During the opening days of Operation Iraqi Freedom, elements of the 3rd Infantry Division had come under fire from Iraqi forces, including T-72 tanks. That’s when the boots on the ground called for air support.
Thornton came within 1,000 yards of the enemy, using his A-10’s GAU-8 cannon in some cases. Ultimately, he and the other pilot would be credited with killing three T-72s, six other armored vehicles, and a number of other targets.
Fourteen years after that battle, Thornton, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, will receive the Silver Star in a ceremony in July that will be presided over by Gen. Mike Holmes, the commander of Air Combat Command. The ceremony will take place at the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio.
“This courageous and aggressive attack, while under withering fire and in poor weather, along with Capt. Thornton’s superior flying skills and true attack pilot grit, allowed Task Force 2-69 Armor to cross the Tigris River with minimal combat losses and successfully accomplish their objective of linking up with coalition forces completing the 360-degree encirclement of Baghdad,” the citation that outlined the award reads.
Thornton had been assigned to the 75th Fighter Squadron at Pope Field, near Fort Bragg, prior to his retirement. At the time of the incident, Thornton was a captain in the Air Force.
When watching a movie, it’s easy to think that everything is real and true and lifelike. It’s no surprise that that isn’t always the case, especially with military movies. That’s how Marine veteran Dale Dye got involved. He wanted to tell Hollywood the right way to portray the military on screen.
Dye’s journey to becoming a military technical advisor started when he was a young man. He often overheard his father’s inspiring World War II stories. He enlisted in the Marines after seeing a Marines poster.
In service, Dye became a combat correspondent and he often documented battles and life in the Marines during the Vietnam War. It was this experience that he later drew on to advise Hollywood film directors on how to accurately portray the military. His love for the military inspired him to influence the next generation through films, books, and even video games, so he created Warriors Inc. to provide Hollywood with technical advisors for all things military related.
As Dye discussed his experiences, he covered the following topics:
His military career in the Marines during the Vietnam War where he received three Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star with a Combat “V.”
His military consultant business Warriors Inc.
His 141 credits in film, television and video games.
His new projects.
His books and publishing company Warriors Publishing.
His struggle and treatment of his PTSD.
He emphasized the importance of not only having knowledge about what you are getting into but also knowing that there are people who have gone through the same thing as you that want to help support you.
The U.S. Navy has rescued a small and very hungry German Shepard puppy which had been lost at sea for five weeks and presumed dead.
Luna, a friendly dog, disappeared from a fishing vessel on Feb. 10 of this year off the coast of San Diego, Calif.
“On Feb 10, 2016, personnel assigned to Naval Auxiliary Landing Field San Clemente Island received a call for help from a fishing vessel. Nick Haworth (Luna’s owner) reported that he and the crew were bringing in traps, and one moment Luna was there and the next she was gone. They were about 2 miles off the coast and he thought she may head for shore,” said a Navy statement given to Scout Warrior.
After this incident, ships continued to search the waters nearby San Clemente Island for an entire week without finding Luna, only to determine the little puppy was “lost at sea and presumed dead.”
“We searched the island. The initial radio call was taken by a Navy helicopter in the area,” Sandy DeMunnik, spokeswoman for Naval Base Coronado, Calif., told Scout Warrior. Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 78 was the unit that received the call, she added.
“They fly MH-60 Sea Hawk helicopters,” she said.
Then, on March 17, Navy officials found Luna on the coast of the island sitting next to the road.
“They were shocked,” the Navy statement said, because there are no domestic animals on the island because of the very sensitive environmental programs that take place there.
“Luna ran right up to the staff,” Navy officials said.
Luna was examined by our wildlife biologist and found to be undernourished but otherwise uninjured and in good spirits, service officials added.
She will be reunited with a family friend of her owner who is out of town for work and unable to get home in time. When her owner returns to town, Luna will be reunited with him.
It is not clear how a young German Shepard would be able to survive for five weeks at sea with no food or shore.
“Luna swam somewhere between one and two miles. That is not smooth water out there. It is rough water,” DeMunnik said. “The fact that she survived for five weeks in that water struck a chord with military personnel on the island because they know how treacherous the waters there can be.”
Due to Luna’s resilience and spirit, the Commanding Officer of Naval Base Coronado presented Luna with a military dog tag with four lines inscribed on it saying — “Luna, keep the faith.” “Keep the Faith” is the moto of the Navy’s SERE, Search Evasion rescue escape training.
