This veteran Air Force pilot made history - and she’s not done yet - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

This veteran Air Force pilot made history – and she’s not done yet

Retired Air Force Colonel Merryl Tengesdal was the first and only Black female U-2 pilot. For her, it’s all about finding opportunity and seizing it.

Born in the Bronx and raised by a single mother, Tengesdal was obsessed with Star Trek. “When I was 7 years old I decided I wanted to be an astronaut and be like Kirk exploring space,” she said with a smile. That show would be a pivotal moment for her life, leading her to set what she called her framework. “I knew I needed to do well in math and science, go to college and become a pilot.”

But she didn’t want to become just any kind of pilot, either. “I wanted to go high and fast with weapons, that’s just how I roll,” Tengesdal said with a smile. 

While still in high school, she attended college level programs for science and electrical engineering, which is what she would major in. When Tengesdal graduated, she was only one of three women in the program. “I did ROTC in the Air Force for two years but thought it probably wasn’t the best fit for me. It’s funny how that comes back full circle,” she laughed. 

Instead of the Air Force, Tengesdal started talking to a Navy recruiter. Although she was told there were no pilot slots by them, that didn’t stop her. She’d end up on a five-day bus trip to San Diego where she took the required test to become a pilot. Tengesdal was picked up for Officer Candidate School in 1994. “I got wind in ‘96 and picked up helicopters, H60 Bravos and did that for four years. Deployed to the Mediterranean and Arabyian Gulf, doing missions out there,” she explained. 

Tengesdal did two more years with the fleet before becoming a T-6 instructor. When that was finished, she went back to where it all started. The Air Force. 

She was actually contemplating getting out, her goals still being on getting into space. But then she heard about the U-2. “The mission was beautiful, the aircraft was tough. I wore a pressure suit going above 70,000 feet. All of that was very appealing to me,” Tendesdal shared. 

The Lockheed U-2 is actually nicknamed the “dragon lady” and used to be the aircraft of choice for the Central Intelligence Agency. Pilots are required to breathe in pure oxygen for the hour prior to takeoff and wear partially pressurized space suits before they board for missions over 10 hours long. It is so challenging and difficult that it comes with a suicide needle, should the pilot opt to take it. Tengesdal was only one of ten women in around 1100 pilots in the aircrafts history. She is still the only Black woman to fly it.

“I was driven toward a goal and flying. I didn’t say I wanted to be a first because no one else had done it, I didn’t even think of it that way. I looked at the U-2 community as a brother and sisterhood that I wanted to be a part of,” Tengesdal explained. “The progression of myself as a Black American during my time on this earth has been a very good one…I saw opportunity, my mom made sure there was and then I would take advantage of it.”

Her advice is to take everything as if it’s the only shot you have and make the best of it. “I try to create those opportunities for people regardless of what they look like or who they are, based on their skillset. I think that’s how I went through life. People saw something in me, I had the skill and aptitude and it’s worked out…All you have to do is look at it and not limit yourself,” Tengesdal shared. 

“When I was deployed with the Navy, I saw what poverty could really look like. It gives you that perspective of ‘we don’t want that here,'” she explained. With her time in service, she’s witnessed how bad it can be and although recognizes America is far from perfect – it’s a beacon of hope for so many for a reason. Tengesdal remains hopeful that American resiliency will shine through.

Promoted to Colonel, she eventually retired in 2017. These days she’s wearing the hats of personal trainer, motivational speaker, wife and mom. She’s also fostering to adopt, in an attempt to give a child a starting opportunity, like she had.  

We can also add reality TV star to the mix now, too. 

You’ll find Tengesdal on the CBS reality series, Tough As Nails. It’s a show featuring every day Americans who don’t hesitate to roll up their sleeves and get the job done; a mantra deeply familiar to her. Things like mental toughness, strength, life skills and endurance will be tested. Basically, it was a show made for Tengesdal. 

For a woman who’s accomplished so much already and continues to strive for even more, she has some shockingly normal hobbies and enjoyments. “I am above level 8,000 on candy crush and I play Pokemon go,” she laughed. 

Her message to women or anyone who feels underserved wondering if they should go for something because it’s going to be too hard, Tengesdal says yes. “You may struggle and even struggle really hard. Do it anyway.”

