Below is a statement released Jan. 16, by U.S. Navy Chief of Information (Acting), Capt. Greg Hicks on Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) charges preferred against individual service members in relation to the USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) and USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) collisions:
On 30 October 2017, Admiral William Moran, Vice Chief of Naval Operations, designated Admiral Frank Caldwell as the Consolidated Disposition Authority to review the accountability actions taken to date in relation to USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) and USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) collisions and to take additional administrative or disciplinary actions as appropriate.
After careful deliberation, today Admiral Frank Caldwell announced that Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) charges are being preferred against individual service members in relation to the collisions.
USS Fitzgerald: Courts-martial proceedings/Article 32 hearings are being convened to review evidence supporting possible criminal charges against Fitzgerald members. The members’ ranks include one Commander (the Commanding Officer), two Lieutenants, and one Lieutenant Junior Grade. The charges include dereliction of duty, hazarding a vessel, and negligent homicide.
USS John S. McCain: Additionally, for John S. McCain, one court-martial proceeding/Article 32 hearing is being convened to review evidence supporting possible criminal charges against one Commander (the Commanding Officer). The charges include dereliction of duty, hazarding a vessel, and negligent homicide. Also, one charge of dereliction of duty was preferred and is pending referral to a forum for a Chief Petty Officer.
The announcement of an Article 32 hearing and referral to a court-martial is not intended to and does not reflect a determination of guilt or innocence related to any offenses. All individuals alleged to have committed misconduct are entitled to a presumption of innocence.
Additional administrative actions are being conducted for members of both crews including non-judicial punishment for four Fitzgerald and four John S. McCain crewmembers.
Information regarding further actions, if warranted, will be discussed at the appropriate time.
The walls of Travis Bell’s modest barbershop on Fort Bragg are lined with history.
Photos of Army heroes are here, men such as the late Col. Arthur D. “Bull” Simons, a Special Forces legend best known for leading the Son Tay raid during an attempted rescue of American prisoners of war during the Vietnam War. Former Army leaders have found their way on the walls, too, including Gens. Hugh Shelton, Ray Odierno, Lloyd Austin, and Stanley McChrystal.
Some are official photos. Others were taken from Bell’s barber chair in the center of his shop. In a few, it’s Bell in the chair and a general behind him, playfully holding a pair of clippers.
Nearly every photograph includes a handwritten note to Bell, who has been a fixture on Fort Bragg for more than half the Army post’s almost 100-year history.
“Thanks for your dedication and friendship,” wrote Lt. Gen. Mike Ferriter, who served as a deputy commanding general of the 18th Airborne Corps from 2007 to 2009.
“Thank you for your friendship, support, and dedicated service to America,” wrote Lt. Gen. John R. Vines, who commanded the 18th Airborne Corps and Fort Bragg from 2005 to 2007.
“To Travis with deep respect,” wrote McChrystal, who served as chief of staff of the corps and later commanded Joint Special Operations Command and the US war in Afghanistan before his retirement in 2010.
After 50 years of standing behind his barber chair, Fort Bragg leaders pulled Bell out into the open July 7 to honor him for his decades of service.
Maj. Gen. Paul J. LaCamera, deputy commanding general of the 18th Airborne Corps and the acting senior commander of Fort Bragg, said Bell has had a lasting impact on Fort Bragg and its leaders that stretches well beyond making them look good.
“He’s shaped a lot of leaders in the Corps,” the general said. “He has probably counseled every Corps commander since 1967.”
Bell, 77, has long served as a sounding board for soldiers across the 18th Airborne Corps, LaCamera said. And he has more time in the headquarters than anyone in history.
As a token of appreciation, the general presented Bell with a book full of handwritten letters from past Army leaders.
“The impact he’s had…” LaCamera said. “Who he has touched… It’s unbelievable. We’ve got a man who has had a tremendous impact.”
Bell opened his shop on Fort Bragg during the week of July 4, 1967. The then-27-year-old had worked on post for several months by that time — first at the old E-4 club, which would eventually become the Noncommissioned Officers Club, and then briefly at the 1st Corps Support Command headquarters.
Bell recalls accepting the job at the 18th Airborne Corps reluctantly.
In 1966, he turned down a similar job on Fort Bragg when he learned that the Corps headquarters was “where all that high brass” was stationed.
Instead, Bell kept working as a night foreman at a poultry plant in Robeson County. He cut hair on the side for a quarter or $.35 a cut.
When another job at Fort Bragg opened — this time with lower-ranking troops as the customers — Bell jumped at the opportunity.
“I was one of them,” he said of the privates and privates first class who were among his first customers on post. “I was right at home.”
It would take Bell weeks to feel comfortable cutting the hair of soldiers at higher ranks.
When a lieutenant sat in his chair for the first time, Bell said he froze.
“I got so nervous I couldn’t hardly finish,” he said.
When Bell was offered the job at the 18th Airborne Corps headquarters a second time, he said he felt he had little choice but to accept it.
