The Pentagon is refusing to confirm whether a disturbing video released by the Islamic State actually shows the Oct. 4, 2018 ambush in Niger that killed four soldiers, and a DoD spokesman warned reporters that they would be helping ISIS if they even reported on its very existence. A quick sampling of media that have reported on it: The New York Times, Fox News, and the BBC.
According to the Pentagon, you aid ISIS by even watching the shocking video, which appears to show how the soldiers were unable to get out of a killzone, first using a vehicle for cover and then running in the open, where one of them was felled by enemy fire.
“ISIS is suffering significant losses in both personnel and territory and they are using this type of propaganda as a desperate recruiting tool,” Col. Rob Manning told reporters March 5, 2018. “We ask the media and the public and all responsible entities not to aid these terrorists in recruiting efforts by viewing or bringing to attention these images, these videos. You are complicit in amplifying ISIS propaganda video if you do that.”
The fallen soldiers were reportedly part of a 12-member Army Special Forces unit that was accompanying about 30 Nigerian troops when they were ambushed by up to 50 militants. An investigation into the attack is ongoing.
The video includes footage from the soldiers’ helmet cameras that was later captured by the Islamic State. It shows one of the soldiers being dragged toward cover and another falling to the ground after being hit; he is later shot again. It is unclear whether any media outlets paid ISIS to obtain the video.
Because the Defense Department did not create the video, defense officials are unable to determine if it is authentic or if it has been digitally manipulated, said Manning, who has not seen the video.
When asked why the Pentagon cannot authenticate this particular video, Manning did not answer directly.
“No. 1, this is terribly difficult on the families — the images alone,” Manning said. “No. 2, this is an ISIS-produced and developed propaganda video. I cannot confirm or verify — the department can’t verify — at this current time any portion of it.”
Marine Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, head of U.S. Africa Command, has completed an investigation into the ambush, which is now being reviewed by Defense Secretary James Mattis, Manning said.
AFRICOM announced on Jan. 24, 2018 that it was also investigating the video after it was posted on Twitter by a user named Mohammed Mahmoud Abu Maali, Military Times reported. The tweet with the video was later deleted.
The Twitter user claimed that some of the pictures had been taken by one of the soldiers caught in the ambush and ISIS captured the images after the soldier was killed, according to Military Times.
Four U.S. soldiers died in the attack: Staff Sgt. Bryan C. Black, Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson, Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright, and Sgt. La David T. Johnson.
Johnson’s body was recovered two days after the ambush. Although local villagers initially told media outlets that it looked as though Johnson had been captured and then executed by ISIS, a military investigation ultimately found that he died in a firefight, the Associated Press reported.
News of the deaths of American soldiers in Niger sparked a brief public debate about why U.S. troops are in the African country. Although a small number of U.S forces have been in Niger for years, most Americans had no idea that the U.S. military is operating there, or why.
One reason why the general public was caught off guard is the U.S. government has not made clear that U.S. mission in Niger and other African countries involves combat operations, said Bill Roggio, a senior fellow with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies think tank in Washington.
“There’s a fine line between advisory missions and actual combat missions, and in this case, special operations forces accompanied a patrol of Nigerian forces in what should be considered a combat zone,” Roggio told Task Purpose in January 2018. “When this happens, you’re liable to get into combat.”
For example, U.S. special operations forces in Somalia are increasingly being caught up in combat while their official mission is to advise and assist local forces, he said.
Since President Trump took office, the U.S. military has also launched airstrikes against al Shabaab in Somalia and ISIS in Libya. It’s time for the U.S. government to be explicit that the military has a combat role in Africa, Roggio said.
“That would answer a lot of questions,” he said. “Then people wouldn’t be wondering why did we lose four U.S. soldiers in Niger in an ambush? They were lost because they were in an advisory role that brought them into combat. If you are clear about that at the outset, then you don’t have to ask those questions.”
U.S. forces have continued air and artillery strikes in Syria against Islamic State targets and will conduct them indefinitely despite President Donald Trump’s announcement Dec. 19, 2018, that U.S. troops would withdraw from the country, the U.S. military regional command said Jan. 4, 2019.
In a release, Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR) said that U.S. and coalition forces conducted 469 strikes with either air or artillery in Syria between Dec.16 and Dec. 29, 2018, against a range of ISIS targets and in support of the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in northeastern Syria.
The strikes were carried out using a variety of platforms, including fighters, attack aircraft, bombers, rotary-wing and remotely piloted aircraft, rocket-propelled artillery and ground-based tactical artillery, the task force said.
There is no immediate cutoff date for the air and artillery strikes, CJTF-OIR said.
U.S. forces “will continue to target ISIS” and “will remain committed to the enduring defeat of ISIS to improve conditions for peace and stability in the region,” the release stated.
In addition to the U.S. and coalition strikes, Iraqi fighter aircraft have also attacked ISIS targets inside Syria in recent days.
Iraq’s Joint Operations Command in Baghdad said Dec. 31, 2018, that Iraqi F-16s hit a house near the Iraqi border that was being used for meetings by ISIS leaders. The attack Dec. 31, 2018, came a day after Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said he had no objections to Iraqi cross-border strikes that were limited to the remnants of ISIS in eastern Syria.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Commanders of the SDF, which has driven ISIS out of most of eastern Syria, initially charged that Trump’s withdrawal announcement amounted to a betrayal that would leave them prey to threatened attack by Turkey, but SDF fighters have continued to press the offensive against ISIS near the Iraqi border, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group.
