After troops from various militaries around the world finish their time in service, they turn their gear in, finalize their paperwork, and hang up their uniform for good. Swiss soldiers, however, can skip that last visit to the arms room and walk out with their service weapon in tow.
Surprised? To the Swiss, this is just a part of the culture.
This is a part of Switzerland’s Aggressive Neutrality Policy. Despite being a nation whose name has become synonymous with neutrality, Switzerland has kept the peace by letting the world know that it will not hesitate to defend itself by any means necessary.
It’s an open secret that the country hosts a huge amount of heavily fortified bunkers, ready-to-blow roadways, and the world’s 38th largest military despite the fact that the country is just shy of half the size of South Carolina. No, really — all of this information is readily available on Google.
(Photo by Oma Toes)
Another way for the Swiss to keep outside threats on edge is by pairing conscription with a gun culture that’s on par with Texas’. Every able-bodied male citizen is required to join the military in some fashion and the women are strongly encouraged. Culturally, conscription isn’t seen as a negative thing and recruits aren’t dragged in kicking and screaming.
In fact, it’s just an ordinary part of life and the Swiss are proud to join. In 2013, a referendum was drawn up to abolish conscription, but it failed miserably — 73% of citizens strongly favored conscription.
All of this is important to understanding the mindset of the Swiss people, their military, and their veterans. Nearly everyone in Switzerland has served in the military in some capacity and they keep the peace by tiptoeing while carrying a large friggin’ stick. If there should ever come a time where Switzerland is invaded, a well-armed and well-trained population is ready to rise up.
Now, this isn’t to say that rifles are handed over freely, even though that would make for the greatest VA system in the world. Most times, Swiss veterans pay out of pocket to keep the firearm they trained on. The ammunition isn’t for sale, though. Swiss vets need to get that on their own.
The Civil War was one of the early “Total Wars” in world history, where every industrial, military, diplomatic, and economic asset on both sides of the war was pressed into service, and no holds were barred in combat, at least in the last few years of the fighting. For battlefield leaders like Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman, that meant breaking the South in a way it couldn’t be fixed.
When Union officers began serious and successful forays into the Confederacy, they had to decide what infrastructure to protect and use as well as what infrastructure to destroy. If the rails would help Union supply lines, they stayed. But if the Union troops weren’t going to stick around, the rails, boats, and more needed to be destroyed as decisively as possible.
This may seem simple. After all, when it comes to railroads, you can just tear up the tracks and, voila, no train can roll down those tracks until they’re rebuilt.
But there’s a problem. The Union didn’t have the logistics capability to ship all the iron from the rails back north to use. So it would have to remain in place. But when troops tore up the rails and then moved on, Confederate troops and workers would slip right back in and fix the rails within hours or days.
Major-General McPherson will move along the railroad toward Decatur and break the telegraph wires and the railroad. In case of the sounds of serious battle he will close in on General Schofield, but otherwise will keep every man of his command at work in destroying the railroad by tearing up track, burning the ties and iron, and twisting the bars when hot. Officers should be instructed that bars simply bent may be used again, but if when red hot they are twisted out of line they cannot be used again. Pile to ties into shape for a bonfire, put the rails across, and when red hot in the middle, let a man at each end twist the bar so that its surface become spiral. General McPherson will dispatch General Garrard’s cavalry eastward along the line of the railroad to continue the destruction as far as deemed prudent.
That excerpt is from Sherman’s Headquarters on July 18, 1864, with orders for the next day. Soon, Sherman’s men were marching across Georgia, twisting rails into a spiral so they could never be properly repaired.
The soldiers usually did this by building the bonfire as described in the order and then wrapping the rails all the way around a tree. Twisting the rails around something allowed them to do the deed without having to heat the rails quite as hot. And while bent instead of twisted rails could be repaired, the rails on the trees were bent around back onto themselves, incorporating a small twist and leaving a tree in the middle of it.
Well-twisted rails had to be sent back to a foundry to be melted down, and the South simply did not have enough foundry space and manpower to do that for the majority of the damaged rails.