For more amazing Black veterans, check out this post.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Americas don’t like Russia’s nuclear bomber deployment

The Organization of American States (OAS) has expressed the “greatest concern” about the arrival of nuclear-capable Russian aircraft in Venezuela.

In a statement released on Dec. 12, 2018, the OAS General Secretariat said it “takes note with the greatest concern of the news coming from Venezuela about the possibility that aircraft capable of using nuclear weapons from Russia are in its territory.”


It said the presence of the foreign military mission violates the Venezuelan Constitution “because it has not been authorized by the National Assembly, as required [by the constitution].”

“Therefore, we consider such an act harmful to Venezuelan sovereignty,” added the OAS, which consists of all 35 independent nations of the Americas, including the United States.

Nuclear-Capable Russian Bombers Arrive In Venezuela | NBC News

www.youtube.com

Russia’s Defense Ministry on Dec. 10, 2018, sent two nuclear-capable strategic bombers to Venezuela, in an unusual display of Russian military force in South America, raising tensions with the United States.

The ministry did not say if they were carrying weapons.

The bombers’ arrival came just days after Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro visited Moscow, seeking Kremlin support for his country, whose economy is in shambles and deeply in debt to Russia.

Venezuela has purchased millions of dollars in military equipment from Russia in recent years.

The deployment of the aircraft drew a particularly pointed response from U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in a posting to Twitter.

“The Russian and Venezuelan people should see this for what it is: two corrupt governments squandering public funds, and squelching liberty and freedom while their people suffer,” Pompeo wrote.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Dec. 11, 2018, that Pompeo’s comments were “undiplomatic” and “completely inappropriate.”

On Dec. 12, 2018, the White House said it had been assured by the Kremlin that the planes would leave Venezuela on Dec. 14, 2018.

“We have spoken with representatives of Russia and have been informed that their military aircraft, which landed in Venezuela, will be leaving on [Dec. 14, 2018] and going back to Russia,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told Reuters.

Oil-rich Venezuela has been racked by economic and political crises since 2010 under leftist leader Hugo Chavez and has continued into Maduro’s presidency.

Millions have fled the country, driven by violence, hyperinflation, and major shortages of food.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

This Civil War vet’s grave is Underground Railroad site

Former slave and Civil War veteran Reddy Gray died on Sep. 4, 1922, when he was 79 years old. He was buried in Baltimore’s Loudon Park National Cemetery — the first VA burial site included in the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom.

Gray’s experience is representative of African Americans who risked travel through the Underground Railroad to find freedom, but his story is significant for the wealth of information gleaned from public records. His life is a reminder of the fight for civil rights that began in the 1860s to continues today.


This veteran Air Force pilot made history – and she’s not done yet

Deed of Manumission and Release of Service,” 1865.

Gray went by Reddy, short for Redmond, Redman or Reverdy. Born at Loch Raven, Maryland, to John and Lydia Talbott Gray, he was enslaved by the Thomas Cradock Risteau family in Baltimore County from birth to until the middle of the Civil War. Likely a field worker or carriage driver, he resisted servitude by escaping in March 1863. It is not clear what happened, but Gray’s “Deed of Manumission and Release of Service” retroactively corresponds with his enlistment. President Abraham Lincoln had already issued the Emancipation Proclamation, and the U.S. Army was recruiting black soldiers.

This veteran Air Force pilot made history – and she’s not done yet

U.S. Army, Gray Muster-Out record, 1865.

Gray enlisted in the U.S. Colored Troops at Baltimore City on March 23, 1864. His Company B, 39th U.S. Colored Infantry, fought in Virginia at the Sieges of Petersburg and Richmond, and in the expeditions and capture of Fort Fisher and Wilmington in North Carolina. Reddy mustered out in Wilmington on Dec. 4, 1865, and that record remarks, “slave when enlisted.”

His life after the Civil War shows personal accomplishment and community involvement. He learned to read and write. He returned to Baltimore and had four children, including son Redmond, with second wife Susan Gray, who worked as a laundress. In the army he suffered from rheumatism, for which he received a disability pension in 1890; however, he worked as a manual laborer doing light work like trimming lawns or gathering rags and as a carriage driver.


This veteran Air Force pilot made history – and she’s not done yet

Reddy Gray Burial Site Certificate of Acceptance, NPS 2018.

