The newspaper Stars and Stripes has an interesting little niche in its place in American journalism. Wherever the Armed Forces of the United States may go, Stars and Stripes reporters might just go along with them. The idea of such a paper can be traced back to the Civil War, the reporting as we know it dates back to World War I. While the paper is a government-funded entity reporting on military operations, you might find it full of the hardest-working most objective staff in the world.
And if their movie is to be believed, maybe the craziest staff in the world to boot.
The documentary film The World’s Most Dangerous Paper Route is the story of the unsung heroes who deliver the news to the front lines of Iraq, Afghanistan, and anywhere else the U.S. military gets the newspaper – and everywhere they’ve been for the past 100 years. The film includes never-before-seen imagery from the Stars and Stripes archive of photographers and writers who were in the war zones with the fighting men and women from Verdun to Saigon.
The list of correspondents and contributors to the legendary newspaper include Andy Rooney, Bill Maudlin, Steve Kroft, Shel Silverstein, and Pulitzer Prize-winner Pete Arnett, to name just a few. Even the civilians working on the staff used to see combat – one civilian in Vietnam even saw action with every major combat unit to go through the country during the war.
How does one news outlet get so much access to the United States military while still retaining their credibility, you might ask. The answer is that even though Stars and Stripes is funded by the Department of Defense, its creative and editorial direction are protected from the Pentagon by Congress. It is something that the readership of the paper looked forward to receiving every time they could, so says Gen. David Petraeus, interviewed for The World’s Most Dangerous Paper Route.
“It is, in a way, the hometown newspaper of the U.S. military,” Petraeus says.
This is an organization that not only knew what was happening back home, as a matter of course, but also was embedded with the troops on the ground, and knew what was going on in-country. The reporters at Stars and Stripes put their lives on the line to produce a newspaper for the troops – and anyone who might pick up a copy.
In The World’s Most Dangerous Paper Route, the viewer goes on a journey downrange to the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan to see what it’s like to cover the United States military and its operations in today’s Global War on Terror. In places like Afghanistan, picking up the computer and getting a wifi signal isn’t as easy as it may be anywhere else in the world. Here, physical newspapers that provide unquestioned reporting are all American forces have to read and understand the world around them and the world which continues to go on without them back home.
Find out how important the newspaper has been to American troops, see the unparalleled access and legendary images captured by the Stars and Stripes staff, and feel the nerve-wracking stress of seeing an unarmed camera operator out in combat, carrying only a camera.
The World’s Most Dangerous Paper Route can be watched free with an Amazon Prime subscription.
Sand shifts below service members’ feet as sulfur engulfs the air and humidity lingers across the island. The weight of reality and historical value settles among them as they take in the view of where so many of their fellow service members lost their lives. This is, Iwo To (Iwo Jima).
Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 152 conducted a historical professional military education for squadrons stationed at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, Nov. 7, 2017.
They loaded service members on KC-130J Hercules aircraft and flew them from the air station to Iwo To.
Once disembarked from their flights, they broke off into groups and conducted a hike passing by caves, memorials, and old machine-gun nests before reaching the top of Mt. Suribachi.
As the service members gazed across the island from atop Mt. Suribachi they left behind items such as rank, belts, name tapes, and dog tags.
“Never in my entire life did I think I’d ever be in Iwo Jima,” said U.S. Navy Seaman Anthony Adams, a corpsman with VMGR-152. “It blew my mind; the best part of the day was being able to place my shield at the top of Mt. Suribachi.”
Mt. Suribachi was a key strategic position for the Japanese military, serving as the toughest line of defense for the island during World War II. U.S. Marines with the 28th Marine Regiment surrounded and climbed the mountain at an estimated rate of 400 yards per day until the famous raising of the colors atop the mountain.
“It tugs at my heart strings,” said U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Gregory Voss, an aviation ordnance technician with Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 12. “This is a huge piece of Marine Corps history. Marines shed blood, sweat, and tears here. Granted I’ve only been in for five years, but this is the most exciting thing that I’ve done in my career. I’m honored that I could be here.”
As the service members began their journey down to the black beaches to collect sand from the once blood-ridden island, exhaustion was present through the sounds of grunts and groans, but not one Marine backed down. They trucked though the beating sun and radiating heat of the active volcano that is Iwo To.
“It was demanding,” said Voss. “Though we didn’t go through what our brothers and sisters went though, it was definitely a challenging — but humbling — experience.”
Service members collected sand from the beaches in whatever container they had so they could take a piece of history with them to keep or give to their families back home. Collecting sand from the beach is a tradition that most guests partake in during their journey across the island.
The beach played a significant role in the advancement on the island. Hundreds of, Landing Vehicles, Tracked (LVTs) carried troops to the steep sulfur beaches of the island as U.S. Naval ships rained fire down upon the Japanese fortifications.
