If you’ve ever set foot in New York City at night and glanced across the Upper Bay at Lady Liberty, you’d see that her torch burns bright. From 1972 to 1999, you had Charlie DeLeo to thank for that awe-inspiring sight.
Known as the “Keeper of the Flame,” DeLeo was responsible for ensuring the light bulbs—some 22 stories up—were changed. He accomplished this every day, rain or wind or shine, so that when people see the statue they are left with a sense of hope. DeLeo believes this spirit embodies the best of what America offers.
One might say that DeLeo himself is synonymous with the best of America: he has always endeavored to give whenever and whatever he can. He gave first when, at 17, he gained his parent’s permission to enlist in the Marine Corps. His poor eyesight required a waiver, and he was limited to duties as a cook.
In Vietnam, DeLeo was desperate for a transfer to the infantry. He believed in his heart that he was a rifleman, but learned quickly that, when in a war zone or combat situation, no task is menial and it takes the work of everyone to ensure success. He believed that honor comes from hard work, determination and devotion.
When eligible, DeLeo submitted for transfer, but soon found himself in a construction unit—not the infantry. But he found excitement there when, one night in Phu Bai, three Marines were killed and 52 were injured during a mortar attack. DeLeo was among the injured; he took shrapnel to his leg.
With Lady Liberty
During his recovery, DeLeo saw the bodies of dead Marines waiting to be transported back home. It was on the Khe Sanh airstrip when DeLeo decided that he had seen enough. He received a Purple Heart upon returning home, then—in uniform—went to visit Lady Liberty. The statue had always been special to DeLeo, ever since he took a trip there in fourth grade. He wanted to see the torch up close but wasn’t permitted when he got there.
About four years later, while between jobs, DeLeo again went to see the Statue of Liberty, and on impulse, asked about a job. He was told that they were looking for a maintenance guy and that he should ask about it. He did, and he was hired. But it wasn’t until a few months into his position that he took on his iconic role.
DeLeo’s boss had got wind that he was sneaking up into the torch, where no one ever went and weren’t supposed to go. Instead of being let go, his boss gave him the task of caring for the torch. From then on DeLeo became the “Keeper of the Flame.”
The “Keeper of the Flame” ensures the Lady’s torch is ship shape, changing out bulbs and cleaning the encasement when necessary. With this role, DeLeo became something of a celebrity, having several articles written about him, and one time appearing on a game show. In 1998 he won a Freedom Award from America’s Freedom Festival at Provo, and he’s even had a book written about his life, called Charlie DeLeo: Keeper of the Flame, by William C. Armstrong.
By now, everybody has seen the picture. A tan dog in a tactical vest, sitting up at the position of attention, perky ears framing a black face. The mouth wide open, the tongue hanging out the side of the mouth, the dog looks happy, almost goofy.
This is the dog that chased down ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi this past weekend, leading to al-Baghdadi’s death when he detonated a suicide vest he was wearing. The dog was injured in the blast, but has since returned to duty. Assigned to Delta Force, the dog’s identity is classified, even as the dog is being hailed as a hero, with the picture shared on Twitter by President Donald Trump, who called it Conan.
Read on to find out what we know about this dog.
U.S. Marine military working dog Argo rides into the ocean on a combat rubber raiding craft at Red Beach.
(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Andrew Cortez)
They are the special forces of military working dogs, attached to special operations forces, such as the Navy SEALS and Army Rangers. Trained to find explosives, chase down human targets, and detect hidden threats, these Multi-Purpose Canines, or MPCs, are also trained to rappel out of helicopters, parachute out of airplanes, and conduct amphibious operations on Zodiac boats. Highly skilled, an MPC named Cairo even assisted in the raid that killed Osama bin Laden in 2011.
These dogs are specially selected and trained to handle the most stressful situations while keeping their cool. In the spirit of the Marine Recon motto, these dogs are swift, silent, and deadly. Barking is forbidden. With the secretive nature of their work, much of the information regarding the selection and training of these dogs is classified.
A military working dog chases a suspect during a demonstration.
(Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jacob Derry)
Four times per year, a team of canine handlers, trainers, veterinarians, and other specialists from the 341st Training Squadron at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio Texas — the home of the Military Working Dog Program — make the trip abroad to buy dogs. They evaluate each dog to ensure that they will not have any medical issue that will prevent them from serving for at least 10 years. They perform x-rays to ensure that there is no hip or elbow dysplasia or other skeletal defects. Dogs with skin conditions, eye issues, or ear problems are ruled out.
If they pass the medical screening, they are further assessed on their temperament. Over up to 10 days, the dogs are judged on their ability to search and detect, their aggressiveness, and their trainability. While the special forces have their own programs to procure dogs, which are confidential, the traits that they look for are the same. The standards are just higher.
Caro, a five-year-old Belgian Malinois with the 96th Security Forces Squadron, stands by her handler.
(US Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.)
This hero dog from the al-Baghdadi raid is a Belgian Malinois, one of the most popular breeds among working dogs.
This hero dog from the al-Baghdadi raid is a Belgian Malinois, one of the most popular breeds among working dogs. W
While the military uses labs, retrievers, and other breeds including a Jack Russell or two for detection, the most popular breeds of war dogs are Belgian Malinois, Dutch Shepherd, and the ever popular German Shepherd. These dogs are valued for their intelligence, trainability, work ethic, and adaptability.
The Malinois in particular is valued for its targeted aggression, speed, agility, and ability to survive in extreme heat. Handlers are known to refer to their dogs as either a “fur missile” or a “maligator.”
A Multi-Purpose Canine with U.S. Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command (MARSOC), prepares for Zodiac boat training inserts on Camp Pendleton, Calif.
(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Maricela M. Bryant)
The dogs are hand selected from the best kennels in Europe and around the world, brought to the United States, and trained to the highest level.
