What’s not to love about being a fighter pilot? Even the troops who continually bash the Air Force get a little giddy when they hear the BRRRRT of an A-10 in combat. And when you actually meet a fighter pilot, you’ll rarely see them without a huge smile on their face because they know they own the sky.
Sounds pretty sweet, right? Well, we’re sorry to say, but you very likely don’t make the cut. In order to even be considered for the lengthy training process that fighter pilots go through, you have to be in the top percentile of healthy, capable bodies.
If you’re still curious how you’d stack up, check out the requirements below.
If you pass these, then you can start your journey at OCS… Then resume your pilot training requirements.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Christopher Stoltz)
First and foremost, you begin your journey at the Military Entrance Processing Station, or MEPS. They’ll check you for the disqualifying factors that apply to all service members and the additional qualifiers that dictate pilot selection.
Most people are well aware of the strict vision requirements of pilots, but it’s much more intensive than a regular check-up at the optometrist. You cannot be color blind, which immediately disqualifies about 8.5 percent of the population, and you must have 20/20 vision uncorrected.
Now, clean off your glasses before you read this shocker: perfect vision is actually very uncommon. According to studies from The University of Iowa, a low 30 percent of the population enjoys 20/20 vision, uncorrected. It’s also worth pointing out that, at this stage in the selection process, they disqualify those who have a history of hay fever, asthma, or allergies after the age of 12. You must also have a standing height of between 5’4″ and 6’5″ and a sitting height of 34 to 40 inches.
You also need to be able to swim one mile in a flight suit. Good luck.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Nicholas Benroth)
Additionally, you must already be on your way to becoming an officer in the branch that you wish to fly with. Once you’ve completed your branch’s officer training, you can finally submit your flight packet.
Then, there’s the physical fitness exam. Everyone in the Air Force must undergo the USAF Physical Fitness Test, but fighter aircrews have a different, more difficult one, called the Fighter Aircrew Conditioning Test. This test gauges whether a candidates body will be able to withstand the insane amount of G-forces a fighter pilot endures.
Navy and Marine pilots must also undergo the Aviation Selection Test Battery and score among the highest. The test is extremely grueling and if you fail once, your chances of becoming a pilot drop significantly. Fail three times in your lifetime and you’re never to be considered again.
If you’re smart enough, strong enough, and have good enough eyes, then you just might be selected to be begin the training to become a fighter pilot. That’s right; your journey is just beginning.
To learn about these schools, the physical requirements, and more, check out this video from The Infographic Show.
The holiday season can bring out the best…and worst in people. Unfortunately, Jeffrey Gunn, Army and Air Force Exchange Service Loss Prevention Manager for the Kaiserslautern Military Community sees the bad decisions made by some people up close.
More than 20 screens fill a small room where Gunn and his loss prevention employees watch for shoplifters in the AAFES stores across the KMC.
“Just like off-base retailers, we definitely see an increase in shoplifting during the holiday season,” Gunn said. “Our stats bear that out. Besides actually detaining shoplifters, we find more empty packages on the sales floor this time of year.”
Shoplifters made off with ,200 worth of stolen merchandise all of last year, which Gunn attributes to his staff and other loss prevention methods. They detained 59 people for the crimes.
A loss prevention employee at the Army Air Force Exchange Service in the Kaiserslautern, Germany Military Community zooms in for a closer look as he watches for shoplifters during the holiday season.
(Photo by Keith Pannell)
Gunn said people shoplift for various reasons such as lack of funds, on a dare, to impress someone or just for the thrill of it.
“Whatever their reason, it’s a bad choice,” he said. “At the AAFES facilities here in the KMC, most of our shoplifting incidents are family members across the age range.”
Law enforcement turns military members caught shoplifting over to the unit.
“When a person is detained for shoplifting, law enforcement is called. They’re handcuffed and taken to the law enforcement center. A report is filed and they will have a criminal record that usually lasts five years or longer,” according to Rickey Anderson, United States Army Garrison Rheinland-Pfalz Civilian Misconduct Officer.
If an Army civilian or family member, no matter what age, is caught shoplifting, their case will go to Anderson.
“I work closely with AAFES, especially this time of year,” Anderson said. “I get the report from law enforcement and then I’m on the phone with loss prevention to fill in details.”
Gunn and his staff use a combination of decades of experience in loss prevention, cameras with powerful zoom lenses and walking the sales floor to catch shoplifters.
“Whether it’s a parent or a first sergeant or commander of a military member caught shoplifting, they all want to see the recording,” Gunn said. “We have no problem showing them.”
Military members and civilians who shoplift from the Army Air Force Exchange Service are detained by AAFES loss prevention personnel and then handed over to the military police.
(Photo by Mary Davis)
Regardless of the price tag on the stolen item, one thing the sponsor of a shoplifter, or the shoplifter themselves if they’re military, will be hit with is an automatic 0 Civil Recovery fee.
The Civil Recovery Act was included in the National Defense Authorization Act in 2002. It allows AAFES to recover the “costs related to shoplifting, theft detection and theft prevention.”