By the end of what was about a month of battle, 27 service members received the Medal of Honor, almost half of them posthumously.
“Tradition, lineage, and Marine Corps history means the world to me,” said Voss. “It reminds me of where we come from. Just to say I was in the same family as Gunnery Sgt. John Basilone is amazing.”
As we celebrate the Marine Corps birthday, it’s important to remember the Marines that drew the line, went above and beyond the call of duty, and their unselfish acts of valor. We must also remember the sailors that fought alongside them, through the bloody, tattered clothing to heal their wounds, and the Coast Guardsmen who replenished their brothers and sisters with supplies as enemy fire came barreling down upon them. On that island, we remember that U.S. Navy Adm. Chester Nimitz said, “uncommon valor was a common virtue.”
This is often done by the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, attached to the 403rd Wing, based out of Keesler Air Force Base near Biloxi Mississippi.
According to a release by the 403rd Wing, WC-130J Super Hercules weather reconnaissance planes have already made 10 flights into Hurricane Harvey, presently a Category 2 storm slated to reach Category 3 when it makes landfall in Texas.
Each plane has a crew of five: a pilot, co-pilot, a weather reconnaissance officer, a navigator, and a loadmaster.
During the flights through Harvey, the Airmen made dozens of passes through the eye of the hurricane, braving the strong winds in the center of the storm. On each pass, a device known as a “dropsonde” is released, providing data on dew point, pressure, temperature, and of course, wind speed and direction.
That data is sent out immediately to the National Hurricane Center.
“As the Hurricane Hunters, our data is time sensitive and critical for the [National Hurricane Center],” Maj. Kendall Dunn, 53rd WRS pilot explained. “This storm is rapidly intensifying.”
You’d think these pilots would be full-time Air Force, but you’d be way off. These gutsy crews who brave the wrath of nature are with the Air Force Reserve – meaning that many of them are taking time off from their regular lives to serve their country. You can see them in action monitoring Hurricane Harvey in the video below.
Be careful how you dial the newly minted Tricare East’s 800 number, or you could unintentionally end up on what appears to be a phone sex hotline.
That’s a lesson one Tricare East user learned the, er, hard way Jan. 24, when she misdialed the Tricare East contractor by one digit. Instead of dialing Humana’s number 1-800-444-5445, she dialed 1-800-444-5455.
“Hey there hot stuff,” a sultry female voice greets callers. “I’ve been waiting for your call. Are you ready for some tantalizing fun?”
It gets, uh, hotter from there. But for a $7.99 access fee plus $4.99 a minute, with a surcharge of $8.99 for “certain selections,” you hear even more than we did.
To be sure, the greeting is more entertaining than the one on Humana’s Tricare East number.
“Welcome to Humana Tricare East,” it states. “Medical emergencies should hang up and dial 911.”
Tricare East and its new 800 number rolled out Jan. 1 as the system shifted from a three contractor, three region system — Tricare North, South, and West — to the two contractor, two region system of Tricare East and West. Tricare East is managed by Humana, while Tricare West is managed by Health Net Federal Services.
We stopped our unofficial investigation into the incorrect number short of entering our corporate credit card information — we didn’t think the bean counters would understand such research. But we’re not worried about the number showing up on the phone bill. After all, the recording promises that the whole thing is “discreetly billed.”
Neither Humana nor Tricare officials responded by deadline for requests for comment. But what is there to really say about this, anyway?
With the entire world focused on COVID-19, it’s a great time to build your bug out bag.
A bug-out bag isn’t just for secret agents anymore.
We Are The Mighty’s resident operator, Chase Millsap, served three combat tours as a Marine Infantry Officer in Iraq and as a Green Beret leading counter-terrorism missions in Asia.
We asked him what he’s packing in his bag in case he needs to escape on short notice for any reason. Here’s what he says you must have, at minimum.
12. Water filter.
Given optimal conditions, a person can last up to a week without water. Extreme conditions are likely to cut that time (and yours) short. Additionally, drinking water from untreated sources can lead to a number of infections and diseases.
If you’re unfamiliar with a “woobie,” it’s how some U.S. troops refer to their issued poncho liner. It makes for a great blanket, cushion, or pillow. It’s not waterproof, but in temperatures above freezing, it’s very effective at keeping in body heat.
10. Two days of food.
This should be self-explanatory, but in case it isn’t, remember: You can go for weeks without food. If you’re on the move, however, that time is cut short. You can’t carry all the food you need with you, but you should have enough to last until you can make it to an area where you can get more or be rescued.
9. Lockpick kit.
The reason one carries lockpicks is fairly obvious: to get into things that are locked. We can’t predict why you’ll be evacuating your home, but if you’re going to be out on foot for a while, you may need this. Think about it: When the looting stops, everything that was easy to get is already gone. What’s left is under lock and key.