They are taught patrolling, searching, explosive or narcotic detection, tracking, and are desensitized to the types of equipment around which they will work. They are familiarized with gunfire, rappelling out of helicopters, riding in Zodiac boats, or even skydiving. All said, the dogs and their training cost up to ,000 each. Including the highly specialized gear of MPCs, the cost can be tens of thousands of dollars higher.
Wearing bulletproof vests outfitted with lights, cameras, communications equipment, and sensors, the dogs can operate off leash, providing a real-time view to the handler while taking verbal commands through the radio.
A Multi-Purpose Canine handler with U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Special Operations Command prepares his canine for a parachute jump.
(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Scott Achtemeier)
Over their years of service, a multipurpose canine will conduct dozens of combat missions over multiple deployments, most of which the public will never hear about.
One of these missions resulted in the death of Maiko, a multi-purpose canine with the Army’s 75th Ranger Regiment. Leading the way into a secure compound in Afghanistan in November 2018, Maiko caused the Al Qaeda fighters to open fire, giving away their position, allowing the Rangers to eliminate the threat without injury.
A multi-purpose canine handler with U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Special Operations Command, checks for a pulse while administering medical care to a realistic canine mannequin.
(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Bryann K. Whitley)
When dogs are injured on the battlefield, their handlers are trained to provide first aid.
Using specially developed, highly realistic dog mannequins, the handlers are trained to treat massive bleeding, collapsed lungs, amputations, and more. The mannequins respond by whimpering and barking.
Many of the developers of this dog mannequin came from the Hollywood special effects world, working on productions like the Star Wars or Harry Potter films. The simulated dog, with its pulse and breathing responding to the treatment, costs more than ,000.
Military working dog handlers with the U.S. Army Rangers and U.S. Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command multipurpose canine handlers fast-rope from a U.S. Navy MH-60 Seahawk helicopter.
(US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Drake Nickels)
If a dog is injured in combat or in training, or is showing signs of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, he can be sent to a dog hospital at Lackland Air Force Base for surgery, rehabilitation, or assessment for retirement.
While PTSD is not well understood in dogs, veterinarians, dog trainers, and specialists at Lackland Air Force Base agree that dogs show symptoms of combat stress as much as humans do. Whether they become fearful of loud noises, become more aggressive, forget how to do tasks, or decide that they don’t want to work, these dogs are rehabilitated with the goal of returning them to service. If this is not possible, the dogs are evaluated for transfer to non-combat jobs or potential retirement.
Nero proudly displays his U.S. Military Working Dog Medal during his retirement ceremony aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif. on May 21, 2018. During his five years of service, Nero served two deployments. Nero will be adopted and spend his retirement as a companion to his handler.
(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Bryann K. Whitley)
Before being retired, the dogs are assessed to ensure that they do not pose a risk to the public.
After up to a decade of devoted service, the goal is to let the dog live out its life on a soft bed, preferably with one of its former handlers.
This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.
If fighting the well-defended Viet Cong on their home turf wasn’t dangerous enough, imagine having to crawl your way through a series of extremely tight and narrow underground tunnels to capture or kill them.
Such a terrifying prospect was reality for the brave “tunnel rats” of Vietnam, soldiers tasked with entering and clearing the makeshift tunnels dug by the VC in Vietnam. CW Bowman, Gerry Schooler and Art Tejeda spent days maneuvering through the tunnel complexes, clearing and destroying lethal booby-traps. Hear their stories:
In 1946, Viet Minh (a predecessor to Viet Cong) resistance fighters began digging the tunnels and bunkers throughout the countryside to combat the French, whom they would eventually defeat. By the time the Vietnam War broke out, the Viet Cong had over 100 miles of tunnels from which to spring deadly ambushes on American and South Vietnamese forces before vanishing. The numerous ‘spider holes,’ as the tunnel entrances were sometimes called, were conveniently located and well camouflaged — nearly impossible to detect.
Armed with only a flashlight, a single pistol, or maybe just a knife, a “tunnel rat” didn’t have much in the way of defense as they crawled in to clear these tunnels.
Here’s what you didn’t know about these courageous troops:
1. The shorter the better
Many of the “tunnel rats” from Austraila, New Zealand, South Vietnam, and America volunteered for the dangerous position.
However, the brave troops that were picked for the job were commonly the shortest grunts in the platoon — for obvious reasons.
2. Most “tunnel rat” dogs didn’t work out
It’s well-known that dogs are great at detecting IEDs in modern warfare, but they weren’t too good at sniffing out the many booby traps placed by the North Vietnamese around tunnel entrances.
3. Their rate of fire
If a soldier took enemy contact, their training taught them to adjust their rate of fire. Instead of firing multiple shots, the troop would commonly fire single shots, making use of echoes to confuse the enemy. After deafening shots rang out and reverberated off of tunnel walls, the enemy would left puzzled as to how many rounds they had left.
4. To wear a gas mask or not to wear a gas mask…
When entering a tunnel, many troops decided against wearing gas masks as they obstructed breathing and vision. Although crawling into a wall of gas was a possibility, many “tunnel rats” chose to take their chances.
Check out Simple History‘s video below to learn more about the dangerous job these brave tunnel rats had.
Specialist Bryan Anderson’s first question when he came out of a seven-day coma and saw his mother was, “What are you doing in Iraq?” But his mother wasn’t in Iraq. She was at his bedside at Walter Reed Medical Center.
A week before Anderson had been on his second combat tour, once again serving as an Army MP this time charged with training members of the Iraqi police. His unit had to travel the streets of Baghdad in up-armored Humvees to get to the various police stations around the city, and they were getting hit by IEDs on a daily basis.
“It wasn’t a matter of if we’d get hit, but when we’d get hit,” he said.
Anderson’s exposure was increased by the fact that the unit commander liked his squad. “He knew we knew what we were doing,” he said. “So our mission became to take him wherever he wanted to go to do whatever he wanted to do.”
And his CO wanted to see everything. “He was ‘Capt. America,’ as we called him,” Anderson said. “I get what he was trying to do – lead by example – but at the time we viewed it as he was putting our lives in danger because he was going out to the same Iraqi police stations every day.”
