The cover depicted a man dancing around, with a bottle of Champagne in one hand and drinking out of a flute while the Champagne poured out of apparent bullet holes in his body. The text surrounding the image says: “They have arms. F— them. We have the Champagne!”
The cover was posted on social media ahead of the magazine’s release on Wednesday by a columnist for Charlie Hebdo, Mathieu Madénian.
Last week’s attacks on Paris left at least 129 people dead and hundreds more injured, after a wave of shootings and suicide bombings at restaurants, bars, a concert hall, and a sports stadium. The incidents constituted the deadliest attack on French soil since World War II. The Islamic State group, also known as ISIS and ISIL, claimed responsibility for the attacks.
Charlie Hebdo was itself attacked early this year. On January 7, 12 people were killed in a shooting at Charlie Hebdo’s offices in Paris. Five others were killed in several related attacks throughout the capital, including a hostage situation at a Kosher market.
The magazine was targeted in part for its often controversial depictions of religious and political leaders, including the Prophet Muhammad.
The two men behind the Charlie Hebdo attacks, Said and Cherif Kouachi, had been well known to French authorities. Cherif had been jailed before and was reportedly influenced by a radical preacher in France.
The slogan, “Je suis Charlie” — French for, “I am Charlie” — became a popular rallying cry across social media after the shootings. After the attacks, hundreds of thousands of people rallied in France and around the world to show their support for the victims and to defend free speech.
This week’s cover is already being shared widely on social media. It embodies a sentiment shared by many Parisians after the attacks: resilience.
The Army announced on June 10, 2019, that former Staff Sgt. David Bellavia will receive the Medal of Honor from President Donald J. Trump in recognition of his bravery in the 2004 Battle of Fallujah where his actions were credited with saving the lives of three Army squads at great risk to himself.
Staff Sgt. David G. Bellavia: Operation Phantom Fury
Bellavia was part of an Army company sent to assist a Marine task force in Fallujah. The task force received intel that some of the over 1,500 insurgents in the city might be hiding in a block of 12 buildings, and the soldiers were sent to root them out.
Clearing house-to-house is grueling, as every closed door that’s kicked open is another chance to stumble into an ambush or suffer an IED blast. The first nine buildings showed no enemy activity, but the kick into the 10th set off a hornet’s nest.
Bellavia described it as a bunker in the video above. The building had been prepared to counter an attack, and the fighters inside were equipped with belt-fed weapons. Bellavia’s rifle was disabled by an enemy round almost immediately, and he kept fighting with an M249 squad automatic weapon. He was able to suppress the enemy fighters, and the platoon withdrew.
But once the enemy had begun firing, they were unwilling to stop. Third platoon, with Bellavia in it, were taking fire from the roof and it was clear they wouldn’t be able to escape unless someone or something cleared out the enemy fighters in the house. Bellavia called for support from an M2 Bradley Fighting Vehicle. The armored behemoth pumped 25mm rounds into the structure as the infantryman charged back in to fight.
Bellavia fought his way up three floors, killing and least four enemy soldiers with rifle fire and grenades. One of the enemy fighters he killed was preparing to fire an RPG at third platoon when Bellavia killed him.
The soldier’s actions were credited with saving the lives of the three squads outside the house and with eliminating the enemy strongpoint. Bellavia previously received the Silver Star for his bravery, but will now receive the Medal of Honor.
He left the Army in 2005 and currently works in Buffalo, New York, as a radio host.
At a White House briefing on Sunday, March 22, President Trump stated that the National Guard would be stepping up to assist three states that have been hit the hardest to date by the novel coronavirus: California, New York and Washington state.
President Trump explained that the Guard activation was to help effectively respond to the crisis. This certainly isn’t unprecedented — the National Guard is frequently used in emergency situations. But this definitely got people talking: Are we heading toward martial law? And what does that mean?
Trump Deploys National Guard To Help States Respond To The Coronavirus | NBC News
In a press release issued by the National Guard Bureau, a spokesperson said, “The National Guard is fully involved at the local, state and federal level in the planning and execution of the nation’s response to COVID-19. In times of emergency, the National Guard Bureau serves as a federal coordinating agency should a state require assistance from the National Guard of another state.”
Additionally the release explained, “At the national level, Guard members are training personnel on COVID-19 response, identifying and preparing National Guard facilities for use as isolation housing, and compiling state medical supply inventories. National Guard personnel will provide assistance to the states that include logistical support, disinfection/cleaning, activate/conduct transportation of medical personnel, call center support, and meal delivery.”
