F-22s left at Tyndall likely damaged by massive hurricane - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

F-22s left at Tyndall likely damaged by massive hurricane

The U.S. Air Force anticipates that a number of F-22 Raptors left behind at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, during Hurricane Michael were damaged by the storm, an official said Oct. 12, 2018.

“A number of aircraft were left behind in hangars due to maintenance or safety reasons, and all of those hangars are damaged,” Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek said in a statement. “We anticipate the aircraft parked inside may be damaged as well, but we won’t know the extent until our crews can safely enter those hangars and make an assessment.”

Neither the extent of the damage nor how many fighters were left behind was disclosed.


Officials also did not describe what maintenance was taking place that led officials to leave the jets at Tyndall instead of moving them to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, where other F-22s from the 325th Fighter Wing moved.

The damage could hamper operations for the already dwindling Raptor fleet as the Defense Department aims to restore its fighter readiness rates.

While some aircraft have come out of active status for testing purposes, the Air Force has 183 of the Lockheed Martin Corp.-made F-22s in its inventory today. More than 160 belong to active-duty units; the remainder are with Air National Guard elements. Four aircraft were lost or severely damaged between 2004 and 2012.

F-22s left at Tyndall likely damaged by massive hurricane

An Air Force F-22 Raptor assigned to the 3rd Wing flies over Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, Feb. 27, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Jamal Wilson)

The Pentagon last estimated the F-22 unit cost at 9 million in 2009, roughly 3 million in today’s money. The last F-22 was delivered in 2011. But in a classified report submitted to Congress in 2017, the Air Force estimated it would cost “6 million to 6 million per aircraft” should it ever want to restart the production line for newer, more advanced F-22s.

The DoD said that would amount to approximately ” billion to procure 194 additional F-22s.”

Roughly 120 fifth-generation stealth Raptors are combat-coded, or authorized to perform in wartime operations, at any given time. But the platform’s mission-capable rate has decreased over the years.

According to Defense News’ fiscal 2017 statistics, F-22s had a 49.01 percent mission-capable rate, meaning less than half were flyable at any given time. In 2014, more than three-quarters of F-22s were deemed mission capable.

The Pentagon wants to increase readiness rates for the F-22, F-16, F-35 and F/A-18 to 80 percent by September 2019 — a 31 percent bump for the Raptor alone.

F-22s left at Tyndall likely damaged by massive hurricane

An F/A-18 lands on the flight deck USS Theodore Roosevelt.

(U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 3rd Class Luke Williams)


In July 2018, the Government Accountability Office said the F-22 is frequently underutilized, mainly due to maintenance challenges and fewer opportunities for pilot training, as well as the fleet’s inefficient organizational structure.

In October 2018, an F-22 at Alaska’s Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson made an emergency landing on a base runway. Photos showed the jet, from the 3rd Wing, leaning on its left side, which the Air Force said was the result of a landing gear malfunction.

The latest incident comes months after an F-22, also assigned to JBER’s 3rd Wing, experienced engine failure April 6, 2018, during a routine training flight at Tyndall. Days preceding the engine failure, another F-22 experienced a belly skid at Naval Air Station Fallon, Nevada.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

If you’re a retired military pilot, the Air Force wants you back

The Air Force has laid out plans to welcome back retired pilots into active-duty staff positions.


The service, through the Voluntary Retired Return to Active Duty Program, or VRRAD, is encouraging pilots who held a job in the 11X career field to apply before Dec. 31, 2018, officials said in a release this week.

In an effort to address the increasing pilot shortage, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson last July signed off on the program, which aims to fill flight staff positions with those who have prior pilot experience and expertise, thus allowing active-duty pilots to focus on training and missions.

F-22s left at Tyndall likely damaged by massive hurricane
Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson. USAF photo by Scott M. Ash.

Returning retirees will not be eligible for aviation bonuses, the release said. They will deploy only if they volunteer.

Pilots under the age of 60 who retired within the last five years in the rank of captain, major, or lieutenant colonel can apply for VRRAD, according to the service’s criteria for the program.

While the Air Force select candidates on a first-come, first-served basis, officials said, applicants are required to be medically qualified for active duty with a flying class II physical; must have served in a rated staff position within the past 10 years; or have been qualified in an Air Force aircraft within five years of application.

F-22s left at Tyndall likely damaged by massive hurricane
Maj. Glenn Meleen, a test pilot for the 40th Flight Test Squadron out of Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, prepares to taxi prior to flight in the Textron Scorpion experimental aircraft. Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Christopher Okula

Officers who retired following, or in lieu of, a Selective Early Retirement Board, and officers who retired for a physical disability are not eligible to apply, the release said.

“We will match VRRAD participants primarily to stateside rated staffs that don’t require requalification in a weapon system, with emphasis on larger organizations like major command staffs,” said VRRAD Rated Liaison Maj. Elizabeth Jarding.

“They’ll fill critical billets that would otherwise remain vacant due to the shortage of active-duty officers available to move out of operational flying assignments,” Jarding, who works at the Air Force Personnel Center, said in the release.

The Air Force is looking to fill 25 positions for an active-duty tour of one year.

F-22s left at Tyndall likely damaged by massive hurricane
A pilot flies a U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor receiving fuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker during a mission in support of Operation Inherent Resolve Aug. 22, 2017. The F-22 is a component of the Global Strike Task Force, supporting U.S. and Coalition forces working to liberate territory and people under the control of ISIS. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Michael Battles)

“We have a number of positions around the Air Force that require the expertise of someone who has been a military pilot, and [we] would like to be able to keep our pilots who are current in the aircraft in the aircraft and try to fill some of these vital flight slots,” Wilson said in August.

Should those positions remain unfilled through 2018, the Air Force will keep the program open for additional applicants, the release said.

Former airmen can apply for the program, which began Aug. 11, through the Air Force Personnel Center via the myPers website. Those without a myPers account must establish one via http://www.afpc.af.mil/myPers/.

Articles

How Bob Hope continues to serve the troops


Bob Hope was among the brightest stars during his era. He was known for his comedic one-liners and performances over a long career in entertainment.

He passed away in 2003 at the age of 100 but left a legacy of humor and humanitarianism having traveled the world for more than half his life to deliver laughter and entertainment to American troops. His legacy of service to the troops lives on through the Bob Dolores Hope Foundation, thanks to his granddaughter Miranda Hope and Easterseals.

Join us for an informative episode of the We Are The Mighty podcast with Miranda Hope and discover why Bob Hope continues to be beloved by our troops.

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You can help support veterans with Easterseals Southern California. Shop at any Vons or Pavilions in Southern California and donate at the register!

Hosted by: Blake Stilwell: Air Force veteran and Senior Contributor

Guest: Miranda Hope

Miranda Hope serves as a Member, Director, and Vice President of the Bob and Dolores Hope Foundation, which is dedicated to serving those in need and those who serve to protect our nation. She has worked as a public school teacher, a counselor, and a performer. She holds degrees from Columbia University (MFA) and Stanford University (BA) and offers trauma-informed yoga and meditation to civilian, military, and incarcerated populations.

