A recent increase in UFO sightings has caused the Navy to revamp guidelines with which to report a UFO sighting officially. This comes on the heels of a 2018 sighting that was reported by the Washington Post and then seemingly disappeared back into the national never-before-truly-confirmed zeitgeist alongside bigfoot and infants that don’t cry on airplanes.
“advanced aircraft” is a farcry from the traditional UFO explanation of weather balloons (pictured)
A Navy spokesperson told Politico, ” There have been a number of reports of unauthorized and/or unidentified aircraft entering various military-controlled ranges and designated air space in recent years […] For safety and security concerns, the Navy and the [U.S. Air Force] takes these reports very seriously and investigates each and every report.”
The current process has led to some gridlock and complications with reporting ‘unidentified flying objects’ so the format is being streamlined by the Navy to make sure that “such suspected incursions can be made to cognizant authorities.”
Obviously, one possible knee-jerk public reaction is going to use this as military confirmation about the possibility of extraterrestrial life or “aliens” on earth. However, the Navy has made no such comment on the matter, as it is far more likely that these “UFOs” are either allied/enemy covert aircraft.
This is not to say that the possibility hasn’t been explored in a military context. In fact, the Department of Defense established a program entirely dedicated to further investigation of UFO sightings: The Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program.
However, the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program (AATIP) only ran from 2007-2012. Its eventual folding in 2012 was because it was “determined that there were other, higher priority issues that merited funding and it was in the best interest of the DoD to make a change.”
Former military intelligence official Luis Elizondo, who apparently led the AATIP, is in favor of ramping up UFO sighting efforts.
He describes the paradox with military sightings in relation to civilian UFO sightings, “If you are in a busy airport and see something you are supposed to say something” he said.
“With our own military members it is kind of the opposite: ‘If you do see something, don’t say something. … What happens in five years if it turns out these are extremely advanced Russian aircraft?”
Chris Mellon, an associate of Elizondo’s and a co-contributor to the upcoming docuseries “Unidentified: Inside America’s UFO Investigation” piggybacked on Elizondo’s comments.
“Right now, we have a situation in which UFOs and UAPs are treated as anomalies to be ignored rather than anomalies to be explored,” he told Politico. He continued on saying that it is a common occurrence that military personnel “don’t know what to do with that information — like satellite data or a radar that sees something going Mach 3.”
It is unclear what military officials believe these anomalies could be, but one thing is for certain now—they’re on the radar.
When the Continental U.S. North American Air Force Aerospace Control Alert Maintainer of the Year for 2020 was announced, there was some shock. The prestigious Air Force award went to … a coastie.
The Continental Division of the North American Aerospace Defense Command is comprised of the United States Air Force, Air National Guard, Army National Guard, Canadian Air Force and to the surprise of many – the Coast Guard.
The National Capital Region Air Defense Facility of the Coast Guard is housed under the command of NORAD in Washington, D.C and is their only permanent air defense unit. Operating simultaneously as both a military branch and law enforcement within the Department of Homeland Security allows the elite Coast Guard unit the ability to respond to potential threats on a moment’s notice. One of their most vital missions is protecting the restricted air space around the White House.
When a threat to the capital is detected, coasties are the first on deck to respond.
(Photo: USCG PA1 Tara Molle)
Avionics Technician First Class Andrew Anton is a member of the small crew of coasties tasked with protecting America’s capital and the only coastie to have ever been selected for the Maintainer of the Year award. “It was a surprise to me. I didn’t see it coming and it’s very humbling,” he said. Anton continued, “We don’t fly the helicopter by ourselves. This is a team award and a Coast Guard win.”
Anton is responsible for managing, scheduling and maintaining all of the helicopters at the unit. “We are the only rotary wing air intercept entity under the NORAD structure. We are Coast Guard but we work for the Air Force,” he explained.
Working within aviation is not without risk, which is why Anton feels his award is attributed to the team and not just him. A day in the life of a coastie working aviation involves dangerous chemicals, heavy parts and working in high lifts. Then, there’s the inherent risk of simply being up in the air in flight. “At the end of the day, there has to be a human factor in this. We all live and die together. This is a very dangerous job,” Anton shared. “This unit applies the best amount of leadership that I have ever seen. Although this is an individual award, it is a team. No one can be successful if the ones around you can’t do their jobs.”
(Photo: USCG PA1 Tara Molle)
Military service has been ingrained into Anton his entire life as his family has served in the Armed Forces for generations. “I have had a passion for aviation since I was very young. Every male in my family since World War II was a pilot, I am the only mechanic in my family. I love flying but I prefer to work with my hands,” he explained. When he finished college, he knew he wanted to join the Coast Guard.
