, in the skies over Hansa Bay on the northern coast of Papua New Guinea, 2nd Lieutenant Thomas V. Kelly, Jr. was crewing a B-24 bomber named “Heaven Can Wait.” He and ten other crewmen were on a mission to destroy Japanese anti-aircraft batteries when, suddenly, his aircraft was struck, sending it crashing into the ocean below.
The wreckage and those on board were lost to the sea — until May 2018.
The crew of “Heaven Can Wait.” 2nd Lt. Thomas V. Kelly is pictured in the center, top row.
On that fateful day, March 11th, 1944, 2nd Lt. Kelly’s struggle ended — but for those he had left behind back home, it had just begun. Wracked with grief and left without closure, his family pieced together whatever information they could find — eyewitness accounts from military reports, mission documents, diary entries, etc. — to try and better understand. But without help, there would be no conclusion. That’s when Project Recover got involved.
Project Recover makes uses of the most sophisticated underwater imaging technology to find the once-unrecoverable.
Project Recover was established 2012 with the goal of locating the underwater resting places of the 72,000 Americans that have gone missing in action since World War II. Through a partnership between the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego, the University of Delaware College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment, and the BentProp Project, the organization uses sophisticated, modern technologies to find those once deemed unrecoverable.
The northern end of Hansa Bay, Papua New Guinea.
Upon receiving the compiled evidence, Project Recover set out to Papau New Guinea in October 2017, with aims of searching for 5 sunken U.S. aircraft that accounted for 24 MIA. After carefully reviewing the documents and conducting an archaeological study, the team determined that “Heaven Can Wait” was resting somewhere in the north end of Hansa Bay.
It was there, after 11 days of searching across 27 square kilometers of sea floor, that they found her under 213 feet of water.
What remained of “Heaven Can Wait”
“This is an important step toward our ultimate goal of identifying and returning home the crew of “Heaven Can Wait” who bravely served our country,” said Dan Friedkin, a member of Project Recover and CEO of The Friedkin Group, whose substantial contribution to the Project made the trip to Papau New Guinea possible.
Since their discovery, a process has begun with the U.S. government to, hopefully, recover and identify the remains of the up to 11 crew members aboard “Heaven Can Wait.” In the last five months, there have been three repatriation ceremonies for veterans who served in World War II — all of which are a direct result of Project Recovery’s work — but much remains to be done.
Dan Friedkin stated, with determination, that the organization’s “search efforts for the more than 72,000 missing American service members from World War II will continue.”
For more about Project Recover, be sure to visit their website. For all the details on the amazing story surrounding the recovery of “Heaven Can Wait,” watch the video below.
Crowds of spectators recently had a rare opportunity to see America’s advanced stealth fighter in action at the Chicago Air and Water Show, where the F-35 Heritage Flight Team put on an impressive show.
The F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter, a fifth-generation stealth fighter developed by Lockheed Martin, is the most expensive weapons system ever built, but its superior capabilities supposedly make up for its soaring costs.
The supersonic, multi-mission fighter, according to the developer, features unmatched electronic warfare, air-to-surface, air-to-air, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR), and stealth capabilities designed to enhance the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps. The F-35 program has, however, faced many setbacks.
During the recent airshow in Chicago, Airman 1st Class Alexander Cook captured several stunning photos of Capt. Andrew “Dojo” Olson, F-35 Heritage Flight Team pilot and commander, performing aerial maneuvers in an F-35A. The pictures were posted online by the 56th Fighter Wing Public Affairs Office.
Check them out below…
Capt. Andrew “Dojo” Olson, F-35 Heritage Flight Team pilot and commander, performs a high speed pass in an F-35A Lightning II over Lake Michigan.
Democratic Republic of Congo’s President Joseph Kabila has refused to relinquish power for more than a year, and the Catholic Church has emerged as the leader in the fight against him.
Since December 2017, when Kabila again refused to step down, the church and a spiritual group called the Lay Coordination Committee have organized a handful of protests, all of which have ended violently.
Most recently, anti-government protests in the capital city of Kinshasa on Feb. 25, 2018, left four people dead and two more injured, according to the Associated Press.
Kabila’s refusal to step down has also aggravated violence between government forces and multiple armed groups in other areas of the country. This includes the Kasai and Kivu regions, where mass atrocities have been carried out by both sides, killing and displacing thousands in the last few years.