The spirit of the saying is, among other things, designed to connote that in the event someone is missing, fellow service members will never stop searching, DeMunnik added.
“We’ve all been walking around smiling for three days because she survived,” she said.
A military family had their U-Haul stolen in Georgia during their PCS to Louisiana. Inside the moving van was their infant son’s ashes.
Benjamin and Kassandra Benton were high school sweethearts. When Kassandra found out she was pregnant with baby Wyatt, she didn’t believe the doctor — she was a Neuroblastoma cancer survivor at just seven years old and her entire abdomen was “nuked,” as she called it. “Some people may remember me from Extreme Home Makeover; I’m the one who made necklaces to raise money for kids with cancer,” she shared.
But she was pregnant and 14 weeks along. Kassandra was considered high risk and went into labor at home unexpectedly at just 24 weeks. Ben delivered baby Wyatt who wasn’t breathing while Kassandra continued to hemorrhage. EMS personnel rushed them to the hospital where they were both saved. But they’d spend five months watching Wyatt fight for his life.
Ben headed to Air Force basic training not long after Wyatt’s birth. Kassandra kept him up to date through letters. “Some of the bad things I’d leave out scared that Ben would get discouraged and drop out. It was hard,” she said.
Eventually, she had to call him to come home. Wyatt’s brain shunt was overrun with infection and there was nothing more they could do. “We decided instead of Wyatt living his whole life in the hospital, we’d take him into hospice where he could see the outside … where we could cuddle and enjoy his last days,” Kassandra explained.
On November 12, 2015 he took his last breath.
“We held him. We loved him and we made sure he felt that. He was our world and he still is. Because of Wyatt I have my two beautiful daughters,” Kassandra said. She went into labor early with both girls but because of her experience with Wyatt, she recognized the signs and got to the hospital early. Charlotte and Amelia are here because of him, Kassandra said.
The young family was on their way to Ben’s new duty station at Barksdale Air Force Base when they stopped at a motel in Georgia for the night. When they awoke, their U-Haul was gone. Although it was found days later, it was empty except for a few bags of clothes. Wyatt’s ashes, hand and footprints and hand mold were still gone. It was all they had left of him.
A local nonprofit near Barksdale Air Force Base has stepped forward to help. EveryWarrior is offering a $3,000 reward through the Covington, Georgia Police Department for the return of Wyatt’s remains. The military spouses at the base have also rallied behind the Benton family, establishing a GoFundMe page to support their needs.
In the end though, they just want Wyatt’s remains returned safely and don’t care about the rest of their stolen things. Kassandra has pleaded through every media interview for the person who took his ashes to please “have heart” and bring him home. For the Benton family, it feels like they are mourning his loss all over again.
In a Facebook post on March 6, 2021 she pleaded once again. “Keep sharing, keep looking, and keep the hope. I believe, I have to believe Wyatt will find his way back to me. It’s the only thing keeping me going. And a THANK YOU! To everyone who is helping us on this search, and who’s donated for my family, and who is praying for us. You are our village…”
If you have information about Wyatt’s stolen remains, please contact the Covington Police Department at 770-786-7605.
A US soldier accused of supporting the Islamic State believed that Hitler was right, the moon landings were fake, and 9/11 was an inside job.
Army Sgt. 1st Class Ikaika Erik Kang, arrested by an FBI SWAT team over the weekend after being accused of attempting to aid ISIS, was a noted conspiracy theorist, according to a soldier who knew him.
His former Army bunkmate from 2013, Dustin Lyles, told The Associated Press that he and Kang practiced martial arts together and discussed conspiracy theories, particularly the idea that the US staged the 9/11 terror attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
Kang, who belongs to the 25th Infantry Division in Hawaii and worked as an air traffic control operator, pledged allegiance to ISIS, and attempted to send classified and unclassified military documents to members of the terror group. He had no idea that these supposed members were actually undercover FBI agents.
Kang apparently told a confidential human source as recently as March that “Hitler was right, saying he believed in the mass killing of Jews,” according to court filings. He also said that America was the only terrorist organization in the world.
In addition to embracing conspiracy theories, Kang sought to provide support to ISIS in numerous ways, including wanting to provide combat training to help ISIS members.
Kang’s long history of strange statements and support for ISIS resulted in him losing his security clearance in 2012. For an unknown reason, his security clearance was reinstated in 2013 after he “complied with military requirements stemming from the investigation.” The Army finally referred Kang’s case to the FBI in 2016 for more serious investigation, which culminated in an arrest.