“It was go there or go home,” he said.
Bell grew up on a Robeson County farm, one of nine boys who worked the fields alongside their father. Later, he would be a painter, carpenter, plumber and mechanic, and do other odd jobs along the way.
He said he viewed cutting hair as his way out of those jobs, learning from an older brother and practicing on his siblings.
But settling into his shop at the 18th Airborne Corps, Bell would have had no idea he would still be there 50 years later.
“I thought I wouldn’t even last the first day,” he said. “But I made it through that. Then I made it through another one. And another one.”
Bell estimates that he has cut more than a million heads of hair at Fort Bragg, although he said business is a lot slower these days, with much of the 18th Airborne Corps deployed to lead the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
“My customers are over in the war,” he said.
Originally, Bell charged 90 cents per cut. Today, the cost ranges from $8.55 to $10.75.
Bell has cut the hair of 23 Fort Bragg commanders, starting with Lt. Gen. Robert H. York in 1967.
The general walked into Bell’s shop, shook his hand and introduced himself, Bell said.
“I was so nervous, to this day I haven’t told him my name,” he said.
Those nerves would eventually go away. And Bell would become a trusted counselor to Fort Bragg’s leaders.
Gen. Daniel B. Allyn, who retired on Fort Bragg last week after a career that culminated as vice chief of staff for the Army, said he sought out Bell to cut his hair one last time before he stepped away from the military.
Gen. Daniel B. Allyn. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Jim Greenhill.
Allyn thanked Bell alongside current and former Army leaders.
“Travis has been cutting the hair of airborne troopers for over 50 years,” Allyn said. “He lowered my locks one final time this week. Thank you for not only keeping us looking as good as possible but thanks for your constant reminder of the impact of faith in our lives.”
When not cutting hair, Bell is often seen reading from a Bible he keeps in his shop.
He said he still makes the drive from Lumberton to Fort Bragg each day.
The July 7 celebration was just one way the Fort Bragg community said thanks to Bell. It was also his first day back in a newly remodeled barber shop.
And on July 6, he rode in an airplane for the first time in his life, flying with the US Army Parachute Team, the Golden Knights.
Bell still hasn’t been on a plane when it landed, though. The 77-year-old touched the ground while strapped to a member of the parachute team.
“I’m airborne now,” he said July 7, proudly recalling the experience of the day before.
Bell said Fort Bragg is home now.
“They take care of me good around here,” he said. “It’s been a real pleasure.”
And after 50 years, the barber has no plans to slow down.
“I’m enjoying it right now,” he said. “I don’t know when I’m going to retire.”
Hundreds of chief petty officers, senior chiefs, and master chiefs are getting orders to deploy with the fleet in what the Fleet Master Chief for Manpower, Personnel, Training, and Education calls “more directive steps to improve fleet manning and warfighting readiness.”
The announcement comes as Secretary of Defense James Mattis has pushed for increasing military readiness, to the point of delaying ship and aircraft procurement in order to reverse shortfalls in training and maintenance budgets.
“We operate in a dynamic environment and Sailors are our key advantage,” the NAVADMIN signed by Vice Adm. Robert P. Burke says. “Assigning Chiefs to our ships, submarines, squadrons, and other key operational and Fleet production units is vital to maintaining that advantage.”
“Assignments for all enlisted supervisors, including those selected for advancement to Chief, will be reviewed and managed to maximize Fleet manning readiness. When detailing Chiefs, sea shore flow and sea shore rotation concerns will continue to be considered, but will be secondary to Fleet manning requirements,” the release went on to say.
However, this is not to say that the Navy is going to be pushing its chiefs out to sea all the time in response to the shortage.
“Engaged leadership will consider human factors, the needs of the community and the needs of losing and gaining commands — all weighed against each other — to ensure we make smart decisions that don’t break our people or our readiness,” Fleet Master Chief Russell Smith wrote in a Navy Times op-ed that explained why the Navy was shifting to a policy that had previously been limited to the submarine force.
Smith said there’s a shortage of enlisted leadership deployed aboard ships that have the experience, problem-solving abilities, technical expertise and ability to make things happen that chief petty officers bring to the Navy.
The Navy is trying to encourage chiefs and junior sailors to voluntarily extend sea duty. For chiefs, the NAVADMIN noted that they would have better chances at obtaining “geographic stability, the opportunity to negotiate for choice orders, and Sea Duty Incentive Pay” through what it called “proactive action to manage career progression.”
The Navy Times reported that junior sailors who volunteered for extra sea duty for one or two more years could receive exemptions from up-or-out limits, that generally apply to sailors.
As you are aware, much of the government, including the Department of Homeland Security, remains unfunded, and it is not clear when this lapse in appropriations will end. In the coming days, our service will begin to pass critical military and civilian pay-processing milestones necessary to meet regular pay cycles. Unfortunately, without an appropriation, a continuing resolution, or another legislative measure, the Coast Guard will not be able to meet the next payroll.
