British, French, Italian, and German jets have simulated flight interceptions over Western Europe as part of NATO maneuvers to deter Russian planes from entering alliance airspace.
The NATO drills on Sept. 12, 2018, came at the same time that Russia was showing off its most sophisticated air-defense system as it practiced fighting off a mock attack during military maneuvers of its own, the largest it has ever conducted.
The activity comes amid persistently high tensions between Russia and the West over Moscow’s actions in Ukraine and Syria and its alleged interference in elections in the United States and European countries.
In the NATO drills, fighter pilots from alliance members simulated the interception of a Belgian military transport plane en route to Spain. Visual inspections were made by flying off the wings at speeds of 900 kilometers an hour.
NATO has some 60 jets regularly on alert to defend its airspace. A record 870 interceptions were recorded of Russian aircraft in the Baltic region in 2016.
“NATO is relevant. This is not theoretical,” Spanish Air Force Lieutenant General Ruben Garcia Servert said aboard the Belgian plane.
As he spoke, Italian Eurofighters flew close to the cockpit to simulate interceptions, later joined by British Typhoons and French Mirages.
The European members of NATO are looking to display their commitments to their defense in the face of criticism by U.S. President Donald Trump that alliance members are not contributing enough financially to the alliance.
President Donald Trump and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
The Western alliance is currently negotiating an agreement that would have each member’s air force defend any other’s airspace under a “single sky” concept.
Currently, each country defends its own airspace, although other members help defend the airspace of the Baltic states, which do not have enough fighter jets of their own.
NATO is planning to hold its biggest maneuvers in 16 years when it conducts the Trident Juncture drills in Norway in October and November 2018.
The drills will feature more than 40,000 troops, including some from non-NATO members Finland and Sweden.
Meanwhile, Russia is conducting massive military exercises across its central and eastern regions, weeklong war games the Defense Ministry said would involve some 300,000 personnel — twice as many as the biggest Soviet maneuvers of the Cold War era.
Russian President Vladimir Putin inspected the drills in eastern Siberia on Sept. 13, 2018, and insisted that they were not targeted at any country.
“Russia is a peaceful nation,” Putin said at a firing range in the Chita region. “We do not and cannot have any aggressive plans,” he added.
On Sept. 12, 2018, the war games involved Russia’s newest S-400 surface-to-air defense system, which NATO considers a threat to its aircraft.
In 2017 Moscow signed a contract to sell the S-400 system to Turkey, angering NATO and particularly the United States, which threatened to suspend delivery of its F-35 stealth aircraft to Ankara.
The drills simulated a “massive missile attack” by an “unnamed enemy,” military official Sergei Tikhonov said.
The exercises, which also involve Chinese and Mongolian soldiers, will run through Sept. 17, 2018.
Air Force Space Command concluded its fourth iteration of the Department of Defense’s premier space exercise December 2018 in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Space Flag 19-1 took place over the course of two weeks, testing airmen from the 50th Space Wing and the 460th SW. SF 19-1 also included airmen from the 27th and 26th Space Aggressors squadrons, which are tenant units of Air Combat Command located at Schriever Air Force Base, Louisiana.
The goal of the exercise is to enable forces to achieve and maintain space superiority in a contested, degraded, and operationally limited environment.
“The intent of Space Flag is to allow tactical operators the ability to learn how to fight and defend their systems as an enterprise with other tactical operators in an arena we currently do not have,” said Col. Devin Pepper, 21st Operations Group commander and SF 19-1 space boss.
To prepare airmen for any conflict, space operators are thrown a dynamic range of scenarios.
“We train the way we fight,” said Capt. Josh Thogode, 27th SAS flight commander and SF 19-1 space aggressor. “My goal as an aggressor is to make blue (United States) lose in any scenario. If they lose during the exercise, then we can win when it matters. At the end of the day, we are all on the same team. The aggressors can add value to our techniques, tactics and procedures moving forward – that’s what we bring to the fight.”
The training space operators see is diverse and comes from several perspectives. In addition to aggressors testing space operators, senior space operators, referred to as tactical mentors, also provide training. The mentors observe and counsel airmen throughout the exercise and look for opportunities to give feedback to the space operators on how to improve their response to the threat.
“Space Flag really brings out the creativity in our space operations crew force,” said Maj. Justin Roberts, 50th SW weapons officer and SF 19-1 tactical mentor. “This exercise is an excellent opportunity for our space operators to think and test out new ideas. I, alongside other mentors, am there to gauge and guide their ideas. I have now been a tactical mentor for SF three times and I have seen a huge increase in the quality and capabilities of the operators coming to the exercise.”
Before Space Flag, facing an adversary in a space training environment was a rare thing.
“Space had always been benign,” Pepper said. “Back in our lieutenant days, we didn’t expect to have to defend our assets on orbit. We weren’t actively training against those threats. The war-fight is shifting though, so we have to be ready to encounter anything against our land-based and terrestrial systems. Having living, thinking aggressors acting as adversaries in the training environment prepares us for that day, if it ever comes.”
During calendar year 2017 and 2018, Space Flag occurred twice a year. During fiscal year 2019, Space Flag will increase to three times a year.
“Our adversaries have made tremendous strides in contesting us in the space domain,” said Pepper. “We have transitioned our culture and our way of thinking from just providing a service to the warfighter to actually being a space warfighter. We are a part of the fight, and the fight is on today.”
The Air Force had a number of various uniforms even before its independent inception in 1947. The evolution was a long and sometimes painful (on the eyes) one. Wear of Air Force uniforms is pretty important to airmen, and is governed by Air Force Instruction (AFI) 36-2903, the only AFI most airmen know offhand. It also contains uniform requirements for the Civil Air Patrol as if the Civil Air Patrol counts as the military… I mean, its nice that perfect attendance is required for your “basic training” but call us when the UCMJ applies to you.
The Air Force officially ended wear of olive green dress uniforms in 1952, switching over to distinct blue uniforms to stand out from the other services. In the years since, those “blues” (as they came to be called) evolved as times changed and as the Air Force itself changed.