8. Fire starter with dryer lint.
You can’t depend on a lighter or matches. You’re going to need to start a fire the old-fashioned way: with sparks and kindling.
7. Solar or hand-crank battery.
You should have electronic devices with you, namely your means of communication. A zombie apocalypse notwithstanding, you’re going to want to be rescued at some point, so secure the means of keeping your phone and/or radio alive and at the ready.
6. 550 cord and a carabiner.
Anyone who’s served in the military knows how useful 550 cord and carabiners are. If you want to augment their usefulness, learn to braid and to tie knots.
5. Medical kit.
Let’s be honest, most of you are not Green Berets — and if you were Navy SEALs, you would have told us by now. Since the name of the game is surviving in a potentially hostile environment, we should be prepared for injuries sustained on our way out of the disaster area. If we want to be prepared to help ourselves and others, we need a med kit.
4. Face mask.
Dirt and debris fly everywhere during a disaster or in a disaster area. Heck, the air itself can be chalked full of dirt and harmful particles.
Be prepared for it.
3. Gloves and boots.
You shouldn’t need to be told this: Bring your boots. The best part about these items is they don’t add to the weight on your back.
If you need to be seen from a distance (namely, by rescue aircraft), nothing is more effective than what the U.S. military already uses, the VS-17 signal marker is the thing for the job. Best of all, that’s exactly what search and rescue teams are trained to look for.
While the prospect of negotiations between North Korea and the US are beginning to look very promising, experts say there is “no way” North Korea trusts the US and would ever sign off on its nuclear weapons program.
Early March 2018, South Korean president’s office, the Blue House, announced that North Korea’s Kim Jong Un was willing to abandon his country’s nuclear arms if certain conditions were met. The Blue House also said North Korea would suspend provocations, like nuclear and missile testing, during negotiations.
After meeting with South Korean officials, President Donald Trump seemed optimistic about the North’s proposal, and agreed to meet with Kim by May 2018, with the potential to discuss denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula.
However, experts remain skeptical of North Korea’s pledges to halt its nuclear weapons development.
John Mearsheimer, co-director of the Program on International Security Policy at the University of Chicago, said there is “no way” North Korea could trust the US enough to abandon its nuclear ambitions.
“North Korea is not going to give up its nuclear weapons,” Mearsheimer said at a lecture hosted by the Korea Foundation for Advanced Studies in Seoul on March 20, 2018, according to Yonhap. “The reason is that in international politics, you could never trust anybody because you cannot be certain of what their intentions are.”
Mearsheimer said that “there’s no way North Koreans can trust the U.S.” when it comes to a denuclearization deal. He cited examples of the US’ unsuccessful denuclearization deals in the Middle East, including Muammar Gaddafi who gave up Libya’s chemical weapons and was killed less than a decade later.
“If you were North Koreans, would you trust Donald Trump? Would you trust any American presidents?”
Mearsheimer added that there was no country that “needs nuclear weapons more than North Korea,” in order to protect its leader. While the US has not explicitly stated its intention to pursue a regime change in the North, Trump and his administration have certainly alluded to the possibility.
Mearsheimer added that North Korea was even less likely to give up their weapons in the current climate.
“Give up their nuclear weapons? I don’t think so, especially as security competition heats up in East Asia. You wanna hang on to those weapons.”
Newsweek estimated that the total for the Iraq War comes out to an average of roughly $8,000 per taxpayer. The figure far exceeds the Pentagon’s estimate that Americans paid an average of $3,907 each for Iraq and Syria to date. And in March 2019, the Department of Defense estimated that the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria combined have cost each US taxpayer around $7,623 on average.
The Costs of War Project through Brown University conducts research on the human, economic, and political costs of the post-9/11 wars waged by the US. Stephanie Savell, a co-director of the Cost of Wars Projects, told Insider it’s important for Americans to understand exactly what their taxes are paying for when it comes to war-related expenses.
“As Americans debate the merits of U.S. military presence in Iraq and elsewhere in the name of the U.S. war on terrorism, it’s essential to understand that war costs go far beyond what the DOD has appropriated in Overseas Contingency Operations and reach across many parts of the federal budget,” Savell said.
Breaking down the financial costs of the Iraq War
The Pentagon had been allotted approximately 8 billion in “emergency” and “overseas contingency operation” for military operations in Iraq from the fiscal year 2003 to 2019, including operations fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria. However, Savell says the actual costs of the war often exceed that of the Congress-approved budgets.
“When you’re accounting for the cost of war, you can’t only account what the DOD has spent on overseas contingency funds,” Savell told Insider. “You have to look at the other sets of costs including interest on borrowed funds, increased war-related spending, higher pay to retain soldiers, medical and disability care on post-9-11 and war veterans, and more.”
