Air Force announces first 30 enlisted drone pilots - We Are The Mighty
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Air Force announces first 30 enlisted drone pilots

The first 30 board-selected enlisted airmen will begin training to fly the RQ-4 Global Hawk drone, the Air Force announced Wednesday.


The service’s inaugural Enlisted Remotely Piloted Aircraft Pilot Selection Board picked two senior master sergeants, five master sergeants, nine technical sergeants, 14 staff sergeants and five alternates from about 200 active-duty applicants from various job assignments, according to a release.

Related: 6 ways to use those retired Predator drones

“These 30 Airmen join the Enlisted RPA Pilot program along with the 12 other Airmen from the Enlisted Pilot Initial Class, four of whom started training in October 2016,” it states. “The Air Force plans for the number of enlisted RPA pilots to grow to 100 within four years.”

Tech. Sgt. William, 432nd Wing/432nd Air Expeditionary Wing sensor operator, flies a simulated mission June 10, 2016, at Creech Air Force Base, Nevada. The 432nd WG trains and deploys MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper aircrews in support of global operations 24/7/365. | U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Christian Clausen/Released)

The selection board met in February to deliberate and choose from 185 active-duty enlisted airmen who made it past an initial qualifying phase of the program. Airmen holding rank from staff sergeant through senior master sergeant and having six years of retainability from course graduation date were considered for the board, the release said. Those considered also had to complete the Air Force’s initial flying class II physical examination, plus a pilot qualification test.

Two airmen from the board are expected to begin the Initial Flight Training program at Colorado’s Pueblo Memorial Airport by April, Air Force Personnel Center spokesman Mike Dickerson told Military.com last month. Subsequently, two enlisted airmen will be part of each class thereafter throughout this fiscal year and into early next fiscal year, Dickerson said.

Also read: Here’s how bad the Air Force’s pilot shortage really is

The Air Force announced in 2015 it would begin training enlisted airmen to operate the unarmed RQ-4 Global Hawk remotely piloted aircraft.

U.S. Air Force photo

The AFPC said in November that 305 active-duty enlisted airmen had been identified to apply for the selection board. The center saw a surge of interest from potential RPA airmen during the application process that began last year, AFPC said at the time. It received more than 800 applicants, compared to a typical 200 applicants.

The Air Force said its next call for nominations for the 2018 enlisted RPA pilot selection board is scheduled for next month, the release said.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Watch how 3 veterans ski to their old Iraq battlegrounds in ‘Adventure Not War’

Often when service men and women return home from a long military deployment, they can have a sense of feeling lost being back stateside.


Many troops believe they still have plenty of unfinished business “over-there,” extending years down the line after their return. In the interim, they can be found struggling with various forms of depression.

Many veterans seek counseling, but one former Army captain found relief by revisiting the place that caused him so much anxiety — Iraq.

“We all have to ultimately take care of our own healing process and so that’s where I wanted to go back,” Iraq veteran and former Army Capt. Stacy Bare says.

Related: Ranger takes flip flop company from Kabul to the Shark Tank

U.S. Army captain, Iraq veteran, and National Geographic Adventurer of the Year Stacy Bare smiles bright while on his cathartic journey. (Source: Adventure Not War/Screenshot)

In February 2017,  Bare, CEO of Combat Flip Flops and Army Ranger Matthew Griffin, and former helicopter pilot Robin Brown embarked on a ski ascent and descent from Mt. Halgurd  — the tallest mountain in Iraq — to the hallowed battlegrounds from which Bare once served.

This incredible journey of healing spawned filmmaker Max Lowe to create the compelling documentary Adventure Not War.

This film shows a rarely seen beauty in a location known for devastation. For Bare, it created a stable place for healing wounds that are deeper than those seen on the surface.

Also Read: These entrepreneurs survived Shark Tank and share their secrets with vets

During their two-week journey, Stacy, Robin, and Matthew traveled to Iraqi Kurdistan to work alongside the non-profit Tent Ed, providing educational resources to children displaced by war.

Check out the Stept Studios’ video below to witness how these three brave veterans ventured back to Iraq and revisit the various places in which many Americans used to fight.


(Adventure Not War, Stept Studios)
Articles

Iraqi security forces step up aggression against ISIS


The Iraqi Security Forces are now much less likely to quit fighting and becoming much more aggressive and consistent in their ongoing combat against ISIS, Pentagon and U.S. Coalition officials said.

Responding to questions about numerous reports citing large desertions of Iraqi troops not wanting to fight, Operation Inherent Resolve spokesman Col. Steve Warren said that circumstance has been rapidly shifting for the better.

Many observers said large numbers of Iraqi soldiers simply refused to fight or put up any kind of defense when ISIS first seized territory in Iraq; that equation has now changed, U.S. officials say.

Warren said recent victories in Ramadi and villages near Makhmour have emboldened and empowered Iraq forces to fight, despite reports that many were still laying down their weapons and taking off from the battlefield.

“Small units confidence and morale is growing and strengthening. The training, advising and equipping that we have done is having an effect,” Warren told reporters.