“I work for Aviation Engineering and I am a maintainer, a mechanic,” Anton said. But he’s much more than that. Anton is a Coast Guard Rotary Wing Aircrew Member, an Enlisted Flight Examiner, Flight Standards Board Member, a facility Training Petty Officer and is responsible for primary quality assurance.
Since his unit is a part of NORAD and works alongside the Air Force, they have unique protocols to follow. “The Coast Guard regulations are one thing, but we also have to abide by the Air Force Regulations because we are an Air Combat Alert unit,” Anton explained.
Anton shared that when the Air Force completes the inspections for their Coast Guard unit, they are often left baffled. When they realize that only one Coast Guard maintainer does the job that it takes eight separate Air Force members to do, they’re shocked. “When they come for these assessments, it’s kind of funny to hear them ask, ‘I’d like to talk to your refueler’ or ‘I’d like to talk to your tool manager’ and I’m like – still here, all me. They’ll do that for everything. We take pride in our workload and what we are able to accomplish,” he said.
(Photo: USCG PA1 Tara Molle)
They maintain their high level of efficiency with just six maintainers on a daily basis.
“As coasties, there’s just so many hats that we take off and put on, but we do it well. We’re so accustomed to being adaptable,” Anton shared. Many may find themselves shocked at what the Coast Guard accomplishes in a single day and probably didn’t realize they are a vital part of protecting the President of the United States.
“We don’t have Coast Guard signs out front and this mission isn’t as heavily publicized because we are following POTUS around. It’s a way to mitigate risk,” Anton shared. The members of this unit are not allowed to wear their Coast Guard uniforms outside of the facility and much of what they do still remains shrouded in secrecy, as a matter of national security.
While this unit is lending vital support to Operation Noble Eagle, the Coast Guard as a whole is also engaging in Rotary Wing Air Intercept nationwide for the U.S. Secret Service. They guard the skies above National Special Security Events and the president, wherever he or she goes.
Receiving this award showcases the important role that the Coast Guard plays in not only guarding America’s waters, but her sky as well. Their missions are accomplished with pride and devotion, despite the challenges they encounter within their budget. “It’s important to know that these guys and this team manage it all. You don’t hear about it because they do it so well,” Anton said. “The Coast Guard is such a small branch that it must be that good.”
There’s nothing funny about the tragic way Eli Cohen’s life ended. Shortly after returning to Israel to see the birth of his third child, he was caught in the act of transmitting intelligence by radio from his apartment. He was then hanged in May, 1965. His life as a spy put him at constant risk of discovery and execution. But before he was caught, Cohen changed the game for the IDF in the Middle East. He did it by convincing Syria its troops were too hot.
For four years, Eli Cohen sent valuable intelligence to Israel, either via radio from his Syrian apartment, by letter, or in person on flights to Israel routed through European capitals. Considered a master spy, the Egyptian-born Jewish agent who came to Syria as a businessman from Argentina became the chief advisor to Syria’s Defense Minister in that short time.
In Syria, Cohen was Kamel Amin Thaabet, a successful businessman who held fantastic parties (which often turned into orgies) and let his high-ranking Syrian military friends use his apartment for trysts with their mistresses. Had he not been caught, he might even have been considered to fill a post as a Deputy Minister of Defense.
One of his greatest achievements as an advisor came on a trip to the Golan Heights. He convinced the Syrian military that the troops were too hot and tired. He told them the soldiers would benefit from the shade of trees, a welcome respite from the oppressive Syrian sun. In doing so, he had the trees planted at specific locations — locations used as targeting markers for the Israeli Defense Forces.
Cohen also made extensive notes and took photos of all the Syrian defensive positions and sent them back to his handlers in Tel Aviv.
Sadly, Syria’s military intelligence apparatus was onto a mole in the Syrian military and was on the lookout for spies. Cohen was caught while radioing to Tel Aviv during a Syrian radio blackout. He was tried and executed and his remains were never returned to Israel.
But his work lived on. In 1967, two years after Cohen was hanged, Israel launched a massive pre-emptive strike on Egypt, capturing the Gaza Strip and destroying Egypt’s air forces on the ground. Egyptian leader Gemal Abdel Nasser convinced Syria and Jordan to join the fight against Israel. When Syria did, Israel pounced on the Golan Heights using the information (and the trees) provided by Eli Cohen.
They captured the Golan Heights in two days and have held it ever since.
Long before Britney started her Las Vegas residency at the Planet Hollywood Casino, visitors and residents got their nightly entertainment elsewhere – likely from a member of the Rat Pack but every so often, they would get a thrill watching the United States Air Force. Not the Air Force rock band Max Impact, they were there to see mushroom clouds.
