Marines can now use umbrellas instead of just holding them for Presidents - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Marines can now use umbrellas instead of just holding them for Presidents

The top Marine Corps general is officially putting an end to the long-standing tradition of toughing out the rain without an umbrella, which has become a point of pride for the amphibious service.

“Umbrellas are good to go,” Gen. David Berger told reporters at the Pentagon — at least when Marines are wearing their service or dress uniforms.

Berger will make the move official in a new Marine Corps-wide administrative message to be released this week. Effective immediately, all Marines are authorized to use small, black umbrellas under certain conditions.


“Marines may carry an all-black, plain, standard or collapsible umbrella at their option during inclement weather with the service and dress uniforms,” the commandant’s message to Marines states.

Raw: Marines Come to Obama’s Aid in the Rain

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Leathernecks in camouflage combat utility uniforms will still need to brave the rainfall.

The change follows an April survey on the matter from the Marine Corps’ uniform board. Officials declined to say how many Marines who answered the survey viewed the addition of umbrellas to the uniform lineup favorably.

When the survey was announced in April, some readers said umbrellas weren’t necessary since Marines are already issued raincoats and covers. Others argued that dress and service uniform items are too expensive to ruin in the rain, especially for lesser-paid junior Marines.

For others, the move came down to common sense.

Marines can now use umbrellas instead of just holding them for Presidents

“Using an umbrella looks more civilized and professional than standing outside getting drenched,” one reader said.

Until now, only female Marines have been allowed to use umbrellas in service and dress uniforms. They must carry the umbrellas in their left hands, so they can still salute.

Male Marines have for decades been some of the only service members barred from using umbrellas when in uniform.

The policy made headlines in 2013 when President Barack Obama was giving a speech in the rain outside the White House. Marines standing next to Obama and the Turkish president held umbrellas for the two men while they stood in the rain.

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

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General Petraeus returned to duty days after being shot in the chest with an M-16

There are a lot of reasons for soldiers to visit sick call. Sure, there are a lot of skaters among the ranks of U.S. troops, but most of the military is looking to stay away from doctors and stay in the fight — especially while deployed. No officer exemplifies this more than Gen. David Petraeus, who was shot in the chest due to a negligent discharge.

The doctors were not thrilled at the prospect of letting then-Lt. Col. Petraeus walk out of the hospital. Just days before, the colonel was participating in a live-fire exercise at Fort Campbell, KY when a soldier under his command tripped. The fall caused the soldier to fire his M-16 rifle, hitting Petraeus in the chest.

Of course, Lt. Col. Petraeus survived.


Marines can now use umbrellas instead of just holding them for Presidents

“Ooh, good attempt, Private Dipsh*t. If you had tried that at the range, you might have a sharpshooter badge.”

I remember standing for a moment and then going down to my knees and slumping to the ground,” said Petraeus. “The next I recall was being worried about the effect on the unit and delaying training. So I instructed the leaders to just prop me up against a tree with a canteen.”

Then, like a true soldier, he instructed medics not to cut off his load-bearing equipment because it took him so long to get it together and put it on. Medics then tended to his wound just like it says in the Soldier’s Manual. They then airlifted him to Blanchfield Army Community Hospital where doctors were forced to tend to his wounds without anesthesia. He was later rushed to Vanderbilt University Medical Center for more care. 

Despite having been shot, Petraeus couldn’t just languish in the hospital for months at a time. He was the commander of the Iron Rakkasans, not the Wet Paper Bag Rakkasans. He may not look like it at first glance, but the decorated Army officer is tough as nails and is willing to prove it. That’s exactly how he was able to leave the hospital soon after.

Marines can now use umbrellas instead of just holding them for Presidents

“Come at me, son. My life has its own Konami Code.”

The surgeon that operated on David Petraeus that day in Nashville would later go on to work with Petraeus as a General. Republican Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist helped save the young officer’s life and later took testimony from the general on how he intended to train Iraqi troops.

Before that, however, Lt. Col. Petraeus needed to get out of the hospital. To prove to his civilian doctors that he was fine and ready for duty, Petraeus did 50 pushups without resting – just days after being shot by a 5.56 round in the chest from 40 meters and then undergoing surgery to repair the damage.

(It) feels like a combination of the most enormous blow imaginable and being hit in the back with a massive hammer from the force of bullet exiting the body,” Petraeus told The Leaf-Chronicle.I was very fortunate that the bullet did not sever an artery… I was also very fortunate that the bullet hit over the ‘A’ in ‘Petraeus’ rather than the ‘A’ in ‘U.S. Army.’

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This is what happened when a C-130 and a C-17 had a baby

The C-130 has a long legacy of getting troops and cargo from point A to point B. However, while the Hercules is versatile (from a gunship to wielding the powers of the Shadow) and a legend, let’s face it, it does have limitations. Part of it is the fact it can carry 22 tons at most in the C-130J-30 version.


So, Airbus decided to try to address that shortcoming. The result is the A400M Atlas, and like Japan’s C-2 transport, it is intended to fit in the niche between the C-130 and the C-17.

The difference is that while Japan chose to build a scaled-down C-17, Airbus decided that the answer involved giving the C-130 a “steroid” boost, just as Japan did with the F-16.

Marines can now use umbrellas instead of just holding them for Presidents
The 58 foot by 13 foot by 13 foot cargo bay of the A400M. (Wikimedia Commons)

The result is a plane that lists more (37 tons compared to 22), has more endurance (4,800 nautical miles to 2,100), and which can still land on rough fields like the C-130. The C-17, according to an Air Force fact sheet, needs a 3,500 foot runway.

So, what exactly does this mean? The cargo hold is 58 feet long, 13 feet high, and 13 feet wide. Airbus says the plane can carry an NH90 or CH-47 helicopter, or most infantry fighting vehicles.

And we’re not talking a Stryker — we’re talking a heavy infantry fighting vehicle like Germany’s Puma.

