The 2019 National Defense Authorization Act was recently signed, which included a measure that will allow fully-disabled veterans the ability to utilize Space-Available travel.
Under the Disabled Veterans Access to Space-A Travel Act, veterans with a service-connected, permanent disability rating of 100 percent will be able to travel in the Continental United States or directly between the CONUS and Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, and American Samoa (Guam and American Samoa travelers may transit Hawaii or Alaska); or traveling within Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, or the U.S. Virgin Islands on flights operated by Air Mobility Command.
Prior to this authorization, only military retirees, meaning those with a blue DD Form 2, and current service members were entitled to this benefit. This particular piece of legislations was originally introduced by the House Veterans Affairs Committee in 2016.
According to lawmakers, this proposal will allow travel on Space-A at no additional cost to the Department of Defense and without aircraft modifications. Additionally, data from the Government Accountability Office noted that roughly 77 percent of space-available seats in 2011 were occupied by only 2.3 percent of the 8.4 million eligible individuals for the program.
(Department of Defense photo)
Travelers should contact their local Passenger Terminal for further details and review travel information found on the AMC Travel Page for specific details on the Space A travel program.
Editor’s note: Passengers seeking Space-Available or Space-A travel must keep in mind that there is No Guarantee you will be selected for a seat. Be aware that Space-A travelers must be prepared to cover commercial travel expenses if flight schedules are changed or become unavailable to allow Space-A travel. Per DODI 4515.13, Section 4, Paragraph 4.1.a, Reservations: There is no guarantee of transportation, and reservations will not be accepted or made for any space-available traveler. The DOD is not obligated to continue an individual’s travel or return the individual to the point of origin or any other point. Travelers should have sufficient personal funds to pay for commercial transportation, lodging, and other expenses if space-available transportation is not available.
The strike on Shayrat Air Base was intended to take out a number of targets, but one plane in particular was top of the list: The Su-22 Fitter.
According to Scramble.nl, two squadrons of this plane were based at the Shayrat air base that absorbed 59 T-LAMs. But why was this plane the primary target, as opposed to the squadron of MiG-23 Floggers? The answer is that the versions of the MiG-23 that were reportedly based there were primarily in the air-to-air role. The MiG-23MLD is known as the “Flogger K” by NATO. The two squadrons of Su-22 Fitters, though, specialized in the ground attack mission.
According to militaryfactory.com, the Su-22 is one of two export versions of the Su-17, which first entered service in 1969. Since then, it has received progressive improvements, and was widely exported to not only Warsaw Pact countries but to Soviet allies in the Middle East and to Peru. The Russians and French teamed up to modernize many of the Fitters still in service – and over 2,600 of these planes were built.
According to the Encyclopaedia of Modern Aircraft Armament, the Su-17/Su-20/Su-22 Fitter has eight hardpoints capable of carrying up to 11,000 pounds of munitions. It also has a pair of MR-30 30mm cannon. It is capable of a top speed of 624 knots, according to militaryfactory.com.
The Fitter has seen a fair bit of combat action, including during the Iran-Iraq War, the Yom Kippur War, Desert Storm, Afghanistan, and the Russian wars in Chechnya.
Recently, it saw action in the Libyan Civil War as well as the Syrian Civil War.
While it has performed well in ground-attack missions, it was famously misused by then-Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi to challenge U.S. Navy F-14 Tomcats over the Gulf of Sidra in 1981. Both Fitters were shot down after an ineffectual attack on the Tomcats.
During Desert Storm, the Iraqi Air Force lost two Su-22s, then two more during Operation Provide Comfort.
The Fitter did get one moment in the cinematic sun, though. In the Vin Diesel action movie “XXX,” two Czech air force Fitters made a cameo during the climactic sequence.
Britain is trying to get homegrown robots ready for service on the front lines of combat, but they’re not looking for Terminators yet. They’re looking for POGs.
Specifically, they’re looking for robots to handle “last-mile” logistics. While insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan have proven that a small force can slow down the movement of supplies across the entire theater, engineers and other route clearance assets can usually keep the roads open between bases.
But when troops need ammo, water, medical supplies, or other necessities under fire, there’s no guarantee that a route clearance asset will be available. That could lead to infantry losing fire superiority or cavalry forces who are unable to keep scouting enemy positions.
So, Britain wants drones, autonomous vehicles, or other technologies that could ferry supplies between friendly elements, say a group of riflemen in a firefight and their reinforcements who won’t arrive for 20 minutes. The supplies sent forward by the reinforcements could keep the lead element going long enough for backup to arrive.
To get the ball rolling, the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory has announced what’s called a “Defense and Security Accelerator competition.” These are similar to DARPA challenges where a government agency puts up a cash prize to spur civilian companies to innovate.
In the first, a group of infantrymen in vehicles lacks the part needed for a vital repair while a nearby group of soldiers on foot needs food, water, ammo, and sleeping systems. Obviously, the logistics robots’ jobs would be to get the spare part to one group and the personal supplies to the other.
The second vignette paints a more dire picture. A group of soldiers are in contact and running low on ammunition when they suffer a casualty. With a full ammo load, they would be able to eliminate the enemy or lay down cover fire and break contact to evacuate the wounded. But they don’t have a full load of ammo left.
