This is the Air Force personnel issue that can't be rushed - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

This is the Air Force personnel issue that can’t be rushed

The Air Force has been struggling for years to correct its pilot shortage, but it has also been dealing with a protracted shortfall of maintainers — the airmen who keep planes flightworthy.


Although the Force has significantly reduced its maintainer shortage, it now faces the daunting task of training the new recruits up to the levels of knowledge and experience the Force needs. That takes considerable time.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said, in Nov. 2017, that the lack of maintainers was having a noticeable effect on air operations.

Also read: How the Air Force will replace JSTARS battle management

Whereas in years past, a pilot would have multiple maintainers on hand for aircraft prep, takeoff, and landing, now, Goldfein said, pilots often have to “taxi slow, because the same single-crew chief that you met has to … drive to the end of the runway to pull the pins and arm the weapons.”

“Then, you sit on the runway before you take off and you wait, because that crew chief has to go jump on a C-17 with his tools to fly ahead to meet you at the other end,” he added. “This is the level of numbers that we’re dealing with.”

This is the Air Force personnel issue that can’t be rushed
An aircraft maintainer on the flight line in front of a snow-covered C-5M Super Galaxy, at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, January 6, 2015. (US Air Force)

The maintainer shortage has been a problem for some time and was exacerbated by the drawdown in 2014, which grew the shortage by 1,200 airmen. At the end of fiscal year 2015, the force was short some 4,000 maintainers.

The shortages fell especially hard on the most experienced airmen — 1,900 maintainers at the 5- and 7-skill levels were absent. Maintainers at that level work on the Air Force’s advanced aircraft, like the F-35, and those with the most experience were left working 50- to 60-hour weeks to keep aircraft in flying shape.

Related: The F-35 could shoot down ballistic missiles — with one catch

The Air Force tries to keep deployed units at full strength, meaning the personnel shortage was felt acutely among squadrons in the US.

The force rolled out a number of enticements to keep airmen on the flight line. By the end of fiscal year 2016, that shortage shrunk to 3,400 maintainers. By the end of fiscal year 2017, the official tally was down to 400.

“So we’ve been getting well” in terms of maintainers, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said at a Heritage Foundation event last week.

Wilson said in mid-February 2018 that the shortage had fallen to 200 maintainers— though Air Force spokeswoman Erika Yepsen told Business Insider the number can change throughout the year based on the force’s personnel numbers and needs.

This is the Air Force personnel issue that can’t be rushed
Senior Airman Daniel Lasal performs a post-flight inspection on an F-16 at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, November 15, 2016. (US Air Force by Staff Sgt. Katherine Spessa)

Wilson added at the Heritage Foundation that simply adding airmen won’t solve the problem created by shedding experienced maintainers.

New, 3-skill level maintainers usually take five to seven years to get fully experienced.

“You go from being an apprentice to a craftsman to a master craftsman,” Wilson said. “So, we have a deficit in those craftsmen, and so we’re looking at different ways to be able to accelerate the learning of those young maintainers.”

“There’s only so much you can do to really learn and master your craft, but we’re almost well in terms of numbers, really now it’s about seasoning that force and getting them to the level of being craftsmen,” she added.

More: The Air Force needs a new A-10 mechanic

To help accelerate training, the Air Force is going to the boneyard — the aircraft storage facility at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona. The boneyard (there is more than one) provides long-term storage for mothballed or unused aircraft — the force has scavenged parts from there to keep its largest plane, the C5 Galaxy, in the air.

This is the Air Force personnel issue that can’t be rushed
Staff Sgt. Kevin Colon removes exhaust covers from a B-1B Lancer at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, May 21, 2013. (U.S. Air Force)

According to Air Force Times, the force will start pulling F-15s and F-16s from the facility to provide training aircraft for the new maintainers and weapons-loaders. Those planes won’t fly, but they will act as high-tech guinea pigs for aircrews training to work on active combat aircraft. This will also keep the Air Force from having to take active aircraft out of service for training.

More reading: The Air Force just bolted on a bunch of boneyard parts to get its Galaxies up in the air

The Air Force has also brought in civilian contractors to take over some responsibilities — like washing aircraft and instruction — to free up time for maintainers to train.

“Every jet that I can relieve and put back on a flying schedule instead of being a ground instructional trainer, that has second- and third-order return on investment,” Col. Michael Lawrence, head of the Air Force’s maintenance division, told Air Force Times in December 2017.

“When you move jets from one place to another in a maintenance group complex, that drives a level of effort,” Lawrence added. “When we can park a jet down there on a permanent basis, that is a training asset.”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

What do Air Force fighter pilots do?

Welcome to our newest Sandboxx series: Air Force Fighter Pilots with U.S. Air Force F-35 pilot instructor and Sandboxx News contributor, Major Justin “Hasard” Lee.

