Last surviving Iwo Jima Medal of Honor recipient gets special birthday - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Last surviving Iwo Jima Medal of Honor recipient gets special birthday

A birthday celebration was held at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans on Oct. 2, 2018, for retired Chief Warrant Officer 4 Hershel “Woody” Williams, the last surviving Medal of Honor recipient from the Battle of Iwo Jima. A man with bright eyes and heartwarming laughter, 95 years old never looked so youthful.

Williams watched as his brothers were drafted into the U.S. Army and decided he wanted to become a U.S. Marine. He enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve in 1943 and retired after approximately 17 years of service.


“I joined the Marine Corps primarily because I knew nothing about the Marine Corps,” Williams said. “I was totally uneducated about the armed forces. The Marines were always very sharp, neat, polite, treated women very respectfully, and it caught my eye.”

Williams joined the Corps with the ambition to protect the country he called home. Little did he know, he would end up on enemy territory fighting for the freedom he loved so dearly.

“I thought that we would stay right here in the United States of America to protect our country and our freedom, so nobody could take this country away from us,” Williams said. “In boot camp, I was being trained by individuals who had been in combat. They were teaching us that if we were going to win, if we were going to survive, we had to fight a war.”

Last surviving Iwo Jima Medal of Honor recipient gets special birthday

Brig. Gen. Bradley S. James, commanding general of 4th Marine Aircraft Wing, reads a letter written by Gen. Robert B. Neller, Commandant of the Marine Corps, addressing retired Chief Warrant Officer 4 Hershel “Woody” Williams.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl Tessa D. Watts)

A boy from West Virginia working on a farm, Williams underwent the same honorable transformation endured by those before him and those after him; becoming a U.S. Marine headed overseas to enemy territory to defend his country.

“In boot camp, a person’s life completely changes,” Williams said. “From the time they arrive to the time they graduate, they become a new person. There is a spirit created within us that I cannot explain. It makes you so proud to be a Marine.”

Every Marine a rifleman, Williams had another asset that made him valuable to the Marine Corps and the war effort. He was selected to carry and use a flamethrower during World War II.

Last surviving Iwo Jima Medal of Honor recipient gets special birthday

Retired Chief Warrant Officer 4 Hershel “Woody” Williams, the last surviving Medal of Honor recipient from the Battle of Iwo Jima, explains the importance behind the Gold Star Flag and the Blue Star Flag to the attendees of his 95th birthday party at the National World War II Museum, Oct. 2, 2018. Williams established the “Hershel Woody Williams Medal of Honor Foundation” in 2010. The foundation encourages the establishment of Gold Star family Memorial Monuments.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Tessa D. Watts)

“Naturally, we were all trained to be a rifleman first,” Williams said. “I was selected to be in a special weapons unit with a demolition flamethrower. Flamethrowers were being used a lot in the Pacific because of caves, and on Iwo Jima there were many reinforced concrete pillboxes that bazookas, artillery, and mortars couldn’t affect.”

Little did he know, his actions with that flamethrower would earn him the Medal of Honor on Oct. 5, 1945, for his heroic actions during the Battle of Iwo Jima.

“At that point in time, I did not understand what I was receiving,” Williams said. “I had never heard of the Medal of Honor. I didn’t even know such a thing existed. As far as I was concerned, I was just doing what I was trained to do at Iwo Jima. That was my job. It wasn’t anything special.”

After receiving the Medal of Honor at the White House in Washington, D.C., Williams was called upon to speak to the 18th Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Alexander Archer Vandegrift. A conversation of a lifetime, something very specific stuck with Williams despite the fear of speaking to a man known to never crack a smile.

Last surviving Iwo Jima Medal of Honor recipient gets special birthday

The Victory Belles, a vocal trio, sing the Marines’ Hymn during the 95th birthday party of retired Chief Warrant Officer 4 Hershel “Woody” Williams, the last surviving Medal of Honor recipient of the Battle of Iwo Jima, at the National World War II Museum, Oct. 2, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl Tessa D. Watts)

“When the commandant spoke to me, much of what he said I do not recall because I was too scared,” Williams said as he laughed. “One of the things he did say that registered and has never escaped me is ‘that medal does not belong to you. It belongs to all of those Marines that never got to come home. Don’t ever do anything that would tarnish that medal.’ I remember those words very well.”

Williams joined the Marine Corps with a pure heart, dedicated to perform his duty to his country. Those duties ended up being significant enough to earn himself the Medal of Honor. A hero in the eyes of many, when he looks in the mirror he sees a man who was simply doing his job and caring for the fellow Marines around him.

With the distant gaze of a mind recalling nostalgic memories, “We were just Marines looking out for each other,” Williams said.

This article originally appeared on the United States Marine Corps. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US calls on Russia to allow access to Marine charged with espionage

The United States has called on Russia to permit increased access to ex-Marine Paul Whelan, who is being held in Moscow on an espionage charge his supporters say is unfounded.

U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Andrea Kalan said on March 11, 2019, that officials would visit the 49-year-old “later this week.”

Whelan — who holds U.S., Irish, Canadian, and British citizenship — was arrested on Dec. 28, 2019, in Moscow and charged with spying. His pretrial detention runs until May 28, 2019.


“We urge the Russian government to provide consular officers unrestricted visits with Mr. Whelan, to include discussing his case freely and without obstruction from Russian authorities,” Kalan said in a statement on Twitter.

“We urge the Russian govt to allow Whelan to sign documentation that will allow his family to choose hire an attorney that best represents his interests,” she added.

Kalan said in February 2019 that the U.S. Embassy had been unable to release any information regarding the case because Russian authorities had not allowed Whelan to give a signed Privacy Act Waiver to the embassy.

If convicted, Whelan could face up to 20 years in prison. His family has said he is innocent and that he was in Moscow to attend a wedding.

Russian officials have not released details of the allegations against Whelan, who they assert was caught red-handed in an act of espionage.

Defense lawyer Vladimir Zherebenkov has suggested his client was set up, saying he was handed a flash drive that he believed contained harmless personal material such as photographs but actually contained classified information.

Whelan, 49, was working as a global security director for a U.S. auto-parts manufacturer at the time of his arrest.

Relations between Russia and the United States have been strained over Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, its seizure of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, and its support for separatist militants in eastern Ukraine.

Whelan’s detainment came weeks after a Russian woman, Maria Butina, pleaded guilty in a U.S. court to acting as an agent for the Kremlin.

The Kremlin has denied that Butina is a Russian agent and has organized a social-media campaign to secure her release.

In the past, Russia has arrested foreigners with the aim of trading prisoners with other countries.