Seriously, you wouldn’t think this would be that hard. But, for some reason, people keep pulling stunts or snitching on members of their own platoon and screwing the unit as a whole. So, here we are, writing a guide to teach everyone how to not Blue Falcon.
For anyone out there who doesn’t know the code, Blue Falcons are “Buddy F**kers,” folks who screw over their peers by being either overly zealous, overly lazy, or just a straight up jerk.
This photo of a dental technician is included because it frightens me — and I find that funny.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Collette Brooks)
This is likely the biggest source of inadvertent Blue Falconing, so let’s go through it. It usually starts with a unit dental screening, resulting in a few Joes and Jills getting the same appointment date — and there’s the rub. When the appointments are done, all of the troops have to decide what to do: Go back immediately or dawdle for a few hours?
Who, exactly, is the Blue Falcon here is conditional. If, and only if, the unit has vital stuff going on, everyone should go back to the unit, and anyone trying to dawdle is screwing the unit, performing Blue Falconry.
But the unit will almost certainly have nothing going on. Then, most of the guys will want to go to the barracks and one “high-speed” will want to go back to the unit and sniff the platoon sergeant’s butt. In this case, he’s the Blue Falcon. Seriously, dude/dudette, if you really have to do Army stuff right now, do some correspondence courses in your barracks while everyone else plays video games. Stop making everyone else show up to sit around the company for no reason.
Personal tents help protect your buddies from your Blue Falconry in the field, but it’s still your job to not be a dick.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Dalton S. Swanbeck)
Living in the field
There’re all sorts of ways to screw over your buddies while living in the field. First, while preparing for the field, pack the entire packing list unless:
You’re sure leadership won’t check, and
That neither you nor your unit will need the missing item.
This means that you always bring items like ponchos, which the squad or platoon may need to protect gear from water, even if you don’t think you’ll wear it.
Also, if there’s anything in MREs or hot rats that gives you indigestion, do not eat it before everyone piles into cots or Ranger graves right next to each other. If you smoke, chew, dip, or use snuff, you bring your own. Bring your cleaning kit, bring your own hygiene items, and adjust your sleep schedule to the mission. No one wants to give up their supplies or carry your weight.
Green berets carry their weight. Blue Falcons don’t. Always go green.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Connor Mendez)
Speaking of carrying your own weight: do it on ruck marches, you Blue Falcons. This is especially true on real patrols where the unit is likely carrying more weight than during training marches. If it’s gear that the platoon needs and you can’t carry it, fine; you can work with your buddies to redistribute the weight. But if you have 10 pounds in personal electronics and comfort items, you’re on your own.
This goes double for any support personnel who are sent to maneuver units to provide a service. You do not add to the unit’s weight. Do not bring anything you can’t carry. I mean, sure, if you’re bringing a Wolfhound with you, you might have to share some weight. But if you’re carrying an extra aid bag or a video camera, ruck up. The infantry has enough weight.
Army troops get a safety brief. It’s one of the most sensible and important formations of the week.
(US Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Craig Norton)
This one is simple: You go to formations at the assigned time in the assigned uniform with the assigned gear. Otherwise, your entire formation is left waiting around or getting smoked while you try to run and grab it.
And sometimes, there’s an agreed-upon piece of gear you bring even if it’s not assigned. If it’s a cold morning but the word is no pants in formation, you stow those in a car or behind the formation anyway. If first sergeant is feeling cold and offers to wear pants on the run, but you’re the only one without the whole uniform, then you deserve the heckling during the run.
Oh, and if you ask a question during a formation that doesn’t apply to the whole formation, screw you so hard with threaded objects.
Weird that this guy wore his uniform during the police chase. Looks more like a training event than anything. It’s almost like we have to illustrate this with stock photos.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Chase Sousa)
And if you’re in a Saturday at 0300 formation because first sergeant suspects that the 20-ish white male leading the police on a chase with a captured panda bear is a member of your company, you keep your mouth shut or you say that you’re pretty sure Jenkins is at a video game launch party that night (assuming first sergeant doesn’t know that games release on Tuesdays).
