The show has yet to reveal a name for the little being, so fans have taken to simply calling it “Baby Yoda.” This show takes place after “Star Wars: Return of the Jedi,” which means it’s not literally young Yoda (though it could be his clone). But the term has stuck anyways, and even the show’s pilot episode director Dave Filoni says the name “Baby Yoda” is perfectly acceptable until we know more about it.
So for now, let’s just enjoy all of the viral tweets about this small baby who the entire world will protect at all costs.
The next “Mother of All Bombs” will probably be smaller, leaner and lighter but will still pack a punch.
It’s what scientists and engineers at the Air Force Research Lab are working on as part of their next-generation munition concept.
Part of the Advanced Ordnance Technologies program, the bomb could be structured to be lighter by using 3D-printed reconstructed loads within the bomb instead of in the casing — plus distributed blast yields, said Dr. John Corley, the core technical competency lead for ordnance sciences at AFRL.
“We’ve been working on printing [munitions] for the past five to 10 years,” Corley said Thursday during a Defense Department Lab day in the Pentagon courtyard.
Corley and colleagues were showcasing a prototype one-seventh the scale of a bomb the lab is working on (not pictured), along with various fuse technologies.
One of the key enablers to prototyping the bomb is through 3D printing. “Right now, most of your penetrator munitions have two-inch case walls,” Corley said, which actually prohibits a larger blast and creates more debris.
Instead, the lab has begun printing casing prototypes — with steel — that moves the load from the case to within the bomb itself (the vertical loads look very similar to a DNA double helix within the bomb).
Furthermore, the lab is using distributed embedded fusing in the bomb “so not only do we have all these other features we’re relocating the fireset for the bomb into the explosive, so you can distribute that around different places [with]in the bomb to improve survivability,” Corley said.
In current penetrating munitions, the ways in which the fuse is hardwired to the case is limiting, Corley said. By separating the fuse from the case could make the bomb more flexible of when it hits and how it hits.
The fuse prototypes are also being 3D printed at this time.
The next step for the advanced future bomb will be to incorporate these various “selectable effects,” as Corley called them.
“In a selectable effects, on any given day you might want it to be the same weapon to give you a small blast footprint, or a large blast footprint, and right now we can control this …height of burst,” he said.
Thus, how much or how little yield the bomb exerts could be determined for whatever the mission may be — so for once, size (of the actual bomb) doesn’t matter.
Looking past MOAB-style bombs, Corley also noted the military aircraft of today are becoming smaller, so weapons too need to adapt — and, of course, fit.
“Workhorse munitions for us are 500 pound and 2,000 pound munitions, but we’d like to get to a 100 pound munition for instance that has the same output as a 500 pound bomb,” he said.
Corley said whether the Air Force will make the bombs in-house — much like the MOAB — is still to be determined. Tail kits on bombs, for example, are more likely to be constructed by defense industry companies than the bombs themselves, which “the government owns,” he said.
Physical bombs being worked on through the AOT program are still a “few years off” because most are still in the concept stage, Corley said.
On January 7, 1970, Lt. Cdr. Michael Hoff flew his Sidewinder A7A Corsair off the USS Coral Sea on an armed reconnaissance mission over Laos. After completing a strafing run near the city of Sepone, he came under heavy enemy automatic weapons fire and went down. An observer reported seeing a flash, which may have been the ejection seat leaving the aircraft, but search teams located neither a parachute nor a survivor.
Lt. Cdr. Michael Hoff was pronounced MIA that same day, promoted to commander while missing, and, sadly, was declared dead on November 16, 1978. His grieving wife, Mary Hoff, wanted the world to know that he and every other troop captured or declared missing in action would not be forgotten.
Who says randomly cold-calling the right people to get what you want never works?
Soon afterward, Mary Hoff joined the National League of POW/MIA Families, an organization founded by two wives of POW/MIA troops, Karen Butler and Sybil Stockdale. The group was quickly gaining traction in Washington, fighting for the U.S. government’s recognition of the importance of returning troops listed as either prisoners of war or missing in action.
As the group grew larger, Mary noticed that they were missing a symbol — something easily identified and immediately understood. She had an idea: a flag. Instead of going through the proper channels, she simply cold-called Annin Flagmakers, the oldest and largest flag-making corporation in the United States.
As prominent as the flag is in military culture, it only took two revisions from the original to get the version we know today.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Roland Balik)
The vice president of sales at Annin, Norm Rivkees, had no clue who the League of Families were at the time. During the phone call, Hoff explained everything, from who they were to what the flag should look like. Rivkees was impressed by her dedication and brought it up to the president of the company who immediately gave the idea the green light.
Rivkees contracted the job of designing the flag to Hayden Advertising who gave the task to graphic artist Newton F. Heisley. Heisley was an Army Air Corps veteran himself who flew a C-46 twin-engine transport during World War II. He drafted several designs, all in black and white, of a man’s profile with guards behind him.
His son, Jeffery Heisley, was serving in the Marine Corps and had recently returned home on leave. The younger Heisley had unfortunately been struck with hepatitis and was looking very sickly. The elder Heisley turned the misfortune into a positive as his son would make the perfect model for his design. The frail male profile that adorns today’s flag is that of Jeffery Heisley.
Newton, as a pilot, remembered his own fears from his flying days. He added the famous words, “You are not forgotten,” to the flag, to offer the reassurance he wished he had while serving. The design was then ready for approval.