Here’s what’s going on:
President Joseph Kabila took power of the DRC in 2001 after his father’s assassination.
Kabila helped unify the country after the two Congo wars of 1996-97 and 1998-2003, bringing back international business and raising GDP.
But at the same time, his government has been accused of gross incompetence, corruption, and human rights abuses.
Kabila was supposed to step down after his two-term mandate expired on December 19, 2016, but he stayed on after invoking a controversial law requiring a successor to be elected. This sparked a wave of protests.
In January 2017, the Catholic Church brokered a deal between Kabila’s People’s Party for Reconstruction and Democracy and opposition parties that elections would be held in December 2017 and that Kabila would step down.
In December 2017, Kabila again refused to step down, saying that an election would have to be held at the end of 2018 because the government didn’t have enough money.
Election officials have even said that, because of continued financial and logistical problems, the election might be even held later than that.
With opposition parties in disarray, the Catholic Church, which had previously tried to stay neutral, organized anti-government protests together with a spiritual group called the Lay Coordination Committee.
In the first demonstration on Dec. 31, 2017, seven demonstrators were killed by government forces.
On Jan. 21, 2018, another protest was held in which government forces killed 5 more protesters, firing live rounds and tear gas into crowds of demonstrators.
“We were dispersed by tear gas, stun grenades, and live bullets. We have again seen deaths, injuries, priests being arrested, and the theft of citizens’ property,” Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo said after the protests, according to Reuters.
“How can you kill men, women, children, youths, and old people all chanting religious songs, carrying bibles, rosaries, and crucifixes? Are we now living in an open prison?”
They organized another protest on Feb. 25, 2018, after mass, but government forces surrounded the churches that were planning to participate in the demonstrations before the parishioners could even take to the streets.
As police confined them, many churchgoers prayed and chanted slogans.
But violence soon erupted.
Police again fired live rounds and tear gas into crowds, and even beat, kicked, and arrested priests and protesters who were peacefully marching, which the video below shows.
Source: Jason Stearns
The violence reportedly left four dead and 47 more injured.
Source: Associated Press
The political violence unfolding in Kinshasa and other cities has also aggravated conflicts in different regions of the country, namely the regions of Kasai and Kivu.
In Kasai, the Congolose military has been battling a militia group called Kamuina Nsapu since August 2016, and in the Kivu, it has been battling an Islamist group called the Allied Democratic Forces since the 1990s.
Source: US News
The fighting between the two sides in Kasai has left more than 3,300 people dead and 1.4 million displaced since August 2016.
Dozens of mass graves have also been found in the region, which the Congolese military blames on the Kamuina Nsapu militia.
But the UN has also hinted that the Congolese military dug the graves after battling the militia.
Meanwhile, in Kivu, the Islamist Allied Democratic Forces killed 15 UN peacekeepers and five Congolese troops in December 2017.
Late February 2018, the Congolese military attacked an ADF base, and gruesomely massacred a number of its fighters.
Between June and November 2017, “at least 526 civilians were killed … at least 1,087 people were abducted or kidnapped for ransom, and there were at least 7 incidents of mass rape,” according to Human Rights Watch.
While Kabila has blamed militia groups for much of the violence, his own troops have been accused of carrying out a bulk of the human rights violations, according to Jason Stearns of the Congo Research Group.
With tensions continuing to rise, and Kabila seemingly intent on holding as long he can, only time will tell what the future holds for the DRC.
Hollywood came to the Pentagon on Oct. 15, 2018, as actor Gerard Butler spoke to Pentagon reporters about his collaboration with the U.S. Navy in making “Hunter-Killer,” a submarine movie due out in October 2018.
The Pentagon press briefing studio was filled to capacity as Butler — who plays the commander of the fictional attack sub USS Arkansas in the movie – answered questions about the experience.
The movie posits an operation aimed at averting war with Russia. Butler said it is a chance to bring the submarine genre into the 21st century. “Hunter-Killer” is a chance to take viewers into submarines and let them see the culture, “and really see how these people think, work, their courage, their intelligence, basically their brilliance,” the actor said.
The plot alternates between the submarine, a special operations team inserted in Russia, and the Pentagon.
The Navy supported the effort even as the service remained “laser-focused” on warfighting in today’s era of great power competition. “But we’re also competing for talent, and in this dynamic economy, it’s more important than ever that we find ways to inspire the next generation of warfighters to consider serving our country in the Navy,” Roegge said.