Zherebenkov has also said that his client is innocent and suggested that Russian officials may be trying to use him in an exchange for Butina.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov has rejected that scenario.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

How the world’s most powerful stealth destroyers stack up

China launched its first domestically-built Type 055 guided-missile stealth destroyer in July 2017, and since then, has added three more Type 055s to its fleet, with the last two launched in July 2018.

It’s no secret that China has grand ambitions for a world-class navy. In addition to its Type 055 destroyers, Beijing is also growing its aircraft carrier fleet.

But the US already has a world-class navy, and has even launched and commissioned its own new powerful Zumwalt-class of stealthy destroyers.

While the Type 055’s full specifications are still not completely known, it appears to be the one of the world’s most powerful destroyers alongside the Zumwalt.

Here’s how the Type 055 and Zumwalt-class destroyers match up.


Last surviving Iwo Jima Medal of Honor recipient gets special birthday

First, let’s compare the sizes. Type 055 is about 590 feet long and 65 feet wide with a maximum displacement of about 13,000—14,000 tons.

Source: Popular Science

Last surviving Iwo Jima Medal of Honor recipient gets special birthday

The first Zumwalt-class destroyer, USS Zumwalt, DDG-1000, in the North Atlantic on Dec. 7, 2015.

(Flickr photo by Jeff Head)

The Zumwalt, on the other hand, is a much larger ship at 610 feet long and 81 feet wide with a maximum displacement of about 15,656 tons.

Source: US Navy

Last surviving Iwo Jima Medal of Honor recipient gets special birthday

Chinese Type 055 Destroyer.

(Screenshot / YouTube)

In regards to propulsion, Type 055s have four QC-280 gas turbines, each providing about 23-28 megawatts of energy. This large amount of energy may one day power railguns or other future weapons systems.

Source: globalsecurity.org, The Diplomat

Last surviving Iwo Jima Medal of Honor recipient gets special birthday

(US Navy photo)

The Zumwalt, on the flip side, has two Rolls-Royce MT30 gas turbines, providing the ship with 78 megawatts of energy, including 58 megawatts in reserve. This reserve power may also power railguns or high-energy lasers in the future.

Source: The War Zone

Last surviving Iwo Jima Medal of Honor recipient gets special birthday

(CGTN)

In terms of stealth, Type 055 has an enclosed forward deck, main mast and bow, with the latter hiding the anchor and other equipment. But its hull and superstructure are fairly conventional.

Source: The National Interest, The Diplomat

Last surviving Iwo Jima Medal of Honor recipient gets special birthday

(US Navy photo)

The Zumwalt, however, is stealthy from the bottom up, including enclosed gun turrets and sensors.

The Zumwalt’s “Tumblehome” hull and superstructure “significantly reduces cross section and acoustic output making the ship harder to detect by enemies at sea,” according to the US Navy.

Source: The National Interest

Last surviving Iwo Jima Medal of Honor recipient gets special birthday

(CGTN)

As for radars, Type 055 uses X and S-band radars, with the former being used to track smaller and stealthier targets, and the latter being used to track targets at greater ranges.

Source: The War Zone

Last surviving Iwo Jima Medal of Honor recipient gets special birthday

(US Navy photo)

But the Zumwalt only has an X-band Spy-3 radar. It was supposed to have a similar dual-band radar as Type 055, but the S-band radar was cut to save costs.

Source: The War Zone, US Navy

Last surviving Iwo Jima Medal of Honor recipient gets special birthday

(CCTV)

And for armament, Type 055 has 112 Vertical Launch System cells, each cell having a diameter of about 2.8 feet.

The VLS tubes fire HHQ-9 surface-to-air missiles, YJ-18 anti-ship cruise missiles, CJ-10 land-attack cruise missiles and missile-launched anti-submarine torpedoes.

Type 055 is also equipped with an H/PJ-38 130 mm main gun on the bow, and H/PJ-11 and HHQ-10 close-in weapons systems for last minute defense.

Source: The Diplomat, The War Zone

Last surviving Iwo Jima Medal of Honor recipient gets special birthday

USS Zumwalt transits the Atlantic Ocean during acceptance trials on April 21, 2016.

(US Navy photo)

But the Zumwalt only has 80 VLS cells, each of which have a diameter of about 2.3 feet.

The Zumwalt VLS cells can fire Tomahawk, Evolved Sea Sparrow, and other guided missiles.

It’s also equipped with two 155 mm Advanced Gun Systems on the bow, and two Mark 46 close-in guns which fire 30 mm rounds. Rounds for the AGS are so expensive, about id=”listicle-2612880833″ million apiece, that the Navy doesn’t have any and has no plans to buy them, rendering the deck guns effectively out of service.

Source: US Navy

Last surviving Iwo Jima Medal of Honor recipient gets special birthday

The Zumwalt sails alonside a Littoral Combat Ship.

(US Navy photo)

Ultimately though, the two destroyers will have different mission sets.

Type 055 destroyers will focus more on air defense, anti-submarine missions and protecting carriers, which is why they have more VLS cells and a longer range than the Zumwalt. These mission sets, along with its large size, are why the US has even classified the Type 055 as a cruiser.

Although analysts say the Zumwalt is ultimately more powerful than Type 055, the US destroyer is more of a land attack ship, designed to deploy close to enemy shores and fire its large 155 mm guns like old battleships — if they ever get ammunition.

This also explains why the US only has plans to build three Zumwalt-class destroyers, and China plans to build about 12-24 Type 055 destroyers.

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

Articles

Kurds say two American mercenaries were killed in Syria

Two Americans were killed while fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, a Kurdish militia announced.


According to a report by CBSNews.com, the Kurdish militia known as the YPG announced the deaths of Robert Grodt and Nicholas Warden during fighting near Raqqa, Syria. Their deaths bring the total of Americans killed fighting ISIS as volunteers to at least four.

Last surviving Iwo Jima Medal of Honor recipient gets special birthday
YPG fighters near Raqqa. (WATM file photo)

In a five-minute video released by the YPG on YouTube, Grodt, who adopted the nom de guerre “Dehmat Goldman,” told his story, explaining how he had been very sympathetic to the Kurds.

“I talked with my partner and my family, and I’m like, I’m gonna go out to Syria. This is something I care about,” he said in the video.

Warden, the other American confirmed killed in the fighting near the city ISIS claimed as its capital, had adopted the moniker Rodi Deysie and was an Army veteran.

“He was very strong-willed and very strong-minded and very much against ISIS and these terrorist groups,” his father Mark was quoted by CBSNews.com as saying. “He wanted to do whatever he could to get rid of them. He said not enough people are helping so he had to help.”