As “Redmond” Gray, he appears in the Baltimore Sun, Sep. 15, 1894, as judge for a running race at the “Colored People’s Fair” in Timonium, Maryland; and a few years later as a member of the Colored-Odd Fellows. Reddy (also Reverdy) Gray is honored with his name on the African American Civil War Memorial in Washington, D.C. Other black soldiers who found their freedom through the Underground Railroad are buried at Loudon Park National Cemetery along with Gray, but their stories are not so easily documented.

The Network to Freedom program is managed by the National Park Service, per the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Act of 1998. Loudon Park National Cemetery was one of the 14 original national cemeteries established under the National Cemetery Act of July 17, 1862; it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1996.

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

Articles

An Army Black Hawk has crashed in southern Maryland

A UH-60 Black Hawk has crashed in southern Maryland.


According to a report by the Washington Times, the crash occurred near Leonardtown, Maryland, about 60 miles southeast of Washington, DC. The helo went down between the third and fourth holes of the Breton Bay Golf and Country Club, avoiding populated areas.

This veteran Air Force pilot made history – and she’s not done yet
An Army UH-60 Black Hawk. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Shane Hamann)

Two Maryland State Police medevac helicopters have been sent to the scene. An employee of the golf course told the Washington Times the helicopter was flying low, then started spinning.

FoxNews.com reported that the Black Hawk was based out of Fort Belvoir and had a crew of three on board. One was injured and taken to a local hospital, the other two were reported to be okay.

Earlier this month, a F-16 Fighting Falcon crashed near Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland. The pilot ejected from the aircraft.

MIGHTY TRENDING

What North Korea experts get wrong about life there

As US president Donald Trump prepares to meet with North Korea’s ruler Kim Jong Un in Singapore on June 19, 2018, all eyes are on North Korea.

Little is known about day-to-day life there, even among people who study the country. According to one defector, government propaganda in North Korea is pervasive, and even self-proclaimed North Korean experts often don’t realize how much.

In 1997, North Korean defector Kim Young-il escaped while the country was experiencing a four-year-long famine and economic crisis that some estimates suggest claimed the lives of between 240,000 and 3.5 million North Koreans, out of a population of 22 million — despite the government claiming it was a prosperous time with plenty of food.


Now 39, Kim is the founder of a nonprofit, People for Successful Corean Reunification (PSCORE), to help raise awareness about human rights issues in North Korea, promote reunification, and help defectors adjust to life in South Korea.

Even though Kim escaped the dictatorship, he told Business Insider in a recent interview that life remains the same in North Korea: Citizens are lied to and have to accept it. Within Korea, people major in North Korean studies in school, which Kim finds “silly.” He says these experts research North Korea and send information to the South Korean government, like reports that several factions are competing for power in North Korea, which could lead to the country’s downfall.

This veteran Air Force pilot made history – and she’s not done yet
North Koreans posing for a photo.

But Kim says this is false. “There is no difference between factions. There is only the family and the people. Kim Jong Un has total power. None of these factions are important. They just have a name. They have no power.” Kim continued: “Experts say there are two different factions that control North Korea, but it is only the dictator and his family that controls everything.”

Powerful people in South Korea are able to employ people who are loyal to them, but that’s not an option in North Korea because the highest levels of government choose who works where, said Kim.

“People in North Korea have no idea if the person working underneath them is a spy who is checking up on him or her. They have no idea who is trustworthy. People can’t form factions because everyone is spying on everyone else. Everyone distrusts each other,” Kim said.

And as a defector, Kim said experts discount his experience. “These experts don’t see any value in the testimony of defectors,” he said. “They want to focus on the official documents of the North Korean government.” But Kim says these documents and official announcements “are not true. It’s propaganda.”

“The official announcements of North Korea is all false,” Kim said. “I experienced 20 years of North Korea and whenever there was a season of drought, the news would say there is a season of prosperity. What they officially say is all lies.”

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

Articles

13 funniest military memes for the week of June 9

It’s a tradition as old as time. From the days of Sun Tzu and George Patton, military leaders have taken a break every Friday to share dank memes.


These are those memes:

1. Can confirm this is the test, can give no guidance on how to complete it (via Air Force amn/nco/snco).

This veteran Air Force pilot made history – and she’s not done yet
D-mned devil ball.

2. No one is out there to bother you, lots of fresh air (via Military Memes).

This veteran Air Force pilot made history – and she’s not done yet
Also, bring lots of water. You’ll be out there a while.

