LCAC pilot tells his story about he came to 'hover' - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

LCAC pilot tells his story about he came to ‘hover’

The wind blows viciously as it sweeps across the open waters, but the sound of gum being popped out of the pack is a familiar feeling that Senior Chief Quartermaster Steve Schweizer will never forget, even after retirement. It’s something that he takes on every mission, a lucky charm that he’ll leave behind when he walks out of the Assault Craft Unit Four (ACU-4) facility for the very last time.


“I won’t fly without it,” said Schweizer. “I’ve actually been on the ramp getting ready to go and I was feeling my pockets and thought ‘oh it’s not there, no I have to run back inside I know it’s in my desk.’ I’ll look at the water, look at the weather, and I’ll just kind of almost go into a quiet place, like just relax. I know that as soon as that mission starts, it’s ‘go go go’, it’s stress, it’s just operational, operational, operational.”

Schweizer first thought of joining the Navy after being unsure what he wanted to do in life.

“I took half a semester of college and realized it wasn’t what I wanted to do,” said Schweizer. “I had an uncle in the Navy who I didn’t talk to very much, but I told him I decided to join the military and he told me how much fun he had in the Navy so I figured I may have made the right decision.”

Schweizer first joined the LCAC program in 2004 and enjoys what he does.

“I’ve been here for fifteen years and I love what I do,” said Schweizer. “I love flying the crafts, I love teaching people how to fly the crafts, and I like our mission.”

Schweizer began running as a hobby before his 2014 deployment, describing it as an escape and a stress reliever.

“I just put my music on, go for a run, and I just tune everything out,” said Schweizer. “It’s just my relax time, my alone time. It’s definitely one of those things where it’s like if you think of work all the time, if you think of the stress of your job all the time, it’s going to get to you, so it’s my outlet.”

The program has a very high attrition rate and has a difficult training pipeline.

“This is a 90×50 foot hovercraft, it weighs about 200 thousand pounds,” said Schweizer. “You’re controlling it with three different controls. Your feet are doing one job and both hands are doing separate jobs. It takes a lot of coordination and it’s not easy.”

Training in the simulator and manning the live craft are completely different, and requires a lot of attention.

“You always have that heightened sense of awareness,” said Schweizer. “Anticipation of what the craft is going to do and how to counteract it. Never take anything for granted.”

On a small craft that is only manned by five personnel, personnel develop a closer relationship with crew members quicker, Schweizer explained.

“They develop that bond because you know that person has your back, or you know that person is looking out for you,” said Schweizer. “I know my crew, I know their families, I know what they like to do in their spare time, they know that if they’re ever in trouble they know they’ll call me first, or they’ll call one of their crew members first.”

This article originally appeared on All Hands Magazine. Follow @AllHandsMag on Twitter.

Articles

The Albanians are selling MiGs at bargain-basement prices

LCAC pilot tells his story about he came to ‘hover’
A former AAF Shenyang J/F-6, rusting away at Kucove Air Base. Photograph by Rob Schleiffert, 2007


If you’re in the market for a used fighter jet that can still fly, the Albanian Air Force would like to talk with you in the near future before they run out of stock!

Forty Cold War-era fighter jets have been put up for auction by the Albanian government with the goal of eventually selling all of its retired fixed-wing fleet to whoever has the highest bid. Of that forty, eleven fighters parked at the old Rinasi air base near Tirana are currently open for immediate sale, with opening bids beginning at 1.1 million to 1.9 million leks. Yes, million, and no, that’s not actually a lot of money when you do the currency conversion. Overall, it comes to the grand range of $8,600 to $14,800 USD, according to the Associated Press.

That pretty much means anybody with a job could probably afford to buy one of these fighters… not including transportation, maintenance, and insurance costs. Not to mention operational costs if you decide to actually fly these aircraft.

It’s somewhat unclear whether or not these fighters up for sale are actually MiGs or the Chinese clone copies, though a closer inspection of each aircraft will undoubtedly reveal their source. The Albanian Air Force originally fielded Soviet-built MiG-15s, -17s, and -19s, though it began to procure Chinese-made clones after Albanian relations with the USSR ended in 1961. Albania eventually bought large numbers of Shenyang J-5s and J-6s (MiG-17s and MiG-19s respectively) and a smaller fleet of Chengdu J-7s (MiG-21s).

Before you tell your wife you’re about to take out a second mortgage on your house, or your college roommates that you just found something really sweet to pool your money on, you should probably be aware of the fact that the Albanian Air Force had an astoundingly high accident rate with its fighters. When the USSR ended diplomatic ties with Albania, it became incredibly difficult to find parts and the appropriate jet fuel for their MiG fighters, so Albania spurred on its industry to attempt to produce a similar fuel composition to keep their fighters flying. The fuel wasn’t similar enough, and apparently wreaked havoc on the engines it was burned in, shortening their lifespans, and in some cases, outright blowing up aircraft while in-flight.

If the test sale of the 11 MiGs (or Shenyangs?) is successful, the remaining fighter fleet will be opened up for sale. Prospective bidders include museums around the United States and Europe, as well as private bidders who just want the aircraft to add to their collections. I can’t say with certainty that the TACAIRNET team won’t try to bid on one, either… So you’d better hurry if you’re looking to have a MiG-17 parked in your driveway by the end of this year!