New York Army National Guard Soldiers move a floor during the placement of tents at the New York-Presbyterian-Hudson Valley Hospital in Cortlandt Manor, N.Y., as medical facilities prepare for the response to the outbreak of COVID 19 patients March 20, 2020. The Soldiers are part of the statewide effort to deploy National Guard members in support of local authorities during the pandemic response. U.S. Army National Guard/Richard Goldenberg.
So that’s what the National Guard does and is doing in this situation … but what does “federalized” actually mean?
Under Title 32 of the U.S. Code, the National Guard can be federalized, meaning that the Guard still reports to the respective state’s governor but the federal government picks up the associated costs. In his briefing, President Trump remarked that he had spoken with the governors of the three states that were impacted.
“We’ll be following them and we hope they can do the job and I think they will. I spoke with all three of the governors today, just a little while ago and they’re very happy with what we’re going to be doing.” Trump said. “This action will give them maximum flexibility to use the Guard against the virus without having to worry about cost or liability and freeing up state resources.” He added, “The federal government has deployed hundreds of tons of supplies from our national stockpile to locations with the greatest need in order to assist in those areas.”
See, that’s nice. They’re going to help build temporary hospitals and coordinate logistics and resources. They’re not going to be driving tanks up and down the streets to make sure people stay in their homes.
In a call with reporters Sunday night, Air Force Gen. Joseph L. Lengyel, Chief of the National Guard Bureau, said, “There is no truth to this rumor that people are conspiring, that governors are planning, that anyone is conspiring to use the National Guard, mobilized or not, Title 32 or state, to do military action to enforce shelter in place or quarantines.” He did say that he expected more states would move to Title 32 as the need developed.
Military action enforcing shelter in place or quarantines would be considered martial law.
In dictionary terms, martial law is the suspension of civil authority and the imposition of military authority. The military is in control of the area; it can act as the police, the courts, even the legislature. Martial law is enacted when civilian law enforcement agencies are unable to maintain public order and safety.
Sounds reasonable and fine, right? Wellll, until you start really digging into what martial law can include, like a suspension of parts of the Constitution, namely the Bill of Rights. In previous uses of martial law, we’ve seen confiscation of firearms (remember Hurricane Katrina? The government seized firearms and supplies when deemed necessary and acceptable, which at the time, they stated was when citizens were resisting evacuation or when a firearm was found in an abandoned home). Other suspensions include due process (Habeas corpus), road closures and blockades, strict zoning regulations (quarantine anyone?) and even automatic search and seizures without warrants (who can forget the images of SWAT teams running through houses in Boston searching for the bombers after the marathon? Do you think they stopped to get a warrant before they went into each one? Spoiler alert: no.).
Martial law has happened in the United States before and someday, it very well may happen again.
But for now, the Guard is just doing what they do best: bringing some much-needed logistics support and maybe even a little hope.
…I was goin’ over the Cork and Kerry Mountains…
Musha rain dum a doo, dum a da…
There’s whiskey in the jar, oh
— Thin Lizzy,
Whiskey in the Jar
Whiskey is a mountain spirit. After a cold day on the slopes, are you thirsting for a Cosmo? A margarita? Nope. And we’re not even offering rum as an option. In the mountains, you long for an end-of-day bourbon, scotch, or rye to light your insides on fire. It’s tradition and it’s awesome.
…complete me. (
Meals Ready To Eat screenshot)
In Vail, Colo, there’s another mountain spirit that has to be reckoned with and unlike whiskey, it’s 100 percent military. It’s the legacy of the Army’s venerable 10th Mountain Division, the special alpine tactical force that trained at nearby Camp Hale during WWII.
Spirits, however, are made to blend. It’s tradition and
Now, almost 75 years after 10th Mountain defeated the Germans in Italy, a Vail whiskey distillery is honoring the Division by taking its name. In the tradition of service, 10th Mountain Whiskey & Spirits Co. is distinguishing itself as an ardent supporter of area veterans.
Sensing the makings of a 90-proof military food story,
Meals Ready To Eat host August Dannehl made the trek out to the Colorado mountains to meet the founders of the 10th Mountain Whiskey over two fingers of their best bourbon.