Marines can now use umbrellas instead of just holding them for Presidents
Two of the A400M’s engines turn clockwise, two turn counter-clockwise. (Wikimedia Commons)

The A400M will also be able to haul troops, and unlike the C-2 or C-17, it is also capable of being used as a tanker. Yeah, like the C-130, the Atlas is capable of topping up fighters on a ferry run or when they are headed out to carry strikes.

Below, you can see the Atlas do a move that few transports can do. But ultimately, this transport’s going to be doing a lot of hauling. Already, 46 are in service, with a total of 174 ordered.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is what happened to all the old US F-14 Tomcats

There was only one foreign customer for the advanced F-14 Tomcat fighter during its heyday: Iran. The Shah chose to buy 80 Tomcats instead of the F-15 Eagle – and it was a good investment. Even after Imperial Iran gave way to the Islamic Republic of Iran after the 1979 revolution, the Iranian Air Force was still stacked with some of the best Tomcat pilots in the world.

And the U.S. doesn’t want any of them in the air again ever.


Iran is the United States’ ex-girlfriend that we just can’t stop thinking about. After the Islamic Revolution, the U.S. could just not leave Iran alone. A major sticking point for the United States was that our ex still had 30 of our best fighter aircraft, and they were using it to great effect against our new boo, Iraq, in the Iran-Iraq War. The Iranian Air Force was so skilled in the Iran-Iraq War that a lone tomcat could clear the skies of enemy aircraft without firing a shot. Many of the successful downings of Tomcats were at the hands of ground-based SAM batteries… Iranian SAM batteries.

Marines can now use umbrellas instead of just holding them for Presidents
Watching Iranian Tomcats fly is like watching your ex wearing the ring you bought her that she won’t give back.

But the United States eventually gets better stuff, no matter how iconic Top Gun is. Since the Tomcat, we’ve had the major advances in fighter technology that led us to develop the F-22 and F-35 fighters, technology so amazing it might seem like magic to some. So it made sense to retire our fleet of F-14s in 2007, given that we had an air superiority fighter that had the radar cross-section of a bumblebee and could take out enemy planes before it could physically see them. When Iran got wind of its retirement, you could practically hear the CEO of Northrop Grumman’s tummy growling at the idea of parts sales.

But nope. This was 2007 and Iran was still firmly placed in President George W. Bush’s “Axis of Evil,” along with North Korea. The idea of selling Iran rare F-14 parts, so it didn’t have to cannibalize its own F-14 inventory was preposterous. It was this concern that led the Pentagon to shred every last leftover F-14 Tomcat.

Marines can now use umbrellas instead of just holding them for Presidents
Kinda like this, except with millions of dollars worth of metal and avionics.

Did the United States have to take a million plane and reduce it to scrap metal just so Iran couldn’t repair its aging fleet? No, according to many national security experts, it did not. They said the move was more symbolic than practical. F-14 parts were considered sensitive equipment just for this reason, so the U.S. ended all parts sales to anyone, not just Iran, for fear that Iran might get them eventually. But that doesn’t matter, there isn’t much Iran could do with their F-14s if they were airworthy.

“Those planes as they age are maybe the equivalent of Chevrolets in Cuba. They become relics of a past era,” said Larry C. Johnson, a former deputy chief of counterterrorism at the State Department in President George H.W. Bush’s administration. “Even if they can put them in the air, they are going to face more advanced weapons systems.”

Marines can now use umbrellas instead of just holding them for Presidents
Goose is rolling around in his grave.

 

The decision to destroy all the surplus Tomcats was the defense equivalent of taking the house and the car despite not needing or wanting either – a purely spiteful move that makes Tomcat fans wish they would have just donated to museums.

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4 reasons why infantrymen don’t need full auto weapons

The author served as a Navy Corpsman with Marines in Sangin, Afghanistan. 

The primary mission of a U.S. Marine infantry rifle squad is to locate, close with and destroy the enemy by fire and maneuver or to repel the enemy’s assault by fire and close combat. This mission statement is branded into each infantryman’s brain and consistently put to practical use when the grunts are deployed to the front lines.

In the event a Marine infantry squad takes enemy contact, the squad leader will order the machine-gunners to relocate themselves to an area to return fire and win the battle for weapon superiority. The squad leader will also inform his fire team leaders of the situation and they’ll deploy their two riflemen and SAW (Squad Automatic Weapon) gunner to a strategic area — getting them into the fight.

Once they have a fix on the enemies’ position, they’ll call the mortar platoon to “bring the rain.”

At literally the flip of a switch, troops go from having a cold weapon system to knocking a fully automatic weapon, bringing death to the bad guys at the pull of a trigger.

This sounds super cool, right? Well, it kind of is when you’ve experienced the situation first hand. We understand that having a fully automatic machine gun gives troops a commanding advantage, but when you look at how ground pounders are trained to fire the weapon system, the rate of fire nearly mirrors that of an M4’s after a few bursts.


They can get trigger happy

For the most part, grunts love to take contact from the enemy when they are locked and loaded. When you’ve trained for months to take the fight to the enemy, nothing feels better than getting to fire your weapon at the bad guys. However, it’s not uncommon for machine-gunners to squeeze their triggers and fire off more than the recommended four to six rounds.

We’d also like to add that the feeling of sending accurate rounds down range is fun as f*ck! Unfortunately, infantrymen often lose their bearing and keep the trigger compressed and end up wasting ammo.

Negligent discharges can be worse

Most times, a negligent discharge means you accidentally fired one round from your rifle or pistol. For a troop carrying a fully automatic weapon, the negligent discharge can be much more violent and dangerous. Instead of firing off one round accidentally, you can fire two or three.

We understand that the M16 has both semi-automatic (one round at a time) and burst (three shots at a time) firing capabilities. But it’s more unlikely you’ll ND on the burst setting than the semi-automatic one.

Barrel changes

Remember when we said troops can get trigger happy? Hopefully, you do, because we just mentioned it a few minutes ago. When grunts do get trigger happy, their weapons systems can overheat. To combat the overheating, troops must change out their barrel in order to stay in the fight.