Citing that the U.S. has trained 20,000 Iraqis over last 20 months to elevate their performance levels and instructed them how to better conduct operations in Tikrit and Ramadi, Warren added that Iraqi force have favorable responded to recent combat success.

“They have tasted victory and they want to taste more of it,” he said.

As evidence of increased Iraqi combat aggression, Warren pointed to a specific M1 Abrams tank crew in Hit, Iraq, which has earned the knickname “beast” for its ceaseless activities against ISIS. The one tank has been systematically and aggressively attacking enemy defenses, maneuvering and blasting enemy IEDs, Warren explained.

Hit is a city along the Euphrates river where U.S. Coalition forces continue to make substantial gains against ISIS, Warren said.

There are still some problems with Iraqi soldiers quitting, particularly in areas around Makhmour, Warren explained.

“Iraqi senior leaders have noticed this (Iraqi soldier quitting) and have fired some commanders. They have been replaced with more aggressive commanders,” he added. “Broadly speaking across the board we are seeing their level come up. As this Army drives closer to Mosul the fighting will only get harder.”

Warren added that Iraqi and U.S. Coalition combat tactics involved combined arms maneuvers on the ground along with air attacks and efforts to dismantle ISIS’ finance operations, cyber abilities and overall command and control.

“An enemy that is shattered and scattered has significantly reduced ability to mass combat power. We believe that by shattering them, fragmenting them and dismantling them, we move ourselves closer to the ultimate goal,” he said.

Although there has been widespread reporting quoting senior U.S. military officials saying there will likely be more U.S. combat outposts in Iraq, Warren emphasized that the U.S. Coalition strategy is grounded in the priority of having Iraqi forces make gains on the ground.

“The Iraqis are the only ones who can defeat ISIS in a way that is a lasting defeat,” Warren proclaimed. “Our intent here is to deliver them a lasting defeat. We believe that by degrading them in phase one and then dismantling them in phase two – we will be set up for phase three which is to defeat them.”

The U.S. Coalition’s recent killing of several ISIS senior leaders has had a substantial negative impact upon ISIS, Warren said.

“Any organization that has lost three of its most senior leaders in a span of 30 days – is going to suffer for it; the organization then turns in on itself. We’ve seen an increase in a number of executions (ISIS killing members of its own group). It creates confusion, paranoia and ultimately weakens the enemy,” Warren said.

Warren expressed confidence in the ultimate defeat of ISIS, in part due to the resolve of a 66-nation coalition that, he said, “understands that this is an enemy that needs to be defeated.”

Lists

The 5 types of troops you’ll see heading to the bunker

One of the most common types of attacks troops will experience while deployed is a mortar attack, otherwise known as indirect fire. When this happens, protocol states that all troops must seek cover inside the nearest bunker.


Depending on where a troop is stationed, they’ll run into a wide variety of troops from different units on their way to that bunker — all of whom react to IDF very differently.

How a troop reacts says a lot about them as a warfighter and the kind of unit they’re in. You’re likely to see these troops — who span the gamut from POG to grunt — when you hear the IDF siren go off:

Sorry if fighting this nation’s wars is “inconvenient” for you.

(Via Navymemes)

1. The scared little “fobbit”

This person is either newly in theatre or enlisted with zero intentions of fighting. Not to discredit entire branches, but based on personal experience, they’re typically Airmen or Sailors on shore duty. Not the corpsman, though — corpsmen aren’t POGs.

Now, you might not see them cry, but they’re definitely going to jump when someone else enters the bunker. Be warned, when you’re in the bunker with them, you’re probably going to have to talk them down from a panic attack.

They will also unironically think they’re not actually a POG. But, you know… they still are.

2. The overzealous hero

This dude is ready for war! This guy managed to get in full-battle before making his way to the bunker. He’s just waiting on the word to go from Amber to Red at any moment, despite never being given the order to get out of Green.

Nobody wants to tell the guy that after you hear the boom, things get boring again. This is probably the closest this person will get to real combat and they want to take full advantage of the moment. Ten years from now, they’ll probably share this “war story” to people at the bar while trying to score some free drinks.

Or they’re the type of person that slowly walks to the bunker just to catch someone else walking slowly to the bunker.

(Via Decelerate Your Life)

3. The calm rule-follower

This is the category a large majority of the NCOs and senior officers fall into. The siren goes off and they help usher others into the bunker with them. They know they have to keep a calm demeanor or else it’ll freak out the fobbits and agitate the eager hero.

The only downside to this person is that they’ll always start arguing with the next two guys on this list.

And 9 times out of 10, they’re a Specialist or a Lance Corporal.

(Via PNN)

4. The reluctant slacker

This person really doesn’t want to go to bunker — but the rule-follower is looking, so they have to. They’ve been in-country for a while and they know that things are going to be okay… Probably. The only thing that’s going through their mind is a weighing of options. They’ll be busy thinking about if they want to risk an asschewing, the odds of that mortar hitting where they’re at, and if they want to pretend they “didn’t hear” the siren go off.