“If we’re unable to recover the shoplifted item or items and resell them as new, the cost of the items will be added to the Civil Recovery fee,” Gunn said.
Regardless of why people shoplift, it’s an issue Anderson takes seriously.
Under the USAG RP Civilian Misconduct Action Authority Program, and in accordance with Army in Europe Regulation 27-9, those caught shoplifting at AAFES facilities will have their AAFES privileges temporarily suspended for a period of one year (this happens at the time of the offense) or until adjudicated by the CMAA.
“We’re not talking just about the PX,” Anderson said. “We’re talking about every facility with the AAFES name on it including the food court, the movie theater, the shoppettes, everything at every AAFES facility in the world.”
He added the shoplifter will have to get a new temporary ID card with the Exchange privileges removed and will most likely have to do community service.
To help curtail much of the stealing-on-a-dare shoplifting from school-aged children, Anderson and law enforcement personnel go to KMC area schools to talk about the perils of shoplifting.
“Because AAFES money funds many MWR services, people who shoplift are literally taking money away from service members and military families,” Anderson said with finality.
This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.
Either way, the impact on your bank account will be felt for sure. The bottom line is, we all need to start preparing for military to civilian transition no matter where we are on our military journey. If we don’t, we could be in for one heck of a case of sticker shock. Here are a few things you should start thinking about sooner rather than later.
1. Military salary vs civilian salary
If you break out your spouse’s Leave and Earnings Statement (LES), you’ll notice several different types of pay and allowances. Their “main” pay is their “base” pay, but stacked on to that are other entitlements, such as basic allowance for housing (BAH) and basic allowance for subsistence (BAS), as well as other special pay and allowances. All of these different types of pay ultimately make up your service member’s salary.
In order to keep the same exact lifestyle you’re accustomed to now, start taking a look at the job market and looking at the salary ranges for civilian positions with your service member’s skill set. Sometimes it can be a significant bump in salary to find a civilian job doing pretty much what they’re doing now. Other times, you may find that civilian salaries hover around your service member’s base pay…without the bells and whistles of other allowances. You’ll want to take this into account well before transition is on your radar.
2. No More BAH
As military families, we’re not often afforded the opportunity to decide where we live, but as civilians we can move wherever we choose. As previously mentioned, BAH is an entitlement that’s tacked on in addition to our service member’s base pay. Once our service members exit the military, that money will cease to exist (unless we take that income loss into account when negotiating future salaries with civilian employers). Even if your family is retiring from military service, the lack of BAH might be a hard pill to swallow the first few months, so it’s best to start saving up for a transition buffer now. You’ll ideally want to add a 6-12 month buffer of savings to your exit strategy, which could take a while to accrue.
Right now, our tax liability as military families is truly not a lot. But once we enter the civilian world, that tax bill will come to roost, so be prepared. You may not be subject to state taxes now, but if you decide to stay in the state you’re currently stationed in, you’ll need to crunch some numbers to see just how high your tax bill will rise. When leaving the military, you may want to consider moving to a state that doesn’t have income taxes. If your service member plans to retire, be sure to look at whether or not your state will tax their retirement pay. Wherever you plan to live after the military, you’ll want to decide where you’ll get the most bang for your buck.
4. Medical costs
Medical costs are yet another expense you’ll have on the “outside.” Say what you will about TRICARE; the fact is that we’ll all be paying more for our healthcare once our service member takes off their uniform. If your spouse isn’t retiring from the military, your family will need to secure healthcare through other means, whether that’s a civilian employer or the healthcare exchange. If your service member ever served in combat, they have the option to receive VA healthcare for up to five yearsafter leaving the military, even if they don’t have a service-connected disability. But the VA only covers the family so you will need to talk with your spouse about finding a civilian insurance plan.
For those service members retiring from military service, you’ll still have access to TRICARE…but you’ll still have expenses. In addition to premiums, you’ll now have the added expense of co-pays. Thanks to the recent TRICARE reform, retirees using TRICARE now have higher co-pays. While $30 per specialty visit doesn’t seem like a whole lot, imagine having physical therapy twice a week, to the tune of $240 a month.
Whether your service member ends up getting out after four years or retires after serving twenty, you need to start preparing financially NOW. Even if they just re-enlisted for another tour, plan as if you’re leaving the military next year. Pay down your debt, start a transition savings account, and start researching where your family will set down their roots once military life is over.
I’m not telling you all of this to scare you. I’m telling you all of this because transition is NO JOKE and we all need to be prepared. These are the realities and how your family prepares for these realities will ultimately determine how positive or negative the impact of your transition to civilian life will be.
This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.
Burke Waldron is U.S. Navy veteran who participated in the invasions of Makin and Saipan in the Pacific during World War II. He left the Navy in 1946 at the rank of Petty Officer 2nd Class.
On Memorial Day 2016, the Seattle Mariners asked Waldron to throw out the first pitch in their game against the Padres. With veteran pride, Waldron took the mound in his dress uniform and hurled a left-handed heater to Mariners’ catcher Steve Clevenger.