In this series, Justin will be taking us through every facet of the fighter pilot lifestyle, breaking it down for you in a way that you’ve never seen before.


In this first edition, Justin explains what Air Force fighter pilots do, and it entails a whole lot more than just flying an aircraft. Fighter pilots are responsible for the planning, the execution, and then the debriefing for each sortie.

Air Force Fighter Pilots | Ep. 1: What do Air Force fighter pilots do?

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Here’s Major Justin “Hasard” Lee to explain… What do Air Force fighter pilots do?

Do you want to learn more about life as an F-35 pilot? Click here and you can check out Justin Lee’s advice now how to conserve your mental energy like jet fuel, whether you’re in the sky or not.

Then you can click here to see what pulling 9Gs in a fighter jet can do to Justin’s face.

Want to know more about dogfighting? Justin’s covered that here.

You can also click here to learn more about developing mental discipline in the same ways that pilots do.

And of course, click here to read the story of Justin’s top-speed flight in a stripped-down dragster of an F-16 Fighting Falcon.

If you still haven’t had enough fighter pilot in your day, then make sure you check out Justin Lee’s podcast, The Professionals Playbook! Each week, he brings on experts and gurus from the Fortune 500 to Navy SEAL BUDS training and helps you get to know what makes people successful in any venture.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.


MIGHTY HISTORY

This Crow GI became the last Indian War Chief during World War II

Few American veterans will ever officially earn both the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the title of Crow War Chief. Joe Medicine Crow might be the only one. His other awards include the Bronze Star and the French Légion d’Honneur. How he earned the title of War Chief of the Crow tribe is a feat unheard of for decades before World War II started.

But for all his feats, he was still a Private in the U.S. Army.


This is the Air Force personnel issue that can’t be rushed

“Promote ahead of peers.”

There are four criteria to become a Crow War Chief, all of which Joe Medicine Crow accomplished during two years of service with the U.S. Army in Europe:

  • Touching an Enemy Without Killing Him
  • Taking an Enemy’s Weapon
  • Leading a Successful War Party
  • Stealing an Enemy’s Horse

The Crow did not likely think this would be so difficult in the age of machine guns and tanks, but as Joe Medicine Crow showed, it was clearly not impossible.

This is the Air Force personnel issue that can’t be rushed

Also, that’s Dr. Joe Medicine Crow. Just sayin.

The Native American GI was working in a shipyard in Washington state for the first part of World War II. In 1943, he decided to join the U.S. Army. He came from an incredible nomadic warrior tradition. He was the last person to hear a first-hand account of the Battle of Little Bighorn and his grandfather served as a scout for Gen. George Armstrong Custer before the general’s last stand. Joe Medicine Crow would carry this tradition forward, as well as many others.

Before he left for the war, a medicine man provided him with a painted eagle feather he would wear under his uniform before fighting. He would also paint traditional war paint under his uniform, placing two red stripes on his arms. And then, he became a War Chief, the last Crow War Chief.

This is the Air Force personnel issue that can’t be rushed

Crow lived to the ripe old age of 102.

While fighting at the Siegfried Line, the border fortification that would take the U.S. Army into Germany, the warrior was ordered to take a team – a war party, if you will – and cross a field under a hail of bullets to retrieve some dynamite from a previously destroyed American position. Joe Medicine Crow and seven fellow GIs crossed a field of devastating fire that probably should have killed all of them, grabbed the explosives and blew a huge hole in Hitler’s vaunted line. No one was killed. One down.

After penetrating the line, Joe Medicine Crow and the 103d Infantry advanced on a nearby town that turned out to be heavily defended. As a scout, Joe was ahead of most of his unit. After they were ordered to flank some German defenders, Joe was separated and decided to take a shortcut. That’s when he ran right into a Nazi defender while running at full sprint.

For anyone else, this might have been embarrassing at the least and deadly at the most, but this is Joe Medicine Crow. He sent the Nazi flying and the Nazi’s rifle across the lawn. The American was still standing as he bent over and grabbed his enemy’s weapon. Two down.

Instead of killing the German, Joe decided to drop the weapon and let his warrior skills take over. The two men fought hand-to-hand for what seemed like hours. When Joe finally got the upper hand and started to kill the Nazi soldier with his hands at the man’s throat. But the German began to whimper, and Joe let him go. Three down.

Then, there’s the task of stealing a horse.

Joe Medicine Crow was scouting a farmhouse behind enemy lines one night when he realized it was full of high-ranking SS officers. They all rode there on horses, which were corralled under guard near the house. Joe Medicine Crow snuck through the guards with only his M1911 to protect him. Having grown up learning to ride horses bareback, mounting one of them in Europe was no problem. He let out a Crow war cry and sang a song as he herded all the horses out of the corral and into U.S. Army lore.