Which takes precious firefight time that you won’t get back.

It can lower accuracy

Machine guns are very, very powerful weapons. They can kill the enemy positioned beyond the maximum effective range of an M4 and M16. Sounds awesome, right? Well, it is.

Unfortunately, since they are very powerful, when the mobile operator fires the weapon, the recoil will bring the rifle’s barrel up and off target. This mainly happens when the ground pounder gets trigger happy. In a firefight, mistakes need to be kept to a minimum or people can die.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Check out this stunning 360 video from inside an F-16

Piloted by Maj. John “Rain” Waters, an operational F-16 pilot assigned to the 20th Operations Group, Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina and the United States Air Force F-16 Viper Demonstration Team commander, the F-16 of the Viper Demo Team performs an aerobatic display whose aim is to demonstrate demonstrate the unique capabilities of the F-16 Fighting Falcon, better known as “Viper” in the pilot community.


The F-16 piloted by “Rain” was surely one of the highlights of EAA AirVenture 2018 airshow in Oshkosh, Winsconsin and the video below provides a pretty unique view of the amazing flying display. Indeed, the footage was captured by a VIRB 360, a 360-degree Camera with 5.7K/30fps Resolution and 4K Spherical Stabilization. The action camera captured a stabilized video regardless of camera movement along with accelerometer data to show the g-load sustained by the pilot while flying the display routine.

There is little more to add than these new action cameras will probably bring in-flight filming to a complete new level.

Enjoy.

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This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

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These are the crazy Air Force pilots who fly into hurricanes

When the Wild Weasels were formed, one of the candidates was said to have remarked of the mission: “You’ve got to be shitting me!”


Well, if you think pilots flying up against surface-to-air missile sights define crazy, you haven’t heard of the Hurricane Hunters – and these folks have been busy.

With Hurricane Harvey set to hit the coast of Texas with at least two major military bases in the bullseye, tracking its movement has been important. One of the ways the data is gathered is by flying into the storm to help determine how strong the storm is, and where it may be headed.

This is often done by the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, attached to the 403rd Wing, based out of Keesler Air Force Base near Biloxi Mississippi.

Marines can now use umbrellas instead of just holding them for Presidents

According to a release by the 403rd Wing, WC-130J Super Hercules weather reconnaissance planes have already made 10 flights into Hurricane Harvey, presently a Category 2 storm slated to reach Category 3 when it makes landfall in Texas.

Each plane has a crew of five: a pilot, co-pilot, a weather reconnaissance officer, a navigator, and a loadmaster.

During the flights through Harvey, the Airmen made dozens of passes through the eye of the hurricane, braving the strong winds in the center of the storm. On each pass, a device known as a “dropsonde” is released, providing data on dew point, pressure, temperature, and of course, wind speed and direction.

That data is sent out immediately to the National Hurricane Center.

Marines can now use umbrellas instead of just holding them for Presidents
Master Sgt. Erik Marcus, 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron loadmaster, loads a dropsonde into a dropsonde cannon during a flight into Hurricane Harvey Aug. 24, 2017 out of Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Heather Heiney)

“As the Hurricane Hunters, our data is time sensitive and critical for the [National Hurricane Center],” Maj. Kendall Dunn, 53rd WRS pilot explained. “This storm is rapidly intensifying.”

You’d think these pilots would be full-time Air Force, but you’d be way off. These gutsy crews who brave the wrath of nature are with the Air Force Reserve – meaning that many of them are taking time off from their regular lives to serve their country. You can see them in action monitoring Hurricane Harvey in the video below.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US considers a ‘limited strike’ to bloody Kim Jong Un’s nose

After months of resolutely declaring that it cannot and will not tolerate a nuclear-armed North Korea, the US is reportedly planning a “bloody nose” attack to send Pyongyang a message.


The Daily Telegraph cited “well-placed” sources as saying the Trump administration had “dramatically” stepped up preparations for a military response to North Korea’s nuclear provocations.

Those possible responses include destroying a launch site before North Korea could test a missile and targeting a stockpile of weapons, according to The Telegraph.

“The Pentagon is trying to find options that would allow them to punch the North Koreans in the nose, get their attention and show that we’re serious,” a former US security official briefed on policy told The Telegraph.

The report said the Trump administration had the April 7 strike on a Syrian airfield in mind as a blueprint for the move against North Korea.

Marines can now use umbrellas instead of just holding them for Presidents
MEDITERRANEAN SEA (April 7, 2017) The guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) conducts strike operations while in the Mediterranean Sea, April 7, 2017. Porter, forward-deployed to Rota, Spain, is conducting naval operations in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ford Williams/Released)

Attacking North Korea would make the Syria strike look easy

When US Navy ships fired 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at a Syrian airfield, President Donald Trump had the world’s support in attacking a nation accused of using chemical weapons on its own people.

Syria’s military was already stretched thin fighting a civil war and multiple Islamist terrorist groups. The strike went virtually unpunished.

But that most likely wouldn’t be the case with a US strike on North Korea, which has a massive standing army and a military posture geared toward offense.

And there are practical reasons the US can’t just blow up a North Korean missile launch site. As Jeffrey Lewis, the director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, said on Twitter, “Mobile missiles don’t need launch sites, Donald.”

Also Read: Everyone is preparing for a devastating all-out war in Korea

Instead of using designated launch sites, North Korea puts its missiles on mobile launchers, some of which have treads to launch from off-road locations.

Lately, North Korea has varied its launch sites, most likely to make it harder for the US to track and possibly intercept missiles.

If the US wants to give you a bloody nose, nothing can stop it

The US does have tools to give North Korea a “bloody nose.”

Short of blowing up a launch site, which could kill launch officers — and possibly Kim Jong Un, as he usually watches launches from close by — the US could attempt to intercept North Korea’s next missile launch.

The US and allies have not only increased missile-defense deployments to the region — they’ve also deployed F-35 stealth fighters that have some capability to shoot down missile launches.

Submarines like the USS Michigan, which has frequently visited South Korea in recent months, could send a volley of cruise missiles at any military site in North Korea without ever surfacing.

