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7 things you didn’t know about the Marine Jungle Warfare Training Center

Okinawa’s Camp Gonsalves, named after the World War II-era Medal of Honor recipient, Pfc. Harold Gonsalves, is home to the Marine Corps’ Jungle Warfare Training Center.


JWTC is 17,500 acres of dense tropical jungle. The instructors here have established a curriculum and training environment that none forget.

Here’s what you didn’t know.

Related: The origin of the ‘best’ rank in the Marines (Lance Corporal)

1. JWTC is not in America.

You and your unit will travel to lovely Okinawa, Japan where you will proceed to avoid all of its gorgeous beaches, coral reefs, and beautiful culture by traveling 25 kilometers to the Northern Training areas. Then, you’ll move through a crowd of protestors blocking the gate to arrive at a replica of the inner island from the show, Lost.

So much beauty… but you aren’t going here.

2. You will not be training in vehicles.

Once you arrive, you will dismount because the roads are very few and most of the locations you will be bivouacking are in the middle of nowhere and can only be reached by foot. To get to camp may require some terrain rope suspension techniques.

span class=”mce_SELRES_start” data-mce-type=”bookmark” style=”display: inline-block; width: 0px; overflow: hidden; line-height: 0;”/span(Image via GIPHY)

3. You will be doing some unique movements.

All of the instructors at JWTC are TRST masters and, before you graduate from the course, you will learn to repel off the side of cliffs, hasty repel into and across a dangerous slope, and safely cross a gorge with the aid of a makeshift cable bridge.

(Image via GIPHY)

4. The ‘E’ course is intense.

The last major evolution after all your classes, supervised evolutions, field craft, and various other skillset development instructions is basically a roided-up mud run through the jungle with your very own JWTC guide. It’s named the ‘E’-course, it involves a lot of endurance, but it can be a lot of fun.

(Image via GIPHY)

5. You don’t want to be a heat casualty.

On top of the health concern is movement. If you can’t get out of this environment under your own power, you are in for the worst ride of your life. Cas-evac (casualty evacuation), party of ten!

(Image via GIPHY)

6. Don’t bring your good cammies.

They will be destroyed. That is all.

(Image via GIPHY)

Also Read: 7 tips on how to get selected by MARSOC instructors

7. The wildlife is deadly.

From poisonous snakes and spiders to eels and unsteady terrain with steep falls onto jagged rocks, Okinawa is not for the faint of heart.

Do not pet. (Photo by Shawn Miller)

MIGHTY FIT

Four simple tactics to build massive grip strength

If you struggle with exercises like pull-ups or the deadlift, chances are your legs and back aren’t to blame. It’s your weak-ass grip.

Have you ever used wrist straps while deadlifting or doing a back exercise?

If you have, then you know it’s usually much easier to go as heavy as possible. Why?


Your limiting factor isn’t that your back or legs are weak, it’s your grip.

For pull-ups, it’s more of the same story. You’ve probably noticed that doing exercises like rows and pulldowns for 10 to 15 isn’t too bad, even when the weight is more than your bodyweight. But doing the same for full range pull-ups is out of the question.

Again, it’s not your back that needs work but instead your grip strength.

If your weak grip is an issue and you want to learn some tricks for fixing it, check these suggestions out.

Thumb-over grip is better for mobility on pull-ups but harder on your grip strength.

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jacob Wilson

Bodyweight and weighted dead hangs

If you want a strong grip, try hanging on a bar for as long as possible. While it seems basic, chances are you can’t hang for more than a minute, at least at first.

Try jumping onto a pull-up bar with a pronated grip, where your hands are facing away from you. Allow your arms to fully extend overhead and hang unassisted for as long as possible. Then, repeat.

Once a minute is easy, start adding multiple sets.

When that gets too easy, add some extra weight with a dumbbell between your feet or thighs and repeat the process.

Not to mention that dead hangs are great for your low back pain.

If you have access to one of these pinch grip bars give it a shot. You’ll be amazed at how much less weight you can handle than with a traditional barbell.

U.S. Air Force photo by Roland Balik

Dead holds

The best part about building grip strength is that the techniques to do so are simple. Just like with dead hangs, a great way to develop massive grip strength is to hold on to some heavy ass weight for as long as possible.

Similar to dead hangs, set up a barbell in a squat rack with the safety pins just above your knees. Then, work up to a weight that you would come close to maxing out on the deadlift for three reps. Hold the weight for as long as you can and work your way up to 60 seconds per set.

The only thing here is that for maximum benefit, you can’t use an alternate grip if you usually do while deadlifting. You do that because it’s easier to hold on, right?

Instead, use a pronated or double overhand grip while doing dead holds. It will be humbling at first, but over time, your grip will become unstoppable.

Obviously, grip strength is huge if you expect to max out the deadlift on the ACFT.

U.S. Army Courtesy Photo

Plate holds

If you’ve got a weak grip, you also need to train the muscles in your hands that allow your fingers to stay firmly wrapped around the bar. One of the easiest ways to develop finger strength is the plate hold.

Depending on your grip strength, you want to start with a 10 to 45 pound weightlifting plate, like the ones you used to deadlift. Turn the plate vertical and grip the edge with your four fingers on one side and your thumb on the other.

Pick the plate up and hold for as long as possible. If you want an extra challenge, see how far your walk while holding the heaviest plate possible with your fingers.

It’s going to suck, but your grip will thank you.

Towel Pull-up Variations

www.youtube.com

Use a towel

No, seriously, using a towel to train is a lesser-known grip training tactic.

If you think doing a pull-up on a bar is challenging, try wrapping a towel around that bar and doing pull-ups while holding the towel instead.

The best thing here is that this tactic can be used with other equipment as well.

You can wrap the towel around the handle of a dumbbell or kettlebell and do curls or farmer’s walks. You can even use a towel for machines like lat pulldowns too.

Believe it or not, even repeatedly ringing out a thick towel is an effective way to build wrist and grip strength.

Just keep in mind, not all towels are created equal.

If you’re going to try and use this method for an exercise like pull-ups, place a crash pad underneath you, have a spotter or use a pull-up assist machine just in case the towel breaks.

Don’t be a looky-loo. Go try some of this stuff and get better.

(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. Jason Archer)

If you have a solid training program that holistically trains your entire body, then grip strength probably isn’t a concern of yours. If you’re like most people and lack that training plan then sign up for The Mighty Fit Plan… it’s free and the perfect thing to help get your grip strength up to snuff.

Don’t forget to check out the Mighty Fit FB group for more Military and Veteran training greatness.

MIGHTY HISTORY

6 absolute BAMFs who saved lives in Vietnam War

This article is sponsored by The Last Full Measure, now playing in theatres! Get your tickets here.

There are two primary ways to end up a hero on the battlefield: either slay the enemy in such stunning numbers that even Frank Miller starts to think the story sounds exaggerated, or else place your own body in harm’s way repeatedly so as to save the lives of friendly forces (bonus points for doing both).

These six men put themselves in mortal danger to rescue their peers.


Airman 1st Class William Pitsenbarger poses with his M-16 in front of a rescue helicopter.