That also makes the POW/MIA flag the only non-national flag to ever fly over a nation’s capitol building.
(Official White House photo by Lawrence Jackson)
Mary Hoff and the League of Families loved the design and adopted it in 1972. Keep in mind that at this point, the flag was only intended to be used for the organization. Its prominence quickly grew within the military community throughout the 1970s and, by 1982, it was flown over Ronald Reagan’s White House.
The flag became an official national symbol through the 1998 Defense Authorization Act, which requires that the flag be flown outside most major government buildings, all VA medical centers, and all national cemeteries on POW/MIA Recognition Day, Armed Forces Day, Memorial Day, Flag Day, the Fourth of July, and Veterans Day.
They’re surrounded, targeted by constant bombardments and slowly strangled of supplies and reinforcements for months so fighters for Daesh (aka ISIS) might reasonably have abandoned Mosul and tried to slink off into the night.
That’s what happened June 2016 in the battle to recapture Fallujah, when Daesh fighters were relatively quickly routed, and hundreds were killed by U.S. aircraft when their fleeing convoy was spotted in the dark with infrared targeting systems.
Everyone in the anti-Daesh coalition hoped for a similar retreat by demoralized terrorists that would separate them from the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians still cowering in Mosul’s byzantine old city, on the west bank of the Tigris River.
But Daesh’s fighters are not abandoning Mosul, which, with the Syrian town of Raqqa, forms the twin-capitals of the self-proclaimed Islamist “caliphate.”
They are falling back on defensive positions prepared for two years in the densely congested side streets and alleyways of the old city, gathering Iraqi civilians close as they can as “human shields” and apparently preparing for a last, desperate stand.
“The toughest and most brutal phase of this war, and probably the toughest and most brutal close quarters combat that I have experienced or even read about in my 34-year career,” Army Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, commander of Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve says.
A veteran of six combat tours, Townsend calls the fighting in Mosul “the most significant urban combat since World War II.”
The tragic byproduct has been an alarming spike in civilian casualties, including a U.S. strike against a reported ISIS truck bomb on March 17 that may have collapsed a nearby building and killed as many as 200 civilians gathered there by Daesh.
On a recent trip near the frontlines of the Battle of Mosul, Townsend found a possible explanation for Daesh’s determination to stage an apocalyptic fight to the death in the old city.
“Every movement has a well-spring or some home turf where it finds support, and in recently talking to Iraqi and coalition commanders and listening to their intelligence assessments, I heard about neighborhoods supporting ISIS that I remembered from being a brigade commander in Mosul 10 years ago, when those same neighborhoods were sources of support for Al Qaeda in Iraq,” said Townsend, speaking recently to defense reporters by phone from Baghdad.
If the Shiite-led Iraqi government fails to reach out to those and other neighborhoods and towns of disenfranchised Sunnis after the fighting stops, he noted, then Daesh’s expulsion from Mosul will likely prove a fleeting victory.
“What’s important after ISIS is defeated is that the government of Iraq has to reach out to these groups of people and make sure they feel like they have a future in the Iraqi state,” said Townsend.
A Pivotal Moment
With roughly three-quarters of Mosul recaptured and Daesh finally on the verge of losing its grip on Iraqi territory, the campaign against them is poised at an important inflection point.
Counter-insurgency experts have long understood that the actions of the Iraqi government and the various factions involved in the fighting the day after Mosul is recaptured will largely determine whether the group is defeated, or, once again, rises from the ashes of sectarian conflict.
The complex nature of the battlespace, combined with the anti-Daesh coalition’s sprawling nature, promises to complicate the transition from urban combat to whatever comes after.
The Shiite-led government of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is weak and has struggled to cope with the demands of hundreds of thousands of refugees from the fighting in Mosul.
The territorial demands of Kurdish Peshmerga fighters to the north, and possible acts of retribution against Sunni civilians by thousands of Iranian-backed Shiite militiamen to the west of city, cast a dark shadow over the aftermath.
A continued spike in civilian deaths by U.S. and coalition air forces could further alienate the overwhelmingly Sunni population of Mosul and surrounding Nineveh Province.
And hanging over the entire anti-Daesh campaign is the question of a continued U.S. presence in Iraq after the group is expelled, and whether that engagement can be leveraged to help achieve the long-sought national reconciliation among Iraq’s feuding Kurdish, Shiite, and Sunni factions.
Perhaps no U.S. military officer of his generation better understands this difficult terrain, and the momentous challenges ahead, than retired Gen. David Petraeus, the former top U.S. commander in both Iraq and Afghanistan and at U.S. Central Command.
He is widely credited with crafting and executing the counterinsurgency doctrine that pulled Iraq back from the abyss of sectarian civil war in 2007-2008 and decimated Al Qaeda in Iraq.
“The military defeat of ISIS is only the first step. The much more challenging task is to use all elements of American and coalition power to help achieve political solutions that will avoid once again creating fertile ground for extremists, and thereby avoid the rise of ISIS 3.0,” Petraeus told [Breaking Defense] in a recent email. “Our success in that mission will determine whether the U.S. military has to do this all over again in five years.”
Sectarian Civil War
After U.S. and Iraqi military forces and the Sunni tribes of Anbar Province routed Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) beginning in 2006-7, the remnants of the terrorist insurgency eventually went underground, only to rise Phoenix-like from the fires of Syria’s civil war.
