A Delta Force Marine earned the Navy Cross in Benghazi - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

A Delta Force Marine earned the Navy Cross in Benghazi

Minutes after Tate Jolly arrived at the diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, a mortar hit the compound where an ambassador and another American had been killed and dozens more were trapped.

The Marine gunnery sergeant was one of only two U.S. troops with a small task force that rushed to respond to what quickly became clear was a coordinated attack on the U.S. State Department facility.

It was a remarkable mission. The closest military backup was hours away, which later led to fierce debate about how U.S. troops should be postured to protect Americans and diplomatic posts overseas.


“There was no one even remotely close to being able to go and get them in North Africa,” a source familiar with the operation planning said. “The nearest airplanes were hours away and the nearest ground troops a day away or further.”

The source spoke under the condition of anonymity to talk freely about the Sept. 11, 2012, incident, which remains a topic of controversy in Washington seven years later.

The scene was chaotic when the team arrived, and they quickly tried to restore order. There were nearly 30 panicked people who needed to be evacuated quickly, but the compound was under fire from multiple sides.

“Unfortunately, it was not a whole lot of offense; it was a whole lot of just holding guys off as long as they could to try and get out,” the person familiar with the mission said.

Jolly, who declined a request for an interview, would ultimately be awarded the Navy Cross for his heroism there. The soldier with him, Master Sgt. David Halbruner, received the Army‘s Distinguished Service Cross. The valor awards are exceeded only by the Medal of Honor.

A Delta Force Marine earned the Navy Cross in Benghazi

Navy Cross.


Little has been known about the Jolly’s actions in Benghazi. There was no public ceremony when he received his valor award and, until recently, his name has not been publicly tied to the mission in media reports.

His hometown paper in North Carolina, the Wilkes Journal-Patriot, recently reported that the 36-year-old who’d graduated from high school about 90 miles north of Charlotte was the Marine who’d gone above and beyond to save other Americans. Jolly recently retired as a master sergeant.

According to testimony, public documents and the person familiar with his actions, Jolly was calm in the face of deadly chaos. He and Halbruner are credited with saving numerous lives that day.

With a rifle strapped to his back amid an onslaught of mortars and machine-gun fire, Jolly tended to the wounded, at one point throwing a man onto his back and shuffling him down a ladder amid a barrage of enemy fire. He helped some get back into the fight and provided vital care to others with life-threatening injuries.

Here’s how then-Gunnery Sgt. Jolly helped get other Americans to safety during a situation that caused a years-long political firestorm thousands of miles away in Washington, D.C.

A Delta Force Marine

Jolly, an infantry assault Marine, was assigned to a Delta Force detachment in Libya at the time of the Benghazi attack. It’s rare, though not unheard of, for Marines to join the elite Army special-operations teams.

The Marine had deployed to Iraq twice before joining the secretive counterterrorism force, spending about five years carrying out clandestine missions before the Benghazi attack and another five after, according to information about his career obtained by Military.com.

He racked up more than a dozen total deployments with Delta Force.

The Navy Cross Jolly received for his actions in Benghazi was his fourth valor award. He has two Bronze Stars with combat “V” devices — one of which he earned for undisclosed reasons during his time with Delta Force, and a second from a 2004-2005 deployment to Ramadi, Iraq.

Jolly also earned a Navy Commendation Medal with combat distinguishing device and a Purple Heart for injuries sustained during that deployment.

A Delta Force Marine earned the Navy Cross in Benghazi

Purple Heart.

(Senior Airman Dennis Sloan)

According to his award citations, Jolly repeatedly braved enemy fire in Ramadi to help take out an enemy sniper who had ambushed a government center. He received the Navy Commendation Medal for risking his life to destroy roadside bombs when an explosive ordnance disposal team couldn’t reach his unit.

On the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, Jolly was about 600 miles away from Benghazi in Tripoli — roughly the same distance between Chicago and Washington, D.C. Since Jolly and Halbruner were some of the only troops in-country, the operation was coordinated not by U.S. Africa Command, but the CIA.

Team Tripoli, made up of Jolly, Halbruner and five others, arrived in Benghazi at about 1:30 a.m. That was about four hours after the attack began, and two since Ambassador Christopher J. Stevens had last been seen alive.

The team was led by Glen Doherty, a Global Response Staff (GRS) security officer and former Navy SEAL, who was later killed. He was Team Tripoli’s medic.

The plan, according to the person familiar with the mission, was to leave the airport and head to the hospital, where they believed Stevens was being treated. When they found out Stevens had died, the first ambassador to be killed in the line of duty since 1979, the team headed to the consulate to bolster the diplomatic security personnel and GRS, a group of private military contractors who were fending off the attackers.

“It could’ve gone really, really bad,” said the source familiar with the mission. “It could’ve become 30 American hostages in North Africa. There were seven shooters going in to protect people who don’t shoot for a living.”

By the time they arrived, Sean Smith, a State Department foreign service officer, had also died. It was still dark, just after 5 a.m., according to a congressional timeline of the attack. Within minutes, the first mortar hit.

A Delta Force Marine earned the Navy Cross in Benghazi

Sean Smith.

The attacks continued, with one witness estimating there were as many as 100 insurgents spotted surrounding their location in 20- or 30-man groups. It was a skilled enemy, one of the troops there later told members of Congress.

“It’s not easy … to shoot inside the city and get something on the target within two shots — that’s difficult,” the witness testified. “I would say they were definitely a trained mortar team or had been trained to do something similar to that.

“I was kind of surprised,” the service member added. “… It was unusual.”

They were there a matter of hours, but at times witnesses said the team feared they wouldn’t make it out alive. It began to “rain down on us,” one of them told lawmakers.

”I really believe that this attack was planned,” the witness said. “The accuracy with which the mortars hit us was too good for any regular revolutionaries.”

In total, six 81-millimeter mortars assaulted the annex within a minute and 13 seconds, a congressional report on the attack states. Doherty and Tyrone Woods, another former SEAL with the GRS, didn’t survive.

Dave Ubben, a State Department security agent, and Mark “Oz” Geist, another GRS member, were badly hurt. The men were defending the compound from the rooftop, determined to make it look like they had a lot more firepower than they actually did.

“There was a lot of shooting, a lot of indirect fire and explosions,” the source with knowledge of the response said. “It was just guys being really aggressive and doing a good job at making it seem like their element was bigger than it was, like they were less hurt than they were.”