Last surviving Iwo Jima Medal of Honor recipient gets special birthday
A line of ISIS soldiers.

In a video released by the YPG, Warden said he volunteered to fight ISIS “because of the terrorist attacks they were doing in Orlando, in San Bernardino, in Nice (France), in Paris.”

The terrorist group may have been driven from Mosul, and ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has reportedly been killed, but they are still capable of carrying out heinous attacks. CBSNews.com reported that the group used children as human shields for a car bomb factory near Raqqa, preventing Coalition forces from carrying out an air strike on the facility. Instead, vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices are being attacked one at a time after they depart the production line.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Israel retaliates after 150 rockets are fired from Gaza strip

Palestinian militants on the Gaza Strip launched at least 150 rockets at Israel overnight, and Israel retaliated by pounding the region with deadly airstrikes.

The Israel Defense Forces said mounting violence began Aug. 8 after militants shot at an IDF vehicle in the Gaza Strip. In response, Israel responded with tank fire.


In the hours following the exchange, sirens sounded across southern Israel in communities that surround the Gaza Strip, including Sderot. Israel deployed its Iron Dome system and intercepted 25 launches, though several civilians were injured by shrapnel.

Israel’s rescue service Magen David Adom said three Israelis, including two men ages 34 and 20, were taken to a hospital for treatment.

In another round of escalation, Israel responded to rocket fire by striking what it said were Hamas militant targets in Gaza. By early Aug. 9, the IDF said it struck more than 140 targets.

A 30-year-old Hamas affiliate was killed in the strikes, the Gaza Health Ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qedra said. A 23-year-old pregnant woman and her 18-month old child were also killed in the strikes, according to the ministry. At least eight other civilians in Gaza were also injured, the ministry said.

The IDF said it fired at a vehicle used to launch rockets at Israeli territory.

Israel and militants in Gaza have exchanged frequent fire in recent months. In May, more than 100 rockets were launched from Gaza in the worst escalation since 2014, when Israeli troops invaded Gaza.

Following May’s rocket attacks, Israel and Gaza reached an uneasy cease-fire mediated by Egypt, though rocket launches and airstrike retaliation has continued.

Both sides have said they are working toward a cease-fire agreement, though continued rocket fire may dampen efforts. As of Aug. 9, sirens continued to sound in Israeli border communities.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu canceled a trip to Colombia to meet with security officials for cease-fire negotiations. Israel, however, appears to be learning more toward a quid pro quo agreement with Hamas instead of a comprehensive cease-fire, as past resolutions have often crumbled.

According to Haaretz, an Israeli official source said last week that cease-fire talks would not succeed unless the bodies of slain Israeli soldiers and two Israeli civilians being held captive in Gaza were returned.

A Hamas official told the Turkish news agency Anadolu on Aug. 7 that the two sides were expected to sign an agreement by late August that would reportedly lift restrictions on the entry of goods into the Gaza Strip in exchange for a five-year cease-fire and the return of the Israeli captives.

Israel’s defense chief said last month that Gaza’s only commercial border crossing, Keren Shalom, would reopen if calm persisted. The border had been closed in response to damage caused by incendiary balloons launched into Israeli territory.

The Hamas deputy chief Khalil Al-Hayya told Al Jazeera TV on Aug. 8 that talks mediated by the UN and Egypt to bring calm to the region were in “advanced stages.” according to Reuters.

“We can say that actions led by the United Nations and Egypt are in advanced stages and we hope it could yield some good from them,” he said. “What is required is for calm to be restored along the border between us and the Zionist enemy.”

Neither the UN nor Egypt has publicly discussed its plans for a renewed Gaza cease-fire, but they said it would bring economic relief to Gaza’s 2 million residents experiencing shortages under crippling blockades.

Jason Greenblatt, a US envoy who has been involved in peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, pointed a finger squarely at Hamas for the escalation of violence.

The Islamic militant group Hamas has controlled the Gaza Strip since Israel disengaged from the region in 2005. Since then, the group has fought three wars with Israel, most recently in 2014, resulting in deaths and injuries of thousands of civilians and leaving much of Gaza is ruin.

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

MIGHTY SPORTS

Watch the best intro to the Army-Navy Game ever made

On Saturday, Dec. 8, 2018, CBS will once again present the Army-Navy Game, live, at noon EST. Army and Navy already released the uniforms they’re sporting this year, troops around the world are uploading their spirit videos to join in on the smack talk, and, hopefully, CBS Sports will have another outstanding introduction to the game like the one they made in 2017.


This 2018 matchup is the 119th time Army and Navy will take the field in what many call “The Greatest Rivalry In Sports.” Each side will have its students, alums, and military fans cheering on — both in the stadium in Philadelphia and wherever the U.S. Military operates. But as remarkable as the storied game is, the day is truly all about the cadets and midshipmen who are on the field and in the stands that day. Few things can accurately describe the all-encompassing magnitude of a young person choosing life in a service academy quite like the energy of the Army-Navy Game.

Attending the U.S. Military Academy at West Point or the Naval Academy at Annapolis doesn’t just affect the person who wants to go, who competes with so many others for a coveted spot. It affects everyone in their lives, as it has for generations.

And CBS Sports did an amazing job of describing the power of such a decision.

The entry requirements for both of these service academies are rigid — they won’t take just anyone. A candidate must be between 17 and 23 years old and must not be pregnant or have any dependents. The candidate can’t be married and must be a United States citizen. Beyond that, a candidate must be nominated by an official of the U.S. government, which is a sitting Representative, Senator, or Vice President of the United States.

Beyond an excellent high school record and standardized test scores, the candidate must also be in above average physical condition and must successfully complete a Candidate Fitness Assessment for their desired service academy. Needless to say, candidates aren’t just your average American college-age student before they get in.

And before you start thinking this intro video is a little dramatic, consider the ranks academy graduates will be joining.

Last surviving Iwo Jima Medal of Honor recipient gets special birthday

(U.S. Army)

The cadets of West Point and the midshipmen of Annapolis share a lineage with a “who’s who” of American Military History. West Point has graduated names like William Tecumseh Sherman, Ulysses S. Grant, John J. Pershing, George S. Patton, Douglas MacArthur, H. Norman Schwarzkopf, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, and even current Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo.

Other notable alums include Mike Krzyzewski, current head coach of the Duke Men’s Basketball Team, who has led the Blue Devils to five national championships and even coached the U.S. Men’s Basketball Team in the 2008, 2012, and 2016 Summer Olympics.