The distillery was founded by Christian Avignon, the grandson of an 86th Mountain Infantry Regiment medic, and his friend and fellow Colorado ski obsessive, Ryan Thompson. Together, they made it their mission to honor the 10th, whose veterans are responsible not only for key victories against the Nazis, but also for the establishment and leadership of so many of America’s great mountain institutions.
The Northern Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), the Sierra Club, the Peace Corps chapter in Nepal, even the famous ski resorts at Vail and Aspen, all count 10th Mountain Division vets among their founding leadership. A storied fighting force inspires a whiskey maker determined to give back. It’s a potent cocktail of tradition, patriotism, and mountaineering that will absolutely warm your insides on a cold day.
Shortly after the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, the Russian 101st Motorized Rifles were caught in a firefight with the Mujahideen near the city of Herat. A young soldier, 20-year-old Bakhretdin Khakimov, was wounded in the fighting, lost on the battlefield, and presumed dead.
Khakimov was a draftee from Samarkand who had only been in the Red Army a short time when he was injured in Herat Province, near Shindand. Some 30 years later, a group of Soviet war veterans founded the Committee for International Soldiers, a group whose mission is to find and identify missing Soviet soldiers or their remains. Most, like Khakimov, are presumed to be dead.
The young soldier now goes by the name of Sheikh Abdullah. He was rescued from the battlefield by locals, nursed back to health and opted to stay with those that helped him survive. He later married an Afghan woman and settled down to a semi-nomadic life. His wife has since died and he does the same work as the man who rescued him.
“I was wounded in the head and collapsed. I don’t remember much about that time,” he told TOLO news.
There are an estimated 264 Soviet soldiers currently missing from the 1979-1989 Afghan War. The Committee for International Soldiers actually found 29 living servicemen, 22 of which were repatriated to the former Soviet Union. The rest stayed in Afghanistan. The CIS has also identified 15 graves of Soviet war dead, exhuming and identifying five of those.
It is estimated that the decade-long war cost the Soviet Union 15,000 lives — not to mention those of an estimated one million Afghan civilians.
Bakhretdin Khakimov was an ethnic Uzbek, with family roots not far from Afghanistan’s northern borders. Staying in the country was dangerous for Khakimov and those like him. The USSR would trade submachine guns to locals in exchange for “turncoats” trying to defect from the Red Army.
Russians captured by the Mujahideen did not fare so well — they could expect to be tortured to death. Caught between a rock and a hard place, the Soviet soldiers were often brutally mistreated by their own officers. They would then take out their rage on the civilian population, sometimes even wiping out entire villages.
The last two battalions of Russian spetsnaz crossed the “Friendship” Bridge into neighboring Uzbekistan on Feb. 15, 1989. At that moment, Lt. Gen. Boris Gromov, commander of Soviet forces in Afghanistan, told reporters, “There is not a single Soviet soldier or officer left behind me.” He was wrong.
In August 2015, on a high-speed train in France, three American friends, two of them off-duty members of the US military, thwarted a terrorist attack after a man armed with an assault rifle and other weapons tried to open fire in the train. Four people were injured, but there were no fatalities.
The three Americans instantly became heroes and wrote a book about their ordeal, which has now inspired a movie directed by Clint Eastwood.
This all sounds like standard protocol for an incredible act of bravery like this, but it gets more interesting: Eastwood cast the three real-life friends who stopped the attack to be the leads in the movie.
“The 15:17 to Paris,” which is also the title of the book about the attack, is Eastwood’s latest based-on-a-true story movie (American Sniper, Sully), and in telling this one he has Airman 1st Class Spencer Stone, Specialist Alek Skarlatos, and Anthony Sadler reenacting their heroics (Stone sustained injuries while taking down the gunman).
The trailer was released Dec. 13 and looks beyond the acts on that August day, showing how the friends got to that moment in their lives through flashbacks of their childhood and Stone and Skarlatos’ military service.
Watch the trailer below. It’s quite inspiring. Warner Bros. will release the movie on Feb. 9.
Opposition politician Aleksei Navalny has dismissed Russia’s presidential election in March as nothing more than the “reappointment” of Vladimir Putin.
Navalny has urged Russians to boycott the vote, arguing that it is rigged, and is now noting even the most inconspicuous signs of possible electioneering.
For example, the layout of the ballot papers.
The Central Election Commission announced the ballot on February 8, the same day it announced that eight candidates had been officially registered to run in the March 18 election.