Humor

6 pearls of wisdom we learned from War Daddy in ‘Fury’

Many Hollywood war movies focus on the action-packed set pieces that go into the film’s trailer, leaving out a lot of room for the character elements that elevate good stories.


When David Ayer’s “Fury” debuted in theaters, the film’s realistic and diverse characters like Gordo, Bible, and the seasoned Don “War Daddy” Collier made audiences feel the dangers of being a tanker in WWII.

Brad Pitt plays the German speaking tank commander War Daddy must to deploy his leadership skills to manage the different personalities that make up his crew.

Related: 5 nuggets of wisdom in ‘Black Hawk Down’ you may have missed

So check out how War Daddy commanded his troops.

1. Never let them see you cry

No one said you can’t have feelings while you’re deployed in a combat zone, but leaders have to control their emotions to help maintain order. That’s exactly what War Daddy did after losing a crew member as he walked off for a moment of self-reflection.

War Daddy reminds us every great warrior needs a moment. (Images via Giphy)

2. Make your expectations clear

The Army quickly replaces the fallen crew member with an untrained boy named, Norman.

War Daddy gives the newly assigned tanker some sage advice for the hell he’s about to witness.

It sounds cold-hearted, but it’s realistic advice. (Images via Giphy)

3. Rank doesn’t always have its privileges

It not uncommon that war films feature both the war-hardened and the inexperienced “shot caller” tropes. But having a high-rank insignia on your collar or sleeve is only as good as the man wearing the shirt. Write that down.

True leaders get true reactions from their comrades. (Images via Giphy) 

4. Live in the moment

Having fought the Germans for a good amount of time and seeing plenty of death, War Daddy knows the importance of embracing a special moment.

To feel alive in a time of death is priceless. (Images via Giphy) 

5. Take care of each other

Even though their world is currently under a pile of sh*t, they still have their brotherhood and it’s stronger than ever.

Words only veterans can relate too. (Images via Giphy)

Also Read: 8 life lessons from ‘Major Payne’

6. Never run from a fight

Like War Daddy, many warriors are trained to fight, and fighting is all they know. So running away from a fight just isn’t a part of the plan.

With the odds were stacked up against them. They all stayed and fought. That’s their duty. (Images via Giphy)

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This version of the F-86 Sabre was meant to kill enemy bombers

When you think of the F-86 Sabre, your thoughts jump immediately to dogfights above the Yalu River against MiG-15s flown by Soviet, Chinese Communist, and North Korean pilots. But this dominant air-to-air fighter wasn’t the only version of the Sabre.


In addition to the F-86H, a fighter-bomber version of the Sabre that hung around until 1972, the Sabre was also retooled as the F-86D, designed specifically to kill enemy bombers.

LCAC pilot tells his story about he came to ‘hover’
Two F-86L Sabres from the 456th Fighter Interceptor Squadron. The F-86L was an improved F-86D. (USAF photo)

According to aviation historian Joe Baugher, the goal was to create an all-weather interceptor that had a single pilot, as opposed to a two-man crew. The plane was first called the F-95 since it didn’t have many parts in common with the F-86A but, in 1950, the Air Force changed the designation to F-86D. The six M3 .50-caliber machine guns onboard the F-86A were replaced with a pack of 24 2.75-inch “Mighty Mouse” rockets. A pilot had the choice of firing 6, 12, or all 24 rockets at an enemy bomber in a single salvo.

LCAC pilot tells his story about he came to ‘hover’

The F-86D proved to be much faster than the other two interceptors in Air Force service in the 1950s, the F-89 Scorpion and the F-94 Starfire. Over 2,500 F-86Ds were produced, and nearly a thousand of them were modified into the F-86L standard, which added a datalink and the “6-3” wing used by the F-86F air superiority fighter. A simpler version designed for export, the F-86K, on which the rocket pack and some of the radars were replaced with four 20mm cannon, was also produced and served with Germany, France, the Netherlands, Norway, Italy, Venezuela, Honduras, and Turkey.

LCAC pilot tells his story about he came to ‘hover’
The F-86D was initially considered too sensitive to export, so the F-86K replaced the rocket pack with four 20mm cannon, and a different targeting system. Honduran F-86Ks saw action in the Soccer War and flew until 1980. (Wikimedia Commons photo by Aldo Bidini)

The F-86D hung around until 1961, while the improved F-86L wasn’t retired until 1965. F-86Ks flew with international air forces until 1980, when Honduras retired its planes.

Learn more about this bomber-killing Sabre in the video below:

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xBMl6ETAMec
(Jeff Quitney | YouTube)
MIGHTY TRENDING

The Marine Corps is taking a hard look at the Army’s new pistol

The Army plans to start distributing its new Modular Handgun System, the Sig Sauer P320, to soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, this fall.


The rollout would come less than a year after the Army awarded the $580 million contract to Sig Sauer to produce the gun, also called the XM17.

And Marine Corps officials have said their personnel may soon adopt a more compact version of the pistol, called the XM18.

Chief Warrant Office 5 Christian Wade, the small-arms expert for the 2nd Marine Division, told Marine Corps Times that the service would perform a review in the near future to learn which positions need the new weapon.

“We prefer our pistol be as compact as possible without loss of capability,” Wade said. “After all, it’s a pistol.”