Last surviving Iwo Jima Medal of Honor recipient gets special birthday

(U.S. Navy)

Midshipmen have their own stunning heritage. Former President Jimmy Carter is a USNA alum who helped pioneer the development of nuclear submarines. Former Arizona Senator John McCain is an alum, along with football great Roger Staubach, Basketball legend David Robinson, billionaire tycoon H. Ross Perot, and the first American in space, Astronaut Alan Shepard.

Along with its distinguished alumni come 21 ambassadors, 24 members of Congress, two Nobel Prize winners, 73 Medal of Honor Recipients, 54 astronauts, and countless scholars.

Articles

A US paratrooper escaped a Nazi prison to join the Red Army and liberate fellow POWs

The World War II story of “Jumpin'” Joseph Beyrle gives a whole new meaning to the saying: “Oh yeah? You and what army?”


Actually, the Red Army, to be exact.

Beyrle was a paratrooper with the legendary 101st Airborne, 506th Infantry Regiment. A demolitions expert, he performed missions in Nazi-occupied France with the resistance there before flying into Normandy on D-Day.

Beyrle had mixed luck during the war, but he would end it as a legend.

When his C-47 came under intense enemy fire during the D-Day invasion, Beyrle had to jump at the ultra-low altitude of 120 meters. He made the drop successfully but lost contact with his unit. Not one to be deterred by being alone in Fortress Europe, he still performed sabotage missions to support the D-Day landings.

He even managed to destroy a power station but was captured by the Wehrmacht shortly after.

Last surviving Iwo Jima Medal of Honor recipient gets special birthday
Beyrle’s POW ID photo.

Over the next seven months, Sgt. Beyrle was moved around quite a bit. He managed to escape twice, but, unlucky for him, he was recaptured both times. One time, he and other fugitives tried to hop onto a train bound for Poland but ended up on the way to Berlin instead.

He was beaten and nearly shot as a spy when he was handed over to the Gestapo, but the Wehrmacht took him back after military officials stepped in, saying the Gestapo had no authority over POWs.

Once back in the hands of the German military, they sent him to Stalag III-C, a prisoner of war camp in Brandenberg. The camp was notorious for the number of Russian prisoners who were starved or otherwise killed there.

Last surviving Iwo Jima Medal of Honor recipient gets special birthday
Beyrle’s POW ID.

In January 1945, he escaped Stalag III-C and moved east, where he linked up with a Soviet tank brigade. He convinced them he was an American by waving a pack of Lucky Strike cigarettes and persuaded the battalion’s commander (the Red Army’s only female tank officer of that rank) to let him join her unit. He spent a month in the Red Army tank corps, assisting in the liberation of his old POW camp, Stalag III-C.

Last surviving Iwo Jima Medal of Honor recipient gets special birthday
Aleksandra Samusenko, Beyrle’s Red Army commander.

Beyrle was wounded by a German Stuka dive bomber attack and evacuated to a Red Army hospital in Poland. When Soviet Marshal Georgy Zhukov learned there was a non-Soviet in the hospital, he visited Joseph Beyrle.

Amazed by his story, Zhukov gave Beyrle the papers he needed to rejoin U.S. forces in Europe.

The now-recuperating former POW headed to Moscow on a Soviet military convoy in February 1945. When he arrived at the U.S. embassy, he discovered he was listed as killed in action four days after the D-Day landings. His hometown of Muskegon, Michigan, held a funeral mass for him.

Last surviving Iwo Jima Medal of Honor recipient gets special birthday
Scan of original War Dept. telegram received by Joe Beyrle’s parents in Sept. 1944 informing them (erroneously) that he was KIA

Beyrle was hailed as a hero in both the U.S. and Russia. In 1994, Presidents Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin presented him with medals in honor of his service to the countries. His son even served as Ambassador to Russia between 2008 and 2012.

The famed war hero died at 81 while visiting the area in Georgia where he trained to be a paratrooper in 1942.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Remains of Korean War dead could be Army killed at the Frozen Chosin

The remains returned by North Korea are possibly those of Army troops who fell in the brutal 1950 battle at the Chosin Reservoir, Pentagon POW/MIA officials said on Aug. 2, 2018.

The returned remains are associated with the fight at what was called the “Frozen Chosin” for the sub-zero temperatures in which Marine and Army units fought their way out of encirclement by Chinese forces and were evacuated by sea, said Dr. John Byrd, a forensic anthropologist.


Byrd, who went to Wonsan in North Korea late July 2018 as part of the team that brought back the remains, said he was told by North Korean officials that the remains were recovered from the village of Sin Hung-ri on the east side of the reservoir.

Marines fought on the west side of the reservoir, “and the east side — that’s where the Army was,” said Byrd, laboratory director of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA).

At a Pentagon briefing with retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Kelly McKeague, the DPAA director, Byrd said his initial examination of the remains, and his discussions with the North Koreans, led him to believe that further analysis will show that the remains are those of Americans.

Last surviving Iwo Jima Medal of Honor recipient gets special birthday

Honor guard from NATO countries participate in a dignified transfer as part of a repatriation ceremony on Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, Aug. 1, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Benjamin Raughton)

In addition, the 55 transfer cases handed over by the North Koreans contained equipment associated with the American military, such as boots, canteens, buttons and buckles, Byrd said.

There also was one dog tag, he added. He declined to disclose the name on the tag but said two family members had been notified and are expected to be in the Washington, D.C., area with family groups for a detailed briefing from DPAA on the next steps in identifying the remains.

Byrd said the 55 transfer cases brought by two Air Force C-17s to Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii could represent more than 55 individuals, due to remains possibly being mixed.

“You should not assume one box is one person,” he said. “We couldn’t be sure how many individuals were in each box.”

McKeague said that DPAA has a DNA database from 92 percent of the families of the estimated 7,700 U.S. service members still listed as missing from the 1950-53 Korean War and DNA comparisons with the remains from the 55 cases would begin shortly.

He said samples from the remains would be sent to the Armed Forces Identification Laboratories at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware to begin the DNA process.

“Where we have compelling DNA matches, identifications could come quickly,” McKeague said, but he and Byrd also cautioned that the process could take years.

Identifications could also come quickly if teeth are found among the remains, McKeague said.

“We could immediately compare dental records,” he said.

Another method of identification was through chest x-rays that were on file for those who served in the Korean War, McKeague said. He said that DPAA has chest radiographs for about three-quarters of the missing from the Korean War.

The key to identifications from chest X-rays was the clavicle, or collarbone, said Chuck Prichard, a DPAA spokesman. Clavicles are unique to each individual, “as unique as a fingerprint,” he said.