Selected links and show notes:

  • [01:15] Bob Hope’s history with American troops.
  • [04:45] How Miranda Hope became involved with the troops.
  • [06:50] How today’s veterans respond to Bob Hope.
  • [09:10] The mission of the Bob Dolores Hope Foundation.
  • [13:35] How the foundation benefits veterans.
  • [14:50] Who can apply to this program.
  • [15:15] Why the Bob Dolores Hope Foundation teamed up with Easterseals.
  • [17:00] Issues that plague today’s veterans.
  • [21:00] Future plans and expansion of the program.

Music license by Jingle Punks

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  • Staircase Flapper
Articles

Navy bans e-cigarettes on all ships and subs

The US Navy is banning vaping aboard ships, submarines, aircraft, boats, craft and heavy equipment.


The Navy announced April 14 that it is suspending the use, possession, storage and charging of so-called “Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems” aboard navy craft following continued reports of explosions of ENDS due to the overheating of lithium-ion batteries.

The prohibition applies to sailors, Marines, Military Sealift Command civilians and any personnel working on or visiting those units.

The Navy said it implemented this policy to protect the safety and welfare of sailors and to protect the ships, submarines, aircraft and equipment. Multiple sailors have suffered serious injuries from these devices, to include first- and second-degree burns and facial disfigurement. In these cases, injuries resulted from battery explosions during ENDS use, charging, replacement or inadvertent contact with a metal object while transporting.

F-22s left at Tyndall likely damaged by massive hurricane
(Photo via Department of Defense)

The prohibition will be effective 30 days from the release of the policy May 14, and will remain in effect until a final determination can be made following a thorough analysis.

Deployed units may request extensions on device removal until their next port visit. Supervisors should ensure that removable lithium-ion batteries are removed from the units and stored according to the ENDS manufacturer instructions, in plastic wrap, in a plastic bag or any other non-conductive storage container.

Sailors on shore will still be allowed to use ENDS on base, but must do so in designated smoking areas ashore while on military installations.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Top 4 things you need to know about intelligence gathering and use

Inscribed on the CIA’s original headquarters in Langley is a passage from the Gospel of St. John: “And ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.” This unofficial Agency motto alludes to the truth and clarity that intelligence provides to decision-makers, similar to the “knowledge is power” mantra.

But what happens when the craft of intelligence is disrupted or diluted by the politics (read: politicians, journalists, sensationalists, etc.) and policymakers it is designed to inform? What happens when it is dismissed, falls upon deaf ears, or is blatantly ignored?

Below is a quick list of the top four issues with intelligence I have encountered as an intelligence professional, along with completely hypothetical examples of how these issues materialize. Armed with this knowledge, you will have four keys to help you better understand the craft of intelligence.


Disclaimer: The concepts here are all 100-percent true — it is the specific examples and stories that have been altered for their sensitive and ongoing nature. And no, this list is not comprehensive.

1. Intelligence is an extension of politics, which suck.

As SOFREP has previously discussed, the purpose of intelligence is to inform decision-making, plain and simple. People or technology gather the information. That information is then processed and analyzed, disseminated to the consumers, and decision-making is informed. For more on how that works, see the Intelligence Cycle.

Roughly paraphrasing Clausewitz here, “War is politics by other means.” Well if war is politics and intelligence is an extension of politics, then intelligence is total political war — or something like that. Point being, the practice of managing intelligence (or information writ large) can oftentimes be a bit of a monstrosity.

I have observed that the problem with intelligence is not that you do not have it — although that oftentimes is the issue. Rather, what is critical is intelligence’s proper management: who to share it with, how to share it, when to share it, etc. These considerations are what I would consider appropriate “coordination” of the information. Not only managing it but providing the necessary context for the information (as an analyst, this is paramount) and emphasizing what must be emphasized. Some do this well, others not at all — even when they should.

The scenario

You are an intelligence professional working to counter various extremist threats to U.S. interests in Beirut, Lebanon. It’s not a nice place, so there’s plenty of nefarious activity and you’re gainfully employed. You receive information that a local Hezbollah cell has imminent plans to conduct a suicide attack at a popular south Beirut café that’s frequented by American citizens, other Westerners, and even a few foreign dignitaries. You’ve got a timeline, a method of attack, and maybe even some perpetrator names if you’re lucky. Because you’re a professional, you’ve done your homework and know that what you see is legitimate. It’s now your duty to get the machine in gear. You’ve got credible threat information that must be rapidly disseminated so the proper warnings can be issued, the appropriate authorities can be notified, and the would-be attackers thwarted.

But hold on there. One simply cannot hit “Forward All” and pass this information to 100 of your closest friends and neighborhood-friendly consumers. Forget the mass dissemination technique, however strong. How about just sending it to a handful of people? Better, but still not ideal.

Try this on for size: Send it to one or two overworked and undermanned bureaucrats who demand complete control over the information (i.e. no further sharing or exchanges until they’ve “worked the issue”). They then sit on it for an excruciating period of time, hold an extensive meeting about it with their closest friends at their (not-quite-earliest) convenience, and finally reluctantly pass it out to a limited audience with various caveats that downplay the significance of what you assessed to be time-sensitive and credible information. Never mind that you are intimately familiar with the threat and the environment and confident in your analytical abilities.

The takeaway

As stated above, there is always a time and place for appropriate coordination and processes for managing the information received. However, the caveat is that such management should not be completely sidetracked by politics. Give the information to those who need it, and inform the decision-making of those who have the power to alter the environment and ultimately save lives. It does not take a comms blackout, a strongly worded email, a committee, hours of deliberation, and lackluster dilution downplaying the credibility of the threat to share the information.

2. Information-sharing in the intelligence business is key.

Most people are familiar with the “need to know” principle, wherein if you do not have a legitimate requirement in your mission to know the information, you do not need to know it or even have access to it in the first place. But what about the need to share?

“The need to share” principle stems from the aftermath of 9/11 when the U.S. intelligence community decided it needed to do a better job of ensuring communication amongst the entities responsible for our national security. It spurred the creation of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, among others, whose sole purpose in life is to facilitate interagency analysis and operations.

The scenario

This example is less clear, but hopefully still gets the message across. You are back in Beirut. A certain Lebanese government official has decided to get in bed with an ISIL-affiliated extremist group planning to target the restaurant of a ritzy hotel frequented by French expats in Beirut, as some kind of follow-up to the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris. This government official has worked extensively to pass information regarding French activity at the restaurant to his extremist contact. He has had access to the information as a Lebanese government official and resident of northern Lebanon, an area where ISIL maintains an active presence. The attack is only in the conceptual stages at this time, but the one fact remains: the government official is in bed with the wrong crowd and must be stopped.