Although they tried to stay unpredictable with their routes and times, there were only so many police stations and so many ways to get to them. The odds caught up to Anderson on October 23, 2005 at 11 o’clock in the morning. He was driving the last of three Humvees in a slow-moving convoy when an IED triggered by a laser beam exploded next to him.
“I had both my hands on the bottom of the steering wheel and one leg curled under the other because we were only doing, like, five miles per hour, which is why we’re all still alive,” Anderson explains. “The IED was set for a vehicle traveling 30 miles an hour, so instead of going through the passenger compartment the explosion took off the front of the Humvee.”
But although the detonation didn’t happen as the insurgents had planned, the toll on Anderson’s body was substantial. “I saw smoke, fire, and sparks coming through my door,” he said. “And then it was pitch black because there was so much smoke.”
The soldier riding shotgun jumped out before the vehicle stopped with shrapnel in his wrist and hip. The gunner got what Anderson called the “Forrest Gump wound” – shrapnel to his butt – and he jumped out of the turret.
Anderson tried to get out of the Humvee but couldn’t, unaware of his wounds. The two others busted the bolts off the driver’s side door and pulled him out of the wreckage.
“All I could see was my friends running back and forth like they’d just seen a ghost, and I knew something was wrong,” Anderson said.
He tried to use his right hand to swipe the flies away from his face, and noticed that his index finger tip was missing. He turned his hand over and could see shattered bones and torn ligaments.
As he was looking at his right hand a fly landed in his left eye. He went to swipe it with his other hand, but “whiffed,” as he put it. His left hand was gone.
Then he looked down. His legs were gone. He couldn’t process what he was seeing. “There’s no way that just happened,” he thought to himself. “I’m dreaming.”
“Then I got this weird feeling, like, ‘Oh, man, my mom’s gonna kill me,” he said.
Then he looked up at the soldier who was attending to him and asked, “Do you think I’m ever going to get laid again?”
It took the medevac helicopter 12 minutes to get to the scene. Anderson was having trouble breathing because his right lung had collapsed with the concussion of the bomb. The shock was wearing off a bit, and he described the initial pain sensation as a “burning all over, like putting on too much Icy Hot.”
The helo landed in what Anderson described as “an impossible place.” Once they were airborne he passed out.
He awoke seven days later to see his mother standing over him, saying, “You had an accident.”
Anderson considered his injuries and thought to himself, “Really?” Fortunately his entire family was there along with his mother – his identical twin brother, his sister, his aunts and uncles. “That gave me enough strength to say screw it,” he said. “One day at a time, right?”
He spent 13 months at Walter Reed, six weeks in-patient and the rest living at the Malone House as he did physical therapy. For the first four months he had a good attitude, sort of what he called a “wait and see” outlook. But then he fell into deep depression. “I’d look at myself as a triple amputee and ask, ‘What am I possibly going to be able to do?'”
He had panic attacks and flew into uncontrollable rage. He didn’t sleep for two weeks. Then one day he was sitting by a reflecting pond near the Malone House talking to his twin brother who asked him if he was listening to music. Anderson replied that he wasn’t. His brother gave him a CD of a mutual friend’s band.
“I was listening to the chorus of this one song,” he recounts. “The words got to me: ‘Life’s been less than kind. We’ve all been hurt; we’ve all been sorry. Take a number, stand in line. How we survive is what makes us who we are.’ For some reason that just resonated with me, and at that moment I felt like I’d grabbed the first rung of the ladder to pull myself out of this hole.”
The second rung was an impromptu trip to Las Vegas. “I was able to just be a dude for the first time in a long time,” he said. “I had fun, and that forced me to think about what’s in front of me. It made me live in the moment.”
When he got back to Walter Reed he mediated at the reflecting pond again, and it struck him that he had two choices: He could roll over and die or he could go live his life.
“At that moment I made the decision to start figuring out what I could and couldn’t do,” he said. “And it turns out there’s not a lot I can’t do.”
Anderson started skateboarding and snowboarding again. And, after being profiled in Esquire magazine and receiving a couple of offers, he decided to head to LA to pursue an acting career, something he’d always wanted to do.
His first gig was as a stunt driver in “The Dark Knight.” On the set he befriended the movie’s star, Heath Ledger. “He was a skater,” Anderson said. One day he mentioned to the actor that it was intimidating to talk to him with his Joker makeup on. Ledger replied, “You realize I could say the same thing about you, right?”
Anderson’s next role was in “The Wrestler” in which he has a brief scene handing Mickey Rourke one of his prosthetic legs to use as a weapon against an opponent. After that he played a wounded Navy SEAL accused of murder on “CSI: New York.”
Following a couple of episodes of “All My Children,” a cameo in “The Wire,” and an episode of “Hawaii Five-O” he landed a part in “American Sniper.”
“I was standing next to Clint Eastwood and Bradley Cooper thinking, ‘This is crazy,'” Anderson said.
The first scene he was in had no script. “Bradley Cooper told us, ‘Clint likes to do things natural,’ and he told us to just say whatever we wanted. Nobody was talking, so I just wound up taking the lead and telling the story about how my right hand was saved the day I was hit because I reached for a cigarette.”
Anderson’s plan for a future in Hollywood is pretty simple: “More parts,” he said.
Whatever happens he’s going to leverage the main lessons his life since that tragic and fateful day in Iraq has taught him: “Nobody’s going to make you happy. You have to do that yourself,” he said. “And take advantage of all the opportunities that come your way.”
A senior member of Russia’s defense and security committee told Russian TV that Norway has been added to the list of potential targets for a nuclear strike after Norway agreed to host 330 U.S. Marines for a rotational training deployment.
Norway has allowed other NATO militaries to use its country for cold weather training for years.
He later said, “Because we need to react against definitive military threats. And we have things to react to, I might as well tell it like it is.”