The troops do have a group of friends on foot about 1.5 miles away. It would be the robot’s job to get ammo from the reinforcements to the troops in contact quickly. Preferably, the supplies would arrive broken down by weapon system and would be delivered as close to each shooter as possible.
For anyone interested in learning more or submitting technologies, the performance thresholds are available here. The contest is looking for relatively mature technologies that could be demonstrated by early 2018.
Veterans that have made the transition into the civilian workforce can sometimes find themselves jaded by the repetitiveness of it all. Wake up, go to work, come home, go to bed, and repeat. There’s not too much variety in the daily routine.
The good news is that the experiences and skills gained through military service can be used in finding a new hobby — one that’ll break up the monotony. If you’re looking to pick up something new — and make a little cash doing it — use this list to kickstart your brainstorming.
Life changing moments metal detecting beach nuggets rings tips
When I was in the Marine Corps, I deployed to Afghanistan and used a CMD nearly everyday on deployment. When my platoon was operating in a sketchy area, Marines would walk in my foot steps — literally. Using the discipline and techniques required for successful operations translates directly into treasure hunting.
The gear is a little expensive, but it’s a hobby that eventually pays for itself.
I Found 4 Apple Watches, 5 Phones and a GoPro Underwater in the River! (Scuba Diving)
How would your childhood self react if you went back in time and told him about your badass job, getting paid to jump out of planes with beautiful women onto idyllic beaches? Skydiving is not as expensive as most people think. Check out rates in your area for certifications if you don’t have any jumps yet. If you have earned your wings and aren’t using them, you’re missing out.
You’ll commonly find paintball fields near military bases, and for good reason — it’s a stress reliever and it’s fun to use tactics honed in the infantry community. If you can assemble a disciplined team of warriors, you can stomp on pro teams and possibly walk away with some prize money.
World’s Highest Commercially Rafted Waterfall – Play On in New Zealand! in 4K! | DEVINSUPERTRAMP
There are a few perks to barracks life, but chief among them is the time to level up your hand eye coordination to pro level. Combine the competitive nature of the military with the proximity to a bunch of worth adversaries and you’ve got yourself an environment for improvement. But civilians take gaming very seriously, too, to the point that pro gamers live off their earnings independent of a a real job.
Odds are you won’t win international competitions anytime soon, but many local competitions offer free consoles as prizes that you can resell online.
The platoon barber is a Marine’s best friend — especially an hour before formation on a Monday after a weekend of non-stop drinking. It should come as a surprise to absolutely no one that the platoon barber can be paid in booze, ‘acquired’ gear, energy drinks, and, yes, cash.
However, the skills the platoon barber learned that lead him to become a kingpin can also earn him prize money and reputation.
SURVIVAL INSTRUCTOR – MY OTHER JOB!!! – ANDYISYODA
If you’ve got a phone, you can make funny videos. Use caution when filming for safety and legal reasons. Don’t be that guy who dressed up a Taliban and drove through the main gate with expired decals to mess with the MPs because he thought he was funny.
That’s a true story, by the way — and you’re not going to find that video on the internet.
For the longest time, I always wanted an M1903 Springfield rifle. This was the rifle that served in two world wars and saw use as late as the Vietnam Conflict. To this day the rifle serves in Honor Guard Detachments honoring our fallen military members and US veterans. It’s one of those iconic fighting rifles that every serious gunny should have in their safes.
My problem was two-fold.
First, they always seemed to be around and always seemed to be priced on the lower end of the spectrum. I would see one, handle it, inspect it and think about it; only to be swayed by some other firearm, seemingly at the last minute. Those of us who lived through the Federal Assault Weapon Ban of 1994 or any of the numerous state bans know this phenomenon all too well.
“That’s just an old bolt-action rifle. I need to buy more ammo, more magazines, more black guns, before I can’t get them anymore.”
Invariably this leads to the second part of the dilemma. By the time you think your collection, or horde, is squared away and you can go for something you really want as a fun shooter or a collectible; that price has seemed to skyrocket.
“Oh my God! I remember when these things were all day long in a pickle barrel outside the gun shop! Now they want 00!!!!”
If I am exaggerating, it is only slightly. Prices of obsolete or out of production firearms rise due to scarcity and demand. Remember when Mosin Nagant rifles sold as low as each, in some areas that price has increased more than 10-fold! Then the realization hits you that there were only a finite amount of those rifles to go around.
Many military surplus rifles were converted into sporting rifles because a surplus Mauser, Enfield or even a Springfield 1903 was much cheaper than a commercially manufactured bolt-action hunting rifle. In the past few years, I have actually restored a number of these rifles to their former military appearance. When I came across this Remington M1903A3 Springfield at around 0, I thought I would take another chance.
Luckily the rifle’s action, barrel, and sights were still intact. The previous owner had discarded the original military stock, handguards, and the metal stock hardware. I removed the barreled action from the commercial Fajen stock and began my search for the rest of the parts.
I found all the metal hardware at SARCO: butt plate, sling swivels, stacking swivel, sling swivel screws, and handguard ring. It was a mix of some original and some reproduction. I found an original military stock on an auction site and a reproduction handguard in the white and handguard clips at Numrich Arms.