Turkey considers the Kurdish YPG (People’s Protection Units), the main fighting force within the SDF, to be linked to the PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party), which has been labeled a terrorist group by the U.S., Turkey and the European Union.
In another sign that the U.S. is continuing to support the SDF, the Observatory said Jan. 4, 2019, that U.S. troops were conducting patrols in the flashpoint town of Manbij in northeastern Syria near the Turkish border. Turkey has demanded that elements of the SDF in Manbij leave the town and withdraw east of the Euphrates River.
Since his withdrawal announcement, which prompted the resignation of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Trump has repeatedly backed up his intention to bring home U.S. troops from Syria, but said the withdrawal would be “slow and coordinated.”
Former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.
(DOD photo by Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)
At a White House Cabinet meeting Jan 2, 2019, Trump said, “We’ve had a tremendous success in Syria and “we’re slowly bringing people back.”
He added, “We are doing something that, frankly, if I would have told you two years [ago], when we first came into office, that we would have had that kind of success, nobody would have believed it.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Christopher G. Baradat would have just as well had the Air Force mail him his medal.
It’s been more than four years since the Afghanistan battle in which the former Air Force staff sergeant was credited with saving the lives of more than 150 allies, both American and Afghan. And three years since Baradat, who served with the 21st Special Tactics Squadron at Fort Bragg, received the Silver Star for those heroics.
And to this day, the former airman believes he was only doing his job when he braved enemy fire to communicate with vital air support amid a frantic battle with insurgents in the Sono Valley, a treacherous area known as a sanctuary for insurgents in Afghanistan’s Kunar province.
“I don’t feel that I was doing anything above and beyond and heroic,” Baradat said shortly before being honored yet again in a historic ceremony in Florida. “I was doing the job that I was supposed to do.”
On April 20, Baradat and retired Master Sgt. Keary Miller, a former pararescueman, were each presented with the Air Force Cross in a ceremony at Hurlburt Field, home of Air Force Special Operations Command.
It was the first time in history the Air Force had awarded two Air Force Cross medals — the highest honor for valor an airman can receive outside the Medal of Honor.
Baradat and Miller previously received Silver Stars for their respective heroics. But after a Department of Defense-wide review of valor awards from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, they were among eight airmen who were selected to receive an upgraded medal.
The ceremony to honor them was hosted by the 24th Special Operations Wing and began with a flyover from the Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron, the Thunderbirds; included remarks from the highest-ranking Air Force officer, Gen. David L. Goldfein; and ended with memorial pushups for special operations airmen who have died in battle.
Baradat’s heroics are related to a battle in which he directed 13 500-pound bombs and more than 1,100 rounds of ammunition during three hours of intense fighting amid a mission to rescue allies trapped in a valley under Taliban control.
Miller, who served with the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, is credited with dashing through deep snow and heavy fire multiple times to care for critically wounded U.S. troops during a 17-hour battle against al-Qaida fighters in Afghanistan on March 4, 2002.
Baradat, who left the Air Force last year and now lives in California, said he was not seeking medals during the fight on April 6, 2013.
“I was just concentrating on doing my job,” he said. “It was a very busy, hectic situation.”
According to accounts of the battle, Baradat put his life on the line even as members of the Special Forces team and Afghan commandos he was attached to shouted for him to take cover.
The former combat controller, who provided an important link between ground forces and overhead aircraft, stood in an open Afghan courtyard as bullets hit the ground around him and zeroed in on the roughly 100 enemy fighters bearing down on his teammates with sniper fire, machine gun fire, and rocket-propelled grenades.
Baradat orchestrated supporting fire from AC-130 and A-10 aircraft, synchronizing the attacks and coordinating flight paths overhead amid heavy enemy fire on the ground.
“It was very steep, rocky terrain,” he said. “There was some difficulty in identifying where stuff was happening.”
Baradat said his Special Tactics training prepared him for the battle. But at the same time, he credited the soldiers from the Fort Bragg-based 3rd Special Forces Group whom he fought alongside.
“I was just one piece of the puzzle,” he said. “I’m proud of how my team worked together that day and that I was able to do my job the way that I was trained to.”
Baradat and Miller are the eighth and ninth airmen to receive the Air Force Cross since Sept. 11, 2001.
All nine airmen have been part of the Special Tactics community. And five have come from the 21st Special Tactics Squadron, which is the most decorated Air Force squadron in modern history.
On April 20, Baradat said he wished his old unit well.
“I hope that those guys are doing great,” he said. “I hope they all stay safe as they continue to do the work and continue the legacy of Air Force Special Tactics.”
Baradat spent roughly eight years in the Air Force, deploying three times to Afghanistan and once as part of a crisis response force in the Middle East.
In April 2013 he was part of a quick reaction force called to rescue 66 Afghan allies pinned down by fighters in the Sono Valley.
According to an account of the battle, Baradat and eight Special Forces soldiers went ahead of their convoy of armed vehicles, which were slowed by narrow and restrictive terrain.
About half a mile from the allies they were sent to rescue, the troops came under attack and sprinted the length of several football fields to reach safety in a small mud compound.
There, Baradat began to communicate with overhead aircraft to try to repel the attack.
Then, as they moved closer to their trapped allies and the intensity of the enemy fire increased, Baradat left his concealed position to better coordinate a counterattack.