7 times out of 10, they’ll just go to the bunker for an accountability formation and dip before the all-clear siren goes off. They’re probably out for a smoke, which they’ll either jokingly offer to the fobbit or blow in the direction of the rule-follower who made them leave their hut.

Truly, they’re the best of us.

5. The sleeping grunt

It’s been months since this grunt gave their last f*ck. These guys have truly reached the max level of gruntness; ass-chewings and the threat of death don’t give this troop pause.

It was probably funny going to the bunker to laugh at everyone the first eighty-seven times, but now they’d rather get a little bit more sleep.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Iranian show of force fails to impress after U.S. sanctions

Iran carried out a military drill on Sept. 21, 2018, aimed at showing the US how it could shut down oil shipping in the Persian Gulf as more US sanctions loom in November 2018, but the display was underwhelming at best.

The US will slap Iran with sanctions on its oil exports on Nov. 4, 2018, a date that marks six months since the US’s withdrawal from the Iran deal. Iran essentially responded by saying that if its oil exports are blocked, it will take military measures to block oil exports from other countries, including US allies.

“If the enemies and arrogant powers have an eye on the borders and land of Islamic Iran they will receive a pounding reply in the fraction of a second,” Iranian media quoted Colonel Yousef Safipour as saying of the drills.


But while Iran has some credible naval capabilities that could shut down the waterway for a time, the assets it displayed don’t really seem up to the task.

Iran flew Mirage fighter jets, F-4s and Sukhoi-22s as part of the display. The F-4 and Sukhoi both first flew in the 1960s, and the Mirage first took flight in the 1970s.

Iran, under heavy sanction, hasn’t bought new fighter jets or components in a long time, but has shown considerable skill in keeping its stock flying for decades.

But the US maintains a presence in the Persian Gulf, most recently with an aircraft carrier full of F-35 stealth fighters.

F-35Bs aboard the USS Essex.

(US Navy photo)

The US has considerable air power in the Middle East and closely monitors the Persian Gulf. Additionally, US allies like Saudi Arabia don’t exactly sail rubber duckies through the gulf either.

On Sept. 22, 2018, Iran will stage a large military drill with up to 600 navy vessels, its state media said. This number likely includes Iran’s fast attack craft, or military speedboats that have harassed US ships in the past.

Already Iran has found itself abandoned by its former oil clients in anticipation of US sanctions. Iran frequently threatens military force against the US or its neighbors, but rarely follows through.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The world’s minute-by-minute response to the latest North Korean missile test

The international community has been set alight by North Korea’s latest missile test. All times are EST, Nov. 28.


2:04 p.m.

The Yonhap news agency reports that North Korea has launched a ballistic missile.

South Korea’s military says the missile was fired from an area north of Pyongyang, early Nov. 29 local time.

The news agency reported South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff saying that it and U.S. authorities are analyzing the trajectory.

The launch is the first since Sept. 15 when North Korea fired an intermediate ballistic missile.

2:21 p.m.

A U.S. official says North Korea has conducted its first missile launch in more than two months.

The official wasn’t authorized to speak publicly on the matter and demanded anonymity.

The Pentagon was more cautious, calling it a “probable” missile launch. Col. Rob Manning, a spokesman said, “We detected a probable missile launch from North Korea” at approximately 1:30 p.m. EST. He said the Pentagon is assessing the situation and has no further information to provide, including what kind of missile may have been launched.

It would be the first North Korean missile test since it launched an intermediate-range ballistic missile on Sept. 15 that flew over northern Japan and into the Pacific Ocean.

North Korea’s Hwasong-14 missile. (Photo from KCNA)

2:25 p.m.

The White House says President Donald Trump has been briefed on North Korea’s apparent ballistic missile launch.

Press secretary Sarah Sanders says in a tweet that Trump “was briefed, while missile was still in the air, on the situation in North Korea.”

At the time of the launch, Trump was in a meeting with Senate Republicans on Capitol Hill.

A U.S. official says North Korea has conducted its first missile launch in more than two months.

Also Read: Here is what a war with North Korea could look like

3 p.m.

The Pentagon says it detected and tracked a single North Korean missile launch and believes it was an intercontinental ballistic missile.

Pentagon spokesman Col. Rob Manning said Nov. 28 that the missile was launched from Sain Ni, North Korea, and traveled about 1,000 kilometers (about 620 miles) before landing in the Sea of Japan.

Manning says the Pentagon’s information is based on an initial assessment of the launch. He says a more detailed assessment was in the works.

3:15 p.m.

Japan’s chief Cabinet secretary says North Korea has fired a missile that might have landed inside the country’s exclusive economic zone in the Sea of Japan.

Yoshihide Suga says the missile appears to have been fired from North Korea’s western coast and the government is gathering information and analyzing the launch data.

Suga says repeated provocation by the North is unacceptable and Tokyo has lodged a strong protest.

Japan’s U.N. Ambassador Koro Bessho. (U.N. photo by Mark Garten)

3:30 p.m.

Japan’s U.N. Ambassador Koro Bessho says the government has told the North Koreans “that we criticize their behavior in the strongest terms possible” following a new missile launch.