The ever-vigilant professional, you learn of this government official’s treachery and seek to notify those working at the U.S. embassy of his ongoing activity so that they may appropriately handle the issue through diplomatic channels. You have a legitimate need to share this information with appropriate contacts and eagerly share it with your supervisor so that it may gain higher-level visibility. After doing so, you are instructed not to share your findings with anyone else.

“Why?” you ask. Well, for one, it is being handled at higher levels, or so it is claimed. This is a downward-directed order to let the issue die. Second, further disclosure of any such information — through appropriate channels or not –regarding the government official could negatively impact U.S. relations with the Lebanese government, something the politicians are not willing nor ready to manage at this time. So you let the issue slide and do not ask questions because you trust it is being handled at the appropriate level.

You later learn that not only was the issue not handled, but that widespread orders were issued to not discuss, mention, or allude to the treachery of the Lebanese government official once it became “public” knowledge in high-level leadership circles. Lower-level U.S. and Lebanese officials continue to maintain interaction with this official, completely unaware of his treachery. Relationships continue to develop, all the while ignoring the fact of his true allegiances.

The takeaway

Given the issue was deemed too sensitive to address nation-to-nation, it has now become an unspoken afterthought, one that is known by various parties on both sides, but not to those to whom it matters most. The issue remains unaddressed and unknown second- and third-order implications develop as time passes.

If something must be said, and there are indisputable facts to support it, say it. Do not hide behind careerism, fear of reprisal, or — again — politics. The truth, however uncomfortable, is best digested as soon as the information is available to be shared (and under the right and appropriate circumstances).

3. Sometimes people go “native.”

The term going “native” is applied to a situation where individuals take on some or all of the cultural traits of those around them. The term is most often mentioned in relation to people visiting or residing in foreign countries. Think Colonel Kurtz from “Apocalypse Now” or the character Kurtz from the “Heart of Darkness,” only less insidious and without the rivers. In intelligence, someone goes native when they blatantly ignore or otherwise disregard the body of information that refutes that which they have been provided by a source. I use the term “native” very loosely here, but it best transmits the concept.

The scenario

You have a friend who is employed by the U.S. embassy in a position of some importance, a position that requires him to frequently travel to liaise with Lebanese security forces operating in the Bekaa Valley of Lebanon. Given your friend’s consistent contact with Lebanese forces in a turbulent region, you receive frequent updates from him on the situation in the Valley. These updates are fairly accurate given your friend’s access to the Lebanese forces, but clearly possess some bias given the single source of his information and its limited perspective.

One day, you learn of an incident that transpired when a female American aid worker narrowly escaped a kidnapping attempt while working at a children’s school for refugees near the Syrian border. Having seen the information the aid worker had provided to various U.S. embassy personnel, who debriefed her when she reported the kidnapping attempt, you are aware of every minute detail the professional debriefers were able to obtain from her and associated witnesses.

When inquiring as to the details of this kidnapping attempt with your friend, the information he provides greatly conflicts with that of the debrief and witness statements. Your friend dutifully informs you the information you possess is incorrect and proceeds to identify all the reasons why. Citing his sources in the Lebanese security forces, your friend directly refutes, point by point, the official and agreed-upon information provided firsthand to the embassy personnel. Try as you might, your friend completely discounts this information and places his faith in his Lebanese contacts, contacts that were not there, and did not even possess secondhand access to the information or associated incident. Your friend has gone native.

The takeaway

While your friend clearly has the access to obtain and provide relatively accurate information regarding the security situation in the Bekaa Valley, his information only comes from the one source to which he has access. Your friend runs the risk of going “native,” and becoming too reliant on that one source. While it is undoubtedly a valuable one, his reference and adherence to the single source of the Lebanese security forces is one that must be taken into account.

This holds true especially if it conflicts with information provided firsthand by members involved in the incident, and obtained by qualified professionals who have gathered such information previously in their lengthy careers. Use all sources: do not refute that which comes from a better source, even when it conflicts with your prized single source. Do not go native.

4. People flat-out ignore the truth.

The final problem I have witnessed is when credible intelligence is completely disregarded by various persons — and ones in leadership positions, especially. Never mind that the information was deemed credible by multiple entities, or that said entities had already implemented various changes in response to the information. This disregard can happen even if there have been multiple warnings, both verbally and in writing, (thus invalidating any claims of ignorance) regarding the intelligence’s importance.

While intelligence can appear alarmist at times, if not presented accurately or appropriately (and with the right amount of emphasis and context), it is designed to properly inform decision-making. Intelligence removes the veil of doubt and the unknown and provides you with the truth. So listen to it and the recommendation that comes with it.

The scenario

You are back in south Beirut. The threat you have been tracking, regarding imminent plans by a local Hezbollah cell to conduct a suicide attack at a south Beirut café, must be actioned upon. The proper notifications are made. The U.S. embassy is made cognizant of the information and it releases a security notice to all American citizens in Lebanon to avoid the target in question, and travel to various south Beirut neighborhoods is restricted. The threat information has been passed to the appropriate decision-makers and the right people are now aware that they should avoid the café. As a professional, you have done your due diligence and can hope the Lebanese authorities will move quickly to disrupt the plot. You can rest easy, having fulfilled your duty.

But then you learn that one of the decision-makers, one who was informed numerous times of this specific threat information, has allowed various personnel under his office to travel through various south Beirut neighborhoods. Not only that, but two groups of his personnel have even visited — on two separate occasions — the very same café that is being actively targeted. You want to provide the benefit of the doubt: perhaps the decision-maker was simply unaware of the ongoing attack plans or was not notified of the travel restrictions. Unfortunately for him, plausible deniability does not work in this scenario. When questioned as to why his personnel made these visits, the decision-maker claimed he was unaware that the threat notification or travel restrictions were permanent measures, and thought that they only lasted for the day they were issued.

The takeaway

When a decision-maker provides a weak and transparent excuse as to why he knowingly authorized the travel of his personnel to a specific location that is being actively targeted by terrorists (something he was aware of), he knowingly places the lives of his personnel at risk. He completely disregards all of the hard work that was performed in order to provide the intelligence to him in a timely and accurate manner to boot.

Intelligence is not contrived. It is a dynamic product and continuous effort. Listen to what intelligence is saying. Do not disregard it or claim ignorance of it after it has been provided to you. Use it as the tool it is designed to be.

Thanks for listening.

This article originally appeared on SOFREP. Follow @sofrepofficial on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is why ‘Best Soldier’ competitions actually matter for junior enlisted

Within the United States Army, each unit will routinely hold competitions to determine which soldier is the best at their given role. There’s a competition for best warrior, best Ranger, best medic, best cook, soldier of the month, NCO of the quarter — you name it. The list goes on to include nearly every MOS, ranked each month, quarter, and year.