You do not mention his panda posters, key chain, and tattoos, or the fact that he had been bragging about a new kind of spice that doesn’t show up on drug tests. If he’s not leading the police on a chase, your unnecessary snitching is screwing him. If he is, the police can catch him without your help. Develop some tactical patience.
This gear is laying out on purpose. Don’t steal his crap.
(U.S. Army Pfc. Charles Thorman)
Look, if you leave gear — personal or government-issued — laying out, you’re taking risks. But, if someone in your platoon or squad leaves stuff out, your job is to secure it and then call them an idiot later. You don’t steal from within the unit. That “gear adrift is a gift” thing is Navy shenanigans. And even then, you shouldn’t do it in your own shop or section.
But, guys, if your buddies keep having to secure your sh*t, then get a handle on your sh*t. It’s not your section’s job to keep track of your stuff. Blue Falcons leave their stuff lying around. Real adults are able to take care of their own lives.
The U.S. Army’s new UH-60V Black Hawk helicopter featuring a digital cockpit has made its first flight, a company announced.
The chopper, basically a UH-60L upgraded with the new Integrated Avionics Suite, flew for the first time on Jan. 19 in Huntsville, Alabama, according to a release Monday from Northrop Grumman Corp. The base is home to the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Life Cycle Management Command.
The utility rotorcraft is made by Lockheed Martin Corp.’s Sikorsky unit, but Northrop won a contract in 2014 to upgrade between 700 and 900 L models of the aircraft with the new cockpit design, which replaces older analogue gauges with digital electronic instrument displays. The technology is already included in UH-60M production models.
“This UH-60V first flight accomplishment reaffirms our open, safe and secure cockpit solutions that will enable the most advanced capabilities for warfighters,” Ike Song, vice president of mission solutions at Northrop, said in a statement.
The Falls Church, Virginia-based company won the Army deal over such competitors as Lockheed Martin, Elbit Systems and Rockwell Collins, according to an Aviation Week report at the time.
The new system is nearly identical to the UH-60M interface, according to Northrop. The technology is designed to comply with the Federal Aviation Administration and European Aviation Safety Agency’s Global Air Traffic Management requirements for military and civilian airspace around the world, the company said.
The Army a decade ago began receiving UH-60M variants featuring the new digital cockpits. The M model is the most advanced variant of the helicopter and remains in production.
U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said April 20 he does not intend to discuss damage estimates from last week’s use of the military’s most powerful non-nuclear bomb on an Islamic State stronghold in Afghanistan.
On Jan. 25 the Pentagon said U.S. strikes in Yemen killed five al-Qaida fighters.
Mattis, who assumed office hours after President Donald Trump’s inauguration on Jan. 20, hasn’t publicly discussed such numbers. He said April 20 his view was colored by lessons learned from the Vietnam war, when exaggerated body counts undermined U.S. credibility.
“You all know the corrosive effect of that sort of metric back in the Vietnam war and it’s something that’s stayed with us all these years,” said Mattis, who was in Tel Aviv to meet Israeli government leaders on April 21.
He met April 20 with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi.
The publicity created by the bombing in Afghanistan caught many Pentagon leaders by surprise, leading to questions about whether U.S. commanders fully considered the strategic effects of some seemingly isolated decisions.
The Pentagon also has been criticized for its declaration that an aircraft carrier battle group was being diverted from Southeast Asia to waters off the Korean Peninsula, amid concern that North Korea might conduct a missile or nuclear test. The announcement led to misinformed speculation that the ships were in position to threaten strikes on North Korea.
Mattis said he is confident his commanders are properly weighing their actions.
When you hide behind a keyboard and computer screen, it’s easy to lie about who you are or what you’ve done. Almost anyone can go on the internet and say they’ve done this, that, and the other thing — and the veteran community is just as guilty of this.
There are shameless veterans everywhere who will go on the comments section and start shooting off lies faster than a GAU-8 Avenger dispenses 30mm rounds.
But honest veterans everywhere know the truth because they’ve been there and they know which lies are the most common.
This one is just plain stupid. If you’re proud of your service, there’s absolutely no reason to lie about what you did while you were in. Everyone plays a part in the big picture, so nothing you did is better or worse than what someone else did. Maybe you didn’t go to combat — so what? Take pride in the fact that you helped others prepare for it.