It’s not clear how the Marines provide a definitive military threat to Russia. While significant U.S. hardware is cached within Norway, the 330 Marines would have to invade through famously neutral Sweden to use a 700-mile route. Going around would add on hundreds of miles of travel distance and logistics problems.
And even Marines would struggle if they took on the Russian military in such small numbers.
Meanwhile, the U.S. already has troops permanently stationed in Germany, which is about the same distance from Russia, as well as service members on training rotations in Estonia, Latvia, and Ukraine — all of which share a border with Russia.
The Air Force, meanwhile, has forces permanently deployed to Incirlik, Turkey, which is also much closer to Russia than Værnes.
So it’s doubtful that Russia’s bluster is really about countering a valid military threat. More likely, this is Russia protesting what it sees as its continuing isolation as more and more countries deepen their ties with NATO.
Norway, for its part, insists that the Russian reaction to a training rotation of Marines is ridiculous.
Tensions between Russia and NATO have been on the rise, partially due to conflicting agendas in Syria where the U.S. and Russia are both conducting air strikes. But the dispute also comes from disagreements over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and threatening actions, such as the Russian abduction and jailing of an Estonian intelligence officer.
Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance is the number one most requested capability by combat commanders and for more than a year enlisted airmen have been helping the Air Force meet this demand by piloting the RQ-4 Global Hawk.
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Dave Goldfein has continually expressed the importance of the ISR force and finding innovative methods to relieve the pressure of getting commanders on the ground more data.
“Looking at new ways to operate within our [remotely piloted aircraft] enterprise is critical given that ISR missions continue to be the number one most requested capability by our combatant commanders. We expect that will only continue to expand,” said Goldfein. “We know our enlisted airmen are ready to take on this important mission as we determine the right operational balance of officer and enlisted in this ISR enterprise for the future.”
A RQ-4 Global Hawk taxis for take off from the Beale Air Force Base, Calif. June 14, 2018.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Marianique Santos)
In light of this, the Air Force selected 12 active-duty airmen last year to become RQ-4 pilots as part of the first Enlisted Pilot Initial Class, the first enlisted airmen to fly aircraft since 1942.
“I wasn’t expecting to be selected,” said Tech. Sgt. Courtney, an RQ-4 Global Hawk pilot who was part of the initial class. “It was a huge honor and I was extremely excited and nervous. I’m glad I applied, a lot of great opportunities have come from it and I’ve learned a lot more about the RPA (remotely piloted aircraft) enterprise by being able to move to the pilot side.”
Courtney has been part of the ISR career field throughout her career. Over the years she’s filled several roles, including one as an imagery analyst and sensor operator for the MQ-1 Predator and the RQ-4, where she sat next to the pilot operating the aircraft’s camera during missions.
Enlisted pilots of the RQ-4 Global Hawk at Beale Air Force Base, Cali., are now flying operational missions after completing pilot training. These are the first enlisted Airmen to fly aircraft for the U.S. Air Force since 1942.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Marianique Santos)
She always wanted to be a pilot and was going through the process of applying for Officer Training School to come back and fly RPAs when this program was offered as an exclusive volunteer possibility by the Air Force.
Courtney says even though it’s unique paradigm shift to have officer and enlisted pilots training and flying side-by-side, the dynamic of operating and conducting a mission is no different than on any other airframe.
“It’s important because everybody’s opinion matters when you’re flying an aircraft or executing a mission,” said Courtney. “We’re trained and we’re expected to fill an expectation and a skill level of that crew position. So regardless of what the rank is, our job is to get the mission done and if the senior airman sensor operator has a better idea and it works and I agree with it, then that’s what we’ll go with. Rank doesn’t play a part when we’re executing the mission.” For RQ-4 pilots, there are a lot of missions.
In 2017, the Air Force was tasked with nearly 25,000 ISR missions, collecting 340,000 hours of full motion video and producing 2.55 million intelligence products — which averages almost five products per minute that close intelligence gaps and support target analysis and development.
The Enlisted Pilot Initial Class training was created to provide more pilots to the RQ-4 program and ensure the Air Force is able to keep up with the high demand for its ISR products.
But, training new pilots takes time as the RPA training program spans almost a full year. Airmen begin Initial Flight Training at Pueblo Memorial Airport in Pueblo, Colorado, where they learn to fly and complete a solo flight in a DA-20 Katana aircraft. After IFT, students progress through the RPA Instrument Qualification Course and RPA Fundamentals Course at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas, and then Global Hawk Basic Qualification Training at Beale Air Force Base, California.
Maj. Michael, a remotely piloted aircraft fundamentals course instructor pilot, right, discusses a training mission utilizing the Predator Reaper Integrated Mission Environment simulator with Tech. Sgt. Ben, an enlisted pilot student, and Staff Sgt. James, a basic sensor operator course instructor at the 558th Flying Training Squadron at Joint Base San Antonio, Texas Jul. 17, 2018.
(Photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.)
At the conclusion of this training airmen are rated, instrument-qualified pilots who are Federal Aviation Administration certified to fly the RQ-4 in national and international airspace and mission-qualified to execute the high altitude ISR mission.
“We pin their wings on them,” said Keith Pannabecker, a civilian simulator instructor at the 558th Flying Training Squadron at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph. “The creation of the career field was the best thing the Air Force could have done because it created an avenue for folks to volunteer. Beforehand, we were robbing Peter to pay Paul from the manned and unmanned airframes.”
Pannabecker, who is a retired Air Force colonel who helped with the inception of the RPA enterprise, thinks the Air Force is on track with a smart solution to a real problem, which is a shortage of pilots around the whole Air Force.
Keith Pannabecker, a remotely piloted aircraft qualification instructor pilot, left, monitors a training mission utilizing the T-6 Flight Simulator with Tech. Sgt. Ben, an enlisted RPA pilot student, at the 558th Flying Training Squadron at Joint Base San Antonio, Texas Jul. 17, 2018.