The stock was very dark and required a good deal of hand fitting in order to install the action properly. This was mostly with regard to the internal magazine body and the mounting screw channels. I spent a week staining the new handguard, but it never got quite as dark as the stock. Eventually I might go with another stock closer in color to the hand guard, but for now, I would be satisfied with just a decent shooter.
I had hopes… the trigger was nice, the bore was clean and the metal still had that Remington green hue to it for which the Remington-built rifles were famous.
It was installing the metal hardware that proved to be its own challenge.
At first glance you might think that these parts slide over the front sight and barrel, but the front sight sits too high and requires removal.
I soaked it overnight in Kroil and the next day removed the front sight base, as trying to tap just the sight blade usually leads to its destruction.
The base is set in a keyway and although it’s a notoriously tight fit, it comes off rather easily. Drift out the pin, drive out the sight, remove the entire blade. The handguard, bands, etc. are then easily installed and the sight is put back into place. I advise going slow, using lots of machine oil and you won’t ding or destroy your sight.
With the rifle together and in as close to original condition as I was going to take it at this point, I set out to the range.
One of the things I like about the M1903A3 is the longer sight radius with the rear mounted peep sight. It may not be as fast as some military rifles with their over the chamber mounted rear sights, but I’m not gearing up to storm the beaches of Guadalcanal anytime soon.
As a full-time firearms reviewer, consultant, and author I have the luxury of trying out many new firearms, but rarely get to shoot the ones I really enjoy.
Initial testing using some Greek surplus ball ammo yielded groups of 3.35″ to 4.5″ at 100 yards. The next time out, I might try some commercial ammunition and maybe even attempt some fitting of the handguard, stock, and barrel bands. There are a lot of components that can affect accuracy on this rifle, considering in its sporter configuration it produced groups of about half that size at the same distance.
The rifle filled a small void in my collection and will probably only be shot a few times a year if I am lucky. However, I still hold to the old adage that only accurate rifles are interesting and my goal will be to make my M1903A3 interesting once again.
This article originally appeared on Recoilweb. Follow @RecoilMag on Twitter.
U.S. President Donald Trump says there are promising signs that the United States would reach a peace deal with the Taliban by the end of this month.
Chances are “good” for the agreement to be sealed, Trump said on a February 13 podcast broadcast on iHeart Radio.
When asked if a tentative deal had been reached, Trump said: “I think we’re very close…. I think there’s a good chance that we’ll have a deal…. We’re going to know over the next two weeks.”
The president’s comments are the latest indication of progress being made in talks between the United States and the Taliban that have been taking place since December in Qatar, where the militants have a political office.
Earlier in the day, Defense Secretary Mark Esper told journalists in Brussels that both sides had negotiated a “proposal” for a week-long scaling-down in violence.
President Donald Trump speaks to Fort Drum Soldiers and personnel during a signing ceremony for the fiscal year 2019 National Defense Authorization Act, Aug. 13, 2018.
He said a drawdown of troops and further negotiations with the militants would be “conditions-based” and begin after a decline in violence.
“We’ve said all along that the best…solution in Afghanistan is a political agreement,” he added. “It will be a continual evaluative process as we go forward — if we go forward.”
Progress toward reducing violence could usher in direct peace talks between the militants and the Afghan government to end the nearly two-decade war.
AP reported that if violence subsided, it would lead to an agreement being signed between the United States and the Taliban, followed by, within 10 days, all-Afghan negotiations to establish a road map for the political future of a postwar Afghanistan.
There has been a “pretty important breakthrough” over the past few days, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on February 13 about peace negotiations. He did not elaborate.
President Donald Trump would still have to formally approve the agreement and finalization of details is expected at this week’s Munich Security Conference, where Esper and Pompeo will meet with Afghan President Ashaf Ghani.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg the day before reiterated that the alliance “fully supports the U.S.-led peace efforts, which can pave the way for intra-Afghan talks.”
Speaking at the same NATO summit in Brussels attended by Esper, the secretary-general said the militants “need to demonstrate that they are both willing and capable to deliver a reduction of violence and contribute to peace in good faith.”
He said the militant fighters have to “understand that they will never win on the battlefield. They have to make real compromises around the negotiating table.”
The prospective deal would see the U.S. pull thousands of troops from Afghanistan, while the Taliban would provide security guarantees and launch eventual talks with the Western-backed government in Kabul.
There are some 12,500 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, as well as thousands of European forces participating in the NATO-led Resolute Support mission.
On Apr. 15, 1912, Charles Lightoller was the second officer aboard the ill-fated Titanic. After helping as many passengers and crew as he could into lifeboats, he refused an order to escape on one of the final boats to make it off the ship. As Titanic’s bridge began to sink, he attempted to dive into the water and to the safety of one of the crew’s collapsible boats.
Except the Titanic sucked him down with her.
Two lifeboats carry Titanic survivors toward safety. April 15, 1912
Lightoller was no landsman. He had been at sea for decades and, as a result, he’d seen and heard everything. Titanic wasn’t even his first shipwreck, but it was the first time a sinking ship tried to take the officer down with it. As a grating pulled him to the bottom, the icy waters of the Atlantic Ocean finally reached the ship’s hot boilers, and they exploded. The force propelled Lightoller to the surface and to the safety of his fellow crew’s boat.