Let me assure you your leadership continues to do everything possible, both internal and external to the service, to ensure we can process your pay as soon as we receive an appropriation; however, I do not know when that will occur. Moreover, many of you may be aware of proposed congressional legislation that separately provides pay for the Coast Guard. I cannot predict what course that legislation may take.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Matthew Masaschi)
I know you have many questions during this difficult time. As the commandant mentioned, please do not hesitate to reach out to your chain of command, the chief’s mess, the ombudsmen network, our chaplains, as well as other resources. In addition, I encourage you to visit the Coast Guard’s website that has the most up-to-date resource links and frequently asked questions at https://www.dcms.uscg.mil/budget/. I encourage you to frequently revisit this website as it will be updated as new information is learned and additional FAQs are developed.
I can announce the Coast Guard Mutual Assistance board just approved an increase to interest-free loans with a focus on the junior workforce. Now, E-5 and below, GS-6 and below, and wage grade equivalents are eligible for a loan up to a maximum of id=”listicle-2625970578″,000 for those with dependents and 0 for those without dependents. Personnel in other paygrades may also qualify if dire circumstances exist. If you require this assistance, please check with your CGMA representative to apply.
Please know that your entire senior leadership team is pursuing every possible avenue to mitigate the effects that this unprecedented event is having on you and your families. In similar fashion, I implore each of you to take an active role in caring for your fellow shipmates and their loved ones. Thank you for your continued dedicated service to our nation.
Semper Paratus, Adm. Charles W. Ray Vice Commandant
Walter Reed National Medical Center announced this week a plan to expand a partnership between the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the Defense Department that focuses on creative art therapy for service members, veterans, and family members.
The “Creative Forces: NEA Military Healing Arts Network” focuses on art therapy such as writing, painting, and singing to help service members address and deal with post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury.
It’s currently offered at Walter Reed in Maryland and Fort Belvoir, Virginia.
“Post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury are notoriously complex conditions to treat,” the NEA chairman Jane Chu said, noting that day long workshops don’t dig deep enough into the issues surrounding PTS and TBI.
Understanding that, the National Intrepid Center of Excellence decided to add a therapeutic writing program to its already existing creative art therapy program. That program now incorporates visual arts and music therapy.
The program, which received an additional $1.98 million funding in fiscal year 2016, has plans to expand to Marine Corps Bases Camp Pendleton and Camp Lejeune; Madigan Army Medical Center in Tacoma, Washington; Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage, Alaska; and Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas.
The NEA and DoD have enough funding to open those and five other sites around the country in 2017, the Pentagon says.
Readiness, diversity, location, population density and leadership were all taken into consideration when determining where to open expansion clinics, Chu said. Leadership is “critical to the success of our work together,” Chu explained, adding that the expansion will also work with a network of community based nonprofit organizations.
The goal with the expansion, according to Chu, is to develop a web of resources and tools to help local organizations and communities as they work with the military community among them.
Chu reports that, through the program, veterans are better able to manage stress.
“We’re seeing such transformational results in our service members and our expansion plans have come as a result of them saying that they want this program to be closer to their communities as they make a transition back into civilian life,” Chu explained. “This is a way to help service members and veterans … understand the dignity that they already have and so much deserve.”
Retired Air Force Colonel Merryl Tengesdal was the first and only Black female U-2 pilot. For her, it’s all about finding opportunity and seizing it.
Born in the Bronx and raised by a single mother, Tengesdal was obsessed with Star Trek. “When I was 7 years old I decided I wanted to be an astronaut and be like Kirk exploring space,” she said with a smile. That show would be a pivotal moment for her life, leading her to set what she called her framework. “I knew I needed to do well in math and science, go to college and become a pilot.”
But she didn’t want to become just any kind of pilot, either. “I wanted to go high and fast with weapons, that’s just how I roll,” Tengesdal said with a smile.
While still in high school, she attended college level programs for science and electrical engineering, which is what she would major in. When Tengesdal graduated, she was only one of three women in the program. “I did ROTC in the Air Force for two years but thought it probably wasn’t the best fit for me. It’s funny how that comes back full circle,” she laughed.
Instead of the Air Force, Tengesdal started talking to a Navy recruiter. Although she was told there were no pilot slots by them, that didn’t stop her. She’d end up on a five-day bus trip to San Diego where she took the required test to become a pilot. Tengesdal was picked up for Officer Candidate School in 1994. “I got wind in ‘96 and picked up helicopters, H60 Bravos and did that for four years. Deployed to the Mediterranean and Arabyian Gulf, doing missions out there,” she explained.
Tengesdal did two more years with the fleet before becoming a T-6 instructor. When that was finished, she went back to where it all started. The Air Force.
She was actually contemplating getting out, her goals still being on getting into space. But then she heard about the U-2. “The mission was beautiful, the aircraft was tough. I wore a pressure suit going above 70,000 feet. All of that was very appealing to me,” Tendesdal shared.