MIGHTY CULTURE

These are the 5 deadliest James Bonds by body count

James Bond isn’t quite as deadly on the screen as he was when we all played him on Nintendo 64’s legendary Goldeneye 007 video game, but he still made short work of any number of psychotic evildoer in the name of Her Majesty the Queen. As a matter of fact, the world’s most non-secret secret agent has killed so many people over the years it would take 38 minutes to see them all.

Luckily, someone compiled all those kills for us.


While they didn’t include a count of clever puns, we can be reasonably sure the numbers mirror one another. But there is one other thing the video didn’t break down: who was the deadliest Bond? Unless George Lazenby went on a murder rampage in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, my guess is it was probably one of the other five.

Here they are, the deadliest Bond by average kills per movie.

This is the Air Force personnel issue that can’t be rushed

1. Timothy Dalton

Timothy Dalton takes a hard fall at number five here, with only two movies and 20 kills, giving him an average of 10. But Dalton does get two of the most interesting kills, one for killing someone by sealing them in a maggot-filled coffin and another kill where the murder weapon is a bust of the Duke of Wellington.

This is the Air Force personnel issue that can’t be rushed

2. Sean Connery

Connery had two runs as the dashing secret agent hero, with a total of seven Bond films and an average kill count of 12.5. If Connery’s Bond is in some way riding in a motor vehicle, look out: chances are good that someone is going to meet their maker very soon.

This is the Air Force personnel issue that can’t be rushed

3. Daniel Craig

While Craig may not be the deadliest Bond, he is definitely the drunkest, averaging at least five drinks per movie.

This is the Air Force personnel issue that can’t be rushed

Film and Television.

4. Roger Moore

Roger Moore’s Bond is long-known to be both the quippiest and at times creepiest Bond, but he’s also the second deadliest. The Bond films with the least number of kills, The Man With The Golden Gun, and the most number of kills, Octopussy, are both Roger Moore films. Still, it wasn’t enough because even if you take out the one-kill outlier, it’s not enough to catch up with…

This is the Air Force personnel issue that can’t be rushed

5. Pierce Brosnan

Pierce Brosnan’s Bond was Murder, Incorporated, far outpacing the kill rate of his nearest competitor (including one of Sean Bean’s onscreen deaths). Keep this man away from any kind of explosives or firearms, almost every time he touches one, someone in the movie goes to walk with god.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Watch this Marine get promoted in the middle of a minefield

When a commander asks a service member where they’d like to be promoted, most people go with a nice backdrop for photos.


Marine Sgt. Lindsey Vedsted of Sterling, Colorado got her stripes in 2005 in what appears to be boring stretch of desert, but is actually an active minefield near Bagram Air Force Base, Afghanistan.

As her gunnery sergeant points out in the video, most of the mines are older than Vedsted or about the same age. The mines are still dangerous though, as Air Force security forces when they strayed into an unmarked minefield near Bagram in 2004.

Just a warning: The video jumps around a little bit and doesn’t have a narrator explaining what’s going on.

Video courtesy Armed Forces Network Afghanistan.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Army Futures Command experiments with putting robots in combat

Imagine if a robot could go ahead of troops, by a kilometer or more, to assess a situation and relay information back that would help commanders know what’s ahead and know how to respond?

Army Futures Command isn’t just imagining that- they’re already building it.

This is the Air Force personnel issue that can’t be rushed

“This isn’t about robots or technology, this is about soldiers and this is about commanders on the battlefield, and giving them the decision space and reducing the risk of our men and women when we go into the nastiest places on the planet,” Brig. Gen. Ross Coffman, director of the Army’s Next Generation Combat Vehicle-Cross Functional Team, told reporters during a virtual discussion about the Robotic Combat Vehicle Soldier Operational Experiment.

A platoon of soldiers from the 4th Infantry Division at Ft. Carson, CO spent much of this summer sending two-person crews out in modified Bradley fighting vehicles to control robotic surrogate vehicles that were built from M113 armored personnel vehicles. The goal of the experiment was to observe the vehicles and to collect and analyze feedback from the soldiers working with them on the feasibility of integrating robots into ground combat formations.

The modified Bradleys are known as Mission Enabling Technologies Demonstrators (MET-Ds) and the modified M113s are known as Robotic Combat Vehicles (RCVs).

The goal of the program is to eventually build a collection of vehicles that can be used to provide reconnaissance capabilities and standoff distance or to replace soldiers in high-risk activities like combined arms breaches and chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosives (CBRNE) reconnaissance.

This is the Air Force personnel issue that can’t be rushed

Coffman emphasized that this summer’s experiment at Ft. Carson was just that, an experiment, and not a test and that there is still much work to be done before soldiers will be able to use robots downrange.