See Waldron’s awesome game-opening throw in the video below:
The military of today looks very different from the military of parents or grandparents. Many of us veterans will go into high-tech training on things like satellites, avionics, or even automated weapons. Military careers with a technical background are a great starting point for a post-military career.
“Veterans and transitioning service members are an amazing talent pool,” says General (Ret.) Chris Cortez, Vice President of Military Affairs at Microsoft. “You have a group of amazing young men and women who have served their country, put their organization above themselves, and come with unique skills and sense of discipline.”
“From a great career in the military, we want them to have the opportunity to go into another great career in the technology industry,” Cortez says.
But what if you didn’t happen to work in a technical field?
Much of the warfighting capability of U.S. armed forces still depend on door-kickers and trigger-pullers. A noble job, but it doesn’t always have a civilian equivalent. And then there are the military careers we take for granted: the plumbers, boatswain’s mates, and undesignated airmen (and others) that may not want to continue those careers after serving.
We live in the information age, in a digital word, where tech jobs are the holy grail of well-paying careers. Sometimes it seems like getting to work in tech after the military means coding your own app and moving to Silicon Valley.
Or maybe check out what Microsoft is doing for the military-veteran community.
Edgar Sanchez joined the Army at 32 and while he was at the base education office, he learned about Microsoft Software Systems Academy, or MSSA. The program is an intense 18-week training course that gives aspiring vets a background in Information Technology systems.
In a world full of shady dealers who will tell you anything to get a piece of your GI Bill benefits, isn’t the idea of Microsoft directly teaching you things like cloud application development, server cloud administration, cybersecurity administration, and database business intelligence administration a bit comforting?
Best of all, finishing the course gets you a job interview at Microsoft. But don’t worry if you don’t get that job. More than 240 companies have hired MSSA graduates. The program has a 94 percent employment rate.
“Why not bring the technology industry’s skills gap and thousands of transitioning service members together?” Cortez asks. “Why not fill this need in technology by training people that are interested, that are leaving active duty, and preparing them for those jobs?”
A thought that would be comforting when it’s time to think about leaving the military.
The U.S. Navy issued a warning to China’s Navy over Instagram this week, telling China that it doesn’t want to “play laser tag” with the U.S. Navy with their destroyer-based laser weapons.
Last month, a Chinese People’s Liberation Army-Navy destroyer pointed a military grade laser weapon at a U.S. Navy P-8A Poseidon, which is an aircraft designed specifically for various types of sea-based warfare, including anti-submarine operations. According to Defense Department reports, the P-8A was flying approximately 380 miles west of Guam when it encountered a Chinese destroyer believed to have been the Hohhot, among the latest and most advanced destroyers in China’s fleet.
The destroyer reportedly shined a laser weapon at the P-8A, though the laser caused no injuries or immediately recognizable damage. The aircraft is being inspected further for issues. Despite the low level of threat the laser posed, the U.S. Navy has been taking this attack quite seriously, recognizing it as a test, both of their weapon’s efficacy and of the American response.
While the Navy’s warning on Instagram seems almost playful, the U.S. Navy isn’t messing around when it comes to freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, nor are they kidding about their laser weapons. The U.S. currently has a number of laser weapons under development, and just recently deployed one aboard the USS Dewey aimed at “dazzling” or blinding and confusing drones.
This isn’t the first time the U.S. has had reports of being engaged with Chinese lasers, nor is it the first time these two naval powers have found themselves in a staring contest over China’s claims of sovereignty throughout the region. The United States and the international community recognize China’s claimed ownership of the South China Sea as illegal, but China’s Navy has been rapidly expanding to enforce their claims in recent years.
China’s claims over the South China Sea are shown in red.
With neither China nor the U.S. backing down in the Pacific, and laser weapons becoming more commonplace by the day, it seems entirely likely that this won’t be the last round of laser tag between our two navies.
Eugene Taylor remembers how eager enlisted airmen like him were to fly.
Taylor, who enlisted in 1968 and deployed to Vietnam, first worked as an avionics technician. Nearly a decade later, Taylor, a tech sergeant, became a T-37 and T-38 flight simulator instructor with the 71st Flying Training Wing at Vance Air Force Base, Oklahoma. He became so adept that he was occasionally given the chance to fly the T-38, with permission from the pilot, during stateside flights.
It has been decades since enlisted airmen had the chance to sit in the cockpit. But as the Air Force faces the greatest pilot shortages since its inception, service leaders are contemplating a return to a model that includes enlisted pilots. A Rand Corp. study, set to be completed this month, is exploring the feasibility of bringing back a warrant officer corps for that purpose. And another, separate Air Force study is examining, in part, whether enlisted pilots could benefit from new high-tech training that leverages artificial intelligence and simulation.
With these moves, the Air Force is inching just a few steps closer to someday getting enlisted airmen back in the cockpit, on a formal basis, for the first time since World War II.
“We have enlisted airmen in our Guard and reserve component who have private pilot’s licenses and fly for the airlines. So it’s not a matter of can they do it, or hav[ing] the smarts or the capability, it’s just a matter of us, as an Air Force, deciding that that’s a route that we want to take,” said Chief Master Sgt. Kaleth O. Wright, the 18th Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force.