(National Museum of the U.S. Air Force)

1. Air Force pararescue joins the ground fight under mortar fire

On April 11, 1966, an Army company became separated and found itself under fierce fire. With mortars landing in their perimeter and machine gun fire racing in, the casualties started to mount. When Airman 1st Class William Pitsenbarger arrived for the wounded, it quickly became apparent that the infantry was losing the ability to defend itself and conduct medevac at the same time. So, he requested permission to join the ground fight.

In the jungle, he directed the evacuations under fire until it became too fierce for the helicopters to stay. Given a last chance to fly out, Pitsenbarger gave up his seat to a wounded man and stayed on the ground to serve as a medic. Overnight, he kept giving medical aid and resisting the enemy until he succumbed to multiple gunshot wounds.

In September, 1966, he posthumously became the first enlisted airman to receive the Air Force Cross. It was later upgraded to the Medal of Honor.

Now, his bravery and the struggle to have his valor honored at the highest level is set to hit the big screen. Check out the trailer below for The Last Full Measure, landing in theatres on January 24th.

The Last Full Measure Official Trailer | Roadside Attractions

www.youtube.com

Navy Lt. j.g. Clyde E. Lassen

(U.S. Navy)

2. Navy helicopter pilot turns his lights on in a firefight

When Navy Lt. j.g. Clyde E. Lassen went out on June 19, 1968, he must have known that it was a risky mission: pulling two downed aviators out of a night time firefight.

But when he arrived on site, it was worse than he expected. The downed pilots were repeatedly hampered by thick underbrush, and a firefight was already raging around them. He managed to land his helicopter the first time but the pilots couldn’t get to him. He came to a new spot under an illumination flare, but the flare burned out and Lassen struck a tree in the darkness.

He barely saved his own bird from crashing but, rather than heading home for fuel and repairs, he came back in under another flare. When that burned out, Lassen turned his own lights on, making him a beacon for enemy fire. Doing so let him land long enough to pick up the other pilots and skedaddle for home. He reached the ship with only five minutes of fuel left. He later received the Medal of Honor for his bravery.

Army Maj. (Chaplain) Charles Liteky, far right of four men lined up, waits to receive his Medal of Honor from President Lyndon Johnson in 1968.

(White House Photograph Office)

3. Army chaplain goes full beast-mode and rescues infantry

Army Capt. Charles James Liteky was supposed to hang out in the back and administer to the spiritual needs of the infantry, but on Dec. 6, 1967, a large enemy force suddenly assaulted his battalion and one company was nearly overwhelmed — and so the chaplain ran into the machine gun fire to help.

First, Liteky found two wounded men and carried them to safety. Then he went back out and began giving aid to the wounded and last rites to the dying. When he found a wounded man too heavy to carry, he rolled onto his back with the man on his chest and inched his way through heavy fire to safety. He was credited with saving 20 men despite wounds to his own neck and foot. His Medal of Honor was approved the following year.

U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Allan J. Kellogg, Jr.

(U.S. Marine Corps)

4. Marine rallies his men under machine gun fire, then jumps on grenade

Gunnery Sgt. Allan Jay Kellogg Jr. was leading a platoon on a risky rescue operation on the night of March 11, 1970, when his company was assaulted by a large North Vietnamese force. As the firefight intensified, one enemy soldier slowly crept to the platoon and managed to get a hand grenade into its midst.

That grenade glanced off the chest of Kellogg. He recognized what it was and had the chance to dive away, but he instead dove onto the explosive and hoped that his body and the Vietnamese mud would save his platoon. It worked, but the weapon inflicted severe injuries upon Kellogg.

He survived and would later receive the Medal of Honor for his action.

5. Navy SEAL leads small team to rescue downed pilots after other attempts fail

In early 1972, a pilot was downed behind enemy lines, triggering a race between the U.S. and North Vietnam to reach him. American attempts from the air were a catastrophic failure. In one week, 14 Americans were killed, seven more aircraft were lost, two were captured, and another aviator was stuck behind enemy lines.

So, U.S. Navy SEAL Lt. j.g. Tom Norris put together a gutsy ground extraction with his Vietnamese Sea Commando counterparts. They rescued the first isolated pilot on April 11, the first day of the SEAL extraction plan — but the other pilot they were trying to rescue couldn’t reach the river. Over the next three days, the commandos lost four members to mortar fire on a second rescue attempt.

With dashed spirits and a depleted force, only Norris and the Vietnamese commander were willing to continue. They dressed up as fisherman, stole a sampan, and grabbed the missing pilot. They were nearly discovered by enemy patrols multiple times, and Norris was forced to call in a series of airstrikes to save them at one point, but it worked.

Norris would receive the Medal of Honor for his actions. The Vietnamese commander received the Navy Cross and later became an American Citizen.

Army Spec. 5 James McCloughan receives the Medal of Honor from President Donald J. Trump for actions in the Vietnam War.

(U.S. Army Eboni Everson-Myart)

6. Army medic continuously ignores orders and runs towards machine gun fire

In May, 1969, Army Spec. 5 John C. McCloughan was part of a combat assault that went sideways right away. Two helicopters were downed and the ground fire became too thick for helicopters to conduct a rescue. McCloughan, a medic, was sent in to help extract the air crews from the ground. When he arrived on site, he immediately dashed over 100 yards across open ground to recover one soldier, despite a platoon attacking towards him.

Then, he charged through American air strikes to rescue two others and gave them medical aid even after he was torn up by shrapnel. He was specifically ordered to see to his own wounds and stop charging into danger, but he just kept charging. Over the course of the 48-hour firefight, he was credited with saving at least 10 men and with destroying an RPG position with a hand grenade.

He received a Medal of Honor in 2017 for his actions.

This article is sponsored by The Last Full Measure, now playing in theatres! Get your tickets here.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US military is preparing for North Korea’s ‘Christmas gift’

A top US Air Force general said Dec. 17, 2019, that the US is preparing responses just in case North Korea fires a long-range missile amid the stalled peace talks, possibly reigniting the tensions that characterized 2017.

North Korea warned earlier this month that “it is entirely up to the US what Christmas gift” it gets, suggesting that failure to meet Pyongyang’s expectations could yield undesirable results.

“It’s not implausible that they could give the world a Christmas or New Year gift of an ICBM test,” Vipin Narang, an associate professor of political science at MIT, previously told Insider.


“What I would expect is some type of long-range ballistic missile would be the gift. It’s just a matter of, does it come on Christmas Eve? Does it come on Christmas Day? Does it come in after the new year?” Gen. Charles Q. Brown, the Pacific Air Forces commander, said Tuesday, according to multiple reports.

While there have been a number of short-range tests in recent months, North Korea has not launched a long-range missile since its successful test of the Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile in late November 2017.

North Korea releases video showing the launch of the Hwasong-15 missile

www.youtube.com

“We’re watching,” Brown added, acknowledging that there are other possibilities. “I think there are a range of things that could occur.”

North Korea has given Washington until the end of the year to change the way it negotiates with Pyongyang. It has said that it will pursue a “new path” if the US does not lift its heavy sanctions in return for North Korea’s moratorium on long-range missile and nuclear testing. While the threat remains unclear, North Korea is using language similar to past ICBM tests.