LCAC pilot tells his story about he came to ‘hover’
A service member fires the Sig Sauer P320 during Modular Handgun System tests for the U.S. Army Operational Test Command, conducted at Fort Bragg, N.C. Aug. 27. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo by Lewis Perkins)

Earlier this month, the Army assembled soldiers, sailors, Marines, and airmen at Fort Bragg in North Carolina to put the new handgun through a round of testing, using it alongside the M4 rifle and cold-weather gear.

The Army-led training mainly featured soldiers from the 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, and Army officials have not said what other units were present.

Earlier this year, an official from the Marine Corps Capabilities Development Directorate’s Maneuver Branch said the Corps was taking part in the Army’s Modular Handgun System selection effort in order facilitate its own search for a new sidearm.

The official also displayed a chart showing the Marine Corps’ current side arms, the Beretta M9 and Colt M45A1, in service until 2025, overlapping with the XM17, which would come into service in 2023 and stay through 2035.

“As soon as the U.S. Army is ready to sell them to us,” Wade said of the XM18, “we will begin this program.”

A new handgun is not the only change that may come to the Army and Marine Corps arsenals.

Both service branches are considering setting aside the M16/M4 rifle platform in favor of a new rifle that offers more range and stopping power, potentially firing a different caliber bullet as well.

LCAC pilot tells his story about he came to ‘hover’
Marines with Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, sight-in with M27 Infantry Automatic Rifles at Camp Hansen, Okinawa, Japan, Dec. 16, 2016. As the Marine Corps’ only continuously forward-deployed unit, the 31st MEU air-ground-logistics team provides a flexible force, ready to perform a wide range of military operations, from limited combat to humanitarian assistance operations, through the Indo-Asia Pacific region. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jorge A. Rosales/ Released)

The Corps is considering replacing the M4 carried by most of the branch’s infantry riflemen with the M27, the infantry automatic rifle first introduced in 2010 and currently carried by one member of each Marine infantry fire team.

The M27 was brought in to replace the M249 squad automatic weapon, though some officials have touted intermediate-caliber weapons as a potential replacement for the infantry rifle and squad automatic weapon, with one size bullet catering to a family of weapons.

Col. Mike Manning, the chief of Marine Corps Systems Command’s Ground Combat Element Systems, also said this week that the service would soon send a request for weapons suppressors from the arms industry, according to Marine Corps Times.

Manning didn’t talk numbers — noting only that the suppressors would be used “across the forces” — or say whether the suppressor would be designed for the M4 or the M27, but he did say commercial suppressors were already being tested and suggested suppressors built into weapons would be preferred.

The Army and the Marine Corps have been evaluating suppressors for regular infantry as a way to add stealth and boost tactical capabilities. Some Marines have been training or deployed with suppressors for both weapons.

A Marine rotational force deployed to Norway earlier this year was the first unit to be outfitted with suppressors on every weapon.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The last US troop to desert to North Korea dies at 77

Charles Jenkins, a U.S Army deserter to North Korea who married a Japanese abductee and lived in Japan after their release, has died. He was 77.


Jenkins was found collapsed outside his home in Sado, northern Japan, Dec. 11 and rushed to a hospital and later pronounced dead, a group representing families of Japanese abductees to North Korea said Dec. 12.

Japan’s NHK national television said he died of a heart failure.

LCAC pilot tells his story about he came to ‘hover’
Charles Jenkins, U.S. Army deserter and defector to North Korea who married a Japanese prisoner. (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

Jenkins, of Rich Square, North Carolina, disappeared in January 1965 while on patrol along the Demilitarized Zone dividing North and South Korea. He later called his desertion a mistake that led to decades of deprivation and hardship in the communist country.

Jenkins met his wife Hitomi Soga, who was kidnapped by Pyeongyang in 1978, in North Korea and the couple had two daughters, Mika and Blinda. His wife was allowed to visit Japan in 2002 and stayed. Jenkins and their daughters followed in 2004.

Also Read: Here are a few more reasons not to be a deserter (in case you needed them)

Once in Japan, Jenkins in 2004 was subject to a U.S. court-martial in which he said he deserted because of fear of being sent to fight in Vietnam. He pleaded guilty to desertion and aiding the enemy and was dishonorably discharged and sentenced to 25 days in a U.S. military jail in Japan.

LCAC pilot tells his story about he came to ‘hover’
Charles Jenkins, the Army deserter and defector to North Korea who married a Japanese prisoner. (Image Wikipedia)

Jenkins and his family lived in Soga’s hometown of Sado, where he was a popular worker at a local souvenir shop and could often be seen posing in photos with visiting tourists.

Soga is one of 13 Japanese that Tokyo says were kidnapped by the North in the 1970s and 1980s as teachers of Japanese culture and language for agents spying on South Korea. Pyongyang acknowledged the abductions and allowed a Japan visit in 2002 for Soga and four others, who eventually stayed.

Jenkins, in his 2005 autobiographical book To Tell the Truth and in appearances at conferences on North Korean human rights, revealed that he had seen other American deserters living with women abducted from elsewhere, including Thailand and Romania.

After settling in Japan, he visited North Carolina to see his mother and sister, but he said he had no plans to move back to the U.S.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This new unmanned fighter drone could be your next wingman

Boeing Co. has unveiled a new concept for an unmanned fighter that would work autonomously alongside fourth- and fifth-generation fighter aircraft.