“Right now, it’s difficult for a robot, when it looks at a puddle, to know if it’s the Mariana Trench or two inches deep,” said Maj. Corey Wallace, RCV lead for the Next Generation Vehicle-Cross Functional Team. “The RCV must be able to sense as well as a human. It needs to hear branches breaking around it. It needs to know when it’s on soft sand or an incline. We still need to work on that.”

Jeffrey Langhout, director of the Army’s Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Ground Vehicle Systems Center, acknowledged that the robots still have a ways to go and noted that there are particular challenges involved in designing a robot vehicle for combat.

“Right now, we don’t have the sensors to tell us if a puddle is something we can drive through. In the auto industry, high-tech cars are operating on pavement and in a generous GPS environment. We are looking at how to operate in a denied environment, where things can go bad quickly,” Langhout said.

Earlier this year, the Army selected two companies, QinetiQ North America and Textron, to build the eventual vehicles. QinetiQ North America will build four prototypes of the Robotic Combat Vehicle-Light and Textron will build four prototypes of the RCV-Medium. Coffman said that the Marine Corps is also using QinetiQ to build an RCV-Light and the two services and working together on the designs.

All in all, Coffman said the experiment was “100% successful.”

This is the Air Force personnel issue that can’t be rushed

“We learned where the technology is now and how we can fight with it in the future,” Coffman said.

And just how far in the future are we talking? Unfortunately, pretty far.

Coffman said a second experiment is planned for Ft. Hood, Texas in the first part of the fiscal year 2022 using the same M113 robot vehicles and Bradley control vehicles in company-size operations. After that, an experiment will be held to test the vehicles in more complex situations. And after that, the Army will decide if robot vehicles are worth further investment.

This is to say that, cool as the robots are, for now, most soldiers and military families will have to be content just imagining them.

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Marines experiment with first-of-its-kind 3D printing operation

Marines from Marine Corps Systems Command and 7th Engineer Support Battalion along with engineers from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Construction Engineering Research Laboratory conducted the first known 3D concrete printing operation with a three-inch print nozzle at the CERL headquarters in early August 2019 in Champaign, Illinois.

The CERL, MCSC and 7th ESB team tested a new continuous mixer and three-inch pump for this print operation after successfully printing multiple structures, including a barracks and a bridge using, a two-inch pump and hose.

“This is really the first time we’ve ever printed something large with this system,” said Megan Kreiger, project lead for the Automated Construction of Expeditionary Structures — or ACES — team at CERL. “It is experimental right now and we are trying to push the technology forward. This is the first time in the world anyone has really tried using these larger bead systems with these larger pumps.”


Increasing from a two-inch to a three-inch nozzle allows Marines to print larger structures faster and with less waste, according to Kreiger. The teams have envisioned printing with up to a four-inch nozzle in the future.

This is the Air Force personnel issue that can’t be rushed

Marines from 7th Engineer Support Battalion along with engineers from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Construction Engineering Research Laboratory pose with a concrete bunker during a 3D concrete printing exercise Aug. 15, 2019, in Champaign, Illinois.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo courtesy of Staff Sgt. Michael Smith, 7th ESB)

While this was the first known printing of concrete with a three-inch hose and nozzle, the exercise was also significant because it incorporated a continuous mixer similar to the one currently fielded to Marines.

“The new mixer we are testing is a commercial model of a mixer that is already within the Marine Corps repertoire in the Airfield Damage Repair Kit,” said Capt. Matthew Audette, project officer for the Advanced Manufacturing Operations Cell at MCSC. “That means we don’t have to field a new piece of gear in addition to the printer to make this work.”

This time the team printed a bunker that was designed by the Drafting and Survey combat engineers from 7th ESB based on practical field experience.

“The Marines from 7th ESB are the ones who designed what we are printing today,” said Audette. “They came up with the plans themselves, [Computer Aided Designed] the model, sliced it and then fed it through the printer.”

This is the Air Force personnel issue that can’t be rushed

Marines from 7th Engineer Support Battalion along with engineers from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Construction Engineering Research Laboratory construct a concrete bunker during a 3D concrete printing exercise Aug. 15, in Champaign, Illinois.

(U.S. Marine Corps courtesy photo from Staff Sgt. Michael Smith, 7th ESB)

The 7th ESB Marines plan to build a conventional bunker similar to this 3D-printed version and compare them in blast or demolitions testing on a range.

The combat engineers envisioned a system like this being deployed to a forward operating base, and being operational within a few days of arrival. The system would quickly print small structures that can be transported to entry control points and operating posts in an efficient and timely manner using fewer Marines and less material.

According to ACES team data, 3D printing concrete structures reduces cost by 40 percent, construction time by 50 percent and the use of concrete materials by 44 percent. Additionally, it more than doubles the strength of walls, improves thermal energy performance by 10 times, reduces manpower by 50 percent and reduces the overall need for hard labor.