The Army declined to elaborate to The Daily Caller News Foundation on why Kang was permitted to regain his clearance after making pro-ISIS comments.
The United States has begun investigating whether uranium imports threaten national security, launching a process that could lead to more tariffs being imposed on imports from Russia and Central Asian countries.
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced the probe on July 18, 2018, and said it would cover the entire uranium sector, including mining and enrichment, as well as both defense and industrial uses of the radioactive metal.
“Our production of uranium necessary for military and electric power has dropped from 49 percent of our consumption to 5 percent,” Ross said, suggesting that to be so overwhelmingly dependent on imports could jeopardize U.S. security.
He pledged a thorough, fair, and transparent investigation of the matter.
The United States imported id=”listicle-2588064431″.4 billion worth of enriched uranium in 2017, along with 0 million in uranium ores and id=”listicle-2588064431″.8 billion in uranium compounds and alloys, according to Commerce Department data.
In addition to being used in nuclear weapons, uranium fuels about 20 percent of U.S. electricity generation and is used to power nuclear submarines and aircraft carriers.
Canada and Kazakhstan account for about half of the imported uranium used in U.S. power generation, according to the Energy Department.
Cascade of gas centrifuges used to produce enriched uranium.
(U.S. Department of Energy)
Former Soviet republics provided more than one-third: Kazakhstan 24 percent, Russia 14 percent, and Uzbekistan 4 percent. About 10 percent came from four African countries.
Washington outraged major U.S. trading partners, including Canada, China, and the European Union, by citing national security concerns as justification to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum.
Those tariffs, which hit Russia’s steel and aluminum industries hard, touched off a wave of countermeasures against U.S. agriculture and other goods, alarming many U.S. businesses and lawmakers.
The announcement that Washington is now targeting uranium comes after the Commerce Department said it was investigating hundreds of billions of dollars worth of cars and auto parts imported every year to determine whether that undermines U.S. national security.
The probe of uranium imports is in response to petitions for an investigation filed in January 2018 by two U.S. mining companies: Ur-Energy and Energy Fuels. They called for a quota that reserves 25 percent of U.S. demand for domestic production.
“Increasing levels of state-subsidized nuclear fuel are expected to be imported from Russia and China in the coming years, which would likely further displace U.S. uranium production,” the mining companies said in their petition.
“If Russia and its allies take control of this critical fuel, the threat to U.S. national and energy security would be incalculable,” they said.
According to the Energy Department, as uranium prices tumbled to just over per pound between 2009 and 2015, employment in the U.S. uranium sector fell more than 60 percent, to just over 600 workers.
I reacquainted myself on Facebook with one of the leaders of the Iraqi citizens group whom we joined with as they fought Al-Qaeda. In the neighborhood of Ameriya, two Christians were kidnapped which sparked the local uprising. Within two months our neighborhood of Ameriya was largely clear of Al-Qaeda and our patrols largely consisted of smiling and waving like pageant queens. You cannot make this stuff up, and that is what separates those who live in safety and those who take risks. Survive- you get some really great stories and make some really interesting friendships.
I went from regretting going to Iraq, then learned these tidbits of information over the years that turned my borderline cynicism turned into thankfulness. I’m thankful for the experiences I had and the new appreciation for life today. Someone who was once an enemy and probably tried to kill me or another American soldier is now my friend and my brother.
Seven years later after Iraq I have concluded: God used the war in Iraq. Iraq is the second most mentioned country in the Bible and the United States drastically changed the environment there. Coincidence? Highly doubt it. So what is going on?
I think the answer can be found by looking in the Old Testament which mentions some of the places we are currently reading about in the news. Isaiah Ch. 17 talks about the destruction of Damascus- well it’s still there. When this destruction happens I think Syria’s ties to Russia and Iran set up events described in Ezekiel Ch. 38 and 39. For all of the regional places mentioned in these two chapters there is no mention of Damascus.
In my four part series titled “The Middle East: A Shia Caliphate?” I looked at these chapters of scripture through military, political, cultural and logistical points of view and described what these scriptures might look like without scriptural references. Many hard questions were asked to avoid making assumptions. After completing this research, I sent it to contacts who had worked for the CIA, NSA, and a former intelligence officer who worked for Saddam Hussein for feedback. I was pleasantly surprised when these different contacts within the intelligence community gave a thumbs up on the analysis. Keep your eyes open, read these chapters for yourself and do some homework- don’t take my word for it.