But when it comes time for the first sergeant to get the names of those who will nobly represent the company, you’ll hear nothing but crickets from the joes that are busy waiting until close-of-business formation. It’s like pulling teeth each and every time. In fact, you’d hear less groaning and complaining if you voluntold them to go fill sandbags with spoons.

Yes, you’ll have to put in some effort, but even if you rank somewhere around 10th place, getting in on these competitions is a more rewarding experience than nearly anything else you’d otherwise be doing. Here’s why:


F-22s left at Tyndall likely damaged by massive hurricane
I mean, giving any kind of blood, sweat, and tears in the name of the unit will keep them happy.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Mason Cutrer)

One of the most important steps in getting promoted is getting your name out there in a positive light. That doesn’t mean you need to be Captain America, but any (positive) means of getting your chain of command to know your name, face, and think higher of you than the dirtbags in formation is a good thing.

Your squad leader should obviously know who you are and everything about you — they write your monthly counseling statements after all. Your platoon sergeant should know a bit about you, your first sergeant should probably know whether you’re a dirtbag or not, and your battalion sergeant major probably only knows that you exist.

Go any higher than that, and they’ve got way too many troops to keep track of.

Best Soldier competitions give you that “in” without resorting to underhanded brown-nosing.

F-22s left at Tyndall likely damaged by massive hurricane
Just try to make them proud. They’re using you to insult their fellow NCOs’ ability to lead and train soldiers.
(U.S. Army photo by Timothy L. Hale)

When you arrive at a Best Soldier competition, you’re always escorted by your immediate chain of command. If you happen to be the only joe brave enough to try, that means you’ll be walking in with just your squad leader, platoon sergeant, and first sergeant — all ready to cheer you on.

Here’s a fact for you: Once you’ve reached a certain rank on the enlisted side, you’ll have to stomach the fact that your personal glory days are behind you. Your entire career, from that point forward, depends on your men and how well you lead them. When you’re out there at a Best Soldier competition, the NCOs aren’t just cheering you on — they’re out there collecting bragging rights. “See that dude? That’s my guy!”

F-22s left at Tyndall likely damaged by massive hurricane
Oh? You thought those questions you’ve been studying for months actually mattered? Well… That’s a discussion best saved for another time…
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Raquel Villalona, 2ID/RUCD Public Affairs)

For obvious reasons, if you come out of that challenge with a shiny gold medal or trophy, you’re going to become the giant middle finger your NCOs will raise at their peers. Their pride in you will open whatever doors you wanted opened in your career. You want to go to airborne school? Win Soldier of the Year and your first sergeant will fight for you when that slot comes down from battalion. Want to get promoted? Your first sergeant probably won’t even ask you any questions at the board. They’ll nod to their fellow first sergeants and sergeant major and say, “that soldier’s good. That’s my guy.”

A glowing recommendation like that could mean no other questions will be asked and you get your (P) status with a snap of the fingers.

F-22s left at Tyndall likely damaged by massive hurricane
But, you know, there’s far more praise if you bring that award home for your platoon sergeant’s desk.
(National Guard photo by Master Sgt. John Hughel, Oregon Military Department Public Affairs)

It is a competition though, and it’s far from guaranteed that you’ll win — or even medal. While your platoon sergeant may knifehand your ass and threaten you with a 24-mile ruck march for getting “the first place loser” (better known as “second place”), that’s just incentive to push you. Try your hardest and you’ll be okay.

I really don’t want to sound like a corny, motivational 80s sports flick, but it really doesn’t matter if you win or lose. It only matters that you gave it your all. Your chain of command will respect you far more for coming in a hard-fought second place than if you shriveled out of the competition to begin with. Hell, come in last place — as long as they know you honestly give it everything you had, everything will be fine in the end.

Your chain of command now knows, without a shadow of a doubt, that you will push yourself to the limit when needed — and that’s truly the greatest thing a leader could ask of their troops.

MIGHTY TRENDING

6 soldiers rescued their fellow troops from a fiery helicopter crash

Six Soldiers belonging to C Troop, 1st Squadron, 32nd Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) received the Soldier’s Medal during a ceremony last month for a daring rescue.


On Nov. 28, Staff Sgt. Beau Corder, Staff Sgt. Richard Weaver, Staff Sgt. Engel Becker, Sgt. Damon Seals, Spc. Christopher White and Pfc. Ryan Brisson were recognized by Gen. Mark A. Milley, Army chief of staff, for their heroic actions following a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter crash, Jan. 31, on Fort Campbell.

“I’m very humbled to be a part of this,” said Milley. “I’ve been in the Army for 40 years and I’ve only seen a few Soldier’s Medals. It’s a very rare thing. What you (Soldiers) did took tremendous courage; you knew it was very likely you would be hurt yourself, but you did it anyway. You make anyone who has been associated with the 101st enormously proud.”

The aircraft, flown by four crew members from the 101st Combat Aviation Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), crashed into a forest on the installation shortly after takeoff. According to eyewitness accounts, the location of the crash, and the fact that the aircraft suffered major fuselage damage and was inverted, created a complex scene.

“The way it landed upside down in the ravine made it very difficult to access the crew. It also began to catch fire very quickly,” said 1st Sgt. Adolfo Dominguez, C Troop, 1st Squadron, 32nd Cavalry Regiment senior enlisted leader. “The whole experience opened our eyes that these emergencies can happen. But it was amazing to see the Soldiers’ mentality of ‘I will do anything I have to do’ in order to save these pilots’ lives.”

F-22s left at Tyndall likely damaged by massive hurricane
Six Soldiers from 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), received the Soldier’s Medal, Nov. 28, during a ceremony held at the 101st ABN DIV (AASLT) headquarters. The Soldiers earned the highest peacetime award for valor for their life-saving actions following a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter crash, Jan. 31. Gen. Mark A. Milley, Army chief of staff, took time from his Fort Campbell visit to honor the six heroic Soldiers who saved the lives of the helicopter crew that day. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo by Spc. Patrick Kirby, 40th Public Affairs Detachment)

A post-crash fire soon engulfed the aircraft wreckage in heavy smoke and flames. The responding Soldiers used water, fire extinguishers and soil to control the fire, allowing them to remove and treat three of the injured crewmembers. They then performed multiple immediate and inventive actions to remove the fourth trapped crew chief, ultimately freeing him from the still-burning wreckage. All of their actions were taken with full understanding of the significant risk to their own safety, and contributed directly to saving the lives of their fellow Soldiers that day.

“What this unit did, from the time the incident happened, was pure agility and pure instinct,” said Lt. Col. Adisa King, 1st Squadron, 32nd Cavalry Regiment commander. “It is what they do on a daily basis. When you know that your brother is down, nothing is going to stop you. We talk about leaving no Soldier behind, and they proved that. It didn’t matter what it took to get that crew and those pilots out, these Soldiers were going to do it.”

The Soldier’s Medal is the Army’s highest peacetime award for valor. According to Army Regulation 600-8-22, the directive that outlines military awards and decorations, the performance must have involved personal hazard or danger and the voluntary risk of life under conditions not involving conflict with an armed enemy.