This served for most airmen, but for those who still required a utility uniform, green would be (and still is) the mainstay for those uniforms. But Air Force utility uniforms always incorporated a distinctive blue, in some way, over the years to ensure its separation from the Army and little else.
The Air Force, like the Navy, appeared to be struggling with a uniform identity crisis in recent years, but it looks like they’ve got a handle on things.
The USAF came a long way, and so it’s good to take a look back at the best and worst of what the Air Force thought was a good idea, lest history repeat itself.
1. Flight Suits – (1917- Present)
The coolest looking and most comfortable uniform, the flight suit is easily the number one in the Air Force wardrobe. Early flight suits had the same needs as today’s flight suits. Aircrews need warm clothing with pockets to keep things from falling out. Early flight suits required jackets, usually leather, to keep the pilots warm. The need for pressurized cockpits allowed the flight suit to become what it is today: flame resistant, comfortable, practical and still cool-looking.
2. Battle Dress Uniform (1981-2011)
Maybe it’s because i’m partial to the uniform I wore every day, maybe it’s because the BDU is both comfortable and utilitarian, maybe because it’s a uniform which was worn across all branches of the U.S. military. In my mind, the only bad thing about this uniform was the M-65 BDU field jacket, which worked against the cold every bit as well as any crocheted blanket, which is to say, not at all. There’s a reason it was the longest-serving uniform.
3. Blue Shade 1084 & 1549 Service Dress Uniform (1962-1969)
This is the one which became the iconic Air Force blues uniform after appearing in Stanley Kubrick’s 1964 film Dr. Strangelove. An Air Force officer in the film, cigar-chomping Brig. Gen. Jack D. Ripper, acted and looked a lot like real life Air Force Gen. Curtis LeMay, who is famous for his hardline thinking. He was once quoted as saying:
“If I see that the Russians are amassing their planes for an attack, I’m going to knock the sh-t out of them before they take off the ground.”
Army and Air Force personnel wore this both stateside and deployed to the Southeast Asia theater. It was replaced by the Tropical Combat Uniform in Southeast Asia but outside it continued to be the work uniform of choice through the 1970s when it was replaced by the woodland BDU.
5. SR-71 Pressure Suits (1966-1999)
Its almost not even fair. They get to crew the greatest airframe ever designed AND look like an awesome alt-metal band in the process.
6. Air Force PT Uniforms (2006- Present)
Have you ever gone to the gym and wondered how much greater your workout could be if you did it while wearing swim trunks? The Air Force physical training uniform combines all the internal mesh of swim trunks to keep yourself in place with all the length of 1970s tennis player shorts to ensure you’re not only uncomfortable working out but so is everyone who has to look at you.
7. Air Force Band Drum Major
I understand military tradition requires bands, but do we still have to make them dress like they should be guarding Queen Elizabeth? I wonder what possible purpose that giant hat served, even when it was a real part of a military uniform. Did the scepter ever serve a real purpose? And that sash looks makes him look less like an Air Force Chief and more like he’s the WWE Intercontinental Champion.
8. Air Force Command Staff Ceremonial Uniforms (2012)
In 2012, Gen. Mark Welsh III rolled out a new set of ceremonial uniforms for the Air Force Command Staff. Commenters from Air Force magazine were quick to crack jokes about the special uniforms:
“General Welsh looks like a Russian crown prince at an embassy ball. What is it? Come on, General LeMay would never wear that!!”
“It appears the general is or was a member of the Air Force Band.”
“Exactly when did the AF adopt John Phillip Sousa’s uniform as its own?”
Air Force Times offered Welsh an opportunity to talk about the uniform, but he declined.
9. Air Force Summer Service Uniform (1956)
This one is so bad, it’s hard to find evidence of it. It looked like your mailman earned rank and started maintaining aircraft. Yes, in the photo above even other airmen can’t believe these guys are actually wearing Khaki shorts and a safari hat. Ladies usually love a man in uniform, but these guys will be single until they ditch those ugly things.
10. Merrill McPeak Dress Blues
The uniform was criticized for looking too much like the Navy’s uniforms, like an airline pilot’s uniform, or “a business suit with medals,” it featured a white shirt and the signature clouds and lightning bolts (aka “Farts and Darts”) on the sleeves of the jacket. McPeak’s uniform was popular with absolutely no one but McPeak. These uniforms went away as soon as he did.
A group of Microsoft employees are demanding that the company’s leadership abandon a contract with the US Army that they say makes them into “war profiteers” — a contract that relates to Microsoft’s HoloLens augmented-reality technology.
On Feb. 22, 2019, a group of workers at the Redmond, Washington-based tech giant released an open letter in which they slammed a $749 million contract the company holds to develop an “Integrated Visual Augmentation System” (IVAS) to build “a single platform that Soldiers can use to Fight, Rehearse, and Train that provides increased lethality, mobility, and situational awareness necessary to achieve overmatch against our current and future adversaries.”
“We did not sign up to develop weapons, and we demand a say in how our work is used,” the letter reads. “As employees and shareholders we do not want to become war profiteers. To that end, we believe that Microsoft must stop in its activities to empower the U.S. Army’s ability to cause harm and violence.”
Fifty employees have signed the letter so far, and organizers say that number is expected to grow.
The organized action comes just days before Microsoft is widely expected to unveil a new HoloLens headset at the Mobile World Congress technology conference in Europe and is a sign of the rising tide of labor activism in the American technology industry.
(Flickr photo by Franklin Heijnen)
“We are going public with the demand to cancel the Hololens DoD contract because we want our voices to be heard on this life or death matter,” a Microsoft worker who asked to remain anonymous told Business Insider. “We haven’t heard back from Microsoft officially, or from any execs at this point — we’re hoping this open letter will help get us a response.”
In June 2018, Google canceled a US military contract after internal uproar. Amazon has also faced protests over military contracts, though CEO Jeff Bezos has said the company has no plans to end them — even implicitly rebuking Google for its actions as unpatriotic. “If big tech companies are going to turn their back on the US Department of Defense, this country is going to be in trouble,” Bezos said in October 2018.