Ubben — who’d testified before a federal court in 2017 that he took shrapnel to his head, nearly lost his leg, and had a grapefruit-sized piece of his arm taken off — was losing blood fast. Geist also had a serious arm injury that needed immediate attention.

Jolly and Halbruner were determined to save them. Amid the fight, they were tying tourniquets to the men’s bodies.

Ubben is alive because Jolly helped move him from the rooftop to a building where diplomatic personnel were hunkered down. Gregory Hicks, who became the acting chief of mission after Stevens died, later described how the gunny did it during a congressional hearing.

A Delta Force Marine earned the Navy Cross in Benghazi

Ambassador Christopher J. Stevens.

“One guy … full of combat gear climbed up [to the roof], strapped David Ubben, who is a large man, to his back and carried him down the ladder, saved him,” Hicks said.

Jolly and Halbruner also went back out to the rooftop to recover the bodies of the fallen.

“They didn’t know whether any more mortars were going to come in. The accuracy was terribly precise,” Hicks said. “… They climbed up on the roof, and they carried Glen’s body and Tyrone’s body down.”

It was for Jolly’s “valorous actions, dedication to duty and willingness to place himself in harm’s way” to save numerous unarmed Americans’ lives that he earned the Navy Cross, according to his citation.

Bracing for the worst

That attack was traumatic for many of the civilians trapped inside one of the buildings, according to the person with knowledge of the operation. They’d lost their ambassador and another colleague, and they had no experience being caught in a life-and-death combat situation.

Once Jolly and Halbruner brought the injured men in from off the rooftop, the diplomatic staff helped treat their wounds, according to the source familiar with the situation. It gave them a mission as the onslaught continued outside.

As the sun came up, the remaining team members worried that terrorists would overtake the facility. First believed to be the work of the Benghazi-based Ansar al-Sharia group, the attack was coordinated by several networks in the region, including al-Qaida affiliates.

Throughout the night, the Americans had the advantage of night vision, the person familiar with the mission said. In the daylight, it could quickly become an even playing field.

Surprisingly though, it got quieter. They gathered inside one of the buildings and formed an evacuation plan to move the diplomatic staff to the airport and eventually out of Benghazi.

“[They had to talk about] things like, ‘What happens if they came under attack on the way out? Do you know where to go if you are separated from the group or are being shot at?'” according to the person familiar with the plans.

They prepared for the worst: that as the convoy left the compound, they’d be ambushed, everyone would panic, and the terrorists would take hostages. But they made it to the airport without issue and, by 7:31 a.m., the first plane with survivors took off for Tripoli.

“Who would’ve thought seven people could go into Benghazi and get more than 25 people out? Especially without traditional military support?” the person familiar with the mission said. “… But you can do a lot if you’re determined and have no other choice.”

The Defense Department and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton later faced a host of criticism over their response to the attack. Critics called it too slow — a congressional investigation finding that despite President Barack Obama and former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta clearly ordering the military to deploy response forces, none were sent until almost eight hours after the attacks began.

A Delta Force Marine earned the Navy Cross in Benghazi

President Obama and Secretary Clinton honor the Benghazi attack victims at the Transfer of Remains Ceremony held at Andrews Air Force Base on Sept. 14, 2012.

(State Department photo)

Former Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey was asked to explain why he hadn’t dispatched F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jets from Italy. He told lawmakers it would’ve been “the wrong tool for the job.”

The Marine Corps, the nation’s go-to crisis-response force, has been particularly responsive in the aftermath of the attack. Since there aren’t enough amphibious ships to stage Marines everywhere they’d like to be at sea, they’ve set up land-based crisis-response forces built to respond to emergencies quickly. Those units include up to 2,200 personnel, along with aircraft and logistics capabilities.

Those units are now based in Europe, the Middle East and Central America. Those assigned to Africa and the Middle East have fielded several State Department requests to evacuate embassy personnel or shore up security when intelligence has indicated a high risk for attack.

The Marine Corps and State Department have also bolstered the number of embassy guards placed at diplomatic posts around the world, standing up dozens of new detachments that previously did not have military personnel.

It was a tragedy to see a U.S. ambassador and three other Americans killed in Benghazi but, sadly, it sometimes takes an awful situation to get the attention of those in charge of policy, the person familiar with the response said.

“It was a bad situation, but a lot of priorities changed after this tragedy that would otherwise never have gotten fixed.”

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

These are the pilots who are trained with the infantry

U.S. Marine Corps pilots are trained to operate advanced aircraft in often dangerous situations. These pilots are the only aviators in the U.S. military who are taught the basics of infantry tactics prior to flight school. This ensures every Marine is a rifleman. Though the chances of an aviator leading a platoon of infantry Marines are slim to none, there are cases where pilots are embedded in infantry units.


Capt. David “Tuck” Miller, a CH-53 Super Stallion pilot, is one of those pilots. Miller, a native of Queenstown, Maryland, is a Forward Air Controller with 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, “Lava Dogs.”

“As a CH-53 pilot, I always have the opportunity to transport grunts in the back of my aircraft so this is just one more way where I can work closely with them and support them,” said Miller.

A Delta Force Marine earned the Navy Cross in Benghazi
U.S. Marine Capt. David Miller prepares to conduct a simulated night raid with multiple rifle squads during an air assault training event at Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, Okinawa, Japan, Oct. 31, 2017. (DoD photo by Sgt. Ally Beiswanger)

As the FAC, Miller is in charge of directing close air support and other offensive air operations. FACs are pilots who are tasked out from the aviation field to directly support ground combat units. The FACs are typically senior aviators who have spent at least two years in a fleet squadron, according to Miller. The prospects are sent to Tactical Air Control Party School to learn the fundamentals of close air support and how to call for fire. This allows the pilot to be a valuable asset when finally attached to an infantry unit.

“He speaks from the air side of the house and he knows what the pilots are saying and what they are looking for from us infantry guys, so he’s able to bridge that gap between the two communities,” said 1st Lt. Harry Walker, the fire support team leader.

Once the pilots touch base with the infantry units, they are indoctrinated into a completely different culture for almost two years.

“Coming from the air wing and going head first into an infantry battalion, it’s a little bit of a culture shock just because you do have all those hikes and spend a lot time in the field,” said Miller. “After I graduated from [The Basic School], I don’t think I spent one night in the field and then the first night I was out with the battalion I slept under the stars, but it’s still good to be here.”