He told reporters Nov. 28 at U.N. headquarters that “we are very concerned and we have condemned them publicly.”

U.N. Security Council President Sebastiano Cardi says he has been in contact with key U.N. members, but no request has been made yet for a meeting.

Cardi says he is scheduled to brief the Security Council on Nov. 29.

Japan’s chief Cabinet secretary says the missile might have landed inside the country’s exclusive economic zone in the Sea of Japan.

Cardi says if it fell in that zone, it would be an “even greater” danger.

3:50 p.m.

President Donald Trump says the United States will “take care of it” following North Korea’s latest missile launch.

Trump told reporters Nov. 28 that “it is a situation that we will handle.”

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis gives the keynote address to kick off the 2017 annual meeting of the Association of the US Army (AUSA) at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, DC, Oct. 9, 2017. (DoD photo by Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith.)

4:15 p.m.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis says North Korea is continuing to build missiles that can “threaten everywhere in the world.”

Mattis says a missile that North Korea launched early Nov. 29 local time flew higher than its previous projectiles. He says South Korea has fired pinpoint missiles into surrounding waters to make certain that North Korea understands it can be “taken under fire” by the South.

He says North Korea is endangering world peace, regional peace, and “certainly the United States.”

North Korea ended a 10-week pause in its weapons testing and threatened to heighten regional tensions by launching an intercontinental ballistic missile that landed in the Sea of Japan.

Mattis spoke Nov. 28 during a White House meeting with President Donald Trump and the top Republican congressional leaders.

Related: North Korea’s emerging free market threatens to topple the regime

5:10 p.m.

The U.N. Security Council has scheduled an emergency meeting on North Korea’s latest ballistic missile launch.

Italy chairs the council and its spokesman says the Nov. 29 afternoon meeting was requested by Japan, the U.S., and South Korea.

The Security Council has already imposed its toughest-ever sanctions on Kim Jong Un’s government in response to its escalating nuclear and ballistic missile programs and the U.S. and Japan are likely to seek even stronger measures.

The launch was possibly North Korea’s longest. It is certain to raise tensions in the U.N.’s most powerful body.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in. (Photo from official South Korea Flickr.)

5:40 p.m.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in has called North Korea’s latest missile test a “serious threat” to global peace and stressed the need for stronger sanctions and pressure against Pyongyang to discourage its nuclear ambitions.

Moon said Nov. 29 at a National Security Council meeting that the South will not “sit and watch” North Korea’s provocations and will work with the United States to strengthen its security.

Moon says South Korea anticipated the latest North Korean launch and prepared for it.

South Korea’s military conducted its own missile drills that started just minutes after North Korea’s launch was detected.

6:15 p.m.

President Donald Trump is speaking with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe after North Korea launched what the Pentagon said was an intercontinental ballistic missile.

White House social media director Dan Scavino Jr. tweeted a photo of Trump on Nov. 28 in his office. He says Trump was “speaking with @JPN_PMO @AbeShinzo, regarding North Korea’s launch of a intercontinental ballistic missile into the Sea of Japan…”

Abe says Japan will not back down against any provocation and would maximize pressure on the North in its alliance with the U.S.

6:25 p.m.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in has raised concerns that North Korea’s perfection of an intercontinental ballistic missile would let regional security “spiral out of control” and make the United States consider a pre-emptive strike against the North.

Seoul’s presidential office said Nov. 29 that Moon said during a National Security Council meeting that it would be important to prevent a situation where North Korea miscalculates and threatens the South with nuclear weapons or the U.S. considers a pre-emptive strike to eliminate the threat.

Moon has called for his military to take further steps to strengthen its capabilities following a recent agreement between Seoul and Washington to lift the warhead payload limits on South Korean missiles.

6:45 p.m.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in has told government officials to “closely review” whether the latest North Korean missile launch will affect South Korean efforts to successfully host next year’s Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.

Seoul’s presidential office reported Nov. 29 that Moon said during a National Security Council meeting that it would be important to find ways to “stably manage” the situation.

South Korean preparations for the February games have been overshadowed by North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests this year. France has said its Olympic team won’t travel to South Korea if its safety cannot be guaranteed.

South Korea has been hoping North Korea takes part in the games to ease concerns, but it’s unclear whether the North will.

North Korea boycotted the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul and has ignored the South’s proposals for dialogue in recent months.

President Donald J. Trump and President Moon Jae-in of the Republic of Korea at the United Nations General Assembly (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

7:30 p.m.

President Donald Trump has spoken with South Korean President Moon Jae-in to discuss the countries’ response to North Korea’s latest missile launch.

The White House says both leaders “underscored the grave threat that North Korea’s latest provocation poses” not only to U.S. and South Korea, “but to the entire world.”

The two presidents also “reaffirmed their strong condemnation of North Korea’s reckless campaign to advance its nuclear and ballistic missile programs, noting that these weapons only serve to undermine North Korea’s security and deepen its diplomatic and economic isolation.”

Trump and Moon spoke at length about the threat posed by North Korea during Trump’s trip to Asia earlier this month.