The same anonymous Microsoft worker challenged this argument, saying: “Jeff Bezos and other tech execs reap massive profits from military contracts. Patriotism is just a front. If we look at who benefits, it is certainly not the individual engineers working at these companies.”
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.
In a statement, Microsoft spokesperson Liz Reisen said: “We gave this issue careful consideration and outlined our perspective in an October 2018 blog. We always appreciate feedback from employees and provide many avenues for their voices to be heard. In fact, we heard from many employees throughout the fall. As we said then, we’re committed to providing our technology to the U.S. Department of Defense, which includes the U.S. Army under this contract. As we’ve also said, we’ll remain engaged as an active corporate citizen in addressing the important ethical and public policy issues relating to AI and the military.”
Here’s the full letter:
“Dear Satya Nadella and Brad Smith,
“We are a global coalition of Microsoft workers, and we refuse to create technology for warfare and oppression. We are alarmed that Microsoft is working to provide weapons technology to the U.S. Military, helping one country’s government ‘increase lethality’ using tools we built. We did not sign up to develop weapons, and we demand a say in how our work is used.
“In November, Microsoft was awarded the 9 million Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS) contract with the United States Department of the Army. The contract’s stated objective is to ‘rapidly develop, test, and manufacture a single platform that Soldiers can use to Fight, Rehearse, and Train that provides increased lethality, mobility, and situational awareness necessary to achieve overmatch against our current and future adversaries.’ Microsoft intends to apply its HoloLens augmented reality technology to this purpose. While the company has previously licensed tech to the U.S. Military, it has never crossed the line into weapons development. With this contract, it does. The application of HoloLens within the IVAS system is designed to help people kill. It will be deployed on the battlefield, and works by turning warfare into a simulated ‘video game,’ further distancing soldiers from the grim stakes of war and the reality of bloodshed.
“Intent to harm is not an acceptable use of our technology.
“We demand that Microsoft:
“1) Cancel the IVAS contract;
“2) Cease developing any and all weapons technologies, and draft a public-facing acceptable use policy clarifying this commitment;
“3) Appoint an independent, external ethics review board with the power to enforce and publicly validate compliance with its acceptable use policy.
“Although a review process exists for ethics in AI, AETHER, it is opaque to Microsoft workers, and clearly not robust enough to prevent weapons development, as the IVAS contract demonstrates. Without such a policy, Microsoft fails to inform its engineers on the intent of the software they are building. Such a policy would also enable workers and the public to hold Microsoft accountable.
“Brad Smith’s suggestion that employees concerned about working on unethical projects ‘would be allowed to move to other work within the company’ ignores the problem that workers are not properly informed of the use of their work. There are many engineers who contributed to HoloLens before this contract even existed, believing it would be used to help architects and engineers build buildings and cars, to help teach people how to perform surgery or play the piano, to push the boundaries of gaming, and to connect with the Mars Rover (RIP). These engineers have now lost their ability to make decisions about what they work on, instead finding themselves implicated as war profiteers.
“Microsoft’s guidelines on accessibility and security go above and beyond because we care about our customers. We ask for the same approach to a policy on ethics and acceptable use of our technology. Making our products accessible to all audiences has required us to be proactive and unwavering about inclusion. If we don’t make the same commitment to be ethical, we won’t be. We must design against abuse and the potential to cause violence and harm.
“Microsoft’s mission is to empower every person and organization on the planet to do more. But implicit in that statement, we believe it is also Microsoft’s mission to empower every person and organization on the planet to do good. We also need to be mindful of who we’re empowering and what we’re empowering them to do. Extending this core mission to encompass warfare and disempower Microsoft employees, is disingenuous, as ‘every person’ also means empowering us. As employees and shareholders we do not want to become war profiteers. To that end, we believe that Microsoft must stop in its activities to empower the U.S. Army’s ability to cause harm and violence.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
British Royal Marines exercised their Tactical Recovery of Aircraft and Personnel proficiency in Rindal, Norway Nov. 6, 2018, during Exercise Trident Juncture 18. The Royal Marines with X-Ray Company, 45 Commando, worked in conjunction with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit and assets from Marine Aircraft Group 29.
U.S. Marine Capt. Josef Otmar and U.S. Marine 1st Lt. Zachary Duncavage served as isolated personnel during the exercise. Approximately 30 Royal Marines loaded into two U.S Marine Corps CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters from Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 366 after the 24th MEU prepared to execute the TRAP mission.
Prior to the Royal Marines’ insertion into the landing zone, a UH-1Y Venom helicopter patrolled the area from the sky, searching for notional enemy combatants. The CH-53Es arrived shortly thereafter and delivered the Royal Marines who were met by members of the Norwegian Home Guard, who were role-playing as the opposing forces.
A U.S. Marine Corps CH-53E Super Stallion lifts off from Rindal, Norway, during a Tactical Recovery of Aircraft and Personnel exercise, Nov. 6, 2018.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Margaret Gale)
“It’s been very positive working with U.S. Marines,” said British Lt. Tom Williams, a troop commander with X-Ray Company. “The interoperability has been very effective and we have been able to do a lot of planning with them on a tactical level as well as at a higher headquarters level.”
A British Royal Marine provides security after disembarking a U.S. Marine Corps CH-53E Super Stallion during a Tactical Recovery of Aircraft and Personnel exercise in Rindal, Norway, Nov. 6, 2018.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Margaret Gale)
The Royal Marines were able to maneuver on the enemy location and recover the first isolated U.S. Marine simultaneously.
British Royal Marines prepare to evacuate Capt. Josef Otmar during a Tactical Recovery of Aircraft and Personnel exercise in Rindal, Norway, Nov. 6, 2018.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Margaret Gale)
“It was impressive to watch the Royal Marines operate and how quickly they recovered the [U.S. Marines] while suppressing the enemy,” said U.S. Marine Capt. Jacob Yeager, a member of the 24th MEU who was embedded with the Royal Marines. “The fact that we were able to integrate them with Marine Corps aviation is a great training value for both of our forces. U.S. Marine Corps aircraft delivered U.K. Royal Marines into a landing zone to recover two isolated U.S. Marines. That’s significant.”