3. This is a whole new level (via Why I’m Not Re-enlisting).

This veteran Air Force pilot made history – and she’s not done yet
Can not figure out what this does. Like, at all.

Also see: This incredible rap song perfectly captures life in Marine Corps infantry

4. Why is the sky blue? God loves the infantry (via Military Memes).

This veteran Air Force pilot made history – and she’s not done yet
But he only pours his liquid crayons on the tankers.

5. Better limber up those arms. This is about to get rough (via The Salty Soldier).

This veteran Air Force pilot made history – and she’s not done yet

6. Slowly, the military melts more and more of the happiness off your bones (via Air Force amn/nco/snco).

This veteran Air Force pilot made history – and she’s not done yet
And, apparently, gives you two more legs.

7. “Just send iiiiit!”

(via Keep Calm and Call for Artillery)

This veteran Air Force pilot made history – and she’s not done yet
All good fire missions are initiated while slightly inebriated.

8. Deliveries of donuts are pretty great at raising morale (via Coast Guard Memes).

This veteran Air Force pilot made history – and she’s not done yet
Of course, doing them too often also lowers the boat in the waterline.

9. If the students weren’t so worthless, we wouldn’t have these issues (via Decelerate Your Life).

This veteran Air Force pilot made history – and she’s not done yet

10. It’s been a while since I had a class that wasn’t about sexual harassment or suicide prevention (via Why I’m Not Re-enlisting).

This veteran Air Force pilot made history – and she’s not done yet

11. Oh, if only we were all in Alpha Company …

(via Why I’m Not Re-enlisting)

This veteran Air Force pilot made history – and she’s not done yet
… instead of in Charlie where dudes KEEP LOSING SENSITIVE ITEMS!

12. You ever seen an insurgent go steel-on-steel with their first round?

(via The Salty Soldier)

This veteran Air Force pilot made history – and she’s not done yet
Nobody has, so stop running.

13. Oh, you made points or something?

(Via Decelerate Your Life)

This veteran Air Force pilot made history – and she’s not done yet
Cool story, bro. Tell it again but, like, over there.

Articles

Russian spy ship near Navy bases on East Coast

While the buzzing of the destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) and Russia’s deployment of the SSC-8 cruise missile drew a lot of attention, another Russian action has gone somewhat unnoticed.


According to the Hartford Courant, a Russian naval vessel is operating off the coast of Connecticut. The vessel, described as a “spy ship,” has been operating up and down the East Coast.

This veteran Air Force pilot made history – and she’s not done yet
The Karelia, a Vishnya-class intelligence ship similar to the Viktor Leonov, sails near the nuclear-powered guided missile cruiser USS Texas (CGN 39). (Photo: Dept. of Defense)

A FoxNews.com report identified the Russian ship as the Viktor Leonov, noting that it was also been loitering around Norfolk Naval Station, the largest naval base in the world.

“The presence of this spy ship has to be regarded very seriously because Russia is an increasingly aggressive adversary. It reflects a clear need to harden our defenses against electronic surveillance and cyber espionage,” Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) said in a press release.

The Viktor Leonov is a Vishnya-class intelligence ship. According to GlobalSecurity.org, Vishnya-class vessels are very lightly armed with two SA-N-8 missile launchers and two AK-630 close-in weapon systems. The ship has a top speed of 16 knots, and is loaded with gear for carrying out signals intelligence (SIGINT) and communications intelligence (COMINT).

This veteran Air Force pilot made history – and she’s not done yet
Aircrew from Helicopter Anti-submarine Squadron One Four (HS-14) is embarked aboard USS Kitty Hawk (CV-63) lowers memorabilia from the Kitty Hawk Strike Group to a Vishnya-class AGI ship, Kurily (SSV-208), as a goodwill gesture. The Viktor Leonov is a sister ship to the one pictured here. (US Navy photo)

The Soviet Union built seven of these vessels in the 1980s, and all remain in service with the Russian Navy until 2020, when they will be replaced by a new class of vessels. The Leonov carried out a similar operation in early 2015 with much less fanfare.

MIGHTY TRENDING

These five female vets get really real about women serving in combat roles

WATM hosted groups of veterans to answer several questions about their time in the military. The vets kept it real when responding to topics ranging from relationships to recruiters.