Dubbed the Airpower Teaming System, the drone-jet hybrid would be a multi-mission craft using artificial intelligence to conduct intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions to supply pilots with more information during a conflict, according to the company.

The aircraft, which Boeing is co-developing with the government of Australia for that country, was unveiled at the Avalon Airshow.


The jet is 38 feet long and can fly more than 2,000 nautical miles, the company said. It uses A.I. “to fly independently or in support of manned aircraft while maintaining safe distance between other aircraft,” according to its fact sheet.

Boeing intends to hold its maiden flight sometime in 2020.

The concept is similar to an ongoing U.S. military effort.

LCAC pilot tells his story about he came to ‘hover’

A full-scale model of the Boeing Airpower Teaming System air vehicle.

(Boeing)

The U.S. Air Force has been working to develop its own “Loyal Wingman” program, featuring unmanned fighters that could think autonomously sent out alongside F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, for example, to scout enemy territory ahead of a strike, or to gather intel for the aircraft formation.

The concept is part of the service’s Air Superiority 2030 road map, which the Air Force debuted in 2016. The road map outlines next-generation air dominance, defined as advanced fighter aircraft, sensors or weapons — or all of the above — in a growing and unpredictable threat environment.

Boeing CEO and chairman Dennis Muilenburg tweeted that the Airpower Teaming System will be the first unmanned aircraft designed and built by the company outside the U.S.

It will be the first Australian-developed combat aircraft since World War II, Reuters said. The country is investing roughly million into the project.

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

Articles

This is what makes the sabot round so deadly

One of “Murphy’s Laws of Combat” is that “The best tank killer is another tank. Therefore tanks are always fighting each other … and have no time to help the infantry.”


One of the reasons this rings true is because the rounds used by tanks to kill tanks are so darn effective.

The round that became known as the “Silver Bullet” from American tanks is the M829A1 for the M256 main gun on the M1A1/M1A2 Abrams main battle tanks used by the Army and Marine Corps (plus the Saudis, Egyptians, Moroccans, Australians, Kuwaitis, and Iraqis). This round uses a hardened dart dubbed a “sabot” to punch through an enemy tank.

And the M829A1 did a lot of that in Desert Storm.

LCAC pilot tells his story about he came to ‘hover’
A view of an Iraqi T-72 main battle tank destroyed in a Coalition attack during Operation Desert Storm near the Ali Al Salem Air Base (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Joe Coleman)

The M829A1 is an armor-piercing fin-stabilized discarding sabot – APFSDS – round. The long-rod penetrator is usually no more than 1.25 inches wide and is held in a “shoe” that enables it to be fired in a gun whose bore is a little under five inches long. When the round is fired and exits the barrel, the shoe flies off, and the round is on its way.

The long-rod penetrator then flies downrange towards the target. Once it hits, the round just punches through the armor. The result is the enemy tank tends to blow up in what tankers call a “Jack in the box.”

LCAC pilot tells his story about he came to ‘hover’
Troops hold M829 sabot rounds. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Eric Taylor, 1BCT PAO, 1st Cav. Div)

How well does it work? Well, in Tom Clancy’s “Armored Cav,” the stories abound. One “silver bullet” killed two T-72s with one shot. Another, fired from an Abrams tank that was stuck in the mud, penetrated a sand berm before it blew up a T-72.

That was the M829A1. Since 1991, the United States has switched to the M829A2, which made improvements to the depleted uranium penetrator. Globalsecurity.org notes that the M829A2 round was late replaced by the M829A4, which has even further improvements to the penetrator and adds changes to the sabot.

LCAC pilot tells his story about he came to ‘hover’
(Youtube screenshot)

Check out the video below to see what the sabot does so lethally well.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Navy uses WWII-era ‘bean-bag drop’ for aircraft communication

One-hundred-ten degree heat radiated from the flight deck of the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4) as an MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter swooped in and dropped a message resurrecting an 80-year-old aircraft-to-ship alternative communication method.

Historically, war tends to accelerate change and drives rapid developments in technology. Even with superior modern capabilities, the US Navy still keeps a foot in the old sailboat days and for good reason.

During the sea battles of WWII, US Navy pilots beat enemy eavesdropping by flying low and slow above the flight deck and dropping a weighted cloth container with a note inside. This alternative form of communication was termed a “bean-bag drop.”


During the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo, Japan, a Douglas SBD Dauntless pilot spotted a Japanese patrol vessel approximately 50 miles ahead of USS Enterprise (CV 6). The pilot believed he had been seen by the Japanese and decided not to use his radio but flew his SBD over the Enterprise flight deck and dropped a bean-bag notifying the ship of the Japanese patrol boat ahead.

LCAC pilot tells his story about he came to ‘hover’

A US Navy Douglas SBD Dauntless drops a message container known as a “bean-bag” on the flight deck of USS Enterprise while crew members dart to catch the message to deliver it up to the ship’s bridge.

(Naval Aviation Museum)

A video posted by Archive.org shows actual video of a SBD rear gunner dropping a bean-bag down to the Enterprise flight deck that day and shows a sailor picking up the bean-bag, then running to the island to deliver it up to the bridge.