Navalny posted an image of the ballot on his Twitter account that shows the eight candidates listed alphabetically, as the independent TV channel Dozhd and other media note.
Даже просто внешний вид бюллетеня и его верстка ещё одна причина не ходить на выборы. Это же просто стыд. Перевыборы Путина. Не участвуйте в этом. Бойкот. Забастовка избирателей. pic.twitter.com/ulwu2NBKLk
However, Putin’s slot appears to be smack dab in the center. Furthermore, his bio is by far the briefest of all the candidates, appearing to set him apart, optically at least, from all the others.
Even just the appearance of the ballot and its layout is one more reason not to go to the polls. It’s just a disgrace. Putin’s reelection. Do not participate in this. Boycott. Voters strike,” Navalny writes.
Ella Pamfilova, the chief of the election commission, shrugged off suggestions the ballot had been tinkered with to favor Putin.
“Everything was done exactly according to the law. He simply has a shorter title than the others. So, there’s nothing more to write,” Pamfilova said, according to TASS.
Russians and others have taken to social media to poke fun at the ballot.
Roman Fedoseev, an editor at the muckraking Russian news site Slon.ru, writes on Twitter: “Boy, where is Putin, I don’t see anything at all, it’s not very clear. Such a complicated ballot.”
Someone calling himself Genocide of the Eclairs notes on Twitter that “all the other candidates have full biographies and only Putin’s is so modest: the czar, simply the czar.”
It notes the ballot conforms with Russian law, with the candidates listed alphabetically, including biographical data, although Meduza points out that Putin’s bio is much briefer than the others.
Arguably Putin’s most serious challenger, Navalny, was barred from running due to a fraud conviction that he says was retribution for his political agitation and exposure of corruption in high places.
He has dismissed the vote as the “reappointment” of Putin, who has been president or prime minister since 1999.
With the Kremlin controlling the levers of political power nationwide after years of steps to suppress dissent and marginalize political opponents, it is virtually certain that the election will hand Putin a new six-year term.
Political commentators say Putin, 65, is eager for a high turnout to strengthen his mandate in what could be his last stint in the Kremlin, as he would be constitutionally barred from seeking a third straight term in 2024.
China recently made history as the first country besides the US to field stealth aircraft with its J-20 fighter, but reports from its regional rival, India, indicate that it may want to go back to the drawing board.
The Indian Defense Research Wing says its Russian-made Su-30MKI fighter jets can spot the supposedly-stealth J-20s, and has already observed them in flight.
India has been basing its Su-30MKIs in the northern part of the country to counter China’s deployments of J-20s, which struggle to take off in the high altitudes near Tibet, Zee News reported.
The Su-30MKI represents a new and effective Russian jet with an advanced array of radars that Justin Bronk, an air combat expert at the Royal United Services Institute told Business Insider could probably spot the J-20.
“It is entirely possible that the Su-30MKI can pick up track information on J-20 from quite long ranges,” Bronk said. “But what I would expect is that those tracks may be fairly intermittent and dependent on what headings the J-20 is flying on relative to the Sukhoi trying to detect it.”
Bronk explained that unlike the US’s F-22 and F-35 stealth jets, the J-20 doesn’t have all-aspect stealth. This means that from some angles, the J-20 isn’t stealthy. A senior stealth scientist previously told Business Insider the J-20 is stealthiest from the front end.
If China was flying the J-20s in any direction besides towards India, the Su-30MKI radars could have been spotting the jets from their more vulnerable sides.
“Also, it is possible that the Chinese are flying the J-20 with radar reflectors attached to enlarge and conceal its true radar cross section during peacetime operations — just as the USAF routinely does with the F-22 and F-35,” said Bronk.
For safety and training purposes, stealth aircraft often fly with markers that destroy their stealth during peacetime maneuvers.
If this is the case with the J-20s, then India may be in for an unpleasant surprise next time it tries to track the supposedly stealth jets.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Earlier this month the US Air Force told Reuters that America’s most expensive weapons system ever built is on track for “initial combat use” by September 2016.
Designed and manufactured at Lockheed Martin’s massive production facility in Fort Worth, Texas, the F-35 Lightning II can carry an impressive 18,000 pounds of lethal ammunition.