2. What they did “in-country”
No matter when or where troops are deployed, there tons of POGs out there who never see direct combat. For whatever reason, these veterans will lie to make their deployment sound like a Call of Duty mission. Maybe they feel ashamed. Or maybe they want to seem cool because they have that Afghanistan Campaign Medal on their chest but not a Combat Action Ribbon.
3. How badass they are at shooting/fighting
If someone really is a great shooter, they’ll have proof. Someone who made rifle expert will have the badge to prove it and those who are just really good shots will have pictures of their targets.
But veterans who were always garbage on the rifle range will not only lie about their skill but, when cornered, they’ll throw out excuses for why they didn’t do well on the range.
4. That time they were with Special Forces
POGs will read this and go, “but I was with Special Forces,” conveniently leaving out the fact that they were administrative specialists who just made sure the operators got paid on time. Chances are, they didn’t spend much time — if any — sleeping outside or eating MREs.
Veterans who are insecure about their service will do everything mentioned above and then go on to say that they did a ton of other things. They’ll tell you about that one time they rescued a cat out of a tree or saved an Afghan child from a whole squad of Taliban while carrying their best friend on their back.
They’ll tell you Medal of Honor-worthy stories, but what they won’t tell you is that the cat was in the Patrol Base and their platoon commander ordered them to get it out — or that they couldn’t carry the wounded the whole way and the child was never there.
Some veterans will go on the internet and make it seem like it was an easy day after they got the infamous peanut butter shot. But every other veteran knows damn-well they couldn’t sit down or walk properly because they were in so much pain.
*Bonus* How much free time they had
Some veterans like to go online and claim that they were always “in the sh*t,” but everyone knows they had a ton of free time.
They probably spent an unholy amount of time watching adult films, playing video games, or playing cards with their buddies.
The military is a breeding ground for excellence. You have to be a cut — or two — above the rest to make it through those doors and the wringer doesn’t stop until you are appropriately Blue, Green, or Marine.
It is no surprise that some of those excellent members turned out to be some of the all-time great athletes. Check out some of the best to ever step on the field of competition before, after, and sometimes during service to their country.
James served in the U.S. Air Force from 2002 to 2008 as a security forces member, HUA. James would separate from service to eventually attend and play ball for Florida State. He was drafted in 2012 by the Cleveland Cavaliers. James is the youngest veteran on this list at 32.
6. Elgin Baylor – Army Reserves
Baylor joined U.S. Army Reserves during his Hall of Fame career. At the time, Baylor was one of the premier players in the early days of the NBA. He was called to active duty during the 1962 season, having to bounce from duty to game and back throughout the course of the season. Baylor is a Hall of Fame inductee and a stylistic predecessor to many of today’s players.
5. Alejandro Villanueva – Army
Villanueva attended West Point and received a commission in the U.S. Army in 2010. He would initially go undrafted before eventually finding a home with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2014. In the space between, Villanueva served his country as a U.S. Army Ranger and notched a few tours in the Middle East under his belt. His journey has come full circle, as he made the NFL Pro Bowl in 2017.
4. Willie Mays – Army
Mays was drafted to the U.S. Army in 1952 during the Korean War. He would miss two seasons while serving his country. He would return to the MLB with the San Francisco Giants in 1954 and promptly liter the record books with his name. Mays would go on to make every All-Star game until retirement in 1973.
3. Nolan Ryan – Army Reserves
Ryan holds the MLB record for strikeouts — nearly 1,000 strikeouts ahead of the number 2 guy — and no-hitters. He enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserves in 1967.
2. Randy Couture – Army
Couture served in the U.S. Army from 1982 to 1988. He attained the rank of sergeant before separating to pursue other endeavors. He went on to become an Olympic team alternate three times as a Greco-Roman wrestler before going on to UFC fame.
Vera enlisted in the U.S. Air Force in the late 1990’s after deciding college wasn’t the route for him. He trained with the Air Force wrestling team before injuring his arm and eventually being medically discharged from service.
Vera went on to rehab himself and make it to the UFC where he has a professional record of 15 and 7.