The Lockheed U-2 is actually nicknamed the “dragon lady” and used to be the aircraft of choice for the Central Intelligence Agency. Pilots are required to breathe in pure oxygen for the hour prior to takeoff and wear partially pressurized space suits before they board for missions over 10 hours long. It is so challenging and difficult that it comes with a suicide needle, should the pilot opt to take it. Tengesdal was only one of ten women in around 1100 pilots in the aircrafts history. She is still the only Black woman to fly it.
“I was driven toward a goal and flying. I didn’t say I wanted to be a first because no one else had done it, I didn’t even think of it that way. I looked at the U-2 community as a brother and sisterhood that I wanted to be a part of,” Tengesdal explained. “The progression of myself as a Black American during my time on this earth has been a very good one…I saw opportunity, my mom made sure there was and then I would take advantage of it.”
Her advice is to take everything as if it’s the only shot you have and make the best of it. “I try to create those opportunities for people regardless of what they look like or who they are, based on their skillset. I think that’s how I went through life. People saw something in me, I had the skill and aptitude and it’s worked out…All you have to do is look at it and not limit yourself,” Tengesdal shared.
“When I was deployed with the Navy, I saw what poverty could really look like. It gives you that perspective of ‘we don’t want that here,'” she explained. With her time in service, she’s witnessed how bad it can be and although recognizes America is far from perfect – it’s a beacon of hope for so many for a reason. Tengesdal remains hopeful that American resiliency will shine through.
Promoted to Colonel, she eventually retired in 2017. These days she’s wearing the hats of personal trainer, motivational speaker, wife and mom. She’s also fostering to adopt, in an attempt to give a child a starting opportunity, like she had.
We can also add reality TV star to the mix now, too.
You’ll find Tengesdal on the CBS reality series, Tough As Nails. It’s a show featuring every day Americans who don’t hesitate to roll up their sleeves and get the job done; a mantra deeply familiar to her. Things like mental toughness, strength, life skills and endurance will be tested. Basically, it was a show made for Tengesdal.
For a woman who’s accomplished so much already and continues to strive for even more, she has some shockingly normal hobbies and enjoyments. “I am above level 8,000 on candy crush and I play Pokemon go,” she laughed.
Her message to women or anyone who feels underserved wondering if they should go for something because it’s going to be too hard, Tengesdal says yes. “You may struggle and even struggle really hard. Do it anyway.”
For more amazing Black veterans, check out this post.
As a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN), it’s my job to help veterans understand how changes to their diets and lifestyles can change their lives. Here are the most common reactions that I see:
“I feel so much better, physically and mentally!” “I feel like a new man!”
It’s true. One of the biggest benefits to improving eating and activity patterns is an enhanced mood! Your brain is fueled by the foods you consume, and what you eat can affect how your brain functions.
But that’s not all. Keeping a healthy gut is key, too. Serotonin, a neurotransmitter that is mostly made in your GI tract, regulates your sleep, appetite, mood, and pain. Low levels of serotonin are linked to an increased risk of low mood and depression. This complex pathway is not entirely understood, but early research from the National Institute of Health suggests achieving an optimal level of serotonin production will help keep the body in good health.
So, what can you do to keep a healthy mind and gut?
Follow Mediterranean Lifestyle guidelines to reduce inflammation and reduce your risk of chronic disease.
Water: Consume at least 64 ounces each day (for most healthy individuals; if you have Congestive Heart Failure, are on dialysis, or another medical condition, you may have different fluid needs).
Vegetables: Eat at least 3 servings each day.
Fruit: Eat at least 2 servings each day.
Fish high in omega-3 fatty acids such as wild Alaskan salmon, mackerel, herring, lake trout, sardines, albacore tuna: Eat 2 servings per week.
Limit processed foods, refined sugars and sugary beverages.
It can be overwhelming to think about changing your diet and lifestyle, but there are many resources available at your local VA. If you want to get started on a journey toward improving your mind, body and spirit, contact your PACT team or your local MOVE! Weight Management Program.
Many VA facilities also offer Healthy Teaching Kitchen classes where you can learn to prepare healthy foods with delicious flavors. If you’re interested in these great opportunities or other nutrition-related topics, contact your local VA to speak with a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist. Be sure to contact your PACT team or Mental Health team if you are experiencing symptoms of anxiety, depression, or changes in mood.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
The sand invades every crevice and fold in your skin and clothing like a kind of unfinished cement mixture hellbent on rubbing your exposed patches of water-softened skin until they chafe and bleed. Just when the bright southern California sunshine dries you out, and you feel that blessed warmth that you remember so well from before you started Navy SEAL training, the BUD/S instructors once again order you into the surf zone like maniacal dads gleefully throwing their children into a pool for the first time. Learn to swim, or die.