Forward-deployed Aegis guided-missile destroyers in the US Navy could intercept the missiles as they launched, Sid Trevethan, a former US Navy specialist in ballistic missile defense and electronic countermeasures, told Business Insider.

Secretary of Defense James Mattis recently said that though North Korea’s last ballistic missile test demonstrated a very long range, he’s not convinced the entire missile system works. US policy on North Korea explicitly calls for denying it the means to perfect its missile program.

Destroying North Korean missiles during launch would rob Pyongyang of valuable testing and could ensure it never tests an ICBM at full range, meaning it could never be fully confident in its ability to hit the US.

Marines can now use umbrellas instead of just holding them for Presidents
SEALs and divers from SEAL Delivery Vehicle Team 1 swim back to the guided-missile submarine USS Michigan (SSGN 727) during an exercise for certification on SEAL delivery vehicle operations in the southern Pacific Ocean. The exercises educate operators and divers on the techniques and procedures related to the delivery vehicle and its operations. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kristopher Kirsop)

Calling Kim’s bluff risks nuclear war

The US knows what capabilities it has to counter North Korea, but not how North Korea would respond.

If the US were to send Tomahawk missiles toward a launch site, North Korea might interpret the incoming salvo as targeting its supreme leader and being an outright act of war.

Immediately, Kim could order North Korea’s massive artillery installations to open fire on Seoul, potentially killing tens of thousands within hours.

The bloody-nose scenario comes down to a gamble on whether North Korea is ready to enter all-out war over a limited strike.

North Korea has sunk US and South Korean ships without proportionate punishment in the past. It has shelled South Korean islands, captured Americans and South Koreans, and killed civilians without US retaliation.

North Korea, despite having the weaker hand militarily, has often gambled that the US and South Korea value prosperity and peace — albeit an uneasy peace — too much to respond tit-for-tat to its military provocations.

A US attack on North Korea might just call a long-standing bluff and show that Pyongyang’s bark is worse than its bite — or it might unleash nuclear war.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Navy vet goes from fighting in Iraq to fighting fires

Navy veteran Tyler Welch used to patrol the streets of Iraq as a corpsman. Now, he’s fighting a new battle against fires.

Welch is part of the Veterans Fire Corps crewmember program, run through the Southeast Conservation Corps. SECC is an AmeriCorps-affiliated non profit that engages recent-era veterans, partnering with the U.S. Forest Service Southeast Region. SECC started the Veterans Fire Corps program in 2018. The 10-month intensive training program engages recent-era military veterans up to age 35 in fuels reduction, fuels management, and wildland firefighting.

For veterans like Welch, the program is a perfect fit for his transition.


“Wildland firefighting had been an idea in the back of my head for a few years as a job to looking into when I got out of the military,” Welch said. “The program that SECC is running piqued my interest because it is a veteran program and is a lengthy training program allowing me to see several parts of the wildland world.”

Marines can now use umbrellas instead of just holding them for Presidents

Navy veteran Tyler Welch went from corpsman to Veteran Fire Corps member.

Welch served tours in Hadditha, Iraq, with Marines as the senior corpsman; and in Basra, Iraq, and Kuwait as a search and rescue medical technician. Stateside, he served at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina, and at Naval Hospital Whidbey Island, Washington. Seeking a new challenge, he sought something that could use his military service.

“The biggest skills I’ve carried over from the military that have helped with the program are team work and leadership,” he said. “Additionally, just being able to grind and get the work done on the hard day. It’s not always easy or fun, but at the end of the day you look back and see what you accomplished.”

For those looking for a challenge, Welch had three pieces of advice. The first is to keep fit, as days are long. The second is carryover advice from military service: get a good pair of boots. The third is to go camp and get used to being in the woods, living out of a tent and campground.

VFC crews

VFC crewmembers can earn certifications related to fuels management. This includes courses on firefighting, wildland fires, chainsaws, incident management, first aid and CPR. Southeast National Forests use VFC, which facilitates opportunities for crew members to work across a variety of districts and landscapes while simultaneously assisting forests with a myriad of fuels related needs.

“This program is designed to engage veterans in a truly hands-on experience,” said SECC Director Brenna Kelly. “Through rigorous and repeated trainings as well as field-based project work, veterans will earn necessary certifications and practical experience needed to compete for career positions related to fire and natural resource management.”

Marines can now use umbrellas instead of just holding them for Presidents

Navy veteran Tyler Welch went from corpsman to Veteran Fire Corps member.

Home base for VFC crews is the Conasauga Ranger District of the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest in Georgia. The crew roves throughout the Southeastern United States for the duration of the program.

Some projects require members to work five days at a time with two days off. Other projects require camping and living on project locations for 8-14 days, with a set amount of days off. Members cannot use drugs or alcohol during work related travel at any time.

In addition to a stipend, members receive paid trainings and certifications and an education award upon program completion. Members also receive food and accommodations during overnight travel and transportation to and from work sites.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

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This video of a dropping mortar round is the best prank footage you’ll see all week

Pranking your buddy in war has been a pastime of bored soldiers since Gen. George Washington slipped Maj. Gen. Benedict Arnold’s hand in warm water while he slept. (Arnold got back at him by selling the plans to West Point’s defenses).


A Middle Eastern fighter got in on the action by dropping a – hopefully fake – mortar round next to his buddy while the other guy was focused on his smartphone.

Check out the action (and the phone junkie’s hilarious reaction) in the video below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zhn0u7E2nFI

(h/t Funker 530)

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EOD airmen can build and defuse anything from a pipe bomb to a nuclear weapon

Somewhere in southern Afghanistan, an explosive ordnance disposal technician spots a glint in the soft dirt. He moves deliberately, but steadily, as he tries to determine if it’s a harmless piece of trash or a bomb. In the back of his mind, the technician can’t help but wonder if this will be the improvised explosive device that kills him.


Since 2003 similar missions have taken the lives of 20 Air Force EOD technicians, when Airmen began diffusing bombs in Iraq and Afghanistan.