President Donald Trump’s hawkish national security adviser, John Bolton, infuriated North Korea with a strange and threatening comment about denuclearization in May 2018, and now he seems excluded from the countries’ talks.
The reason most likely goes back to Bolton’s comment in May 2018, that the US was looking at a “Libya model” for denuclearizing North Korea.
The Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi was killed by rebels in 2011 during a conflict in which the US intervened a few years after Libya dismantled its nuclear program. Bolton’s comment was widely understood to imply that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un too would soon meet his end.
The chief of staff of the US Army says his troops must have a “laser-focused sense of urgency” on military preparedness, a day after the defense secretary told troops “to be ready” with military options to deal with North Korea.
Speaking at the US Army’s annual conference Oct. 10, General Mark Milley said improving readiness must be his military service branch’s top task, calling the present day an “inflection point in history.”
“It has never been more important than it is today,” Milley said in Washington. “We are more prepared today and a better Army for our efforts, but we are not there yet.”
Milley said the Army must continue to grow its numbers, develop a large-scale urban combat training center, and streamline acquisition processes, while improving technologies in cyber, combat simulation, and robotics.
He also pushed Congress to pass a budget so the military can move forward with strengthening its force, noting if the US military doesn’t adapt to changes in the global threat, it will lose the next war.
“Preparation for war is very expensive,” Milley told troops. “But preparation for war is much cheaper than fighting a war, and the only thing more expensive than fighting a war is fighting and losing a war.”
Milley’s comments come a day after US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said the US relationship with North Korea remains a diplomatic one, but that the military must be prepared in case the situation breaks down.
Speaking at the conference Oct. 9, Mattis noted the effort to turn North Korea off its nuclear path is currently “diplomatically led” and buttressed by economic sanctions.
“What does the future hold? Neither you nor I can say, so there is one thing the US Army can do, and that is you have got to be ready to ensure that we have military options that our president can employ if needed,” Mattis said.
Tensions with North Korea have escalated since the start of the year due to a series of missile launches from North Korea and a nuclear test last month.
The US has responded to these acts with military shows of force in international and allied air space. Last month, US Air Force B-1B Lancer bombers and F-16 fighter jets flew the farthest north of the demilitarized zone that any US fighter or bomber aircraft had flown off North Korea’s coast in the 21st century.
American President Donald Trump has engaged in weeks of taunts with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, calling the dictator “Rocket Man” and saying the United States would “totally destroy” North Korea, if necessary, to protect itself and its allies if Pyongyang attacks.
Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, Ronald L. Green, shared his second video message to Marines as part of the Own It! campaign. In the video, he calls for Marines to “look around you and see who might be struggling and ask them, how can I help?” Own It! is a Marine Corps awareness campaign designed to provide tips to Marines on how to start tough conversations with fellow Marines.
“We all need to support each other in protecting what we’ve earned. So, if you see something, do something, and help our Marine Corps family be safe and ready for the next fight,” said Sgt. Maj. Green.
Marines and their families can join the conversation by texting OWNIT to 555-888.
By texting OWNIT, participants will receive links to resources that will guide them on how to have a tough conversation with a Marine Corps family member about difficult situations like suicide, consent, rejection, bullying, substance abuse, as well as family issues including relationship red flags, divorce, child abuse, or the unexpected death of a loved one. These tip sheets are available at www.usmc-mccs.org/ownit.
This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.
Staff Sgt. Timothy Dawson was trying to get some rest before work the next day. The phone rang twice before he answered it. His neighbor, who lives just above his apartment complex on the hill, told him the fire was really close and they were evacuating.
That neighbor was 1st Lt. Mike Constable, a pilot with the 146th Airlift Wing, Channel Islands Air National Guard Station, California. Dawson said he could see Constable and his roommates packing things into their cars.
The Thomas Fire started on Dec. 4, 2017 in Santa Paula, near Thomas Aquinas College. Driven by Santa Ana winds gusting up to 70 mph, the flames screamed across the hillsides toward Ojai and Ventura. Numerous fires leapfrogged across Ventura and Los Angeles Counties the following day.