Military.com sat down with the service’s top enlisted leader in February 2018, to talk about enlisted aviators and reinstituting the warrant officer program.
“It’s something we walked away from years ago, and I won’t say that we haven’t been willing to relook at [it],” Wright said, of having enlisted pilots. “It’s nothing that we can’t overcome.”
Creating a Cadre
Wright noted there may be a few bumps in the road before an enlisted cadre could be instituted.
The main challenge would be to structure an appropriate career development path for the airmen, answering questions regarding when and how they would promote and when they would rotate to a new squadron. Wright said thus far officers “naturally float” to a flight commander or squadron commander from base to base, according to a system that has been in place for decades, but questioned whether the same system would work for enlisted pilots.
Additionally, the service would have to study whether enlisted airmen should be granted the right to employ weapons from an aircraft.
“Whether it’s manned or unmanned, if there’s an enlisted airman that’s going to be flying and employing weapons, it requires certain authorities we would have to get by,” Wright said.
For example, enlisted airmen are currently only authorized to be remotely piloted aircraft pilots on the RQ-4 Global Hawk drone, a surveillance-only platform.
Photo courtesy of Eugene Taylor
“That’s just part of our age-old doctrine, that the employment of weapons, that the authority and responsibility lies with officers,” he said.
Reinstituting the warrant officer program could also help leaders decide on acceptable policies that would “determine if it makes us a more lethal and ready fighting force,” Wright said.
“What this is about is not just aviation or flying — it’s about maintaining the technical expertise,” Wright said. “In some cases, having warrant officers will allow us retain that talent and keep those folks doing what they love.”
The Air Force in the past has commissioned studies to look into bringing back warrant officers, with another study from RAND, a nonprofit institution that provides research and analysis studies on public policy, on the way.
“The Air Force is partnering with RAND for a study on the feasibility of warrant officers and we are projecting a completion by the end of March 2018,” Air Force spokeswoman Capt. Kathleen Atanasoff told Military.com.
February 2018, the Air Force began a separate study on whether it could benefit from someday allowing enlisted pilots.
Air Education and Training Command said the study, called the pilot training next initiative, explores how pilots can learn and train faster “by using existing and emerging technologies that can decrease the time and cost of training,” but with the same depth of understanding to produce quality pilots.
That includes using virtual reality simulation and A.I. to get airmen in an aircraft faster, with the potential of expanding the streamlined training.
The study is expected to conclude in August, in hopes of advancing all 20 students in the program: 15 officers and five enlisted airmen.
Foundation of Skills
Taylor, the Vietnam-era airman, served in the 341X1 career field for T-37 and T-38 trainers, which would quickly disappear once the Air Force reasoned enlisted personnel were needed elsewhere.
Once airmen were taught scenarios in a classroom, they would go to him to practice the maneuvers in the simulator.
“I was one of those people as an enlisted instructor, and it was the best job I ever had,” Taylor said in a recent interview with Military.com.
Through months of simulation tech school paired with his past experience working on planes, Taylor had gained the skills he needed to know the aircraft. Taylor’s instructor career field, however, dissolved only a year later, and he moved back into avionics at Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi. But he remembers his “flight time” and experience with the T-37 and T-38 fondly.
“As a master avionics superintendent, I did get to fly in the back seat of the [T-38] aircraft six times to perform aircraft maintenance at off-station sites,” he said. “I told the pilot that I was a flight simulator instructor pilot at Vance. And when I flew, the pilot would say, ‘You know how to fly this, you do it.’ So, I would,” Taylor said.
Taylor recalled flying the aircraft from Columbus to MacDill Air Force Base,Florida.
“I [then] repaired another T-38 from our base and flew the aircraft back to Columbus. The pilot made the takeoff and landing on both legs of the flight, but I did all radio calls, and navigation,” he said.
Taylor would fly similar routes twice more with the same pilot.
“So yes, enlisted people can definitely perform the job,” he said.
According to a1992 paper for the Air Force Enlisted Heritage Research Institute, the 341X1 and 341X2 career fields, born out of very early service ideals that enlisted members should work side-by-side with officer pilots, were Analog and Digital Trainer Specialists. The fields were part of the larger Aircrew Training Devices 34XXX specialty.
“The contributions of the enlisted men and women in the training devices career field were great,” noted the paper, written by Air Force student Senior Master Sgt. G. A. Werhs of the Senior Noncomissioned Officer Academy. “From its very beginning in 1939 until its end in the late 80s, [the 34XXX] was [an] entirely enlisted career field. All maintenance and operations were performed by highly skilled personnel. Every aircraft in the Air Force inventory had a simulator associated with it and enlisted members were there to operate and maintain it.
“[H]ow many people realize that for nearly 50 years those pilots received much of the initial training on the ground from enlisted soldiers and airmen[?]” Werhs asked.
Taylor suggested the career field closed because the service didn’t want enlisted troops to get to that next level: flying among officers. The service, he said, also had an abundance of pilots at the time.