“With vertical construction, we are still in the realm of what we were doing 100 years ago,” said Audette. “Working with the Army Corps of Engineers to develop this technology we are reducing the man-hours involved, the labor involved and the materials involved.”

This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Air Force veteran’s honest reaction to ‘Captain Marvel’ trailer

The first official Captain Marvel trailer finally dropped, teasing one of Marvel’s most anticipated new films — and its new hero, whom the president of Marvel Studios, Kevin Feige, has touted as Marvel’s most powerful yet. Needless to say, it’s an exciting time for nerds.

Warning: Potential Captain Marvel and Avengers 3 and 4 spoilers ahead.


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This is the Air Force personnel issue that can’t be rushed

She walks away from this, btw.

The opening sequence drops Brie Larson’s Carol Danvers out of the sky and onto a Blockbuster video store, reminding the audience that this film takes place in the 90s — which is also why we’re going to be seeing some classic Air Force fighters instead of newer (sexier?) stealth jets, like the F-22 or F-35.

Related: Why I’m thrilled Brie Larson will play Captain Marvel

This is the Air Force personnel issue that can’t be rushed

Don’t call it a Fighting Falcon. NO ONE CALLS IT A FIGHTING FALCON.

(Still from ‘Captain Marvel’ trailer by Marvel Studios)

U.S. Air Force Captain Carol Danvers flew the F-16 Viper before becoming a part-Kree, part-human intergalactic superhero…

This is the Air Force personnel issue that can’t be rushed

“You see, an explosion spliced my DNA with a Kree alien named Mar-Vell so now I call myself Captain Marvel and I can fly and shoot energy bursts out of my hands and stuff.”

Captain Marvel is the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s first film to star a female superhero, but it won’t be an origin story. When this film begins, Carol already has her powers and works with Starforce, described in Entertainment Weekly as the “SEAL Team Six of space.”

Once on earth, she finds herself with questions about her past.

“I keep having these memories. I see flashes. I think I had a life here but I can’t tell if it’s real.”

This is the Air Force personnel issue that can’t be rushed

That’s kind of how my active-duty memories look — except with a lot more paperwork and despair.

The trailer shows what appear to be Carol’s memories, including her military training and time on active duty. Here, we get a peek at Maria “Photon” Rambeau, Carol’s closest friend and, we’re guessing, wingman.

Maria also has a daughter named Monica — whom comic book fans will know as an iteration of Captain Marvel, among others. By the time the events in Avengers 4 come around, Monica will be an adult. We know that Nick Fury’s last act before Thanos dusted him was to page Captain Marvel (yes — with a pager… because of the 90s? I don’t know how that inter-dimensional/time-traveling/vintage technology works yet).

So far, fans have only been able to speculate where Carol has been since the 90s, but a favorite theory includes Ant-Man (who was also absent during the fight against Thanos) and a time vortex.

This is the Air Force personnel issue that can’t be rushed

Keep the wings level and true, ladies.

(Still from ‘Captain Marvel’ trailer by Marvel Studios)

Both Larson and Lynch spent time with Air Force pilots, flying in F-16s, learning how to carry their helmets, and how to properly wear the flight suit (except I know — I know — those actors had tailored flight suits and it’s not fair and I’m bitter because my flight suit looked like they threw a pillow case over a guitar and called it a uniform).

We definitely see some of Cadet Danvers’ determination (and disregard of safety protocols). I remember climbing ropes, but, like, not 20-foot ropes?

This is the Air Force personnel issue that can’t be rushed

Let’s hope that last bit was about healing TBIs, am I right?

As superhero films get bigger and better, expanding the mythology from the hero who saves the city to the hero who saves the universe with unparalleled powers and abilities, it’s a point of pride to see a hero begin exactly the way they do here at home: with a calling to serve.

Back in the 90s, Carol Danvers was just a kid who graduated high school and decided to attend the United States Air Force Academy. She decided to serve her country. She worked her ass off and became a pilot — a fighter pilot, no less. It’s the most competitive career choice in the United States Air Force.

All of that happened before her she gained her superpowers.

Captain Marvel is going to be about Marvel’s most powerful superhero yet, but at its heart, the film is about a girl who felt the call to serve — it’s going to be exciting to watch her do just that.

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MIGHTY HISTORY

Why the real Forrest Gump was far more impressive

It’s a touching scene that even the most stoic of us will get choked up over. The titular character runs into enemy fire to save his brothers-in-arms. Without hesitation, he carries each wounded soldier to safety — all while being severely wounded.


That fantastic scene earned Forrest Gump‘s place in cinematic history. What makes this and the rest of Forrest Gump’s Army scenes so great is that they were entirely based off the career of Sgt. First Class Sammy L. Davis, to include the Medal of Honor ceremony.

Unlike Gump, Davis was an artilleryman. His fateful night began around 2AM when the enemy engaged Davis’ unit with a 30-minute barrage of mortar fire. The moment he got the all clear, he showed them what his 105mm Howitzer could do. He fired the first beehive shot and the enemy returned fire with a recoil-less rifle that hit eight inches from his head.