According to their estimates, the cost of the Iraq War to date would be id=”listicle-2645054426″,922 billion in current dollars — this figure includes funding appropriated by the Pentagon explicitly for the war, spending on the country by the State Department, the care of Iraq War veterans and interests on debt incurred for the 16 years of the US military’s involvement in the country.
Crawford says that war-related spending in Iraq has blown past its budget in the 16 years military forces have been in the country, estimating a nearly 2 billion surplus in Iraq alone.
The increases to the Congressionally approved budgets were used to heighten security at bases, for enlistment and reenlistment bonuses, to increase pay to retain personnel, and for the healthcare costs of servicemembers.
Aside from the Defense Department costs, the State Department added approximately billion to the total costs of the Iraq War for USAID on Iraq and Syria. Meanwhile, 9 billion has been spent on Iraq war veterans receiving medical care, disability, and other compensation.
The US has gone deep into debt to pay for the war. That means it has interest payments.
As expected, that taxpayer dollars are going towards war-related expenses including operations, equipment, and personnel. But a surprising amount of the costs are to pay off the interest on the debt the US has accrued since going to war.
“People also need to know that these wars have been put on a credit card, so we will be paying trillions on war borrowing in interest alone over the next several decades,” Avell told Insider.
Defense Department spokesperson Christopher Sherwood told Insider that the Defense Department dedicates id=”listicle-2645054426″.575 trillion for war-related costs, with an average of spending .2 billion per month on all operations for the fiscal year 2019.
Sherwood said that the department’s costs go towards war-related operational costs, such as trainings and communications, support for deployed troops, including food and medical services, and transportation of personnel and equipment.
The human costs of the Iraq War are even harder to track
The US invaded Iraq in 2003 on the belief that Saddam Hussein had, or was attempting to make, “weapons of mass destruction” and that Iraq’s government had connections to various terrorist groups, including al-Qaeda. Although the invasion initially had overwhelming support from the American public and the approval of Congress, it is now considered one of the greatest foreign policy blunders in US history.
The Costs of War Project believes calculating the total costs of war — economic, political, and human — is important to ensure that Americans can make educated choices about war-related policies.
“War is expensive — in terms of lives lost, physical damage to people and property, mental trauma to soldiers and war-zone inhabitants, and in terms of money,” Cost of War researcher Heidi Peltier wrote.
The Pentagon originally requested less than billion of that amount for Operation Inherent Resolve in Iraq and Syria — however, the Crawford believes that budget may be blown after more troops were sent into a war zone that was meant to be winding down.
When the Korean War erupted on June 25, 1950 — 68 years ago in June 2018 — Master Sgt. Thomas B. Hutton soon found himself serving there with the Eighth U.S. Army as a first sergeant in an automotive maintenance unit, duty that gave him a rare chance to see the land and people of Korea up close as the country went about its daily life amid the privations and perils of war.
Hutton was an avid photographer and during 1952, he turned his 35 mm lens to preserving what he saw, snapping hundreds of photos — in color — that afford a rare look and feel of the country at that time.
The photos show ordinary people — country folk and city dwellers — going about their daily tasks — washing clothes in a river, bustling past a railroad station, making their way down a country road, standing in a rice field and watching a passing train haul tanks to some distant railhead.
Hutton died in 1988 and hundreds of his slides ended up in the Texas home of one of his daughters. As it happened, her son was Army Col. Brandon D. Newton, who until June 2018, served two years as commander of U.S. Army Garrison Red Cloud and Area I. He’d digitized his grandfather’s Korean War photos, kept them on his smartphone, and one day in 2017 showed them to a Korean Army sergeant major who sat next to him at an informal dinner.
(U.S. Army photo)
The sergeant major was amazed. Color photos of the Korean War were rare enough, but these truly captured Korea’s history. They showed what the country looked like. What the people looked like. And they even included rare shots of some of the earliest members of two organizations that are part of the U.S.-South Korean military alliance to this day: the Korean Service Corps and the KATUSAs — South Korean Soldiers who serve shoulder-to-shoulder with U.S. Soldiers in U.S. Army units in Korea.
When the sergeant major asked Newton if he’d be willing to donate the photos to the Korean Army, Newton immediately said yes and soon gave the slides — 239 images — to the Korean Army.
The Korean Army was thrilled and got right to work on trying to pin down where the photos were taken and just what they showed. To get it right, they enlisted the aid of professors, museum curators and other experts.
Then on June 5, 2018 Newton, his wife and son were the guests of the Korean Army’s Personnel Command in Gyeryong, South Chungcheong Province, for an exhibition of some of Hutton’s photos and a ceremony marking the donation.
(U.S. Army photo)
The photos will be preserved in the Korean army’s official archives and copies would be distributed to museums and other institutions, the Korean army said during the ceremony.