The bean-bag design progressed when USS Essex (CV 9) ran out of them and Navy pilot Lt. James “Barney” Barnitz was directed to provide replacements. Barnitz went to see the Essex Parachute Riggers and out of their innovation, the bean-bag was cut and sown into a more durable form.

Fast-forward 80 years to August 2019, when Boxer’s Paraloft shop was tasked to make a new bean-bag specifically for a helo-to-deck drop.

“I started with the original measurements of the bean-bag used on the USS Enterprise in 1942 and built this one to withstand the impact of a drop but also weighed down for an accurate drop,” said Aircrew Survival Equipmentman 1st Class Carlos R. Freireizurieta, who works in Boxer’s Paraloft shop.

LCAC pilot tells his story about he came to ‘hover’

Aircrew Survival Equipmentman 1st Class Carlos R. Freireizurieta sows together naugahyde and web materials that will be used as a message delivery container between aircraft and ship, Aug. 10, 2019.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm Specialist 1st Class Frank L. Andrews)

LCAC pilot tells his story about he came to ‘hover’

An actual message container called a “bean-bag” used to deliver messages from an aircraft to the ship during World War II.

(Naval Aviation Museum)

LCAC pilot tells his story about he came to ‘hover’

Aircrew Survival Equipmentman 1st Class Carlos R. Freireizurieta with a message container known as a “bean-bag” he designed and sowed together, Aug. 10, 2019.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm Specialist 1st Class Frank L. Andrews)

LCAC pilot tells his story about he came to ‘hover’

Naval Air Crew (Helicopter) 2nd Class Joe Swanso conducts a bean-bag drop exercise to communicate with amphibious assault ship USS Boxer, Aug. 4, 2019.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm Specialist 1st Class Brian P. Caracci)

LCAC pilot tells his story about he came to ‘hover’

Naval Air Crew (Helicopter) 2nd Class Joe Swanso conducts a bean-bag drop exercise to communicate with amphibious assault ship USS Boxer, Aug. 4, 2019.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm Specialist 1st Class Brian P. Caracci)

LCAC pilot tells his story about he came to ‘hover’

Naval Air Crew (Helicopter) 2nd Class Joe Swanso conducts a bean-bag drop exercise to communicate with amphibious assault ship USS Boxer, Aug. 4, 2019.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm Specialist 1st Class Brian P. Caracci)

LCAC pilot tells his story about he came to ‘hover’

Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) 2nd Class Bradley Peterson runs to a bean-bag that was dropped on the flight deck of amphibious assault ship USS Boxer during an exercise to communicate with an MH-60S Sea Hawk, Aug. 4, 2019.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm Specialist 1st Class Brian P. Caracci)

LCAC pilot tells his story about he came to ‘hover’

Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) 2nd Class Bradley Peterson runs to a bean-bag that was dropped on the flight deck of amphibious assault ship USS Boxer during an exercise to communicate with an MH-60S Sea Hawk, Aug. 4, 2019.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm Specialist 1st Class Brian P. Caracci)

LCAC pilot tells his story about he came to ‘hover’

Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) 2nd Class Bradley Peterson runs with a bean-bag that was dropped on the flight deck of amphibious assault ship USS Boxer during an exercise to communicate with an MH-60S Sea Hawk, Aug. 4, 2019.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm Specialist 1st Class Brian P. Caracci)

LCAC pilot tells his story about he came to ‘hover’

Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) 2nd Class Bradley Peterson runs with a bean-bag that was dropped on the flight deck of amphibious assault ship USS Boxer during an exercise to communicate with an MH-60S Sea Hawk, Aug. 4, 2019.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm Specialist 1st Class Brian P. Caracci)

LCAC pilot tells his story about he came to ‘hover’

Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) 2nd Class Bradley Peterson runs with a bean-bag that was dropped on the flight deck of amphibious assault ship USS Boxer during an exercise to communicate with an MH-60S Sea Hawk, Aug. 4, 2019.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm Specialist 1st Class Brian P. Caracci)

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

popular

This is why Nazis dubbed these paratroopers ‘devils in baggy pants’

Few units receive their nicknames from their exploits in combat. Even fewer derive their moniker from what the enemy calls them. But for the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment of paratroopers that is exactly what happened in Italy in 1944.


The 504th first met the Germans in Sicily, along with the rest of the 82nd Airborne Division, during Operation Husky. It was there that the Germans and Italians first discovered that the American Paratrooper was a uniquely dangerous man.

The 504th next took part in the invasion of mainland Sicily.

Initial elements of the regiment to go into action were from the 3rd Battalion, who landed by sea with the Rangers at Maiori in the opening move of Operation Avalanche. Two days later the balance of the 3rd Battalion, along with the 325th Glider Infantry Regiment, were diverted to the Salerno beachhead itself when the situation there became tenuous.

 

LCAC pilot tells his story about he came to ‘hover’
The 504th patrolling Sicily in 1943.

 

As the situation continued to deteriorate, the remaining two battalions of the 504th conducted a jump into the collapsing perimeter, guided by flaming oil drums full of gasoline-soaked sand.

Resisting a strong German counterattack on the high ground near Altavilla, Col. Tucker, the regimental commander, exemplified the unit’s fighting spirit.

Facing the prospect of being overrun, Gen. Dawley, the VI Corps commander, called Tucker and told him to retreat. Tucker was having none of it and sternly replied “Retreat, Hell! Send me my other battalion!”