“The Vietnam War had wound down, so they had more pilots than the Air Force needed,” Taylor said. “By taking away the enlisted instructors, it let them use the pilots that were qualified to fly the T-38 instead of kicking them out of the service.”
But there are many who believe that enlisted airmen, in some capacity, deserve the chance to once again get up in the air.
Rooted in History
Before the Air Force became a breakout service independent of the Army, enlisted pilots were known as “flying sergeants,” receiving a promotion to staff sergeant once they completed pilot training.
Enlisted pilots, in one form or another, date back to 1912. But it wasn’t until 1941, when Congress passed the the Air Corps Act of 1926 and Public Law 99, that enlisted troops were able to receive qualified training.
“We never thought about whether we wanted to be an enlisted pilot or an officer pilot,” said retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Edward Wenglar, a former enlisted pilot. “We just wanted to be pilots, and we would gladly have stayed privates forever just to have the chance to fly,” Wenglar said in a 2003 service release.
Wenglar, who served overseas during World War II, holds the distinction of “achieving the highest rank of any former enlisted pilot,” according to the Air Force. He died in 2011.
Photo courtesy of Eugene Taylor
During World War II, whoever was in the cockpit got grandfathered in and could remain flying. But in 1942, the passage of the Flight Officer Act meant new enlisted recruits no longer got the chance to fly.
The act, Public Law 658, replaced the program’s sergeant pilot rank with the warrant officer rank.
When the Air Force was created in 1947 out of the Army Air Forces, it would bring more than 1,000 legacy warrant officers in. The service stopped the program in 1959, the same year it created the senior and chief master sergeant ranks. The last warrant officer would retire from active duty in 1980.
With more than 3,000 enlisted sergeant pilots throughout the service’s history, 11 of them would become generals and 17 would become flying aces, according to information from the Air Force. More than 150 enlisted pilots would be killed in action.
“Our careers as enlisted pilots made us better men and gave us opportunities later in the civilian world that we never would have been offered,” Wenglar said in 2003.
New Focus on Warrant Officers
“If the Air Force is so very concerned about the pilot shortage, they should consider warrant officers in … the transport pilot, flight engineer, boom operator and drone pilot fields,” said Will Stafford, a former staff sergeant with similar maintenance, tech and simulator experiences as Taylor.
While in the Air Force in the 1970s and 80s, Stafford, outside of his military duties, would fly smaller aircraft such as Cessna 310s, Beechcraft Model 18s and some Douglas DC-3s. On his own, he would eventually become qualified “on 25 different makes and models of fixed-wing aircraft,” he told Military.com.
“If the [Air Force] wants their veteran airmen and airwomen to return, then they had better look at how it has squandered the talent, training and dedication that many of us had, and make some serious changes, beginning with the restart of the warrant officer corps,” Stafford said, referencing the Air Force’s initiative to bring back retirees into staff-rated positions to balance out the ongoing pilot shortage.
“This is cost-effective, and many professional fully-rated civilian pilots who have military experience would have no problem,” he said.
Stafford has tried, unsuccessfully, to start a White House petition on Whitehouse.org to get the administration’s attention about reinstituting the warrant officer corps. He has even tried to petition the Air Force directly by writing to then-Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton A. Schwartz, who Stafford got the chance to meet and work with when Schwartz was just a captain.
Schwartz told Stafford it just wasn’t in the Air Force’s plans.
Key Decisions Ahead
Wright says the new RAND study may give him and Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. David Goldfein fresh perspectives.
“We have to be smart about this, right?” Wright said. “This can’t just be, ‘Oh, this is nice to have.’ We have to know exactly what we’re buying [into] and we have a plan to implement it.”
Wright said cost-benefit analysis would play into the decision.
“I’m looking to learn, and the boss [Goldfein] is looking to learn, again, that simple question: Will this make us a more lethal force? Will it make us more efficient?” Wright said.
“There is a chance through the RAND study and through some of our internal studies that the evidence reveals and the analysis reveals that warrant officers won’t move the needle that much,” he said.
While Wright said it’s hard to say when enlisted pilots or a warrant officer program may come back into the Air Force’s ranks, he believes the feat can be achieved in roughly five to 10 years.
“I think it would help would shortages in career fields, I think it would help with retention, I think it would help with career development.
“Now there’s nothing that says that, within our current system we can’t do that same thing. But if you’re asking me what the obvious benefits are,” he said, ” … I think it’s a good thing.”
AC/DC, Estadio de San Mamés, Bilbao, 28/VI/2010. Foto por Dena Flows.
At the end of the movie “Black Hawk Down,” CWO Mike Durant is sitting in a dark room as a POW, as a helicopter flies by overhead. From the passing bird, comes a voice: “Mike Durant, we won’t leave you behind.”
This makes for an agonizing scene, with Durant suffering from a broken cheekbone, eye socket, back, femur, and nose as the sun goes down over Mogadishu. He thought he was going to die. And the Somalis did try to kill him three times.
But the Army didn’t just remind one of their soldiers that he wouldn’t be left behind, his friends in the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment wanted him to know they were actively looking for him and they wouldn’t stop until they found him.