That brutal conflict pitted a minority regime of Alawites, which is an offshoot of Shiite Islam, against a majority Sunni population.
Meanwhile, after the withdrawal of all U.S. forces from Iraq in 2011, the Sunni tribes in western Iraq, which had turned against AQI in the “Anbar Awakening,” grew restive under the iron-fisted and openly sectarian rule of former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who headed the Shiite-majority government in Baghdad.
A former AQI lieutenant named Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who had spent time in a U.S. detention facility in Iraq, realized that between weak Shiite-led governments in Damascus and Baghdad lay a swath of territory inhabited by millions of rebellious Sunnis.
From that strategic insight, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) was born, and in one of the most improbable military offenses in history, its terrorist army captured territory in Syria and Iraq and proclaimed a “caliphate” in land stretching between its twin capitals.
When the Obama administration reluctantly deployed aircraft and troops back to Iraq to defend a Baghdad government on the verge of collapse, it wisely used that leverage to help nudge out the sectarian Maliki and encourage the more moderate Abadi.
Since then Abadi has promised to lead “national reconciliation” by reaching out to Sunnis liberated from Daesh rule, and draw them back inside the government tent. He has often struggled, however, to control a fractious coalition government with many hardline Shiite politicians with close ties to Shiite Iran.
Kenneth Pollack, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Center for Middle East Policy and former senior Middle Eastern analyst for the CIA, worries about Abadi’s ability to bring the country together.
“I think Abadi is a very good man who wants what’s best for Iraq, to include a pluralist government, corruption reforms, and democracy. The problem is Abadi is not particularly good at building coalitions, and the Iraqi government is fragmented and paralyzed by this ongoing sectarian civil war,” he says. “Frankly, Nelson Mandela would have a hard time stabilizing Iraq at this point. So the United States needs to leverage the influence it has gained by helping fight ISIS to empower Abadi in his reconciliation efforts. And they must include limiting the activities of the Shiite militias.”
Reining in Militias
The key to Iraq’s future may lie with the Shiite-dominated militias called Popular Mobilization forces.
A number of these militias have direct links to Iran and they have been difficult for the Iraqi government to control. According to Human Rights Watch, Shiite militias involved in the battle of Fallujah last summer committed atrocities against Sunni civilians, including torture and summary executions.
In the operation to recapture Tikrit they reportedly burned hundreds of homes of Sunni civilians they accused of colluding with Daesh. If something similar happens after Daesh is expelled from the much bigger and more populous city of Mosul, the swamp of Sunni grievance is likely to rise once again.
Sheikh Jamal Al-Dhari is a Sunni tribal leader who has lost more than 70 family members in Iraq’s sectarian wars.
“The ‘Anbar Awakening’ showed that the way to defeat Al Qaeda is to work with the Sunni tribes, but our efforts to take part in the anti-ISIS fight have been repeatedly rebuffed by the Baghdad government,” he said in an interview.
Now Shiite-dominated Iraqi Security Forces and possibly U.S. airpower have inadvertently killed hundreds if not thousands of Sunni civilians in Mosul, he noted, and thousands of Shiite militiamen have captured Sunni majority villages to the west of the city.
“We fear that the use of excessive force will cost the lives of thousands of more civilians, creating hardships and hard feelings that will only set the stage for the next ISIS, or worse.”
To avoid Kurdish or Shiite forces fighting each other and mistreating liberated Sunni civilians, U.S. battle planners created separate corridors into the city.
“The U.S. military worked very hard to insure that neither the Peshmerga nor the Popular Mobilization forces would be involved in the close-in fight in Mosul, and that has been mostly successful,” said Michael Knights, an Iraq expert and fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Studies.
“But the main reason we’ve seen civilian casualties increase is that ISIS is being much more aggressive in using civilians as human shields. Their backs are now against the wall in Mosul’s old city, and they seem to be preparing for a last stand.”
When the dust of battle finally settles over Mosul, the most important decision confronting the Trump administration will be whether or not to keep a residual U.S. force inside Iraq to continue advising and assisting Iraqi Security Forces, and helping coordinate counterterrorism operations.
If the U.S. military packs up lock-stock-and-barrel and leaves once again, many experts believe it will only set the stage for “son of ISIS” to fill the vacuum.
“Only if U.S. forces remain in Iraq to secure the peace will we achieve a major military victory over ISIS,” said James Jeffrey, former U.S. ambassador to Iraq.
The U.S. can leverage that presence not only to empower Abadi’s national reconciliation agenda, he said, but also to eventually find a political resolution to the Syrian civil war.
In “On War” [ Carl von] “Clausewitz said that the art of war was using tactical victories to achieve strategic ends,” said Jeffrey.
“We need to use the victories in Mosul and Raqqa to achieve the strategic end of a stable Middle East that is not dominated either by ISIS or Iran.”
Soldiers of the 773rd Civil Support Team took their survey robot to Sembach Middle School in Germany to help the Girl Scouts earn their robotics patch.
Sembach Juniors Troop 991 hosted the Army Reserve soldiers for the afternoon. The three-person team demonstrated the capabilities and the functions of the Talon IV robot, nicknamed “Veronica” by the survey team.
“I think they enjoyed everything about the robot, seeing it move, being able to touch it,” said Staff Sgt. Patrick McNeely, survey team member with the 773rd CST. “I think they were just thoroughly excited about the whole idea of seeing a robot.”