Joined by the 3rd Battalion, the 504th held the line and helped to save the beachhead. The 504th would fight on through Central Italy while the remainder of the division returned to England in preparation of the upcoming Normandy landings. The regiment was finally pulled back from the lines on Jan. 4, 1944 in anticipation of another parachute mission.

Their next mission would be part of Operation Shingle in late January 1944. This was another Allied amphibious assault on the Italian coast, this time at the port of Anzio, aimed at getting behind the formidable German defensive lines there were impeding progress from the south.

 

LCAC pilot tells his story about he came to ‘hover’
The 504th PIR at Anzio as part of Operation Shingle.

 

Initial planning had the 504th jumping ahead of the invasion force to seize the Anzio-Albano road near Aprilia. This plan was scrapped at the last minute as prior experience, and the likelihood of tipped-off Germans, said it was too risky. Instead the 504th, now a Regimental Combat Team, would land abreast the 3rd Infantry Division to the south of Anzio. The initial landing seemed to have caught the Germans completely off guard and the Allies went ashore nearly uncontested. The easy advance would not last long.

Soon the 504th found itself engaged all across the lines as its battalions were sent to augment other units. As German counterattacks looked to drive the Allies back into the sea, the casualties rose.

The 3rd Battalion found itself fighting alongside the British 1st Infantry Division in some of the heaviest fighting at Anzio. The paratroopers took a beating from the Germans but kept up the fight. Most companies could only muster the equivalent of an understrength platoon – some 20 to 30 men.

When a British general was captured by the Germans, H Company’s few remaining men drove forward to rescue him. They were promptly cut off. Seeing their brothers-in-arms in distress, the final sixteen men of I Company joined the fray and broke through to the trapped men.

 

LCAC pilot tells his story about he came to ‘hover’
Men of the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment prepare to fire an 81mm mortar during the battle for Italy.

 

For their part in the heavy fighting of Feb. 8 – 12, the 3rd Battalion was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation. The paratroopers weren’t out of the fight yet, though. They continued to hold the line and harass the Germans.

The situation turned into one of static warfare with trenches, barbed wire, and minefields between the two sides. The paratroopers though were loath to fight a defensive battle and maintained a strong presence of patrols in their sector.

When the paratroopers found the journal of a German officer killed at Anzio, they knew their hard-charging, hard-fighting spirit had made a lasting impact on the Germans.

“American paratroopers – devils in baggy pants – are less than 100 meters from my outpost line. I can’t sleep at night; they pop up from nowhere and we never know when or how they will strike next. Seems like the black-hearted devils are everywhere…”

The baggy pants referred to the paratroopers’ uniforms, which differed greatly from the regular infantry whose pants were “straight legged.”

The men of the 504th were so enthralled with the German officer’s words that they christened themselves the Devils in Baggy Pants – a nickname they carry to this day.

The Devils in Baggy Pants would eventually be pulled off the line in Italy towards the end of March 1944. However, when they arrived in England to rejoin the 82nd Airborne Division for the jump into Normandy, they were saddened by the news. Due to the high level of casualties and insufficient replacements they would not be making the jump.

The Devils would next meet the Germans in Holland, then at the Bulge, before making it all the way to Berlin.

 

LCAC pilot tells his story about he came to ‘hover’
While digging in near Bra, soldiers of Company H of the 3rd Battalion, 504th, met SS troopers on reconnaissance. Several Germans were killed and one captured. Dec. 25, 1944.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The raid on Camp Bastion was a bloody first for some Marine aviators

On Sept. 14, 2012, 15 heavily armed Taliban fighters disguised in U.S. Army uniforms infiltrated Camp Bastion, a large Marine Corps and British forces base and Afghan National Army training complex. Camp Bastion could accommodate some 30,000 people, so when the Taliban split into three teams to wreak havoc on the base’s interior, things could have gone very badly for the Marines.

The infiltrators made it all the way to the flight line, where their coordinated, complex attack began by targeting the Marines’ Harrier aircraft. It would be the single biggest loss of American airpower since the Vietnam War. It would also be the first time that the maintainers and pilots of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 211 (VMA-211) operated as riflemen since World War II.


LCAC pilot tells his story about he came to ‘hover’
A video released later showed the attackers dressed for the assault.

 

The fighting began at 10pm local time with one Taliban team engaging the flight line personnel, another targeting the refueling area, and a third focusing on destroying aircraft using explosives and RPGs. It was an aircraft explosion that signaled the start of the attack.

Within minutes, six Harriers were burning on the tarmac, the Marine helicopter area was surrounded by fires, and the cryogenics and fuel pit areas were on fire as small arms crackled and tracers lit up the night sky. The Taliban brought everything from hand grenades to heavy machine guns and caught the Marines completely off guard.

LCAC pilot tells his story about he came to ‘hover’
Lt. Col. Christopher Raible’s memorial.

 

Marines scrambled to protective barriers as RPGs exploded around the flight line. They initially believed it was an attack of opportunity from outside the base — a random, lucky hit from rockets or mortars. But after ten explosions, one every ten seconds, it was clear that this was more than a few lucky shots. The Troops in Contact alarm began to sound. They called in the British quick reaction force, but they were on the other side of the base and the Marines would have to hold their own until they arrived.