“When you’re in captivity,” Durant told documentarians filming AC/DC’s “Beyond the Thunder,” “if you hear an aircraft, it obviously gets your attention because the first thing you’re trying to determine is, ‘Do they know where I am?”’
As the Somalis started to scramble, Durant heard a telltale “BONG” of his favorite song, and then the opening lines of AC/DC’s “Hell’s Bells.”
“It was an incredible moment,” Durant recalled. “They had loudspeakers attached to this Black Hawk, flying around the city, broadcasting this music.” That’s when the voice bellowed the words echoed in the movie:
“Mike, we won’t leave here without you.”
It was a moment Durant says he will never forget. He spent 11 days in captivity.
Durant’s helicopter, Super Six-Four, was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade after dropping off his 18 Rangers into the heart of Mogadishu. His mission was finished until he was called to replace Super Six-One as fire support over the target.
The Army lost five Black Hawks that day. When the helos hit the ground, the Somalis would overrun the wreckage and kill everyone aboard. Mike Durant says he was incredibly lucky that someone recognized his value as a prisoner.
Along with more than 100 years of history, the game comes steeped in traditions that range from the usual smack talk between fans to events that can only be found when Army plays Navy.
Almost all American sporting events feature the National Anthem, many games get a U.S. military flyover, and every sports rivalry is characterized by fans going above and beyond to demonstrate their team spirit. The Army-Navy Game has all of those, except this game gets a flyover from two service branches and fans in attendance willing to break strict uniform regulations to show their spirit.
Along with the traditions typical of every other sporting event, the Army-Navy Game comes with the added traditions of two military academies that are older than the sport they’re playing, of military branches whose own traditions date back to the founding of the United States, and a unique culture developed through the history of American military training.
And despite the intense rivalry, it’s all in good fun.
1. The Prisoner Exchange
Before the game kicks off, seven West Point cadets and seven Annapolis midshipmen will march to midfield in Philadelphia to be returned to their home military academies. These “prisoners” were sent to their rival service academies in the Service Academy Exchange Program, which sends students from each of four service academies (along with West Point and Annapolis, the Air Force Academy and the Coast Guard Academy also participate) for the fall semester.
The prestigious, competitive exchange program began its semester-long life in 1975 and has remained the same ever since. Each academy sends seven sophomore students to the other academies. The “Prisoner Exchange” allows the visiting cadets and mids to sit with their team’s fans.
2. The Army-Navy Drumline Battle
At the Army-Navy Game, there’s more confrontation than just what happens on the football field. Before the game, the bands representing each branch engage in a drumline – one as much about showmanship as it is about skills with the sticks.
3. “The March On”
Before the kickoff of every Army-Navy Game, the cadets of the U.S. Military Academy and the midshipmen of the U.S. Naval Academy take the field. No, not just the teams playing the game that day, the entire student body — thousands of people — march on the field in the way only drilled and trained U.S. troops can.
4. “Honoring the Fallen”
Every Army-Navy Game is going to see one loser and one winner. No matter what the outcome of the game, the players sing both teams’ alma maters. The winners will join the losing team, facing the losing side’s fans. Then, the two groups will do the same for the winning team. It’s a simple act of respectful sportsmanship that reminds everyone they’re on the same side.
To date, this tradition hasn’t caught on across college teams, but it might be happening as we speak. The Navy team invites every school it plays to sing “Navy Blue and Gold” after the game, and sometimes they do, like in 2014, when the Ohio State Buckeyes joined in.
Travel — it either makes your heart do a little pitter-patter or fills you top to bottom with dread. Traveling does not have to be stressful, and using a few time-tested hacks is guaranteed to make your life easier.
Before you go
Scan a copy of your passport, driver’s license and any trip itineraries or reservations that you have and save them to your phone outside of e-mail. Depending on location, service might be spotty and you never know when you may need to access your records offline.
Vacation can be exciting, but packing is the pits. To maximize suitcase space:
Roll thin clothing (t-shirts and dresses) and fold heavier clothing pieces (jeans and sweaters) and utilize packing cubes to organize
Stuff socks into shoes
Insert a rolled-up belt into a shirt collar to maintain the collar’s shape
Prevent fragile makeup from cracking by inserting a cotton ball in the compact
Cover shoes in a hotel shower cap to avoid having dirty soles touch the rest of your suitcase
Utilize what you have
Did you forget your phone charger at home? Plug your phone into a hotel television. Don’t panic if you have left your wall plug-in at home. Most televisions now have USB connectors on the back or side panel. Take a peek and use your connection cord to seamlessly charge your phone.
Leave the camping lantern on the counter? Not a problem. Strap a headlamp to a water bottle to create an instant illuminated “lantern.”
Google’s offline tools
Heading out of the country or simply beyond service? Be sure to download Google Maps to use offline. While connected to WiFi, download the city or territory maps you might need for the duration of travel and access them later — no connection required.
Like Google Maps, Google Translate is usually needed when there’s no WiFi available. Convenient, huh? Before you go, download the Translate app, and choose ‘Offline Translation’ in Settings. Here, you will be able to download different languages.
Pack a clothespin … or two!