McKeague said he was “guardedly optimistic” that North Korea would agree to the return of more remains and also to joint recovery operations with the U.S. at former battlefields and prison camps.

Byrd cautioned that, “at this point, at least, there’s no way to tell” how many more sets of remains the North Koreans might already have in their possession.

Featured image: This blown bridge blocked the only way out for U.S. forces withdrawing from Chosin Reservoir. Air Force C-119s dropped portable bridge sections to span the chasm, allowing men and equipment to reach safety.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia and China are top threats according to Dunford

In September 2018, Russian armed forces, joined by Chinese and Mongolian troops, gathered in the country’s east for Vostok-18, an “unprecedented” military exercise that Russia said was the largest since 1981.

In October and November 2018, all 29 NATO members and Sweden and Finland massed in Norway for Trident Juncture 2018, a regular exercise that this year was the largest version since the Cold War, according to NATO officials.


Joining Trident Juncture was the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman, which sailed into the Arctic Circle west of Norway on Oct. 19, 2018, becoming the first US aircraft carrier to do so since the early 1990s.

These events, plus heightened tensions between Russia and NATO and other close encounters between them, have given many the impression the world has returned to a Cold War.

Last surviving Iwo Jima Medal of Honor recipient gets special birthday

The U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Thomas Gooley)

According to Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, that’s not the case, but there are now real challenges to US power.

“I wouldn’t suggest that it’s a Cold War,” Dunford said on Nov. 5, 2018 during an event at Duke University. “But if you think about the 1990s,” after the collapse of the Soviet Union, he added, “the United States had no competitor, and as we look at Russia and China today, we see Russia and China as peer competitors.”

Tensions in Europe have been elevated for some time.

In the early 2000s, not long after Vladimir Putin rose to power in Moscow, the Baltic states of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia joined NATO, bringing the alliance into a region that Russia has long considered sensitive.

A decade later, fearing NATO would be invited into strategic areas of the Black Sea region, Russia annexed Crimea in Ukraine and has remained involved in the simmering conflict there in the years since.

Since then, NATO has boosted its presence in Eastern Europe in response, with more US armored rotations and the stationing of multinational battle groups in Poland and the Baltic states.

China, too, has grow in power over the past two decades. It has been increasingly active in its near abroad, making expansive claims over the South China Sea, which its neighbors dispute and an international tribunal rejected.

The US has played a major role in contesting those claims, leading freedom-of-navigation exercises in the region to ensure waterways remain open. That has led to confrontations with Chinese forces on sea and in the air.

But increased tensions don’t mean the world has returned to the status quo ante, Dunford said.

Last surviving Iwo Jima Medal of Honor recipient gets special birthday

Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

(Photo by Myles Cullen)

“It doesn’t necessarily equate to a Cold War. Competition doesn’t have to be conflict,” he said during the event. “But … from a military perspective, we have two states now that can challenge our ability to project power and challenge us in all five domains” — ground, sea, air, space, and cyberspace — “and that’s what’s different than in the 1990s.”

Though he described them as new challenges, he characterized the US response to each of them differently.

During meetings with his Russian counterparts, Dunford said he has tried to “make it clear that what you’re seeing in our posture, what you’re seeing in the increased forces that we have put in Europe, what you’re seeing in the path of capability development that we’re on, is in order to deter a conflict, not to fight, and in order to make sure that we can meet our alliance commitments in NATO.”

“Russia has made a concerted effort over the last 10 years to increase their capabilities,” including at sea, on land, in space and cyberspace, and with nuclear weapons, he added, “So I’ve tried to explain to them is that what we are doing is responding to that challenge that they pose.”

In contrast, in the Pacific region — where the US recently renamed its combatant command as Indo-Pacific Command in what as seen as a compliment to India and a slight to China — the US is trying to ensure everyone plays by the same rules, Dunford said.

“China is irritated by what we do, but again, [we] try to explain to them that, look, there is a rules-based international order, and we talk about a free and open Indo-Pacific based on international law, norms, and standards,” he said.

“What we are doing in the Pacific is we’re flying, operating, and sailing wherever international law allows, and the purpose of that is to demonstrate that we are standing up for those rules.”

In addition to claiming a vast swath of the South China Sea, Beijing has reclaimed land on reefs and islands there and, on some of them, constructed military outposts.

The US and others have rejected those claims and continued to treat the area as international waters, which has led to a number of close encounters.

Dunford encouraged continued diplomacy with China, and he spoke positively about his interactions with Chinese military leadership, saying they had been able to perform “confidence-building measures” and to “increase transparency and reduce the risk of miscalculation.”

But he also said a “coherent, collective response” was necessary and that, like other US officials, he had made plain to Beijing the US’s objections.

“I learned early in my career that if you see something that is not to standard or not within the law and you ignore it, you’ve set a new standard, and it’s lower,” Dunford said Nov. 5, 2018. “When I talked to my Chinese counterpart, I said, look, this is not about a pile of rocks in the Pacific. It’s about enforcing international law and a coherent response to your violation of international law.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The new Navy budget speeds up construction of new destroyers

The Navy’s budget proposal accelerates construction of new Arleigh Burke-class DDG 51 Destroyers in 2019 as the service prepares to start construction of its first new, next-generation Flight III destroyer this year.


Budget data says the Navy proposes to increase production of DDG-51s to 3 in 2019, up from 2 in 2018, all while the prospect of a DoD budget amendment adding a 3rd DDG 51 in 2018 gains traction in Congress.

The new destroyers under construction, along with the upcoming emergence of DDG-51 Flight III ships, make up a key component of the Navy’s plan to reach an overall fleet size goal of 355 ships in coming years. The newest destroyers represent technically advanced warships able to fire new weapons, better detect enemy attacks, and prepare for a highly contested future maritime threat environment.

Also read: Navy names Arleigh-Burke destroyer after World War II Marine hero

Speaking at the Surface Naval Association symposium in January 2018, Capt. Casey Moton, Major Program Manager, DDG 51 Program Office, PEO Ships, said fabrication of the first Flight III Destroyer will begin at Huntington Ingalls in May 2018. Flight III destroyer warships are slated to start entering service in the 2020s.

Moton emphasized the new, super-sensitive AN/SPY-6 radar as a distinguishing characteristic of Flight III destroyers, as it is expected to vastly expand the protective envelope for ship-integrated defenses.

“Fielding the AMDR will bring much improved ballistic missile defense by providing truly integrated simultaneous air and missile defense,” Moton said at SNA.