After recovering from an insanely close call, he grabbed his M-16 and fired on the advancing enemy. When he fired all but three rounds, he then turned back to his Howitzer to get off that beehive. The weapon had taken a heavy beating and much of the powder was scattered. But he loaded what he could find. Under normal circumstances, seven bags of powder is fine. Davis loaded nearly 21. It almost destroyed the cannon but also devastated the enemy.

The Howitzer blew up and rolled over Davis and nearly 30 fragments of the beehive were in his back. Davis, just like Gump would in the film, took the shrapnel in the buttocks. His body and his cannon were in terrible condition.

That’s when he noticed some American G.I.s on the other side of the river.

He had been shot in the leg and was partially deafened, his ribs were broken and his spine fractured, and there was still plenty of beehive in his back — yet he grabbed his Army-issued air mattress and swam to his brothers without even a second’s thought.

Surrounded by enemies, he had to sneak around with nothing but an air mattress until he found the soldier waving at him. There, he found three wounded men in a foxhole — two were ambulatory but one was shot in the head and somehow still holding on. Davis grabbed the soldier with the head wound and placed him on the mattress and the four of them headed back across to safety.

Much of the film touches on Sammy L. Davis’ life, which he openly embraces. Every military scene is based off Davis, including the scene where President Lyndon B. Johnson bestows the Medal of Honor upon Forrest Gump. That was literally Sammy Davis under Tom Hank’s CGI face. Granted, Davis is a much more eloquent speaker.

For more about Sgt. First Class Sammy L. Davis, please watch the American Legion video below.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The drone that tipped the scales at the Battle of Takur Ghar

A once quiet landscape turned battlefield, the clash of gunfire and shouts ripped through the Shahi-Kot Valley in the early hours of March 4, 2002. As part of an early war effort that targeted al Qaeda and Taliban forces in Afghanistan, the Battle of Roberts Ridge is still known as one of the deadliest engagements during Operation Anaconda.

Above the Takur Ghar mountain top, an MQ-1 Predator aircrew became an unforeseen, close air support asset for a desperate joint special operations team in their time of need.


Deep, black smoke from a crashed, bullet-riddled MH-47 Chinook helicopter filled the air. Among the wreckage were the lead combat controller on the ground, Maj. Gabe Brown, then a staff sergeant, along with the rest of the special operations team who worked to secure casualties and defend their position on the summit.

Pinned down on the landing zone and under direct fire, Brown established communications with an MQ-1 aircrew in the area who had visual of the team. Col. Stephen Jones, then captain and Predator pilot, had already been in the cockpit and was ordered to support just moments after the crash.

Before Jones arrived on station that early morning, he had no idea what he and his team were in for.

This is the Air Force personnel issue that can’t be rushed

An MH-47 Chinook Helicopter.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Christopher Callaway)

“I remember coming in on shift that night and there was a lot of commotion,” Jones said. “I was told to get out to the ground control station as soon as possible.”

Throughout the day, Brown said he developed rapport with the Predator pilot as he gave situational awareness updates and assisted with targeting enemy combatants.

“When I had fighters check in, he would buddy lase for those inbound fighters and would help me with the talk-on, so it cut my workload dramatically having him there,” Brown said.

Many other U.S. and coalition aircraft were simultaneously entering and exiting the area. Before authorizing a strike, Brown needed to “talk-on” the respective aircrew, which meant he briefed the situation on the ground to every aircraft that entered the airspace.

With a bird’s-eye view, Jones and his aircrew alleviated some of Brown’s duties and took control of liaising information within the zone, while serving as forward air controllers in the battle.

“(From our cockpits) we were serving as forward air controllers airborne or FACA, and I was serving as the on-scene commander,” Jones said.

He began looking after the survivors, deconflicting airspace for coalition aircraft coming in and out, as well as communicating back to the joint command and control elements about the survivors’ condition as they put together an evacuation plan.

“Gabe was doing a phenomenal job being a controller on the ground calling in close air support, but it was a lot of work,” Jones said. “There were a ton of coalition aircraft coming in and out and some of them didn’t have much play time, meaning they had to get in, develop an understanding of what was going on, receive a nine-line and then drop bombs or shoot their missiles.”

The aircrew took some of the burden from Brown who remained on frequency with Jones, ready to voice commands at any moment.

This is the Air Force personnel issue that can’t be rushed

A U.S. Air Force MQ-1B Predator.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Julianne Showalter)

Brown was able to conserve radio battery life due to the aircrew’s initiative and the MQ-1’s ability to loiter over the battlefield for extended periods of time.

Ground forces were still pinned down from continuous bunker fire when Jones relayed the evacuation plan to Brown. Their team was in need of a precise airstrike that could eliminate the enemy hunkered down deep in the mountainous terrain.