A vacation seems like a weird place for a clothespin, but this handy accessory is ideal for keeping headphone cords from getting tangled, propping up a toothbrush in the bathroom, clipping hotel curtains closed for rooms that will not get dark enough or hanging up laundry to dry.
There’s an app for that
It seems like there is an app these days for everything, and traveling is no different. The following cell phone apps are handy for travel purposes for everything from airport navigation to Wifi passwords.
Foursquare is a collection of city guides, but it’s notoriously great for tipping off visitors to connection spots by suppling local Wifi passwords.
Stuck in an airport without easy access to a USO? LoungeBuddy takes all the guesswork out of where travelers can relax by providing comprehensive guides to airport lounges around the world.
Headed on a long-haul journey with multiple connections? Download FlightAware to track flights online, see a live map of flight routes and be alerted to cancellations, delays and gate changes.
Timeshifter is working to banish jet lag for good. Using extensive research studies on sleep and circadian rhythms, the app helps in-flight travelers determine when to nap, seek light, eat and more based on gender, age and typical sleep patterns.
Whether you are planning a trip or daydreaming about your next destination, tuck these travel hacks away for the next big adventure to save yourself time, your sanity…or both.
On April 7, 2021, Team Rubicon CEO and Marine Corps veteran Jake Wood announced his decision to hand over the reins of leadership to Team Rubicon’s Chief Operating Officer, Art delaCruz. Despite the palpable ripple of shock felt by those outside the organization, it was always the plan.
Wood was candid in sharing he’d been thinking about this transition for years. “It’s not because I don’t enjoy it anymore but it’s just an exhausting job. You are responding to catastrophes 365 days a year and it wears on you,” he explained.
Ten years ago Wood lost one of his closest friends and original Team Rubicon partners, Clay Hunt, to suicide. The loss pushed Wood to go “all in” on the organization. Wood said he finds it “almost poetic” that after a decade of leading, he announced his transition of leaving on the anniversary of Clay’s funeral. “It’s just a good time to do it. We’ve had a tremendous amount of success and I am really proud of what we’ve accomplished,” Wood said.
The rise of Team Rubicon and its disaster relief support has been extraordinary throughout the past decade. But it was the global pandemic which truly demonstrated the vital impact and importance of the organization to communities across the world. Their leadership role in the fight against COVID-19 changed the landscape of disaster response and despite having its most successful year yet, Wood is more than ready to hand it all over to delaCruz.
DelaCruz came onboard as the COO in 2016 and was instrumental in scaling the work Team Rubicon has been able to accomplish. A retired Navy veteran and former TOPGUN instructor, his experience and skill set on the executive team was transformative, Wood said. Wood is confident the organization will flourish under delaCruz’s leadership.
“I made the decision back in December to step down as CEO while I was on paternity leave…I spent a lot of time reflecting during those six weeks off,” Wood shared. His youngest daughter was born with a serious heart condition, creating immense worry for both parents. The time of reflection with his family solidified his decision to transition out, he said.
His family is excited for the new role and future ahead, now that they too have gotten over the initial shock, according to Wood. “Being a Team Rubicon spouse is a lot like being a military spouse, you’re signed up too, because the job comes home with you,” he explained. “She’s been an amazing partner for me along the journey. She’s supported me and stuck by me during hard times. I think she’s also ready for a change and we are both excited to plot what’s next.”
Although Wood has no concrete plans yet, he jokingly said he definitely wasn’t ready to write another book. Now on a corporate board and exploring options, he remains excited for the future, whatever it holds. “I think by the time the official transition happens in June I’ll have settled on what the next thing is,” he said. “I love being an entrepreneur — it’s awesome. Greatest challenge ever and definitely the hardest thing I’ve ever done.”
It isn’t completely goodbye, either. You’ll still find Wood working hard to ensure Team Rubicon continues to serve communities across the globe for centuries to come. This time as its Executive Chairman of the Board of Directors. “I’m excited to have a role that still has me meaningfully involved in the organization…I know how hard it is to be at the top and I hope to continue to support Art as he needs it and be a thought partner for him,” he explained.
With zero regrets, Wood said he’s confident that leadership will be in the best possible hands and he can’t wait to tackle his new adventures this summer. “The one thing I always told our staff is that I would not cling on to this job simply because I’m a founder,” he said with a laugh. “I always said that I would walk away when the time was right. The time is right.”
In the hearts of patriots all across this great country of ours, Old Glory isn’t just a piece of red, white, and blue cloth — it’s a symbol. A symbol of freedom, democracy, and the American way of life. No one knows this better than the military community, who go to war with the flag on their shoulders. Even after service, you’d be hard-pressed to find a veteran who doesn’t have a flag displayed in their home in one way or another.
Today, Old Glory is touching the lives of thousands as it makes its away across the country, carried by veterans, troops, and patriots alike on a trek from Boston, Massachusetts, to sunny San Diego, California. Over ten thousands pairs of hands will have carried the flag as it moves across twenty-four states and over 4,300 miles. Along the way, The Stars and Stripes are bringing attention to many of the issues that the veteran community faces.
This is Team RWB’s Old Glory Relay.