(Kris Osborn | YouTube)The Navy is now finalizing the detailed design phase and finishing the 3D modeling needed to prepare for construction. The Navy hopes to enter an efficient, cost-saving multi-year contract initiative to build the first 10 Flight III ships; the first two of the new class of destroyers are now under contract. Huntington Ingalls Industries is building one called DDG 125 and Bath Iron Works is under contract to build DDG 126.

“Detailed designed is on track to support the start of construction with Flight III,” Moton said.

The Raytheon-built AN/SPY-6(V) radar is reported by developers to be 35-times more powerful than existing ship-based radar systems; the technology is widely regarded as being able to detect objects twice as far away at one-half the size of current tracking radar.

The AN/SPY-6 radar, also called Air and Missile Defense Radar (AMDR), is engineered to simultaneously locate and discriminate multiple tracks.

Related: This new radar could be the US Navy’s force field against Chinese ship-killing missile

Navy officials tell Warrior that AMDR has completed a System Functional Review for integration with the upgraded Aegis Baseline 10 radar and software systems.

The AN/SPY-6 platform will enable next-generation Flight III DDG 51s to defend much larger areas compared with the AN/SPY-1D radar on existing destroyers. In total, the Navy plans as many as 22 Flight III DDG 51 destroyers, according to a previously completed Navy capabilities development document.

The AN/SPY-6 is being engineered to be easily repairable with replaceable parts, fewer circuit boards, and cheaper components than previous radars, according to Raytheon developers. The AMDR is also designed to rely heavily on software innovations, something which reduces the need for different spare parts, Moton said.

Last surviving Iwo Jima Medal of Honor recipient gets special birthday
Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer. (U.S. Navy Photo By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kryzentia Weiermann)

The Navy has finished much of the planned software builds for the AMDR system, however, Moton explained that using newly integrated hardware and software with common interfaces will enable continued modernization in future years. Called TI 16 (Technical Integration), the added components are engineered to give Aegis Baseline 10 additional flexibility should it integrate new systems such as emerging electronic warfare or laser weapons.

“The top-level biggest thing we are doing with Baseline 10 is to integrate AMDR and take full advantage of simultaneous air and missile defense. This will set up for future capabilities such as electronic warfare attack,” Moton added.

Moton said that special technological adaptations are being built into the new, larger radar system so that it can be sufficiently cooled and powered up with enough electricity. The AMDR will be run by 1000-volts of DC power.

“We want to get the power of the radar and minimize changes to the electrical plan throughout the ship,” Moton said.

The DDG Flight III’s will also be built with the same Rolls Royce power turbine engineered for the DDG 1000, yet designed with some special fuel-efficiency enhancements, according to Navy information.

The AMDR is equipped with specially configured cooling technology. The Navy has been developing a new 300-ton AC cooling plant slated to replace the existing 200-ton AC plant, Moton said.

More reading: Navy’s destroyers and cruisers get massive tech overhaul

Before becoming operational, the new cooling plant will need to have completed environmental testing which will assess how the unit is able to tolerate vibration, noise, and shocks such as those generated by an underwater explosion, service officials said.

DDG 51 Flight III destroyers are expected to expand upon a promising new ship-based weapons system technology fire-control system, called Naval Integrated Fire Control – Counter Air, or NIFC-CA.

The technology, which has already been deployed, enables ship-based radar to connect with an airborne sensor platform to detect approaching enemy anti-ship cruise missiles from beyond the horizon and, if needed, launch an SM-6 missile to intercept and destroy the incoming threat, Navy officials said.

Last surviving Iwo Jima Medal of Honor recipient gets special birthday
The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) fires a Harpoon missile during a live-fire drill. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Patrick Dionne)

Navy developers say NIFC-CA presents the ability to extend the range of attack missiles and extend the reach of sensors by netting different sensors from different platforms — both sea-based and air-based together into one fire control system.

NIFC-CA is part of an overall integrated air and missile defense high-tech upgrade now being installed and tested on existing and new DDG 51 ships using Aegis Baseline 9. Baseline 10, the next iteration of Aegis technology, brings additional improvements to NIFC-CA.

The system hinges ship-based Aegis Radar — designed to provide defense against long-range incoming ballistic missiles from space as well as nearer-in threats such as anti-ship cruise missiles.

More: Navy destroyer fires missiles in self-defense

Through the course of several interviews, SPY-6 radar developers with Raytheon have told Warrior Maven that simulated weapons engagements have enabled the new radar to close what’s called the “track loop” for anti-air warfare and ballistic missile defense simulations. The process involves data signal processing of raw radar data to close a track loop and pinpoint targets.

The radar works by sending a series of electromagnetic signals or “pings” which bounce off an object or threat and send back return-signal information identifying the shape, size, speed, or distance of the object encountered.

The development of the radar system is hastened by the re-use of software technology from existing Navy dual-band and AN/TPY-2 radar programs, Raytheon developers added.

Last surviving Iwo Jima Medal of Honor recipient gets special birthday

AN/SPY-6 technology, which previously completed a Critical Design Review, is designed to be scalable, Raytheon experts say.

As a result, it is entirely plausible that AMDR or a comparable technology will be engineered onto amphibious assault ships, cruisers, carriers and other platforms as well.

Raytheon statements say AN/SPY-6 is the first truly scalable radar, built with radar building blocks – Radar Modular Assemblies – that can be grouped to form any size radar aperture, either smaller or larger than currently fielded radars.

“All cooling, power, command logic and software are scalable. This scalability could allow for new instantiations, such as back-fit on existing DDG 51 destroyers and installation on aircraft carriers, amphibious warfare ships, frigates, or the Littoral Combat Ship and DDG 1000 classes, without significant radar development costs,” a Raytheon written statement said.

The new radar uses a chemical compound semiconductor technology called Gallium Nitride which can amplify high-power signals at microwave frequencies; it enables better detection of objects at greater distances when compared with existing commonly used materials such as Gallium Arsenide, Raytheon officials explained.

Raytheon engineers tell Warrior that Gallium Nitride is designed to be extremely efficient and use a powerful aperture in a smaller size to fit on a DDG 51 destroyer with reduced weight and reduced power consumption. Gallium Nitride has a much higher breakdown voltage so it is capable of much higher power densities, Raytheon developers said.

Articles

The Yanks are sending their tanks back to Europe

The United States Army is shipping M1 Abrams main battle tanks back to Europe, part of an effort to reassure NATO allies in the wake of Russian actions in Crimea and the Ukraine.


According to reports by CBSNews.com and the BBC, the first vehicles arrived in Germany on Jan. 6, and they will be deployed to Poland and other Eastern European countries that formerly were Russian allies. These vehicles will be used by Armored Brigade Combat Teams that will rotate into Europe from the United States.