Today, Iraq is helping me learn about grace- even on our worst day God loves you and me. The defensiveness I once returned from Iraq with has gradually faded because grace protects better than my body armor. In return, I have to give others grace even when my defensiveness wants rear its ugly head. Defensiveness prevents the vulnerability which relationships require. When I trust grace to protect me my defensive walls are not required anymore. How many of us harm our relationships by this defensiveness? Grace takes on the enemy within us.
The challenges of returning some days are still overwhelming. I discovered four years ago God loves me on my worst day. It takes the focus off of the immediate challenge ahead and refocuses my attention on that God loves me. Because I am loved, I am capable of loving others and myself even my worst day. Once a soldier always a soldier, and a soldier who is living is one who is loving others. I hope you have people in your life whom you can love and learn about grace.
Because of experiencing Iraq, my goal is to make someone’s world a better place today.
Facebook is waging a constant war against online trolls looking to interfere with foreign politics, and the social media giant just gave us an inside look at the latest battle.
On Oct. 21, 2019, Facebook announced it identified and removed four separate networks of interconnected accounts engaging in “coordinated inauthentic behavior.” In other words, these were four separate groups posting misleading content on Facebook under fake accounts, groups or pages on Facebook.
Facebook said three of the networks originated in Iran, while the fourth was based in Russia. These networks included about 200 accounts and pages that shared divisive memes and content meant to influence people in the United States, Latin America, and parts of North Africa.
Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy, said the four networks were discovered as a part of the company’s efforts to police organized campaigns launched by fake accounts. Collectively, the banned accounts had more than 250,000 followers and their posts could’ve reached many more people.
“We detected this activity as part of our ongoing review of suspected coordinated inauthentic behavior ahead of US elections,” Gleicher wrote in a blog post. “We’ve shared information with our industry partners, policy makers and law enforcement and will continue working with others to find and remove this behavior.”
Facebook said most of the fake accounts it finds originate from Russia, Iran, and China, and they post about politics in various parts of the world. According to Facebook, much of the “inauthentic behavior” was designed to spark a response from people on both sides of major political issues, though some repurposed articles from Iran’s state media. Most posts were responses to high-profile political figures or other media sources.
Facebook showed this example posted by a fake group claiming to support the Black Lives Matter movement.
“The people behind this operation often posted on both sides of political issues including topics like US elections, environmental issues, racial tensions, LGBTQ issues, political candidates, confederate ideas, conservatism and liberalism,” Gleicher said of the Russia-based accounts. “They also maintained accounts presenting themselves as local in some swing states, and posed as either conservatives or progressives.”
With the 2020 US presidential election on the horizon, Facebook has been vocal about its efforts to combat political trolls. The social media platform has been widely criticized for allowing misinformation to spread across the platform, and an investigation conducted by special counsel Robert Mueller’s office found that dozens of Russian agents were involved in a coordinated campaign to interfere with the 2016 presidential election.
Speaking to the press during a conference call on Monday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said Facebook’s pre-emptive detection of these fake accounts should serve as encouragement that the company is making strides on security.
Zuckerberg said the company now has 35,000 employees focused on security, and says the company is now spending more on security than its made in revenue during 2012, the same year Facebook went public.
“There’s still a long way to go before election day, and we have a big responsibility to secure our platform and stay ahead of the sophisticated new threats to the integrity of elections here and around the world. Personally this is one of my top priorities for the company.” Zuckerberg said. “Elections have changed significantly, and Facebook has changed too. We are confident that we are more prepared heading into 2020 to fight interference and protect the integrity of our elections.”
In addition to tightened security behind the scenes, Facebook will also roll out new features designed to help people verify questionable sources online. Facebook will introduce a new tag that shows when an ad or post has been fact-checked by a third party, and news sources that are run by a local government will be labeled as such. Additionally, people creating a group or page will have their real name and location listed with Facebook for verification, to prevent foreign entities from posing as local people.
Facebook said the creator of this post was based in Russia.
Facebook continues to face harsh criticism from Democratic presidential candidates for allowing misinformation on the platform and in paid advertisements, specifically. Last week, Zuckerberg defended the company’s stance to allow some types of misinformation, so long as it doesn’t lead to violence or other immediate harm. During a speech at Georgetown University, Zuckerberg said the policy was rooted in his belief in freedom of expression.