Between 1951 and 1992, the United States military conducted more than 900 atomic explosion tests, setting off nuclear bombs at what we now call the Nevada National Security Site. Back then, the same area in nearby Nye County was known as the Nevada Test Site. Some 100 of those nuclear tests were atmospheric detonations, and from just 65 miles away, the blasts and the resulting mushroom clouds could easily be seen from Las Vegas.
So obviously, the nuclear detonations, the brilliant flash of the detonation, along with the seismic tremors were great Las Vegas entertainment. And while the best views were supposedly from the downtown Las Vegas hotels, that didn’t stop visitor and locals alike from driving to the best views of the blast along the desert horizon.
That’s not the sunrise in the background.
In the 1950s, the population of Las Vegas more than doubled in size, as tourists and visitors moved to take advantage of the casino gaming industry as well as the hospitality industry in the city. Some tourists flocked to Vegas just to see the magnificent nuclear explosions in the distance. The nuclear tests were always done in the early morning hours, and hotels and bars would create Atomic Parties, where guests drank until dawn, finishing the night with a blast.
Hawaii Gov. David Ige said the panic that ensued during a false alarm warning of an imminent missile attack wasn’t addressed sooner because he forgot his Twitter password and couldn’t notify the public.
During a press conference on Jan. 22, Ige took some of the blame the mix-up that caused panic throughout Hawaii and made headlines worldwide, according to the Honolulu Star Advertiser.
Ige responded to the incident at the time, saying the triggering of the alert system was an “error” and was being investigated to avoid the incident from “ever happening again.”
Hawaii began testing its nuclear warning system in December, CNN reported. It is the first time since the Cold War that Hawaii brought back the system and comes amid North Korea’s increased missile testing.
Utility deposits, eating in restaurants because your kitchen is in boxes, having to buy everyone in the family a winter coat because you moved from Florida to Colorado in February (just me?) — military families know that whether you do a full HHG or a full DITY move, or something in between, moving can be expensive. But until now we didn’t know quite how expensive.
The Military Family Advisory Network just released survey data that shows that every PCS move can set a military family back by an average of about $5,000. That’s money they’ll never be reimbursed for and will never recover. Considering that military families move, on average, every two to three years, it sheds some light on one reason why it’s so hard for military families to save money and build wealth. Eighty-four percent of active duty respondents to the survey said they had moved within the past two years.
Included in that $5,000 figure are things that families have to pay to move themselves and the cost of loss and damage to items over and above the reimbursements they receive through the claims process. This PCS season the added chaos of COVID-19 promises to only make moving more hectic and more expensive.
“We’re struggling because of it. You have to spend your money for the expenses, THEN get reimbursed afterwards. We’re skipping my birthday and Thanksgiving … maybe Christmas because it’s not wise to spend any unnecessary money at this time,” said the spouse of an active duty airman in Hawaii.
Respondents reported that, on average, their unreimbursed, out-of-pocket expenses during a move were almost ,000 and that their average financial loss over and above claims for lost and damaged items during the move was almost ,000. And, 68% of respondents said that their possessions—furniture, keepsakes, and other items—were damaged during the move, and some of those items could not be replaced.
“Movers lost one leg of a table and reimbursement tried to just pay us the value of that leg, which is silly. It rendered the table unusable,” said the spouse of an Army active duty member in Washington.
Numerous respondents reported dissatisfaction with the professionalism of the movers.
“They know they can take and break whatever they want, and nothing is really done about it. They will also mark damage that actually isn’t there on the paperwork so they can avoid claims for when they do damage things. They dropped our daughter’s dresser out of the truck and just laughed about it,” said the spouse of an active duty soldier in Texas.
The moving costs data is part of MFAN’s larger 2019 Military Family Support Programming Survey, presented by Cerner Government Services. The full survey report will be released Tuesday, June 23 at 3 p.m. during a one-hour interactive release event.
Earlier this month, senior Department of Defense officials said the PCS-freeze put in place because of the pandemic is beginning to lift and that 30 to 40% of military personnel moves are already happening. Officials said that as regions of the country get labeled “green,” meaning that service members and their families can move to and from that region, more service members will be allowed to move. In order to be “green”, the region must have decreasing trends in COVID-19 diagnoses and symptoms, and local authorities must have eased stay-at-home and shelter-in-place restrictions.
Once a region is determined to be “green,” the Service Secretary, Combatant Commander or the DoD Chief Management Officer (CMO) will make a determination if the installations within that region have met additional criteria that include:
Local travel restrictions have been removed
The upcoming school year is expected to start on time and sufficient childcare is available
Moving companies are available to safely move individuals from the community they’re leaving and to the one they’re going to
Local services, such as water, sewer, electricity, are safely available
For many military families, moving is both a blessing and a curse. Living in a new place can be exciting and fun, but uprooting your whole life and starting over somewhere can be overwhelming. Add all the extra costs in, and it’s no wonder that orders to move are often met with dread. Moving is one of the most stressful and expensive experiences in military life, even without the confusion caused by the pandemic. And this year promises to be crazier and costlier than ever.