Col. Derek Thomson, 1st Brigade Combat Team commander, described the rarity of the Soldier’s Medal and described the actions taken by the Soldiers that day in January.

“It is given for bravery and valor in a non-combat situation; this award was created for exactly the kind of act these Soldiers performed,” said Thomson. “Very few are awarded each year. This is a remarkable recognition. These Soldiers knew they had only seconds to react as the aircraft became engulfed in flames. The fact that these six individuals stuck with it no matter what, putting the lives of others ahead of their own, is extremely special.”

Also Read: This Midshipman was awarded a Medal for Heroism after saving a Boy Scout troop

The Soldiers recognized were happy to receive this notable commendation, but at the time of the incident it was the furthest thing from their mind.

“At first, none of us really thought about it. We were just happy that everyone survived,” said Corder. “We were just doing our job, we wanted to save them.”

Although six individual Soldiers received the medal, the entire unit responded to the crash. Some commented that they were just a member of a great team.

“I’m happy to be receiving it, but it was a combined effort of everybody,” said White. “I don’t think I’m any more special than anyone else that was out there.”

In attendance at the ceremony were friends, families and fellow Soldiers of the awardees. But one individual had an extremely close connection to the incident. Spc. Grant Long, 5th Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment, 101st Combat Aviation Brigade crew chief, was on-board the helicopter and injured in the incident. In a touching moment, Milley invited Long to help him pin the medals on the Soldiers who saved his life.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Merging Vets and Players is a group that will make you want to lift

Sportswriter Jay Glazer created MVP — or Merging Vets and Players — in 2015 to address the similar issues that many professional athletes and veterans face as they transition back into civilian life.


Like service members, athletes live a very structured lifestyle day-in and day-out — and life after rigorous training schedules, travel, and competition can be jarring, both mentally and physically.

The idea behind MVP is to connect veterans and athletes together so they can benefit from each other’s strengths and experiences.

“A lot of our military come home and they feel different, don’t have a purpose,” Glazer states. “So we’re trying to rebuild our vets from the inside out.”

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Jay Glazer at the Unbreakable Performance Center in Hollywood, CA. (Source: MVP)

Related: How to stay fit and not get fat after you get out of the military

With the help of former Green Beret and NFL Long Snapper Nate Boyer, MVP is growing on both sides of the spectrum as they gain new motivated members who want to continue to feel like they are part of a winning team.

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Former Green Beret and NFL Long Snapper Nate Boyer.

“When it’s all said and done, and the uniform comes off, you don’t have that purpose; you don’t have that team, you don’t have that mission. You just feel lost.” — Nate Boyer

If you’re a veteran or professional athlete and you’re interesting in joining this amazing team click here for more info.

Also Read: Army wants to see ‘explosive power’ in new physical fitness test

Check out FOX Sports Supports’ video below to see for yourself how sportswriter Jay Glazer and former Green Beret and NFL Long Snapper Nate Boyer set out to unite veterans and professional athletes.

FOX Sports Supports, YouTube
MIGHTY TRENDING

6 new UCMJ articles that went into effect this year

A host of changes to the Uniform Code of Military Justice became effective Jan. 1, modernizing definitions for many offenses, adjusting maximum penalties, standardizing court-martial panels, creating new computer-crime laws, and much more.

The changes strike a balance between protecting the rights of the accused and empowering commanders to effect good order and discipline, said Col. Sara Root, chief of the Army’s Military Justice Legislation Training Team.

“We’re pretty excited,” Root said. “It’s a healthy growth of our military justice system.”

Root and three members of her team spent the last year traveling to 48 installations to train 6,000 legal personnel and law-enforcement agents about the changes. Her two-day classes included everyone from judges to law clerks, and privates to generals, she said, and even 600 from other military services.


Codifying Changes

Many of the changes came about after a review by the Military Justice Review Group, consisting of military and criminal justice experts whose report made recommendations to Congress.

“We’ve had a lot of changes to our system [over the years], but piecemeal.” Root said. She explained that the Review Group convened to take a thorough and holistic look at the system to standardize military law and update the Manual for Courts Martial.

Many of the MJRG’s changes were incorporated into the Military Justice Act of 2016, the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, and then Executive Order 13825 signed by the president March 8. Additionally, Secretary of the Army Mark Esper signed a directive Dec. 20 that clarifies definitions for dozens of offenses taking effect this week.

“We’ve really needed that much time,” Root said, from 2017 to now, in order to train all members of the Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps. Those attending her classes then needed time to train commanders and others on the installations, she added.

Adultery Changed

One of the changes replaces the offense of adultery with “extra-marital sexual conduct.” The new offense broadens the definition of sexual intercourse, which now includes same-sex affairs. The amendments also now provide legal separation as a defense.

In the past, service members could be charged with adultery even if they had been legally separated for years but were not divorced. Now legal separation from a court of competent jurisdiction can be used as an affirmative defense, Root said.

Also in the past, prosecutors had to prove traditional intercourse to obtain a conviction for adultery, Root said. Now oral sex and other types of sexual intercourse are included.

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Recruits with India Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, prepare and practice for their initial drill evaluation on Peatross Parade Deck Sept. 14, 2018 on Parris Island, S.C.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Dana Beesley)

Protecting Junior Soldiers

UCMJ Article 93a provides stiffer penalties for recruiters, drill sergeants and others in “positions of special trust” convicted of abusing their authority over recruits or trainees.

The maximum sentence was increased from two years to five years of confinement for those in authority engaging in prohibited sexual activities with junior Soldiers. And it doesn’t matter if the sex is consensual or not, Root said, it’s still a crime.

Article 132 also protects victims and those reporting crimes from retaliation. An adverse personnel action — such as a bad NCO Evaluation Report, if determined to be solely for reprisal — can get the person in authority up to three years confinement without pay and a dishonorable discharge.

Computer Crimes

Article 123 provides stiff penalties for Soldiers who wrongfully access unauthorized information on government computers. Distributing classified information can earn a maximum sentence of 10 years confinement, but even wrongfully accessing it can get up to five years in jail. Unauthorized access of personally identifiable information, or PII, is also a crime. Intentionally damaging government computers or installing a virus can also bring five years in the clinker.

Article 121a updates offenses involving the fraudulent use of credit cards, debit cards or other access devices to acquire anything of value. The penalty for such crimes has been increased to a max of 15 years confinement if the theft is over id=”listicle-2632036233″,000.

If the theft is under id=”listicle-2632036233″,000 the maximum penalty was increased from five to 10 years confinement, and this crime also includes exceeding one’s authorization to use the access device, for example, misusing a Government Travel Card.

Cyberstalking is also now included as a stalking offense under Article 130 of the UCMJ.

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Support for military sexual assault victims and the number of reported offenses have increased in recent years, resulting in more investigations and courts-martial involving sexual assault charges.