The best way to get everyone’s attention? By making a large event that runs from September 11th to November 11th.
Every participant in the Old Glory Relay is running to support their own cause, but all of these causes are important to the veteran community. Chief among these issues are the disastrously high suicide rate within our community, the struggles of isolation, sedentary lifestyles, finding meaningful post-service employment, and combating the stigma surrounding veterans seeking help for mental issues.
There’s no simple solution to any of these problems. There’s no magic wand to wave and make them disappear. It takes a serious conversation within the community. And this conversation can only happen when we all come together and make our voices heard in a singular, booming voice — and that’s exactly what the 10,000 men and women carrying the flag across the country are doing.
If you miss your time in the airborne, don’t worry: They have skydiving events as well.
Recently, We Are The Mighty chatted with Tom Voss, an Army veteran and member of Team Red, White Blue (or Team RWB) who will be carrying the flag across the finish-line on Veterans Day, November 11, 2018. Voss is no stranger to participating in events to raise awareness for veteran issues. A couple years back, he and another Iraq War veteran walked across the country to put that much-needed spotlight on important issues.
“It’s always important to pay homage and pay our respects to all
the men and women that came before us.” said Tom. “Look at the American Flag — that’s what it represents. It represents the men and women who
have sacrificed everything, the families that have sacrificed everything
so that we are able to live the lives that we do today.”
Team RWB’s mission is to enrich the lives of America’s veterans. They do this by connecting veterans to their community through physical and social activity. Outside of massive events, like the Old Glory Relay, local Team RWB chapters assist local communities in smaller ways, like placing flags at the Kentucky Veterans Cemetery, building housing areas with Habitat for Humanity in Los Angeles, putting on Range Days in Grand Rapids, Michigan, all to bring veterans together within their communities.
The veterans who participate in these events get a sense of camaraderie that they’ve been missing since their departure from active-duty life — but the door is always open to civilians, too.
The Old Glory Relay is like a perfect encapsulation of everything great about Team RWB. Veterans, active duty troops, and civilian patriots are banding together for a great cause. In addition to bringing attention to many of the issues that the veteran community faces, they’re also helping bridge the ever-expanding civilian-military divide.
“I think what it comes down to is, veterans are open and willing to share their stories. But you have to ask. Coming from a place of non-judgement and not just saying, ‘thank you for your service,’ but really asking, ‘what happened during your time in Iraq or Afghanistan? Because I weren’t there. I don’t know. All I know is what I saw on the news.’ Coming from a genuine place like that from the civilian standpoint is really important.”
If you’re in the area, be sure to catch Tom Voss and the rest of Team Red, White, Blue as they cross the finish line in San Diego, California on November 11th.
In a push to build its modernization budget and invest in new technologies, the Marine Corps has hauled at least one program of record to the curb — and is looking for more to cut.
The Corps has already divested of the 120mm Expeditionary Fire Support System to make way for other capabilities, Lt. Gen. Robert Walsh, commanding general of Marine Corps Combat Development Command, told Military.com in an interview.
The EFSS, fielded in the early 2000s, was designed to be extremely portable, small enough to be towed by an all-terrain vehicle that fits easily inside an MV-22 Osprey.
Made by General Dynamics, the full system weighs roughly 18 pounds and can fire high-explosive, smoke and illumination rounds. The system was fired in combat for the first time in 2011.
The news that the Marine Corps is cutting ties with the program is something of a surprise, considering the service was in the process of acquiring a new round: the Raytheon-made GPS-guided precision extended range munition, or PERM, expected to increase the accuracy of the system and extend its range from roughly five miles to 10.
In 2015, Raytheon inked a $98 million contract with the Corps for the delivery of PERM; the round was to have been fielded to Marine units next year.
But Walsh said the Marine Corps is working to extend the range of its artillery arsenal, particularly its M777 howitzer. With its limited range, the EFSS may not be well suited to what Marine leaders perceive as the Corps’ future mission.
“We made that decision to divest of it, and we’re going to move that money into some other area, probably into the precision fires area,” Walsh said. “So programs that we see as not as viable, this [program objective memorandum] development that we’re doing right now is to really look at those areas critically and see what can we divest of to free money up to modernize.”
Walsh said the Marine Corps wants to see a boost of about 5 percent in its modernization budget. The just-passed Fiscal 2018 National Defense Authorization Act included a modest bump in procurement, with much of the additional money earmarked for investment in ground vehicles.
As the Corps plans for 2020 and beyond, Walsh said the service is looking inside the organization to find savings and “investment trade-offs” in order to get the money it needs.
While Walsh said he could not yet identify other Marine Corps programs that had been marked for divestiture, he noted that operations and maintenance funding may also be examined in order to move more money into modernization.
“The commandant has told us … I wouldn’t say that he has modernization over readiness — readiness is important — but he’s told us to look real hard at our ops and maintenance accounts that aren’t tied specifically to unit readiness,” he said.
“We can look … to determine across the [Marine Air-Ground Task Force] where we can find money and move it into the modernization area to get that slope up higher within the Marine Corps,” Walsh said.