“The boards were charged with reviewing [Global War on Terrorism] Air Force Cross and Silver Star nominations for possible upgrade,” she said in an email. “Specifically, [the] Air Force Cross Review Board reviewed all Air Force Cross nominations [and] Silver Star Review Board reviewed all Silver Star nominations.”
The recommendations have been forwarded to Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James for further action.
Another service spokesman, Maj. Bryan Lewis, said he couldn’t disclose how many of the recommendations were upgraded from Silver Star to Air Force Cross and from Air Force Cross to Medal of Honor — the highest military award for combat action.
The service’s review was part of the Defense Department’s push to audit more than 1,100 post-9/11 valor citations to determine if they warrant a higher award such as the Medal of Honor, officials announced last year.
The Air Force review of awards continues and is expected to be completed this spring, Lewis told Military.com in December. “We are reviewing 147 cases, which consists of 135 Silver Stars and 12 Air Force Crosses,” he said at the time.
The Air Force is also continuing to review additional cases in which airmen were recommended for but didn’t ultimately receive a Silver Star, he said. It wasn’t immediately clear how many airmen may be upgraded to the third-highest valor award.
Simultaneously, the Army is reviewing 785 Silver Star and Distinguished Service Cross awards; and the Navy, including the Marine Corps, is looking at 425 Navy Cross and Silver Star medals.
In 2014, then-Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered a review of all decorations and awards programs “to ensure that after 13 years of combat the awards system appropriately recognizes the service, sacrifices and action of our service members,” officials told USA Today at the time.
Military.com this week asked the service if James would announce additional upgrades after Marine Corps officials revealed on Wednesday that her counterpart, outgoing Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, would present four Marines and a sailor with upgraded awards for their service.
Most recently — but separate from the Air Force review — Airman First Class Benjamin Hutchins, a tactical air control party airman supporting the 82nd Airborne Division’s 4th Brigade Combat Team, was approved for the Silver Star in April. Hutchins received his award Nov. 4 during a ceremony at the 18th Air Support Operations Group at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
The Air Force previously said Hutchins had been submitted for the Bronze Star Medal with Valor. However, the service later clarified Hutchins had instead been submitted for two Bronze Star Medals for his actions, which instead were combined into one Silver Star award.
When Dave Berke was a kid, he imagined himself flying an F-18 off an aircraft carrier.
By the time he retired as a US Marine officer in 2016, he had not only done that, but he’d also flown an F-16, F-22, and F-35, taught at the elite Top Gun fighter pilot school, and served a year on the ground alongside Navy SEALs in the 2006 Battle of Ramadi as a forward air controller.
Today, he’s a member of Echelon Front, a leadership consulting firm started by two of those SEALs, Task Unit Bruiser commander Jocko Willink and one of his platoon commanders, Leif Babin.
Berke has spent the past year sharing lessons from his 23-year military career, and we asked him what insights were at the heart of his leadership philosophy. He shared with us two lessons he learned as a teenager, long before he ever saw combat.
They’re lessons he said became not only the foundation of his service, but his entire life, and they’re ones he’s had reinforced repeatedly.
Set specific goals and develop detailed paths to them.
Berke’s mom Arlene had become used to hearing her young son talk about how he wished he could fly fighter jets one day.
She told him that he needed understand that the role of a fighter pilot was a real job, one that existed outside of his daydreams. Berke said her message boiled down to: “You could sit there and think about wanting to be a pilot. By the time you’re 25 somebody will be doing that job. Spend less time fantasizing about it, spend less time dreaming about it, and spend more time coming up with a plan.”
Berke took it to heart, and in retrospect, probably took his mom’s advice even more intensely than she had intended. By 15 he knew that his goal was to fly F-18s off aircraft carriers and be stationed in Southern California. He wouldn’t go the more traditional Navy route, either, but would join the Marines and become an officer.
The Marines have fewer pilots, but even their pilots go through the same training as all other Marines. He wanted the best of both worlds, and to have his goal be as challenging as possible.
He accepted that he might not make this a reality, but decided he would act as though there were no alternative.
At 17, he met with a recruiting officer to nail down everything he needed to do to make his vision a reality, giving him a year to think about the resulting timeline before signing up for the Marine Corps.
“It keeps you disciplined because the risk of not doing all the things you need to do is failure,” he said about this timeline approach. “It’s a failure that you have nobody else to blame but yourself.”
Mental toughness is more important than abilities.
Berke said that he’s never been the biggest or strongest guy among his friends in the military, and as an 18-year-old, he was thin and average height.