During brief remarks at the ceremony, Newton said of the photos:
“First, they provide a very accurate and important history of what Korea was like in 1952, not just for the American Army, the Eighth Army, but also for the ROK army, Korean Service Corps and the KATUSAs. Second — most importantly — they demonstrate the strength of the alliance and an alliance that’s been in place for 68 years. And it helps us understand that our alliance is not just about the relationship between the militaries but also between our people, between the people of the United States of America and the people of the Republic of Korea. It’s a relationship that not only is about our service today but it’s about spanning generations from grandfathers and fathers and sons.”
Your life as a military spouse is what you make it. There, I said it — it’s your responsibility to make yourself happy in this military life. Before you stop reading this article or leave me a nasty comment, give me a chance to explain.
I am a military spouse of twelve years and have been with my husband for fifteen years. I’ve moved eight times – from coast to coast and even to Alaska for a time. My first move with my husband was in 2006. I was only 21 years old. I left my family and all I knew, and two days after we arrived at our new duty station, my husband got underway on a boat for weeks.
I was alone, I didn’t have a job, friends, or even cable or internet!
It. Was. Horrible.
I remember feeling waves of depression and not wanting to get off the couch as I watched Grey’s Anatomy on DVD for the millionth time. I was isolating myself and never felt more alone in my life. Did you know that loneliness can literally hurt your brain?
One study found that loneliness was a risk factor of dementia later in life.
After a few days of living in this funk, I took a good hard look at myself. I saw my stained sweat pants, unwashed dishes, and wondered what I was doing. We had just PCS’d to one of the most beautiful beach towns in Florida, and here I was wasting away, getting paler by the minute. I got off that couch and set out to build a life.
I knew that I could stay in that space forever, but I was losing the opportunity of a lifetime in the process. This military life is beautiful – but it’s up to you to embrace it.
Fast forward to 2020 and I couldn’t imagine having any other life. MilSpouse life is my jam! I look forward to every PCS and see it as an adventure just waiting for me to dive into. Each new state is a new home filled with new foods to taste, cities to explore, and above all — friendships that await. Once you get off that couch and commit to building a life as a military spouse, the absolute best part of military life is waiting for you. Your future MilSpouse bestie is out there!
As military spouses, we are so lucky. We get to surround ourselves with people that we immediately have a connection with. A community that gets every annoying, frustrating and beautiful part of military life. You don’t have to say a word and these military spouse brothers and sisters see you and completely get it. There’s no fumbling about the weather or times of awkward silences – you are instantly in a circle that’s welcoming you with open arms.
So, what are you waiting for?
Here are my top seven reasons why you need to get up off your couch, change out of those sweat pants, and find your MilSpouse bestie:
1. They know the best hair stylist or barber
This information has been handed down like the holy grail to them and they are just waiting to share that beautiful treasure with you.
2. Got a nightmare PCS story to share? Pull up a chair.
Your future BFF wants to hear all about it and compare notes with theirs.
3. They’ve already scoped out all of the medical doctors, dentists, and specialists
Making decisions on your healthcare is exhausting and nerve-racking. They’ll be there to help you with the feedback you need to make your choices more securely.
4. Deployment sucks
They’ll let you cry on their couch, vent out your anger or hibernate alone for a few days. At the exact time you need them to, they’ll drag you on some adventure that’ll make those deployment days fly by. Your MilSpouse bestie will save you – I know, mine saved me.
5. Your holidays will be merry and bright
The military spouse community will fill your holidays with so much joy and laughter that you’ll be okay FaceTiming your family when you can’t go home. Friendsgiving all day every day.
6. They’ll carry you through the hard times
Whether it’s deployment, missing your family, or an unspeakable tragedy, they’ll carry you through loss that feels unbearable. I’ve held my friends through the broken space of experiencing a miscarriage, and when I went through my own years later, their strength kept me from drowning in grief. They’ve got you.
7. Mission first? No problem
The needs of the service will always come first. The needs of the Army, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard, and Air Force will always come above your birthday, anniversary, or planned dates. Know it, embrace it, and have a plan B.
Your spouse is working late and missing the delicious dinner you made? No problem, call your bestie to come over and eat with you. Date canceled because of a last-minute training exercise? Totally okay because now you can go see that RomCom with your friends instead. I absolutely treasure my time with MilSpouse besties – because at this point, they are spread all over the country.
I have friends that I can call anytime, anywhere, and know that they’ll be there. It’s a beautiful life and one I choose to make wherever we are. Even with all of the hard pages of my MilSpouse story, thanks to my besties, I would go back and do it all over again.
The U.S. Space Force‘s first commercial has a message for its new troops and potential recruits: “Maybe your purpose on this planet isn’t on this planet.”
It’s the closing line in the 30-second commercial, which gives viewers a glimpse into what a Space Force job might look like. That could mean protecting U.S. satellites in ground operations centers, overseeing rocket launches to deploy satellites in orbit, or perhaps recovering the super-secret X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle, according to the imagery seen in the video.