British Royal Marines evacuate Capt. Josef Otmar during a Tactical Recovery of Aircraft and Personnel exercise in Rindal, Norway, Nov. 6, 2018.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Margaret Gale)
After the first U.S. Marine was safely evacuated from the landing zone, the Royal Marines began to search for the second U.S. Marine which led them through approximately 500 meters of the steep, dense Norwegian forest.
Two U.S. Marine Corps CH-53E Super Stallions land during a Tactical Recovery of Aircraft and Personnel exercise in Rindal, Norway, Nov. 6, 2018.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Margaret Gale)
Once the Royal Marines were prepared to evacuate the second U.S. Marine, the notional enemy attacked from the tree line. Combined capabilities were on full display at this point, as the Royal Marines maneuvered on the enemy and Yeager called for close-air support, which was delivered by the UH-1Y Venom with Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 269. The effective enemy suppression allowed the Royal Marines to deliver the U.S. Marine safely to the awaiting CH-53E.
A British Royal Marine searches for a simulated isolated service member during a Tactical Recovery of Aircraft and Personnel exercise in Rindal, Norway, Nov. 6, 2018.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Margaret Gale)
“Forty Five Commando has spent time on the USS Iwo Jima and Royal Marines and U.S. Marines shared their unique traditions and fighting capabilities with each other,” said Williams. “This training will aid in future interoperability going forward.”
Eugene Taylor remembers how eager enlisted airmen like him were to fly.
Taylor, who enlisted in 1968 and deployed to Vietnam, first worked as an avionics technician. Nearly a decade later, Taylor, a tech sergeant, became a T-37 and T-38 flight simulator instructor with the 71st Flying Training Wing at Vance Air Force Base, Oklahoma. He became so adept that he was occasionally given the chance to fly the T-38, with permission from the pilot, during stateside flights.
It has been decades since enlisted airmen had the chance to sit in the cockpit. But as the Air Force faces the greatest pilot shortages since its inception, service leaders are contemplating a return to a model that includes enlisted pilots. A Rand Corp. study, set to be completed this month, is exploring the feasibility of bringing back a warrant officer corps for that purpose. And another, separate Air Force study is examining, in part, whether enlisted pilots could benefit from new high-tech training that leverages artificial intelligence and simulation.
With these moves, the Air Force is inching just a few steps closer to someday getting enlisted airmen back in the cockpit, on a formal basis, for the first time since World War II.
“We have enlisted airmen in our Guard and reserve component who have private pilot’s licenses and fly for the airlines. So it’s not a matter of can they do it, or hav[ing] the smarts or the capability, it’s just a matter of us, as an Air Force, deciding that that’s a route that we want to take,” said Chief Master Sgt. Kaleth O. Wright, the 18th Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force.
Military.com sat down with the service’s top enlisted leader in February 2018, to talk about enlisted aviators and reinstituting the warrant officer program.
“It’s something we walked away from years ago, and I won’t say that we haven’t been willing to relook at [it],” Wright said, of having enlisted pilots. “It’s nothing that we can’t overcome.”
Creating a Cadre
Wright noted there may be a few bumps in the road before an enlisted cadre could be instituted.
The main challenge would be to structure an appropriate career development path for the airmen, answering questions regarding when and how they would promote and when they would rotate to a new squadron. Wright said thus far officers “naturally float” to a flight commander or squadron commander from base to base, according to a system that has been in place for decades, but questioned whether the same system would work for enlisted pilots.
Additionally, the service would have to study whether enlisted airmen should be granted the right to employ weapons from an aircraft.
“Whether it’s manned or unmanned, if there’s an enlisted airman that’s going to be flying and employing weapons, it requires certain authorities we would have to get by,” Wright said.
For example, enlisted airmen are currently only authorized to be remotely piloted aircraft pilots on the RQ-4 Global Hawk drone, a surveillance-only platform.
Photo courtesy of Eugene Taylor
“That’s just part of our age-old doctrine, that the employment of weapons, that the authority and responsibility lies with officers,” he said.
Reinstituting the warrant officer program could also help leaders decide on acceptable policies that would “determine if it makes us a more lethal and ready fighting force,” Wright said.
“What this is about is not just aviation or flying — it’s about maintaining the technical expertise,” Wright said. “In some cases, having warrant officers will allow us retain that talent and keep those folks doing what they love.”
The Air Force in the past has commissioned studies to look into bringing back warrant officers, with another study from RAND, a nonprofit institution that provides research and analysis studies on public policy, on the way.
“The Air Force is partnering with RAND for a study on the feasibility of warrant officers and we are projecting a completion by the end of March 2018,” Air Force spokeswoman Capt. Kathleen Atanasoff told Military.com.
February 2018, the Air Force began a separate study on whether it could benefit from someday allowing enlisted pilots.
Air Education and Training Command said the study, called the pilot training next initiative, explores how pilots can learn and train faster “by using existing and emerging technologies that can decrease the time and cost of training,” but with the same depth of understanding to produce quality pilots.
That includes using virtual reality simulation and A.I. to get airmen in an aircraft faster, with the potential of expanding the streamlined training.
The study is expected to conclude in August, in hopes of advancing all 20 students in the program: 15 officers and five enlisted airmen.
Foundation of Skills
Taylor, the Vietnam-era airman, served in the 341X1 career field for T-37 and T-38 trainers, which would quickly disappear once the Air Force reasoned enlisted personnel were needed elsewhere.
Once airmen were taught scenarios in a classroom, they would go to him to practice the maneuvers in the simulator.
“I was one of those people as an enlisted instructor, and it was the best job I ever had,” Taylor said in a recent interview with Military.com.
Through months of simulation tech school paired with his past experience working on planes, Taylor had gained the skills he needed to know the aircraft. Taylor’s instructor career field, however, dissolved only a year later, and he moved back into avionics at Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi. But he remembers his “flight time” and experience with the T-37 and T-38 fondly.