Brown said Tuesday that the US military is dusting off responses should efforts to secure a diplomatic peace between the US and North Korea fail.

“Our job is to backstop the diplomatic efforts. And, if the diplomatic efforts kind of fall apart, we got to be ready,” he explained. “Go back to 2017, there’s a lot of stuff we did in 2017 that we can dust off pretty quickly and be ready to use.”

“We are looking at all of the things we have done in the past,” Brown added.

During the “fire and fury” tensions between the US and North Korea that defined 2017, the US routinely flew bombers over the Korean Peninsula as a symbol of support for US allies and as a warning to the North Korean regime.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

What happens to North Koreans caught trying to defect

Scott Kim first escaped North Korea at the age of 17 in 2001. At the time, he and his mother only wanted to get across the border to China so they could eat hot meals. Growing up during North Korea’s deadly famine in the late ’90s, Kim had spent much of his childhood starving.

Today, Kim owns a business trading automobile and railway parts in South Korea. He is currently working on an English-language memoir about his experiences with the help of Teach North Korean Refugees (TNKR), a volunteer-run organization in Seoul helping defectors develop English skills.

But it was a long and dangerous six years in and out of China and North Korea before he got to Seoul.


Most North Koreans defect by crossing North Korea’s northern border to China via the Tumen or Yalu rivers. Then they must smuggle their way across China’s vast expanse to its southern border with Laos or Vietnam. From there, they cross into Thailand or Cambodia and go to the South Korean embassy to ask for help. It’s a journey that can cost up to $5,000, which must be paid to “brokers” in each country to arrange the escape.

Inscription stone marking the border of China and North Korea in Jilin

Paying $5,000 to make it to South Korea or the United States was far out of reach for Kim and his mother. Instead, he and his mother lived as undocumented immigrants and worked as farm laborers. But one year after escaping North Korea, Kim’s neighbor reported his status to the police, who brought him and his mother back to North Korea. Kim was taken to a detention center, where authorities determine where to send defectors next.

“When we reached the detention center in North Korea, we lost all our rights as human beings,” Kim told Business Insider. “We were treated like animals, literally. We had to crawl on the floor to move from place to place.”

Kim was put in a cell with 20 other defectors. There was one toilet in the corner and no space to lie down. Day and night, the defectors sat on the ground.

“It was our punishment because we were sinners. I don’t know why we were sinners,” he said.

When he or other defectors were told to down the corridor to the warden’s office, they were made to crawl on their hands and feet. Officers beat them with gloves and sticks as they went.

An estimated 100,000 North Koreans or more currently live in detention centers, political prisons, or labor camps where they endure hard labor, torture, and starvation.

Kim’s description of his experience comes amid President Donald Trump’s summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who has been accused of killing his own people. But when asked about the North Korean dictator’s human rights violations, Trump appeared to be an apologist for the dictator’s actions.

The first time Kim was caught, he got lucky.

Despite the fact that one of North Korea’s biggest reeducation camps is in Chongori, near his hometown in Musan, Kim was sent to a center further south. Because no one knew him — and internet and phone service was nonexistent at the time — he was able to lie about his age. He told the guards he was only 15 years old and had been in China looking for his mother.

Rather than send him to one of the country’s brutal labor camps or political camps, he was sent to a medical center for orphaned children. Shortly after arriving, he escaped and went back to China, where he got work as a farm laborer near Helong, a city in northeastern China.

“Everyday, I planted, farmed, logged on the mountain. Corn, beans, potatoes,” he said. “Life was better because I was not starving. I could eat and be full at meals. It was enough food for me … At the time I left North Korea, I was starving.”

Kim was caught a second time when he visited a friend in China looking for his mother. A neighbor again reported him to the police. The second time he was sent back to North Korea, he wasn’t so lucky. He was sent to the concentration camp near his hometown. From there he was sent to a labor camp, where he chopped down trees on a mountain for months.

He escaped one day when he realized that all his fellow laborers were at the top of the mountain chopping while he was at the bottom. He ran away as fast as he could until he found a train that he could take him north to cross the border with China again.

After some time in China, he was caught a third time and sent to a camp for political prisoners — the worst place to be sent, as imprisonment there is interminable. He escaped the camp by bribing the authorities through a broker, who helped him make it across the border with China a final time.

After six years, Kim reunited with his mother and made it to South Korea

Seoul, South Korea

In China, he went back to work to pay off his debt to the broker. One day, he got a call from a North Korean woman from Musan who told him that he had to come visit his mother. She was dying of cancer. For the first time in many years, the two saw each other.

“When I opened the door of my mother’s house, I froze, and couldn’t say anything, because my mother looked incredibly different,” he said. “There was no fat on her, and her whole body looked like a triangle, I just went outside and cried for a long time and came back again, and I embraced my mother and we cried together.”

Several days later, a friend of his mother offered his mother the opportunity to escape to South Korea via Laos and Cambodia. A broker was taking a group through; they had an extra space.

Unable to walk, Kim’s mother told Kim he had to go and become educated. Once he was settled, she said, he could bring her and help others in need. He decided to go.

The night before Kim and the group of defectors were to cross the border into Laos, he received a call telling him that his mother had died. The man on the phone said he had to come back for the funeral.

“After hanging up, I couldn’t say anything, I just cried all night. I really, really wanted to go back, but I thought that if I go back there, I couldn’t do anything for her,” he said. “I decided to go to South Korea, believing that my mother would agree with my decision.”

In 2007, six years after he first escaped, Kim finally made it to South Korea.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Army wants to outfit dogs with tiny cameras and other cool gear

Man’s best friend has been fighting on battlefields for centuries, but the modern four-legged battle buddy is much more sophisticated than his predecessor with more advanced gear.

The modern US military has multi-purpose tactical dogs, search and rescue dogs, explosive detection dogs, and tracking dogs, among other types of canines, and the dogs have their own special equipment.


U.S. Army 1st Sgt. Brian Zamiska, 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), pulls security with a U.S. Air Force working dog, Jan. 6, 2013, during a patrol with the Afghan Border Police in Tera Zeyi district, Afghanistan.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Alex Kirk Amen)

The US Army, which is currently undergoing its largest modernization in decades, has been working hard to modernize the force, equipping soldiers with state-of-the-art gear, such as lightweight helmets that can withstand sniper fire and night-vision goggles that let them shoot around corners.

And military working dogs aren’t being left out of the modernization push.

Insider recently asked a senior scientist at the Army Research Office what’s next for military dogs, and he explained that there are a lot of interesting things on the horizon, despite the challenges of developing gear for canines.

“We are going to be able to help augment the animal with better cameras, better hearing protection, and better vision protection, and put those things all together so that we can get a smarter system out there,” Stephen Lee told Insider.

A military working dog wearing the CAPS with goggles.

(US Army photo by Zeteo Tech)

All military dogs use a collar and a leash, but just as there are different types of dogs for different missions, such as pointy-eared dogs like German Shepherds and Belgian Malinois for tactical operations and floppy-eared dogs like Labrador Retrievers for screening activities, the various types of military dogs tend to have varied gear kits.