Last surviving Iwo Jima Medal of Honor recipient gets special birthday
Soldiers with 3rd Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment, participate in a live-fire tank shoot firing the first ever rounds fired by a U.S. M1A2 tanks in Bulgaria at Novo Selo Training Area, Bulgaria, June 24, 2015. (US Army photo)

The first rotation is slated to begin sometime in 2017.

The Army once had all or parts of six divisions in Europe with NATO alongside two Armored Cavalry Regiments, grouped into the V and VII Corps in 1989, according to a NATO order of battle.

After budget cuts, that force had dropped to the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment, a Stryker Brigade Combat Team, according to a 2015 Army Times report. That unit will be equipped with the M1296 Dragoon, a Stryker equipped with a 30mm Bushmaster II chain gun.

The Abrams tanks sent to Germany are the M1A2 version. According to GlobalSecurity.org, these tanks have a 120mm main gun and 40 rounds of ammunition for that, a M2 .50-caliber heavy machine gun, and two 7.62mm medium machine guns. The tanks have a crew of four and a top speed of 42 miles per hour.

Articles

Here’s how Boeing’s updated F/A-18 may compare to the F-35

President-elect Donald Trump caused a genuine uproar in the combat-aviation community when he tweeted in December, “Based on the tremendous cost and cost overruns of the Lockheed Martin F-35, I have asked Boeing to price-out a comparable F-18 Super Hornet!”


The idea that an F/A-18 Super Hornet could be “comparable” to the F-35 met swift and intense condemnation, and Lockheed Martin quickly lost billions in value on its stock.

Related: F-35s, F-22s will soon have artificial intelligence to control drone wingmen

“No, Mr. Trump, You Can’t Replace F-35 With A ‘Comparable’ F-18” a headline at Breaking Defense said.

“You can’t replace the F-35 with an F-18 any more than you can replace an aircraft carrier with a cruise ship,” a headline at Popular Science said.

Last surviving Iwo Jima Medal of Honor recipient gets special birthday
The Boeing concept for the Advanced Super Hornet, pictured here without enclosed weapons pods. | Boeing

Lt. Col. David Berke, a former commander of the US Marine Corps’ first operational F-35B squadron, told Business Insider the idea of upgrading a legacy fighter to do the F-35’s job was plainly “preposterous.”

Virtually everyone pointed to a single aspect of the F-35 that the F/A-18 lacked: stealth.

But the US and other countries already have in their sights a modern update on the F/A-18 that is meant to complement the F-35. The update may be poised to deliver even more capability than Lockheed Martin’s Joint Strike Fighter in some areas, even without being as stealthy.

Dan Gillian, Boeing’s vice president of F/A-18 and EA-18 programs, told Business Insider that even with the coming F-35C naval variant, US carrier air wings would still field versions of the F/A-18 into the 2040s. The company is planning considerable updates that will focus on “addressing the gaps” in naval aviation.

Gillian and the Boeing team call it the Advanced Super Hornet, a modern update on the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, which itself was an update on the original F/A-18 Hornet. Gillian says Boeing designed the Super Hornet “from the beginning in an evolutionary way with lots of room for growth in power, cooling, and weight so it could adapt to changes over the years.”

Last surviving Iwo Jima Medal of Honor recipient gets special birthday
An F/A-18F Super Hornet assigned to the Fighting Swordsmen of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 32 makes an arrested landing on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) (Ike). | U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Andrew J. Sneeringer

“We have a legacy with the F-18 — on time on cost,” Gillian said, which one could contrast to the F-35 program, which has faced constant production overruns in cost and time. In fact, a recent report says the Navy’s version of the F-35 just hit yet another setback that could take years and billions to fix.

Gillian says Boeing could start fielding Advanced Super Hornets by the early 2020s at the latest, while some limited contracts to bring elements of the Advanced Super Hornet are already underway. So even though the designs of the F-35 and the F/A-18 reflect different missions, they certainly are comparable in terms of price, availability, and capability.

So what does a 2017 update of the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet look like?

Last surviving Iwo Jima Medal of Honor recipient gets special birthday
Boeing

“When we talk about the Advanced Super Hornet package, it can be delivered to a build of new airplanes and it can be retrofitted to existing airframes,” Gillian said.

“An airplane that I’m building today off the line has some systems that have matured over time that a Super Hornet would not have,” he added, saying there would essentially be no difference between a 2017 Advanced Super Hornet and a Super Hornet plucked off an aircraft carrier and brought up to date.

The physical characteristics of a fully decked out Advanced Super Hornet would be as follows:

  • Shoulder-mounted conformal fuel tanks to carry 3,500 pounds of fuel and reduce drag. These fuel tanks could “extend the reach about 125 nautical miles,” meaning the planes can “either go faster or carry more,” according to Gillian.
  • An infrared search and track radar, which would be the first such capability included on a US fighter jet since the F-14 Tomcat. This will allow the Advanced Super Hornets to counter enemy stealth capability and to get a read on heat-emitting entities without emitting any radar signal of their own. “There was a fixation on stealth attributes,” Gillian said of fifth-gen fighters, “which is an important attribute for the next 25 years, but tactical fighters are designed for stealth in one part of the spectrum, all planes emit heat.”
  • Advanced electronic warfare capabilities. Currently, the F-18 family leads the US military in EW platforms with the Growler, an EW version of the Super Hornet in which Boeing has “taken out the gun and installed more EW equipment … Instead of missiles on the wing tips it has a large sensing pods,” Gillian said. The Navy has scheduled the F-35C to eventually carry the advanced EW pod, but the initial generation of F-35s will have to rely on Growlers for EW attacks. The Advanced Super Hornet will have EW self-protection, but not the full suite present on the Growler.
  • An advanced cockpit system with a new 19-inch display. Basically “a big iPad for the airplane, allowing the pilot to manage all the information and data that’s out there,” Gillian said, comparing its utility to the F-35’s display.
  • Improved avionics and computing power as well as increased ability to network to receive targeting data from platforms like the F-35 or the E-2 Hawkeye. The Advanced Super Hornet would also feature an improved active electronically scanned array radar.

Further enhancements still to be considered by the US Navy for Advanced Super Hornets include the following:

  • An enclosed weapons pod would make the plane more aerodynamic while also cutting down on the plane’s radar cross section. Combined with the form-fitting fuel tanks, the Advanced Super Hornet could cut its radar signature by up to 50%.
  • An improved engine could increase fuel efficiency and performance. Boeing hasn’t yet begun earnestly working toward this, and it could add to the overall cost of the project significantly.