A Delta Force Marine earned the Navy Cross in Benghazi
U.S. Marines with the 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment are transported by a CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter assigned to Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron (HMH) 466 during an exercise as part of Weapons and Tactics Instructors course (WTI) 2-17 near Yuma, Ariz., April 20, 2017. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Trever A. Statz)

The FAC billet is a not only beneficial for the infantry units but also great for the pilot executing the position, according to Miller.

“For them it’s all about the mission,” said Miller. “So as an aviator, it pushes me to be more studious and when I get back to the cockpit, I’ll be a better aviator.”

The Lava Dogs are currently forward-deployed for six months to Okinawa, Japan as part of the Unit Deployment Program. The battalion is tasked to provide a forward-deployed combat ready unit for in support of theater requirements.

This post originally appeared on WATM in November 2017. We just thought it was so good you might want to read it again.

Articles

That time drunk samurai didn’t realize they were under attack

In 1560, a Japanese leader attempting to capture the capital of Kyoto lost his head and most of his men when his army got too drunk and loud to realize it was under attack by a much smaller force until the enemy had cut its way to the leader’s tent.


Japanese samurai leader Imagawa Yoshimoto launched an offensive in 1560 to invade to Kyoto, leading approximately 20,000-35,000 samurai west and capturing a series of small castles on his way.

A Delta Force Marine earned the Navy Cross in Benghazi
Oda Nobunaga as painted by an Italian Jesuit. (Painting: Giovanni Nicolao, Public Domain)

Meanwhile, Oda Nobunaga controlled a small garrison approximately 60 miles east of Kyoto, right in the path of Imagawa’s massive force. While other garrisons and castles adopted a defensive posture or surrendered to Imagawa, Oda raised a small force of approximately 2,500 men, between one-twelfth and one-tenth the size of Imagawa’s army, and led it east.

As the two forces marched towards one another, each made its own small stop. Oda stopped to pray at the Atsuta Shrine. The priests there would later comment on how calm the samurai leader was.

A Delta Force Marine earned the Navy Cross in Benghazi
Monuments to the two samurai leaders at the site of the Battle of Okehazama. (Photo: Tomio344456 CC BY-SA 3.0)

Imagawa, however, stopped to loot a few castles.

That night, Imagawa’s forces got hammered and feasted as Oda took advantage of the terrain and confusion.

First, he had a small group set up false battle flags from behind a ridgeline, giving the impression that he was firmly camped for the night. Then, he led most of his men through a careful maneuver under cover of darkness and thunderstorms.

A Delta Force Marine earned the Navy Cross in Benghazi
Painting of the Battle of Okehazama where Oda Nobunaga defeated an enemy samurai against huge odds. (Image: Utagawa Toyonobu, Public Domain)

Oda’s force crept close to Imagawa’s camp and then attacked with its full force. The partying in the camp was so loud and the attack so sudden, that many of Imagawa’s samurai failed to realize they were in a fight.

Imagawa himself is said to have stormed from his tent to yell at his men for their level of drunkenness only to be immediately attacked by a spear-wielding enemy. Imagawa cut through the spear and injured his attacker, but was tackled and beheaded by another samurai.

The battle ended a short time later as Imagawa’s senior officers were cut down. Oda went on to consolidate his own power and ruled half of Japan before he was killed in 1582 by an assassin.

If you’ve ever seen that hilarious video about the history of Japan, Oda’s story is told from 3:15 to 3:40:

The site of the battle is now a park in Japan and a re-enactment is held every year in June.
Articles

See how the Sri Lankan navy rescued this cute elephant

On July 11, 2017, the Sri Lankan navy was conducting operations nine miles out to sea and spotted something surprising: an elephant swimming in the deep ocean.


Elephants are actually excellent swimmers for land animals, using their powerful legs to propel themselves forward and breathing through their trunk. But they aren’t true endurance swimmers or deepwater experts.

A Delta Force Marine earned the Navy Cross in Benghazi
(Photo: Hans Hillewaert, CC BY-SA 3.0)

According to Avinash Krishnan, a research officer for conservation group A Rocha who spoke to the Guardian, swimming out nine miles isn’t horribly rare for elephants. But saltwater bothers their skin and they burn a lot of energy while swimming, making rescue necessary.

Luckily for the little pachyderm, the Sri Lankan sailors were happy to assist. They used ropes, divers, and their ships to pull the elephant close to shore over the course of a 12-hour rescue.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PVZPLVkzt-c
Oddly enough, this wasn’t an isolated event. The very next week, the navy spotted two elephants in distress 1.5 miles from the coast. The animals were barely keeping their trunks above water when a patrol craft spotted them. They were also rescued by boats pulling them to shore with ropes attached by divers.
MIGHTY TRENDING

This is how long it takes to get to the International Space Station

A Russian-American crew of three has arrived at the International Space Station (ISS), marking success in the second attempt to reach the craft after an aborted launch in October 2018.

The Russian Soyuz rocket carrying U.S. astronauts Nick Hague and Christina Koch along with Russian cosmonaut Aleksei Ovchinin arrived at 0101 GMT/UTC on March 15, 2019, a few minutes ahead of schedule after a six-hour flight.


The craft lifted off without incident from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on March 14, 2019.

The Soyuz MS-12 flight reached a designated orbit some nine minutes after the launch, and the crew reported they were feeling fine and all systems on board were operating normally.

A Delta Force Marine earned the Navy Cross in Benghazi

NASA astronauts Nick Hague (left) and Christina Hammock Koch (right) and Alexey Ovchinin of the Russian space agency Roscosmos (center).

On Oct. 11, 2018, a Soyuz spacecraft that Hague and Ovchinin were riding in failed two minutes into its flight, activating a rescue system that allowed their capsule to land safely.

That accident was the Russian space program’s first aborted crew launch since 1983, when two Soviet cosmonauts safely jettisoned after a launch-pad explosion.

The trio were joining American Anne McClain, Russian Oleg Kononenko, and Canadian David Saint-Jacques, who are currently on board the ISS. They will conduct work on hundreds of experiments in biology, biotechnology, physical science, and Earth science.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

PTSD treatment helps veteran 48 years after firefights

“A few years ago I heard about the treatment from my friend in Washington state. I went on the computer and I checked a few things out, and I thought, ‘Why not? It’s time that you do something.'”