With social media becoming one of the primary venues for political discussion in recent years, the incentive to dominate the conversation or weaponize political feelings to create conflict is greater than ever. Facebook and other social media platforms will have to deal with constant attempts to disrupt natural discourage, and separate what’s authentic from what’s not.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Most Americans who lived through the events of Sep. 11 remember where they were on Sep. 11, 2001, whether it was on the ground in New York or watching the chaos unfold on television.
Col. Mark Tillman (Ret.) had an inside view of the day’s events, being right there with the President of the United States as the pilot of Air Force One. Tillman, who retired from the Air Force in 2009, recalled the events of that day in a 2014 video by Tech Sgt. Nicholas Kurtz.
“We were sitting in Sarasota, Florida. We could see everything unfolding on television,” he says. “The first plane hits the tower. Then you can see the second plane hit the tower. Then the staff starts getting into gear, advising the president of what is going on.”
After takeoff, Tillman and his crew endured a number of close calls. Confused air traffic controllers told the pilot there were planes headed in his direction on two occasions. Then an ominous message was received from the vice president, according to The Daily Mail: “Angel is next,” using the classified callsign for Air Force One.
“I had to assume the worst. I assumed the president was about to be under attack.”
The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:
Newly-minted Air Force second lieutenants celebrate during their graduation at the Air Force Academy, Colorado, May 24, 2017. The guest speaker during the ceremony was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford.
A U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagle from RAF Lakenheath, England, flies alongside a U.S. Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker from RAF Mildenhall following aerial refueling over Finland, May 25, 2017. Both aircraft are participating in Arctic Challenge 2017, a multinational exercise encompassing 11 nations and more than 100 aircraft.
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Anthony Miller with the 101st Airborne Division holds the American flag during a graduation ceremony for Somali National Army soldiers May 24, 2017, in Mogadishu, Somalia. The logistics course focused on various aspects of moving personnel, equipment and supplies.
Members of the 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) perform a three rifle volley during the graveside service for U.S. Army 1st Lt. Weston C. Lee in Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Va., May 25, 2017. Lee was interred in Section 60 with full military honors.
MANHATTAN, N.Y. (May 24, 2017) The amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) passing the One World Trade Center during the 29th annual Fleet Week New York’s Parade of Ships. Fleet Week New York is an unparalleled opportunity for the citizens of New York and the surrounding tri-state area to meet Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen, as well as witness firsthand the latest capabilities of today’s military.
Sailors pose for a photo moments before attending “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon” preshow as part of Fleet Week New York 2017, May 26, 2017. The service members are in New York to interact with the public, demonstrate capabilities and teach the people of New York about America’s sea services.
Marines with Marine Wing Support Squadron (MWSS) 373 return from their guard post and prepare to conduct an area damage assessment as part of the base recovery after attack training (BRAAT) evolution during Integrated Training Exercise (ITX) 3-17 at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif., May 23.
A Marine aboard the USS Kearsarge (LHD-3) salutes the Statue of Liberty during Fleet Week New York’s parade of ships May 24, 2017. U.S. Marines, Sailors and Coast Guardsmen are in New York to interact with the public, demonstrate capabilities and teach the people of New York about America’s sea services.
Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Krystyn Pecora, external affairs officer, 5th Coast Guard District, speaks with a local media member about boating safety for children on Base Portsmouth, Virginia, May 26, 2017. Pecora and her 10-month-old son, Osceola James, demonstrated how to snugly fit a small child with a proper life jacket.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Mandi Stevens and Petty Officer 2nd Class Chris Parmenter, aviation maintenance technicians from Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point, Hawaii, prepare a long range deployable drop kit to a disabled vessel approximately 80 miles off Tonga May 25, 2017. The kit includes food and water, a VHF radio and a transponder.
On Sept. 6, a US commander apologized for dropping leaflets in Afghanistan that were deemed offensive to Islam.
The leaflets dropped Sept. 4, which encouraged Afghans to cooperate with security forces, included an image of a dog carrying the Taliban flag, said Shah Wali Shahid, the deputy governor of Parwan province, north of Kabul. The flag has Islamic verses inscribed on it and dogs are seen as unclean in much of the Muslim world.
“Local people are very upset with this incident, and they want the perpetrators brought to justice,” Shahid said, adding that demonstrations were expected across the province.
Maj. Gen. James Linder apologized, acknowledging in a statement that “the design of the leaflets mistakenly contained an image highly offensive to both Muslims and the religion of Islam.” He offered his “sincerest apologies for this error.”