Ignoring the warnings of his teammates, and with the help of six A-10s and two AC-130s, he cleared the way for members of the team to reach their allies and leave the valley, continuing to direct a counterattack as the convoy left.
Baradat is credited with destroying 50 enemies and 13 enemy fighting positions.
Speaking on April 20, Goldfein said Baradat and Miller represent “the finest traits America can ask of its warriors.”
“When lives are on the line, you move carefully and deliberately into harm’s way with the protection of others on the mind,” he said. “You do what others cannot or will not do. And you do it because it must be done. And because there is no one better.”
On Saturday, December 12, the 121st Army-Navy football game will be played. The pandemic has thrown a monkey wrench in all of our lives and it’s no different for this rivalry. This will be the first time since 1943 that the game is held at West Point. While the football may not be the best, the trash talk of the week is top-notch. Soldiers, sailors and Marines united for their country and divided for one football game. Check out these top Army-Navy game tweets. We don’t know who will win on the field but there appears to be a winner in pregame shenanigans.
1. Duffel Bag Drag
Have to give it to Navy, the uniform is like a duffel bag with a number.
2. Nice Decor
They could pass for either bathroom decor or counter tops.
3. Top Tier?
I believe the Navy folks would say the same thing about Army.
4. You Had One Job
An epic failure that will never be forgotten.
The long-term health effects are real.
6. A Higher Power
I wonder if the church was on a Navy base.
That seems appropriate in 2020 with Navy’s losing record.
Looks like a tough final exam.
I see how it can get mixed up.
10. Power Move
A big time play to get two carriers lined up for this photo.
This must pain them dearly.
12. Big Baby
At least baby elephants are cute.
13. Look Closely
Have to give a round of applause on getting to the Superintendent’s house.
I’m hopeful for a high scoring game with a lot of touchdowns.
15. Tropic Lightning
It’s a taro leaf for the 25th Infantry Division in Hawaii.
16. Top Gun
I heard a rumor that Pete Mitchell will be promoted in the new Top Gun movie.
17. Who Cares?
Something a lot of non-veterans don’t understand.
18. What Game?
Whether you are diehard Go Navy, Beat Army or forever Go Army, Beat Navy, it’s going to be a great weekend.
Everyone has heard the phrase “cash is king” but that’s not always the case when troops are deployed overseas.
When service members deploy to remote areas, they enter a barter economy where cash loses value since there is nearly nowhere to spend it. But a shortage of consumer goods drives up the value of many commodities.
Some troops — call them blue falcons or businessmen — will stockpile these commodities for a profit.
Among vets, even non-smokers stockpile cigarettes. They’re easy to trade, hold their value for weeks, and are always in demand. Plus, sellers can reap great profits after patrols. A smoker who lost their cigarettes in a river is not going to haggle the price down if they won’t reach a store for days.
Similar to cigarettes, the addictive nature of dip means it’s always in demand. Dip is slightly harder than cigarettes to trade since users can’t easily break a can into smaller units. But, since troops can’t always smoke on patrol and smoking in government buildings is prohibited, dipping is sometimes the better method of nicotine consumption.
3. Energy drinks (especially “rare” ones)
Part of the reason tobacco is so popular is that it’s a stimulant, something that is desperately needed on deployments. Energy drinks are the other main stimulant that is widely traded. They have different value tiers though.
Drinks the military provides, like Rip-Its, are worth less since they’re easy to get. Monsters are generally available for purchase on large bases. So, they’re are easy to trade but still command high value. Foreign-made drinks, which pack a great kick, can sometimes be found in the local economy and demand the greatest price.
4. Beef jerky
High in protein and salt, jerky is great for marches and patrols. It’s easy to carry and shelf-stable. Troops can trade individual pieces if they want to buy something cheap or use whole bags for large purchases.
5. “Surplus” gear
Every time a unit does inventory, someone is missing something. But, service members with lots of extra cigarettes can always buy someone’s “surplus” gear to replace what they’re missing. Prices vary, of course. Missing earplugs are cheap, but eye protection is expensive.
The only things that can’t be purchased are those tracked by serial number. Replacing something with a serial number requires help from the E-4 mafia.
6. Hard drives (the contents)
Nearly everyone deployed has a computer drive with TV episodes and movies from back home. Old movies are traded for free, but getting new stuff requires the rare dependable internet connection or a care package with DVDs. Those who have digital gold will share new shows in exchange for other items or favors.
7. Electrical outlets
Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Johann H. Addicks
These work on a subscription basis. In many tents, there are only a few outlets hooked up to the generator. So, entrepreneurs snatch up real estate with an outlet, buy a power strip, and sell electrical access. The proliferation of portable solar panels is cutting down on this practice.
8. Lighters and matches
Matches are distributed in some MREs, but not as much as they used to be. Lighters are available for purchase at most bases. Still, service members at far-flung outposts are sometimes hurting for ways to light their tobacco. Smart shoppers save up their matches and buy up Bics while near base exchanges, then sell them in outlying areas.
9. Girl Scout cookies
Girl Scout cookies come in waves. Every few weeks, boxes will show up in every office on a forward operating base. Resupply convoys will grab dozens to take out to their troops in the field. But, as the days tick by, inventories will wane. This is especially true of top types like Caramel deLites and Thin Mints.