Up Next: This is why the Pentagon just dispatched its top general to Korea

8:30 p.m.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence is warning North Korea not to test President Donald Trump’s resolve.

Pence says in remarks at a Hudson Institute award dinner in New York that the administration is considering “additional measures” following the intercontinental ballistic missile test.

Pence says Pyongyang would do well “not to test the resolve of this president or the capabilities of the armed forces of the United States of America.”

He adds that “all options” remain on the table.

Pence was introduced at the event by conservative media mogul Rupert Murdoch, who called Pence a “positive” and “calming influence” at the White House.

Vice President Mike Pence and Georgian and American troops at Exercise Noble Partner, August 1, 2017 (Official White House photo by Myles D. Cullen)

9:53 p.m.

North Korea will make an “important” announcement through television and radio at noon local time hours after it tested an apparent intercontinental ballistic missile.

The report on state radio Nov. 29 did not elaborate on the topic of the announcement.

The missile test-launched from near Pyongyang appeared to be North Korea’s most powerful weapon yet and could put Washington and the entire eastern U.S. seaboard within range.

10:30 p.m.

North Korea says it successfully tested a new, nuclear-capable intercontinental-ballistic missile that could target the entire U.S. mainland.

The North’s state television said Nov. 29 the new ICBM was “significantly more” powerful than the previous long-range weapon the North tested.

The report called the weapon a Hwasong 15. The launch was detected after it was fired early Nov. 29 morning from a site near Pyongyang.

 

Articles

Here’s what makes a Combat Controller so deadly

The teams that have completed some of America’s most stunning special operations included a few airmen who are often overlooked when it comes time to glorify the heroes: Combat Controller Teams.


Combat Controllers are Air Force special operators trained to support all other special operators and to conduct their missions behind enemy lines. Here’s what makes them so effective under such challenging conditions.

Air Force special operators aren’t well known, but they have a reputation as both intellectuals and brawlers. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Michael R. Holzworth)

First, Combat Controllers are certified as air traffic controllers and are also often certified as joint terminal attack controllers. These dual-certifications mean that they can direct friendly air traffic and request attacks against ground targets from the aircraft overhead.

Obviously, the guy who tells the A-10s where to shoot, the AC-130s where to fly, and the attack helicopters where they should enter and leave the battlespace is packing some serious firepower.

The Air Force’s AC-130s are literally airborne artillery. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

To do this mission, Combat Controller Teams move forward with Navy SEALs, Green Berets, or other Tier 1 operators and use a radio to keep in touch with air assets assigned to the mission. In fact, CCTs were originally formed to pair with Delta Force squadrons on their super-secret missions.

When they near an objective or get close to enemy forces, the CCTs call up their big brothers in the sky.

The controller tells the pilot what target needs to be taken out, where it’s at, and sometimes even what weapons and flight path the pilot should take.

As the combat controller is doing all that, he’s still in ground combat. While he’ll usually prefer to use his radio rather than his rifle — 30mm cannon fire from the sky is more lethal than 5.56mm rounds from the ground — he’s perfectly capable of going toe-to-toe with enemy soldiers when necessary.

Photographed: guys who are not afraid to fight you. (Photo: U.S Air Force Staff Sgt. Jeremy T. Lock)

This connection with air assets also gives the CCTs a coveted battlefield asset: real-time surveillance. Pilots can describe what they see on the ground to the controller who keeps mission commanders in the loop. In some cases, pilots and drones can even send data streams to devices carried by the controller so the airman can watch the enemy in real time.

All these capabilities are valuable for joint operations, but they also allow combat controllers to conduct their own missions — which they do.

(Photo: US Air Force Staff Sgt. Jeremy T. Lock)

One such mission is covert airfield seizure. The Army will send Rangers or paratroopers to seize airfields from enemy forces, but dropping a few hundred infantrymen can draw a lot of attention.

So, sometimes the Air Force sends small teams of combat controllers and other Air Force special operators on their own if the base isn’t too heavily guarded.

The controllers will seize the airfield and then certify it for operations. Once they give their blessing to an airfield, reinforcements can land on the runway and support aircraft can come in for refueling and rearmament.

Controllers can also go into combat on their own to help allied forces or to direct airstrikes that will delay an enemy or break up an attack.

To get to the battlefield, the controllers can swim in with SCUBA and diving gear, parachute, ruck, drive, or even ride motorcycles.

Air Force special tactics officer Maj. Charlie Hodges described “bike chasers,” controllers who throw a motorcycle out of a plane, parachute after it, and then ride the bike to their objective when they reach the ground.

Wasn’t kidding about those bikes. (Photo: U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Gabe Johnson)

“All of our guys are trained to ride motorcycles,” Hodges told CNN. Getting to the fight sometimes “involves jumping out of an airplane, or sliding out a helicopter down a fast rope, or riding some sort of all-terrain vehicle, or going on a mountain path on foot.”