The 18 fourth- and fifth-graders not only got to see the robot in action, climbing stairs and opening a door, but also were able to ask the soldiers questions about how the robot worked.
Sgt. 1st Class Yuolanda Carey, the survey team chief, and Spc. Jonathan Boyden answered the questions and showed the girls all the things Veronica can do.
“Today we experienced a mechanical robot,” said Gabrielle Shields, a fifth grader at Sembach Middle School and member of the troop. “It can detect smoke bombs and it can smell and sense stuff … and it goes on missions and it can go under water and it can move up and down stairs.”
The robot can do amazing things, said Madison Perkins, another fifth-grader.
“I loved that it could climb stairs and that it has a laser and it had some cool lights on it,” she said.
The 773rd CST soldiers stayed for the rest of the Monday afternoon meeting and helped the juniors to plan and build their robots.
Here are a few photos from the day:
Sembach Girl Scouts Juniors Troop 991 examine the 773rd Civil Support Team’s Talon IV surveying robot Monday, Dec. 4, 2017 at Sembach Middle School. The Juniors were earning the robotics patch, and the 773rd CST brought the robot for the meeting.
Spc. Jonathan Boyden, 773rd Civil Support Team, shows Sembach Girl Scouts Juniors Troop 991 how the Talon IV surveying robot can open a door Monday, Dec. 4, 2017 at Sembach Middle School.
Spc. Jonathan Boyden, 773rd Civil Support Team, demonstrates the Talon IV surveying robot to the Sembach Girl Scouts Juniors Troop 991 Monday, Dec. 4, 2017 at Sembach Middle School.
Sembach Girl Scouts Juniors Troop 991 react to the 773rd Civil Support Team’s Talon IV surveying robot Monday, Dec. 4, 2017 at Sembach Middle School.
Sgt. 1st Class Yuolanda Carey, 773rd Civil Support Team survey team chief, talks to Sembach Girl Scouts Juniors Troop 991 as her team prepares to demonstrate the Talon IV surveying robot Monday, Dec. 4, 2017 at Sembach Middle School.
Sembach Girl Scouts Juniors Troop 991 pose with Soldiers from the 773rd Civil Support Team Monday, Dec. 4, 2017 at Sembach Middle School.
Many veterans chose the military life in search of something bigger than themselves. This rings true even for British royalty. Just like his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II, his father, Prince Charles, and his brother, Prince William, Prince Harry served in the British military — except his war stories from Afghanistan are far more impressive than most royals.
Prince Harry entered military service in September 2004 and went to The Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in May 2005. During his 44-week intensive training, he went under the name “Officer Cadet Wales” since royal British surnames don’t work like regular folk and he didn’t want any special treatment — despite the fact that everyone at the academy swore loyalty to his badass grandmother.
In case you didn’t know, he’s got badassery in his blood.
After graduating in April 2006, he became an armored reconnaissance troop leader in a unit scheduled to deploy to Iraq. When Defense Secretary John Reid stopped him from deploying, Prince Harry is quoted as saying
“If they said ‘no, you can’t go front line’ then I wouldn’t drag my sorry ass through Sandhurst and I wouldn’t be where I am now.”
Prince Harry didn’t just accept this order. He was determined to fight with his brothers and lead his troops. He finally got that chance in June 2007 when he was secretly allowed to deploy to Helmond Province, Afghanistan as a forward air controller — similar to the American joint terminal attack controller.
Even his living conditions were on par with his fellow soldiers.
When his unit and his Gurkha allies were attacked by the Taliban, Prince Harry himself jumped on the .50 cal to hold the line. He successfully repelled the attack all while the Britons back home knew nothing.
Prince Harry returned to England in May 2008 and began his training as an Apache pilot — as is an unofficial tradition among the House of Windsor — and he was damn good. He returned to Afghanistan, now as “Captain Wales.” The Taliban leaders got wind of his return and called for his head. That didn’t scare this badass and his missions were more ramped up.
In true veteran fashion, he was straight out of f*cks to give.
He returned to England with an untold number of combat missions under his belt (but, supposedly, there were a lot). He left active military service in 2015 but he continues to champion the military and veteran community through his countless organizations. He launched the Invictus Games in 2014 and has been a key figure of Walk With the Wounded, HALO Trust, and London Marathon Charitable Trust.
Air Force officials have been warning about the force’s dire pilot shortage, and a recent Government Accountability Office report illustrates just how bad the shortfall has gotten.
The report assesses the gaps between the actual number of fighter pilots that the Air Force, Marine Corps, and Navy have and the number of positions they are authorized to have.
Each service branch reported fighter-pilot shortages that have grown worse in recent years. “Service officials attributed these gaps to aircraft readiness challenges, reduced training opportunities, and increased attrition of fighter pilots due to career dissatisfaction,” the report says.
The Air Force had at least 92% of its fighter-pilot positions filled between 2006 and 2010, an 8% gap, and 104% of what it needed in 2011, a 4% surplus. But the gap has grown since 2012 and is currently the biggest of the three military branches, at 27%.
The Air Force, which has undertaken a number of training and retention initiatives, projected its shortfall to last through fiscal year 2023.
Growing shortfalls and falling retention
(U.S. Air Force photo)
Each branch has different levels at which the difference between authorized positions and actual staff levels becomes a shortage. Air Force officials told the GAO that “their established practice is that pilot communities with less than 100 percent of authorizations are considered to be insufficiently staffed.”