Brown first called upon fighter aircraft.

“We were basically trying to use walk-in ordinance off the fighters, using 500-pound bombs to frag (blast) the enemy out of the bunker and we were unable,” Brown said.

After numerous attempts, Brown and his team were running out of options and daybreak quickly approached…

Brown and his team were considered danger-close due to their proximity to the target, causing concern for aircrew and senior leaders. However, Brown’s need for immediate aerial support outweighed any apprehension.

“It was late in the morning, he (Jones and aircrew) had one shot left and we had been on the ground for a few hours,” Brown said. “I gave my own initials and cleared him hot.”

Jones released the hellfire missile and successfully destroyed the bunker, which allowed U.S. forces on the ground to recuperate and devise a mission plan going forward.

“When that hellfire went into that bunker, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that bunker had been neutralized,” Brown said.

The enemy may not have seen the MQ-1 as it soared overhead, but radical terrorists felt the Predator’s wrath.

Jones and the rest of the MQ-1 aircrew loitered above the combat zone for approximately 14 hours, relaying critical information and laser-guided munitions during the entire fight. Their actions provided key reconnaissance for senior leaders commanding the situation, and directly enabled visual relay between forces on the ground and the combatant commander.

“I credit that pilot, the technology and that airframe with saving my life, as well as the team’s and getting the wounded and KIA (killed in action) off the hilltop that day,” he said.

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Our Forgotten Heroes: Why don’t we talk about World War I?

During the “Great War”, the United States of America lost over 116,000 of her troops in a span of only 19 months. While initially remaining neutral and refusing to enter into World War I when it began in 1914, that changed after repeated attacks on America’s ships. In 1917 the U.S. entered into the fray, declaring war against Germany.

It can be argued that without American’s force beside the allies, the war wouldn’t have ended in victory, but a stalemate. History has documented this impressive and vital piece of our story. So why don’t we talk about it and those incredible heroes that turned the tide for an entire world in the name of democracy?


Why don’t we discuss how more Marines were killed or wounded in the battle of Belleau Wood than their service’s entire history at that point? That battle alone claimed over 10,000 American casualties in just three weeks. It should also be known that France refused to enter into this particular battle because they felt it was too dangerous. Instead, they insisted that the Americans do it.

We did, but it came at an extremely heavy cost.

This is the Air Force personnel issue that can’t be rushed

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In September of 1918, 1.2 million American troops entered into the deadliest battle in its history. Many were undertrained and not yet battle-tested – but their sheer numbers and grit did what other armies could not in four years. It was an incredible offensive effort as the Expeditionary Forces of the United States actually caught Germany completely by surprise with their attack.

America’s troops took an area that had been held for four years in just two short days. This battle ended the war, but America lost 26,277 of their own to win it. We also had 192,000 casualties. It was this specific battle at Meuse-Argonne, or The Battle of Argonne Forest, that pushed Germany into literally pleading for an end of World War I. America brought Germany to its knees.

This war was pivotal for so many things that have occurred in the last hundred years. We need to remember those lost their lives in the name of democracy. Let us also not forget the ones that died slowly years following World War I due to the effects of the lingering bullets, “shell shock” (now called post-traumatic stress disorder), and the effects of poison gas exposure.

Those who survived through all of that though? Their personal war at home was just beginning.

This is the Air Force personnel issue that can’t be rushed

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When service members returned home following the end of World War I, they were celebrated with parades – if they were white. The African American men who returned home after fighting alongside their brothers’ in arms were treated with open hostility and disdain. Some were killed.

The years following the “Great War” were not kind or easy to digest but need to be remembered. They matter.

Following the war, the Great Depression and race riots wreaked havoc on the United States, leading many to question what they fought for. Not only did they question their sacrifice – but they were deeply suffering after their service for their country.

Veterans received just with an honorable discharge. Although they received monetary allotments if they had a disability through the War Risk Insurance Act, it wasn’t enough. They were also required to maintain insurance for care and paid a premium that came out of that allotment, reducing their income even more. Many were too severely disabled to work to make any extra income and the money they received from the government didn’t cover living any kind of quality life.
This is the Air Force personnel issue that can’t be rushed

media.defense.gov

High unemployment, lack of quality medical care and poor housing was the “thanks for your service” that these veterans received – if they were white.

The African American veterans were often denied housing or any kind of equality – leaving them homeless and destitute. This terrible choice for America to treat these brave men in such an abominable way would go on to pave the way for the next seventy years of struggle, advocacy, and racial tension that the country had ever seen.

The government failed all of its returning servicemen.

America failed its heroes by avoiding that chapter in its history.