“Some people look to the stars and ask, ‘What if?’ Our job is to have an answer,” the commercial states as a young man sporting a fresh haircut looks up toward the stars.
“We would have to imagine what will be imagined, plan for what’s possible while there’s still impossible. Maybe you weren’t put here just to ask the questions. Maybe you were put here to be the answer,” it says.
The commercial is the first promotional video for the new service, an effort to attract recruits to join the military’s sixth branch.
The opening of applications means the eventual, “physical act of [commissioning] into the U.S. Space Force,” Gen. David “DT” Thompson, vice commander of Space Force, said April 23. Enlisted members would re-enlist directly into the Space Force, he said during a webinar, hosted by Space News.
“The window for airmen to volunteer to transfer to the USSF opened on Friday, May 1, and we have already received several hundred applications,” a Space Force official told Military.com on Wednesday.
The commercial also closely follows the full trailer for Steve Carell’s new Netflix comedy “Space Force” set to premiere on the streaming service May 29.
Sitting alongside Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett during a webinar Wednesday, Gen. John “Jay” Raymond, chief of space operations and head of U.S. Space Command, remarked on Carell’s upcoming show.
“The one piece of advice that I would give to Steve Carell is to get a haircut,” Raymond said during the chat, hosted by the Space Foundation. “He’s looking a little too shaggy if he wants to play the Space Force chief.”
Barrett added, “It seems to me that it’s just further evidence that space is where things are happening. Whether it’s Netflix or in the United States Pentagon, space is where things are happening.”
Speaking about the commercial, Barrett said she hopes it will inspire “Americans to find their purpose in the nation’s newest service.”
Electrician’s Mate Fireman Samuel Guidroz was more than 4,500 miles away from home when he was awakened by a sharp pain in his abdomen on the morning of Nov. 27, 2018.
The 20-year-old Sailor, assigned to the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship USS Somerset (LPD 25), tried to treat the day like any other day spent underway in the Pacific Ocean. But the discomfort in his stomach soon drove him to the ship’s medical bay.
“I had a nauseating feeling in my lower abdomen,” said Guidroz, from his bed in the ship’s recovery ward. “They ran some x-rays and a few additional tests.”
“Fireman Guidroz came to us, and we were able to determine he had acute appendicitis,” said Cmdr. Jeffery Chao, the surgeon for Littoral Combat Group One (LCG-1).
Two landing craft air cushions (LCAC) assigned to Assault Craft Unit (ACU) 5 fly behind the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship USS Somerset (LPD 25), Nov. 23, 2018
(U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kyle Carlstrom)
Chao said it was fortunate that the fleet surgical team happened to be there on the Somerset to augment the ship’s capabilities. The fleet surgical team is attached to Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) 3, which is currently embarked on USS Somerset as part of LCG-1. If they had not been there, surgery aboard USS Somerset would not have been an option.
But not everything was working in Guidroz’s favor.
“The sea state at the time was a bit rough, so it made me nervous,” Guidroz said. “The doctors eased my mind though, assuring me it was the right thing to do.”
The LCG-1 fleet surgical team and the Sailors aboard USS Somerset acted immediately. The officer of the deck turned the ship to the steadiest course available. The maneuver significantly lessened the ship’s motion in the water, allowing the medical personnel to do their work with precision. Then they prepared for surgery.
When Guidroz awoke, he felt groggy but relieved.
“Everything went great. Just like it would have if I had been back at a regular hospital,” Guidroz said.
Chao says he expects Guidroz to make a full recovery in the next few days.
“This was a great learning experience to know the medical capabilities out here are far greater than my initial expectations,” Guidroz said. “It feels good knowing and having that assurance that something like this can be taken care of out here at sea. I can’t thank the medical team enough for what they did.”
Since the surgery, Guidroz has been in contact with his family at their home in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
“They were happy this was able to be done here on the ship, and even a bit surprised,” Guidroz said. “Being away from them was different at first, but I’ve made some new friends out here. And it’s important, I think, having people close to you when you’re away from home.”
USS Somerset is a San Antonio-class amphibious transport docking ship, based out of San Diego. LCG-1 is deployed to the U.S. 4th Fleet area of operations in support of the Enduring Promise Initiative to reaffirm U.S. Southern Command’s longstanding commitment to the nations of the Western Hemisphere.
Air Force officials said this spring that the force was 1,555 pilots short — about 1,000 of them fighter pilots. But the shortage of pilots continued to grow during the 2017 fiscal year, which ended in September.
At that point, it had expanded to 2,000 total force pilots — active duty, Air National Guard, and Air Force Reserve. That includes nearly 1,300 fighter pilots, and the greatest negative trends over the past two fiscal years have been among bomber and mobility pilots, Air Force spokeswoman Erika Yepsen told Business Insider.