Throughout the 16-year Afghan war, US forces have struggled to convince ordinary Afghans to help them defeat the Taliban. Afghanistan is a deeply conservative country and alleged blasphemy has sparked riots.
Elsewhere in Afghanistan, two civilians were killed by a roadside bomb in the eastern Laghman province on Wednesday, according to Sarhadi Zwak, the spokesman for the provincial governor. No one claimed responsibility for the attack, but Taliban insurgents are active in the province.
Nothing fills the brisk spring air quite like the smell of a fresh cup of coffee. Whether you’re downing it before a quick run or after the longest ruck known to man, it’s a routine that can lift the spirits and brighten your day. Even just knowing that coffee is waiting for us at the end of a PT test can seem to make us run faster and sit up harder.
Coffee lovers everywhere can unique about this hared love of caffeine and strong bean-y goodness. And for the rest of the population, well we can’t quite get on board with your way of thinking, but we’ll respect your distance from the Joe.
Take a look at these favorite java-filled memes and take a look at how they help us all get through the day.
When PT is EXTRA early
Better also have an extra cup.
2. This very true statement.
Watch your back.
3. Don’t knock it until you try it.
Full on fuel.
4. Sip or spoon it in, it’s there to power us up.
5. Yo, where ya been?
Get in my belly!
6. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.
Approach with caution.
7. The priority list as It stands.
Tread lightly once again.
8. When you have to make coffee with what you’ve got.
Some of the best Joe you’ll ever have though, TBH.
One of the things that often shocks new pilots is how brutally honest our debriefs can be. After nearly a full day of planning, briefing, and flying a mission, we’ll gather in a room and spend hours picking apart everything that went wrong. Even if all our objectives were met and the mission was a success, we’ll still comb through a “god’s eye view” of the flight, along with the various recordings from inside our cockpit.
Rank comes off in the debrief, meaning the most senior officer, or the most senior pilot, are open to just as much criticism as the newest wingman. I’ve been in debriefs where a young Captain held the Wing Commander’s feet to the fire over mistakes he made in the air. This usually comes as a shock to many in the military who are typically required to follow a strict hierarchy.
When is comes to mistakes, fighter pilots worry more about improvement than they do about rank. (USAF Photo)
As with all things related to flying, prioritization is key—we’ll start with the biggest things that went wrong and try to uncover their root causes. I was recently explaining to a civilian pilot that in the debrief we spend 90% of our time on the 10% that didn’t go according to plan. They were amazed that 10% doesn’t go according to plan. In reality though, it can often be much higher.
The type of flying we do has more in common with sports than a typical commercial flight. We are fighting a thinking adversary that is specifically targeting our weaknesses. We, in turn, are making decisions that are trying to exploit theirs. As we fight to seize the initiative inside this decision loop; dozens of potential outcomes can occur at each phase of the mission. A mission therefore almost never goes exactly according to plan. It’s a dynamic environment that forces the pilot to perceive, decide, and execute in a harsh environment, often with limited information and time.
A three-ship formation of Air National Guard F-16 Fighting Falcons flies over Kunsan City, South Korea. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Jeffrey Allen)
In training, if the bomber we were escorting was shot down, or if an enemy aircraft bombed the point we were defending, it’s usually multiple overlapping mistakes that led to the failure. In fact, everyone probably had an opportunity at some point to intervene and save the day. The fighter pilot debrief works because everyone is willing to take ownership of their mistakes.
Taking ownership is a skill. As fighter pilots, most of us are predisposed to win at all costs—within the rules and regulations. In the debrief though, with the mission already flown, the way to win is to accurately identify lessons that will make everyone better for the next flight. It’s a fragile environment that only works when everyone is willing to first look inward for failures to the mission.
U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptors fly in formation with F-35A Lightning IIs (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Shane A. Cuomo)
It only takes one person trying to pass the blame for the collaborative environment to fall apart. Because it’s not stable, it requires constant maintenance, especially by those who could use their status to get by. The mission commander must be the first person to call themselves out for a mistake they made. Likewise, the pilot with the most experience must be willing to say they made a basic error that even a new pilot shouldn’t have made. The officer with the highest rank must be willing to set the example that rank doesn’t shield mistakes.
By treating everyone equally in the debrief, the mission can be analyzed in a sterile environment. We can figure out what went wrong and capture those lessons for future flights. To the casual observer it’s a brutal environment, but to the pilots in the debrief it’s just a puzzle on how to get better.