Actor Gerard Butler and Navy Vice Adm. Fritz Roegge, current president of the National Defense University, speak about the movie “Hunter-Killer” during a Pentagon news conference, Oct. 15, 2018.
(DOD photo by Jim Garamone)
Only a small fraction of young Americans qualify to serve in the military. An even smaller number are aware of the opportunities the services offer. “Although the Navy benefits from technology that gives us the world’s most capable platforms and equipment, it is our people who are truly our greatest strength,” Roegge said. “In the words of another great Scotsman – John Paul Jones – ‘Men mean more than guns in the rating of a ship.’ So we will only remain the world’s greatest Navy by attracting the best talent from across our nation.”
Connecting with young Americans
Movies are a good way to reach young Americans and they are also a good vehicle to expose all Americans to their Navy, Roegge said. All Americans need to understand “they know their Navy: who we are, what we do, and why it matters.”
Butler was immersed in the submarine culture sailing aboard the USS Houston from Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Being aboard the submarine was like being in another world, he said. “I felt like I could spend a year just in sonar. But I was shipped from sonar to the bridge, to navigation to the engine room to the torpedo room because I had a very quick-minded sub commander who wanted to show me every working living part of the submarine — even how to compress trash.”
Butler added, “What I really took out of it was the brilliance and the humility of the sailors I worked with. Not that I didn’t have that appreciation before – I certainly did – but having spent time with them to realize how their minds work and how agile and how creative they have to be. And they are constantly being tested to prove themselves to think logically, to think intuitively, and in all different matters.”
And it was real for Butler. “You can do it in a movie, but when you are actually on a sub, you realize the dangers that are there,” he said. “You are a thousand feet underwater and you go, ‘Okay. What are the different ways things can go wrong?’ You have a greater appreciation of what these people do every day unsung and unseen and their courage and valor.”
DOD officials approved the request in December 2014, and the Navy provided access and technical support to the filmmakers.
Officials stressed that support to “Hunter-Killer” or any other movie is done at zero cost to the American taxpayer.
When fighter jets are scrambled to intercept enemy or unidentified planes, they have a range of options, from immediate lethal fires to trying to contact the rogue plane via radio, depending on the situation. One of the options is to use their plane to conduct the “headbutt” of the other plane.
The maneuver is sweet, but not nearly as metal as it sounds.
A U.S. Navy F/A-18E Super Hornet, like the ones that headbutted and then attacked and destroyed Syrian ground attack aircraft in June, 2017.
(U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class William Rosencrans)
There are a number of maneuvers which have been described under the umbrella of the term, “headbutt,” but none of them include physical contact between the two planes.
Last year, the ‘headbutt’ maneuver got press coverage after F-18Es intercepted hostile ground attack jets over Syria in June. There, the U.S. fighters conducted one of the most aggressive forms of the maneuver. Two American jets flew close to one another, with one trailing behind. The jets’ wakes combine and become even stronger, and the two jets fly in front of the targeted jet in order to destabilize it with the violent wake. They also dropped flares.
Basically, the two American jets use the “winds” from their own passage to rock the targeted jet. When that failed to dissuade the Syrian Su-22 from bombing U.S. backed forces, the F/A-18E shot down the Syrian jet.
(AirWolfHound, CC BY-SA 2.0)
Another version of the headbutt, usually seen when the Air Force is trying to get the attention of a friendly or civilian aircraft, has the headbutting jet fly well underneath the target aircraft, then fly up nearly vertical about 500 feet ahead of the friendly plane’s nose, nearly guaranteeing that the pilot will see the U.S. fighter without forcing the pilot to fly though a violent or dangerous wake.
This is only done if ground controllers and the fighter pilots have been unable to establish radio communications with the aircraft, and the aircraft is flying into restricted airspace.
A third version of the maneuver is very similar to the first, but has only one jet flying ahead of the targeted aircraft. This has two advantages. First, less wake is created, meaning that the targeted aircraft is less likely to encounter trouble in flight as a result of the maneuver. Second, it allows the wingman of the headbutting aircraft to loiter either hidden or in a good attack position, ready to move in for a kill if necessary.
This version of the maneuver is often accompanied by the release of flares in order to drive home the point that the U.S. jet is trying to communicate with the targeted aircraft.