He arrived at the Marine Corps Base Quantico for officer candidate school scared and intimidated. “I looked around and everybody else around me looked bigger, tougher, stronger, faster, and seemed to be more qualified than me to do that job,” he said.
But as the days went by, he would be surprised to see some of his fellow candidates break under pressure. A guy next to him that he knew was naturally a better athlete than he was wouldn’t be able to keep up in fitness trials, but it was because he didn’t share the drive that Berke had developed for years.
“As they started to fail, I started to realize that the difference between success and failure was mental toughness,” he said.
Berke, middle, with the Echelon Front team and Jocko Podcast producer Echo Charles, second from right. Berke joked this photo proves his point about not having to be the biggest or strongest to succeed. Photo from Echelon Front
He became an officer. Next was the Basic School, where he would be given his role in the Marine Corps. He was one of 250 new officers, and there were only two pilot spots for his class.
“There’s no way I’m going to let somebody else work harder, be more committed, be more disciplined, and outperform me in that environment to accomplish what they want at my expense,” he thought. “It’s not going to happen.”
The same mindset is what got him through the chaos of Iraq 15 years later, when a plane didn’t separate him from the fighting on the ground.
The word “cancer” has a way of stopping patients in their tracks.
Early detection is key to beating breast cancer, catching it when it is treatable.
Navy Medicine is leading the way when it comes to early detection of breast cancer with the use of a sophisticated combination of 3D mammography and 3D biopsy system.
According to Naval Medical Center Camp Lejeune’s Chief of Radiology, CDR Matthew Rose, the 3D biopsy system, “is the first of its kind in the Navy.”
The new biopsy system is in use at NMCCL and provides the capability to biopsy lesions not seen on ultrasound or 2D imaging.
Lead mammography technologist Christine Davidson explained the biopsy system allows tissue sampling in a more patient-sensitive manner by utilizing a memory-foam table top.
“Having a 3D biopsy system allows us the capability to perform biopsies of lesions that were only seen on 3D in the least invasive way possible,” said Davidson. “Without this capability, a patient may have to go through a more invasive procedure to determine the pathology of the lesion.”
Utilization of both 2D and 3D imaging are crucial to “early detection of breast cancer, when it is treatable,” said Rose.
The use of these technologies is more than just beneficial in detecting cancer early.
“It (3D imaging) has the potential to reduce emotional harm by having few call backs for addition imaging,” said Rose. “Patients get very worried that the test is positive if we call them back for more images. The systems takes multiple images of the breast and formats them to be viewed as a stack of images.”
Naval Medical Center Camp Lejeune mammography technologists pose in one of the mammography imaging rooms at the medical center.
Both mammography units passed multiple American College of Radiology and Food and Drug Administration accreditations in September 2018 just in time for Breast Cancer Awareness month.
“The most important part of Breast cancer awareness month truly is the awareness part,” said NMCCL Executive Officer Capt. Shelley Perkins. “Every woman should talk to her doctor about the risk of breast cancer and have a discussion about how best to screen for cancer and the timing of imaging, such as mammograms. Mammograms saves lives with early detection.
The units are certified for the next three years according to ACR.
These accreditations are no surprise due to a major process improvement project the mammography unit underwent three years ago.
A massive process improvement project, which was recognized as one of the most successful in Navy Medicine East, created an effective system that streamlined scheduling for both screening and diagnostic mammography, Rose explained.
Still, many beneficiaries choose to be seen outside of NMCCL for their breast health needs.
Due to the nomadic lifestyle many of our beneficiaries have, maintaining a regular schedule of breast health screenings can be difficult outside of a military treatment facility.
“We maintain excellence and standard of care and the patient’s images can be easily sent to any DoD (Department of Defense) facility so their mammograms can follow them with every PCS (permanent change of station) or move to a DoD facility,” said Rose. “[Being seen at NMCCL] improves the ability to share prior exams with other DoD facilities, which can make a difference in earlier detection of breast cancer.”
In recognition of breast cancer awareness month, patients will have an opportunity to take advantage of the advanced breast imaging services at NMCCL, Oct. 15 through Oct. 19, 2018.
The event will allow patients, who are asymptomatic (have had no previous signs of breast cancer), to come into the mammography clinic and be screened without an appointment.
Walk-ins will be taken 0800 to 1100, and 1300 to 1500 on those days.
“NMCCL has state-of-the-art diagnostic equipment, a dedicated team of imagers who have years of experience and highly trained, board-certified radiologists who can find tiny changes in a mammogram, years before they would ever be felt on an exam,” said Perkins. “If you do have a breast concern or have a change in your exam, talk with your primary care provider. Women save their own lives every day by speaking up!”