The trick is to store the boxes after the delivery comes in, and then trade them for needed items when everyone else has run dry. A box of Tagalongs can wrangle a trader two cans of dip if they time it right.
The best backyardgames, the ones that earn a coveted spot in your warm weather rotation, are casual activities that work as well for crowds as they do for one-on-one matchups. While we won’t ever turn down a game of cornhole, kanjam, ladder toss, and horseshoes, the best backyard games and lawn games come from Scandinavia. Why? Simple. Because of their soul-witheringly long winters, Scandinavians know how to celebrate summer. That celebration often includes participation in simple, fun games that lend themselves to hours of time on that oh-so-important sunlight. The games on this list exist are those that require you to throw one thing at a set of other things. They’re easy to pick up but still require skill and, when the time is right, lend themselves to serious competition. Think cornhole gets competitive? Try a game of Kubb or Mölkky and get back to us. Here are a few games to consider adding to your backyard this summer.
Yard Games Kubb
The Swedish game Kubb dates back more than 1,000 years, when Vikings first conceived of the game as a pastime during those, long light-filled summer nights when they were finished sinking Skeggøx into the chests of their enemies. Legend has it, they’d lob the skulls and limbs of their slain foes across a decreed playing area; eventually, over centuries, it evolved into a more civilized game. In recent years, its exploded in popularity. Modern Kubb sets are, thankfully, made of carved wood instead of cadavers. Each contains 10 wooden blocks, called kubbs, as well as a foot-tall king (marked by a set of points to designate a crown) six tall blocks, and six skittles, the latter of which are used to demarcate a playing field. Once the field is set up properly, the object of the game is to lob kubbs in an attempt to knock down an opponent’s pins and, finally, their king. Accidentally knock down the king before the other pins results in an automatic loss. Simple, but good for hours of warm weather entertainment.
More or less a mash-up of cornhole and bowling, Mölkky is a Finnish lawn game similar to Kubb. Twelve slim, numbered pins called “skittles” are set up on the grass. Teams take turns throwing a wooden block, or karttus, at said pins in an attempt to knock them down. The team who is first to knock down 50 points worth of pins wins. As is the case with games that have been around for a very long time, the rules vary and some are more complicated than others. Regardless of which you follow, the outcome is the same: fun.
A board game that can be played anywhere but is best befitting of the backyard, Sjoelbak is the Dutch version of shuffleboard. It consists of a 16-inch wide, 79-inch long wooden board and 30 wooden pucks. Each side of the board has four wooden channels; players take turns sliding pucks, trying to get them in appropriate lanes. After three rounds, the pucks are totaled (scoring is a bit confusing, but the rules are explained here) and the winner is decided. Again, it’s quite simple. But set up the board on a back table and don’t be surprised if it’s played long into the evening.
“The language was much tougher today,” a source told Reuters. “His harshest words were directed at Germany, including by calling her Angela — ‘You, Angela.'”
Trump emerged from the session to make an unscheduled statement where he said that he had communicated to other NATO countries he would be “extremely unhappy” if they didn’t quickly up their spending but that they had agreed to do so.
“We had a very intense summit,” Merkel told reporters after the session, per Reuters.
The 2018 NATO Brussels Summit.
Trump’s NATO grudge
Trump and other US presidents before him have pressed European leaders to spend more on defense to contribute to NATO, but Trump has consistently advocated an accelerated timeline.
NATO countries agreed to each spend 2% of their gross domestic product on defense by 2024, but so far only a handful meet that mark. Germany, Europe’s richest country, spends 1.24% of its GDP on defense, and it’s an unpopular topic there.
Not only did Trump demand on Twitter on July 12, 2018, that countries meet the 2% level by this year, not 2024, but he also said they should eventually hit 4%, which is more than even the US currently spends. Spending 4% of GDP on defense would represent nearly wartime levels of investment.
Trump has repeatedly slammed Merkel for supporting a new pipeline that would cement Berlin’s client relationship with Russia and increase Moscow’s influence. Energy exports represent Russia’s main source of revenue, and Trump argues that the pipeline undermines NATO’s purpose, as it’s designed to counter Russian aggression.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
This is the first in a series about how branches of the military hate on each other. We’ll feature all branches of the U.S. military, written by veterans of that branch being brutally honest with themselves and their services.
The branches of the U.S. Military are like a very large family. They deal with one another because they have to, not because they always get along.
The differences don’t stop at uniforms. Each branch has its own goals, mission, and its own internal culture. At the upper levels of the services, they compete for funds and favor from civilians in DoD. In the lower ranks, they compete for fun and favor from civilians in bars and strip clubs (especially in North Carolina). The branches are like siblings, competing for the intangible title of who’s “the best” from no one in particular.
“The Soviets are our adversary. Our enemy is the Navy.” – Gen. Curtis LeMay, U.S. Air Force
Of course, when it comes to joint operations downrange, a lot of that goes out the window. But when the op-tempo isn’t as hectic and frustration has time to build, the awesome Army platoon who saved your ass last month become a bunch of damn stupid grunts who steal everything you don’t lock down and leave their Gatorade piss bottles everywhere. Parsing out the best and worst of our services isn’t hard if we’re honest with ourselves.
Here’s how the other branches hate on the Air Force, how they should actually be hating on the Air Force, how the Air Force hates on the Air Force, and why to really love the Air Force.