While Combat Controllers don’t always get the headlines and movies like SEAL Team Six, Delta Force, and others, they’ve proven themselves to be professional, courageous, and deadly in combat.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Green Beret killed in Niger fought on after being shot 18 times

Army Sgt. La David T. Johnson died in a hail of gunfire, hit as many as 18 times as he took cover in thick brush, fighting to the end after fleeing militants who had just killed three comrades in an October ambush in Niger, The Associated Press has learned.


A military investigation has concluded that Johnson wasn’t captured alive or killed at close range, dispelling a swirl of rumors about how he died.

The report has determined that Johnson, 25, of Miami Gardens, Florida, was killed by enemy rifle and machine gun fire from members of an Islamic State offshoot, according to U.S. officials familiar with the findings. The Oct. 4 ambush took place about 120 miles (200 kilometers) north of Niamey, the African nation’s capital. Johnson’s body was recovered two days later.

U.S. officials familiar with the findings spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity to describe details of an investigation that has not been finalized or publicly released.

A 12-member Army special forces unit was accompanying 30 Nigerien forces when they were attacked in a densely wooded area by as many as 50 militants traveling by vehicle and carrying small arms and rocket-propelled grenade launchers.

Johnson was struck as many as 18 times from a distance by a volley of machine gun rounds, according to the U.S. officials, who said he was firing back as he and two Nigerien soldiers tried to escape.

All told, four U.S. soldiers and four Nigerien troops were killed in the ambush. Two U.S. and eight Nigerien troops were wounded.

The bodies of three U.S. Green Berets were located on the day of the attack, but not Johnson’s remains. The gap in time led to questions about whether Johnson was killed in the assault and not found, or if he was taken away by the enemy.

According to the officials, a medical examination concluded that Johnson was hit by fire from M-4 rifles — probably stolen by the insurgents — and Soviet-made heavy machine guns. It is believed he died in the attack.

The officials said Johnson was found under thick scrub brush where he tried to take cover. There were no indications he was shot at close range, or had been bound or taken prisoner, as several media reports have suggested.

A U.S. Africa Command began its investigation with a team headed by Army Maj. Gen. Roger Cloutier, the command’s chief of staff. The team visited locations in Niger to collect evidence and information about the attack, and will soon submit a draft of Cloutier’s report to Marine Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, head of Africa Command. Waldhauser could ask for additional information. The final report is expected to be released next month.

Read More: This timeline shows how the Niger operation went down

The officials familiar with the report’s conclusions said that during the attack, Johnson and two Nigerien soldiers tried to get to a vehicle to escape, but were unable to do so, became separated from the others and were shot as they were running for safety.

The report concluded that Johnson, who was athletic and a runner, was in the lead and got the farthest away, seeking cover in the brush. Officials said there were a number of enemy shells around Johnson, and evidence that he appeared to fight to the end. His boots and other equipment were later stolen, but he was still wearing his uniform.

As news of the ambush came out, the U.S. military sent in rescue teams to search for Johnson, not making his status public in the hope he might have gotten away and was still alive and hiding. The Pentagon only acknowledged that he was missing after his body was located two days later by local forces.

The Pentagon has declined to release details about the exact mission of the commando team. U.S. officials have previously said that the joint U.S.-Niger patrol had been asked to assist a second American commando team hunting for a senior Islamic State member, who also had former ties to al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb. The team had been asked to go to a location where the insurgent had last been seen, and collect intelligence.

After completing that mission, the troops stopped in a village for a short time to get food and water, then left. The U.S. military believes someone in the village may have tipped off attackers to the presence of U.S. commandoes and Nigerien forces in the area, setting in motion the ambush.

U.S. special operations forces have been routinely working with Niger’s forces, helping them to improve their abilities to fight extremists in the region. That effort has increased in recent years, the Pentagon said.

The three other Americans killed were Staff Sgt. Bryan C. Black, 35, of Puyallup, Washington; Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson, 39, of Springboro, Ohio; and Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright, 29, of Lyons, Georgia. Black and Wright were Army Special Forces. Johnson and Johnson were not commandos.

Johnson’s combat death led to a political squabble between President Donald Trump and a Democratic congresswoman from Florida after Trump told Johnson’s pregnant widow in a phone call that her husband “knew what he signed up for.” Rep. Frederica Wilson was riding with Johnson’s family to meet the body and heard the call on speakerphone. The spat grew to include Trump’s chief of staff, who called Wilson an “empty barrel” making noise.

MIGHTY TRENDING

5 of the best ways to destroy that post-service loneliness

When you first get that precious, beautiful DD-214, it feels like good things are coming. You’re invincible. You just completed your military service and you’re ready to enjoy the sweet taste of civilian freedom. One thing you might not expect, though, is that you get lonely. Like, really lonely — and it’s the worst feeling.

After some introspection, you’ll realize it’s because all of your best friends are hundreds (or thousands) of miles away, scattered across this beautiful country, doing their own thing. You know, deep down, that the civilian friends you make will probably never compare to the brothers and sisters you just left.

So, how do you remedy that? How can you start to feel like you belong? Here are a few ideas to look into if you want to make some awesome new friends:


Prove to everyone that you’re not just another crayon-eating doofus.