“Like the multipurpose dogs might have a harness, a vest that contains stab proofing or some sort of insert armor,” Lee explained, adding that they might also have goggles, hearing protection equipment, and special booties for snow, sandy or rocky environments.

There are also cooling vests and specialized kennels that cool to help the canines better operate in hot areas.

A US soldier carrying a military working dog.

(US Army)

And canine gear is continuously evolving.

“We are learning a lot from the robotics community because they need lightweight electronics. So we’re able to put small cameras on the dogs now and guide them at distances,” Lee said. “I’m excited about putting those new microelectronics on the canine.”

The US military has already made some strides in this area, equipping dogs with cameras, GPS trackers, and radios for better off-leash communication, but there is always the potential for more innovation.

The challenge, Lee told Insider, is that there is technically no military working dog research funding line in the military.

Lee has a PhD in physical organic chemistry and played an important role in the development of an artificial dog nose that is used for screening activities, but while it is an incredible tool, it lacks the ability to provide the full range of capabilities a working dog can.

“We spend billions of dollars making robots that can emulate dogs but don’t even come close,” he explained, adding that the military doesn’t really have any core research and development programs for dogs.

A military working dog surrounded by a soldier’s gear.

(US Army)

Much of the canine-related research is carried out by industry and academia with input from the military and law enforcement and funding pulled from various pools.

For instance, Zeteo Tech, Inc., a Maryland-based outfit, has developed an innovative solution to help prevent hearing loss in dogs with the help of the Small Business Innovation Research grant provided by the Army Research Office.

But, while military working dogs may not receive the same level of attention that human soldiers do, those who work closely with them understand well their value in the fight.

Conan, a military working dog that was recently honored at the White House, helped special forces take down Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the murderous leader of ISIS in October. Time and time again, canines have made important contributions to US military missions.

Lee told Insider that “we take for granted all that our dogs can do” on the battlefield.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Investigators release details of deadly WC-130 crash

The Air Force WC-130H aircraft veered to the left on the runway, almost rolling into the grass before the crew was able to get it airborne.

The pilot quickly made the decision to return to the Georgia airfield they had just departed. The pilot directed the shutdown of engine one, operating on the remaining three.

“Coming back,” the pilot repeated five times over the next 30 seconds.

Investigators said that within those few seconds the pilot improperly applied nine more degrees with the left rudder, “which resulted in a subsequent skid below three-engine minimum controllable airspeed, a left-wing stall, and the [mishap aircraft’s] departure from controlled flight.”


No other “meaningful direction” was given to the crew other than an order to “brace” just before impact.

The plane was airborne for two minutes overall before it crashed down into Georgia State Highway 21 roughly 1.5 miles northeast of the Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport, killing all aboard.

A newly released mishap report determined that the WC-130 crash that claimed the lives of nine members of the Puerto Rico Air National Guard in 2018 was largely due to pilot error. But troubling engine and maintenance issues documented in the aging aircraft raise more questions about the cause of the catastrophic May 2, 2018 mishap.

C-130J Hercules and WC-130J Hercules fly in formation during an Operation Surge Capacity exercise April, 5, 2014, over the Mississippi Gulf Coast region.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Nicholas Monteleone)

The WC-130, which belonged to the 156th Airlift Wing, Muñiz Air National Guard Base, Puerto Rico, had recurring issues with its first engine, according to the Aircraft Accident Investigation

Board Report released Nov. 9, 2018. The issues were documented a month before the aircraft’s final flight, as well as the day of the deadly crash.

The report, authored by Brig. Gen. John C. Millard, ultimately concluded that the aircraft crashed due to pilot error.

The crew should have more closely followed emergency procedure and called for immediate action after discovering one of the aircraft’s engines was malfunctioning, Millard said. Instead, the malfunction led to loss of control of the plane, causing it to crash, the report found.

Experts who spoke with Military.com, however, pointed out that lapses in maintenance deeply disadvantaged the crew even before the aircraft left the runway. The plane, which had been in service more than 50 years, was on its final journey to the “boneyard” at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona when it went down.

“The engine malfunction is most definitely large factor and I would say the catalyst for the events that unfolded,” said an Air Force instructor pilot who flies a mobility aircraft and agreed to speak to Military.com on background about the report’s findings. “It appears the [report] narrowed in on a particular piece of the engine (the valve housing assembly) which had intermittent issues with [revolutions per minute] over its lifetime with multiple different engines.”

Nine died in the crash: Maj. José R. Román Rosado, the pilot; Maj. Carlos Pérez Serra, the navigator; 1st Lt. David Albandoz, a co-pilot; Senior Master Sgt. Jan Paravisini, a mechanic; Master Sgt. Mario Braña, a flight engineer; Master Sgt. Eric Circuns, loadmaster; Master Sgt. Jean Audriffred, crew member; Master Sgt. Víctor Colón, crew member; and Senior Airman Roberto Espada, crew member.

The Air Force ordered an immediate investigation into the accident. Days later, after Military Times published an in-depth report showing that military aviation accidents have increased over the last five years, the service directed its wing commanders to hold a one-day pause in order to conduct a safety review with airmen, assessing trends and criteria that may have led to the recent rash of crashes.

Unsolved maintenance problems

The newly released investigation shows that the plane was cleared for flight even though the recorded oscillation data of the plane’s outermost left engine did not match its intended performance.

The WC-130 made its ferry flight from Puerto Rico to Savannah, Georgia, on April 9, 2018. And the flight crew operating the [mishap aircraft] “experienced an RPM issue with engine one, and reported the incident for troubleshooting and repair,” the report said.

While the crew found a fix, maintainers struggled to replicate both the in-flight operations and the solution the pilots used to better understand the what went wrong. They found they couldn’t recreate the crew’s original solution, which was to switch “on the propeller governor control to mechanical governing,” to see if that rectified the issue, it said.

A U.S. Air Force Lockheed C-130E-LM Hercules (s/n 64-0510) from the 198th Airlift Squadron, 156th Airlift Wing, Puerto Rico Air National Guard, prepares to take off from Muniz ANGB, Puerto Rico, on Feb. 29, 2004.

According to post-mishap interviews, during a second maintenance engine run, the “mishap maintainers observed engine one produced 99% revolutions per minute,” the report said.

But the digital flight data recorder (DFDR) said otherwise.

The DFDR indicated “engine one never reached sustained RPM above 96.8% and had significant oscillations between 95% and 98%,” it said.

The Air Force investigators said that when performing an engine run, the [technical order] requires a range “of 99.8% to 100.02% RPM, as displayed on a precision tachometer, to verify an engine is operating properly at 100%.2.”

The maintainers, who failed to use a precision instrument, missed a chance to diagnose a fluctuating, weaker engine.

“Good enough” mentality

The maintainers should have noted these red flags, the instructor pilot who spoke with Military.com said.

“The maintainers… failed to properly conduct the inspection of the engine,” the instructor pilot said. “The crew likely would have never stepped to the aircraft that day, at least not without the engine being verified to have reached the required power threshold, versus over 2 percent lower than the minimum.”

In the report, maintainers are faulted for having a “good enough” mentality about the aircraft’s condition.