The Marines quickly moved to don their flak jackets and retrieve their rifles. The Taliban weren’t going to stop at the aircraft. They fired RPGs at the building that housed Marine workstations while another hit a building that contained the medical section. An anti-personnel RPG killed the commander of VMA-211, Lt. Col. Christopher Raible, before he could organize a defense. Shrapnel from one of the RPGs lodged in his neck as he was leading a crew full of mechanics and maintainers out into the night as a rifle unit.

LCAC pilot tells his story about he came to ‘hover’

By this time, every Marine was operating as a rifleman. Weapons and ammo were doled out to anyone without one and Marines began taking up their fields of fire. The air wing was a total, confusing mess as the fuel bladders blew up, temporarily turning the night into day.

A Huey aircraft commander and two enlisted Marines were the ones who brought the weapons to the flight line area. They went to check on the entry control point and began to take fire from the cryogenics area. A Huey crew chief manned an M240 to suppress the enemy fire.

At the same time, Marines were struggling to get remaining aircraft in the air to provide close-air support. All they could muster was two Hueys and a Cobra, but the Marines managed to get them ready to fly in the midst of the confusing, intense attack. Thick smoke, burning ordnance, and enemy fire loomed as flight line Marines took up defensive positions to cover the helicopters’ takeoff.

LCAC pilot tells his story about he came to ‘hover’
One of the Harrier jets destroyed in the raid.

 

When the helicopters were airborne, things changed quickly on the ground. They told the JTAC to concentrate fire toward the enemy position in the cryogenics facility. When the southern wall of that building lit up with tracers, the AH-1 Cobra helicopter peppered the building with 20mm rounds and UH-1V Venom Hueys tore through it with 300 .50-cal rounds while a gunner on the ground hit it with 600 rounds from a GAU-17.

After the aerial hit, the British quick reaction force arrived and cleared out the infiltrating Taliban in the cryogenics facility with 40mm grenade launchers. That left four Taliban hiding in the T-walls near the flight line. As Marines on the ground attempted to converge on the remaining Taliban attackers, guns from the helicopters eliminated the last of the threat.

When the smoke cleared, two Marines, Lt. Col. Raible and Sgt. Bradley Atwell, had been killed. Allied wounded numbered 17, six Harriers were completely destroyed, and another two were damaged, along with an Air Force C-130E. Three fuel bladders and a few sunshade hangars were also destroyed. All but one of the attacking Taliban fighters were killed in action. The attack caused some 0 million in damages.

LCAC pilot tells his story about he came to ‘hover’
Maj. Gen. Charles M. Gurganus, left, and Maj. Gen. Gregg A. Sturdevant were forced to retire just one year after the raid.
(U.S. Marine Corps)

 

The story doesn’t end there. The Marine Corps wanted to know how 15 heavily armed Taliban fighters were able to get onto the base in the first place. It turned out the commander of Bastion, Maj. Gen. Charles Gurganus, reduced the number of Marines patrolling the base of 30,000 from 325 to 100 just one month before the attack, leaving the base guarded by troops from Tonga. He and Maj. Gen. Gregg Sturdevant were forced to retire in the days following the incident. Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. James Amos, said the two failed to accurately assess the strength and capabilities of the enemy in the area and failed to protect their troops.

Sturdevant was the Marine aviation commander of the base and was blamed for inadequate force protection measures on the flight line area that night. The two Marines who went to check the entry control point found it unmanned before they started taking fire from the cryogenics facility. Meanwhile, the British review of the attack found that only 11 of 24 guard towers were manned that night. Both generals retired with fully pay and benefits.

Later, it would be revealed that the attackers spent months posing as poppy farmers, probing the base defenses and testing reactions from perimeter guards. They were able to map out the base, its defenses, its fuel farms, and the airfield. They were even trying to target Prince Harry, who was stationed on the base at that time.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Air Force B-52 bombers drop laser-guided bombs for first time in a decade

Laser-Guided Bomb Units, commonly referred to as LGB’s, were dropped from the bomb bay of a B-52 Stratofortress for the first time in nearly a decade during an operational test performed by the 49th Test and Evaluation Squadron Aug. 28, 2019.

The munitions used to be dropped from the bomb bay of the jet using a cluster bomb rack system, but the method raised safety concerns and the practice was eliminated.

“We’ve still been able to utilize LGB’s underneath the wings of the B-52, but they don’t do very well when carried externally because they are susceptible to icing and other weather conditions,” said Lt. Col. Joseph Little, 49th TES commander.


According to Little, the seeker head of the LGB can be adversely affected by the elements, potentially reducing its effectiveness.

LCAC pilot tells his story about he came to ‘hover’

US Air Force Senior Airman Endina Tinoco wires a GBU-12 laser guided bomb after it was loaded onto a Conventional Rotary Launcher in the bomb bay of a B-52 Stratofortress at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, Aug. 20, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Gregory Steele)

The advent of the Conventional Rotary Launcher, a bomb bay weapons platform made available to the B-52 fleet in 2017, provides an alternative to the cluster bomb rack system and may once again allow LGB’s to be dropped from inside the jet.

Doing so would keep the weapons protected from the elements, reducing the effects of weather. It also has the potential to increase the jet’s lethality.

“It’s another arrow in the quiver, it gives us the ability to carry more LGB’s on the aircraft or give more variation on a conventional load,” said Little. “It adds capability and is another thing you can bring to the fight.”