Editor’s note: If you have ideas for questions that you’d like to see a group of veterans answer, please leave a comment below.

 

 

 

Music courtesy of Jingle Punks:

I Can Be Your Home-JP – Western Youths

Anyone Else-JP – The Beards

MIGHTY TRENDING

China threatens US bombers with anti-aircraft drills

Beijing has carried out anti-aircraft drills with missiles fired against drone targets over the South China Sea after the US challenged it by flying B-52 bombers across the region.

China’s drills were intended to simulate fending off an aerial attack on unspecified islands within the waterway. Beijing lays unilateral claim to almost all of the South China Sea, a passage that sees trillions in annual shipping.

Chinese missiles, deployed to the South China Sea despite previous promises from Beijing not to militarize the islands, fired at drones flying overhead to simulate combat, the South China Morning Post reported.


China struggles with realistic training for its armed forces and has been criticized for overly scripted drills. Beijing’s lack of experience in real combat exacerbates this weakness.

This veteran Air Force pilot made history – and she’s not done yet
A B-52 Stratofortress

The US and Beijing frequently square off over the South China Sea, where Beijing operates in open defiance of international law after losing an arbitration against the Philippines in 2016. In late May 2018, the US military issued a stark warning to Beijing when a general reminded China that the US military has “has had a lot of experience in the Western Pacific, taking down small islands.”

Typically, the US carries out its challenges by sailing warships, usually guided missile destroyers, near the shores of its islands in a signal that the US does not recognize China’s claims. China always reacts harshly, accusing the US of challenging its sovereignty, but the US challenged the excessive maritime claims of 22 nations in 2016.

The flight of the B-52s, one of the US’s nuclear bombers, represented an escalation of the conflict, and came after China landed nuclear bombers of its own on the islands.

China’s coast guard and navy police the waterway and unilaterally tell its neighbors what activities they can undertake in the international waters.

The US maintains this is a threat to international order, but has struggled to reassure its regional allies that Chinese hegemony won’t win out against an overstretched US Navy.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Veterans are building a sustainable training base in Detroit

A 2017 survey named Detroit the worst city for former soldiers, but a new veterans community is celebrating their valuable skills.


Gordon Soderberg spent six years as a member of the U.S. Navy, but he found that his skills would be better served stateside tackling a different issue: natural disasters.

“Military teaches basic skills of being able to mobilize, to get a lot of work with a number of people” says Soderberg. “But for potential disasters that come, [a veteran is] a perfect responder to do that.”

From his work with groups like Team Rubicon and Detroit Blight Busters, Soderberg developed the idea of Veterans Village. Watch the video above to see how it’s helping veterans extend their service.

“Veterans bring an attitude of get the work done. They have leadership skills,” he says. “By having Blight Busters and the blight of Detroit as bootcamp for veterans, we get to help clean up Detroit while training.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia’s old flying boat fleet is getting new upgrades

When you can’t afford to buy a lot of new planes, refurbishing the ones you have is a viable alternative. We’re seeing this play out, to an extent, in the ongoing saga of re-winging A-10 Thunderbolts in the Air Force inventory. But the United States is not the only country polishing up old birds.


According to a report by NavyRecognition.com, Russia is taking a bunch of Soviet-era flying boats in for some serious upgrades. The anti-submarine sensors in these airframes, including the radar and magnetic anomaly detectors, are being updated. They’ll also be outfitted with the latest Russian anti-submarine torpedoes and depth charges.

This veteran Air Force pilot made history – and she’s not done yet
A right-side view of a Soviet Be-12 Mail patrol/anti-submarine warfare aircraft in flight. (U.S. Navy photo)

Flying boats have been on the decline since the end of World War II. Despite the fact that having them means any bay, inlet, or atoll can be a base, they have a somewhat shorter range than land-based planes and typically hold less of a payload. Russia, however, has found itself short on ASW planes, especially since the end of the Cold War.

The Soviets built all of 62 Il-38 May maritime patrol planes, 100 Tu-142 Bear F anti-submarine planes, and 143 Be-12 flying boats. That’s a total of 305 anti-submarine planes – and this total includes planes that were exported. By comparison, the United States and Japan have combined to produce 757 P-3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft. The United States has also produced 280 Lockheed S-3 Vikings for carrier-borne ASW operations.