Greg Oswald and Eli Tomac are a couple of modern bad asses in their own right. Greg is a C-17 pilot for the U.S. Air Force and Eli just shredded the 2018 San Diego Supercross. I hate to go all Top Gun on you, but these guys obviously have a need for speed.
“Motocross and Supercross, you’re just in it. We race in rain or shine. The noise from the four-stroke, and you’re in the dirt — it pushes you in every area, whether it’s physically or mentally, it’s the real deal.”
In 2010, Eli was the first rider in history to win his professional debut — since then, he’s continued to prove himself to be one of the fastest riders in the sport. In early 2018, he won his first Monster Energy Supercross, and his brother Greg was there to watch.
“I’m here to support Eli. If it’s a good day or a bad day, the overall goal is to just be a big brother to the guy in the track.”
Greg pointed out the connection between a pilot in his aircraft or a rider on the bike — they’re both about a man and his machine, but neither can do it alone. Pilots and riders require a crew to get their machines going.
“I’m out there as an entertainer [but with] the military…you can’t just go into work and say ‘Oh I’m tired, I’m not gonna ride today.’ You gotta get it done no matter what if you’re in the military so that’s something that I’ll never know…and that’s where I have the utmost respect for everyone that’s in, and that’s for my brother as well.”
Check out the video above to watch Monster’s coverage of Eli’s victory and hear the brothers talk about how they support each other.
G-forces don’t translate to the big screen, or to video games, but they are a major aspect of flying fighters. Movies like Top Gun show the characters easily moving around the cockpit while chatting on the radio during a dogfight. In reality, during a sharp turn under peak G, you’re spending the majority of your effort pancaked into your seat, trying not to pass out.
Right now, as you’re reading this, you’re probably at 1G, or one time the force of gravity. Your weight is what you see when you stand on a scale. I weigh approximately 200 pounds, 230 with my gear on. For most people, the peak G-force they’ve experienced is probably on a rollercoaster during a loop—which is about 3-4G’s. It’s enough to push your head down and pin your arms by your side. Modern fighters like the F-16 and F-35 pull 9G’s, which translates to over 2,000 pounds on my body.
(U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Patrick P. Evenson)
Under 9G’s, the world appears to shrink until it looks like you’re viewing it through a toilet paper roll. Blood is being pulled out of your head towards your legs and arms, resulting in the loss of peripheral vision. If too much blood is pulled out, you’ll pass out, resulting in incapacitation for around half a minute. Due to the speeds we fly, there’s a high probability the jet will crash before you wake up.
As a fighter community we, unfortunately, have had more than one death per year, due to G’s, for the last 30+ years. This has led to a multi-pronged “systems mindset” for preparing pilots to endure them.
The first step in combating G’s is the Anti-G Straining Maneuver (AGSM). Through a combination of special breathing and tensing our lower body we can squeeze the blood back into our head. This not only prevents us from passing out, but increases our peripheral vision, which is critical during a dogfight.
The AGSM requires a high amount of physical conditioning. We spend a lot of time in the gym, working out our lower bodies, so we can push the blood against the force of gravity during high-G maneuvers. Because our flights average one to two hours, cardiovascular fitness is important as well. During my time in the F-16, I gave a dozen, or so, people backseat rides—after the flight, due to exhaustion, every one of them had to be helped out of their seat.
Hydration and nutrition also play an important part in the amount of G’s a pilot can handle. Studies have shown that with only three percent dehydration, G-tolerance time can be reduced by up to 50%. As with any athletic endeavor, it’s important we eat nutritious foods and avoid high sugar “junk food.”
Sleep is also a contribution factor to G-tolerance. Poor sleep decreases alertness and G-awareness, which is what signals a pilot to start their G-strain. In fact, it’s so important that we’re legally required to go into crew rest 12 hours before a flight, with an uninterrupted 8 hours to sleep.
Over the years, technology has allowed us to pull more G’s for longer amounts of time. We wear G-suits, which are pants with air-bladders in them. As we enter a turn, the bladders inflate, squeezing our legs and preventing blood from rushing towards our feet. To increase endurance, we have pressure-breathing, which forces air into our lungs during high-G’s. Instead of struggling for a breath, with what feels like an elephant on our chest, we can take a small sip of air and rely on the pressure-breathing to fill our lungs.
The current G-suit is shown on the left, with the older version on the right.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. C.J. Hatch)
After high-G flights, my arms and legs will have what appears to be chickenpox—blood has pooled in my extremities and caused the blood vessels to rupture. It’s similar to a bruise and usually dissipates within a few days. The long term effects of high-G’s can result in neck and back issues—most pilots deal with some level of general pain due to G’s.