Changing authorization levels led to an excess in some Air Force career fields in 2011, but an increase in authorized positions in the past few years has led to a growing shortfall among fighter pilots — from 192, or 5% of authorized positions, that year to 1,005, or 27% of authorized positions, in 2017. (The Air Force said at the end of 2017 that its total shortage was “around 2,000” pilots.)
“According to briefing documents prepared by the Air Force, this gap is concentrated among fighter pilots with fewer than 8 years of experience,” the report notes.
Air Force officials told the GAO that between 2006 and 2017, “fighter pilot gaps were generally limited to non-operational positions, such as staff assignments at Air Force headquarters or combatant commands.”
But the GAO also found that the Air Force had been unable to fill all its operational positions since fiscal year 2014, with the gap between the operational positions it needed to fill and the actual staffing levels it had growing from 39 pilots, or 1% of authorizations, in 2014 to 399 pilots, or 13%, in 2017.
Several factors have contributed to these shortfalls, in particular reductions to overall active-duty military end strength.
Service officials said that personnel reductions after the 2008 drawdown in Iraq and cuts to funding stemming from the 2011 Budget Control Act both helped reduce the number of fighter pilots in the military.
The Air Force shed 206 fighter pilots in order to meet initial demand for pilots of unmanned aerial systems in 2011 and 2012 and then lost 54 more to early-retirement incentives in 2014 and 2015. That was compounded by changes to force structure — the decline in active and reserve Air Force fighter squadrons from 134 in 1989 to 55 in 2017 has reduced the opportunities newly trained pilots have to gain flying experience.
These factors have helped create a bottleneck in the Air Force’s training pipeline. The service has more pilots entering than it has resources to train. According to the GAO report, between 2006 and 2017 the Air Force trained 12% fewer new fighter pilots than its target amount.
“Fighter pilots told us that the need to prioritize the staffing of experienced pilots to deploying squadrons has limited the number of experienced personnel available to train newer pilots at home stations,” the report says.
A fighter pilot needs about five years of training to be qualified to lead flights, which costs between about $3 million to $11 million depending on the type of aircraft they’re being trained to fly, according to Air Force officials.
Those training issues are exacerbated by the reduction in aircraft, as longer maintenance times for legacy aircraft, like the F-16 or F-15, leave fewer aircraft available for training. (A shortage of maintainer crew members has also hamstrung the Air Force, though it has made progress adding more of those personnel.)
The services have also struggled to retain pilots.
The GAO found that the number of Air Force pilots signing retention contracts fell from 63% in 2013 to 35% in 2017 — despite the service increasing its maximum aviation bonus contract to $225,000 at the start of 2013, which was the highest amount offered by any of the military service branches.
Officials from the service branches told the GAO they had used various tactics to address their pilot shortfalls, including longer and more frequent deployments, putting senior pilots in junior positions, and “prioritizing staffing fighter pilots to flying positions that require fighter pilot-specific technical skills.”
The service branches has also tried to compensate for fighter-pilot shortages by drawing on pilots from other career fields.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Jeffrey Allen)
The Air Force, for example, has drawn on mobility pilots — those that fly cargo and refueling aircraft — to fill instructor roles for basic training to free up fighter pilots for duties elsewhere.
But fliers and squadron leaders told the GAO that these measures have had deleterious effects. Pilots and squadron leaders also said that some of these efforts to mitigate pilot shortages had helped drive down retention
A high operational tempo has limited the opportunities senior pilots have to train with junior pilots, which in turn limits the opportunities the service branches have to grow the number of pilots with specific qualifications. This also cuts into the services’ ability to rebuild readiness. Air Force officials said “high deployment rates … have resulted in less time for squadrons to complete their full training requirements because high deployment rates mean that there are fewer aircraft available for training at home stations.”
Moreover, increasing individual deployments undercut family stability, pilots said, affecting satisfaction with their careers.
The Air Force has taken steps to mitigate the effects the pilot shortage has had on pilots’ quality of life.
It has stood up teams dedicated to finding and implementing dozens of initiatives to reduce the fighter-pilot shortage.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Manuel J. Martinez)
“For example, as the result of one initiative, 126 contractors have been placed in fighter squadrons to assist with administrative tasks and reduce workload for fighter pilots,” the GAO notes.
Air Force training squadrons have also taken steps to better apportion resources, including consolidating instructors among training units and altering the training process and syllabus, according to a February 2018 report by Aviation Week, but those shifts still put a strain on pilots and aircraft and represented “a leap into the unknown” for the units.
The GAO report also noted that the service branches had not reevaluated fighter-squadron requirements to reflect change conditions, the increased workload, and the effects of the increasing use of unmanned aircraft.
“Air Force officials told us that metrics that inform squadron requirements … have not been increased because the Air Force is instead prioritizing the effort to recapitalize its fleet of fighter aircraft,” the report said, adding that officials said they were also reassessing fighter-pilots’ nonoperational requirements, focusing on finding which ones could be reassigned to other pilots.
The report made recommendations for each branch, advising the Air Force to reevaluate those squadron requirements, “to include updating current assumptions of fighter pilot workload, and assessing the impact of future incorporation of [unmanned aerial systems] platforms into combat aviation.”
Retired Rear Adm. John Kirby was a Navy public affairs officer for decades and now serves as the State Department’s top spokesman, so he’s been around journalists for a while and given plenty of briefings.