Lockheed Martin’s F-35 program includes three variant aircrafts (the F-35A, F-35B, and F-35C), each designed to meet the specific needs of America’s sister service branches and a number of foreign military buyers like the United Kingdom, Australia, Netherlands, Norway, Japan, South Korea, and Israel.
Lockheed Martin says that each F-35A jet, also referred to as the Conventional Takeoff and Landing (CTOL), costs $108 million (including engine) and is the most requested of the three aircrafts. Thus far, approximately 65 of the anticipated 1,763 F-35A jets have been delivered to the Department of Defense.
The F-35’s carry a similar arsenal except that the F-35A is the only variant to feature an internal cannon, which is located on the left side of the jet between the cockpit and wing.
Here’s an infographic of the weapons the jets are designed to carry:
While the week-long exercise also featured anti-submarine warfare and other naval operations, most of the news coverage was of the Marines hitting the island. (In their defense, getting good footage of submarine battles is kinda tough).
Sure, pundits wrung their hands about the ramifications of a China and Russia conducting joint operations. But the fear may have been a bit overblown. After all, China participates in a lot of naval exercises with the U.S. as well.
The location and the activities in the exercise are important, though. Portions of the hotly contested South China Sea are claimed by a few nations, including the Philippines, China, Malaysia, Brunei, and Taiwan. If China were to try to edge other countries off their claims by force, this is the exact exercise they would need to do to get ready.
And the Chinese marines do look good in the video below, working with landing craft, tanks, and air assets to quickly take and hold the island alongside their Russian counterparts in green. See more footage of them in the full video from War Leaks below:
Learning to live everywhere is a unique skill military families possess, yet when it comes to determining the infamous final move, infinite possibilities make going home quite complicated. Complicated just got a lot easier thanks to Navy Federal’s 2020 “Best Cities After Service” list.
Determining America’s top choices for veterans took into consideration feedback from over 1,000 military and civilians analyzing metrics such as crime, VA options, recreation, cost of living and job opportunities specific to veteran employment trends.
Clay Stackhouse, Regional Outreach Manager for Navy Federal explained, “The list was created after considering COVID’s impact on the job market and daily life. With remote work possibilities on the rise, the need to live in big cities simply for work is not there.” Great news for often-tight, post-service budgets.
Compared to the 2018 best cities list, which had a large heartland concentration, the biggest switch has been giving more weight to the location itself. It seems like as the globe slowed to a screeching halt this year, the world and military community alike took inventory of what makes life actually meaningful. So, move over economics, it’s time to take a hike—literally.
While work-life balance may have gone to the wayside when the mission came first, civilian life holds endless possibilities to truly dig into a place, experiencing and enjoying everything it has to offer.
Several southern coastal cities made the cut, offering charm at a much more affordable price point compared to San Diego, which came in at number six. If four seasons are more your style, consider living in Duluth, the “craft beer capital of Minnesota” or surrounding yourself with rivers and seafood staples in Norwich.
Small town America is making a comeback, evident in many of the top choices. Also on the rise are mid-sized cities like Fort Worth, bringing big city perks and strong business networking opportunities to the table without having to squeeze your family into a 5th-floor walk-up.
Stackhouse explains that no matter where you live, it is the Veteran community that makes a place truly great, not the other way around. All of the cities on this year’s list have strong Veteran communities ready to support incoming service members and their families. Ready to help them navigate this transition successfully.
“You never do anything in the military alone, no matter how small your unit is,” says Stackhouse. Choosing any one of the cities on this list is stepping forward into a community vetted by the best of your own.
Lt. Col. Allison Black, commander of the 319th Special Operations Squadron, became the first woman in her special ops navigator field. Now younger generations of airmen can take the same path while embarking on their own journey in the Air Force. (U.S. Air Force video // Jimmy D. Shea)
Under the cover of night, then-1st Lt. Allison Black left her tent in Uzbekistan to walk to a preflight brief. Hours later, she’d be making history.
On this November night in 2001, the United States was hoping to bring to justice those responsible for the attacks two months earlier in New York City and Pennsylvania, and at the Pentagon.
Flying over the skies of Afghanistan, Black, who is now a lieutenant colonel and the commander of the 319th Special Operations Squadron at Hurlburt Field, Florida, was the navigator on the AC-130H Spectre. As the navigator, she was charged with several duties, one of which was to be the single voice communicating from the aircraft to troops on the ground.