Dawson’s three-level, 52-unit apartment complex burned to the ground a few hours later.
Ironically, Dawson is a C-130J Hercules crew chief for the 146th AW, one of five wings in the Air Force equipped with the module airborne firefighting system, or MAFFS. This system is loaded onto C-130s and is designed to fight the very thing that took his home, wildfires.
The 146th AW was activated Dec. 5 to fight what became the largest California wildfire by size in the state’s recorded history, covering 281,893 acres. The Thomas Fire is now 100 percent contained.
“We got the word and everybody sprung into action. Our maintenance folk got the airplane ready for us, our aerial port guys went and got the MAFFS units pulled out and loadmasters got the airplanes ready. It was really a well-oiled machine on that day. We got things done really quickly,” said Senior Master Sgt. Phil Poulsen, a loadmaster with the 146th AW.
Most of the Airmen stationed at Channel Islands ANGS are from Ventura County or the surrounding area. Approximately 50 people from the 146th AW evacuated their homes during the fire and five Airmen lost their homes.
“I can see the smoke from my house and we know people who live there,” Poulson said. “My daughter went to daycare up there and I think I flew over that house. I think it’s gone. So it really hits close to home when you are this close to home.”
The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or CAL FIRE, requested MAFFS aircraft and personnel support through the state’s governor and the Adjutant General of the state’s National Guard. Once activated, CAL FIRE incident commanders assigned to the Thomas Fire, and based at the Ventura Fairgrounds, generate the launch orders for the MAFFS. The aircraft sit ready at Tanker Base Operations, a few miles south of the fairgrounds at Channel Islands Air National Guard Station.
Once requested, the C-130s would join the fight at a designated altitude in the protected flight area, typically 1,500 feet above ground. An aerial supervisor, or air attack, would fly at about 2,000 feet, directing and controlling the aircraft. Lead planes, at 1,000 feet, guide the tankers to their drop points, approximately 150 feet above the ground.
“Once we enter the fire traffic area, we join on the lead plane. He’ll typically give us a show me [puff of smoke] which shows us where he’s intending us to drop,” said Lt. Col. Scott Pemberton, a C-130J pilot with the 146th AW. “We try to be very precise with that because you know it’s a high value asset and you get one shot at it.”
The mission requires the crews to fly the C-130s very close to the fires.
“You’re taking the fight directly to the ground,” Pemberton said. “We are 150 feet above the ground at 120 knots, at the edge of the airplane’s envelope. You’re demanding a lot of yourself and your fellow crewmembers. So that’s why you are typically very highly trained and are very prepared to do this mission.”
The MAFFS can hold 3,000 gallons of retardant, which is released from a nozzle placed in the left rear troop door of the aircraft. It takes approximately 15 minutes to load retardant into the MAFFS, another 15 minutes to reach the Thomas Fire, 10 more to join the lead plane and drop and then another 15 minutes to return to base. With 10 hours of daylight and two planes, the 146th AW drops an average of 60,000 gallons of retardant each day.
“Many times if you are close to a fire line and you’re doing direct attack you’ll see the guys standing down there,” Pemberton said. “On the second, third or fourth drop you’ll come by and you will see that you have gotten close enough to where they are a different color. But I’ve also seen the whites of their eyes where they’re diving behind their bulldozer because you’re that close, and they know that the retardant is coming.”
Still, the dangers of this mission are not lost on Pemberton.
On July 1, 2012, MAFFS 7, which belonged to the North Carolina Air National Guard’s 145th Airlift Wing based at the Charlotte-Douglas International Airport, crashed while fighting the White Draw Fire in South Dakota’s Black Hills. Four of the six crewmembers aboard died.
“There was a thunderstorm approaching from the north and as they were waiting for the lead to coordinate and get his bearings… The thunderstorm moved closer and closer,” Pemberton said. “They made a first run and I think they got off half of their retardant.”
As they made their second run, they had a wind shear event and a microburst took away their lift and forced them to fly straight ahead into the terrain.
“As a result of that incident, we completely changed our training. We incorporated a lot of the wind shear escape maneuvers, and we built new seats for the loadmasters in the back and made crashworthy seats for those crewmembers,” Pemberton said.