With combat missions winding down, EOD is now able to divert attention to its nine other mission sets: aerospace systems and vehicle conventional munitions, weapons of mass destruction, nuclear inventory, UXOs, operational range clearances, mortuary services, defense support for civil authorities, irregular warfare (where EOD teams serve as combat enablers for general forces or special operations), and VIP support.

Marines can now use umbrellas instead of just holding them for Presidents
Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Queer wears a Med-Eng EOD 9 Bomb Suit. The EOD 9, the latest version of the bomb suit, was designed with direct input from bomb disposal technicians. Queer is the 325th Fighter Wing Explosive Ordinance Disposal unit non-commissioned officer in charge of EOD operations. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee)

As the career field shifts into a post-war posture they’re refocusing on these other skill sets. One of these they used to support the Secret Service when two teams from the 325th Civil Engineer Squadron’s EOD flight at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, worked President Barack Obama’s trip to Orlando, Florida, after the nightclub massacre where 49 people were killed in June. The Secret Service tasked EOD teams to sweep venues for explosives, areas en route to the venues, or on any person or object that could be used to harm the president or VIPs they’re protecting.

“For so many years, we have been going 150 mph,” said Senior Master Sgt. Robert K. Brown, 325th CES EOD superintendent, “so when you slow down to 85 mph, you feel like you’re crawling, even though you’re still going faster than most other people on the highway. We’d been doing that for the 12 years of combat operations, and now I think we feel we’re at a snail’s pace.”

Post-war life at the Tyndall AFB flight, one of 52 active-duty EOD flights Air Force-wide, ranges from responding to flares that wash up on the beach after being dropped by the Navy to mark items in the ocean to the occasional unexploded ordnance. The flight is responsible for assessing, rendering inert or safely destroying everything from small arms to guided missiles, although any EOD flight could be called upon to handle anything explosive in nature up to and including a nuclear incident.

The 325th EOD flight’s primary mission is flightline support for the wing’s four fighter squadrons, but it also provides counter-IED support for several tenant organizations.

Marines can now use umbrellas instead of just holding them for Presidents
Staff Sgt. Darius Bailey, 325th Fighter Wing EOD team member and liaison with the U.S. Secret Service. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee)

By the time EOD Airmen left Afghanistan in 2014, they had completed almost 20,000 missions, responded to over 6,500 IEDs, and received more than 150 Purple Hearts for their actions and service in Iraq and Afghanistan. They also deployed often, with a third of the service’s 1,000 EOD members overseas and another third in pre-deployment training preparing to replace them, Brown said. At times the pace was so heavy that EOD Airmen would often be replaced by the same person who replaced them on their last deployment.

“For some of us old-timers in this particular generation, we’ve had a chance to kind of breathe,” Brown said. “In doing so, that’s given us the opportunity to regroup, restock and prepare for the next iteration of conflict that may or may not be coming. So right now is the best time to share the experiences and prepare the next generation for the hard lessons that we’ve had over these past 12 years.”

Fluid tactics

The two wars might be over, but EOD remains one of the Air Force’s most dangerous jobs. In addition to the 20 EOD technicians lost in the two wars, about 150 have suffered extensive injuries. It is a continuing evolving because of the constantly changing tactics of the enemy.

“The enemy is always going to try to continually be better than us, so we have to ensure that we never sleep in preparation for any force that we’re going to encounter,” said Chief Master Sgt. Neil C. Jones, the EOD operations and training program manager with the Air Force Civil Engineer Center at Tyndall AFB. “We don’t have the opportunity to make a mistake, so we train relentlessly to never get it wrong.”

Marines can now use umbrellas instead of just holding them for Presidents
325th Fighter Wing Explosive Ordinance Disposal team member Senior Airman Anthony Deleon (middle) carries a Micro Tactical Ground Robot (MTGR) into a simulated village to prepare for a training scenario. The man-carried system is compact and lightweight, weighing approximately 20 pounds. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee)

During the transition, which has begun gradually in the past couple of years, the focus has been on getting everyone back from deployments and training them in the other nine skill sets to reestablish pre-OIF levels of proficiency. But equally important is the challenge of reducing attrition rates during EOD technical training without lowering the standards, Jones said.

EOD students first attend a 20-day preliminary school at Sheppard AFB, Texas, before they go through the Naval School EOD at Eglin AFB, Florida. An average school day is more than 13 hours, and it takes several years for a student to become a fully functional EOD member and a couple of years longer to be a team leader. About 75 percent of students fail to make it through the course.

Two recent changes to reduce attrition rates are the use of computer tablets for rehabilitation training and the addition of a couple of wounded warrior EOD technicians to help students at the school.

Derrick Victor, a retired technical sergeant who was wounded in his last deployment to Afghanistan when a bomb blast killed one Airman and hurt four others, is one of the new instructors. He’s seen the career field evolve through the wars and is now part of its post-war transition.

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Staff Sgt. James Vossah (Left), Staff Sgt. Brian Wirt (Middle) and Senior Airman Anthony Deleon configure a Micro Tactical Ground Robot (MTGR) to begin a training exercise at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee)

“Those two wars obviously changed the way that wars are fought as far as being on the ground and in third-world countries where they have to improvise,” Victor said. “It created a bit of a change from being based on supporting aircraft to things that were improvised. We got very good at that skill set, using robotics and working out all of that kind of stuff.

“Even though those two wars have dwindled down, we know that threat is not going to go away,” he continued. “So, as a whole, the career field is trying to keep that skill set rolling through the generations from those of us for who all we knew was Iraq and Afghanistan to all of these young kids coming fresh out of school, so they don’t have to learn on the fly like we did.”

EOD leadership is also placing a priority on training when Airmen get to their flights after graduation. Because the consequences of mistakes are so severe, the goal is to have those mistakes made in training, Brown said.