That may explain why he was so chill when — in the middle of reading a statement about defeating ISIS propaganda — he noticed a journalist playing Pokemon Go on a smartphone.
Look, WATM isn’t one of those places that wants to take people’s joy away. Do your thing and enjoy life. If Pokemon make you happy, chase those Pokemon.
But maybe let’s don’t interrupt a briefing about the importance of defeating ISIS on the internet by playing video games — Pokemon Go or otherwise.
Unless, of course, you’ve found a way to defeat ISIS via video games. Then please forward your idea to WATM so we can spread the word.
No one likes being stuck on a pointless detail. Whether it’s a legitimate task that needs to be done or it’s just a way to stall for time until close-out formation, everyone would much rather be doing nothing. Some troops will try to talk their way out of work — but NCOs have been in long enough to hear each and every excuse troops can imagine. Plus,chances are they tried to use the exact same ones back in the day.
Yes, there are valid excuses out there, but an NCO who’s been around for a while will side-eye even the most honest troop because of the onslaught of lame excuses, like these:
Appointments are known well in advance, so it’s kind of hard to get caught off guard. You can’t miss a dental appointment or else the chain of command will get hammered for it. So, most NCOs won’t interrogate a troop if they say they’ve got to see the dentist, but it just so happens to be time for a huge detail and someone just so happens to have a surprise appointment, they might check their slip.
Don’t worry. Motrin fixes everything.
“I’m not feeling too well…”
Getting seen by the medics/Corpsmen is a necessary headache in the military and coming down with some kind of sickness isn’t unheard of among grunts who live in some rough conditions.
Still, there’s a proper channel for these sorts of things. The military isn’t like some civilian job where you can just “call in sick” whenever you feel like it. The only alibi that might work is to blame MREs for some god-awful movements in your bowels.
Even if it doesn’t work, you’ll be ridiculed to the point that you might as well see the medics for burn treatment.
So many people are getting away with driving without a PT belt. I’m disappointed.
(Meme via USAWTFM)
“I didn’t know that…”
Citing your own ignorance is the fastest way to infuriate an NCO. Essentially, the subordinate is trying to forgive their own wrongdoings by hot-potatoing the blame directly onto a superior.
If what you didn’t know actually was niche information, like the location of connex keys, you might catch some slack, but don’t ever think of saying something like, “but I didn’t know that I couldn’t walk on Sergeant Major’s grass!”
Everyone gets creative with the crap in supply.
(Meme via Navy Memes)
“I can’t because we’re all out of…”
This is a catch-all excuse for anything that shifts the blame onto supply, but it’s almost always used in regards to cleaning supplies.
Sure, the cleaning closet may look bone dry, but your average supply room has more bottles of PineSol than they know what to do with. They’d be more than happy to clear some space in their lockers for actual military stuff. Just ask them.
If you’re driving one of these around, we may believe you… but don’t expect sympathy.
“I can’t come in because my car…”
If you’re coming from off-post and your car breaks down, that sucks. Let your superiors know what’s going on. If you report the issue two minutes before formation, you’re in the barracks a few blocks over, and you didn’t ask anyone else for a ride, then good luck keeping your rank.
(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)
“But Sgt. Smith told me…”
Don’t ever play the “mommy vs daddy” game between NCOs — you’ll always lose. They won’t just take you at your word. They’ll argue and you’ll be brought in as a witness. If it turns out that you were just saying that to try and weasel your way out of something, well, try not to cry when you get ninja-punched.
Military leaders must appreciate the changing character of war, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said Nov. 11, 2018, as he returned home from Paris, where he was attending ceremonies marking the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day.
Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford reflected on the anniversary, which signaled 100 years since the end of World War I, on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918.
“I think one of the things with World War I is the character of war hadn’t changed in some time,” he said. We saw … our own experience in the Civil War — machine guns, concertina wire, railroads, communications, and so forth. And I think even 50 years later, it’s pretty clear that leaders didn’t fully appreciate the changed character of war and the introduction of new technologies and how they’re going to change war.”
The general described that costs of subsequent wars has “an enduring lesson for all of us, [and] that one of our responsibilities as a leader is to appreciate the changing character of war, and ensure that we anticipate the changes and the implications of those changes.”
Alliances and partnerships
Dunford said the fact that the United States fought alongside allied countries for the first time during World War I resonates even today, as one of three lines of effort within the 2018 National Defense Strategy involves the nation furthering its alliances and partnerships with other nations.
Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and his wife, Ellyn, visit the chapel at the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery and Memorial near the Belleau Wood battleground, in Belleau, France, Nov. 10, 2018.
(Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Dominique A. Pineiro)
“If you look back at the 20th century, [in] every conflict we were involved in, we participated as part of a coalition, participated with allies and partners on our side: World War I, World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam War, and the main skirmishes that we had in between,” he emphasized. “And … the NDS recognizes that we certainly don’t anticipate being on any future battlefield without allies and partners.”
During his two-and-a-half days in Paris, the chairman participated in the 100th Armistice Day commemoration at the Arc de Triomphe with President Donald J. Trump, French President Emmanuel Macron, and some 80 other heads of state.
He also attended ceremonies at World War I gravesites of U.S. servicemen at Aisne-Marne American Cemetery near the site of the Battle of Belleau Wood in Belleau, France; and Suresnes American Cemetery outside Paris.