He was the last Titanic survivor rescued by the RMS Carpathia the next day. He was also the most senior officer to survive the shipwreck. Later, during World War I, Lt. Lightoller would take command of many ships in the Royal Navy, leaving the service at the war’s end. By the time World War II rolled around, Lightoller was just a civilian raising chickens. His seaborne days confined to a personal yacht.
The Titanic’s officers. Lightoller is in the back row, second from the left.
While he did survey the German coast in 1939 for the Royal Navy while disguised as an elderly couple on vacation, his fighting days were long gone. But the very next year, the British Army in France was on the brink of ruin, as 400,000 Allied troops were stranded on the beaches of Dunkirk. The Royal Navy could not reach them, and they were slowly being annihilated by the Nazi forces that surrounded them. Operation Dynamo was on.
The Royal Navy ordered Lightoller to take his ship to Ramsgate, where a Navy crew would take control and ship off to Dunkirk to rescue as many Tommies as possible. But Lightoller wasn’t having it. He would take his ship to Dunkirk himself. The 66-year-old and his son departed for France as soon as they could in a 52×12-foot ship with a carrying capacity of 21.
The branch rivalry can be mind-numbing at times. Each branch believes they’re the best while each has a unique role, making it impossible to objectively determine which is truly king. That’s where a battle royale comes in.
If you’re not living under a digital rock, then you know that “battle royales” are extremely popular in video games right now. In short, these types of games pit several players (or teams of players) against one another in a fight to scavenge, survive, and outlast the competition. And it got us thinking – what if the military hosted its own?
Imagine this: Each branch puts forth a five-person team (including a medic or corpsman) to compete against each other in a large, miserable training area. The teams must survive and fight against each other in a battle to earn the ultimate bragging rights for their respective branch.
Keep in mind, this is not a squad competition — each team would be given a certain amount of time, an area of operations, a number of MREs (with the ability to find resupply points), and either blanks or sesam rounds. There would be referees following or monitoring teams to keep battles fair.
But enough about the finer points, here’s why it should happen:
There could even be an award for the winning branch.
(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Airman Cameron Lewis)
Determine the best branch
The most obvious reason we should do this is because it would finally silence the pissing content. One branch would beat the others in competition, fair and square. Each branch put forth a team on a level playing field with an equal chance at winning — there’d be no room for excuses. Better luck next year.
Things like this build unique bonds.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kate Thornton)
It goes without saying that the members of a unit would form stronger bonds. But even in defeat, you can respect your opponent’s strengths. An activity like this would give each branch a chance to see the skills of each. Seeing what each branch is capable of could really help us acknowledge each other’s strengths.
This would bring everyone together in a way that is fun and interesting.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class William Sykes)
In the Marine Corps, you build unit cohesion by having teams or squads compete against each other. No matter the activity, the real goal is to bring your troops closer together so they can build mutual trust. This would be the same idea — but on a much larger scale.
As it stands now, branches don’t really trust one another — mostly because they’re not sure if the others are as tough.
You can bring those lessons back to your unit so everyone can learn something.
(U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Cpl. Hailey D. Clay)
It could have great training value
When you’re forced into a situation, you have to improvise, adapt, and overcome. In learning how to best compete, you’ll learn about yourself.
Military investigators are trying to piece together the cause of a crash that killed 15 Marines and a sailor in Mississippi in July, but it could be a year or more until any information becomes public.
In the meantime, the Marine Corps’ fleet of KC130T transport planes remains grounded. That plane is similar to the one that crashed near Itta Bena on July 10.
April Phillips, a spokeswoman for the Naval Safety Center, said August 21 that final reports often don’t become public for 12 to 18 months following a crash. Even then, much of the information in the reports is often withheld from public view.
“Ours are done solely to ensure what happened doesn’t happen again,” Phillips said, saying that various military commanders must endorse the report before it’s finished.
Marines and other investigators finished collecting debris August 3, recovering all of the plane’s major components, said Marine Forces Reserve spokeswoman Lt. Stephanie L. Leguizamon. She said last week that there’s still work going on to clean up the crash area.
Naval Safety Center investigators are both reconstructing the wreckage and interviewing witnesses. Their report will ultimately include recommendations to enhance safety.
Victims included nine Marines based at Stewart Air National Guard base in Newburgh, New York, who flew and crewed the plane, plus six Marines and a Navy Corpsman from an elite Marine Raider battalion at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. The passengers were headed for pre-deployment training in Yuma, Arizona. Cargo included at least some ammunition.
Brig. Gen. Bradley S. James has told reporters that whatever went wrong began when the plane was at cruising altitude. Most of the plane pancaked upside down into a field, but part of it, including the cockpit, broke off and landed far from the fuselage and wings. Debris was scattered for miles over fields, woods, and ponds.
Witnesses said they saw the plane descend from high altitude with an engine smoking, with some describing what pilots call a “flat spin,” where a plane twirls around like a boomerang.
Phillips said the plane didn’t have an in-flight data recorder. That, plus the lack of survivors, could make the debris crucial to determining what happened.
“A lot it, in this case, is likely to come from forensic evidence,” she said.