“I often refer to it as ‘the good, the bad, the ugly and the stupid,'” he said. “That just refers to what went right, what went wrong, what worked that probably shouldn’t have and what did we do that was just plain dumb, which happens in training. That’s OK as long as we learn lessons from it. But it’s not OK if it’s unsafe. Those are sometimes the hardest parts to learn. We want to make sure that if these guys (make a mistake) in training, they don’t do it when it’s for real. Explosives don’t care about peacetime or wartime.”

Another factor that’s evolving is the way the EOD field trains to recover from both emotional and physical trauma. More emphasis is being placed on instilling resiliency before something happens to an EOD technician in the field, Jones said.

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The Micro Tactical Ground Robot (MTGR) is a unique and lightweight system that allows Explosive Ordinance Disposal teams and other tactical units to explore areas of interest and examine suspected explosive devices prior to sending in personnel. The approximately 20-pound robot is a man-carried system which can operate in all terrains and is controlled remotely by EOD technicians with a unit that includes a high-resolution screen and gamepad controllers for maneuvering. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee)

Tech advances

Along with the cultural shift from the war years, the field has also been making major transitions in technology. The robot EOD technicians used in Afghanistan has been replaced by, among others, the Micro Tactical Ground Robot. The world’s lightest EOD robot can be carried by a single Airman, travel at 2 mph, climb stairs and see beyond 1,000 feet. Airmen previously carried 100-pound robots attached to their rucksacks. The new 25-pound robot can be carried on their backs.

“The technology advances that we have out there with the global economy, and more importantly, being able to make things lighter, faster and stronger, have allowed us to develop new tools and techniques and robotic platforms that are much smaller, lighter and leaner than what we had 14 years ago,” Jones said.

Technological progress hasn’t just been in robotics. There has also been a dramatic change in treating traumatic injuries downrange.

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Staff Sgt. Guadalupe Corona, 325th Fighter Wing Explosive Ordinance Disposal unit, wearing NCOIC EOD Equipment. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee)

“I think one of the biggest things that we’ve seen as far as technology has been in the medical arena. We have changed the way we treat people for trauma,” Jones said. “If we can stop the bleeding downrange and get that Airman alive into a helo and back to a field surgical team, we’re running about a 98 percent success rate of saving their lives. So as our enemy continues to develop with technology to use against us, we will continually use our technology to develop a better way to take care of that threat.”

As much as life changes after years of war, one area that remains constant is the role tragic events play in training new EOD technicians. As sobering as the memories are of losing members of the EOD family, their sacrifice provided important training lessons.

“What our fallen have done is the same as our World War II EOD bomb disposal predecessors – with very brave men going down and disarming German rockets and bombs,” Brown said. “If they made a mistake, we would then know not to take that step, that last step. Unfortunately, a lot of bomb disposal techs died that way, but our fallen have taught us how to be better at this craft; they have never failed.”

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MIGHTY HISTORY

This reconnaissance unit has flown since before World War I

The young pilot struggled against dust and wind that swirled 10,000 feet above valleys sandwiched between Mexico’s Sierra Madre mountains. He had only a rudimentary pair of plain glass goggles to protect his face. Yet he was determined to find the trail of the rebel bandit Pancho Villa who had recently led a raid into New Mexico that killed eight U.S. Soldiers and 10 American civilians.

That young pilot, Capt. Benjamin Foulois, was in one of eight Curtis JN-3 “Jenny” biplanes participating in the search. The planes were powered with 90-horsepower engines that had a rough time just staying airborne, but they led a reconnaissance mission to kick off Gen. John J. Pershing’s punitive expedition into Mexico.


It was March 1916, little more than a decade after the Wright Brothers’ inaugural flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, and only seven years after Foulois was taught to fly by Orville Wright himself, becoming the first military aviator. He later became a major general, and in 1931 was appointed Chief of the U.S. Army Air Corps.

That small unit of Jenny biplanes, in search of Villa and his Mexican marauders more than 100 years ago, were members of the 1st Aero Squadron, the first aviation unit to participate directly in a military action, flying 346 hours on 540 flights during Pershing’s expedition. The first mission covered more than 19,300 miles, and included aerial reconnaissance and photography as well as transporting mail and official dispatches.

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The first Curtiss JNÐ2s of 1st Aero Squadron at the Signal Corps Aviation School, North Island, Cali. Sgt. Vernon L. Burge stands under the propeller. In the cockpit is Capt. Benjamin Foulois and second man from the right is Jacob Bollinger.

The squadron was formed March 5, 1913, giving it the distinction of being the oldest flying squadron still in existence.

The unit has alternated between reconnaissance and bombing missions and had its name tweaked 14 times since the provisional 1st Aero Squadron unfurled its colors in Texas City, Texas. Its Airmen have flown 47 different types of aircraft and served in more than 50 locations throughout the world.

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In the year of the 1st Aero Squadron’s formation, Lt. Thomas D. Milling, instructor, and Lt. Fred Seydel, student, are at the controls of a Wright C., SC-16 Trainer on airfield in Texas City, Texas, May 1913. In front of the plane, 8 other soldiers in uniform and a civilian in white shirt and bow tie stand posed facing the camera.

Today, it’s the 1st Reconnaissance Squadron, a part of the 9th Reconnaissance Wing at Beale Air Force Base, California, with the responsibility of training high-altitude intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance RQ-4 Global Hawk and U-2S pilots and sensor operators.

The squadron has a reputation for being a pioneer in establishing ISR capability and establishing a legacy of supplying critical information to combatant commanders across the joint force.

“The legacy of the 1st Recon Squadron is a microcosm of the legacy of the Air Force,” said Richard Rodrigues, former 9th RW historian. “It was the organization that pioneered the first tactical deployment of U.S. military airpower, and it helped create some of our early leaders that had an impact on the Air Service and later the Air Corps.”

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U.S. Air Force U-2S Dragon Lady Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Aircraft instructor pilots from the 1st Reconnaissance Squadron pose for a photo in front of a two seat U-2S Aug. 17, 2012 at Beale Air Force Base, Calif. Less people have piloted the U-2 than have earned Super Bowl rings.