Twitter user @MikeBlack114, a self-identified Air Force aircraft maintenance officer, also faulted the “good enough” mentality as a reason mistakes were made in a tweet thread. Furthermore, leadership should have paid better attention, he said.

“I’ll let someone with wings address the aircrew piece, but the mx [maintenance] portion is almost unfathomable,” Black said in a Twitter thread. “If you’re in a leadership position of an organization involved with flying and you aren’t uncovering the skeletons (believe me, they’re there, just a question of how severe they are) you aren’t looking hard enough.”

Another problem, according to the report, was the maintainers observing the aircraft did not use a tachometer to justify the data.

The report noted that they had conducted the engine test runs without the instrument because the compatible adapter plug to connect the precision tachometer to the aircraft was not available.

“During the engine runs and without the use of a precision tachometer, [mishap maintainer one] and [mishap maintainer two] knew that 100% RPM was the speed the engine should operate at, but believed 99% was sufficient to conclude their maintenance because of the wider gauge range provided in the [technical order],” the report said. “Thus, the mishap maintainers never corrected the engine one discrepancy and did not resolve the RPM issue.”

On May 2, 2018, engine one’s RPMs once again revealed an anomaly.

During takeoff, engine one’s RPMs fluctuated and couldn’t be stabilized when the first mishap pilot “advanced the throttle lever into the flight range,” according to the report.

“Engine one RPM and torque significantly decayed, which substantially lowered thrust,” investigators added.

While the banked turn the pilots made into the failed engine “was well below the minimum air speed needed for proper control of the aircraft, the [mishap aircraft] did still have enough airspeed to maintain flight,” the report said.

“The crew put the aircraft in a disadvantageous energy state by rotating (lifting off) 5 knots early and failing to accelerate as required by the procedures,” the instructor pilot said. “Unfortunately, this was not an unrecoverable situation by any means, and one crews in all airframes train to regularly.”

The reason for the initial flight in April 2018 was to conduct routine in-tank fuel cell maintenance in Georgia. The 165th Airlift Wing at Savannah Air National Guard Base had the means to do this, unlike the Puerto Rico Guard’s 156th Wing.

Puerto Rico’s facilities sustained substantial damage during Hurricane Maria and could not offer the maintenance at home station, the report said.

Transparency needed

Although Adjutant Gen. Isabelo Rivera, the commanding officer of the Puerto Rico National Guard, said at the time of the crash the aircraft was more than 60 years old and one of the oldest C-130s in the fleet, its history and maintenance record say otherwise.

The aircraft, tail number 65-0968, rolled off the assembly line in 1965 as a standard C-130E, its records show.

Aircraft 65-0968.

“Sometime in the early 1970’s, it was converted to a WC-130H for use in weather reconnaissance (the “W” designation indicates the weather modifications),” the report said.

The engines were also “upgraded from T56-A-7 to the T56-A-15 at that time (which changed the “E” designation to “H”),” it said.

The aging aircraft life was extended because the wing had been expected to change missions. But that transition never came.

The fiscal 2016 budget “initially divested the six WC-130H aircraft from the Puerto Rico Air National Guard “and provided direction to move the 156th Airlift Wing to the RC-26, a manned Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) platform,” the report said. “However, this direction did not prove viable, as there was no requirement for a manned ISR mission in the United States Northern Command Theater.”

Millard, the investigator, said in the report there were no outstanding time compliance technical orders that would have restricted the plane from from flying.

Still, there should have been more transparency, the instructor pilot said.

“As an aircraft commander, there’s a ‘trust but verify’ mentality with the maintenance crews, but our knowledge is limited. So when a crew chief hands me the signed forms,” he said, “I have to trust those procedures and previous discrepancies have been fixed in accordance with the maintenance technical orders.”

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why 3 naval battles can claim to be history’s largest

There are a lot of articles that talk about the “largest naval battle,” but they don’t always agree on what battle that is. The Battle of Leyte Gulf, with nearly 200,000 participants and 285 ships, comes up often, but that isn’t the largest number of participants or ships that have clashed at a single point in history. So what’s really the largest naval battle?


The big issue is that it’s hard to define what, exactly, is the proper metric for determining the size of a battle. While land engagements are nearly always measured by the number of troops involved, naval battles can be measured by the number of ships, the size of the ships, the number of sailors, total number of vehicles and vessels, or even the size of the battlefield.

Here are three naval battles with a decent claim to “history’s largest.” One by troops involved, one by ship tonnage and area that was fought over, and one by most ships that fought.

A French map of the movements involved in the Battle of the Red Cliffs.

(Sémhur, CC BY-SA 4.0)

Battle of the Red Cliffs—850,000 troops clashed on river and land

The Battle of the Red Cliffs is likely the largest amphibious battle of all time with estimates of the troops involved going up to 880,000 with up to 800,000 marching under the Chinese General Cao Cao. Liu Bei and Sun Quan stood up a small navy and army opposition that numbered around 50-80,000. The whole fight took place in 208 AD.

If it sounds like the allied force would get railroaded, realize that they were the ones with better ships and they had hometown advantage. They sailed their ships through the rivers, likely the Han and Yangtze, set them on fire, and managed to crash them into Cao Cao’s fleet. Cao Cao’s men on the river and in camp burned.

A Japanese destroyer withdraws from the Battle of Leyte Gulf while under attack from U.S. bombers.

(Naval History and Heritage Command)

Battle of Leyte Gulf—285 ships clash over 100,000 square miles

The Battle of Leyte Gulf is what usually pops up as the top Google search for history’s largest, and it’s easy to see why. The fighting took place over 100,000 square miles of ocean, one of the largest battleships in history sunk, and 285 naval vessels and 1,800 aircraft took part. Of the ships, 24 were aircraft carriers.

It was also a key battle strategically, allowing the U.S. to re-take the Philippines and further tipping the balance of power in the Pacific in World War II in favor of the U.S. and its allies.

One odd note about Leyte Gulf, though, is that it’s often accepted as its own battle, it’s actually a term that encompasses four smaller battles, the battles of Sibuyan Sea, Surigao Strait, Cape Engano, and the Battle off Samar.

Painting depicts the Battle of Salamis where outnumbered Greek ships annihilated a Persian fleet.

(Wilhelm von Kaulbach, public domain)

Battle of Salamis—over 1,000 ships

At the Battle of Salamis in 480 BC during the Greco-Persian Wars, the Persian fleet of 800 galleys had penned 370 Greek triremes into the small Saronic Gulf. The Greek commander managed to draw the Persian fleet into the gulf, and the more agile Greek ships rammed their way through the Persian vessels.

The Persians lost 300 ships and only sank 40 Greek ones, forcing them to abandon planned offensives on land.

(Note that there are conflicting reports as to just how many ships took part in the battle with estimates ranging up to 1,207 Persian ships and 371 Greeks, but even on the lower end, the Battle of Salamis was the largest by number of ships engaged.)

If you had a battle in mind that didn’t make the list, that doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily out of the running. The Battle of Yamen saw over 1,000 ships clash and allowed the Mongol Yuan Dynasty to overtake the Song Dynasty. At the Battle of the Philippine Sea, 902 American aircraft fought 750 Japanese planes. The Battle of Jutland, the only major battleship clash of World War I, makes many people’s lists as well.