Phillips said the C-130 and its variants have historically been one of the safest planes operated by the Marine Corps. The Navy classifies its most serious incidents as Class A mishaps, involving death, permanent disability, or more than $2 million in damage. Only two in-flight Class A mishaps were recorded before the Mississippi crash, both in 2002. A KC-130R experienced a flash fire and crashed into a mountain in Pakistan while nearing an airfield, killing seven people. A KC130F crash landed shortly after taking off inCalifornia, causing injuries but no deaths.
The New York squadron is the last Marine unit flying the KC-130T version and is scheduled to upgrade to a newer version in 2019. Only the remaining 12 KC-130Ts are affected by the grounding.
Rangers from different units throughout the 4th Infantry Division put their physical and mental abilities to the test Jan. 10, 2019, during the 4th Inf. Div. Best Ranger Competition tryouts.
Rangers met at Iron Horse Park and began their morning with the Ranger Physical Fitness Test (RPFT), which included two-minutes of metronome pushups, two minutes of metronome sit-ups, one minute of metronome pull-ups and a 5-mile run. The metronome workouts used a device that produced an audible sound at a regular interval so that the exercise can be performed to a rhythm. Rangers followed the RPFT with an 8-mile foot march, directly into a 2.5-mile interceptor body armor (IBA) run, and concluded with a 600-meter swim.
1st Lt. Nick Rodriguez, with 1st Battalion, 41st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, conducts a pull-up Jan. 10, 2019, during a Ranger Physical Fitness Test.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Neysa Canfield)
“The purpose of the tryouts was to identify the right population of Ranger qualified leaders who have the potential of continuing to train and prepare for the Best Ranger Competition,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Timothy Speichert, the coach for the 4th Inf. Div. Best Ranger Team. “The different back-to-back events allow me to assess the ability of these leaders to continue physical events without much rest in between.”
Chief Warrant Officer 2 Joshua Detwiler, with 2nd Battalion, 77th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, runs down a hill during an 8-mile ruck march Jan. 10, 2019.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Neysa Canfield)
Speichert said although the events are physically challenging, it’s important for Rangers to have mental strength and to understand how to work as a team.
1st Lt. Clayton Stanley, with 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, runs up a hill Jan. 10, 2019, during a 2.5-mile Interceptor Body Armor run on Fort Carson.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Neysa Canfield)
“It’s important to have resiliency when you are going through 72 hours of back-to-back events and making decisions when you are tired and hurting,” he explained. “You also have to be a team player because one person doesn’t win the competition, both of the individuals have to execute every single task together to collectively win.”
1st Lt. Nick Rodriguez, with 1st Battalion, 41st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, catches his breath during a 600-meter swim Jan. 10, 2019, at Iron Horse Physical Fitness Center.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Neysa Canfield)
Although the tryouts were challenging, Lt. Jacob Boyle, an infantry officer assigned to the 1st Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Inf. Div., was excited to train with the team and possibly represent the Ivy Division at Fort Benning for the competition.
“We have a great group of Rangers and I am excited about our 4th Inf. Div. team as we prepare for this upcoming competition,” said Speichert.
The young pilot struggled against dust and wind that swirled 10,000 feet above valleys sandwiched between Mexico’s Sierra Madre mountains. He had only a rudimentary pair of plain glass goggles to protect his face. Yet he was determined to find the trail of the rebel bandit Pancho Villa who had recently led a raid into New Mexico that killed eight U.S. Soldiers and 10 American civilians.
That young pilot, Capt. Benjamin Foulois, was in one of eight Curtis JN-3 “Jenny” biplanes participating in the search. The planes were powered with 90-horsepower engines that had a rough time just staying airborne, but they led a reconnaissance mission to kick off Gen. John J. Pershing’s punitive expedition into Mexico.
It was March 1916, little more than a decade after the Wright Brothers’ inaugural flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, and only seven years after Foulois was taught to fly by Orville Wright himself, becoming the first military aviator. He later became a major general, and in 1931 was appointed Chief of the U.S. Army Air Corps.
That small unit of Jenny biplanes, in search of Villa and his Mexican marauders more than 100 years ago, were members of the 1st Aero Squadron, the first aviation unit to participate directly in a military action, flying 346 hours on 540 flights during Pershing’s expedition. The first mission covered more than 19,300 miles, and included aerial reconnaissance and photography as well as transporting mail and official dispatches.
The first Curtiss JNÐ2s of 1st Aero Squadron at the Signal Corps Aviation School, North Island, Cali. Sgt. Vernon L. Burge stands under the propeller. In the cockpit is Capt. Benjamin Foulois and second man from the right is Jacob Bollinger.
The squadron was formed March 5, 1913, giving it the distinction of being the oldest flying squadron still in existence.
The unit has alternated between reconnaissance and bombing missions and had its name tweaked 14 times since the provisional 1st Aero Squadron unfurled its colors in Texas City, Texas. Its Airmen have flown 47 different types of aircraft and served in more than 50 locations throughout the world.
In the year of the 1st Aero Squadron’s formation, Lt. Thomas D. Milling, instructor, and Lt. Fred Seydel, student, are at the controls of a Wright C., SC-16 Trainer on airfield in Texas City, Texas, May 1913. In front of the plane, 8 other soldiers in uniform and a civilian in white shirt and bow tie stand posed facing the camera.
Today, it’s the 1st Reconnaissance Squadron, a part of the 9th Reconnaissance Wing at Beale Air Force Base, California, with the responsibility of training high-altitude intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance RQ-4 Global Hawk and U-2S pilots and sensor operators.