“As a master avionics superintendent, I did get to fly in the back seat of the [T-38] aircraft six times to perform aircraft maintenance at off-station sites,” he said. “I told the pilot that I was a flight simulator instructor pilot at Vance. And when I flew, the pilot would say, ‘You know how to fly this, you do it.’ So, I would,” Taylor said.
Taylor recalled flying the aircraft from Columbus to MacDill Air Force Base,Florida.
“I [then] repaired another T-38 from our base and flew the aircraft back to Columbus. The pilot made the takeoff and landing on both legs of the flight, but I did all radio calls, and navigation,” he said.
Taylor would fly similar routes twice more with the same pilot.
“So yes, enlisted people can definitely perform the job,” he said.
According to a1992 paper for the Air Force Enlisted Heritage Research Institute, the 341X1 and 341X2 career fields, born out of very early service ideals that enlisted members should work side-by-side with officer pilots, were Analog and Digital Trainer Specialists. The fields were part of the larger Aircrew Training Devices 34XXX specialty.
“The contributions of the enlisted men and women in the training devices career field were great,” noted the paper, written by Air Force student Senior Master Sgt. G. A. Werhs of the Senior Noncomissioned Officer Academy. “From its very beginning in 1939 until its end in the late 80s, [the 34XXX] was [an] entirely enlisted career field. All maintenance and operations were performed by highly skilled personnel. Every aircraft in the Air Force inventory had a simulator associated with it and enlisted members were there to operate and maintain it.
“[H]ow many people realize that for nearly 50 years those pilots received much of the initial training on the ground from enlisted soldiers and airmen[?]” Werhs asked.
Taylor suggested the career field closed because the service didn’t want enlisted troops to get to that next level: flying among officers. The service, he said, also had an abundance of pilots at the time.
“The Vietnam War had wound down, so they had more pilots than the Air Force needed,” Taylor said. “By taking away the enlisted instructors, it let them use the pilots that were qualified to fly the T-38 instead of kicking them out of the service.”
But there are many who believe that enlisted airmen, in some capacity, deserve the chance to once again get up in the air.
Rooted in History
Before the Air Force became a breakout service independent of the Army, enlisted pilots were known as “flying sergeants,” receiving a promotion to staff sergeant once they completed pilot training.
Enlisted pilots, in one form or another, date back to 1912. But it wasn’t until 1941, when Congress passed the the Air Corps Act of 1926 and Public Law 99, that enlisted troops were able to receive qualified training.
“We never thought about whether we wanted to be an enlisted pilot or an officer pilot,” said retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Edward Wenglar, a former enlisted pilot. “We just wanted to be pilots, and we would gladly have stayed privates forever just to have the chance to fly,” Wenglar said in a 2003 service release.
Wenglar, who served overseas during World War II, holds the distinction of “achieving the highest rank of any former enlisted pilot,” according to the Air Force. He died in 2011.
Photo courtesy of Eugene Taylor
During World War II, whoever was in the cockpit got grandfathered in and could remain flying. But in 1942, the passage of the Flight Officer Act meant new enlisted recruits no longer got the chance to fly.
The act, Public Law 658, replaced the program’s sergeant pilot rank with the warrant officer rank.
When the Air Force was created in 1947 out of the Army Air Forces, it would bring more than 1,000 legacy warrant officers in. The service stopped the program in 1959, the same year it created the senior and chief master sergeant ranks. The last warrant officer would retire from active duty in 1980.
With more than 3,000 enlisted sergeant pilots throughout the service’s history, 11 of them would become generals and 17 would become flying aces, according to information from the Air Force. More than 150 enlisted pilots would be killed in action.
“Our careers as enlisted pilots made us better men and gave us opportunities later in the civilian world that we never would have been offered,” Wenglar said in 2003.
New Focus on Warrant Officers
“If the Air Force is so very concerned about the pilot shortage, they should consider warrant officers in … the transport pilot, flight engineer, boom operator and drone pilot fields,” said Will Stafford, a former staff sergeant with similar maintenance, tech and simulator experiences as Taylor.
While in the Air Force in the 1970s and 80s, Stafford, outside of his military duties, would fly smaller aircraft such as Cessna 310s, Beechcraft Model 18s and some Douglas DC-3s. On his own, he would eventually become qualified “on 25 different makes and models of fixed-wing aircraft,” he told Military.com.
“If the [Air Force] wants their veteran airmen and airwomen to return, then they had better look at how it has squandered the talent, training and dedication that many of us had, and make some serious changes, beginning with the restart of the warrant officer corps,” Stafford said, referencing the Air Force’s initiative to bring back retirees into staff-rated positions to balance out the ongoing pilot shortage.
“This is cost-effective, and many professional fully-rated civilian pilots who have military experience would have no problem,” he said.
Stafford has tried, unsuccessfully, to start a White House petition on Whitehouse.org to get the administration’s attention about reinstituting the warrant officer corps. He has even tried to petition the Air Force directly by writing to then-Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton A. Schwartz, who Stafford got the chance to meet and work with when Schwartz was just a captain.
Schwartz told Stafford it just wasn’t in the Air Force’s plans.
Key Decisions Ahead
Wright says the new RAND study may give him and Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. David Goldfein fresh perspectives.
“We have to be smart about this, right?” Wright said. “This can’t just be, ‘Oh, this is nice to have.’ We have to know exactly what we’re buying [into] and we have a plan to implement it.”
Wright said cost-benefit analysis would play into the decision.
“I’m looking to learn, and the boss [Goldfein] is looking to learn, again, that simple question: Will this make us a more lethal force? Will it make us more efficient?” Wright said.
“There is a chance through the RAND study and through some of our internal studies that the evidence reveals and the analysis reveals that warrant officers won’t move the needle that much,” he said.
While Wright said it’s hard to say when enlisted pilots or a warrant officer program may come back into the Air Force’s ranks, he believes the feat can be achieved in roughly five to 10 years.
“I think it would help would shortages in career fields, I think it would help with retention, I think it would help with career development.
“Now there’s nothing that says that, within our current system we can’t do that same thing. But if you’re asking me what the obvious benefits are,” he said, ” … I think it’s a good thing.”