Hell, Wikipedia has a page that lists nine naval battles as potential contenders for world’s largest.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The awesome reason some Air Force fighters have green stars

In the Air Force fighter community, there is a coveted and rare marker painted near the cockpit of certain planes, just beneath the pilot’s name, rank, and call sign. It’s 6-inch green star with a 1/2-inch black border that signifies that the aircraft has emerged victorious against an enemy jet in aerial combat.


Why this Air Force marking is so rare

www.youtube.com

A U.S. P-51 with the decals showing aerial victories of Nazi, Italian, Japanese, and U.S. planes.

(Pima Air and Space Museum)

The Army Air Corps and U.S. Air Force have allowed pilots to mark their victories on their fuselages for decades, but the height of the tradition was during World War II when the frequent aerial combat combined with the sheer numbers of planes in the air at once led to dozens of pilots having to kill or be killed on any given day.

In that era of fierce fighting, the U.S. Army Air Corps allowed most pilots to mark their aerial victories with a small replica of the enemy pilot’s flag, placed beneath the pilot’s name on the fuselage. This was typically either a decal or a bit of paint from applied by the ground crew. There were also some cases of fighter groups painting the silhouettes of the planes they had shot down.

One U.S. pilot even boasted every Axis flag — as well as a single U.S. flag — on his cockpit. Yes, he shot down a U.S. plane and got a medal for it.

But, eventually, the use of flags, silhouettes, and some other markings fell out of favor when it came to aerial victories, though the Air Force does still allow bomber crews to use bomb silhouettes to mark their missions.

F-15E Strike Eagle #89-0487, the only F-15E to achieve an air-to-air kill, sports the green star on its fuselage while parked at Bagram Air Field in 2008.

(U.S. Air Force James D’Angina)

But for fighter pilots, it’s now all about the green star, standardized in Air Force Instruction 21-205 as:

“Aerial Victory Marking. Fighter aircraft awarded a verified aerial victory are authorized to display a 6-inch green star with a 1/2 inch black border located just below and centered on the pilot’s name block. The type of aircraft shot down shall be stenciled inside the star in 1/2 inch white lettering. For aircraft with multiple aerial victories, a star is authorized for each aircraft shot down. No other victory markings are authorized.”

Modern aerial victories are rare, not because the U.S. loses but because the Air Force dominates enemy air space so hard and fast that typically only a handful of pilots will actually engage the enemy in the air before the U.S. owns the airspace outright. In Desert Storm, about 30 U.S. pilots achieved aerial kills in about 30 aircraft. At least two of those aircraft, the F-14s, have since retired.

Meanwhile, there are almost 2,000 fighter aircraft in the U.S. inventory. So, yes, the green stars are very rare. So rare, the air wings occasionally brag about the green-star aircraft that are still in their units.

The 455 Air Expeditionary Wing history department released an article in 2008 bragging that a green-star aircraft from Desert Storm was then in active service over Afghanistan. The aircraft on display above is the only F-15E to ever achieve an air-to-air kill, a feat it pulled off by bombing a helicopter as it took off, destroying the helicopter and the troops it had just dropped off.

In 2010, the 353rd Special Operations Group historian released an article about their F-15C with its own green star. The plane was used by a Marine pilot in an exchange program who shot down one of two MiG-29s attempting to attack an F-14 flying all alone and unafraid during Desert Storm.

Of course, aerial victories are even rarer today. In 2017, the Navy claimed America’s first air-to-air kill of an enemy aircraft since 1999. Or, in other words, we’ve had only one aerial victory in almost 20 years. In the 2017 engagement, two U.S. Navy FA/-18E Super Hornets attacked a Syrian Su-22 fighter that was dropping bombs near forces friendly to the U.S.

For anyone wondering about how we invaded two countries at the start of this century without shooting down any enemy aircraft, Iraq lost most of its aircraft during Desert Storm and the following year while Afghanistan had no real air force to speak of in 2001. Most aircraft destroyed in Syria were killed on the ground.

So, no green stars there.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Monkeying around? Iranians ridicule official for posting Halloween costume as astronaut’s suit

Iranians are making fun of an Iranian official for posting a picture of an astronaut suit adorned with an Iranian flag that seems to be a photoshopped version of a children’s Halloween space costume.


Iranian Information and Communications Technology Minister Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi issued the image on February 4 with the hashtag #bright_future. Without any explanation at the time, it was unclear if he was trying to fool people into believing it was an actual Iranian-issue space suit or just a joke.

Azari Jahromi’s vague tweet was quickly met with derision, criticism, and humorous memes by Iranians on social media amid allegations the minister was, in fact, trying to trick his countrymen into believing the image was an actual suit for the government’s ambitious but not-ready-for-prime-time space program.

He later clarified that the image was “the picture of a dream, the dream of walking on the moon.” He added that he found the many jokes posted online to be “interesting.”

Speaking at a Tehran event titled Space Technologists’ Gathering, Azari Jahromi said his tweet “was the introduction to good news.”

“The suit wasn’t really important because we haven’t made an Iranian space suit, yet work is being done to create a special outfit for Iranian space scientists,” he backpedaled.

That didn’t stop the torrent of jokes.

“He bought a Halloween space costume [for] , removed [the] NASA logo while sewing an Iranian flag on it. He’s promoting it as a national achievement,” a user said in reaction to the image.

Some posted memes to mock the minister, including a video of an astronaut dancing to Iranian music with the hashtag #The_Dance_of_Iranians_In_space #Bright_future.

Another user posted a photoshopped photo of Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Buzz Aldrin wearing the suit Azari Jahromi had posted on Twitter.

Azari Jahromi — an avid Twitter user who’s been blacklisted by Washington for his role in censoring the Internet in Iran, where citizens are blocked from using Twitter and other social-media sites — has been promoting Iran’s space program in recent days while announcing that Tehran will launch a satellite, Zafar (“Victory” in Persian), into orbit by the end of the week.

Azari Jahromi said on February 4 that his country had taken the first step in the quest to send astronauts into space. “The Ministry of Information and Communications Technology has ordered manufacturing five space capsules for carrying humans to space to the Aerospace Research Center of the Ministry of Science, Research, and Technology,” he was quoted as saying on February 4 by the semiofficial Mehr news agency.

Iran had two failed satellite launches in January and February of last year and a third attempt later in the year resulted in the explosion of a rocket on the launch pad.

But Azari Jahromi said on Twitter on February 3 that Tehran was not afraid of failure and that “we will not lose hope” of having a successful space program.

Do Monkeys Get Space Suits?

Iran does have a recent history of sending creatures into orbit, much to the consternation of animal-rights activists around the world.

In 2010, a Kavoshgar-3 rocket was launched by Iran with a rodent, two turtles, and several worms into suborbital space and they reportedly returned to Earth alive.

A Kavoshgar-5 carrying a monkey was launched into suborbital space in 2011 but it was said to have failed, though there was no information about the unidentified monkey on board.

Iran sent another monkey up on a Pishgam capsule two years later that it said was successful. However, no timing or location of the launch was ever announced, leaving many to doubt it had taken place. A second monkey, named Fargam, was said to have made a similar trip into suborbital space nearly a year later.