The squadron has a reputation for being a pioneer in establishing ISR capability and establishing a legacy of supplying critical information to combatant commanders across the joint force.
“The legacy of the 1st Recon Squadron is a microcosm of the legacy of the Air Force,” said Richard Rodrigues, former 9th RW historian. “It was the organization that pioneered the first tactical deployment of U.S. military airpower, and it helped create some of our early leaders that had an impact on the Air Service and later the Air Corps.”
U.S. Air Force U-2S Dragon Lady Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Aircraft instructor pilots from the 1st Reconnaissance Squadron pose for a photo in front of a two seat U-2S Aug. 17, 2012 at Beale Air Force Base, Calif. Less people have piloted the U-2 than have earned Super Bowl rings.
A little over a year after its famous recon mission over Mexico, the squadron would enter World War I, traveling from New Mexico to New York, then by ship across the Atlantic to land in Le Havre, France and become the first American squadron to enter the war. The 1st Aero Squadron took on the role as an observation unit, initially flying the French Dorand AR 1 and 2 aircraft, a two-seater recon plane, and later the Salmson 2A2.
According to Rodrigues, the squadron was in constant action throughout the “Great War” supplying divisional commanders vital information as to where the front line elements actually were, where artillery barrages need to be laid down in advance of the infantry and for causing disruption to enemy forces behind lines. Later, as positions became stabilized, photographs were obtained behind enemy lines to learn the dispositions of enemy forces.
A Salmson 2A2 of the 1st Aero Squadron over France during WWI, 1918.
“The unit aided the stand of the Marines at Chateau-Thierry and prevented the German army from crossing the Marne River. The squadron also fought at Aisne-Marne, St. Mihiel and Meuse-Argonne, all important campaigns for the allies,” said Rodrigues. Those campaign victories represent the four Maltese crosses found on the 9th RW’s unit emblem.
Rodrigues added that although reconnaissance and artillery surveillance were the primary duties of the 1st AS, squadron pilots flying French SPAD fighters scored 13 aerial victories, represented by 13 Maltese crosses on the 1st Recon Squadron’s emblem. A total of 16 officers lost their lives, with three more missing in action.
After the war, the mission and the name of the unit changed to the 1st Observation Squadron, with the unit relocating to Camp Mills, New York. Its base would change names to Mitchel Field, and observation aircraft would be updated to the Douglas O-2, Curtiss O-1 and O-39. The unit would keep its observation role until 1935. They even used Douglass O-35s to deliver the U.S. Mail.
The unit then made a huge overhaul, going from observation unit to bomber squadron: the 1st Bombardment Squadron. The observation planes were replaced with Martin B-10 and Douglas B-18 bombers and the Airmen began learning new tactics at large training sites in Maryland, Florida, California, Michigan, and Virginia.
At the outset of World War II in 1942, the 1st BS moved to the island of Trinidad to strengthen defenses around the Panama Canal and defend against German U-boat attacks in the Caribbean and Atlantic. In October 1942 the squadron set up a tactics and bombing school in Florida.
A 1st Bombardment Squadron Boeing B-29-50-BW Superfortress tail number 42-24791 nicknamed the “Big Time Operator.” After storage at Naval Air Station, China Lake, Cali, the nose of the bomber was acquired by the Air Force Museum and was grafted onto museum building at Beale AFB, Cali. in 1986.
In February 1945, the squadron began flying B-29s from Tinian Island in the Marianas chain as part of the 20th Air Force. The squadron completed 71 combat missions, including bombing raids over Iwo Jima in preparation for its invasion by U.S. Marines and night incendiary raids on the Japanese home islands, winning two Distinguished Unit citations. After the Japanese surrender in 1945, a round-robin of assignments throughout the Pacific kept the squadron fully employed.
While stationed in Guam in 1947, the newly created Department of the Air Force issued orders to deactivate the unit.
However, the Air Force rescinded those orders and instead moved the unit to Topeka, Kansas, where it joined Strategic Air Command and became the 1st Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron. The squadron’s unbroken lineage remained intact.
With U.S. and the Soviet Union entering a global standoff known as the Cold War, the squadron returned to its bombing role, armed again with B-29s, including three nuclear-capable B-29MR bombers. It participated in several rotations between Travis AFB, California, and Guam during the Korean War. Then in 1953, it was transferred to Mountain Home AFB, Idaho, where it flew the B-47 Stratojet bombers.
Crew members in front of a B-47E Stratojet of the 1st Bombardment Squadron, 9th Bombardment Wing at Mountain Home AFB, Idaho in 1956.
For the next 12 years, the squadron would play an important part in America’s nuclear deterrent force and began a series of deployments to England, Guam, Okinawa and Alaska. Then the squadron’s mission would dramatically change once again with the secret development of a new plane by Lockheed Aircraft Company.
The SR-71 “Blackbird” was announced by President Lyndon B. Johnson and joined the Air Force inventory in 1966. This new, advanced surveillance aircraft gave the Air Force an intelligence weapon that could fly three times the speed of sound, at altitudes higher than 80,000 feet. The SR-71’s versatility included simple battlefield surveillance, multiple-sensor high-performance interdiction reconnaissance, and strategic surveillance over large areas of the world. It used the most advanced observation equipment in the world, carrying sensors with a 45 degree viewing angle on each side that could survey 100,000 square miles in an hour. It would totally change the future for the Air Force’s oldest flying squadron.