This training and the 146th AW’s capabilities benefit everyone involved in the wildfire fighting community, too.
The 146th AW plays a big role in extinguishing fires, said Tenner Renz a dozer swamper with the Kern County Fire Department, but it’s something he sees on almost every fire. Whether a 100-acre or a 250,000-acre fire, the guard shows up.
“Some of these guys are crazy. I mean dipping down into some of these canyons, flying through smoke, buzzing treetops,” Renz said. “They have a talent that most people don’t have.”
Having the MAFFS capability means the 146th AW can be federally activated to support firefighting operations around the United States by the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho. An Air Force liaison group, led on a rotating basis by one of the five MAFFS unit commanders, staffs the center.
This wide-ranging operational experience and capability gives CAL FIRE an extra capability when things are at their worst.
“We currently have low humidity, Santa Ana winds, we haven’t had rain in a number of days and we’re in areas that haven’t burned in 50-60 years,” said Dan Sendek, MAFFS liaison officer for CAL FIRE. “You can never have enough equipment for every eventuality. What the guard brings to us is that surge capacity when we’re in a situation where we need everything we can get.”
Six days after he lost his home, Dawson was back at work.
“The routine of going about the mission and getting things done is probably better,” Dawson said. “I needed to get back and get involved in the fire mission. The show must go on. The world doesn’t stop spinning and the guard doesn’t stop flying missions.”
For Dawson, it’s also a chance to combat the fire that took his home and save some of his neighbor’s property.
Dawson and his wife were able to return to their apartment a few days after the fire destroyed it, however, they were not able to search for personal items because the fire was still smoldering.
“Every single tenant in the 52 units was able to get out ahead of the fire. When we went back for the first time it was it was pretty emotionally taxing,” he said. “There were two stories worth of apartments that collapsed into a carport. There’s nothing left that we could really find.
“To me, then and even now, it still feels a little surreal. I know it’s happening to me, but it feels like it’s happening to someone else.”
Service members and their families at Fort Lee, Virginia, asked the Commander in Chief tough questions during a town hall meeting broadcast by CNN Sept 28.
President Barack Obama covered varied topics, including the Syrian civil war, sending more U.S. troops to Iraq, issues affecting veterans and protests during the playing of the national anthem.
When a soldier asked the president for his opinion about football players taking a knee during the playing of the national anthem, Obama said that honoring the flag and the anthem “is part of what binds us together as a nation,” but that he also respects the right to have a different opinion.
“We fight sometimes so that people can do things that we disagree with,” he said. “But that’s what freedom means in this country.”
He said American democracy can be frustrating at times, “but it’s the best system we’ve got. And, the only way that we make it work is to see each other, listen to each other, try to be respectful of each other, not just go into separate corners.”
The president added, “I do hope that anybody who is trying to express any political view of any sort understands that they do so under the blanket of protection of our men and women in uniform and that that appreciation of that sacrifice is never lost.”
Hosted by CNN’s Jake Tapper, the town hall-style event included questions about sending 600 additional U.S. troops to Iraq to help in the coming offensive against the Islamic State. Obama said the decision to send troops into harm’s way is the most important one he makes.
“I’ve always been very mindful that when I send any of our outstanding men and women in uniform into a war theater, they’re taking a risk that they may not come back,” the commander in chief said. “And so, there has not been a change from the time I came into office to the time that I leave office in which that is not a somber decision.”
The president said the nature of the missions has changed during his tenure. In Afghanistan, U.S. troops have transitioned from a combat role to an advise-and-assist role, with about 9,000 U.S. service members there.
“In Iraq, our goal is to provide air support, and we’ve flown 100,000 sorties, 15,000 strikes, to decimate ISIL,” he said. “But our job is not to provide the ground forces that are rolling back territory. That’s the job of the Iraqis, where we provide training and assistance [and] logistical support.”
U.S. special operators are in Iraq and Syria to go after high-value targets and to gather intelligence, the president said. He noted that about 5,000 U.S. troops are in Iraq, and about 300 are in Syria.