(Photo by Bennie J. Davis III)
“We no longer pull pilots from the manned aircraft,” said Pannabecker. “Now, we’ve got our fresh group of motivated young people that are saying, please pick me to come be RPA pilots, which wasn’t always the case with asking for volunteers from the manned aircraft pilots. So, what we have now is a win-win.”
Since the graduation of the initial enlisted pilots in 2017, the Air Force added 30 more airmen into the training pipeline this year and plans to grow to 100 pilots by 2020. By then the Air Force expects nearly 70 percent of Global Hawk missions will be commanded by the “Flying Sergeants.”
“So, enlisted pilots are a very small force right now and we’ve relied on each other for information and we are each others’ shoulders to lean on,” said Courtney. “It’s going to take some time for enlisted pilots to integrate into the squadron and find the perfect flow, but we are very integrated into the mission.”
Remotely piloted aircraft qualification instructor pilots and student pilots review the training mission schedules of the the T-6 Flight Simulator at the 558th Flying Training Squadron at Joint Base San Antonio, Texas Jul. 17, 2018.
(Photo by Bennie J. Davis III)
Courtney said during February 2018 all RQ-4 missions in the 12th Reconnaissance Squadron at Beale were flown by enlisted pilots.
“I’m hopeful in the future for the enlisted pilots and an equal playing field, so we won’t be seen as enlisted or officer, but we’ll be seen simply as pilots,” said Courtney.
Courtney believes the only thing that matters is providing intelligence that’s vital to the men and women on the ground fighting every day.
“It’s something that I value and I appreciate. Being able to be the commander of those missions means a lot to me and I take it seriously,” said Courtney. “I have so much respect for the other men and women that fly alongside of me. I’m thankful I’m able to provide that protection and the extra level of intelligence that they need to get their mission done.”
This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.
These days, when a plane sets off to drop bombs on a target, all the pilot needs to do is punch the coordinates into their Global Positioning System and follow the steering cues on the heads-up display — pretty straightforward. In fact, GPS has become so enmeshed in the military that the Air Force ran some training on how to fight without it.
But back in World War II, such technology didn’t exist. They used only the classic navigational tools: a map, a compass, and some intuition.
Today’s navigators have GPS and a host of other technologies that make getting from Point A to Point B easy.
(U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Tech. Sgt. Anthony Nelson Jr.)
So, how did they figure out their position using just a map and a compass in the cramped quarters of an airplane? The answer is old-fashioned hard work and diligent training.
Back then, navigators undertook about 500 hours of ground instruction. Assuming they had ten hours of classes per day, five days a week, that amounts to ten weeks spent on the ground. Then, they did another another 100 hours of training in the air. At the end, they needed to be able to plot a route with a course error no greater than 11 degrees, being no more than one minute off per hour of flight time. They also had to get within fifteen miles of an objective during a night flight.
This 1946 photo shows the level of technology available to World War II air crews. Much of it was done with maps, a compass, radar (if the plane was really advanced), and a fair bit of guesswork.
During World War II, some new navigation technology, like radio beacons, helped navigators bring their planes home. Over 50,000 personnel were trained to navigate aircraft to the precision requirements mentioned above.
Check out the video blow to see some of what would-be navigators were taught about maps and compasses.
US Military Sealift Command cargo ship USNS Benavidez and US-flagged merchant vessels MV Resolve and MV Patriot set off across the Atlantic for Europe last month, escorted by guided-missile cruiser USS Vella Gulf through a path made by the Eisenhower carrier strike group.
“We may not have been doing it for the last 35 years, but we have had … to conduct convoy operations around the planet,” Capt. Andrew Fitzpatrick, Vella Gulf’s commanding officer, told reporters last week. “So we’ve put some of those concepts and lessons learned into how we’re executing this particular operation.”
The convoy comes ahead of this spring’s Defender-Europe 20, a massive multinational exercise to which the US is shipping 20,000 troops and much of their gear — the largest deployment of US-based forces to Europe in 25 years.
Defender-Europe 20 will feature “a fictional near-peer competitor” in a future “post-Article V environment,” an Army planning official said last year, referring to NATO’s collective-defense provision.
Like the Navy’s convoy, the Army-led Defender-Europe 20 is about practicing old skills to confront new challenges.
Preparations for Defender-Europe 20 began in January, when US personnel loaded vehicles and equipment for rail transport to US ports.
The first combat power arrived on February 20, when US Army tanks and other vehicles rolled into the port of Bremerhaven in Germany. Participating countries will stage equipment at 14 air and seaports in eight European countries as the exercise gets underway.
Another 13,000 pieces of equipment will be drawn from Army Prepositioned Stocks in northwest Europe and deployed across 18 countries for training — ground convoys will cover some 2,500 miles to stage the exercise.
Defender-Europe 20 will end with US and partner forces cleaning training areas, returning equipment to those stocks, and for US troops, redeployment to the US.
Like crossing the Atlantic, getting around Europe isn’t new, but doing so now will test skills that haven’t been used much in the years after the Cold War, when the US presence in Europe dwindled and NATO’s ability to rapidly deploy atrophied.
“I’m concerned about the bandwidth to be able to accept this large force,” Air Force Gen. Tod Wolters, head of US European Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on February 25, when asked what challenges he expects the exercise to present.
“I’m also concerned about road and rail from the center portion of Germany … all the way to the eastern border,” Wolters said.
“Because we have the appropriate resources, we now possess a white-team capability to examine our speed of move from west to east, and we also have enough white-cell individuals to assess how safely we get stuff through Bremerhaven and to the next point,” Wolters added. “Bandwidth with respect to size and speed are my greatest concerns.”
This exercise “will allow us to see ourselves at all three levels — tactical, operational, strategic,” Gen. Gus Perna, head of US Army Material Command, which oversees installations, maintenance, and parts, told reporters in February.