Iran’s planned satellite launch this week comes amid heightened tensions with the United States, which has accused the Islamic republic of using its space program as a cover for missile development.

Iranian officials maintain their space activities do not violate United Nations resolutions and that there is no international law prohibiting such a program.

Tensions between Tehran and Washington have increased since the withdrawal of the United States from the 2015 nuclear deal in May 2018 and the reimposition of sanctions that have devastated Iran’s economy.

In early January, the United States assassinated Iran’s top military commander, Qasem Soleimani, in a drone attack. Tehran retaliated a few days later by launching a missile strike on Iraqi bases housing U.S. troops.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

Lists

6 reasons why soldiers hate on the Navy

The military community is huge on rivalry and houses some of the most inventive d*ck-measuring contests ever imagined. Each branch is currently and forever waging a friendly war with one another that shows no signs of stopping — not that we’d want it to.


We hate on each other for various reasons, but at the end of the day — we’re still on the same side. Do not get it twisted. If we didn’t mock our brothers and sisters, how would they know that we love them? Think of it more like healthy competition than bad blood.

We Are The Mighty is made up of members from all branches of service. This time around, it’s a soldier ribbing his fellow sailor counterparts. Upset? Wait until your retort comes around. Argue in the comment section and maybe you’ll bring up good snap-backs.

Related: 6 reasons why Marines hate on the Air Force

With the upcoming Army-Navy football game, now’s the time to break out the salt on those squids.

6. You guys are heroes during fleet week. We just show up drunk at Hooters.

Everyone wants to roll out the red carpets when you guys get drunk, but when we do, there’s a company-wide recall because the FNG got a DUI off-post.

And the only ‘free’ stuff we get is a ride to the police station. (Photos by Spc. Adam Parent and Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Amanda Chavez)

5. In-country deployments versus at-sea deployments.

I mean, we get it: 7th Fleet is supposedly terrible. Want to know what else sucks? Damn near everything about Iraq and Afghanistan. Just know that your ships have mess decks instead of CONEXes filled with expired MREs.

Yeah! You show that water who’s boss! (Photos by Sgt. Kandi Huggins and Staff Sgt. Dengrier M. Baez)

4. If you’re not a fake Marine Seabee or Corpsman, we don’t know who the hell you are.

We’re constantly working with airmen because they’re our taxis. We constantly work with Marines because they’re cool. I mean, technically there’s got to be at least a few soldiers who run into a sailor while on active duty, but that’s rare.

There’s another rivalry between Medics and Corpsmen, but that’s not my beef. They’re all cool in my book. (Photos by Maj. W. Chris Clyne and Lance Cpl. Patrick Osino)

3. Seabees get better toys while on actual in-country deployments.

On the subject of Seabees, if you don’t know, Seabees are kind of like construction workers. They get actual supplies and use actual tools to build actual buildings. Want to know what we get? Sandbags. And we get to use them like floppy Lego blocks.

We might get plywood, but if we do, it’s always used by that guy who says he knows how to build. He doesn’t. (Photos by Spc. Leith Edgar and Petty Officer 1st Class Patrick Gordon)

2. We see them only as glorified sea-taxi drivers for their cooler sibling (Marines).

We use the Air Force when we’re trying to Uber the hell out of Afghanistan — and they do the same for the Marines and the fake Marines. Shy of launching a few missiles (which every branch does — there’s nothing special about your Tomahawks), your entire purpose is to deliver Marines as if terrorists ordered them on Amazon Prime.

Besides, we like our air taxis better. (Photos by Spc. Cheyenne Shouse and Petty Officer 3rd Class Jonathan R Clay)

1. How the hell did we lose the “drinking and cussing like a sailor” sayings to a bunch of beach-volleyball players that dress like anime schoolgirls?

Have a conversation with an soldier and they’ll use a expletives like a f*cking comma. Catch them out of uniform and they’ll have a bottle of something in their hands. Those sayings should be ours! But no, they go to you guys even though…

Lightning round: …your crackerjacks are silly. Your blueberries are pointless. We won’t ever let you live down Top Gun. The “100 sailors” joke will never stop being funny. Nearly your entire branch is made up of POGs. You literally call you lower enlisted “seamen.” You ruined Godsmack. And d*mm*t are we still jealous that your SEALs popped OBL instead of our Green Berets.

But you know what? We’ve got nothing but love for you sailors. You did give the world the Sky Dick, after all. (Photos by Staff Sgt. Cashmere Jefferson and Jay Pugh)

*Bonus* We’re still upset about those 14 years of Army / Navy games.

Go Army. Beat Navy. Let’s kick their asses for 13 more years and see how they like it.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US Airstrikes to Continue in Syria Against ISIS

U.S. forces have continued air and artillery strikes in Syria against Islamic State targets and will conduct them indefinitely despite President Donald Trump’s announcement Dec. 19, 2018, that U.S. troops would withdraw from the country, the U.S. military regional command said Jan. 4, 2019.

In a release, Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR) said that U.S. and coalition forces conducted 469 strikes with either air or artillery in Syria between Dec.16 and Dec. 29, 2018, against a range of ISIS targets and in support of the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in northeastern Syria.


The strikes were carried out using a variety of platforms, including fighters, attack aircraft, bombers, rotary-wing and remotely piloted aircraft, rocket-propelled artillery and ground-based tactical artillery, the task force said.

There is no immediate cutoff date for the air and artillery strikes, CJTF-OIR said.

U.S. forces “will continue to target ISIS” and “will remain committed to the enduring defeat of ISIS to improve conditions for peace and stability in the region,” the release stated.

In addition to the U.S. and coalition strikes, Iraqi fighter aircraft have also attacked ISIS targets inside Syria in recent days.

Iraq’s Joint Operations Command in Baghdad said Dec. 31, 2018, that Iraqi F-16s hit a house near the Iraqi border that was being used for meetings by ISIS leaders. The attack Dec. 31, 2018, came a day after Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said he had no objections to Iraqi cross-border strikes that were limited to the remnants of ISIS in eastern Syria.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Commanders of the SDF, which has driven ISIS out of most of eastern Syria, initially charged that Trump’s withdrawal announcement amounted to a betrayal that would leave them prey to threatened attack by Turkey, but SDF fighters have continued to press the offensive against ISIS near the Iraqi border, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group.

Turkey considers the Kurdish YPG (People’s Protection Units), the main fighting force within the SDF, to be linked to the PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party), which has been labeled a terrorist group by the U.S., Turkey and the European Union.

In another sign that the U.S. is continuing to support the SDF, the Observatory said Jan. 4, 2019, that U.S. troops were conducting patrols in the flashpoint town of Manbij in northeastern Syria near the Turkish border. Turkey has demanded that elements of the SDF in Manbij leave the town and withdraw east of the Euphrates River.

Since his withdrawal announcement, which prompted the resignation of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Trump has repeatedly backed up his intention to bring home U.S. troops from Syria, but said the withdrawal would be “slow and coordinated.”

Former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.

(DOD photo by Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)

At a White House Cabinet meeting Jan 2, 2019, Trump said, “We’ve had a tremendous success in Syria and “we’re slowly bringing people back.”