For Jerry, that time came 48 years after he had returned from Vietnam…


“Bullets are flying everyplace…”

“It was quite an experience coming back from ‘Nam, and I could tell I had changed an awful lot. And I think the biggest thing in my behavior was the fact that I was so jumpy. I would wake up in the middle of the night, and I’m in the middle of Vietnam, and bullets are flying everyplace, and my bed is ringing wet.”

“What they didn’t know is I was scared of myself.”

Something was wrong. He didn’t know what it was or what to do about it. And Jerry didn’t want to jeopardize his career in the military by speaking up. He went on to finish two tours in Korea, then was stationed in Germany where he met his future wife and started a family. “I just felt that if I said there’s something wrong with me the Army wouldn’t need me.”

Instead of asking for help, Jerry buried himself in his work. “I was working around the clock. I was trying to control my mind, and I was trying to block it. I was in control most of the time.”

A Delta Force Marine earned the Navy Cross in Benghazi

But he also lost control. Stupid mistakes felt intolerable, and they could easily set him off. “I can talk like a sailor, and in talking like a sailor, I could take your head off and put it in your lap, and you’d never know it.”

Loose cannon

These types of outbursts affected his work-life. He later learned that his colleagues didn’t like to be around him because he was too unpredictable, too volatile. One called him a loose cannon, another told him years later that people were afraid of him. “What they didn’t know is I was scared of myself.”

Time passed. Jerry’s two sons grew into men. And more recently, his beloved wife became ill and passed away. For all those years Jerry had wanted to ask for help, but he didn’t know where to go. He couldn’t trust anyone.

Then one day a friend told him about the treatments at the VA. Treatments for PTSD. Eager to get help, but still skeptical, Jerry went in for an appointment.

“She was just that good.”

“I’ll tell you right now, as I sit here, when I walked in that room and saw that petite little thing sitting there, I said there is no way in hell this young lady has any clue about what I’ve been through, what I’ve done, and she can’t help me. I feel like an ass now but it didn’t take long for me to change my mind. It didn’t take long. Within 30 minutes I knew I wanted to come back for my next appointment. I could have probably stayed there the rest of the week and talked to her. She was just that good. She was ready for me. I wasn’t ready for her, but she made me ready. She was good.”

Jerry finished his therapy, an evidence-based therapy called Prolonged Exposure, in nine weeks.

“I felt that the treatment helped me in the fact that I can control myself a lot better. I control my anger. I can do a lot of things that I couldn’t do before. I still have moments where I don’t know, something snaps or something build’s up or whatever [but] I accept life a lot easier. I’m more tolerant of people.”

“I’ll just say it this way. It takes a lot to piss me off. I’m so proud of that.”

Here’s a five-minute video of Jerry sharing his story.

Read more about Veterans’ experience with PTSD Therapy Here.

To hear more Veteran’s talk about their experiences with PTSD and PTSD treatment, visit AboutFace.

For more information on PTSD visit the National Center for PTSD website, www.ptsd.va.gov/. This site offers resources such as:

PTSD Coach Online and the award-winning PTSD Coach mobile app, which provide self-help symptom-management tools. The app is always with you when you need it.

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

Articles

DARPA is rolling out a robotic co-pilot

The Pentagon’s research arm is now demonstrating an entirely new level of aircraft autonomy which blends the problem-solving ability of the human mind with computerized robotic functions.


The Defense Advance Research Project Agency, or DARPA, program is called Aircrew Labor in Cockpit Automation System, or ALIAS.

A key concept behind ALIAS involves a recognition that while human cognition is uniquely suited to problem-solving and things like rapid reactions to fast-changing circumstances, there are many procedural tasks which can be better performed by computers, developers explained.

A Delta Force Marine earned the Navy Cross in Benghazi
A pilot prepares for flight in an F-22 Raptor. | US Air Force photo

ALIAS uses a software backbone designed with open interfaces along with a pilot-operated touchpad and speech recognition software. Pilots can use a touch screen or voice command to direct the aircraft to perform functions autonomously.

For instance, various check-list procedures and safety protocols such as engine status, altitude gauges, lights, switches and levers, can be more rapidly, safely and efficiently performed autonomously by computers.

“This involves the routine tasks that humans need to do but at times find mundane and boring. The ALIAS system is designed to be able to take out those dull mission requirements such as check lists and monitoring while providing a system status to the pilot. The pilot can concentrate on the broader mission at hand,” Mark Cherry, President and CEO of Aurora Flight Sciences, told Defense Systems in an interview.

The aircraft is able to perform a wide range of functions, such as activating emergency procedures, pitching, rolling, monitoring engine check lights, flying autonomously to pre-determined locations or “waypoints,” maneuvering and possibly employing sensors – without every move needing human intervention.

Developers explain that ALIAS, which has already been demonstrated by DARPA industry partners Lockheed Martin and Aurora Flight Sciences, can be integrated into a wide range of aircraft such as B-52s or large civilian planes.

Initial configurations of ALIAS include small aircraft such as a Cessna 208 Caravan, Diamond DA42 and Bell UH-1 helicopters, Cherry explained. The ALIAS system is able learn and operate on both single engine and dual-engine aircraft.

Both Lockheed and Aurora Flight Sciences have demonstrated ALIAS; DARPA now plans to conduct a Phase III down-select where one of the vendors will be chosen to continue development of the project.

As algorithms progress to expand into greater “artificial intelligence” functions, computers with increasingly networked and rapid processors are able to organize, gather, distill and present information by themselves. This allows for greater human-machine interface, reducing what is referred to as the “cognitive burden” upon pilots.

There are some existing sensors, navigational systems and so-called “fly-by-wire” technologies which enable an aircraft to perform certain functions by itself. ALIAS, however, takes autonomy and human-machine interface to an entirely new level by substantially advancing levels of independent computer activity.

In fact, human-machine interface is a key element of the Army-led Future Vertical Lift next-generation helicopter program planning to field a much more capable, advanced aircraft sometime in the 2030s.

It is certainly conceivable that a technology such as ALIAS could prove quite pertinent to these efforts; a Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstration Army ST program is already underway as a developmental step toward engineering this future helicopter. The intention of the FVL requirement, much like ALIAS, is to lessen the cognitive burden upon pilots, allowing them to focus upon and prioritize high-priority missions.