But fliers aren’t the only ones absent in significant numbers
According to Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein, the lack of maintainers to keep planes flying has also become a hindrance on the service’s operations.
“When I started flying airplanes as a young F-16 pilot, I would meet my crew chief … and a secondary crew chief at the plane,” said Goldfein, who received his commission from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1983, in a briefing in early November, adding:
We’d walk around the airplane. I’d taxi out. I’d meet a crew that was in the runway, and they’d pull the pins and arm the weapons and give me a last-chance check. I’d take off. I’d fly to a destination [where] different crew would meet me. Here’s what often happens today: You taxi slow, because the same single crew chief that you met has to get in the van and drive to the end of the runway to pull the pins and arm the weapons. And then you sit on the runway before you take off and you wait, because that crew chief has to go jump on a C-17 with his tools to fly ahead to meet you at the other end. This is the level of numbers that we’re dealing with here.
U.S. Air Force Senior Airmen Krystalane Laird (front) and Helena Palazio, weapons loaders with the 169th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, South Carolina Air National Guard, download munitions from an F-16 fighter jet that was just landed after a month-long deployment to Łask Air Base, Poland. (South Carolina Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Caycee Watson)
‘The tension on the force right now is significant’
The pilot and maintainer shortages are part of what Air Force officials have called a “national air-crew crisis” that has been stoked by nearly 30 years of ongoing operations, hiring by commercial airlines, as well as quality-of-life and cultural issues within the force that drive airmen away. In recent years, pressure from budget sequestration has also had a impact on Air Force personnel training and retention.
The maintainer shortage has been a problem for some time. In 2013, the total shortage was 2,538. But the force’s drawdown in 2014 — during which the Air Force shed more than 19,800 airmen — added to the deficit. Between 2013 and 2015, the shortage of maintainers grew by 1,217, according to Air Force Times.
By the end of fiscal year 2015, the service was short some 4,000 maintainers, Yepsen told Business Insider.
The shortage of maintainers created hardship for the ones who have remained.
The commander of the 52nd Maintenance Group at Spangdahlem Air Force Base in Germany told Air Force Magazine in late 2016 that workdays had stretched to 13 or 14 hours, with possible weekend duty meaning air crews could work up to 12 days straight. In the wake of the 2014 drawdown, maintainers at Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina saw their workdays extend to 12 hours or more, with weekend duties at least twice a month.
“There comes a point where people stop and say it isn’t worth it anymore,” Staff Sgt. Stephen Lamb, an avionics craftsman from the 20th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at Shaw, told Air Force Times in March. “I’ve seen, in the past few years, a lot of good friends walk out the door.”
As with pilots, the Air Force has made a concerted effort to improve its maintainer situation. In 2016, the force quadrupled the number of jobs eligible for initial enlistment bonuses — among them 10 aircraft maintenance and avionics career fields.
The Air Force has also offered senior crew chiefs and avionics airmen perks, such as reenlistment bonuses and high-year tenure extensions. At the end of 2016, 43 Air Force specialty codes, many of them flight-line maintainers, were being offered bonuses averaging $50,000 to remain in uniform for four to six more years.
Lt. Gen. Gina Grosso, the Air Force’s deputy chief of staff for manpower and personnel services, said earlier this year that the service closed 2016 with a shortage of 3,400 maintainers, warning that the ongoing shortage held back personnel development.
“Because of this shortage, we cannot generate the sorties needed to fully train our aircrews,” Grosso told the House Armed Services’ personnel subcommittee at the end of March.
According to Yepsen, the Air Force spokeswoman, that shortage has continued to decline, falling to 400 personnel at the end of fiscal year 2017. Several Air Force officials have said they hope to eliminate the maintainer shortage entirely by 2019.
But the health of the Air Force maintainer force won’t be solved by simply restoring its ranks. The complex aircraft the Air Force operates — not to mention the high operational tempo it looks set to continue for some time — require maintainers with extensive training. Air Force units can only absorb and train so many recruits at one time.
“We have to have time to develop the force to ensure that we have experienced maintainers to support our complex weapons systems,” then-Col. Patrick Kumashiro, chief of the Air Force staff’s maintenance division, told Air Force Magazine in late 2016. “We cannot solve it in one year.”
Heftier bonuses for senior air-crew members are also a means to keep experienced maintainers on hand for upkeep of legacy aircraft and to train new maintainers, with the addition of those new maintainers allowing experienced crew members to shift their focus to new platforms, like the F-35 fighter and the KC-46 tanker.
“While our manning numbers have improved, it will take 5-7 years to get them seasoned and experienced,” Yepsen told Business Insider. “We are continuously evaluating opportunities to improve our readiness as quickly and effectively as possible.”
“We’re making the mission happen, but we’re having to do it very often on the backs of our airmen,” Goldfein said during the November 9 briefing. “The tension on the force right now is significant, and so we’re looking for all these different ways to not only retain those that we’ve invested in, but increase production so we can provide some reduction in the tension on the force.”