The easiest ways make fun of the Air Force
The quickest way is to talk about how nerdy or weak airmen are. Until a few years back, Air Force basic training was only six and half weeks long. Airmen will always emphasize the six and a half. During that same time, once in the active Air Force, the physical fitness test was taken on a stationary bike which resulted in so many invalid scores, the Air Force had to replace it.
This is also why the Air Force keeps getting the blame for the Stress Card myth, despite having nothing to do with what really happened at all. By 2010, most airmen’s responses to the waist tape portion of the new PT test was to “hope Air Force leaders would ditch the tape test altogether” because 1/5 of the Air Force couldn’t pass the new test. Still, the main form of exercise for airmen is probably playing basketball at the base gym.
Many, many Air Force career fields are office jobs, hence the name “Chair Force.” Many, many more aren’t office jobs, which rubs aircraft maintainers and other flightline personnel the wrong way for some reason. Airmen will hate on each other for this, with those who work in shifts on the flightline calling those who don’t by the derogatory term nonners, or Non-Sortie Producing Motherf–kers (a sortie is an air mission with one take off and one landing). Nonners hate that and no one cares. One more thing to argue about.
The new Airman Battle Uniform (ABU) was the Air Force answer to the Marines’ MARPAT uniforms and the Army’s ACUs, without the effectiveness, purpose, or realistic uses of either. Washing ABUs with brightening detergent actually makes the uniform MORE VISIBLE, especially to night vision equipment. All the other branches ever see is green boots and the regular morale shirt Friday mantra of “Are airmen allowed to wear red shirts?”
The Air Force is also the youngest branch, formed after WWII, and with the most opposition possible. Politicians and the other branches were so dead set against an Air Force, one general was court-martialed for being a pest about it and airmen have been whiny and annoying ever since, which pretty much proved everyone right. Every other branch says the Air Force has no history and no one argues with them, because airmen don’t care to. They remember William Pitsenbarger, John Levitow, maybe Robin Olds, and WWII when WAPS testing time comes around.
Also, Air Force Band members start at E-6 and their music videos cost more than a Marine Corps barracks.
Why to actually hate the Air Force
The U.S. Air Force as an organization is a lot of things: expensive, cynical, and sociopathic. It’s more like a uniformed, evil corporation at times. The biggest concern of the Air Force is the most expensive weapons system ever conceived by man, which doesn’t work, and if it did, would only help the Air Force get more money to maintain it while it could be spending that money replacing nuclear missile launch computers made in the 1960s. Our jet costs so much, the Marines can’t get up-armored Humvees but the beds in Air Force billeting are too soft for the USAF brass to lose sleep over it. The Air Force doesn’t even know how much its new long range bomber will cost, but it promised to let us know soon.
Airmen can be the most condescending a–holes this side of the wild blue yonder. They will turn on each other faster than a hungry bear. If you don’t believe me, go read a forum thread where airmen are talking about Spencer Stone’s STEP promotion.
Though USAF basic training is much more difficult now and the Air Force acquired a real fitness test, it’s still not as difficult as training to join the Coast Guard but Airmen will make fun of the Coast Guard anyway. They will still talk sh-t and when you throw the Chair Force thing in their face, they immediately throw Air Force pararescue jumpers back at you, even though most of them have never even seen a PJ. Also, the Air Force has a lot of fighter pilots, but everyone talks sh-t about them behind their backs, even airmen who’ve never met any pilot ever, which is 100 percent possible.
The Air Force has a lot of jobs which require higher ASVAB scores and a baseline education. They will never let you forget that even though a lot of airmen are as dumb and as smart as any soldier or sailor. This is why its ICBM teams are cheating on their proficiency tests and no one noticed until they started texting each other answers.
The only regulation most Air Force people know by heart is AFI 36-2903, the dress and appearance regulation. When anyone in the Air Force wants to appear as if they have things memorized, they will “quote” from this Air Force Instruction, because they all like to pretend they know it by heart, but its the only numbered AFI most of them know, whether they’re 100 percent sure what the standard actually says or not.
Airmen generally deploy the least of any branch. At the height of the Global War on Terror in 2009, the Air Force Specialty Code (AFSC — Air Force job function) with the longest average enlisted deployment was Explosives Ordnance Disposal (EOD) at 119 days, just over 3 months. The longest officer deployment (for electronic warfare specialists) was 214 days, or 7 months, or par with the Marine Corps, but shorter than the Army. Yet, Airmen deploying to al-Udeid would complain just as much as Airmen going to Bagram.
From around the Air Force:
“Merry Christmas to all those who didn’t get axed in 2014… last year’s force shaping message initially advertising massive cuts scheduled for 2014 was made public on Christmas Eve.”
“Most of you joined the USAF because it was more laid back, had better facilities and treated people better than the USA or the USMC. Admit it. You didn’t become an Air Force pilot because the other services wouldn’t take you.”
“I absolutely hate it every time I see a MSgt lecturing a junior enlisted about how “hard” the civilian world is.. this coming from a loser lifer who joined right out of high school and decided to spend the next 20 years of his life kissing ass and dedicating his life to the Air Force (and losing a few marriages along the way usually) Dude has no idea what the civilian world is even like and clung to the one way he knew for dear life and never let go.”
“I knew I was getting out the instant I joined.”