This veteran Air Force pilot made history – and she’s not done yet
A front view of a Soviet Be-12 Mail patrol/anti-submarine warfare aircraft in flight. (DOD photo)

Today, the numbers for Russia look even worse. Russia has a grand total of 20 Il-38s and 24 Tu-142s in service, plus a half-dozen Be-12s for search-and-rescue missions. By comparison, the United States Navy has 67 P-3s in service, plus 69 P-8 Poseidon multi-mission planes. That figure does not include 30 P-8s on order.

Russia, it seems, is on the short end of the anti-submarine warfare stick. With this glaring shortage, you can see why Russia is looking to modernize some old planes.

Check out the video below to learn more about Russia’s refurbishing.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wfosca_XLOE
(New Update Defence | YouTube)
MIGHTY TRENDING

Mississippi airmen help restore communications on Tyndall

Total devastation. No power. No running water. The scene on the ground at Tyndall Air Force Base was a grim, ‘post-apocalyptic’ one when a five man team from Keesler AFB’s 85th Engineering Installation Squadron arrived in mid-October 2018, just days after Hurricane Michael hit the Florida Gulf Coast.

Hurricane Michael was the strongest storm to hit Florida in nearly a century. Tyndall Air Force Base took a direct hit, resulting in catastrophic infrastructure damage.

“The closer we got to Tyndall, there was more and more devastation. All the trees were snapped and laid over, buildings completely devastated with no power, no clean water, when we first got to the base,” said Capt. Nathan McWhirter, 85th EIS operations flight commander.


Quickly getting to work, the engineering team began assessing the buildings for any useable equipment and materials to get base communications up and running.

“We were doing all of our inspections using headlamps and hard hats, going into these buildings that are completely gutted. It looked like a complete war zone honestly,” he said. “We were one of the first teams on base, so there were very few people here at the time too. It was kind of eerie and surreal surveying some of these buildings.”

Despite the power outages and limited communication material, the crew has been able to successfully restore connectivity and avenues of communication around base. The engineering team has been able to get the base-wide ‘giant voice’ mass notification system up and running, as well as patching up new antennae’s and fiber work to get air to ground communications connected. The biggest challenge to completing these projects McWhirter said, was the lack of usable equipment and lack of power.

This veteran Air Force pilot made history – and she’s not done yet

Tech. Sgt. Skyler Shull, Airman Hunter Benson and Staff Sgt. Charlie Hegwer, 85th Engineer Installation Squadron, install three recycled antennaes on fabricated mounts for the Tyndall Enterprise Live Mission Operations Center facility at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., Nov. 2, 2018.

(US Air Force photo)

“The hurricane knocked out all sorts of antennae’s so we’ve been scrounging around, taking them off damaged towers and putting them on good towers. There’s no material here, so we are just trying to salvage what we can,” he said.

“A lot of the buildings don’t have power still so that’s a big limiter. [Civil engineering] is working super hard and trying to do it smartly. We don’t want to turn power on to a building that’s been destroyed and risk having a fire,” McWhirter added. “We are trying to work on relocating these large communication nodules safely and cost effectively.”

Although it has a long way to go before it’s fully functional again, McWhirter said the base has come a long way in the short amount of time their team has been there. A tent city has been set up, with places to sleep and hot meals being provided, as well as clean water for bathing and drinking, making life easier for the on the ground reconstruction teams and returning personnel.

“More and more people started coming in, we were able to bring more and more assets in,” he explained. “Just seeing the difference from when were first got here to today, is remarkable. There is still obviously tons of work that needs to be done, but just in these short couple of weeks things have gotten way better.”

As the team prepares to transition back to Keesler AFB, conditions at Tyndall AFB have improved dramatically. More and more resources and personnel are arriving, all dedicated to bringing Tyndall AFB back to life. While they were just one piece of the overall restoration effort, McWhirter acknowledges that his team played a key role in the early recovery efforts.

“I just want to say how proud I am of my team and the work they are doing and the support we are getting back home from the 85th EIS and the 81st Training Wing; getting us out the door quickly and making sure we have everything that we need,” said McWhirter. “The guys out here are really killing it and I’m proud to be part of a restoral effort. This is unprecedented thing to be able to build up a base that’s been devastated. We’ve come a long way.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

9 important things you realize when dating a veteran

Dating a service member or veteran can be challenging for a civilian unfamiliar with the world of military life. And it can even throw veterans dating other veterans into unfamiliar ground.