“But, it’s the nature of the role that has changed, rather than how I assess it,” the president said. “I am always mindful that any time our men and women in uniform are in a war theater, there is risk.”
U.S. personnel are engaging in a fight that is dangerous, the president said. “Each and every time we make a decision, I want to make sure that the Pentagon is describing how it is that those folks are going to add to our ability to dismantle ISIL in a smart and sustainable way,” he said.
The president told the service members that he constantly reviews options as he looks at the Syrian civil war. “There hasn’t been probably a week that’s gone by in which I haven’t re-examined some of the underlying premises around how we’re dealing with the situation in Syria, and explored whether there are additional options that we haven’t thought of,” he said.
Those include military options, the president said. “We have, by a mile, the greatest military on Earth, he said. “And we are going to always be in a position to defend the United States, defend our personnel, defend our people, our property and our allies.”
Obama said the question he always asks himself as commander in chief is whether inserting large numbers of U.S. troops will provide a better outcome.
“There have been critics of mine that have suggested that, well, if early enough you had provided sufficient support to a moderate opposition, they might have been able to overthrow the murderous Assad regime,” he said. “The problem with that is, as we’ve seen, that the Assad regime is supported by Russia. It’s supported by Iran.”
Because the Assad regime did not directly threaten the United States, Obama said, any deployment of troops would have violated international law.
“And unless we were willing to sustain a large presence there and escalate, if and when Russia or Iran got involved, then we were going to be in a situation where at some point the situation would collapse, except we would have a bunch of folks on the ground, and be very much overextended,” he said.
The key in Syria at this point, the president said, is to get the parties involved to talk together on diplomatic and political tracks.
“We will try to mitigate the pain and suffering that those folks are undergoing,” he said. “This is part of the reason why our approach to refugees, for example, has to be open-hearted, although also hard-headed, to protect our homeland.”
The Veterans Affairs Department received some criticism from the audience, and the president acknowledged the validity of the complaints. VA medical care must improve, he said, adding that there has been progress. The department had been underfunded for years, Obama said, noting the administration has increased its funding by 85 percent. But this is not a problem that will be solved by throwing money at it, he said. The department, he added, has to change procedures and its culture.
The president noted that VA makes 58 million medical appointments per year. Like a large ship that has turned and is on the right course now, he said, it will take time to reach its destination.
“We now have a situation where about 80 percent of individuals who interact with the VA are satisfied that they’re getting timely treatment,” Obama said. I want that to be 100 percent, and that requires more work.”
The AH-64 Apache has become a legendary helicopter — proving to be more than a capable replacement for the AH-1 Cobras in United States Army service, but this gunship almost didn’t see the light of day.
Back in the late 1960s, the Cobra was seen as just a stopgap. The Army ran a competition for an Advanced Aerial Fire Support System and, ultimately, selected Lockheed’s entry, designating it the AH-56 Cheyenne and ordering ten prototypes.
The Cheyenne was not a conventional helicopter. It had a top rotor and a tail rotor, but it also added a pusher propeller. This gave it a top speed of 245 miles per hour, according to MilitaryFactory.com. By comparison, the AH-64 has a top speed of just under 189 miles per hour. The Cheyenne had a single 30mm cannon and could carry BGM-71 TOW missiles, 2.75-inch rockets, and external fuel tanks.
So, why didn’t the Cheyenne become a staple? First, a fatal crash and numerous delays marred the project. Additionally, the Army’s Cheyenne was seen as a violation of the Key West Agreement, causing further friction. Plans to buy 600 Cheyennes were quickly scaled down to 375 as costs climbed.
Ultimately, the Army scrapped the Cheyenne when the Air Force began the A-X project, which eventually lead to fielding the A-10 Thunderbolt II close-air support plane. The Cheyenne was officially cancelled on August 9th, 1972. Eight days later, the Army began the Advanced Attack Helicopter program, which eventually produced the AH-64 Apache.
The Cheyenne hasn’t failed entirely, though. Sikorsky’s S-97 Raider prototype looks like a more advanced version of the Cheyenne. In a real sense, the Cheyenne was almost five decades ahead of its time.