As the gunship fired everything it had upon the Taliban, expending 400 40 mm rounds and 100 105 mm rounds, the Northern Alliance leader, Gen. Abdurrashid Dostum (often referred in the media and around camp fires as “Dostum the Taliban killer”) heard Black’s voice communicating to the joint terminal attack controller on the ground to better understand where rounds need to be fired.
“He heard my voice and asked the special ops guys ‘Is that a woman?’ and they said ‘Yeah, it is,'” Black recalled. “He couldn’t believe it. So he’s laughing and says, ‘America is so determined, they’ve brought their women to kill Taliban.’ He calls the guys we’re shooting and says ‘You guys need to surrender now. American women are killing you … you need to surrender now.'”
The morning after that first mission, those remaining Taliban members surrendered.
“My first combat mission began the collapse of Taliban in the north,” said Black, who became the first female to be awarded the Air Force Combat Action Medal.
This operation would have looked different in 1992.
When Black joined the Air Force in 1992, females weren’t allowed to fly combat missions. That didn’t change until 1993, as the Air Force opened all but less than 1 percent of career fields to women, with the remainder scheduled to open up by early 2016.
At just over 5 feet tall, the Long Island, New York, native seeks and embraces challenges and doesn’t play for second place — a mindset that led her to the Air Force.
“The Air Force seemed to be the hardest service to get into. That got my attention,” Black said. Arriving at basic military training as an enlisted Airman, she was guaranteed a job in the medical career field. But her plans changed when a survival, evasion, resistance and escape specialist briefed Black’s flight on his career field and challenged the group of trainees to join SERE.
“I didn’t know how to chop down a tree, didn’t know how to kill a rabbit, didn’t know how to set a snare, but I was willing,” Black said. “It sounded challenging.”
After more than four years as a SERE instructor, including time as an arctic survival instructor, Black wanted another challenge.
Upon finishing her degree, Black earned a commission as a second lieutenant and headed off to become a navigator — a career field available on several airframes, including bombers and fighters.
There was just one airframe Black wanted: the gunship — specifically, the AC-130H gunship — so she could be on the main flight deck with the pilot, right in the thick of things.
But becoming an Airman, a SERE specialist, an officer and a navigator wasn’t enough — she wanted to join the elite Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC).
“It was exciting. It’s special operations command. You’re in a small force, asked to do tough missions — missions that operate in the gray,” Black said.
Black didn’t realize it at the time, but when she arrived at the 16th Special Operations Squadron, then stationed at Hurlburt Field, she became the first female navigator in that unit and on the AC-130H.
“The thought of being the first was the furthest thing on my mind,” she said. “At that time, I was so focused on being really good at my job and not letting any naysayers get in my way.”
Not only was the milestone the furthest thing from her mind, but it was also something she didn’t want to be on anyone else’s mind either.
“I wasn’t trying to change anyone’s opinion on whether I should or shouldn’t be in a job,” Black said. “I wanted to be an asset. I wanted to be sought after. I wanted to be really good at what I did. I didn’t want to come in second; I wanted to be first.”
Each person defines success differently.
Black doesn’t define success by the medals on her chest or the oak sleeves on her shoulders.
“By not trying to make a statement, I think I found success. I didn’t have an agenda. I didn’t join the Air Force, I didn’t join SERE, and I didn’t join AFSOC to prove that women can do a job,” Black said. “I joined all those things because of the challenge and the career field and the sexy mission. And I just happen to be a woman doing it. And, fortunately, because of my successes, it brought more visibility to ‘Hey, it doesn’t matter if it’s a guy or a girl.'”
Paying it forward
“It wasn’t until years later … when I’d have young female or male Airmen tell me that my story was inspiring, that hearing what I was able to do in AFSOC gave them the confidence to raise their hands and go forward. It was humbling,” Black said.
Black remembers vividly a point in her career where it was clear that she needed to pay it forward.
After a speech to members from base, a female senior airman approached her and referenced the part of the presentation when Black said it has been possible to mother children while also being an Airman. The senior airman was about to get out of the Air Force because she didn’t have anyone telling her the same thing.
“She’s a senior master sergeant now, and we still keep in contact,” Black said.
Seeing these tangible results from telling her story, Black began to reach out even more.
“It’s second and third order effect that just at the virtue of me doing my job, it highlighted that women can succeed. It highlighted the opportunity for women: ‘Hey you’re going to be accepted. They’re going to respect what you bring to the fight,'” Black said.