Dunford noted some key leaders of World War I, but emphasized, “For me, World War I is less about an individual leader and more about the individual doughboy. Many of them, [at] 17, 18, 19, 20 years old left home for the first time [and] in many cases came from rural America and never had seen anything outside of their hometown before they found themselves on the battlefields of France. And so what I’ve been mindful of all weekend … [is] just the young faces for every young doughboy lost in France.”
EUCOM Joint Color Guard carry the colors at Suresnes American Cemetery to honor the centennial of Armistice Day, Paris, France, Nov. 11, 2018.
(Photo by Cpl. Kevin Payne)
Dunford found his tour of Belleau Wood on Nov. 10, 2018 – also the Marine Corps 243rd birthday – to be a solemn experience. Before touring the gravesites, he and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly laid a wreath in front of the chapel at Aisne-Marne cemetery, where the names of 1,060 U.S. service members, whose remains never were found, are etched in stone, high on the chapel’s interior walls.
At the hallowed grounds of the American cemetery and the adjoining World War I battlefield – where the Marine Corps played a key role in securing Allied victory and earned distinction for their tenacity during the battle – the chairman said he was moved by the profound loss that takes place in combat: The human toll.
At the 100th Armistice Day commemoration at Paris’ Arc de Triomphe, Nov. 11, 2018, Dunford said he was struck by the number of leaders who all came together to replicate what took place when the deadly war came to an end.
“It was very powerful to see them all there … and to have them representing their countries; and frankly, I think in many ways making a commitment never to repeat the mistakes that led us into World War I,” the chairman reflected. “I think it was a reminder probably for all of us, and certainly those senior leaders in uniform, of the responsibility that we have to avoid the mistakes of the past.”
The Islamic State group said its fighters have captured Osama bin Laden’s infamous Tora Bora mountain hideout in eastern Afghanistan but the Taliban on June 15th dismissed the claim, saying they were still in control of the cave complex that once housed the former al-Qaeda leader.
Earlier, ISIS released an audio recording, saying its signature black flag was flying over the hulking mountain range. The message was broadcast on the militants’ Radio Khilafat station in the Pashto language on late June 14th.
It also said IS has taken over several districts and urged villagers who fled the fighting to return to their homes and stay indoors.
A Taliban spokesman denied IS was in control, claiming instead that the Taliban had pushed IS back from some territory the rival militants had taken in the area.
The Tora Bora mountains hide a warren of caves in which al-Qaeda militants led by bin Laden hid from US coalition forces in 2001, after the Taliban fled Kabul and before he fled to neighboring Pakistan.
According to testimony from al-Qaeda captives in the US prison at Guantamo Bay, Cuba, bin Laden fled from Tora Bora first to Afghanistan’s northeastern Kunar province, before crossing the border into Pakistan. He was killed in a 2011 raid by US Navy SEALs on his hideout in the Pakistani garrison town of Abbottabad.
Pakistan complained the raid violated its sovereignty while bin Laden’s presence — barely a few miles from the Pakistani equivalent of America’s West Point military academy — reinforced allegations by those who accused Pakistan of harboring the Talibanand al-Qaeda militants. Pakistan denies such charges, pointing to senior al-Qaeda operatives it has turned over to the United States.
Meanwhile, Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid told The Associated Press in a telephone interview that Taliban fighters pushed back the Islamic State group from areas of Tora Bora that IS had earlier captured.
Mujahid claimed that more than 30 IS fighters were killed in battle. He also added that a US airstrike on Taliban positions on June 14th had killed 11 of its fighters and benefited the Islamic State group.
The remoteness of the area makes it impossible to independently verify the contradictory claims.
Afghan officials earlier said that fighting between IS and the Taliban, who had controlled Tora Bora, began on the 13th of June, but couldn’t confirm its capture.
Afghan Defense Ministry’s spokesman Daulat Waziri would not say whether IS was in complete control of Tora Bora. But he said Afghan forces engaged IS militants in the Chapahar district of eastern Nagarhar province, killing five and pushing them out of the area.
The province, which borders Pakistan, is the main foothold of the Islamic State group in Afghanistan. An affiliate of the IS, which is fighting in Syria and Iraq, emerged over the past two years and seized territory, mainly in Nangarhar.
The Afghan forces’ offensive will continue toward Tora Bora, Waziri said, adding that if the Afghans “need air support from NATO, they are ready to help us.”
While the United States estimates there are about 800 IS fighters in Afghanistan, mostly restricted to Nangarhar, other estimates say their ranks also include thousands of battle-hardened Uzbek militants.
Last week, Russia announced it was reinforcing two of its bases in Central Asia, in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, with its newest weapons because of fears of a “spill-over of terrorist activities from Afghanistan” by the Afghan IS affiliate.
“The [IS] group’s strategy to establish an Islamic caliphate poses a threat not only to Afghanistan but also to the neighboring countries,” Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said.
Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) 1st Class Jeffrey Thomas was awarded the Silver Star Medal during an awards ceremony, Sept. 20, at EOD Mobile Unit Three on board Naval Amphibious Base, Coronado, California.
The Vice Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. Bill Moran, recognized Thomas for his conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action against the enemy, in support of Operation Inherent Resolve.
“Today we recognize the heroic actions of individuals and the legacy of their teammates. This recognition is well deserved, and it’s an acknowledgment of bravery, training, and dedication to team and country,” said Moran.