Our World War I veterans did fight, suffer, and die for our freedom. Let us not forget it.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

US Air Force successfully flies HH-60W for first time

The 413th Flight Test Squadron successfully conducted the first Air Force-piloted flight of the HH-60W Combat Rescue Helicopter July 11, 2019. The test took place at Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation Development Flight Center in West Palm Beach.

The unit embedded Air Force personnel with the contractor, Sikorsky, to provide early warfighter involvement and operationally relevant developmental testing.

The aircraft, based on the Army’s UH-60M Black Hawk helicopter, is modified to perform missions locating and rescuing downed pilots in hostile territory. The Air Force is contracted to purchase 113 HH-60W aircraft to replace its aging fleet of HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters.


“Our entire team has been focused on bringing together a lot of moving parts to get here today,” said Lt. Col. Wayne Dirkes, 413th FLTS operations officer. “We are really excited to be a part of recapitalizing a vital component of our warfighting strategy,”

This is the Air Force personnel issue that can’t be rushed

HH-60W Combat Rescue Helicopter.

(Lockheed Martin)

The purpose of the test flight was to collect level flight performance data the Air Force requires to move the program into the production and deployment phase of the defense acquisition process.

According to Dirkes, the crew performed an instrumentation and telemetry checkout with the control room, gathered basic engine start data and flew referred gross weight level flight speed sweeps between 40 knots and maximum horizontal speed.

“Performance testing requires extremely precise aircraft control, and our test pilot maintained tolerances of plus or minus one knot of airspeed, 20 feet of altitude and less than 100 feet per minute vertical speed, flying by hand,” Dirkes explained.

This is the Air Force personnel issue that can’t be rushed

HH-60W Combat Rescue Helicopter.

(Lockheed Martin)

The flight also served as a method for the test pilot to complete the required qualifications to fly the aircraft. Maj. Andrew Fama, a 413th FLTS test pilot, was the first Air Force pilot to fly the aircraft.

“I’m honored to be the first Air Force pilot to fly the ‘Whiskey’ and very excited to deliver a new aircraft to my rescue brothers and sisters,” Fama said.

Sikorsky pilots have been flying the aircraft for about a month; however, this milestone marks the beginning of integrated government and contractor flight test operations.

There are six aircraft dedicated to the developmental test program. The 413th’s HH-60W operations are scheduled to begin at Eglin AFB Auxiliary Field #3, also known as Duke Field, Florida, this fall.

This article originally appeared on United States Air Force. Follow @USAF on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This was the only living African-American from WW2 to earn MoH

After enlisting in the Army in June of 1941, Vernon Baker was assigned to the 270th Regiment of the 92nd Infantry Division — the first black unit to head into combat during WWII.


After completing Officer Candidate School, Baker was commissioned to the rank of 2nd Lieutenant. Soon after, he landed in Naples, Italy, and had to fight his way north through the enemies’ front to the central portion of the country.

His unit was then ordered to attack a German stronghold in the mountains of Viareggio. Several allied battalions before them were unsuccessful in taking the enemy region, but Baker was up to the task.

This is the Air Force personnel issue that can’t be rushed
(Source: Medal of Honor Book/ Screenshot)

Related: This Vietnam War vet will receive MoH for saving 10 soldiers

The mountain-top consisted of three hills, “X, Y, and Z.” Baker and his troops began taking the heavily fortified area one hill at a time.

Facing fierce opposition, Baker often came in close enemy contact and managed to survive each deadly encounter as it presented itself.

“Somebody was sitting on my shoulder,” Baker says.

Full of adrenaline from taking the first hill, Baker was handed a submachine gun from a superior officer and instructed to proceed on to the next area.

Patroling nearly on his own, Baker spotted a small German firing position built into the side of the mountain. Armed with a few grenades, he chucked one and landed a perfect strike.

After it detonated and the smoke cleared, a German soldier stuck his head to look around. Baker quickly engaged the troop, killing him on the spot.

This is the Air Force personnel issue that can’t be rushed
Vernon Baker sporting his rightfully earned Medal of Honor.(Source: Medal of Honor Book/ Screenshot)

Also Read: The 7 best military stories from the glory days of ‘Unsolved Mysteries’

Baker continued to maneuver his way around the mountain and spotted two more firing position — tossing grenades inside each one — killing the enemy troops inside.

After learning the company commander was egressing for resupply, Baker knew he was on his own to lead his remaining troops. Carefully moving through the dangerous terrain, Baker and his men managed to secure the area after several intense firefights.

The next morning, Baker and his men moved through the dangerous terrain and secured the area after several hours of allied bombardment.

52-year later, Baker was awarded the Medal of Honor for his bravery and courage from former President Bill Clinton.

1st Lt. Vernon Baker became the only living African-American serviceman from WWII to receive the Medal of Honor.

Check out Medal of Honor Book’s video below to listen to Vernon extraordinary story from the legend himself.

(Medal of Honor Book, YouTube)