The human brain therefore functions in the role of command and control, directing the automated system to then perform tasks on its own, Cherry said.

“Help reduce pilot workload and increase safety in future platforms,” Cherry said.

Aircraft throttle, actuation systems and yokes are all among airplane functions able to be automated by ALIAS.

“It uses beyond line of sight communication which is highly autonomous but still flies like a predator or a reaper,” John Langford, CEO of Aurora Flight Sciences, told Defense Systems in an interview.

Due to its technological promise and success thus far, ALIAS was given an innovation award recently at the GCN Dig IT awards.

MIGHTY CULTURE

These are all the assets that would become the new Space Force

Ever since the announcement of the Space Force left us with so few details about what the service would look like, how it would be comprised, and even what its mission would be, we’ve been left to wonder about all those little details. Military personnel are wondering how to transfer to the new service, veterans want to know what the culture might look like, and civilians want to know what a new branch of service even means for the military.

All this, of course, adds up to one thing:


A Delta Force Marine earned the Navy Cross in Benghazi
Memes.

Okay, all that adds up to two things: Memes and speculation. And the more someone knows about the military, the more they’re able to speculate about literally anything related to what could one day be a Space Force asset. Luckily for us, someone took a moment to break it all down.

Avid space enthusiast and filmmaker TJ Cooney runs a YouTube show called, “I Need More Space.” There, he fills his hunger for exploring and explaining space concepts while presenting them in an easy-to-understand show. Cooney is a prolific, accomplished video producer whose work includes incredible documentary shorts for AARP, many of them featured on We Are The Mighty.

Read More: This documentary captures the Battle of Ia Drang with stunning 4K footage

With all his work on veterans and the military combined with a true enthusiasm for all things space-related, TJ Cooney broke down everything in the existing space structure that could soon be folded into the new Space Force, in a new video called “The Space Force: Is it Crazy or Actually Genius?”

A Delta Force Marine earned the Navy Cross in Benghazi

Signing the 1967 Outer Space Treaty.

(United Nations)

President Trump believes Space is a war-fighting domain, just like the air, land, and sea. The video opens with criticism of the Space Force idea, just to show the immediate knee-jerk reaction to the creation of the service — but stick around, the devil is in the details.

The video answers a number of by-now familiar questions raised about the Space Force from all sides. Isn’t NASA the space force? What about the Air Force Space Command? What weapons can we have? What treaties cover the militarization of Space?

It details how the U.S. military evolved from a group of daring aviators supporting ground combat in World War I to the importance of air power in World War II and how the Department of Defense evolved to fully cover the latest theater of war, the air, in 1947.

The Air Force Space Command regulates the two United States space ports and satellite launches, and how the Air Force manages the nation’s nuclear weapons. Aside from the Air Force, there are a number of civilian entities, Army and Navy assets, as well as national intelligence and defense agencies that may benefit from integrating into the new Space Force.

The Space Force would “put all these assets under one roof and create a culture and centralized vision for space defense.” For incoming military personnel, it would create new uniforms, new boot camps, and distinct customs and traditions within the branch, just like the ones the Air Force evolved from the Army nearly 70 years ago.

The Trump Administration hopes that the new service would boost the development and testing of new defense technologies from current ones, especially anti-satellite missiles and cyber-warfare capabilities. While the United States currently enjoys space dominance, keeping up with other countries’ space developments is a hard job, and somehow the U.S. has to maintain that leadership while abiding by the Outer Space Treaty of 1967.

MIGHTY HISTORY

5 little-known facts about the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is one of the most iconic monuments in Arlington National Cemetery. The marble sarcophagus sits on top of a hill that overlooks Washington, DC. Here are five facts you might not know about the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

5 Facts you might not know

  1. In March 1921, the U.S. Congress accepted the remains of an unknown American soldier who fought in World War I to be buried in a tomb in Arlington National Cemetery. This soldier was buried with full honors.

2. On Memorial Day of 1921, four unknown soldiers were relocated from their World War I American cemeteries in France. Sergeant Edward F. Younger placed roses atop one of four identical caskets. 

3. Then on November 11, 1921, the Unknown Solider was moved to Arlington and officially interred in the Tomb of the Unknown Solider. Since 1918, November 11 had been marked by somber remembrances of the service personnel lost in WWI. President Harding led the charge by officiating the interment ceremonies at the Memorial Amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery. Then he awarded the Unknown Soldier two high military awards: the Medal of Honor and the Distinguished Service Cross.

4. Three years after the Korean War ended, on August 3, 1956, President Dwight D. Eisenhower passed a bill to allow unknown soldiers who fought in the Korean War and World War II to be buried in the Tomb of the Unknown Solider at Arlington National Cemetery.

5. In 1958, unknown Soldiers who fought in World War II and the Korean War were permitted to be buried in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier as well.

The Old Guard

Members of the Old Guard have guarded the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier since April 6, 1948. Currently, The Old Guard monitors the memorial twenty-four hours a day, year-round. These Sentinels do not move from their station and are equipped to withstand all kinds of weather and extreme conditions. After a Solider has volunteered to become a Tomb Guard, they have to undergo a strict screening process and several weeks of intensive training. Every element of the Tomb Guard’s routine has a deeper meaning than what’s shown on the surface.

Guard movements harken back to the highest symbolic military honor that can be bestowed – a 21 gun salute. Tomb guards march 21 steps down the black mat behind the Unknown Tomb, then turn and face east for precisely 21 seconds. Then, they turn and face north for precisely 21 seconds, followed by 21 steps back down the mat. Each Guard carries their weapon at “shoulders-arms,” signifying that they stand between the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and any possible threat.

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These are the jets that the last man to walk on the moon flew

With the passing of Gene Cernan, a retired Navy captain and NASA astronaut on Jan. 16, 2017, the last man to walk on the moon has left us. While many remember him for that, it should be noted that Cernan was also a naval aviator.


According to his NASA biography, Cernan had over 5,000 flight hours in jets. While NASA notes that Cernan served with VA-26 and VA-112, his Popular Mechanics obituary has him flying with VA-126 and VA-112, and his memoirs place him with VA-126 and VA-113. According to airportjournals.com, during his basic flight training, Cernan flew the T-34, T-28, and F9F Panther.