Little explained the CRL was not originally designed for gravity-type bombs like the LGB, but recent software upgrades to the system now allow for such munitions.

Getting to the point of operational testing required a team effort between the 49th TES and Reserve Citizen Airmen of the 307th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. The 307th AMXS took the lead in configuring the CRL to accept the LGB’s.

LCAC pilot tells his story about he came to ‘hover’

US Air Force Staff Sgt. Skyler McCloyn and Staff Sgt. Nathan Ehardt load a GBU-12 laser-guided bomb onto a Conventional Rotary Launcher in the bomb bay of a B-52 Stratofortress at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, Aug. 20, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Gregory Steele)

SSgt. Skyler McCloyn, 307th AMXS aircraft armament systems mechanic, served as the loading team chief for the event.

“It was very cool mission,” said McCloyn. “It is exciting to know you are a part of something that could have a long-term impact.”

The experience of the Reserve Citizen Airmen contributed greatly to the success of the effort, according to McCloyn.

“When you are doing something for the first time there will always, be kinks,” said McCloyn. ” But the expertise we have from working with so many type of munitions allowed us to adjust and work through those issues without much trouble .”

Little appreciated having the breadth and depth of experience offered by the unit.

“The 307th AMXS is on the leading edge of weapons loading and giving the rest of the B-52 maintenance community the data they need for unique scenarios like this,” he said.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Unique new veterans memorial installed 40 feet under the sea

As soon as Shawn Campbell saw his name on a plaque next to a statue sunken 40 feet on the seafloor, the memories of soldiers he had once served with flooded his mind.

The life-size statue, one of a dozen concrete figures that make up the nation’s only underwater veterans memorial, depicted a soldier wearing combat gear from the Iraq War — a war he had fought in three separate times.

“It really took my breath away,” said the former staff sergeant, now a master diver at a Florida dive shop. “It was a huge honor.”

His company made a donation to place his name at the base of the statue before the figures were recently installed about 10 miles off the coast of Clearwater, Florida.


The memorial, called Circle of Heroes, honors the entire military with statues portraying a variety of service members in what organizers hope will serve as a therapeutic dive for veterans and a unique diving experience for all.

Plans call for an additional 12 statues to be added to the memorial next year.

LCAC pilot tells his story about he came to ‘hover’

Circle of Heroes is the nation’s only memorial of its kind and will eventually have 24 life-size statues depicting troops from all services.

(Circle of Heroes)

For Campbell, who served about a decade in the Army as a combat medic, he said the memorial helped him remember those who never returned home and those who struggled once they did.

“I had a lot of friends who didn’t make it back,” he said Aug.12, 2019, a week after the memorial officially opened. “And even more who did make it back, but then couldn’t win the battle with themselves after the war.”

One such friend was Staff Sgt. Victor Cota. He and Campbell had been in the same 4th Infantry Division unit that provided security for senior leaders traveling in and around Baghdad.

On May 14, 2008, Cota’s vehicle hit a roadside bomb, killing the 33-year-old Tucson, Arizona, native.

“He was a really good friend of mine,” Campbell said. “We lost him during [my] second deployment.”

In 2013, Campbell left the Army to finish his associate’s degree and then worked as a commercial deep sea diver. He now teaches courses at a dive shop in the Tampa area, where he grew up.

LCAC pilot tells his story about he came to ‘hover’

Shawn Campbell, a former staff sergeant and now a master diver, looks at his name on a plaque next to one of the statues at the Circle of Heroes underwater veterans memorial off the coast of Clearwater, Fla.

(Video still by Bill Mills)

“I was like, well, if I survived the war, I’m going to start doing everything I want to do now,” he said.

Campbell said scuba diving is a relaxing activity that calms his post-traumatic stress and gives him time to analyze his thoughts in peace.

“It helps me deal with things,” he said. “It’s kind of hard to have a bad day when you’re underwater and you get to reflect upon yourself.”

Former Staff Sgt. Jace Badia, also a diving instructor, agreed, saying the sport gives him more freedom of movement.

Badia, an infantryman who lost his left leg above the knee to a roadside bomb in Iraq, said he and others who have had amputated limbs can move however they like while floating below the surface.

He even knows a blind veteran who enjoys scuba diving.

“If you don’t have the ability to run because of prosthetics, you can get in the water with a tank and you can swim as fast as you want,” he said. “Nothing is stopping you.”

LCAC pilot tells his story about he came to ‘hover’

Shawn Campbell, a former staff sergeant and now a master diver, had a statue dedicated to him at the Circle of Heroes underwater veterans memorial off the coast of Clearwater, Fla.

(Shawn Campbell)

Badia, who manned a boat so other wounded veterans could dive around the memorial last week, said he is looking forward to seeing it soon in an upcoming dive.

“I can’t believe that they finally made an underwater memorial for [service members],” he said. “That’s amazing, I never even thought that was possible.”

While memorials are typically above ground, this one can allow visitors to connect to it on a deeper level. There is even a nonprofit that specifically takes wounded veterans to the site as an alternative form of therapy.

“The one thing about scuba diving is when you’re down there, even if you’re in a group, you’re still by yourself,” Campbell said. “You have no choice but to reflect on what you’re looking at.

“It’s more of a serene experience that you never get an opportunity to experience above the water.”

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

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