The 1st SRS was now in its heyday, gathering photographic and electronic intelligence products over Southeast Asian nations during the Vietnam War. The unit moved to its current location at Beale AFB in June 1966, and the 1st SRS was on its way to conducting missions that supported national intelligence-gathering requirements.
Retired Lt. Col. Tony Bevacqua was one of those early SR-71 pilots at Beale AFB and said what he and other pilots did in the 1960s was no different from Orville Wright or the Global Hawk flights today.
“We made history then, and we continue to make history today,” Bevacqua said.
He and Maj. Jerry Crew were on their first mission over Hanoi, their third over North Vietnam, when a SA-2 missile fired on them, passing just ahead and below their aircraft. It was the first time an SR-71 had ever been fired upon. By the time Bevacqua retired in 1973, he had logged nearly 750 hours in the Blackbird.
An SR-71B Blackbird sits on the runway after sundown.
After the war, 1st SRS Airmen logged some spectacular accomplishments. Of these the most notable were the SR-71 speed runs from New York to London and from London to Los Angeles. On Sept. 14, 1974, Maj. James Sullivan, pilot and Maj. Noel Widdifield, RSO, flew their SR-71 from New York to London in 1 hour, 55 minutes, 42 seconds for an average speed of 1,817 mph.
The SR-71 crew of Capt. Harold Adams, pilot, and Maj. William Machorek, RSO, established a record for the London to Los Angeles route when they flew the 5,645 mile leg in 3 hours, 48 minutes on Sept. 13.
For budgetary reasons, the SR-71 was retired from the Air Force inventory in 1990. The Blackbird’s final journey was from California to Washington D.C. where it became part of the collection at the Smithsonian Institution. It was an SR-71 flown by the 1st SRS crew, which made the coast-to-coast trip in a record time of 68 minutes, 17 seconds—at a record speed of 2,242.48 mph.
Today, the squadron is the formal initial training unit for the U-2 Dragon Lady and RQ-4 Global Hawk.
The squadron recruits and trains all the U-2 pilots that fly high-altitude reconnaissance flights around the world. After initial interviews, orientation flights, and selection for the program, new pilots undergo approximately six months of extensive training, including 20 sorties in the U-2. The rigorous flying training programs produce 24 U-2S pilots, 48 RQ-4 pilots, and 36 RQ-4 sensor operators annually.
Upon graduation, crewmembers are not only mission-ready in the U-2, but also checked out in the T-38 companion trainer. They then transfer to the 99th Reconnaissance Squadron and prepare for a tour at one of the overseas detachments.
Airmen work on an RQ-4 Global Hawk after it returned to Beale Air Force Base, Calif., as part of a four-ship rotation out of the theater.
The 1st RS also trains mission planners. Mission planners have to know the wing’s mission, the aircraft and sensors capabilities, plus detailed information on target and threat assessment at specific locations. After planners complete training, they deploy to the overseas detachments and design flight tracks that allow pilots to gather the best data with the least personal risk.
According to former squadron commander Lt. Col. Stephen Rodriguez, the 1st RS’s mission isn’t that much different from the one over New Mexico 100 years ago.
“It’s interesting because the first mission with aircraft was to be the eyes for the troops on the ground,” said Rodriguez. “The old mission was an extension of the ground troops, but it’s evolved. We organize, train and equip our squadron members to be leaders in the ISR mission. We are the eyes and ears of the nation and our fighting forces, and we operate over a broad spectrum of conflict.”
The 1st RS aims to increase their level of experience with a new, innovative Aviation Fundamentals Training program funded through the Squadron Innovation Fund.
“We are having our RQ-4 student pilots receive additional training flying with the Beale Aero Club while they are going through the Formal Training Unit,” said Maj. Daniel, 13th Reconnaissance Squadron FTU flight commander. “It is a continuation of the training they receive in Initial Flight Training.”
The FTU partnered with the Beale Aero Club to ensure pilots receive more experience in the local airspace by taking to the cockpit and flying aircraft closer to those flown early in the previous century: Cessna 172s.
“We started it to give the new pilots more experience in the air,” said Daniel. “AFT is designed to essentially improve airmanship, communication and situational awareness. We just wanted to give them more experience for when they show up to their operational Global Hawk units.”
AFT has already shown promising signs, and if it continues to receive funding, it could become an integral part of Global Hawk pilot training.
“I think the more experience we can give a pilot flying in the air will pay dividends years down the road,” said Daniel. “They are going to be better pilots operationally flying the Global Hawk, which is a mission with huge implications. They will also be better pilots when they become instructors themselves.”
For nearly a century, the 1st RS, the Air Force’s oldest squadron, continues to play a vital role in America’s defense.
Crew members of the 1st Aero Squadron next to a Salmson 2A2 painted with the American flag squadron emblem during WWI in France in 1918.
This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.
There were only a few places around the world more tense than in the Cold War showdown between East and West that occurred every day in divided Berlin. In the West, American and NATO guards stared down the barrels of the Soviet-backed East German border guards from the other side of the Berlin Wall. These guards were known to shoot down any East German civilian trying to cross the wall, sometimes leaving their mangled corpse in the barbed wire.