On Oct. 20 and 21, 2016, while conducting combined clearance operations, Thomas’ element became engaged in a 10-hour firefight with forces of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. Throughout the battle, he continuously maneuvered through heavy small arms, rocket-propelled grenades, and mortar fire in order to engage the enemy and clear paths for his teammates.
After the lead vehicle in the convoy struck an improvised explosive device, mortally wounding a teammate, Thomas exited his vehicle and swept the vicinity for additional explosive devices in spite of enemy mortar and small arms fire impacting near him.
This enabled medics to maneuver to the damaged vehicle and provide critical combat care to the casualty. Thomas then guided the remaining vehicles out of the minefield, ensuring all forces safely reached the medial evacuation zone.
“No one that was present on the 20th of October knew better than Jeff the dangers he was facing,” said Cmdr. Geoff Townsend, commanding officer, EODMU 3. “After the EOD supervisor, a friend and mentor, was mortally wounded, Jeff knowingly exposed himself to hazards in order to protect the lives of his teammates and brothers in arms, and secure a MEDEVAC for his wounded teammate. His actions that day saved the lives of his teammates and exceeded all measures of selflessness and devotion to his country.”
The ceremony also included the presentation of the Bronze Star Medal with Combat “V” to Lt. Morgan Dahl and the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal (with Combat Distinguishing Device) to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Senior Chief Jon Hamm. Dahl was awarded the Bronze Star for his heroic achievement during combat operations as vehicle commander and primary explosives ordnance disposal technician, when he safely guided the tactical advance of his combined convoy under constant direct and indirect enemy.
Hamm was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal for his heroic achievement when Islamic State fighters engaged Hamm’s element with effective automatic weapons and rocket propelled grenade fire, he maneuvered without hesitation under fire in order to clear a safe route allowing his team to suppress the enemy.
US Navy EOD enables special operations and conventional forces access to denied areas. Navy EOD technicians and Navy divers are instrumental in clearing the way for further combat operations. They render safe various types of ordnance, including conventional, improvised, chemical, biological, and nuclear.
After dropping out of high school, Roy Benavidez joined the Texas Army National Guard. By 1965, he moved into the 82nd Airborne Division and was soon deployed to the dangerous jungles of Vietnam. Not long after that, Benavidez stepped on a landmine while advising a group of ARVN soldiers. When he regained consciousness, he found himself in a hospital at Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines where doctors declared he’d never walk again.
But this was just the beginning of Benavidez’ amazing story.
At night, the Green Beret would crawl out of his hospital bed and back himself up against the wall, attempting to restore sensation in his lower extremities. 7-months later, Benavidez walked out of that hospital and returned to his duties in Vietnam.
After narrowly escaping death on several occasions, he continued to volunteer himself for some of the most deadly operations during his time in the bush. Upon hearing a 12-man, intelligence-gathering mission had come under fierce attack, Benavidez jumped on a helicopter to assist the men.
Master Sgt. Roy Benavidez as he tells his story to an audience.
(Medal of Honor Foundation)
Armed only with a knife and a medical bag, Benavidez ran into the fight with disregard for his own life. He was shot several times, but continued to render aid on his brothers-in-arms. The brave Green Beret carried several wounded and dead soldiers to the extraction point.
During extraction, his helicopter was shot down. Benavidez didn’t hesitate. He created a defensive perimeter and prepped a new landing zone. Benavidez continued to fight for six hours — he was shot five times. Finally, a helicopter was able to successfully extract the downed troops. By then, Benavidez was near dead — nearly sacrificing himself for his fellow brothers.
Staff Sgt. Roy Benavidez was awarded the Medal of Honor in 1981 by President Ronal Reagan for his outstanding actions.
In the early 1990s, Master Sgt. Roy Benavidez visited a U.S. Army unit in Cleveland, OH, and delivered one of the most emotional and patriotic poems to a well-received military audience.
“Hello, remember me? Some people call me ‘Old Glory,’ others call me the Star Spangled Banner. But, whatever they call me, I’m your flag… the flag of the United States of America. Something has been bothering me, so, I thought I’d talk it over with you because it’s about me and you. Not too long ago, people were lining up on both sides of the street to see a parade go by, and, naturally, I was leading that parade. Proudly waving in the breeze. And when your daddy saw me coming, he would immediately remove his hat and place it over his left shoulder… so his right hand would be over his heart. And you, you standing there… right next to your dad. You didn’t have a hat, and your little sister, not to be outdone was standing right next to you. Both of you had your right hand over your heart.
What has happened now? I don’t feel as proud as I used to… I’m still the same ole flag. I see children playing around, shouting. They don’t seem to know or care who I am, what I stand for. I saw an elderly gentleman who took his hat off, but when he saw others with theirs on, he turned around and slowly walked away.
Hey, I’m still the same ole flag. A few stars have been added since those parades long ago. A lot of blood has been shed. Is it a sin to be patriotic anymore? Have you forgotten who I am? What I stand for? And where I’ve been? Anzio, Guadalcanal, Korea, Vietnam. Take a good look one of these days… at the memorial honor roll… of all the names that never came back. They gave their lives for this great nation to be free. Under God. When you salute me, you salute each and every one of them. Well, it won’t be long now, and I’ll be coming down the street leading the parade and proudly waving in the breeze. So, when you see me coming, stand up straight and salute. And I’ll salute you… by waving back. And then I’ll know, that you remember.”
Check out the video below to listen to one of the bravest men in history deliver his powerful message