(U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Samuel Morse)

Courts-Martial

A “bench trial” by a judge alone can now determine guilt or innocence for many offenses. Almost any charge can be referred to such a forum, except for rape and sexual assault, which requires referral to a general court-martial. However, if the offense has a sentence of more than two years, the accused has a right to object to such charges being referred to a bench trial and could request a special or general court-martial.

If found guilty at a bench trial, Root said a Soldier cannot be given a punitive discharge and the max sentence would be limited to no more than six months forfeiture of pay and no more than six months confinement. The judge can still adjudge a reduction in rank.

“It’s a great tool that we’re really excited to see how commanders use it out in the formations,” Root said.

More than half of the cases in the Army actually are settled by plea agreements in lieu of a contested trial, Root said. Commanders have always had the authority to limit the max sentence with a plea agreement, but she said now they can agree to a minimum sentence as well. This might result in a range for the judge to sentence within, for example, no less than one year confinement, but no more than five years confinement.

If a case goes to a non-capital general court-martial, the panel has now been standardized to eight members. In the past the size of the panel could vary from five to an unlimited number, but often around 10-12 members. Now each general court-martial must begin with eight panel members, she said, but could continue if one panel member must leave due to an emergency during trial.

Special courts-martial will now be set at four panel members. A court-martial convening authority can also authorize alternate members to be on a special or a general court-martial, she said.

Capital offenses such as murder require a 12-member panel.

For a non-capital court-martial, three-fourths of the panel members must agree with the prosecution to convict the accused, she said. For instance, if only five members of an eight-member panel vote guilty, then the accused is acquitted. A conviction for a capital offense still requires a unanimous verdict.

Expanded Authority

Congress expanded judges’ authorities to issue investigative subpoenas earlier in the process, for example, to obtain a surveillance video from a store. One of the most significant changes is that now military judges can issue warrants and orders to service providers to obtain electronic communications such as email correspondence.

In the past, trial counsel had to wait until preferring charges to issue investigative subpoenas. Now, with the approval of the general court-martial convening authority, trial counsel can issue subpoenas earlier to help determine whether charges are necessary. For electronic communications, the government previously had to rely on federal counterparts to assist with obtaining electronic communications.

“Being able to have these tools available earlier in the process is going to be helpful for overall justice,” Root said.

The changes also call for more robust Article 32 hearings to help the commander determine if an accused should go to trial, she said. For instance, a preliminary hearing officer must now issue a more detailed report immediately after an Article 32 hearing’s conclusion. In addition, both the accused and the victim now have the right to submit anything they deem relevant to the preliminary hearing officer within 24 hours after the hearing specifically for the court-martial convening authority to consider.

Aimed at speeding up the post-trial process, immediately following a court-martial, audio can now be provided to the accused, the victim, and the convening authority in lieu of a verbatim transcript which will be typed and provided later, but prior to appeal.

A number of other procedural changes are aimed at making the military justice system even more efficient, Root said.

More changes

More changes to punitive offenses also take effect this week. For instance, the definition of burglary has changed to include breaking and entering any building or structure of another, anytime, with the intent to commit any offense under the UCMJ. In the past, burglary was limited to breaking and entering the dwelling house of another in the nighttime.

The penalty for wearing unauthorized medals of valor has increased from 6 months to a max of one-year confinement along with forfeiture of pay and a bad-conduct discharge. This includes wearing an unauthorized Medal of Honor, Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star, Purple Heart, or valor device. The maximum penalty for wearing any other unauthorized medal is still only six months.

Regarding misconduct that occurred prior to Jan. 1, the changes to the punitive articles are not retroactive, Root said. However, some of the procedural changes will apply to cases that were not referred to trial before Jan. 1.

All members of the JAG Corps are trained in the changes and ready to go, Root said.

“We’re pretty proud that our commanders are really at the center of this,” she said, “and it just gives them some more tools for good order and discipline.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

With the wind: Former Nike athlete joins the military and shares his journey

In the July 2019 issue of Military Spouse Magazine, Sam Chelanga and his family were featured regarding their drastic life move into the military. Sam retired from his career as a Nike sponsored professional runner to join the Army during the summer of 2018. Many could not believe such a successful athlete would leave his lucrative spotlight to become a soldier. That spotlight seems to keep following him regardless.

Sam Chelanga is now an author! His book With the Wind is already hitting the top sellers lists. It is no surprise that the famous athlete, Sam Chelanga, would have some profound things to say about running, or that the man who came to America against all odds from his humble beginnings in rural Kenya would have some intriguing stories to tell. What many may find surprising though, is the amount of profound insights on life that Sam saturates the pages with. It truly is a must read.


“What makes me any different than the man to my right or left? All of my accolades, my earnings, medals, honors, and fame were thrown out the window at that very moment. We got straight to the root of man on the asphalt that day. As the summer sun beat down on our heads and the sweat poured down our face in Fort Jackson, South Carolina, I could see I was with the wind.”
– an excerpt from Sam Chelanga’s new book, With the Wind
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(Military Spouse)

In Sam’s book, With the Wind, Sam encourages and moves the reader to discover that in essence we are all “with the wind.” He expresses a take on life that involves letting go. He leads the reader to understand that happiness and joy are most successfully found when we do not try so hard to search it out. Instead, if we are able to treasure the here and now, we will find that the source to the happiness we were seeking was there all along. Sam Chelanga’s book is highly recommended by many. Each chapter digs into the spirit of the readers and leads them on a journey of their own.

It is no secret that 1LT Chelanga has a great love for the USA. His book not only expresses his gratitude and pride for America, but also shines a very important light on the military and life itself. Sam stresses in his book that people are all the same at their core, and he closes the last chapter by stressing that it was when he joined the Army that he felt he was most “with the wind.”

With the Wind is available on Amazon now and will be released in stores on July 28, 2020. Buy Now.

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This Hue Marine will receive the Medal of Honor after 50 years

Fifty years after the Battle of Hue City, retired Marine John L. Canley has moved a step closer to receiving the Medal of Honor for his “above and beyond” actions in the house-to-house fighting.


On Jan. 29, President Donald Trump signed a bill passed by Congress to waive the five-year limit on recommendations for the nation’s highest award for valor and authorized the upgrade of Canley’s Navy Cross to the Medal of Honor.

The bill (H.R.4641), sponsored by Rep. Julia Brownley, D-California, “authorizes the President to award the Medal of Honor to Gunnery Sergeant John L. Canley for acts of valor during the Vietnam War while serving in the Marine Corps.”

No date has been set for the formal award, but Canley has the backing of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.

In a letter to Brownley last month, Mattis said, “After giving careful consideration to the nomination, I agree that then-Gunnery Sergeant Canley’s actions merit the award of the Medal of Honor.”

The 80-year-old Canley, of Oxnard, California, who retired as a sergeant major after 28 years of service, was Brownley’s guest of honor Jan. 31 at Trump’s State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress.