In 1941, the U.S. Army Air Forces started an experiment that would help change the face of warfare: They invited 13 black cadets and officers to train as pilots and additional students to train as navigators, bombardiers, mechanics, and other support staff to Tuskegee, Alabama.
Office of War Information poster celebrating 99th Pursuit Squadron contributions to the victory at the island of Pantelleria.
(Charles Henry Alston)
The Tuskegee pilots faced long odds. The American military was segregated for all of World War II — and many people at the time thought that black people lacked the mental capabilities necessary to pilot sophisticated planes. It would take a sequence of overwhelming successes for the brave Tuskegee Airmen to deconstruct that fallacy.
They got some lucky breaks, like when first lady Eleanor Roosevelt visited the school and accepted a black instructor’s offer take her on a flight over the base, but their real chance to prove themselves came overseas, when Tuskegee-trained pilots were assigned to fighter, pursuit, and bomber units in Europe, There, they faced off against Italian and German pilots.
Their first taste of combat came in May, 1943, when the 99th Pursuit Squadron was sent against Italian fighters over Tunisia. They tangled with Italian fighters — neither side suffered losses. But their efforts in the sky were part of what forced the Italian garrison at Pantelleria to surrender on June 11.
Black mechanics work on a P-40 Warhawk assigned to a “Tuskegee Airmen” unit in World War II.
(U.S. Air Force)
The first shootdown by a member of the 99th came later that month when Lt. Charles B. Hall flew an old P-40 against a German fighter and downed it. Despite this early success, the 99th came under political fire as its partnered fighter squadron complained about their performance.
The complaining commander failed to note, however, that the 99th was excluded from mission briefings, was intentionally based dozens or hundreds of miles further from the front lines, and that they were forced to fly older planes.
Despite the political pressure at home, where publications like Time Magazine repeated criticisms with little investigation, the 99th was sent to Italy and allowed to continue flying.
A Curtiss P-40E Warhawk similar to the ones used by the 99th Pursuit Squadron early in their combat service.
(U.S. Air Force)
It was here that the men really began carving their place in history. As the critics sharpened their knives, the 99th sharpened their skills. Over the plains and hills of southern Italy, they escorted bombers and provided cover for beach landings and infantry assaults.
In Italy, their partnered fighter group folded the Tuskegee fliers into operations, allowing the black pilots to fly on more equal footing. In just a week of fighting in January, 1944, the 99th shot down 12 German fighters.
Then, three black fighter squadrons arrived in Italy as the 332nd Fighter Group and the 99th was soon folded in with them. The 332nd was assigned to escort heavy bombers and was given new P-47s and P-51 Mustangs for the mission.
It was in these operations that the planes were given their distinctive “Red Tail” paint job and that the pilots would make history.
The primary job of the 332nd was to protect bombers going deep into German territory, a mission that required them to fly past hostile air defenses and then grapple with enemy fighters, often while outnumbered, in order to ensure that the bombers could deliver their ordnance and successfully return home.
And the 332nd was great at it. They were so good, in fact, that a legend arose that the 332nd never lost a bomber under their protection. They actually did lose 25 aircraft over 200 missions, but that was leaps and bounds ahead of the norm in the 15th Air Force where an average fighter group lost 46 bombers.
A “Red Tail” P-51 Mustang flies during a heritage flight at an air show.
(U.S. Air Force Tech Sgt. Ben Bloker)
The Tuskegee men’s success was so well known that bombers’ would sometimes specifically request the 332nd for dangerous missions, but they were never told that their escorts in the “Red Tails” were black. In fact, the 332nd flew the deepest escort mission the 15th Air Group ever flew, a 1,600-mile round trip to bomb a tank factory in Berlin.
Over the course of the war, Tuskegee pilots flew over 15,000 combat sorties, downed 111 German aircraft, and destroyed over 1,000 railcars, vehicles, and aircraft on the ground. They even once damaged a large torpedo ship so badly that it had to be scuttled.
The 332nd’s performance was widely reported in the closing days of the war, and it led to a larger discussion in the mid- to late-1940s about whether it made sense to keep the military segregated.
A U.S. F-16 Viper flies in 2006 with the distinctive “Red Tail” paint job used on aircraft flown by Tuskegee Airmen in World War II.
(U.S. Air Force Tech Sgt. Lee Harshman)
Military segregation had previously been questioned in the 1920s, but a racist and later discredited report released in 1925 had claimed that black pilots were naturally inferior. The combat performance of the 332nd combined with the valor of the 92nd Infantry Division made those erroneous claims even harder to believe.
The U.S. military was officially integrated in 1948. The 332nd still flies and fights today with black and white pilots working side-by-side as the 332nd Expeditionary Operations Group.