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John Glenn standing beside the damage to the tail of his F9F Panther from antiaircraft fire after a mission during the Korean War. Gene Cernan flew the F9F Panther during flight training. (Ohio State University)

According to seaforces.org, VA-126 was a Fleet Replacement Squadron, and equipped with the FJ-4B Fury, and the F9F-8 and F9F-8T versions of the Cougar. According to aviation historian Joe Baugher, the F9F-8 Cougar was quickly rendered obsolete as a front-line jet due to new designs, but it did provide service as a fighter-bomber.

The F9F-8T was a two-seat trainer version of the F9F-8, Baugher notes that it stayed in service far longer than its single-seat counterpart. They were later re-designated F-9J and TF-9J in 1962.

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A F9F-8 Cougar with two AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles. Gene Cernan flew the F9F-8 during his time with VA-126. (U.S. Navy photo)

The FJ-4B Fury was a modification of the FJ-4 Fury, which was a navalized version of the famed F-86 Saber, the air-superiority fighter that controlled the skies over the Korean Peninsula during the Korean War. According to Baugher, the FJ-4B was a fighter-bomber, armed with four 20mm cannons and able to carry up to 6,000 pounds of bombs and missiles, including the AGM-12 Bullpup. The FJ-4B could also carry the AIM-9 Sidewinder.

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FJ-4B Fury with VA-126. During his time with that squadron, Cernan flew the FJ-4B. (U.S. Navy photo)

When he was assigned to the fleet, Cernan flew the legendary A-4 Skyhawk with either VA-112 or VA-113, depending on the source. According to seaforces.org, both squadrons were equipped with the A-4B Skyhawk (then designated the A4D-2) when Cernan deployed on board USS Shangri-La in 1958 and in 1960.

Joe Baugher notes that the A-4B was capable of carrying a Mk 28 nuclear warhead. It also could carry the AGM-12 Bullpup, had two 20mm cannons, and the ability to haul up to 5,000 pounds of bombs.

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An A-4B Skyhawk. Gene Cernan made two deployments with VA-113 and flew the A-4B. (U.S. Navy photo)

As a NASA astronaut, Cernan also flew T-38 Talon supersonic trainers. According to a NASA release, the T-38s are used to keep astronauts current, and pilots are required to have 15 hours per month of flight time.

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Two NASA T-38s fly past the Space Shuttle launch pad. Gene Cernan got 15 flight hours a month in the T-38 to maintain proficiency as an astronaut. (NASA photo)

Gene Cernan walked on the moon, but let’s not forget the fact that he also flew a lot of cool planes much closer to Earth.

MIGHTY TRENDING

What to do now that ‘pinning on’ ceremonies are officially hazing

The Air Force is determining how best to move forward with the Defense Department’s new hazing and misconduct policy, aiming to follow guidelines while still keeping some traditions associated with the practice of “tacking-on” rank or insignia during promotion ceremonies, the top enlisted leader of the Air Force said Feb. 22, 2018.


The policy, released early February 2018, includes a definition of hazing that explicitly encompasses “pinning” or “tacking-on” during promotions.

Also read: This Navy SEAL will receive posthumous promotion

“We want to be able to provide our senior leaders out in the field the right guidance on what they should do in lieu of these promotion ceremonies, which we have every month,” said Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright. Wright sat down with Military.com during the Air Force Association’s Air Warfare Symposium here.

Wright said he knows there will be pushback from airmen on “the cultural birthright” to pin on new stripes, and while the Air Force-specific policy is still being crafted, the message is “clear-cut.”

“We need to make sure that we really understand the department’s intent exactly,” he said. But “I don’t think [the Air Force] will straddle the middle” between the guidance and the pin-on practice.

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A 35th Fighter Wing Airman promotes at Misawa Air Base, Japan, June 30, 2017. Promotion ceremonies are held to officially acknowledge Airmen gaining their next level in rank. (Air Force photo by Brittany A. Chase)

While the term “pinning” or “tacking-on” may evoke the infamous tradition of pounding new rank into an airman’s chest hard enough to break the skin, the term also encompasses less extreme physical actions, such as an “atta-boy” nudge or other physical gestures of congratulation. In unofficial capacities, however, more dramatic hazing and abusive behavior may still persist.

“We’ll be in line with the DoD policy, again, we just have to figure out what it means, and exactly what we want to articulate to commanders in the field,” Wright said.

He said the guidance language is there for a reason.

“I hate to say and believe tacking and pinning ceremonies that we do in the Air Force were collateral damage, but this was probably aimed at some of the tacking and pinning and hazing that’s done, not just in a formal promotion ceremony in front of a crowd of people, but … in Special Operations or some other career field, some other specialty where you’ve achieved something significant and go through some ritual to culminate that process,” Wright said.

Related: Watch this Marine get pinned by his 3-year-old son

Tolerance of hazing has never been the Air Force’s message, he said. Leaders have tried to tackle various ceremonial issues that, for one reason or another, have gotten out of hand.

“I’ve worked for commanders who’ve decided, ‘Hey this is too much, so let’s stop doing that,’ ” Wright said, without specifying any incidents.

Whatever comes next for airmen, he said it’s always been about achieving a milestone in their careers.

“Airmen get excited for a day or two, then they move on, and realize that, ‘Man, I’m just thankful to get promoted, my family was able to be there, so if I don’t get the biggest guy in the world to knock me off the stage, then no problem,’ ” he said.

The Pentagon on Feb. 8, 2018, put forth a new policy — DoD Instruction 1020.03 Harassment Prevention And Response in the Armed Forces — aimed to deter misconduct and harassment among service members. The policy reaffirmed the Defense Department does not tolerate any kind of harassment by any service member, either in person or online.

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Master Sgt. Tanya Hubbard, 60th Medical Group, left, and Staff Sgt. Roberto Davila, 60th Medical Group, right, tack staff sergeant stripes on to Spencer Stone, 60th Medical Operations Squadron medical technician during a promotion ceremony at Travis Air Force Base, California, Oct. 30, 2015. (U.S. Air Force photo by Ken Wright)

The guidance went into effect immediately, outlining the department’s definitions of what is considered harassment. However, each service — Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps — is in charge of planning its implementation, outlining steps and milestones in order to comply with the instruction, which supersedes any past anti-harassment policies.