With our helmets on, over 135 pounds of force is applied to the neck at 9G’s. In my squadron of 30 people: one pilot is unable to fly while his neck heals, another has been told by the flight doctor that he has the spine of someone in their mid-fifties (he’s 39), and another is only able to fly low-G sorties. A few months ago, I had to get X-rays on my back to determine if I’d damaged a vertebra. As a community, we’ve started to introduce physical therapy and dedicated stretching routines after each flight, in order to extend our careers.
I often get asked why we can’t do all of our training in a simulator—G’s are one of the reasons why. It’s one thing to make decisions sitting on the ground, it’s another when you feel the world closing in as the blood is being drained from your head. One of the sayings we have in the fighter community is: as soon as you put the helmet on, you lose 20 IQ points. During a max performance turn, without extensive training, it’s probably a lot more.
There’s a fun fact that you can’t escape in the South: Coca-Cola used to have cocaine in it. The Coke brand is everywhere down here, and every 14-year-old will bring up the cocaine fact a couple of times a week for the first six months after they learn about it.
The fact that cocaine used to be offered in every town usually gets written off as an odd quirk of history, but it turns out the inventor had a good reason to appreciate the coca plant: he had a number of gunshot and saber wounds from the Civil War.
Coke was invented by John Stith Pemberton (the drink is named after the coca plant, not the inventor or company founder). Pemberton became a doctor at the ripe old age of 19 in 1850. He was a successful surgeon and chemist in the 1850s, but he signed up for frontline service when the Civil War broke out.
He didn’t serve as a doctor, though. He started as a first lieutenant in a cavalry unit in 1862 and climbed the ranks to lieutenant colonel. He faced his fiercest fighting when Union Gen. James Wilson attacked Columbus in 1865. Pemberton suffered multiple gunshots wounds and even a saber strike to his chest.
Pemberton would suffer for years from the wounds he took near Columbus, and he struggled against an opium addiction thanks to all the painkillers he was given. But Pemberton was, luckily, a skilled chemist and pharmacist. He moved to Atlanta after the war and developed new chemical products.
He became aware of a new European product already popular in Italy and France, wine infused with extracts from coca leaves. After a new business partnership in 1870, he was able to purchase the equipment to develop even more complex products.
In 1885, he made his own version of the coca-infused wines which he called Pemberton’s French Wine Coca. One thing worth noting here, this isn’t technically cocaine in a drink. Coca leaves are a precursor to cocaine, but you have to use a solvent to extract cocaine sulfate from the leaves in order to get actual cocaine out. But Pemberton’s wine did have anesthetic effects like cocaine would.
The jump from French Wine Coca to Coca-Cola came when wine was threatened by alcohol prohibition in Atlanta and Pemberton decided to replace the sweetness from the wine with sweetness from sugar. After a few more changes to refine the taste, the product was renamed Coca-Cola and released in 1886.
It has gone through a few formula changes since, including switching fresh coca leaves out for spent coca leaves which have had the cocaine sulfate extracted. So, you know, you can’t get high from Coke anymore.
1. “Fixed fortifications are monuments to man’s stupidity.”
—George Patton, General of the US Seventh Army
The Maginot Line has come to symbolize a lack of foresight and the dangers inherent when conservative military planners fail to accurately anticipate changes in technology and tactics. The French spent much of the 1930’s constructing the impressive, but ultimately futile Maginot line – a series of defensive fortifications stretching from the French Alps to the Belgium border – to prevent a repeat of the 1914 German invasion. Of course, the Germans basically just drove their tanks around it, encircled the French defenders and in a little more than a month, Nazi tanks were rolling through Parisian streets.
But not everyone was so blind to the changing times. George S. Patton, known primarily for his leadership during the Allied invasion of Europe, the Battle of the Bulge and the allied advance into Germany, had become interested in tank warfare as early as 1917, when he was charged with establishing one of the first American tank schools, the AEF Light Tank School. Patton was the most experienced tank operator of WWI and led the first American tank offensive of the war. As the new tanks helped break the stalemate of trench warfare, it was becoming clear to men like Patton that the future of land warfare would be dominated by mechanized infantry and tank battalions, rendering defensive fortifications, such as the aforementioned Maginot Line, largely obsolete. The inability of European military planners to anticipate the effectiveness of the German Blitzkrieg is one of the leading contributors to the scale and devastation of the war.
2. “If we come to a minefield, our infantry attacks exactly as if were not there.”
—Georgy Zhukov, Marshal of the Soviet Union
While Zhukov was probably making the case that advancing directly through a minefield (rather than slowly progressing through a breakthrough point, allowing Germans to concentrate their fire) would lead to fewer overall casualties, this quote has nonetheless been used to substantiate claims that the Soviet Army did not value the lives of its soldiers. While I think that is an exaggeration, the reality of total war on the Eastern Front dictated that equipment, artillery, planes and tanks were far more valuable than the lives of ordinary soldiers.