When the Great War began in 1914, the armies on both sides brought new technologies to the battlefield the likes of which the world had never seen. The destruction and carnage caused by these new weapons was so extensive that portions of old battlefields are still uninhabitable.
World War I saw the first widespread use of armed aircraft and tanks as well as the machine gun. But some of the weapons devised during the war were truly terrifying.
The flamethrower was especially useful because even just the idea of being burned alive drove men from the trenches into the open where they could be cut down by rifle and machine gun fire.
The terrible nature of the flamethrower, Flammenwerfer in German, meant that the troops carrying them were marked men. As soon as they were spotted, they became the targets of gunfire. Should one happen to be taken prisoner, they were often subjected to summary execution.
The British went a different way with their flamethrowers and developed the Livens Large Gallery Flame Projector. These were stationary weapons deployed in long trenches forward of the lines preceding an attack. The nozzle would spring out of the ground and send a wall of flame 300 feet in the enemy’s direction.
These were used with great effectiveness at the Somme on July 1, 1916 when they burned out a section of the German line before British infantry was able to rush in and capture the burning remnants.
2. Trench Knife
Even with the advent of the firearm, hand-to-hand combat was still a given on the battlefield. However, with the introduction of trench warfare, a new weapon was needed in order to fight effectively in such close quarters. Enter the trench knife.
The most terrifying trench knives were developed by the United States. The M1917, America’s first trench knife, combined three killing tools in one. The blade of the weapon was triangular which meant it could only be used for stabbing, but it inflicted terrible wounds.
Triangular stab wounds were so gruesome that they were eventually banned by the Geneva Conventions in 1949 because they cause undue suffering. The knife also had a “knuckle duster” hand guard mounted with spikes in order to deliver maximum damage with a punching attack. Finally, the knife had a “skull crusher” pommel on the bottom in order to smash the enemy’s head with a downward attack.
Along with the trench knife the Allies developed other special weapons for the specific purpose of trench raiding. Trench raiding was the practice of sneaking over to enemy lines’ and then, as quietly as possible, killing everyone in sight, snatching a few prisoners, lobbing a few explosives into bunkers and high-tailing it back to friendly lines before the enemy knew what hit them.
As rifles would make too much noise, trench raiding clubs were developed. There was no specific design of a trench raiding club, though many were patterned after medieval weapons such as maces and flails.
Others were crude handmade implements using whatever was around. This often consisted of heavy lengths of wood with nails, barbed wire, or other metal attached to the striking end to inflict maximum damage.
When Americans entered the fight on the Western Front they brought with them a new weapon that absolutely terrified the Germans: the shotgun. The United States used a few different shotguns but the primary weapon was the Winchester M1897 Trench Grade shotgun. This was a modified version of Winchester’s model 1897 with a shortened 20″ barrel, heat shield, and bayonet lug.
The shotgun, with 6 shells of 00 buck, was so effective that American troops referred to it as the “trench sweeper” or “trench broom.”
The Germans, however, were less than pleased at the introduction of this new weapon to the battlefield. The effectiveness of the shotgun so terrified the Germans that they filed a diplomatic protest against its use. They argued that it should be outlawed in combat and threatened to punish any Americans captured with the weapon.
America rejected the German protest and threatened retaliation for any punishment against American soldiers.
5. Poison Gas
Of course any list of terrifying weapons of war has to include poison gas; it is the epitome of horrible weapons. Poisonous gas came in three main forms: Chlorine, Phosgene, and Mustard Gas.
The first poison gas attack was launched by the Germans against French forces at Ypres in 1915. After that, both sides began to develop their chemical weapon arsenals as well as countermeasures.
The true purpose of the gas was generally not to kill — though it certainly could — but to produce large numbers of casualties or to pollute the battlefield and force the enemy from their positions.
Gas also caused mass panic amongst the troops because of the choking and blindness brought on by exposure causing them to flee their positions. Mustard gas was particularly terrible because in addition to severely irritating the throat, lungs, and eyes, it also burned exposed skin, creating large painful blisters.
Though artillery had been around for centuries leading up to WWI, its use on the battlefields of Europe was unprecedented. This was because of two reasons.
Second, because the world had never seen such concentrations of artillery before.
Artillery shells were fired in mass concentrations that turned the earth into such a quagmire that later shells would fail to detonate and instead they would simply bury themselves into the ground. Massive bombardments destroyed trenches and buried men alive.
Artillery bombardments were so prolific that a new term, shell shock, was developed to describe the symptoms of survivors of horrendous bombardments.
This isn’t the first time troops and veterans have rushed head-first into danger to aid civilians. During the horrific Las Vegas shooting in October, many veterans risked their lives to bring innocent people to safety and treated their wounds. In 2015, two Marines overpowered a gunman on a train in France. There are many examples of troops and veterans going above and beyond for citizens; but today, Second Lieutenant Robert McCoy, this one goes out to you.
Around 7:40 a.m. Dec. 18, an Amtrak train took a turn too fast, going 80 mph (129 kph) in a 30 mph (48 kph) zone, and derailed, plunging into the Southbound I-5 outside of Tacoma, Washington. On the scene was Second Lieutenant Robert McCoy from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, just next to the derailment site.
“I saw many people that were just paralyzed with fear and I don’t blame them at all. I mean, it was kind of a hard situation to watch unfold.” He tells KCPQ of Dupont, Washington. “The train is going south and I’m just kind of driving, just driving, and I hear a loud noise and I look up and I see the train and it hits the concrete walls on the side and when it hits the walls — the walls kind of exploded— and the train just falls off. I see the train fall and it kind of falls on itself… and it hits three vehicles that were in front of me — a semi, an F-150, and a Kia Soul.”
“I couldn’t afford to be scared, I couldn’t afford to be shocked. I had to do what I am called to do and focus and channel that and help these people around me get to safety as best as possible.”