“This will make you hard, gents,” they growl, tongues firmly in cheeks. They know they are making a bad pun while also telling us that all of this, in effect, is for our own good. We do it grim-faced and resigned to another onslaught of sandy wetness because we want to make it through the training. And the training is designed to figure out which of us will not quit, even when our physical selves want nothing more than warmth, blessed dryness, and physical comfort.
Naval Amphibious Base Coronado, San Diego, Calif. (Jan. 31, 2003) – As an instructor monitors a training evolution, Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUDS) Class 244 receives instructions on their next exercise as they lay in the surf. (U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 3rd Class John DeCoursey.)
Some will eventually give in to the effect of this relentless physical tribulation. Those that make it through do so because they find their way to that state of consciousness in which the brain overrides the assault on the body, and that all-powerful and mysterious mass of grey matter residing inside our skulls takes over and drives the machine of blood and bone known as our bodies forward in a state of semi-autonomy. That is the mental state one must achieve to make it through the training; that state in which the primeval mind overcomes the objections and weaknesses of the fragile body.
Three of my blood relatives made it through BUD/S before me. One made it through after me. Five of us in total. Each of us set out not knowing if we had that ability to put mind over body. We hoped we did. We suspected we did, since we had the same genetic make-up as those who had come before us. We each knew that if our father, brother, and cousin could do it, we could do it too. Still, you never really know until you do it. Until you face it.
SEAL candidates for basic underwater demolition cover themselves in sand during surf passage on Naval Amphibious Base Coronado, Calif. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Michael Russell)
The physical preparation is important — critical, even. You have to reach a certain level of physical preparedness to allow your body to complete that journey. That is a necessary condition to making it through, but not a sufficient condition. The physical preparation alone will not guarantee you success. The mindset is the thing. You have to get your mind to that place in which quitting is an impossibility.
Sure, you might fail or be ejected from the training for some performance inadequacy. That happens even to the most physically prepared of us. I saw it happen in my own class on multiple occasions. But you have to get to the state of mind in which they will have to kill you or fail you to stop you from making it. Never quit. Never contemplate quitting. Never allow that thought to worm its way into your head. Once it does, all is lost.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Trevor Welsh/Released)
That is the one piece of advice I give, and have given, to all those who have asked over the years about making it through BUD/S: just tell yourself you will never quit. Tell yourself that you will prepare the best you can by swimming, running in boots and pants in the sand, doing thousands of push-ups and pull-ups and flutter kicks, and practicing all of the breath holding.
Once you reach that threshold of preparedness, you must then fortify your mind. Obsess over making it. Find your inner demon. Harness it, and hold on tight and ride that supernatural force straight through to the end. The human brain and the power it wields is a force of nature. You have to channel that power — all of it — to propel you forward to the end.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Anthony W. Walker)
It will end, after all. At some point, you know that about 20 out of 100 of you will be left standing at graduation. They will have thrown everything they have at you to get you to quit. They will make it their mission to break you. It is up to you to stand fast and repel that assault. If I can do it, then you can do it too.
The USS Little Rock looks like it was designed by a committee of 12-year-old Transformers enthusiasts, that is, like a sports car speedboat battleship with guns that go pew pew pew. It cost the United States about $440 million and is part of a new category of ultra-versatile warship known as the littoral class: “a fast, agile, mission-focused- platform designed for operation in near-shore environments yet capable of open-ocean operation.”
What the Little Rock does not do is fly. This ugly-as-sin future-boat is, ultimately, still just a boat. It was built at a shipyard in Wisconsin and spent the summer of 2017 in trials on Lake Michigan. It was commissioned last month in Buffalo, New York. From there, it’s next stop was to be its home port in Florida. As it turns out, the Little Rock will be a few months late. Because winter.
As reported by the Washington Post, the Little Rock is currently docked in Montreal. It’s stuck. The Saint Lawrence Seaway, the Great Lakes’ outlet to the Atlantic Ocean, is frozen over.
USS Little Rock enters Buffalo prior to being commissioned. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)
While colder-than-average temperatures in the Northeast haven’t helped, this is actually normal. The freshwater Seaway (and the Great Lakes shipping system, generally) normally closes to shipping between December and March because of ice.
In any case, this winter stopover for the USS Little Rock wasn’t planned. Significant weather conditions prevented the ship from departing Montreal earlier this month and icy conditions continue to intensify, offered a statement from the Navy.
The temperatures in Montreal and throughout the transit area have been colder than normal, and included near-record low temperatures, which created significant and historical conditions in the late December, early January timeframe.
There are some ships actually designed for this. Ice-ready ships usually aren’t even what we’d normally think of icebreakers. These are just normal boats built for cold climates.
Ships with this capability are rated according to “ice class,” a loose classification system corresponding to how much extra strengthening a ship’s hull has. Ice class ships range from Scandinavian ferry boats to Russia’s “polar corvette” take on littoral battleships. Indeed there’s anxiety among military types in the US about an “icebreaker gap” between the US and Russia. That is, we don’t really have fast battleships that can fight in the Arctic, while Russia does.