He added, “We are doing something that, frankly, if I would have told you two years [ago], when we first came into office, that we would have had that kind of success, nobody would have believed it.”

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Air Force will double its foreign combat aviation advisors

The U.S. Air Force plans to double the number of Combat Aviation Advisors it sends to train partners on special operations missions at a time when the Defense Department’s footprint in austere environments has come under scrutiny.

Under guidance in the National Defense Strategy, Air Force Special Operations Command is preparing to grow each of its teams, developing a planned total of 352 total force integration advisors over the next few years, officials said. The CAA mission, under Special Operations Command, has about half that now.


“This is really a second line of effort for [Defense] Secretary [Jim] Mattis,” said Lt. Col. Steve Hreczkosij, deputy director of Air Advisor operations at AFSOC.

Military.com spoke with Combat Aviation Advisors here during a trip to the base in May 2018, accompanying Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson.

“This is AFSOC’s foreign internal defense force,” Hreczkosij said, referring to the U.S. mission to provide support to other governments fighting internal threats such as terrorists, lawlessness or drug activity.

The goal is to sustain five year-round advisory sites around the world by fiscal 2023, Hreczkosij said.

“That might mean five countries, that might mean five major lines of effort … but that is our resourcing strategy goal to influence five locations,” he said.

An elite unit

The expansion comes at a time when the U.S. military is operating in smaller teams in remote regions of the world such as Africa and Southeast Asia. But the move doesn’t necessarily indicate plans to work in additional countries and the idea isn’t to make the force permanent.

Still, officials know it takes time to train partners and allies, such as the Afghan National Security Forces, who are employing A-29 Super Tucano light attack aircraft as well as Pilatus PC-12NG planes converted into intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platforms.

Four A-29 Super Tucanos arrive at Hamid Karzai International Airport, Afghanistan, Jan. 15, 2016.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Sgt. Nathan Lipscomb)

While Air Combat Command and Air Mobility Command work with partner nations in similar ways, Combat Aviation Advisors are the U.S. military’s most advanced team to train foreign partners battling tough scenarios, said Lt. Col. Cheree Kochen, who is assigned to the Irregular Warfare Plans division at the Air Force Special Operations Warfare Center.

That’s why their mission is unlike the basic training Afghan and Lebanese pilots get learning how to fly the A-29 Super Tucano at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, Kochen said.

“This is the advanced flying — flying on night-vision goggles, airdrop, infiltration and exfiltration” as well as intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, she said.

“We are authorized to get in partner nation aircraft and fly on their missions,” Hreczkosij said. “We integrate, we embed. We live in their squadron building. Our approach is an enduring and integrated approach to make sure they really embed this technique, mission or equipment into how they do business.”

The air commando unit also sets the agenda for how host nation troops should learn and equip themselves based on U.S. and host nation goals.

“We also do security force assistance, which is kind of the catch-all term for mil-to-mil partnerships,” Hreczkosij said. “We provide that last tactical mile.”

The support is “about SOF mobility, ISR advising and armed reconnaissance. We’re certainly not dropping bombs,” he said, adding, “it’s not an attacking sort of mission. It’s more of a ‘target of opportunity,’ then you can see it.”

Why not contractors?

Not all partnerships are the same. NATO special operations forces and those in more austere environments vary in training, skill level and mission set, officials said.

Countries CAA troops regularly deal with include Afghanistan, Cameroon, Uganda, Kenya, Mauritania, Mali, Tunisia, Chad, and the Philippines.

“We don’t care what type of airplane our partners are flying,” Hreczkosij said.

The unit is, however, looking to acquire more C-208s, dubbed AC-208s when equipped with Hellfire missiles, here at Hurlburt to practice on and or take as trainer aircraft to countries eager to build a force of their own.

AGM-114N Hellfire missile
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Weston A. Mohr)

The unit commonly uses PC-6, C-208 and PC-12NG ISR aircraft; C-145/M-28, BT-67 and C-308 mobility aircraft; and AT-802, AC-235, and AC-208 armed recon aircraft.

Kochen said an upcoming project includes operations in Nepal, in which advisers are taking C-145 Skytrucks retired from nearby Duke Field in Florida and giving members maintenance training before aerial operations begin.

It isn’t uncommon for contractors to have a role in host nation troops’ basic pilot training either in the U.S. or overseas, she said.

But using contractors lacks “the integrated piece. It’s why we try to partner with a ground SOF unit so we can tie the two together. Contractors don’t necessarily have those relationships with the ground SOF that we do,” Kochen said.

Hreczkosij agreed. “Contractors aren’t in the current fight, so they don’t get the current [tactics, techniques, and procedures] with other forces in the field, and they don’t always have the trust of the partner nation,” he said. “If I’m sitting across from, say, an airman in sub-Saharan Africa … and we’re both wearing a uniform, we have a common understanding.”

Without naming the region, Kochen discussed a case in which contractors were overly bullish about their training, sometimes anticipating that the foreign trainees could learn faster on an aircraft than they actually could. It’s led to a few crashes in recent years because “the country was doing tactics that were a little bit dangerous for them for their skill level,” she said.

Hreczkosij added, “There’s a place for contractors. It’s just not in this place.”

Standing on their own

AFSOC’s 6th Special Operations Squadron, along with the Reserve’s 711th Special Operations Squadron out of Duke Field, make up the only Combat Aviation Advisor mission in the Air Force.

There are 16 Air Force Specialty Codes within the mission, including instructors, pilots, maintainers, and Tactical Air Control Party airmen, among others. Team members can speak more than a dozen different languages.

While the job dates back to World War II, the unit’s true genesis dates to Vietnam, Hreczkosij said, when the 4400th Combat Crew Training Squadron was dispatched to Southeast Asia to train the Vietnamese and Cambodian air forces to leverage older aircraft in counter-insurgency and military assistance during the war.

B-26B over Vietnam.

It wasn’t until the 1990s when the Air Force would again start using air commandos as a foreign internal defense force for operations across the globe.

Both Hreczkosij and Kochen were part of the 6th SOS before moving to the Air Force Special Operations Warfare Center headquarters and have been in the mission for more than a decade.

Kochen said CAAs want to work with as many countries as they can, but are turning away work due to demand.

“We get a long list, and we can only do one-third of what we’re being asked to do,” she said.

The dwell-deployment rate, however, is on par with the Air Force’s current deployment schedule, Hreczkosij said, adding the units are not overtasked at this time.

Kochen reiterated that their work goes only so far before the foreign partner has to step in and take over. “There’s no point in sending guys over” to a country they’ve been working with for a while, such as Afghanistan, because “our guys would only be getting in their way,” she said, referring to training the Afghan Special Mission Wing on PC-12NG ISR operations.

“Thirty months later here, they are doing 15 sorties per day and night, providing a combat effect to the organic larger Afghan air force,” Hreczkosij said of the Afghan ISR unit.

“They’re able to give their guys check rides without us being there anymore,” Kochen said. “We give them a capability that we can just leave and hopefully they can just fight their own wars.

“That’s the goal. That we don’t have to send U.S. forces over there. The goal is to set up a sustaining, capable unit that can continue doing that same mission,” she said.

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