He grabbed what gear he had in his truck — tourniquets and a CPR mask — and rushed to the teetering train cars. He and another volunteer climbed on a damaged semi-truck to reach survivors. They carried people who were ejected from the train to safety, away from the highway. Next, he noticed a woman dangling out of a train. Her daughter was trying to bring her back in so McCoy picked her up and brought her to a safe spot.
Second Lieutenant Robert McCoy saved 15 people before the police and firefighters arrived.
Life in the military isn’t for everyone. It’s totally understandable if you get started, realize it’s just not the life you’ve envisioned for yourself, and seek a different path. Best of luck with that, dude. Be a productive and helpful member of society in whatever way you feel best.
Yet, for some odd reason, whenever douchebags open their mouths and offer an unnecessary excuse for not serving, they’ll offer the same tired, anti-authoritarian, pseudo-macho, bullsh*t along the lines of, “I couldn’t do it because I’d knock that drill sergeant out if he got in my face.”
Okay, tough guy. 99 percent of the time, you’ll lose that fight — no contest. That other one percent of the time, when you put up a brief fight, you’ll end up wishing a broken nose was the worst thing you had coming.
First and foremost, drill instructors, Marine combat instructors, drill sergeants, military training instructors, and recruit division commanders are highly disciplined and trained to never initiate a physical altercation. They’ll yell, they’ll get in your face, and they’ll generally treat you like the lowest form of scum on this Earth to break you down before building you up into what Uncle Sam needs. Picking a fight with you is pointless when they’ve got thousands of other tools in their repertoire.
And if they start getting physical without being provoked, the consequences are severe. It’s not completely unheard of, but reports of drill sergeants resorting to violence are few and far between — even when considering old-school drill sergeants. Of course they’re going to threaten it — stressing out and terrifying recruits is kinda their shtick— but they can’t even touch your uniform to correct a deficiency without informing you they’re going to do so, let alone take the first swing.
Now. Up until this point in the article, the disclaimer of “starting the fight” has been attached to each and every instance of hypothetical ass-beatings. What happens to the sorry sack of crap who tries to assault a non-commissioned officer in the United States Armed Forces? Well…
Ever wonder why they’re always in PTs?
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Pedro Cardenas)
Spoiler alert: It won’t end well.
In order to reach the point where they’re screaming in your face, an instructor has undergone intensive hand-to-hand training — to later teach it to young recruits. In the Army, you can’t teach combatives unless you’ve undergone an intensive one-week course specifically on training a platoon-sized element and another two-week course on training a company-sized element. All of this is in addition to whatever personal CQC training they’ve undertaken.
And then there’s the size disparity. Drill sergeants and drill instructors are, generally, physical monsters. That “make you pass out” smoke session is a warm-up for most instructors. They PT in the morning with the troops, with them again throughout the day to prove “it’s nothing, so quit b*tching,” and then find time to hit the gym afterwards. Technically, a drill sergeant just needs to pass their PT test, but it’s rare to find one that doesn’t get a (or near to a) 300.
And because this will get mentioned in the comments: Hell no. A drill sergeant would never lose their military bearing by recording a brawl between a troublesome recruit and another drill sergeant and uploading it to the internet.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Brian Hamilton)
Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that the hyper-macho scumbag lands a good one and they aren’t given an impromptu tracheotomy via knife-hand. Before that clown can clench their other fist, each and every other instructor in the area will pounce. Drill sergeants are loyal to their own, so expect them to join in swinging — even if they clearly have the fight won.
Finally, there’re the repercussions. The fool that initiates a fight is going to jail and is getting swiftly kicked out with a dishonorable discharge — no ifs, ands, or buts. Don’t expect that court-martial to go over well when every instructor there is a credible witness and the other recruits who watched have recently been instilled with military values. No one will back up the scumbag.
Keep very much in mind — these instructors will never lose their military bearing. Dropping that bearing for even a fraction of a second could mean the loss of the campaign hat they worked so hard to earn. There’s no way in hell that one asshat will take that away from them when they know countless ways to deal with them that don’t involve realigning their teeth.
At some point in your life (especially if you’ve ever been in the Navy), you’ve heard Village People’s 1979 disco classic, “In The Navy.” Whatever you know about the group and this song, know these two things: First, their characters are supposed to be the ultimate, macho, American men. Second, the Navy asked the band to use this song as the Navy’s official recruiting song.
Following up on the success of the band’s previous hit, “YMCA,” the United States Navy approached the band’s management to get permission to use it in a recruiting campaign. The song was written well before the Navy asked about it and, in the service’s defense, it seems like a pretty innocuous song, praising the life of a sailor.
“… Search the world for treasure , Learn science technology. Where can you begin to make your dreams all come true , On the land or on the sea. Where can you learn to fly…”
A deal was struck. The Navy could use the song for free in a commercial so as long as the Village People could film the music video for the song aboard a real U.S. Navy ship. The Village People performed the song aboard the frigate USS Reasoner at Naval Base San Diego. The song peaked at #3 on the US Billboard Hot 100 charts.
But seeing as the band was, for the most part, an openly gay band in the late 1970s, upon closer inspection, the lyrics seemed to be filled with double entendre. To the Navy, it began to be seen as an anthem for promoting homosexual intercourse while underway.
Everywhere the Navy looked in the song, there was some sort of implicit reference.
“… If you like adventure, Don’t you wait to enter, The recruiting office fast. Don’t you hesitate, There is no need to wait, They’re signing up new seamen fast…”
According to the band, however, that’s not true at all. The principle writer of the songs, frontman (and faux-policeman) Victor Willis has said there are no intended homosexual references in any of the songs, not “In The Navy” or “YMCA.” The Navy (and general public) was applying those meanings on their own.
In fact, Victor Willis isn’t even a gay man. The lyrics are just a play intended to make people think there’s more to the background than there really is. In the end, it’s just supposed to be a fun pop song.
Still, the Navy decided to stick with its old “Anchors Aweigh” for recruiting purposes. In the long run, it was probably for the best. The Navy kept its tradition intact and both the Village People and the Navy benefited from the song’s enduring popularity, especially in terms of pop-culture homage.