We’re assured that the 70 person crew is making the most of their time in port, working on training and certifications and other assorted boat stuff. And, as far as places to be stuck in the winter, they’re probably better off in Montreal than, say, Buffalo. There’s nothing like a steaming pile of poutine on a cold-ass day.
He wanted to sit in the cockpit as a pilot, but a failed depth perception test found him sitting underneath the plane as a ball turret gunner on the B-17 Flying Fortress.
But while his view of the ground may have changed, his view of the bomber never waivered.
“The B-17 was the best airplane ever built, ’cause it brought you home,'” he said. “We’ve come home on a wing and a prayer, sometimes you come in on two engines, sometimes two engines and a half of a wing, but you got home.”
Many never did, however, as between 1942 and 1945 flying bombing missions for the “Mighty 8th” proved to be the most dangerous occupation in the U.S. Army Air Forces. Airmen were asked to complete a 25-mission quota at a time when the life expectancy of a crew didn’t surpass six missions. Casualty rates for heavy bomber crews also reached as high as 89 percent.
During his time at RAF Ridgewell, England from 1943 – 1945 Perrone flew 32 missions with the 533rd Bomb Squadron at the height of the aerial campaigns against the Third Reich. He is credited with 3.5 kills from the ball turret.
“You’re by yourself and it’s an odd feeling (shooting someone down). It’s been so long ago, I can’t think of all the ins and outs. I prayed a lot, I can tell you that,” said Perrone. “War, it’s a young man’s game.”
“War, it’s a young man’s game.”
According to Perrone, the amount of bombers in the air during missions was mind-boggling. Most missions involved hundreds of B-17 and B-24 Liberator bombers targeting ball-bearing plants, rail yards, oil production facilities and aircraft manufacturing factories.
Nighttime area bombing attacks by the RAF complimented the daytime precision bombing raids by the U.S. Army Air Force. The bombers wreaked havoc on the German war machine, but allied casualties began to mount due to German 88mm anti-aircraft gun shells, commonly described as “flak,” and the vulnerability of the bombers to be attacked head-on by the Luftwaffe or German air force.
Bomber losses rapidly increased to a rate the Eighth could not withstand.
On Sept. 6, 1943, Perrone’s crew joined a raid on a German ball bearing production plant. Of the 400 Flying Fortresses launched for the mission, 60 were shot down and 600 Airmen were lost.
“The flak was so thick you could walk on it,” said Perrone. “During the ins and outs of the cities, through flak, was the only time I was scared. I always wanted to see those puffs of flak clouds below me, way below me.”
“When the Germans look up to see all our bombers, better them than us, believe me when I tell you, it had to be tough on them, and as the war went along, we became stronger and stronger and stronger,” said Perrone. “There were some towns and cities in Germany we leveled. We broke the Germans’ backs. The British softened them and then we really gave it to them.”
The strength was provided by the long-range escort of P-38 Lightning and P-47 Thunderbolt aircraft outfitted with extra fuel drop tanks. Eventually, the employment of the P-51 Mustang allowed fighter escorts to reach Berlin.
The bombers and fighters together destroyed the Luftwaffe and air supremacy was gained over western Germany.
“My favorite memory; my last mission. I knew I was done and everything was okay,” said Perrone. “I was more scared on my last mission than my first.”
Perrone considers himself lucky, only one in five aircrew members of the 8th AF made the quota to end their tour of duty.
At the end of the war in Europe USAAF shifted focus to Japan with the deployment of the most technologically advanced aircraft, and the last bomber of World War II, the B-29 Superfortress.
The B-29 was designed as a high-altitude strategic bomber, but it was primarily used as a low-altitude night bomber in the Pacific theater. It was equipped with a pressurized cabin and had a central fire system of remotely controlled gun turrets each armed with .50 caliber machine guns.
The Superfortress also became the first nuclear capable aircraft.
On Aug. 6, 1945, a B-29 named the “Enola Gay” deployed the world’s first atomic weapon on Hiroshima, Japan. Three days later a second B-29, “Bockscar,” dropped another atomic bomb on Nagasaki.
Six days later Japan surrendered, the war was over and the era of nuclear deterrence began.
With the advent of the nuclear weapon, bombers became the first vehicle to deliver apocalyptic devastation. Today’s strategic bombers provide one of the three delivery components of the nuclear triad along with land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles and submarine-launched ballistic missiles, which make up our nation’s nuclear deterrence strategy.
“The capabilities of our nuclear deterrence are the bedrock of everything we do as a military,” said Gen. John E. Hyten, commander of U.S. Strategic Command at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska. “It’s the thing that keeps our adversaries from taking a step too far. Nuclear deterrence keeps the great power conflicts down and the horrible death and destruction, like what was seen during World War II, away from the world.”