The story of the Shtrafbat battalions that fought on the Eastern front highlight this reality. The Shtrafbat were Soviet penal units, composed of deserters, cowards, and relocated gulag inmates. Assignment to the Shtrafbat was basically a deferred death sentence. Often not even given weapons, the Shtrafbat were used as decoys, sent on dangerous reconnaissance missions, and in general deployed as cannon fodder to absorb heavy causalities that would be otherwise inflicted on more effective and battle ready battalions. The most dangerous of such assignments was “trampler duty,” which entailed the Shtrafbat units running across mine fields shoulder to shoulder to clear the area of any enemy mines ahead of advancing troops.
3. “Prussian Field Marshals do not mutiny”
—Field Marshal Erich von Manstein
The Prussian Military tradition has a long and storied history stretching as far back as the Thirty Years War (1618 -1648). The main doctrine of the Prussian army was to achieve victory as quickly as possible by making use of mobile, aggressive flanking maneuvers. Prussian military theorists also refined the concept of drill for infantry troops and implemented a severe disciplinary system to instill obedience, loyalty and unwavering professionalism in the army.
Erich Von Manstein, a Prussian with a long family history of military service, was arguably Hitler’s most effective commander. During Fall Gelb, the Nazi invasion of France, it was Manstein’s plan that was ultimately put in place with resounding success. Manstein was not a member of the Nazi party and while he disagreed with many decisions made by the Nazi high command (especially towards the end of the war), he followed his orders unwaveringly. At the battle of Stalingrad, Manstein repeatedly urged Hitler to allow him to attempt to break out of the city with the 6th Army, potentially saving it, however Hitler refused, leading to the surrender of 91,000 German troops and the deaths of many more.
The following year, the July 20th conspirators approached Manstein to secure his support for Claus Von Stauffenberg’s infamous attempt on Hitler’s life, but he refused, giving the above quote as an explanation. This unquestioning loyalty was all too common among the top German commanders, many of whom were either Prussian or trained in the Prussian tradition, including Field Marshals Heinz Guderian, Gerd von Rundstedt, Fedor von Bock and others. Most were reluctant to disobey or even disagree with orders from the High Command even as their Führer, who had assumed direct control of military decisions, made blunder after blunder on a certain path to total disastrous defeat.
4. “In the first six to twelve months of a war with the United States and Great Britain I will run wild and win victory upon victory. But then, if the war continues after that, I have no expectation of success.”
—Isoroku Yamamoto, Admiral of the Imperial Japanese Navy
This quote might go down as one of the most prophetic of all time. The Japanese strategy to defeat the Americans was to deliver an initial blow at Pearl Harbor and then whittle down the American Navy further as it made its way across the Pacific. The Japanese Navy would then engage the Americans in a final decisive battle after which the Americans would hopefully be willing to sue for peace. There were several problems with this approach, for one, even in war games this strategy hadn’t worked. Secondly, the Japanese were aware that America’s industrial output capabilities could outpace their own and thirdly, some, such as Yamamoto himself in all likelihood, felt that a surprise attack would eliminate the possibility that the U.S. would accept a brokered peace. These miscalculations ensured American entry into the war, further expanding the scale of the conflict.
Admiral Yamamoto made other prophetic statements as well, including this one: “the fiercest serpent may be overcome by a swarm of ants”, in opposition to the construction of the Yamoto Class of Battleships, which he feared would be vulnerable to relentless American dive bombing attacks launched from aircraft carriers. He was right about that too but one thing Admiral Yamamoto could not predict was Magic, the American code breaking operation that led directly to the destruction of the Japanese fleet at Midway and Yamamoto’s own death at the hands of American fighter pilots who, acting on intelligence provided by Magic, intercepted and shot down the plane he was flying in on April 18, 1943.
5. “I suppose if I had lost the war, I would have been tried as a war criminal.”
—Curtis LeMay, Major in the US Air Force
The Pacific War took the concept of total war to horrific new heights with atrocities committed on both sides. The air-raid campaign against Japanese cities being particularly brutal with its large scale use of incendiary explosives. The key to Curtis LeMay’s strategic bombing campaign was saturation bombing – of military installations, industrial areas, commercial zones and even dense residential urban centers – with the hopes that it would weaken the resolve of the Japanese people and stunt their ability to wage an ongoing war.
It is estimated that between 250,000 and 900,000 civilians alone were killed during the air-raids. Sixty percent of the urban area of 66 Japanese cities was burned to the ground, leaving many millions of people homeless. Whether you think LeMay’s firebombing campaign was justified or not, his estimation of his fate should Japan have won the war is probably correct.