One American decided he was going to do what he could to help.
An East German border guard leaps over barbed wire and away from the East German “utopia.”
It’s a well-known fact by now that life behind the Iron Curtain wasn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Few places in the Eastern Bloc were more repressive than in East Germany, and East Berlin in particular. East Berlin’s proximity to the freedom enjoyed by West Germany and greater Western Europe forced the Communist regimes to be more harsh to those attempting to escape to freedom. Still, many East Germans made the attempt. Scores of people died trying to cross the Berlin Wall. Untold numbers more likely made the escape.
One of those successful escapees was Hans-Peter Spitzner and his daughter Peggy. Spitzner lived more than 100 miles from East Berlin, but when the Stasi – the East German secret police – came knocking on his door and arrested him in the middle of the night for not voting the Communist Party line, he was done. He resolved to get out of East Germany. When Spitzner’s wife was suddenly able to travel to the West for a family birthday, he decided to make his move.
Spitzner with his wife and daughter.
Spitzner read in a Communist newspaper about how American and other troops were stripping East German stores of their stocks using favorable currency conversion rates. Under the post-World War II agreements, Western allies had free and open access to East Berlin and could come and go as they pleased. The author of the article even mentioned that Western soldiers’ cars weren’t searched. Spitzner rationalized that he and his daughter could hide in one of those cars and escape to freedom.
So the man drove 120 miles to East Berlin, just to hang out at the bus stops frequented by Western troops. All day long, he asked if anyone would be willing to smuggle him and his daughter out. Eventually, a young U.S. Army troop named Eric Yaw was walking up to his black Toyota.
He agreed to smuggle Spitzner and his daughter out of East Germany.
Eric Yaw’s Toyota Corolla.
There was just one hitch: the heat sensors at Checkpoint Charlie. As soon as the family was in Yaw’s trunk, Spitzner was certain they were doomed. If they were caught, they’d be imprisoned. If they ran, they’d be shot. But as luck would have it, that day was particularly warm, and Yaw’s black Toyota retained enough heat to hide Spitzner and his daughter from the border guards. In just a few minutes, Yaw opened the trunk and informed the two they were free.
Spitzner phoned his wife on vacation in Austria and told her the news. Yaw was disciplined by the Army for smuggling the two East Germans, but repeatedly said he would do the same thing again. Today, Yaw is out of the Army but is still a family friend. The Spitzners have returned to their hometown in what used to be East Germany.
Being a POW was not a great way to spend your enlistment in the Civil War, no matter which side you fought on. Depending on which POW camp you ended up locked into, your chances of survival were only slightly better. And if you did die, you probably died of some terrible disease.
So it makes a little sense why some Confederate troops had no problem turning around and joining the U.S. Army. They were called “Galvanized Yankees.”
By 1863, Union lines were becoming stricken by desertions. Coupled with the death rate and the number of wounded and missing men, the U.S. Army in 1863 needed a solution for this coming manpower shortage in a hurry. But with draft riots already happening and enlistments drying up, where could the Union Army find a source of able-bodied men who could fight but were just sitting around, waiting? In the POW camps. And it wasn’t just the Army fighting the Civil War who needed the help. Troops fighting Indian bands in the West needed augmentees as well.
So the Union formed the 1st Volunteer Infantry Regiment; former Confederate soldiers who had been captured, taken the oath of loyalty to the United States, and enlisted in the U.S. Army. It sure beat dying of dysentery or exposure at Camp Douglas.
Camp Douglas, Ill. where 17 percent of inmates never returned.
Starting in 1863, the former Confederates stared down the Sioux tribe in Missouri while the war back home raged on. But they weren’t the only ones who were needed. Ultimately four regiments of Confederate volunteers were formed for the Union. When the Confederates heard of this, they dubbed the POWs who took the deal “Galvanized Yankees,” covering themselves and their deeds in the blue of the Union, the way a metal object is galvanized with a coating of zinc.
For most Southern troops, the choice wasn’t all that hard – and it wasn’t just about the conditions in POW camps. Many average Southern men weren’t too keen on the strict Confederate class distinctions in the South, where poor whites were little more regarded than slaves. Add on the desire for the war to end, and the terrible conditions for Confederate troops, and the choice becomes more and more clear.
Gen. Benjamin Butler raised two regiments of Confederate POWs to invade Bermuda, but it never came to be.
The Galvanized Yankees were sent to the American Plains, the Dakotas, Minnesota, and Missouri. The winters were not kind to the Southerners, who suffered from frostbite, scurvy, and other forms of malnutrition. To make matters worse, on top of enduring temperatures as cold a minus 29 degrees, the Lakota suddenly attacked on Nov. 27, 1863. The natives killed and wounded the new Army members throughout the winter and into the Spring of 1864. They would be able to hold out until the war’s end, however.
In 1865, the men had held their soldiers’ discipline, followed orders, and remained true to their oaths. Even after constant Indian attacks, brutal winters, and poor food, the Galvanized Yankees stayed at their posts. After two years, however, they were at their wits’ end. The war was over, and so was their enlistment. They demanded to be mustered out. Two years after arriving in the Missouri region, they finally were.