Whatever your background, here are nine things you’re going to have to get used to if you decide to date a servicemember or veteran.

 

1. Understanding dark humor

Learning a new sense of humor is something that has to happen when you date a veteran. They cope with things with a dark sense of humor, and this can be a little off-putting.

Thing is, you just have to learn to laugh when he takes his leg off at dinner, sets it on a chair and asks the waiter for another menu.

2. The things they carry

When you’re dating a civilian, they might sometimes leave a shirt or socks behind after a late-night visit. But if you’re dating a veteran, you may have to deal with a forgotten piece of their prosthetic, a utility knife, or something else you might not expect.

3. Bobby pins are everywhere

Just like dating a civilian woman, military women will leave bobby pins behind. To keep the crisp, clean bun many women in uniform rely on, it can take 15 or more bobby pins to make it work. Occasionally, they get left behind on night stands and kitchen sinks as an accidental territory marker.

 

This veteran Air Force pilot made history – and she’s not done yet
All women missile crews from Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont., gather for a pre-departure briefing before heading in the 13,800 square mile missile complex to complete their 24-hour alert on March 22, 2016. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Collin Schmidt)

 

4. Opening up takes a little longer

Any relationship is built on trust and understanding – a relationship with a vet is no different. Special importance has to be put on trust, though. When someone’s ready to open up, you have to be ready to listen and try to understand things you may have never experienced and couldn’t begin to comprehend. Many veterans are used to losing the people who are closest to them, whether from failed relationships, in combat, or to suicide. They may not want to get attached for fear of losing you, but you have to work to build their trust.

5. Inter-service rivalry is all in good fun

 

This veteran Air Force pilot made history – and she’s not done yet
U.S. Naval Academy quarterback Kriss Proctor runs the ball during the 112th Army-Navy Football game at FEDEX Field in Landover, Md. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chad Runge)

 

If you’re a veteran dating a veteran of another branch, you have to get used to the good-natured teasing of your service coming into all aspects of your life. Whether you forget something at home on a trip and hear “man, that’s why you can’t trust an Airman!” or if you’re late to a date and get a “sailors, always on their own time,” you have to learn to dish it back with a smile.

6. You learn to love listening to stories

Any veteran, young or old, loves to tell stories from their service. Whether they fought the Nazis in 10 feet of snow with an ax handle and a pocket knife, or they battled al-Qaeda as a member of Delta Team Six, the stories are always an interesting look into the way the military works. Whether they’re 100 percent true or a little embellished, you’ll learn to revel in the stories of your veteran significant other — especially over a few drinks.

7. You learn to give your all and try new things

 

This veteran Air Force pilot made history – and she’s not done yet
Then-1st Lt. Richard Page with his new bride, Janet, stands inside an M113 armored personnel carrier after their wedding ceremony at the Soldier’s Chapel, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, on Oct. 23, 1965. Guidons of the 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, surround the newlywed couple. (Photo courtesy of Richard and Janet Page)

Veterans can be intense people. They’re used to giving a mission their all and take that passion into the things they love most. Learning new things may include backpacking or kayaking or it could be a sport like football or basketball. No matter what, you have to learn to give 100 percent to anything you try.

8. Not every vet has post-traumatic stress, but some do

Life isn’t always sunshine and roses. While visible wounds may make people stare, the invisible wounds can be harder to deal with in a relationship. Traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress are big hurdles modern veterans face, and they can affect their closest relationships dramatically. Patience is key in a time where your significant other is facing something they may not want to – or be able to – talk about.

9. Commitment is more than a ten-letter word

 

This veteran Air Force pilot made history – and she’s not done yet
Navy veteran Andrew Johnson kisses Marine Corps veteran Rose Jessica Hammack after she accepted his marriage proposal during the 2016 Department of Defense Warrior Games at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, New York, June 16, 2016. (DoD photo by Roger Wollenberg)

Each branch of the military focuses on commitment, duty, honor, sacrifice, and service and others before self. This bleeds into their life outside of the military – dating and marrying a veteran can be one of the most rewarding things someone can do. It isn’t for everyone, but if you meet and fall in love with a veteran, you can be assured their service will be an asset in your life together.

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