When she arrived at AFSOC, she didn’t have a cadre of female navigators to offer her mentorship. What she did have were those she refers to as her everything: her husband, Ryan, who was also a SERE instructor, and a supply of male mentors who were all willing to help a teammate grow, regardless of which bathroom stall they use.
“All of the gentlemen I’ve worked for have equipped me with the skills to be a good leader. They gave me that opportunity to shine and to step up,” she said. “You’re judged on game day. You can practice every day of the week, but it’s what you do on Sunday that counts. And I don’t believe in ‘Everyone gets a trophy.”
A new generation
When Black joined the Air Force in 1992, her options looked a lot different than they do for female Airmen today. However, because of her success and the success of many others like her, there are more options in the Air Force for females than in any other service.
This success gave people like 1st Lt. Margaret Courtney many options and paths to walk — or even fly.
Just over two years ago, Courtney had the world on a string, with options in droves. The Baylor University graduate, who majored in neuroscience, managed to pass the Law School Admission Test while working at a mental health institution helping to rehabilitate individuals with drug dependencies. Her potential career paths were in no way limited.
But she wanted more. She wanted a bigger challenge even than graduating with a neuroscience degree and going to law school.
After talking to recruiters from three different branches of the military, and after pinging several friends and family members, Courtney noticed a trend.
“It’s funny — everyone who wasn’t in the Air Force recommended the Air Force,” Courtney said.
After commissioning as an officer and going through training to become a navigator, Courtney faced a decision — what airframe did she want to work on for the remainder of her Air Force career?
“I remember going through (navigator) training, and there are several airframes that require (combat systems officers). You’re going through those aircraft and imagining your life three to 10 years down the road,” Courtney said. “How different would my life look if I joined this community or that community?”
The number of opportunities the Air Force has given Courtney caught her off guard.
“It’s not too bad to be in your young 20’s and have basically limitless possibilities laid out in front of you. I’m like ‘Goodness gracious, let me look into it all,'” Courtney said. “I feel like I’m hitting this whole job and career at the sweet spot. I’ve had plenty of people ahead of me pave the way.”
Knowing what’s ahead for Courtney, Black is excited, and almost proud of the options female Airmen now have.
“It’s exciting — hearing about Lieutenant Courtney,” Black said. “I can’t help but to reflect on when I was a lieutenant and how excited I was to come to the mission, then, after 9/11, to go and fight. I’m excited for her, because I know she’s going to find the reward.”
Black doesn’t just see the past and the present, but the future keeps her motivation high, knowing the possibilities now out there for females in the Air Force.
“The success is that we don’t hear about it because they’re blended in,” said Black said of current female aircrew members. “They’re just people doing great things – male and female. That’s success.”
When Black arrived at Hurlburt in 2000, she was wide-eyed and ready to take on the world. She saw a fork in the road and committed to a direction, not knowing the path. Now that she’s traveled that path, she feels she has a responsibility to people like Courtney and other female Airmen.
“She doesn’t know what she doesn’t know,” said Black of Courtney, who’s even more wide-eyed than the prior-enlisted Black was at this stage in her AFSOC career. “That’s where people like me come in. Lt. Col. Megan Ripple is the director of (operations) at the 4th Special Operations Squadron. We arrived here at Hurlburt together. We are taking the initiative to reach out to these women to prepare them for deployment, to teach them all the things we didn’t know.”
Considering Courtney’s only job up until this point has been to learn and receive training, she’s growing more and more excited to fly this new path.
“I’m still trying to figure out how everything works,” said Courtney, who was recently assigned to the 4th SOS. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I can’t wait to actually partake in it, and do what I’ve been training for. They want you to learn, they want you to train; they want to set you up for success. No one really cares where you’ve come from, what your rank is. They care about how much work you put into your job every day. If you’re competent and put forth the work, you get rewarded.”
Though there are some years between Black and Courtney, they noted a common mentality present when they joined the AFSOC community.
“I haven’t noticed if anyone cares about me being a girl or not,” Courtney said. “They care about how good you are at what you do, and if you care or not, and if you take pride in your work.”
Letting your work speak for itself is a welcome reality for Courtney.
“It’s definitely a relief that you’re judged based on the quality of your work, and nothing else,” Courtney said, pointing out that the impact of the mission is way too important to care about the irrelevant. “AFSOC is pretty open about it. The game we play is life or death.”