While these maneuvers have certainly existed for a long time, the American emphasis on them has grown since the attacks of September 11, 2001. Suddenly, an Air Force that had always been aimed at foreign enemies had to be prepared to assess threats in the domestic airspace much more often.
Like all U.S. military forces, especially when operating with and near civilians, the U.S. pilots wanted a clear escalation of force procedure with ways to assess whether a civilian aircraft was a threat before they were forced to shoot it down.
F-16s like this one can fly well over the speed of sound, but have to be prepared to slow down enough to communicate with civilian planes visually, whether its by headbutting them, rocking their wings, or flashing their lights.
(U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Kathryn R. C. Reaves)
This required the pilots to develop new skills, like additional levels of warning an aircraft that it was entering restricted airspace. It also led to pilots of fighter jets that could break the sound barrier suddenly being worried about how they could slow down enough to read a Cessna’s tail number.
If that doesn’t sound challenging, realize that many of the single-engine planes flying around U.S. skies are considered fast if they can clear 175 knots, roughly equal to 200 mph. Meanwhile, F-16s can fly 1,600 mph. If a fighter is checking on a slow-moving, single-engine plane, they may need to fly (at least) 100 mph faster than their target simply to prevent a stall.
Now imagine trying to get a phone number off of a yard sign while your friend is driving 100 mph.
But if they can’t get into radio contact with a plane and can’t properly identify it from its tail number, they still need options to get its attention without shooting it down. Headbutting, making radio contact, flashing their landing lights, and dropping flares are among such techniques, but they’re not the only ones. In fact, in at least one tense situation over restricted airspace, a Coast Guard helicopter flew ahead of a civilian plane with a whiteboard telling it to change to a specific radio frequency.
Thanks to all these efforts, the U.S. Air Force has never had to shoot down a civilian plane, and they’ve gained experience using a valuable tool for deterring enemy planes near U.S. forces abroad. But, like the events in June 2017 demonstrated, the “headbutt” won’t always scare the enemy away — and American pilots still might have to get their hands dirty.
The U.S. Navy has located the wreckage of a transport aircraft that crashed into the Philippine Sea in November, NHK World reported Jan. 6.
In a statement, the Navy’s 7th Fleet says a team of deepwater salvage experts detected an emergency beacon from the C-2A Greyhound. The wreckage rests on the seabed at a depth of 5,640 meters.
The salvage team had been searching the area since late December.
Matthew Chialastri, Steven Combs, and Bryan Grosso (l to r) were killed in the C-2A Greyhound crash on Nov 22. Lt. Steven Combs, the pilot of the aircraft, is credited with saving the lives of the 8 surviving passengers. (Images from U.S. Navy)
The crash occurred on Nov. 22nd while the C-2A was flying from a military base in Iwakuni, in western Japan, to the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan.
Eight of the 11 crew and passengers were recovered. The U.S. Navy and Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force launched a combined search operation over several days, but failed to locate the three missing.
U.S. Army Specialist Jay Strobino was with his team in Rushdi Mullah, a small farming village in Iraq’s infamous Triangle of Death, on Feb. 1, 2006. They were there on a mission to grab a suspected enemy insurgent. Everything was going according to plan as they searched the house — no surprises.
That all changed when a truck full of insurgents rolled into the opposite side of town and pinned down a corner of their outer cordon. Strobino was about to be in the firefight of his life.
The “Triangle of Death” became infamous during the U.S. occupation of Iraq.
(Image courtesy of the US Army Center for Military History.)
Strobino, along with three others, made their way to the corner. He killed one of the insurgents who was trying to make it across the road; the resulting break in fire allowed him and his team to run across the street, closer to where the other enemy combatants were.
His team snuck behind a row of houses, where Strobino shot another insurgent through a window of an adjacent house. They then moved to the house that the remainder of the insurgents were behind. With his SAW gunner on the rooftop of the last building, Strobino and two others maneuvered to the back of the property.
Behind the house, there was a shed and a fence surrounded by bushes. Strobino was the first to scale it but not without some difficulty.
“When I got over, I saw two insurgents spaced about 10 to 15 feet apart, facing away from me. I held my aim but didn’t want to fire because everyone else I shot that day wouldn’t die, and we were taking up to 15 rounds to stop [them from] advancing or firing,” he said. Insurgents in Iraq were known to take drugs before going into battle that would often allow them to keep fighting even after suffering mortal wounds.
U.S. Army Specialist Jay Stobino in Iraq.