“A friend of mine was overworked in an mxs unit after 9/11 turning jets on an insane, unhealthy schedule. He wanted to get out because he didn’t want to be a jet mechanic all his life. But he didn’t want to let his shop down. Thing is, is after he ended up leaving, they replaced him. Just like he replaced someone before him. The AF doesn’t care. They will recall you after you separate if they need you. They will RIF you if they don’t. They will reclass you if they want. The AF takes care of the AF #1.”
“My CDCs do not make me a better technician”
“Two sacred USAF rules: 1) You do not embarrass your chain of command 2) You do not ‘give a sh*t’ when it’s not your day to ‘give a sh*t’, especially about stuff way above your pay-grade… When junior officers insist on running head-first into well-marked closed doors, they will be made to disappear.”
“From a recent Commander’s Call, what many NCO’s took away from that mass discussion is learn to back stab a fellow airman to get on top.”
“Don’t rush to finish your degree either associated, bachelor, master, once you become a MSgt and above you need to have a Doctorate.”
“Take care of your people but remember when they get promoted they are going to be competing against you.”
“Make sure that you get a lot of LOA, coins and documentation for everything you do to prove that you’re a 5 or 4. Don’t just let your supervisor write your EPR, QC his/her work before they route it up the chain.”
“Having left the military with two of these [CCAF] “degrees” I can say that literally no one outside of the USAF gives two squirrel poops about it. I happened to get both in the course of completing my bachelors, so I’m not even sure what the “degree” is even for. I never went to anything other than tech school and ALS, yet somehow this counts as an associate’s degree?”
“The USAF isn’t the Third Reich, but sometimes you really just want to shout Uber Alles to these crotchedy two-faced generals.”
“Would we as individuals have been cut the same amount of slack if we spent SIX years trying to figure out force shaping initiatives? How about the idiocy with uniforms? Reflective belts? What about one of the most expensive airframes ever being grounded for five months?”
“Calling the AF corporate is a HUGE part of the problem. We don’t even call them Airmen anymore. Our newest “development” tool refers to us as “employees”. (Ref the AF Portal).”
“I’ve seen how they decide who promotes, who gets BTZ, who gets retained. I’ve seen how people climb that ladder to Chief. I’m glad I’m not a part of it any more.”
“With the help of our squadron intel officer, I presented a CONOP for improved AC-130 operations to my deployed mission commander, a USAF Lt. Col. and well-respected gunship pilot. He tried to critique the new CONOP but quickly became frustrated with my counter-arguments and finally told me to ‘Stop worrying about the conventional guys… only the stupid ones are being killed.'”
“Honestly, what difference does it make if a Security Forces SSgt can tell you who the first pilot was? (It doesn’t.) It [the PDG] is useful as a guidebook, in case you have a quick question about discipline, uniforms, benefits. Other than that, it makes a nice paperweight.”
“Get rid of 90% of the bands the AF has. This isn’t the 40’s, I get more entertainment from my Ipod. Use that money to book a half way decent band to perform”
“When my wife had our twins…it really would have been nice if she had a little more time to get closer to being in reg. Not sure what the magic number is but it would have been nice. Her unit didn’t even say hello to her when she came off of leave, just walked her into the scale and failed her.”
“I mean the guy who was appointed as the head of the sexual assault program sexually assaulted a woman and that guy just got reassigned.”
“Apparently the USAF doesn’t trust anyone to determine on a personal basis the suitability for promotion. At least the army has boards, even if they are convoluted and focused on the wrong things.”
“the Air Force awarded a foreign military sales contract worth more than $100 million to a company that submitted a past performance record of about $150,000, doing unrelated work.”
“Current culture states petting puppies at the animal shelter, holding bake sales and holding meetings where you discuss with your peers where and when these things can be done is held in higher esteem and considered more important than doing the best you can at your job.”
“they’re bribing me to stay, because they’ve failed at replacing me.”
From a 27-year CMSgt:
“The real, honest core values, that a person needs to live by to succeed in the Air Force in 2015 are:
1. Self before Service 2. Excellence in all our PT 3. Integrity third”
“The General should be held to the same or higher standard than the A1C when it comes to punishment. They aren’t.”
“I will never forget after taking questions from a bunch of angry, know-it-all Captains for the better part of an hour, the Colonel simply told us “YOU have to allow YOUR Air Force to make mistakes.”
“Stop with the re-branding of the AF every year. I don’t feel like a “warrior” so stop trying to convince me that I am one by reciting the Airmans Creed at every event!”
“5 things I hate the most about the Air Force:
1- Closed for training on (insert day here).
2- Sexual assault training.
3- The 10 different offices that you can complain to: ig, chaplain, meo, sarc, afrc what do these people do all day?
4- The term “standby to standby”.
5- Senior Ncos, they usually have bad haircuts and no real purpose in life.”
“You seriously are telling me that people TESTED the PT uniform? With the cardboard tshirts that don’t breath and shorts that would look home in a certain brightly colored San Francisco parade? Or the ABU with it’s billion pockets and winter weight fabric (and that’s overlooking the abortion that is it’s camo pattern).
Or blues mondays? As a flier that can be tasked at any minute why am I not showing up to work prepared to fly at any minute? Oh to “support the war fighter” I am wearing the least war like uniform. That makes sense.”
Why to love the Air Force
Airmen may not be able to capture and occupy an enemy area on their own but they will make damn sure those who can will be able to do so with the least possible resistance. Nuclear arsenals aside, no one is better at killing the enemy en masse as the Air Force is and airmen will stay awake and working for days on end to make sure passengers, wounded, supplies, and bombs keep going where they need to be. For example, during Operation Desert Storm, airmen on the ground worked tens of thousands of sorties in 38 days.