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John Canley, nominated for the Medal of Honor for actions in Hue, Vietnam. (Image Congresswoman Julia Brownley)

Canley “is a true American hero and a shining example of the kind of gallantry and humility that makes our armed forces the best military in the world,” Brownley said in a statement Jan. 30.

“It is my great honor that he will be attending the State of the Union with me tomorrow — 50 years to the day of the start of the Tet Offensive, where his bravery and courage saved many lives,” she said.

In a statement to Brownley after Trump signed the bill, Canley said, “This honor is for all of the Marines with whom I served. They are an inspiration to me to this day.”

He earlier told Military.com that in the grueling 1968 fight to retake Hue from the North Vietnamese Army and the Viet-Cong: “The only thing I was doing was taking care of troops, best I could. Do that, and everything else takes care of itself.”

Canley also thanked Brownley and a member of her staff, Laura Sether, “for their effort and work to make this happen.”

They worked closely with the survivors from Alpha Co., 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, who fought with Canley at Hue and mounted a 13-year effort to get past the red tape to upgrade his Navy Cross to the Medal of Honor.

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The distinguished Medal of Honor — Navy version. (Image from U.S. Navy)

John Ligato, a private first class in Alpha 1/1 and a retired FBI agent who was part of the effort to upgrade the medal, said of Canley: “This man is the epitome of a Marine warrior.”

At Hue, Canley took command of Alpha 1/1 when Capt. Gordon Batcheller, the company commander, was wounded and evacuated.

He fought alongside Sgt. Alfredo Cantu “Freddy” Gonzalez, who had taken command of Third Platoon, Alpha 1/1, and was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

Canley’s Navy Cross cites his actions from Jan. 31 to Feb. 6, 1968, when he had command of Alpha 1/1 before being relieved by then-Lt. Ray Smith, a Marine legend who earned the Navy Cross, two Silver Stars, a Bronze Star and three Purple Hearts during his tours in Vietnam and retired as a major general.

“On 31 January, when his company came under a heavy volume of enemy fire near the city of Hue, Gunnery Sergeant Canley rushed across the fire-swept terrain and carried several wounded Marines to safety,” the citation states.

Read More: Mattis recommends Marine Gunny for Medal of Honor for Battle of Hue

Canley then “assumed command and immediately reorganized his scattered Marines, moving from one group to another to advise and encourage his men. Although sustaining shrapnel wounds during this period, he nonetheless established a base of fire which subsequently allowed the company to break through the enemy strongpoint,” it continues.

On Feb. 4, “despite fierce enemy resistance,” Canley managed to get into the top floor of a building held by the enemy. He then “dropped a large satchel charge into the position, personally accounting for numerous enemy killed, and forcing the others to vacate the building,” the citation says.

The battle raged on. Canley went into action again on Feb. 6 as the company took more casualties in an assault on another enemy-held building.

“Gunnery Sergeant Canley lent words of encouragement to his men and exhorted them to greater efforts as they drove the enemy from its fortified emplacement,” the citation states.

In speaking of Canley, Ligato, retired Maj. Gen. Smith, former Lance Cpl. Eddie Neas and others who served with him, both in battle and stateside, told of his indefinable command presence that made them want to follow and emulate his example.

“The most impressive combat Marine I ever knew,” Smith told Military.com.

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John Canley, nominated for the Medal of Honor for actions in Hue, Vietnam. (Image from Congresswoman Julia Brownley)

Smith recalled that at his own retirement ceremony at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, he said, “All through my career, whenever I had to make a decision that would affect Marines, I’d always think — ‘What would Canley tell me to do?’ ”

Canley’s command presence was such that others who served with him to this day recall him in awe as a 6-foot-4 or 6-foot-5 tower of strength who would calmly pick up wounded Marines, put them on his shoulder, and run through fire to safety.

“They worshipped the ground the guy walked on,” Smith said of Canley, but “he was actually about six feet” tall.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is all the aircraft China will bring to its wargame with Russia

China is sending some of its most advanced fighter jets and bombers to Russia in late July 2018 for a major international military exercise.

“The International Army Games 2018, initiated by the Russian Ministry of Defense, will start on July 28, 2018,” China’s Ministry of Defense said in a press statement last week. “It is co-organized by China, Russia, Belarus, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Armenia, and Iran.”


“Participation in the International Army Games is an effective way to improve fighting capabilities under real combat conditions,” the press statement added.

Yue Gang, a retired PLA colonel, told the South China Morning Post that the exercises will help the PLA learn more about the strengths and weaknesses of its aircraft and also learn from Russia about hardware and pilot training.

China and Russia’s militaries have grown increasingly close lately, with Chinese Defense Minister Gen. Wei Fenghe and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov saying in early April 2018 that the two nations had forged a “strategic partnership” against a “unipolar” world dominated by the US.

Here’s what China is bringing:

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(China media)

1. H-6K bombers

The H6-K is China’s main strategic bomber, able to carry a variety of land attack and anti-ship cruise missiles and precision-guided munitions, according to The National Interest.

“It will be the first time that H-6K bombers … have gone abroad to take part in military competitions,” China Ministry of Defense said.

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2. J-10A fighter jets

Read more about the J-10 here.

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3. JH-7A fighter-bombers

Read more about the JH-7A, which is armed with a single 23mm twin-barrel GSh-23L auto cannon and a variety of air-to-air and anti-ship missiles, here.

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F-22s left at Tyndall likely damaged by massive hurricane

5. Y-9 transport aircraft

This will also be the first time China is sending Y-9 transports to participate in military exercises abroad.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The slave who stole a confederate ship and sailed his way to freedom

On May 12, 1862, a gentleman named Robert Smalls was aboard a Confederate transport ship pretending to be doing his normal duties. In reality, he was preparing to take a risk that could cost him his life.


Smalls was a pilot for the Confederate Navy’s military transport, CSS Planter, and picked up four captured Union guns, over 200 rounds of ammunition, and other supplies. The Planter was a lightly armed ship that skirted up and down the coast and down rivers and allowed the Confederate military to move troops, supplies, and ammunition while staying away from the Union blockade that was set up a few miles out to sea. It also laid mines to keep the Union fleet away from the harbor.

When the ship got back to its dock, the three officers on board left Smalls in charge and went to their homes to sleep. They had no reason to think that Smalls or the crew would do anything crazy.

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Around 3 a.m. that night, Robert and the crew cast off. Instead of heading for their intended destination, they had to backtrack into the harbor. They made one stop where they onboarded several women and children and started off again. The Planter wasn’t exactly quiet. Literally anyone standing watch would hear and see her coasting along the harbor. Robert knew this from his years of experience piloting the boat.