Among activities that specifically define hazing are oral or written berating for the purposes of humiliation, “any form of initiation or congratulatory act” that includes striking or threatening to strike someone; encouraging someone to engage in “illegal, harmful, demeaning, or dangerous” activities; breaking the skin, as with rank insignia or badges in “pinning” rituals; branding, tattooing, shaving or painting someone; and forcing someone to consume food, water, or any other substance.

“Service members may be responsible for an act of hazing even if there was actual or implied consent from the victim and regardless of the grade or rank, status, or service of the victim” in either official or unofficial functions or settings, the policy continues.

More reading: This is why the military shouldn’t completely outlaw hazing

Upon the policy’s debut, some airmen and Air Force veterans took to the popular Facebook group Air Force Amn/nco/snco to criticize the policy’s ban on the “tacking-on” tradition.

“It’s an honor to be tacked on!” wrote one former airman.

“This is why we should halt all Wing level promotion ceremonies and give the role back to the squadron to address promotions how they see fit for morale and unit bonding,” wrote another.

Others questioned what other policies will erode practices over time. “What little heritage and traditions we had… they’re gone now… no wonder the morale is at an all-time low,” wrote a retired airman.

Wright did not specify when the Air Force plans to present its own guidelines.

“We will have to convene, next time I sit down with the boss [Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein] … [to determine] where we want to go,” he said.

Additionally, the Pentagon will receive a first-of-its-kind report on hazing in the ranks, tracking data and victim reports in order to better standardize reporting information and case collection. Services need to meet that report deadline by Dec. 1, 2018.

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What’s the Commandant talking about when he says Marines need to be ‘spiritually’ fit?

Physically fit? Check. Mentally fit? Check. Spiritually fit? Hmm.


That could be the response from more Marines and even other military service members of this Millennial generation, as fewer troops are claiming a religion than those of previous decades.

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Time to get your ‘spirit’ on Marine! (USMC photo)

Earlier this month, Gen. Robert Neller, the commandant of the Marine Corps, issued an all-hands message to encourage his men and women and Navy sailors assigned to their units to take note of their own “spiritual fitness.”

“During this time, I ask each of you to reflect on what you and the Marines and sailors you lead are doing to achieve and maintain an optimal level of strength and resilience. Your leaders and chaplains at all levels stand ready to engage with you in this task,” Neller, a veteran infantry officer entering his second year as the service’s top general officer, wrote in the Oct. 3 message. “By attending to spiritual fitness with the same rigor given to physical, social and mental fitness, Marines and sailors can become and remain the honorable warriors and model citizens our nation expects.”

The general’s mention of honorable warriors and model citizens – most Marines serve four to eight years and then return to civilian life – harkens to a generation ago. In the 1990s — with a military facing force cuts, ethical scandals and retention concerns — then-commandant Gen. Charles Krulak often spoke with Marines about the importance of integrity, having a “moral compass” and courage to do the right thing.

It wasn’t specifically directed at religion or spirituality but took a broad, holistic approach at building better “citizen-soldiers.”

In this generation, will that challenge to look inward at their spirituality, however they define it to be, resonate with Millennial Marines? And, if so, how?

If religious affiliation is any measure of that, military leaders might well be worried.

Last year, the Pew Research Center found that fewer Americans were identifying as religious. In its 2014 Religious Landscape Survey, the Pew Research Center found that 70.6 percent of Americans identified with a Christian-based religion, with “Evangelical Protestant,” “Catholic” and “Mainline Protestant” the top groups. Almost 6 percent claimed non-Christian faiths – Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist and Hindu, for example.

But almost 23 percent in the survey of 35,000 Americans said they were unaffiliated – known as “nones” – or nonbelievers, and 15.8 percent of them claimed no ties even to agnostics or atheists. That was a significant change from 2007, when 16 percent identified as “nones.”

The biggest group, 35 percent, among “nones” are Millennials, considered those born between 1981 and 1996, and “nones” as a whole “are getting even younger,” Pew found. It’s also an age group — 20 to 35 — that’s well represented within the military services.

So how will today’s Marines receive this latest message?

The Marine Corps hasn’t detailed just what the push for spiritual fitness will entail, but it’s described as part of leadership development and a holistic approach to overall fitness along with physical, mental and social wellness. The service’s deputy chaplain, Navy Capt. William Kennedy, said it wasn’t a program but “an engagement strategy to enable leaders at every level to communicate the importance of faith, values and moral living inside the Marine Corps culture of fitness.”

“Spiritual fitness is for everyone,” Kennedy said in an email response to WATM. “Every Marine has a position on matters of spirituality, belief in a higher being and religion. The individual Marine chooses if and how they will grow in spiritual fitness, enabling them to fulfill their duties successfully while deployed and in garrison.”

Scott said the Navy’s top chaplain Rear Adm. Brent Scott sent a letter to all Marine Corps’ chaplains, challenging them to “engage their commanders and the Marine Corps in conversations on spiritual fitness.”

A non-profit group, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, has criticized the Corps’ plan as an attempt to push religious, if not Christian, values on all Marines.

Mikey Weinstein, the group’s founder and president and a former Air Force lawyer, has threatened to sue the Marine Corps to stop it from mandating spiritual fitness training for every Marine rather than having it be voluntary. Weinstein told Military.com last week that the service’s plan to include spiritual fitness with some training and education courses is “nothing more than a Trojan Horse for fundamentalist Christians to proselytize to a captive audience.”

“If they call this ‘mental fitness,’ that’s great,” Weinstein told WATM. But while Marines are regularly tested in physical fitness and military proficiency, he said, “who gets to decide what Marines are spiritually fit?”

While troops can be required to sit through legal discussions with a judge advocate or medical training with medics, they can’t be required to attend teachings or preaching by unit chaplains, he said, citing separation of church and state. If the Marine Corps sets mandatory lectures, testing or measuring tools or classes that discuss things like faith or “a higher power,” for example, that will push it into religious beliefs and violate the constitutional prohibition against religious tests, Weinstein said.

“If they do it, they’ll be in court,” he said.

In 2010, MRFF threatened to sue the Army when it pushed out a similar assessment program on spiritual fitness for soldiers, and Weinstein said the service eventually revised it.