(U.S. Air Force Photo by Capt. Jefferson S. Heiland)

Go to school

You spent years dealing with sh*tty chains of command and you’ve listened to too many people tell you that you’re going to exit the service only to be a hobo. Well, now’s your chance to prove ’em wrong. You earned your G.I. Bill, now go to school.

There, you’ll meet plenty of potential friends and, despite what your fellow service members have you believing, it’s a better place to find a significant than your local exotic dancing joint.

You spent almost every morning working out in the military anyways, right?

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Dennis Sloan)

Join a CrossFit gym

If school isn’t your thing, check out your local CrossFit gym. The exercise routines are the main course, but most have a type of community attached. Start working out there and you’ll get to know most of the others. Chances are you’ll meet another veteran while you’re at it.

You also get to refine your fighting skills.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jordyn Fetter)

Join a martial arts dojo

It’s easy; just pick a school you’re interested in and make the commitment. There are plenty of veterans out there who do this across all sorts of different styles, so you’ve got a good chance of meeting one or two.

You can also volunteer at a place run by veterans, like a decommissioned war ship.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Randall A. Clinton)

Join your local veteran organization

These things exist for the very purpose of bringing veterans together. If you miss the brotherhood, check one out. You’ll notice pretty quickly that it doesn’t matter what generation you’re from, everyone had that same sh*tbag NCO.

These are kind of like their own veteran’s organization.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class George Goslin)

Join a motorcycle club

Few other areas of life mimic the brotherhood of the military like an MC. If you’re into motorcycles and leather and surrounding yourself with great people, look for one or, hell, start your own. Just, you know, be mindful of the law.

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Air Force General claims the US’ capability lead over Russia and China ‘is shrinking’

General Herbert J. Carlisle before a US House Armed Services Committee hearing. | US House Armed Services Committee


In a House Armed Services Committee hearing on Wednesday, General Herbert J. Carlisle, the Commander of Air Combat Command, expressed concern over the current progress in the modernization of the US Air Force.

” … We are flying near and within the weapons envelope of those that could test our dominance,” Carlisle explained in a statement.

“The lead we have is shrinking as our near peer adversaries, and countries with which they proliferate, have developed, likely stolen, and fielded state-of-the-art systems.”

Carlisle cited numerous factors, such as limited resources, in the stagnating state of combat readiness. According to the Air Force, examples include six consecutive years of cuts that would reduce the number of F-35 combat squadrons by 50% by 2028, the divestment of 3,000 aircraft and 200,000 Airmen since Operation Desert Storm, and a reduction of $24 billion in funding for precision attack weapons — about 45% less weapons capacity.

Furthermore, Carlisle pinpointed outdated equipment, such as the AIM-120 medium-range missile, as a disturbing factor. As the Air Force’s primary air-to-air missile, it originally entered service with the F-15C in 1991. According to the official, in addition to the advancement of AIM-120 counter-measures by other nations, this outdated missile also limits the capabilities of newer aircraft, such as the F-22 Raptor and the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

“It also carries insufficient range versus newer long range adversary missiles and will soon require recapitalization,” Carlisle explained in a statement. “We are currently delivering 4th Gen weapons from 5th Gen platforms, and even those weapons inventories are being depleted beyond the current campaign requirements.”

An AIM-120 AMRAAM being loaded onto an F-16CJ. | US Air Force

Besides the threat of more budget cuts, there’s also another threat emerging from a different front — the modernization of the air forces in other countries. These threats include the development of their own 5th generation fighters, anti-space weapons, and new surface-to-air weapon systems that are claimed to possess the ability to acquire, track, and target the US’ stealth aircraft.

“It now comes as no surprise that our near peer adversaries’ capabilities have been modernized to specifically counter and negate American capabilities,” Carlisle stated. “Many other nations, Russia and China in particular, copy very well — original thought: they’re not as good.”

Though Carlisle maintains that many of these advancements were obtained through dubious means, the results are clear enough to have a reason for alarm.

The general illustrated this claim by showing how similar China’s J-31 stealth fighter was to the US’ F-35. With advanced stealth, supercruise capabilities, and innovative data-link technology, many officials are also growing concerned at how rapidly, and accurately, the Air Force’s imitators are emulating their counterparts.

China’s J-31 (F60) at the 2014 Zhuhai Air Show. | Wikimedia Commons

“They’ve watched our success and they know how good we are … They’ll steal technology so they avoid the challenges that we faced,” he explained in the hearing.

In order to address these insufficiencies, Carlisle proposed boosting the Air Force’s air, space, and cyber capabilities — most likely through increased funding — to compete in highly contested environments.

“Although a program is not yet in place, it will be paramount to continue modernizing our fleet, and progress to the next new counter-air aircraft that is more survivable, lethal, has a longer range, and bigger payload in order to maintain a gap with our adversaries,” he concluded.

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This blind WWII Marine veteran protected his US flag from vandals

Howard Banks is a WWII veteran who was injured while protecting Old Glory. Not in Europe or the Pacific, but in front of his Texas home.