A little over a year after its famous recon mission over Mexico, the squadron would enter World War I, traveling from New Mexico to New York, then by ship across the Atlantic to land in Le Havre, France and become the first American squadron to enter the war. The 1st Aero Squadron took on the role as an observation unit, initially flying the French Dorand AR 1 and 2 aircraft, a two-seater recon plane, and later the Salmson 2A2.

According to Rodrigues, the squadron was in constant action throughout the “Great War” supplying divisional commanders vital information as to where the front line elements actually were, where artillery barrages need to be laid down in advance of the infantry and for causing disruption to enemy forces behind lines. Later, as positions became stabilized, photographs were obtained behind enemy lines to learn the dispositions of enemy forces.

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A Salmson 2A2 of the 1st Aero Squadron over France during WWI, 1918.

“The unit aided the stand of the Marines at Chateau-Thierry and prevented the German army from crossing the Marne River. The squadron also fought at Aisne-Marne, St. Mihiel and Meuse-Argonne, all important campaigns for the allies,” said Rodrigues. Those campaign victories represent the four Maltese crosses found on the 9th RW’s unit emblem.

Rodrigues added that although reconnaissance and artillery surveillance were the primary duties of the 1st AS, squadron pilots flying French SPAD fighters scored 13 aerial victories, represented by 13 Maltese crosses on the 1st Recon Squadron’s emblem. A total of 16 officers lost their lives, with three more missing in action.

After the war, the mission and the name of the unit changed to the 1st Observation Squadron, with the unit relocating to Camp Mills, New York. Its base would change names to Mitchel Field, and observation aircraft would be updated to the Douglas O-2, Curtiss O-1 and O-39. The unit would keep its observation role until 1935. They even used Douglass O-35s to deliver the U.S. Mail.

The unit then made a huge overhaul, going from observation unit to bomber squadron: the 1st Bombardment Squadron. The observation planes were replaced with Martin B-10 and Douglas B-18 bombers and the Airmen began learning new tactics at large training sites in Maryland, Florida, California, Michigan, and Virginia.

At the outset of World War II in 1942, the 1st BS moved to the island of Trinidad to strengthen defenses around the Panama Canal and defend against German U-boat attacks in the Caribbean and Atlantic. In October 1942 the squadron set up a tactics and bombing school in Florida.

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A 1st Bombardment Squadron Boeing B-29-50-BW Superfortress tail number 42-24791 nicknamed the “Big Time Operator.” After storage at Naval Air Station, China Lake, Cali, the nose of the bomber was acquired by the Air Force Museum and was grafted onto museum building at Beale AFB, Cali. in 1986.

In February 1945, the squadron began flying B-29s from Tinian Island in the Marianas chain as part of the 20th Air Force. The squadron completed 71 combat missions, including bombing raids over Iwo Jima in preparation for its invasion by U.S. Marines and night incendiary raids on the Japanese home islands, winning two Distinguished Unit citations. After the Japanese surrender in 1945, a round-robin of assignments throughout the Pacific kept the squadron fully employed.

While stationed in Guam in 1947, the newly created Department of the Air Force issued orders to deactivate the unit.

However, the Air Force rescinded those orders and instead moved the unit to Topeka, Kansas, where it joined Strategic Air Command and became the 1st Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron. The squadron’s unbroken lineage remained intact.

With U.S. and the Soviet Union entering a global standoff known as the Cold War, the squadron returned to its bombing role, armed again with B-29s, including three nuclear-capable B-29MR bombers. It participated in several rotations between Travis AFB, California, and Guam during the Korean War. Then in 1953, it was transferred to Mountain Home AFB, Idaho, where it flew the B-47 Stratojet bombers.

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Crew members in front of a B-47E Stratojet of the 1st Bombardment Squadron, 9th Bombardment Wing at Mountain Home AFB, Idaho in 1956.

For the next 12 years, the squadron would play an important part in America’s nuclear deterrent force and began a series of deployments to England, Guam, Okinawa and Alaska. Then the squadron’s mission would dramatically change once again with the secret development of a new plane by Lockheed Aircraft Company.

The SR-71 “Blackbird” was announced by President Lyndon B. Johnson and joined the Air Force inventory in 1966. This new, advanced surveillance aircraft gave the Air Force an intelligence weapon that could fly three times the speed of sound, at altitudes higher than 80,000 feet. The SR-71’s versatility included simple battlefield surveillance, multiple-sensor high-performance interdiction reconnaissance, and strategic surveillance over large areas of the world. It used the most advanced observation equipment in the world, carrying sensors with a 45 degree viewing angle on each side that could survey 100,000 square miles in an hour. It would totally change the future for the Air Force’s oldest flying squadron.

The 1st SRS was now in its heyday, gathering photographic and electronic intelligence products over Southeast Asian nations during the Vietnam War. The unit moved to its current location at Beale AFB in June 1966, and the 1st SRS was on its way to conducting missions that supported national intelligence-gathering requirements.

Retired Lt. Col. Tony Bevacqua was one of those early SR-71 pilots at Beale AFB and said what he and other pilots did in the 1960s was no different from Orville Wright or the Global Hawk flights today.

“We made history then, and we continue to make history today,” Bevacqua said.

He and Maj. Jerry Crew were on their first mission over Hanoi, their third over North Vietnam, when a SA-2 missile fired on them, passing just ahead and below their aircraft. It was the first time an SR-71 had ever been fired upon. By the time Bevacqua retired in 1973, he had logged nearly 750 hours in the Blackbird.

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An SR-71B Blackbird sits on the runway after sundown.

After the war, 1st SRS Airmen logged some spectacular accomplishments. Of these the most notable were the SR-71 speed runs from New York to London and from London to Los Angeles. On Sept. 14, 1974, Maj. James Sullivan, pilot and Maj. Noel Widdifield, RSO, flew their SR-71 from New York to London in 1 hour, 55 minutes, 42 seconds for an average speed of 1,817 mph.