“It will reinforce where we think we are tactically as far as material readiness,” Perna added. “Can we mobilize ourselves out of the barracks and the motor pools, move to the ports and the airfields, and then strategically project ourselves to some place across the ocean?”
“On the logistics side of the house, the environment in Europe has to be mature enough to be able to absorb 20,000 soldiers and get those soldiers to the right prepositioned locations to be able to grab the appropriate gear that they’re supposed to get to their foxhole and be able to execute,” Wolters said.
“What we want to do is count every second that it takes to get the soldier from the first point of entry all the way to his or her foxhole to be successful … and we anticipate that there will be some snags,” Wolters said.
Wolters credited the European Defense Initiative, started after Russia’s annexation of Crimea, with making Defender-Europe 20 possible.
EDI has “funded the rotational brigade combat teams that go to Poland, and that teaches all of our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines how to lift and shift larger quantities of forces across the Atlantic and to do so without any harm,” Wolters told the committee.
EDI also funded “our emergency contingency air operations sets for the Air Force, and our deployable air base systems for the Air Force,” Wolters said. “We’ve also been able to dramatically improve our airfield infrastructure and the reception infrastructure in the eastern part of Europe to where it is equipped today to safely receive those resources and effectively get those resources where they need to go.”
But EDI funding has been particularly important for the Army’s Prepositioned Stocks.
Two years ago, “we weren’t mature enough with respect to the prepositioned stockpiles to have a soldier show up at location X and be able to grab resources. Today, we can do that,” Wolters said. “We know the fitness of the resources, and now we’ll be able to examine the speed at which they can get to the foxhole and be able to execute.”
Those stocks keep heavy equipment like tanks and critical supplies like ammunition at forward locations so troops can deploy, equip, and move to the front line.
Perna, head of Army Material Command, said last month that his command was working on another prepositioned stock to be located where Wolters and the head of US Army Europe, Lt. Gen. Christopher Cavoli, felt it was needed.
“I can envision where Defender 2020 might illuminate several things” about those stocks, Perna said. “Is it in the right place? Do we need to adjust? Do we want to set up alternate sites to keep everybody guessing about what we’re doing? Is there a better place to put things for better advantage?”
“I also think coming out of Defender 20 might be a thought process of, ‘Hey, we need more … or we need different from what we have,'” Perna added.
In his testimony, Wolters expressed concern about road and railways in eastern Germany, but transportation infrastructure throughout Eastern Europe has been a persistent worry.
In addition to a tangle of customs rules and transport regulations, railway sizes often vary between countries in that part of Europe, meaning delays as cargos cross borders. Roadways there are often narrow and, in some cases, can’t handle heavy vehicles — a particular problem for Eastern Europe’s many aging bridges.
All this would be complicated in wartime, as Russia, which used to control much of Eastern Europe, is familiar with the weak points. (Russia is “not overly pleased” with Defender-Europe 20, Wolters said.)
NATO and the European Union have also devoted resources to improving local infrastructure. NATO also set up two new commands to oversee movements like those underway for Defender-Europe 20. Joint Forces Command in Norfolk, Virginia, oversees operations in the Atlantic, while Joint Support and Enabling Command in Ulm, Germany, oversees allied armor and troop movements in Europe.
Limitations on civilian infrastructure, particularly in the Baltics and Poland, are “an issue that all of Europe was very, very aware of in the mid-’80s, and they are getting themselves reacquainted with it today,” Wolters said.
“They understand the imperative of making sure that we have bridging programs in the regions in the northeast and the southeast of Europe to ensure that we can shoot, move, and communicate fast.”
Capt. Christopher Jason and Biji Pandisseril spearheaded efforts at NASCC.
Amid the historic snowstorms and frigid temperatures that battered the Lone Star state earlier this year, members of one Texas military community gathered to save hundreds of green sea turtles left cold-stunned along the shore.
According to Defense Logistics Agency Distribution Corpus Christi (DDCT), the water in Corpus Christi Bay dipped to 31 degrees, which is significantly colder than the turtles can tolerate. As a result, the animals went into a “cold-stunned” state, a condition similar to hypothermia. Some perished, others bobbed listlessly in the water, while many others still washed up on shore, where they caught the attention of the military community.
“We knew with the weather changing that the turtles would be in danger,” Cheryl Jason, a Navy spouse, said. She, along with her husband, Capt. Christopher Jason, commanding officer of Naval Air Station Corpus Christi (NASCC), monitored the animals along base beaches. Once they realized the turtles were suffering, Christopher rescued several in his kayak.
Cheryl posted a photo of their efforts on social media and the mission quickly went viral. “Volunteers from all ranks, dependents, retirees came into action,” she said.
Marine spouse Shannon Slocum saw the post and decided to head to the beach to see the situation for herself.
“We arrived down there with our kids in tow and were devastated to find at least 50 cold-stunned sea turtles who were washed up along a very small beach area on the base,” Slocum said, adding that they had no idea nearly 800 more turtles would drift to the shore in the days after.
Slocum worked as fast as she could but was soon overwhelmed by the sheer volume of animals washing ashore. She too turned to social media for help.
“I took a quick video of what we were doing and posted it to the Corpus Christi Spouses Facebook page, and people responded to help in droves.”
Helpers got to work with quick and creative thinking and assisted in any way they could, Slocum said, noting that people used everything at their disposal including kayaks, paddleboards, and rescue diving gear. Her husband, 2nd Lt. Mark Slocum, and a friend created an impromptu pulley system made of a laundry basket and ropes.
“From that small effort alone, I think they pulled up 12 turtles that otherwise had no way of being rescued.”
Over the next three days, Slocum and her family, with the help of the Padre Island National Seashore, transported more than 150 cold-stunned sea turtles to rescue facilities.
Navy spouse Emily Kalbach, a GS employee who works at NASCC, and her daughter joined the effort, offering support, towels, and gloves to the volunteers. In the days that followed, she used her minivan to transport hundreds of turtles from the beach to the DDCT facility.