Onetime Cpl. Howard Banks at home in Texas. (Credit: Yona Gavino/CBS 11)

The 92-year-old Banks is legally blind, but could spot someone trying to tear down the American flag posted in front of his house in Kaufman, Texas. When he went out to see what was happening, he was pushed to the ground.

“They could see me. I couldn’t see them,” Banks told the Dallas-Fort Worth CBS affiliate. “I turned and looked in the other direction, and about then – ‘wham!’ They knocked me down.”

Banks didn’t stay down for long. Just the previous year, vandals took down his U.S. flag, shredded it and then tore up his Marine Corps. Still holding on to the railing, Banks stood back up, ready to meet his attackers.

Howard Banks’ American Flag, still up on its pole. (Credit: Yona Gavino/CBS 11)

But they ran off. Banks was left with a twisted knee and some other bruises, but his flags were intact. Neighbors moved to help the 92-year-old, whose flags were still there. Banks attributed his dedication to the flag as more than just defending his property and his Marine Corps heritage.

“We’ve honored our flag all that time and doggone it, with our political climate the way that it is, we need something to rally around and that’s our flag,” Banks told the local Fox affiliate. “Once a Marine, always a Marine. I try to live that way.”

In the days since, Banks was surprised with a gift from Honor Flight, whose mission is to help older veterans by flying them to Washington, D.C., free of charge so they can visit their war’s memorial.

Banks’ neighbors moved in quickly to assist him. He now has security cameras in place to monitor his flags.

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This vet taught himself to play the piano in Saddam Hussein’s bombed out palace

In December 2003, Michael Trotter, Jr. was a soldier stationed in Baghdad, Iraq. His unit was camped out in one of Saddam Hussein’s bombed-out palaces when his commanding officer discovered a piano and suggested Trotter, who enjoyed singing, check it out.


“You had to crawl over soot and rut and rock and rubble from the war to get to this piano; it was like one of those dramatic movie scenes,” Trotter told Real Clear Life.

It’s common for troops to play the easier-to-transport guitar while deployed, but not many get the chance to tickle the ivory. Trotter didn’t know how to play piano, but he began to teach himself. Music became an outlet and an escape from the stress of combat.

When his friend, Army Captain Robert C. Scheetz, Jr., was killed by an IED, Trotter wrote a song called “Dear Martha,” which he then performed at Scheetz’s memorial service. Trotter would go on to sing at many more memorials, providing solace for those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

“Dear Martha” is about the letters written between loved ones divided by war. Trotter recorded the song with his wife, Tanya Blount, as part of their musical duo, The War and Treaty, which explores the concept of creating music out of darkness and despair to find peace, tranquility, and a higher purpose.

While this video doesn’t include any visuals, you can hear their tranquil notes and haunting harmonies by clicking play below — and you really, really should:

(The War and Treaty | YouTube)
Articles

This famous inventor designed drones before World War I

Nikola Tesla, the famed pioneer of electrical technology who rivaled even Thomas Edison, designed and displayed a working drone in 1898 — nearly 16 years before World War I — that he saw as a weapon that would end all wars.


Tesla’s drone was a 4-foot-long, remotely controlled boat that could be maneuvered via radio waves. He first displayed the craft during an 1898 demonstration in Madison Square Garden in New York.

Nikola Tesla’s remote control boat, patented in 1898. (Photo: Public Domain via the Nikola Tesla Museum, Belgrad)

At the show, crowds were shocked to see the boat respond to Tesla’s commands without any visible connection between the control box and the small craft. When Tesla patented the invention, he billed it as a tool of exploration, transportation, and war.

From Matthew Scroyer, a journalist who found the old patent:

Tesla’s military plan was that the drone boat would give way to other drones, each more destructive than the last. Once nations could fight wars using robots without risking their troops, the potential for unlimited destruction was supposed to stay people’s hands and bring about a “permanent peace among nations.”

Unfortunately for Tesla, military interest in the weapon was muted, and his patent expired without any serious interest from the War or Navy Departments. Drones didn’t take off as a weapon until the end of the 1900s, and their ever-widening adoption has not ended warfare.

The Kettering Bug followed a pre-programmed flight path to its target. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Museum)

The first drones didn’t even make use of remote control technology. America’s first drone-type weapon was the Kettering Bug aerial torpedo, a plane modified to follow a pre-set course and fly into its target with a large load of explosives in World War I.

Though the Kettering Bug was based on a remote-control target aircraft, the Hewitt-Sperry Automatic Airplane, the bug had no radio controls of its own.

The Army did attempt to use remote-control aircraft as bombs in World War II in Operation Aphrodite. Engineers modified B-24s with the addition of radio controls and thousands of pounds of explosive. These flying bombs, dubbed the B-8s, would be flown to altitude by two pilots who would bail out at 10,000 feet. From there, a bombardier in a “mother ship” B-24 would fly the plane remotely to its target.

A BQ-8 takes off. (Photo: U.S. Army Air Force)

Aphrodite was a major failure with more damage done to England by malfunctioning B-8s than was done to Germany. Some B-8 pilots were killed by premature detonations including future-President John F. Kennedy’s older brother, Navy Lt. Joseph Kennedy.