Almost everything in a war zone, from water to helicopters, is shipped via USAF, loaded and flown by airmen who are running on Rip-Its and Burger King.
Airmen, despite their cynicism, can be really, really funny. They know their reputation among other branches and are usually game to play along and give all the sh-t thrown at them right back to the soldiers, sailors, and Marines giving it. Aircrews are also generous with their flight pay when buying drinks.
The A-10 Thunderbolt II is beloved by everyone (except Air Force generals).
The Air Force has a great quality of life. An Air Force Base makes the average Army post look like a very large homeless shelter. Most of the time in joint communities, any military member has access to Air Force Morale, Welfare, and Recreation services, which can even put similar civilian services to shame. This is especially true when deployed.
When you’re deploying to the Middle East, having to stop at al-Udeid Air Base in Qatar for any reason is a great day. Swimming pools, A/C, ice cream, Western restaurants and fast food joints, a legit fitness center and base exchange along with three beers a day make for a great visit before reality sets in and you have to go back to a real deployment.
Also, all that money the Air Force spends on tech really does pay off. The Air Force is developing tech to automate weapons systems, put lasers on fighter planes, and allow troops to control drones with their minds. Historically, much of the tech developed by the Air Force end up with civilian uses.
The flip side of the Air Force being like a corporation is airmen tend to focus on their Air Force specialty, rather than just the particulars of being in the military (like being a rifleman, for example). This means when any one from any branch has to deal with an airman, they will more often than not be meeting with someone who is confident, knowledgable, and professional in their work center. Airmen are (traditionally) so good at their jobs, Army officers who have needs they can get from the Air Force instead of the Army will go to the Air Force for those needs.
Airmen are also incredibly generous with their time and money. Aside from making volunteer work a de facto criteria for annual Enlisted Performance Reports (EPR), Airmen will volunteer their time for causes beyond what’s expected by the Air Force’s “total Airman concept” and squadron burger burns. Airmen also donate millions from their paychecks to the Combined Federal Campaign and Air Force Aid Society charities.
And yes, Pararescue Jumpers are awesome human beings.
Ah, Memorial Day weekend. Enjoy yourselves and take some time to remember our fallen brothers and sisters. I can only speak for myself, but I know my boys all would have wanted me to crack open a cold one for them.
Take it easy. Relax. Call one of your old squadmates and check up on them. I’m not going to sound like your first sergeant and tell you to not “don’t do dumb sh*t” over the long weekend. Go ahead — just be responsible about it and try to stay off the blotter.
It’s not every day one of Europe’s largest economies votes to pull itself out of the European Union, the British prime minister announces his resignation and serious questions erupt regarding the future of the Western political order.
But fortunately for NATO and the British military, it’s not time to panic … yet. The military implications of Brexit will not set in overnight, and Britain has a backup plan.
However, there could be profound consequences for the alliance and the British military over the long term — some of them negative.
For one, NATO is responsible for Europe’s collective defense, not the European Union. The United Kingdom will remain one of Europe’s largest economies and will continue to wield outsized global influence due to its permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council.
Nor does leaving preclude Britain from participating in the E.U.’s military missions, such as chasing pirates off the Horn of Africa.
The British economy has tanked, but Britain will survive. The actual process of withdrawing from the European Union is also exacerbated by the entangling of European and British case law, which will take years to sort out.
Parliament must ratify the referendum for it go into force — and what remains of the British-European relationship years from now is a mystery. But there’s no doubt that Brexit (if it happens) could have major consequences for British foreign and military policy.
A June briefing paper from the Royal United Services Institute, a London-based defense and security research organization, described a a possible withdrawal from the European Union as “significant a shift in national strategy as the country’s decision in the late 1960s to withdraw from bases East of Suez.”
That’s a big, sweeping and once-in-a-generation shift.
It was evident at the time. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the United Kingdom withdrew its military from East Asia and the Middle East to focus on countering the Soviet army in Europe. This period coincided with the Troubles in Northern Ireland, where British Army troops deployed beginning in 1969.
Britain joined the European Union’s predecessor organization in 1973. In short, Britain’s growing military ties with Europe were inexorably bound with growing economic and political ties.
Those ties shaped the British military.
The Royal Air Force scrapped its long-range Avro Vulcan strike bomber, which wasn’t needed to defend the homeland from a Soviet invasion. Britain put off building new aircraft carriers, but developed Trafalgar-class attack submarines to hunt Russian subs in the North Atlantic.
Britain’s Tornado fighter jets are also a product of the 1970s, built by a German-Italian-British consortium and designed specifically to fight Soviet forces in Europe.
The Falklands War served as a brief interlude in 1982. But beginning in the 1990s, Britain would shift to a more internationalist posture, fighting wars in Iraq and later Afghanistan, where Britain still keeps 450 troops in an advisory role.
Today, British warplanes and advisers are involved in the war with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. The U.K. military is increasingly involved in Africa.
In short, the British military is less focused on Europe, and is more globalist, than it was during the Cold War.
So in an irony for Brexit’s most isolationist supporters, one possibility is that a post-E.U. Britain might increase its role in NATO to make up for its declining influence in European capitals. Especially now that European governments worry about Russia’s military build-up.