“I can’t quite put words to the heaviness of the situation,” Kalbach said. “The anxiety we felt, fear, the awe, all those feelings that drive people to react and take action when a need arises.”
When buildings at NASCC proved too cold, base leadership connected with a variety of agencies, including the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission, to find appropriate facilities and ensure the turtles were being cared for properly.
DDCT’s employees spent the night wrangling turtles that tried to scurry away, keeping the animals’ eyes moist, and having a squadron of pilots take “turtle watch.” Their efforts helped to save 750 turtles.
Biji Pandisseril, NASCC’s environmental director, said that it was a group effort, as everyone from officers and enlisted, retirees, Coast Guardsmen, DOD civilians, and on- and off-base individuals took part.
“This was not only a good example of the military helping the environment, but also a great example of diverse people coming together for a common good,” said Pandisseril.
The Texas State Aquarium says it admitted and cared for more than 1,000 cold-stunned sea turtles at its Wildlife Rescue Center, nursing them back to health in a large, heated rehabilitation saltwater pool. Since the rescue, it has released approximately 950 of the animals back into their habitats.
“We greatly appreciate the ongoing partnership with NAS Corpus Christi,” Texas State Aquarium Senior Vice President and Chief Operation Officer Jesse Gilbert, said.
According to Gilbert, the rapid response of the community is the reason so many animals stand a chance of surviving rehabilitation and ultimately being released back into the wild.
Looking back on the experience, Slocum says tight-knit communities such as Corpus are built to field these types of situations.
“I have to say, as a military spouse/family, especially a seasoned one, you learn very quickly what it means to adapt and overcome difficult situations. We made do with what we could, and at the end of the day, we were just really proud of our efforts.”
Some really cool photographs of two dozen F-22s from the 3rd Wing and 477th Fighter Group taxiing in close formation with an E-3 Sentry and a C-17 Globemaster III during a Polar Force exercise at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, were posted online on Mar. 26, 2019. Both types are based at JBER.
The aircraft staged what is known as an “Elephant Walk”, a kind of drills during which combat planes (including tankers) taxi in close formation in the same way they would do in case of a minimum interval takeoff, then, depending on the purpose of the training event, they can either take off or return back to their parking slots.
What is particularly interesting in the photos of the exercise at JBER, is the fact that, along with the Raptors, also a Sentry took part in the “walk”.
F-22 Raptors from the 3rd Wing and 477th Fighter Group participate in a close formation taxi, known as an Elephant Walk, March 26, 2019, during a Polar Force exercise at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska.
Launching the AEW along with the fighters is a “tactics” that allows the Air Defense to extend the radar coverage and to better investigate the eventual presence of additional bombers or escorting fighters flying “embedded” with the “zombies” (as the unknown aircraft are usually dubbed in the QRA jargon). At the same time, the presence of an E-3 allows the Raptors to improve their situational awareness while reducing the radar usage and maximizing as much as possible their stealth capability (even though it must be remembered that F-22s in QRA usually carry fuel tanks that make them less “invisible” to radars).
A long range sortie is not easy to plan. Even more so a strike sortie: the bomber are not only required to fly inbound the target (TGT) and reach a convient position to simulate the attack and weapons delivery, they also need to take in consideration many other factors. First of all “what is your goal?” Do you want to train for a realistic strike? Or do you want to “spy” or show your presence or posture?
Other factors are distance from own country, opponent’s defense capability, minimum risk routing according to the threats, presence of DCA (Defensive Counter Air), supporting assets, etc.
Usually, during a strike sortie, bombers are considered the HVA (High Value Asset), the one that must be protected. For this reason during the planning phase they are always escorted by fighter and protected by the Ground to Air threats by means of SEAD/DEAD (Suppression/Destruction of Enemy Air Defenses), EW (Electronic Warfare) and everything is needed to let them able to hit their targeted.
An F-22 Raptor takes off after Raptors from the 3rd Wing and 477th Fighter Group participated in a close formation taxi, known as an Elephant Walk, March 26, 2019, during a Polar Force exercise at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Justin Connaher)
However, escorting a strategic bomber is not always possible (nor convenient): considered their limited range, the presence of the fighters would heavily affect the long range planning, requiring support from multiple tankers along the route. For this reason, although the Russians visit the West Coast quite often, they usually are not escorted by any fighter jet (as happens, for instance, in the Baltic region, where Tu-22s are often accompanied by Su-27 Flankers). However, it’s better to be prepared and trained for the worst case scenario and this is probably the reason why NORAD included an E-3 AEW in the QRA team: to have a look at the Tu-95s and make sure there was no “sweep” fighters or subsequent “package”.
The configuration of the F-22 aircraft involved in the Elephant Walk at JBER is also interesting as the stealth jets carry underwing tanks: that is the standard external loadout both in case of QRA launch and for ferry flights and forward deployments.
After taking the shots, the aircraft cleared the runway, taxied back to the threshold of RWY24 and took off in sequence.
US Air Force F-35s accidentally left behind phallic contrails in the sky after air-to-air combat training this week.
Two of the fifth-generation stealth fighters went head-to-head with four additional F-35s during a simulated dogfight, Luke Air Force Base told Business Insider.
In the wake of the mock air battle, the contrails looked decidedly like a penis. Media observers out in Arizona said it “vaguely resembles the male anatomy.”
But unlike a rash of prior sky penis sightings, the base has concluded that this was not an intentional act. “We’ve seen the photos that have been circulating online from Tuesday afternoon,” Maj. Rebecca Heyse, chief of public affairs for the 56th Fighter Wing at Luke, told Air Force Times in an emailed statement.
“56th Fighter Wing senior leadership reviewed the training tapes from the flight and confirmed that F-35s conducting standard fighter training maneuvers Tuesday afternoon in the Gladden and Bagdad military operating airspace resulted in the creation of the contrails.”
“There was no nefarious or inappropriate behavior during the training flight,” the base explained.