But “spiritual fitness” remains a popular concept around the military — a phrase that might seem to avoid any specific religion to many but still retains an element of a belief. The Air Force considers it one of its comprehensive fitness pillars, along with mental, physical and social. And spiritual fitness is often mentioned in programs to help build resiliency among troops, including those grappling with combat or post-traumatic stress and even in programs to strengthen relationships among military couples and families.

Navy chaplain Kennedy described spirituality generally as something “that gives meaning and purpose in life.” It also might “refer to the practice of a philosophy, religion or way of living,” he said. “For some this is expressed in commitment to family, institution or esprit de corps. For others, it may apply to application of faith.”

Military chaplains have the duty to advise commanders and service members on “spiritual matters.” They “are required to perform faith-specific ministries that do not conflict with the tenets or faith requirements of their religious organizations. Additionally, chaplains are required to provide or facilitate religious support, pastoral care and spiritual wellness to all service members, regardless of religious affiliation,” according to a July 2015 Defense Department Inspector General report on “rights of conscience protections” for troops and chaplains.

Weinstein, who said he’s Jewish but “not that religious,” said his group isn’t anti-religion and counts 48,000 active-duty troops among its members, with 98 percent who affiliate with a religion. Many supporters don’t want the military services telling them what or whether to believe, he said, adding that “thousands of military people [say] that’s my personal business.”

But is spiritual fitness inherently a part of something religious, or is it separate from a religious belief?

It may depend on who is defining it. A spiritual fitness guide briefing slide by the U.S. Navy Chaplains Corps, whose members advise Navy and Marine Corps units, describes spiritual fitness this way: “A term used to capture a person’s overall spiritual health and reflects how spirituality may help one cope with and enjoy life. Spirituality may be used generally to refer to that which gives meaning and purpose in life. The term may be used more specifically to refer to the practice of a philosophy, religion or way of living.”

Would having no religious affiliation or belief render one without spirituality? For some Leathernecks, the Marine Corps itself is like a religion, with its own spirituality that “non-believers” – like POGs or people-other-than-grunts – can’t understand.

The Marines’ own institutional bible, so-to-speak, the warfighting publication “Leading Marines,” stated in its 1995 edition: “This manual is based on the firm belief that, as others have said in countless ways, our Corps embodies the spirit and essence of those who have gone before. It is about the belief, shared by all Marines, that there is no higher calling than that of a United States Marine.”

Editor’s Note: This story has been changed to correct attribution from the Marine Corps Deputy Chaplain.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The story of America’s first secret Space Force

Last year, President Trump drew headlines all over the world with the announcement that he intended to establish a new branch of the American armed forces dedicated solely to orbital and deep-space defense. This new Space Force would be responsible for defending America’s sizeable satellite infrastructure from potential attack and hardening the means by which America has come to rely on orbital technology in day to day life as well as defense.


The concept wasn’t without its critics, with some discounting the very idea of space defense as a flight of fancy and national level competitors accusing America of militarizing an otherwise peaceful theater… but the truth of the matter is, space has been a battlespace since mankind first started lobbing rockets at it.

The Space Race, which was in every appreciable way an extension of the Cold War that benefited from good PR, may have ended with Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landing on the moon in 1969, but the race to leverage space for military purposes continued going strong for decades to come. In fact, one could argue that reaching the moon marked only the end of the public-facing space race, but not the end of the competition between American and Soviet space programs.

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Despite reaching the Moon first, America still had pressing concerns in space.

(NASA)

So heated was the race to militarize space during the Cold War that the Defense Department actually already had a Space Force of sorts starting way back in the 1970s. This secretive program was vast, with a .3 billion California-based spaceport meant for secretive space shuttle launches into polar orbit, a secret group of 32 military-trained astronauts, and plans to fly more shuttle flights per year than NASA itself at one point.

The military astronauts weren’t actually called astronauts — they were called Spaceflight Engineers, and in total, the Air Force’s Manned Spaceflight Engineer Program had 134 military officers and civilian experts assigned to it. These men and women worked out of the aforementioned California launch complex as well as the Pentagon’s own version of mission control in Colorado, and a third facility in Los Angeles that housed the Spaceflight Engineers themselves.

In the early days of the program, some of the Pentagon’s astronauts even hitched rides on NASA shuttle missions hoping to increase cooperation and cross-train on flight methodologies.

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Air Force Spaceflight Engineer Maj. Gary Payton (back left) along with NASA crew members Loren Shriver (front left) and Ken Mattingly (front right), with Jim Buchli and Ellison Onizuka (behind).

(NASA)

“Between these two agencies, it really was a shotgun marriage,” said retired Air Force Col. Gary Payton, who served as Deputy Undersecretary of the Air Force for Space Programs until his retirement in July 2010.

“NASA thought of us as a bunch of snotty-nosed kids, outsiders, almost guests…nothing more than engineers or scientists who tended one particular satellite or experiment, and typically flew just once. We, on the other hand, thought our job was to help bridge the gulf between the military and civilian space agencies.”

The plan was for the Defense Department’s shuttles to launch from California and enter into a polar orbit, which was more beneficial for the Defense Department’s secretive missions than the equatorial orbit commonly reached from Florida launch complexes. The Pentagon’s plans called for an absolutely mind-boggling 12-14 launches per year. That was far more than NASA was prepared to manage, but the result would have been an extremely resilient and redundant space defense infrastructure long before any nation was prepared to present a viable threat to American interests in orbit.

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The Space Shuttle offered a wide variety of mission sets, but with a great deal of risk.

(NASA)

But then in 1986, the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded 73 seconds after launch, killing all seven crew members on board. It was a crushing blow to NASA, but hit the Manned Spaceflight Engineer Program even harder. It forced the Pentagon to acknowledge two difficult truths about manned shuttle missions: when they fail, people die — and the whole world notices.

“By 1987, it was all gone,” said William J. Baugh, director of public affairs for the Air Force Second Space Wing at Falcon Air Force Base in Colorado told the New York Times. “By that time, Challenger had its problem, and we decided to get out of the shuttle business.”

The Pentagon opted to transition toward a system of mostly unmanned rocket launches for the deployment of new satellites, leaning on NASA and the Space Shuttle for some classified missions when the payloads were too big or complex for other rockets like the Titan IV.

“It’s disappointing,” Maj. Frank M. DeArmand, a Spaceflight Engineer who never got to fly, said in 1989. “We all had the excitement and expectation of flying on the shuttle. But I’m not bitter. It was the right decision.”

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