(Photo courtesy of Jay Strobino.)
So he stayed put for the moment, waiting on his teammate to get over the fence, but his teammate kept getting caught. The two insurgents Strobino had zeroed in on turned to face him, and he was forced to fire. Fortunately, his squad leader soon made it over the fence and was able to join in the fight.
There was still another insurgent left, though. He was aiming his AK-47 around the front corner of the house, firing back at Strobino and his squad leader. In response, his squad leader threw a grenade, and their team followed after.
“I ran to the front corner of the building and peered around. His weapon was up and out of the front doorway. I put my weapon on burst and turned the corner, hoping to grab his barrel,” he said.
The enemy fighter heard them coming and had already started moving toward Strobino and his other teammates when he came around the corner. Strobino pulled the trigger, sending the target to the floor; however, the target fired back.
Strobino was hit, and it was bad.
“My leg was broken and my ulnar nerve was hit in my arm,” he said, “and I lost control of my right hand.”
Strabino in the hospital after suffering 13 bullet wounds in a firefight in Iraq.
(Photo courtesy of Jay Strabino.)
The two soldiers with him had taken cover behind a truck, and Strobino planned to throw a grenade. But the moment he pulled it out, the insurgent threw his own over the truck where his team was positioned and came out firing. He sprayed his weapon again, hitting Strobino a second time.
“At this point, I thought everyone was dead and I was immobilized. But my squad leader called out my name — I couldn’t believe it. I threw my grenade over to him so he could arm it and toss it around the corner,” Strobino said.
But the grenade didn’t kill the insurgent, and with his condition quickly deteriorating, getting Strobino out of there became the priority. The other members of his team pulled him behind the building. His platoon sergeant and his radiotelephone operator (RTO) moved up, bandaged him, pulled security, and called for a medevac.
The insurgent was still in the house. A second team threw multiple grenades into the home before going in. Two of those soldiers took rounds; one of them died on the medevac back to Baghdad. After that, they called in Apaches to finish the job, blowing up the house.
Strobino’s condition was so dire that his parents were nearly summoned in fear that he wouldn’t make it home. He immediately went under the knife and had surgeries every 12 to 24 hours. From Iraq, he was flown to Germany for two weeks and eventually back to the U.S., where a long road of recovery awaited him.
Strobino had been shot a total of 13 times, and it cost him more than just blood. “I lost a large portion of my right femur and couldn’t walk on that leg for six months,” Strobino said. “I lost a lot of that quad group as well.”
A portion of the wounds Strobino received during the firefight.
(Photo courtesy of Jay Strobino.)
He had to teach his brain how to perform small physical tasks again. He got winded standing at the side of his bed while two people held him. Fortunately, the great people at places like the VA hospital in Augusta, Georgia, and the Fisher House helped him pull through.
“The Fisher House is like a Ronald McDonald house for wounded vets,” Strobino said. “It’s practically five-star accommodations for the family members of a wounded veteran that are recovering at the adjacent hospital. The family has their own private room. There’s a huge shared kitchen, laundry room, dining rooms, relaxing rooms. Everything is handicap accessible. And the families stay there free of charge.
“It helps the veteran because they can have family there while they are trying to recover,” he continued. “And it also helps the families because they are living in an area with other families going through similar situations. They can all empathize and help each other out.”
At the end of 2006, Strobino was awarded a Silver Star for his valor in combat. The citation reads:
The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress July 9, 1918 (amended by an act of July 25, 1963), takes pleasure in presenting the Silver Star to Specialist Jay Christopher Strobino, United States Army, for exceptionally meritorious achievement and exemplary service as a Team Leader in 3d Platoon, Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 502d Infantry Regiment, 2d Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), attached to the 4th Infantry Division, during combat operations in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM, on a mission on 1 February 2006 in Rushdi Mulla, Iraq. Specialist Strobino’s exceptional dedication to mission accomplishment, tactical and technical competence, and unparalleled ability to perform under fire and while injured, contributed immeasurably to the success of his unit in Rushdi Mulla, Iraq, and reflects great credit upon himself, his unit, the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) and the United States Army.
“The absolute biggest thing is to stay positive,” he said, in regard to facing an unexpected challenge. “Surround yourself with positive people and feed off each other’s energy. Know that you’re not going to be able to do it alone, and it’s not going to be easy. But be sure to celebrate each small victory.”