In its infancy, the Air Force, then dubbed the Army Air Corps, lacked strategic bombing support while under Army control. The Army wasn’t convinced airplanes should be used for strategic bombing, but advocates like Brig. Gen. Billy Mitchell argued bombers could replace traditional land and naval tactics as a dominant form by striking an enemy nation’s industrial complex and crippling its economic ability to fight. The Army’s prevailing view of the airplane, however, was as a reconnaissance and tactical bombing vehicle supporting ground troops on the front lines.
Despite the debate, the American bomber was born in 1934 and shepherded in a new era of aerial combat.
Alexander is a second-generation “bomber crew dog” of the Eighth Air Force. His grandfather, Bill Alexander was a co-pilot on a B-24 for the 489th Bombardment Group out of RAF Halesworth, England.
“I can’t imagine what he and his crew went through,” said Alexander of his grandfather. “You are basically in a flying unpressurized beer can with a couple engines strapped onto it, a few guns and about 8,000 pounds of bombs. There’s no GPS, no inertial navigation system, it’s charts and a protractor getting you across the English Channel through clouds of German flak. It’s noisy and freezing 20 degrees below zero. Oh, and there’s like a 0.06 percent chance of survival over the course of 25 missions.”
“They were truly our greatest generation”
Alexander said the basics of bombing doctrine were established in World War II, but with a myriad of sensors helping deploy munitions with absolute precision, landing within inches from the target, the B-52, B-1 Lancer and B-2 Spirit have certainly come a long way.
Alexander explained what happened in the skies of Europe was absolutely instrumental. The losses were catastrophic, but at the time the USAAF had to launch 70 aircraft to take out a facility in the hopes one got lucky to peer through the clouds and strike a target. Nowadays one B-52 can take out that same facility, but from 1,000 miles away.
“They laid down the absolute fundamentals of what air power brings to the picture in terms of complete destruction of enemy objectives,” said Alexander. “We provide the same thing today in a much more non-contested environment.”
Alexander said the 8th AF is in demand by combatant commanders around the world. The strategic importance of bombers is even more important today than ever in terms of our posturing, projecting power, nuclear deterrence and assuring our allies.
GRAPHIC BY CHRIS DESROCHER // ANIMATION BY MAUREEN STEWART
“Strategic bombers are also incredibly important to the nuclear triad. You have your intercontinental ballistic missiles and they stay in the ground all day. You have submarines, but it’s their job for you to not see them. The difference with the nuclear bomber is the visibility,” said Alexander. “If there’s a nuclear bomber in your yard, you know it’s there. It’s the most visible part of the triad.”
Alexander stated another importance of the bombers is their recall ability. The president has the ability to recall the aircraft before weapons are launched. It’s the flexibility the bomber brings to the triad.
“Strategic posturing sometimes is a greater deterrence,” said Alexander of what the nuclear bombers bring to the fight. “You can have the B-1s in Guam, but when the B-52 shows up it’s a different message … it’s the big stick. When that happens the tone does change. No one wants to go to war. Deterrence, that’s what we will be focusing on.”
Alexander said when he walks the halls of the Mighty 8th AF and sees the black and white photos of the bomber crews of World War II, he sees the pride and spirit of our crews today, a bond and dependence of each other knowing the guy or gal on the left or right of you would die for you to protect our freedoms.
“There is a great sense of camaraderie with bomber crews, because we have to work more as a team,” said Alexander. “Thanks to the Army Air Corps we have the most powerful and devastating Air Force the world has ever seen.”
Perrone isn’t too sure about all that. All he does know is he made his mission quota and did what he was asked to do.
Now he meets every Wednesday for lunch with a fellow World War II and Mighty 8th veteran Jack Goldstein. The two were stationed on the same base in England, but never met.
“I was only there for the last six months of the war, but I completed my missions and we all went home together in 1945,” said Goldstein.
It took 40 years for Goldstein to open up and talk about the war. He now shares these stories with fellow veterans, but his family is unaware.
The pictures and documents stuffed away for decades in the back of his closet are now proudly displayed in his home.
“I now feel proud now when people come and thank us for our service,” said Goldstein. “There’s not too many of us kids left.”
Each of them outlived their crews, and most World War II veterans are the last remaining of a dying breed … a breed that helped shape the importance of aerial warfare and set the stage for the bomber crews of today.
The Senate Armed Services Committee held a hearing Thursday on whether to confirm Gen. James Mattis as the next defense secretary, and plenty of interesting bits came out of the roughly three-hour session.
The retired four-star general gave frank and concise answers on everything from cybersecurity policy to what he expects will be the biggest threats to the United States.
Shortly afterward, he was approved for a waiver for the requirement of having a seven-year gap between being active-duty in the military and serving in the civilian role at the Pentagon.
When asked whether the US can confront the terror group in its capital of Raqqa, Mattis said he believed the US could, but he added that the anti-ISIS strategy needed to be reviewed and “energized on a more aggressive timeline.”