The SR-71 crew of Capt. Harold Adams, pilot, and Maj. William Machorek, RSO, established a record for the London to Los Angeles route when they flew the 5,645 mile leg in 3 hours, 48 minutes on Sept. 13.

For budgetary reasons, the SR-71 was retired from the Air Force inventory in 1990. The Blackbird’s final journey was from California to Washington D.C. where it became part of the collection at the Smithsonian Institution. It was an SR-71 flown by the 1st SRS crew, which made the coast-to-coast trip in a record time of 68 minutes, 17 seconds—at a record speed of 2,242.48 mph.

Today, the squadron is the formal initial training unit for the U-2 Dragon Lady and RQ-4 Global Hawk.

The squadron recruits and trains all the U-2 pilots that fly high-altitude reconnaissance flights around the world. After initial interviews, orientation flights, and selection for the program, new pilots undergo approximately six months of extensive training, including 20 sorties in the U-2. The rigorous flying training programs produce 24 U-2S pilots, 48 RQ-4 pilots, and 36 RQ-4 sensor operators annually.

Upon graduation, crewmembers are not only mission-ready in the U-2, but also checked out in the T-38 companion trainer. They then transfer to the 99th Reconnaissance Squadron and prepare for a tour at one of the overseas detachments.

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Airmen work on an RQ-4 Global Hawk after it returned to Beale Air Force Base, Calif., as part of a four-ship rotation out of the theater.

The 1st RS also trains mission planners. Mission planners have to know the wing’s mission, the aircraft and sensors capabilities, plus detailed information on target and threat assessment at specific locations. After planners complete training, they deploy to the overseas detachments and design flight tracks that allow pilots to gather the best data with the least personal risk.

According to former squadron commander Lt. Col. Stephen Rodriguez, the 1st RS’s mission isn’t that much different from the one over New Mexico 100 years ago.

“It’s interesting because the first mission with aircraft was to be the eyes for the troops on the ground,” said Rodriguez. “The old mission was an extension of the ground troops, but it’s evolved. We organize, train and equip our squadron members to be leaders in the ISR mission. We are the eyes and ears of the nation and our fighting forces, and we operate over a broad spectrum of conflict.”

The 1st RS aims to increase their level of experience with a new, innovative Aviation Fundamentals Training program funded through the Squadron Innovation Fund.

“We are having our RQ-4 student pilots receive additional training flying with the Beale Aero Club while they are going through the Formal Training Unit,” said Maj. Daniel, 13th Reconnaissance Squadron FTU flight commander. “It is a continuation of the training they receive in Initial Flight Training.”

The FTU partnered with the Beale Aero Club to ensure pilots receive more experience in the local airspace by taking to the cockpit and flying aircraft closer to those flown early in the previous century: Cessna 172s.

“We started it to give the new pilots more experience in the air,” said Daniel. “AFT is designed to essentially improve airmanship, communication and situational awareness. We just wanted to give them more experience for when they show up to their operational Global Hawk units.”

AFT has already shown promising signs, and if it continues to receive funding, it could become an integral part of Global Hawk pilot training.

“I think the more experience we can give a pilot flying in the air will pay dividends years down the road,” said Daniel. “They are going to be better pilots operationally flying the Global Hawk, which is a mission with huge implications. They will also be better pilots when they become instructors themselves.”

For nearly a century, the 1st RS, the Air Force’s oldest squadron, continues to play a vital role in America’s defense.

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Crew members of the 1st Aero Squadron next to a Salmson 2A2 painted with the American flag squadron emblem during WWI in France in 1918.

This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is what it’s like to visit America’s Gold Star Families

In 2018, Navy veteran Anthony Price burned through more than 450 gallons of gasoline and three sets of tires. He spent more than 700 miles in the rain, many days in temperatures above 100 degrees, and at least one day in the snow. He did all of it to honor the families who lost a loved one to America’s wars. And he’s going to do it again in 2019, as he has for the past six years.


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The Gold Star Ride of a lifetime.

Price began his ride for Gold Star families in 2013 as a means of calling attention to those families and saying thank you in his own way. Since then, he has been to more than 44 states, enduring extreme temperatures and conditions just to ensure the families of fallen service members are taken care of. As the Gold Star Ride website says, “We ride because they died… We do the work that our fallen heroes would do if they hadn’t fallen for all our freedom.”

Soon the Minnesota-based Price and his fellow riders were a full-fledged nonprofit, dedicated to the mission of helping those in need. Gold Star Riders actively support, comfort, and provide education benefits to Gold Star Families throughout the United States directly with personal visits via motorcycle. They also vow to partner with any group who actively helps these Gold Star families.

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Price literally even wrote the book on the subject, “Yours, Very Sincerely and Respectfully.” the story of their 2018 ride, which covered 18,000 miles over 58 days, visiting 64 families of fallen troops. The proceeds of which go toward the Gold Star Ride Foundation.

“The families themselves are not looking for any stardom or any fame or any glory,” Price says. “They’re just looking for someone to remember, to remember a huge sacrifice.”

The title of Price’s book is a reference to Abraham Lincoln’s “Bixby Letter,” a letter the 16th President penned to Mrs. Lydia Bixby, a widow believed to have lost five sons during the Civil War. In it, the President is said to have written his regret at her loss and his attempt to console her by reminding the mother of the Republic they died to save. He ends the letter with “Yours, Very Sincerely and Respectfully.”

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Price in an interview with a Fox affiliate.

The letter is an apt reference, as Price describes on commercial producer Jordan Brady’s Respect the Process” Podcast. Price mentions that he would talk to twenty or so people a day, on average, for two months straight. He found that 19 of those 20 didn’t know what a Gold Star Family was. In one case, even a Gold Star Family did not realize they were a Gold Star Family.

To be clear, a Gold Star Family member is the immediate family of any military member who lost their life in military service – mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, wives, and children.

“One of the reasons we do this is because no one else was doing it,” says Price. “Every once in a while I hear someone say ‘you’re adding an element that makes [the loss] a little more palatable… the work you’re doing is helping me make sense of the tragedy I have to go through.'”

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