“The U.K. might find that the extent of its commitment to European defense would be one of its few bargaining chips as it entered a period of tough negotiations on the terms of its future economic engagement with its E.U. neighbors,” Malcom Chalmers of the Royal United Services Institute wrote.
The outcomes of the 2016 NATO summit in Warsaw in July are likely to further constrain the U.K.’s room for maneuver, committing the U.K. to invest in deployments and capabilities whose main role will be to contribute to deterrence of Russia. New crises in Europe and its neighborhood (for example in the Balkans or Africa) could also increase immediate demands on U.K. capabilities, especially in cases where the U.S. makes it clear that it expects Europe to take the lead.
In these circumstances, as Europe’s most capable military power, the U.K. could not easily stand aside from the European consensus without significant risk to its reputation as a reliable NATO partner.
Nor can a resurgence of security concerns closer to home be ruled out.
In the aftermath of Pyongyang’s ground-shaking hydrogen bomb test, the US has circulated a proposal around the UN Security Council that would grant its Navy unprecedented powers to use “all necessary measures” to hunt down North Korean ships at sea, the New York Times reports.
The resolution would let the US stop all shipments of crude oil, petroleum, and natural gas to North Korea, according to The Times.
Such a step would cause many in North Korea to freeze over the winter, which can hit harshly in much of the country.
The US Navy would have to intercept and board North Korean ships and inspect them, a process that would require cooperation from the belligerent nation and make it extremely likely that violence would break out between the countries.
The US’s proposed resolution would allow all UN member nations to “designate vessels for non-consensual inspections” of North Korean ships and “to inspect on the high seas any vessel designated by the committee,” according to The Times.
While North Korea does have some anti-ship weaponry on its surface navy, it also fields as many as 70 submarines that could become a factor in any confrontations at sea.
Though the move stops short of a full-on blockade of North Korea, which would basically qualify as an act of war, it recalls the US’s 1941 oil embargo on Japan, a prelude to the devastating attack on Pearl Harbor that dragged the US into World War II.
The proposed resolution comes while the US, South Korea, and Japan jockey to get China, North Korea’s main trading partner, to crack down on Pyongyang.
While China has agreed broadly to increased UN action, it’s unclear if Beijing would back a move that could cause the death of many ordinary North Koreans and possibly cause an influx of refugees. Historically, China has agreed to sanctions on North Korea in the wake of nuclear tests.
A resolution that seems destined to create violent encounters at sea could easily escalate into a large-scale confrontation, as North Korea has viciously attacked South Korean vessels in the past and the US has recently promised “massive” and “overwhelming” responses to aggression from Pyongyang.
Ed Timperlake was VA assistant secretary for Public and Intergovernmental Affairs from 1989 to 1992, and served in the U.S. Marine Corps as a fighter pilot and squadron commander.
One of the little-known facts of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq is that the nature of combat wounds has changed dramatically.
For most of human history, the most common combat wound was a piercing injury. Primitive spears, the Roman gladius, medieval lances and bullets all create piercing wounds, and battlefield medicine was largely focused on treating these types of injuries.
As an assistant secretary for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs during the George H. W. Bush administration, I saw up close how VA health care responded to the after-effects of these combat wounds. But in the years since, veteran care reflects an entirely new and complex type of injury.
Most of these troops have returned to duty, but one of the most common and least seen aspects of these injuries is hearing loss. The auditory sense is highly vulnerable to explosive mechanisms and, unlike most of the human body, many tissues associated with hearing do not regenerate themselves. When they are destroyed, they are destroyed forever. Tinnitus, otherwise known as ringing in the ears, while less serious than absolute hearing loss, is still harmful in the long term and is pervasive among troops serving in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Hearing loss is personal for my family. One of my nieces was born with significant hearing loss, and another is pursuing her doctorate at Gallaudet University, developing better ways to accurately test and address hearing loss. My own hearing has been degraded due to military noise. I can never forget the roar that reverberated through my head the first time I was catapulted from the deck of an aircraft carrier. As a young Marine Corps fighter pilot, the “scramble orders” I and my squadron mates received in response to threats from Cuban MiGs resulted in ear-shattering experiences with every sortie, for months at a time.
Today, more than 1.25 million veterans suffer from hearing loss, with nearly two million suffering from tinnitus. Combined, they represent the top two service-connected disabilities addressed by the VA. To its credit, the VA is doing a good job of addressing the problem with hearing conservation programs and high-tech hearing aids.
But the Defense Department is playing catch-up on the issue. After having issued faulty hearing protection to active-duty forces over the past decade, leading to countless cases of unnecessary hearing loss, the Pentagon is now testing several different styles of hearing protection for troops in the field, and confidence is high that the next generation of combat hearing protection will represent a substantial improvement.
Once these troops muster out of uniform and transition to veteran status, a large part of the challenge in helping these vets with hearing loss is technological. Low-cost hearing aids that simply amplify sound do little good, often making background noise too loud to provide any meaningful improvement in hearing conversation, music and other audible intelligence.
The private sector is making good progress on developing and improving this technology with Bluetooth capabilities and even fitness trackers, offering hope to veterans with hearing loss as they re-acclimate to civilian life.
The prospects for better hearing protection and improved service to veterans with hearing loss and tinnitus is encouraging. But we have to keep our eye on the ball to make sure our warfighters get the combat gear they need, and that veterans receive the care they earned through their sacrifice.