In the days following the 2001 American invasion of Afghanistan, one combatant shocked the United States after his capture on an Afghan battlefield. His birth name was John Walker Lindh and he was fighting for the other side. After being sentenced to twenty years in prison, he’s on his way to being released.
The wounds from the September 11th attacks were still very fresh in America, as a wave of patriotic sentiment swept the country from sea to shining sea. For the first time in a long while, the country was reminded that it could band together during trying times. The pro-American sentiment made it all the more shocking when the United States invaded Afghanistan and found one of their own fighting for the other side, California native John Walker Lindh.
Dubbed the “American Taliban” by the media, Lindh had actually converted to Sunni Islam at age 16 and moved to Yemen to learn Arabic. In 2000 he was trained at an al-Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan, where he received lectures from Osama bin Laden himself. When the United States invaded in the wake of 9/11, Lindh, named Sulayman al-Faris in Afghanistan, was already fighting the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance. According to Lindh, he never wanted to be in a position where he would fight the U.S.
Johnny Michael “Mike” Spann spent eight years as a Marine Corps officer before joining the CIA.
Lindh was captured by the Northern Alliance at Kunduz with the rest of his band of Mujahideen and turned over to the CIA for questioning. CIA officer Mike Spann interviewed Lindh because he was identified by one of the other Taliban as an English speaker. He originally claimed to be Irish. But that was the only time Spann would get an opportunity to interrogate Lindh. Later that same day, a planned prisoner uprising killed the CIA officer along with 300 Afghan Northern Alliance fighters, in one of the largest POW camp uprisings ever, now known as the Battle of Qala-i-Jangi.
It took the Northern Alliance and U.S. air support, along with both British and American Special Forces six days to quell the uprising. Hundreds died on both sides of the fighting and Lindh was wounded by a bullet to the thigh. From there, Lindh was taken to Camp Rhino, where his wounds were tended and he recovered enough to eventually be sent back to the U.S. to face a grand jury.
Now you know why detainees were shipped in tight controls – because hundreds of people died when the CIA was lenient.
Unlike other combatants, Lindh was never sent to Guantanamo Bay. Instead, he was indicted on ten charges by a federal grand jury. The Bush-era justice department offered a plea if Lindh copped to only two of them: supplying services to the Taliban and carrying an explosive during the commission of a felony. Lindh took the deal and a 20-year sentence. With time off for good behavior, John Walker Lindh will be walking free from the Federal Correction Institution in Terre Haute, Ind. any day now, to finish his last three years on strict probation.
Green Berets, SEALs, MARSOC — these are all well-known operator groups in the United States military. But not many know much about the Rhodesian Selous Scouts.
Named after the famous hunter Fredrick Selous, they possess the teamwork mindset of the Rhodesian Light Infantry and the skills of the Rhodeisan Special Air Service; but with harder training requirements than both, the Selous Scouts became monumental in anti-terrorist operations.
The selection process was so difficult that the recruits wouldn’t believe the instructors when they were informed they had passed.
Their boot camp was named “Wafa Wafa Wasara Wasara” which is Shona for, “Who dies — dies, who survives — remains.”
4. Extensive Training
The Selous Scouts were raised as a special forces regiment when Rhodesia was facing a terrorist threat that was armed by the Soviet Union to eliminate many European colonies in Africa. The Scouts’ mission was the clandestine elimination of these threats both in and out of Rhodesia.
For this purpose, they were not only taught tracking and survival, but they were also trained by former terrorists in the language, songs, and mannerisms of their enemies on top of learning to parachute.
3. Expert survival skills
Selous Scouts were trained to hunt and forage for their own food and water supplies.
Their survival skills allowed them to operate without external support.
2. Could shoot targets in rapid succession — without looking
Trained to shoot well-known enemy hiding spots, they eventually became so skilled that they no longer needed to look at their targets in order to hit them.
Selous Scouts went out in 5-10 man teams, which meant they were always outnumbered against their enemies, but their training proved to be more efficient, allowing them to inflict a high number of enemy casualties.
*Bonus* Infiltrated enemy units just to eliminate them
After being trained by former terrorists, Selous Scouts were capable of infiltrating enemy terrorist units by joining their factions. These scouts would eventually turn on the terrorists, capitalizing the elements of surprise and shock to mitigate the cells.
Other times, Selous Scouts would infiltrate enemy encampments and “expose” themselves by leaving clues behind of scout hiding places and encampments, ultimately leading terrorist troops into deathtraps.
While Rhodesia ultimately fell to the Zimbabwe African National Union, the Selous Scouts remain a monumental example in the world of anti-terrorist operations and helped write the book on being operator AF.
“The chain of command is taking all appropriate action to investigate potential misconduct and to maintain good order and discipline throughout our armed forces,” Mattis said.
“Lack of respect for the dignity and humanity of fellow members of the Department of Defense is unacceptable and harmful to the unit cohesion necessary to battlefield victory,” the secretary continued. “We will not excuse or tolerate such behavior if we are to uphold our values and maintain our ability to defeat the enemy on the battlefield.”
Defense press operations director Navy Capt. Jeff Davis told reporters today that Mattis spoke several times during his confirmation process about military service and unit cohesion and how those are predicated on the core values of trust and mutual respect.
All Held Accountable
“Our leaders at all levels of the chain of command will be held accountable to ensure that each member of our military can excel in an environment that maximizes their talents and [will have] no patience for those who would degrade or diminish another service member,” Davis said.
The secretary will meet with uniformed and civilian leaders in the days ahead and ensure that they are taking all appropriate actions to maintain good order and discipline, the captain added.
“The Naval Criminal Investigative Service is investigating…web sites and other services are looking into the matter, as well,” Davis said.
“Our values extend on- and off-duty, and we want personnel experiencing or witnessing online misconduct to promptly report matters to their chain of command,” the captain said.
Davis said service members who might feel uncomfortable reporting alleged online misconduct to their chain of command have alternative avenues that include family support services, equal opportunity offices, Sexual Assault Prevention and Response program, the inspector general and law enforcement.
(Follow Terri Moon Cronk on Twitter: @MoonCronkDoD)