He put on his captain’s spare uniform and a straw hat that was made to look like his captain’s. Along the way, the Planter passed by several Confederate lookout posts. As they approached each one, Robert would give the passcode and salute in the same mannerism as his captain. By 4:30 a.m., the ship was passing Fort Sumter. The old Union Fort was the site of the beginning of the war and full of Confederate soldiers guarding the harbor against the United States Navy.

As they passed the imposing walls of the Fort, Smalls being as cool as a cucumber, took off his hat and waved it. At the same time, he sounded the ships whistle with the correct number of blows.

A Confederate sentry yelled, “Blow the damned Yankees to hell, or bring one of them in.” Robert simply replied, “Aye Aye” and continued on.

As if the night wasn’t already stressful enough, Robert now headed straight to a Union blockade in a ship flying both the Confederate Stars and Bars as well as the South Carolina State Flag.

He ordered the flags lowered and a white flag raised. But there were two problems. It was still too dark to clearly see, and the morning fog came in pretty thick. It would be a tragedy to come all this way just to be blown out of the water. The Planter headed toward the USS Onward, which by now had taken sight of the ship and prepared its guns to sink it, at first assuming it was trying to attack the blockade.

As the Union shouted warnings at the Planter, they noticed the white flag and its occupants celebrating on the deck while gesturing furiously and cursing at Ft. Sumter.

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As the Planter pulled alongside the Onward, the Union captain started looking for the presumed Confederate captain. A man in a Confederate captain uniform came forward, took off his hat, and proclaimed, “Good morning, sir! I’ve brought you some of the old United States guns, sir! That were for Fort Sumter, sir!” Shock registered across the Union sailors’ faces as they finally cast eyes on the Planters “captain.”

Robert Smalls was a slave.

His entire crew was also slaves, and their families were aboard too. A bunch of slaves had just escaped from bondage by stealing a Confederate Naval vessel, and sailing right passed the Rebel’s own eyes!

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The Union realized that not only did they get a ship and its cargo, but a trove of valuable intelligence. On board was a book with all the Confederate passcodes as well as a map detailing the layout of mines in Charleston harbor, and Smalls own detailed knowledge of which forts were manned, gunned and their supplies.

As news spread Northward, the press took the story and ran with it. Smalls was an instant celebrity in the North. In the South, there was considerable embarrassment that a slave would be able to steal a naval vessel. Slaves had previously escaped by using hand made canoes and rafts as a means to get to the Union blockade. But to have slaves steal a ship of the Confederate Navy was too much. The three officers who left the ship were court-martialed. They claimed they wanted to spend time with their families, although many suspected they never fathomed that slaves would be smart enough to steal the ship.

They obviously didn’t know their pilot very well.

Robert Smalls was born in Beaufort, South Carolina to a slave mother and her owner. When he was 12, he was loaned out to work in the shipyards of Charleston. The practice was that slaves would work in urban areas in skilled positions, and the master would collect the wages for himself. Slaves in this position would be able to move around the city from their lodging to their place of work. Some even were able to save money on their own. Smalls worked his way up from a longshoreman to being a pilot of boats that traveled up and down the coast. From age 12 to 23, Smalls mastered the art of piloting ships and absorbed everything around him; the harbor, fortifications, passcodes, whistle codes, and when the war started, all the military intelligence he would learn.

When he was 17, Smalls married a slave that worked in a local hotel. By the time of his escape at 23, he had a family that he was worried about. He was conscripted into the Confederate Navy, but he knew with the war going the way it was at the time there was a chance the Rebels could win. He also was under constant duress that his wife and kids would be sold at a whim, never to be seen again. He knew at some point he had to do something, and on the morning of May 13, he sailed his way into history.

You would think at this point, with his family and his freedom that Smalls would be content to just relax and enjoy his celebrity status.

Robert Smalls had only just begun to fight.

Smalls traveled to D.C. as part of an effort to convince Secretary of War, Edwin Stanton, and through him, President Abraham Lincoln, of the need to allow blacks to serve in the United States military. Smalls own daring escape was one of the examples used, and soon after, Lincoln allowed units to be formed consisting of escaped slaves and freedmen.

Smalls then became a civilian contractor in the Navy. The captured Planter was valuable because of its shallow draft and his combination of pilot skills and knowledge of mine placements made Smalls a valuable commodity. He later was transferred to the Army when ships like the Planter were deemed more suitable for Army operations. He ended up seeing action in 17 Civil War engagements.

In one engagement, the Planter came under heavy Confederate fire. The Captain of the ship ran from the pilothouse down to the coal room expecting the ship to be captured. Smalls, knowing that black crew members would be killed if captured, decided that surrender wasn’t exactly in his best interest. He took control of the ship and piloted the Planter through a heavy barrage and into safety. For this action, General Quincy Adams Gilmore gave him the rank of captain, making him the first African American to command a U.S. ship. (After the war, the military contested the rank saying it wasn’t a true military rank. Smalls fought them on this, and eventually earned the pension of a Navy captain).

In 1864, Smalls was then picked to be one of the freedmen delegates to the Republican National Convention. It was to be held in Philadelphia that year. While in Philadelphia, an incident happened that would motivate Robert Smalls for the rest of his life. While on a trolley car, he was ordered to give up his seat to a white man and move. He instead got off and protested his treatment as a war hero. The city was embarrassed, and local politicians began a concentrated effort to desegregate public transportation in Philadelphia. They succeeded in 1867.

After the war, Smalls returned to Beaufort. He purchased the home of his old master, which was seized during the war. He allowed his old masters family to live on the premises while he started out on his new life. One of the first things he did was learn to read and write. Intelligence had already been seen in Smalls, but he knew he could do more.

And he did.

He opened a store, started a railway, and began a newspaper. He also invested heavily in economic development projects in Charleston. Smalls spoke with a Gullah accent, and this made his extremely popular with local African Americans as he was one of them but had become very successful. Smalls took the opportunity to get involved in politics.

Smalls was a die-hard Republican once saying it was…”the party of Lincoln…which unshackled the necks of four million human beings” and “I ask that every colored man in the North who has a vote to cast would cast that vote for the regular Republican Party and thus bury the Democratic Party so deep that there will not be seen even a bubble coming from the spot where the burial took place.”

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Smalls knew that post-war, newly freed slaves would bear the wrath of Southern Democrats and got heavily involved in politics. He first served in the South Carolina State Legislature from 1868 to 1874.

In 1874, he took his talents to Washington D.C. as a newly elected member of the House of Representatives. He served until 1887. Along the way, his career was hampered by Southern Democrats’ furious efforts to gerrymander districts, stop African Americans from voting, remove Federal troops from the South, and personal assaults. His career effectively came to an end when he was accused by Democrats of taking a bribe (a charge he was later pardoned for).

After his national career was over, Smalls remained active as a community leader. He most famously stopped two African American men from being lynched. He died in 1915 at the age of 75.

On his tombstone was a quote from his political career.

“My race needs no special defense, for the past history of them in this country proves them to be the equal of any people anywhere. All they need is an equal chance in the battle of life.”

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