There have been numerous sky penis incidents in recent years, with the most famous involving a pair of Navy pilots created a phallic drawing in the air with an EA-18G Growler. The 2017 display was the work of two junior officers with Electronic Attack Squadron 130, according to Navy Times’ moment-by-moment account of the sky drawing.
Last year, an Air Force pilot with the 52nd Fighter Wing was suspected of getting creative with his aircraft, as some observers believed the contrails left behind were intentionally phallic. The flight patterns, according to Air Force Times, were standard though.
The latest incident is the first time a fighter as advanced as the F-35 has left behind this type of sky art.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
An Army intern has received the nation’s premier undergraduate scholarship in mathematics, natural sciences, and engineering.
Nikita Kozak, an intern with the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Army Research Laboratory, is an Iowa State junior pursuing a mechanical engineering major. Kozak is now a recipient of a scholarship from the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation, which encourages outstanding students to pursue careers in STEM research.
Kozak is spending this summer working as an ARL High Performance Computing intern. He was one of 5,000 Goldwater Scholarship applicants from 443 institutes. Only 493 students were selected.
Kozak’s work at the Army lab is in optimizing gas turbine engines for variable speed operation. His experience working for the Army made him more competitive, he said.
“My time as an Army intern allowed me to develop into a better researcher and problem solver as well as providing me with real world research experience,” Kozak said.
The one-year scholarship is available to juniors and two-year scholarships are available to sophomores. It covers the cost of tuition, fees, books and room and board up to a maximum of ,500 per year.
Pictured left to right are ARL Sgt. Maj. Keith N. Taylor, undergraduate gold medalist Nikita Kozak, and ARL Outreach Coordinator Dr. Patrice Collins.
(U.S. Army Photo by Jhi Scott)
“This is quite a significant accomplishment,” said Dr. Simon M. Su, DOD Supercomputing Resource Center.
After graduating from Iowa State, Kozak plans to pursue a doctorate in mechanical engineering. He hopes to one day establish his own multidisciplinary research group focused on engine design and computational modeling approaches at a national laboratory.
Kozak, who is serving on his second summer internship at the laboratory, is co-mentored by Army researchers Drs. Anindya Ghoshal, Muthuvel Murugan and Luis Bravo, from ARL’s Vehicle Technology Directorate.
“Nikita Kozak is an exceptional student who has demonstrated a superior ability to understand scientific concepts, communicate complex topics with ease, and values working in a military ST environment,” Bravo said. “He has an impressive drive to reach the highest academic levels and has reached important research milestones using High Performance Computing in support of Army’s Future Vertical Lift program. I am very glad to see him a recipient of the Goldwater fellowship.”
Kozak said plans to keep his options open and continue working with his Army research mentors as his pursues his doctorate in mechanical engineering.
“My Army mentors treat as a collaborator, allowing me to explore and learn with freedom and receive expertise when needed,” Kozak said.
Soon after America set off its largest-ever nuclear blast on Bikini Atoll in the Pacific, one of the scientists behind the weapon’s design aimed for something even bigger: a 10,000-megaton blast that would’ve been 670,000 times as powerful as the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, so large it would’ve destroyed a continent and poisoned the earth.
But even while working on the atomic bomb during World War II, Teller and a few others were urging for a much larger “super bomb” than the first atomic weapons. They believed that, while the atomic bombs were aiming for about 10-15 kilotons of power, weapons that would boom at 10-15 megatons were possible.
Teller, on the other hand, wanted to think bigger.
He proposed linking together multiple thermonuclear devices to create larger blasts. Slight permutations on this idea led to the U.S. Castle Bravo test with a 15-megaton yield—the largest America ever set off, and the Tsar Bomba display by Russia—the largest nuclear blast ever created by man at 50-megatons.
But at the Castle test series in 1954, while Teller and Ulam’s overall concept of thermonuclear devices was being proven over and over, the only individual bomb actually designed by Teller himself was a dud. It went off at only 110-kilotons, a tiny fraction of power compared to every other weapon tested in the series.
And Teller had a lot riding on success. The U.S. had split its nuclear efforts into two labs, adding Livermore National Laboratory to Los Alamos where the original atomic bombs had been created. Teller was one of the founders of Livermore, and his friends were helping run it. There were rumors that the government might stop funding Livermore efforts, effectively killing it.
So Teller went to the next meeting with the General Advisory Committee, where the nuclear scientists proposed new lines of effort and weapon designs, with two proposed ways forward for Livermore. He wanted the laboratory to look into tactical nuclear weapon designs on one hand, and to create a 10,000-megaton nuclear weapon on the other hand.
A 10,000 megaton weapon, by my estimation, would be powerful enough to set all of New England on fire. Or most of California. Or all of the UK and Ireland. Or all of France. Or all of Germany. Or both North and South Korea. And so on.
But that only accounts for the immediate overpressure wave and fireball. The lethal nuclear fallout would have immediately lethal levels of radiation across multiple countries, and likely would have poisoned the earth. We would show you what this looks like on NUKEMAP, but Wellerstein programmed it to “only” work with blasts up to 100 megatons, the largest bomb ever constructed. Teller’s weapon would have been 100 times as powerful.
When Teller went to the GAC with this proposal, they quickly threw cold water on it. What would be the point of such a weapon? It would be impossible to use the weapon without killing millions of civilians. Even if the bomb were dropped in the heart of the Soviet Union, it would poison vast swaths of Western Europe and potentially the U.S.
The GAC did endorse Livermore’s work on tactical nuclear weapons, and Teller eventually moved on to other passions. But the weapon is theoretically possible. But hopefully, no one can assemble a team sufficiently smart enough to design and manufacture the weapon that’s also stupid enough to build it.
After all, we already have nuclear arsenals large enough to destroy the world a few times over. Do we really need a single bomb that can do it?
(H/T to The Pentagon’s Brain, a book by Annie Jacobson where the author first learned about Teller’s proposal.)