He told members that “we have to deliver a very hard blow against ISIS in the Middle East so there is no sense of invulnerability or invincibility there.” For the US, according to Mattis, that means attacking ISIS’ main areas of strength so they cannot pop up elsewhere.
He mentioned Russia as the biggest threat
Despite President-elect Trump’s restraint on calling out Russian aggression and cyberwarfare, Mattis didn’t pull punches in his assessment of Moscow.
“Since Yalta, we have a long list of times that we’ve tried to engage positively with Russia,” Mattis said. “We have a relatively short list of successes in that regard.” He praised NATO and its effectiveness, and added that Russian President Vladimir Putin was “trying to break” that alliance.
In some areas Russia and the US can work together, but in many others, Mattis said, Putin remained a strategic competitor or an outright adversary.
“I have very modest expectations about areas of cooperation with Mr. Putin,” he said.
Mattis says he wouldn’t roll back the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell or the change on women in combat roles
In the past, Mattis has not really been a fan of women being integrated into combat roles, such as infantry. He was asked about this repeatedly — at times having his speeches quoted to him — and asked whether he would reverse the 2013 policy change.
“I’ve never come into any job with an agenda, a pre-formed agenda of changing anything,” he said. “I assume the people before me deserve respect for the decisions they’ve made.”
That answer did not satisfy Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), however, and she continued to press him. In the end, Mattis told her: “I have no plan to oppose women in any aspect of our military. In 2003, I had hundreds of Marines who happened to be women serving in my 23,000 person division … I put them right on the front lines with everyone else.”
He was also asked about protections for LGBTQ service members, and he had a very blunt answer to that. “Frankly, senator, I’ve never cared about two consenting adults and who they go to bed with.”
He says the Iran deal isn’t perfect, but it should remain intact
Mattis called the Iran deal an “imperfect” one, but still supported the US keeping its end of the bargain. The answer was a break from the President-elect, who has promised to “rip up” the deal with Tehran.
“I think it is an imperfect arms control agreement — it’s not a friendship treaty,” Mattis said. “But when America gives her word, we have to live up to it and work with our allies.”
Later, he said, “It’s not a deal I would have signed.”
Mattis says cyberwar is a big problem that still has no clear doctrine in place
Mattis was asked interesting questions on cyberwarfare, which were especially pertinent in the wake of Russian hacks of Democratic party officials and their affect on the presidential election. Unfortunately, he said he did not believe the US has anything resembling a sophisticated cyber doctrine.
In other words, there is no strategy in place for the US to respond to cyber attacks, like there is for other physical examples, such as a nuclear strike or an attack on a NATO ally.
Mattis said there needs to be a comprehensive plan developed to address this shortfall, because “cyber cuts across everything we do today.”
He added: “Because of the cyber domain, it’s not something the military can do in isolation.”
A U.S. Navy P-3 Orion surveillance aircraft joined the search Thursday over the Mediterranean for EgyptAir Flight 804 which went missing on a Paris to Cairo flight, the Pentagon said.
The P-3, flying out of Naval Air Station Sigonella in Italy, was the only U.S. military asset involved in the search thus far, said Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook. The U.S. did not have any ships in the area and there were no immediate plans to send any, Cook said.
“At this point, it’s just the aircraft that’s involved,” he said at a Pentagon briefing.
The four-engine turboprop planes made by Lockheed Martin Corp. have been maritime surveillance and submarine hunting workhorses for the Navy for decades. The aircraft features a distinctive tail antenna, or “MAD Boom,” for the underwater magnetic detection of submarines and other objects below the surface.
EgyptAir Vice Chairman Ahmed Adel told CNN that what was believed to be the plane’s wreckage had been found in the Mediterranean about 160 miles north of the Egyptian coast. He said the search and rescue operation was on the verge of “turning into a “search and recovery” mission.
The signal from the EgyptAir Airbus A320 carrying 66 passengers and crew was lost at about 2:30 a.m. early Thursday local time as it began its approach to Cairo. None of the passengers were listed on terror watch lists and three security officials were on board the aircraft, according to CNN.
Cook declined to speculate on whether terrorism may have been involved but said U.S. law enforcement agencies were in contact with the Egyptians.
Egyptian Civil Aviation Minister Sharif Fathi said technical failures and terror are both possible explanations for the disappearance of the aircraft.
“But if you analyze this situation properly, the possibility of having a different action aboard, of having a terror attack, is higher than having a technical problem,” Fathi said.
Throughout history, Native American warriors have given a wide mix of motives for joining the U.S. military. Those include patriotism, pride, rage, courage, practicality, and spirituality, all mingling with an abiding respect for tribal, familial, and national traditions.
This Veterans Day, explore the complicated ways the Native American culture and traditions have affected their participation in the United States military when The Warrior Tradition airs at 9 pm ET on PBS. The one-hour documentary, co-produced by WNED-TV and Florentine Films/Hott Productions, Inc., tells the stories of Native American warriors from their own points of view – stories of service and pain, of courage and fear.