Hypothetically, Advanced Super Hornets could field IRST before F-35Cs come online. Growlers will also serve in the vital role of EW attack craft, without which the F-35 cannot do its job as a stealth penetrator.

So while an Advanced Super Hornet will never be comparable to the F-35 in all aspects, it could certainly develop some strengths that the F-35 lacks.

Additionally, Gillian said the Advanced Super Hornets would not cost much more than the current F/A-18E/F Super Hornets, which run about $70 million apiece. Even if that price rose by $10 million, it would still be lower than that of the cheapest expected F-35s, which come in at $85 million.

Conclusion: Could Boeing create an F/A-18 ‘comparable’ to the F-35?

Last surviving Iwo Jima Medal of Honor recipient gets special birthday
It’s unanimous. The F-18 will never do the F-35’s job, and vice versa. | Lockheed Martin

“The Advanced Super Hornet is really a collection of systems and design changes that when implemented achieve a significantly different capability for the air wing,” said Gillian, who stressed that the Super Hornet and Growler platforms were “well positioned” to improve in scope and capability over time.

Gillian made it clear, however, that the Advanced Super Hornet program had been, since its inception, meant to accompany the F-35, with carrier air wings consisting of three squadrons of Super Hornets and one squadron of F-35s into the 2040s.

The US Navy has contracts already underway to update its existing Super Hornet fleet with elements of the Advanced Super Hornet package, and it seems the US will end up with both Advanced Super Hornets and F-35s, each with their own strengths and weaknesses.

The F/A-18, not designed with all-aspect stealth in mind, will most likely never serve as a penetrating aircraft for heavily contested airspace, but its future onboard America’s aircraft carriers is well defined for decades to come.

But with Boeing’s field record of delivering F/A-18 projects on time and on budget, and the US Navy left waiting by overrun after overrun in the F-35 program, the two planes are starting to look like apples and oranges — both good choices. Choosing which to buy and when may simply come down to what is available on the market.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How the Air Force’s ‘Dirt Boyz’ keep bases working and jets soaring

Continuously working out in the sweltering Arizona heat, pouring concrete and maintaining the flight line, the airmen assigned to the 56th Civil Engineering Squadron here are nicknamed the “Dirt Boyz” — and for a good reason.

“We get dirty and run heavy equipment,” said Tech. Sgt. John Scherstuhl, 56th CES horizontal construction section chief. “We have stockpiles of dirt and many dump trucks. We do a lot of ground work for building pads and sidewalks.”

For Luke’s mission of training the world’s greatest fighter pilots and combat-ready airmen, the runways have to be clear for the jets to takeoff and land. “Dirt Boyz” assist in keeping the runways clear of foreign objects. They also continuously monitor for cracks in the runway’s concrete, repairing any damage they discover in approximately three hours.

“Our main priority is the airfield,” said Airman 1st Class Anibal Carrillo-Farias, 56th CES constructions and pavement heavy equipment craftsman. “We have to keep those jets in the air. Our mission to keep the runway in perfect condition so it doesn’t hurt the jets in any way, shape or form.”


Last surviving Iwo Jima Medal of Honor recipient gets special birthday

Air Force Tech. Sgt. Aaron Jones, a 56th Civil Engineering Squadron pavements and heavy equipment operator, shovels dirt, at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, Aug. 12, 2019.

(US Air Force/Airman Brooke Moeder)

Last surviving Iwo Jima Medal of Honor recipient gets special birthday

Airmen assigned to the 56th Civil Engineering Squadron fill an obstacle with water before the 56th Force Support Squadron’s 2018 Jump in the Mud 5K, at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, June 22, 2018.

(US Air Force/Airman 1st Class Aspen Reid)

Last surviving Iwo Jima Medal of Honor recipient gets special birthday

Air Force Staff Sgt. Robert Newton, left, and Tech. Sgt. Ronnie Jamison, right, 56th Civil Engineering Squadron pavements and heavy equipment operators, use an asphalt road cutter to remove chunks of asphalt, at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, Aug. 12, 2019.

(US Air Force/Airman Brooke Moeder)

Last surviving Iwo Jima Medal of Honor recipient gets special birthday

Tech. Sgt. Ronnie Jamison, 56th Civil Engineering Squadron pavements and heavy equipment operator, uses a mini excavator to dig in the road while Staff Sgt. Robert Newton, 56th CES pavements and heavy equipment operator, ensures the mini excavator doesn’t cause damage during a valve-replacement project, at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, Aug. 12, 2019.

(US Air Force/Airman Brooke Moeder)

Last surviving Iwo Jima Medal of Honor recipient gets special birthday

Staff Sgt. Winston Spears, 56th Civil Engineering Squadron heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning technician, checks his soldering work at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, July 20, 2018.

(US Air Force/Airman 1st Class Zoie Rider)

Last surviving Iwo Jima Medal of Honor recipient gets special birthday

Firefighters from the 56th Civil Engineer Squadron and Gila Bend Air Force Auxiliary Field, prepare to participate in a joint aircraft and structural live fire training, at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, Nov. 14, 2018.

(US Air Force/Airman 1st Class Aspen Reid)

Last surviving Iwo Jima Medal of Honor recipient gets special birthday

Airmen from the 56th Civil Engineer Squadron participate in a drill testing the BAK-12 arresting system at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, Feb. 22, 2019.

(US Air Force/Airman 1st Class Zoie Rider)

Last surviving Iwo Jima Medal of Honor recipient gets special birthday

Luke firefighters assigned to the 56th Civil Engineer Squadron Fire Department and Gila Bend Air Force Auxiliary Field, listen to a safety brief before igniting a training structural fire at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, November 14, 2018.

(US Air Force/Airman 1st Class Aspen Reid)

Last surviving Iwo Jima Medal of Honor recipient gets special birthday

Firefighters with the 56th Civil Engineer Squadron and Gila Bend Fire Department spray water onto a fire during training at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, Dec. 7, 2016

(US Air Force/Senior Airman James Hensley)

Last surviving Iwo Jima Medal of Honor recipient gets special birthday

Fifty-sixth Civil Engineer Squadron firefighters use a rapid intervention vehicle to respond to an aircraft fire during training at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, Dec. 7, 2016.

(US Air Force/Senior Airman James Hensley)

Last surviving Iwo Jima Medal of Honor recipient gets special birthday

Senior Airman Jerrad Bailey, 56th Civil Engineer Squadron operations management journeyman, works on the Interim Work Information Management System at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, July 15, 2016.

(US Air Force/Senior Airman James Hensley)

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