Tag Archives: US Air Force

Candidate touts military heroics?

(AP Photo/Eric Gay)

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

I’ve been stewing about this ever since I saw the ad the first time a couple of weeks ago, so now I will vent just a bit.

M.J. Hegar is running for the U.S. Senate in Texas occupied by John Cornyn. She defeated state Sen. Royce West of Dallas in a Democratic Party primary runoff for the right to challenge the Republican incumbent.

But I think she’s treading into an off-putting campaign strategy, one in which she seems to boast about her own military service in Afghanistan. She talks about her time as an Air Force helicopter pilot, about being shot down and then kind of crows about being awarded a Silver Star and Purple Heart for her actions on the battlefield.

I don’t begrudge Hegar’s service. I honor it and I respect it greatly. I do, though, believe it is unbecoming for her to seemingly boast about her service in a paid political ad. That is the kind of commentary that should be left for others to say on her behalf. Those who perform heroically in combat customarily are reluctant to talk about such deeds.

Yes, other political candidates have run for office after serving with valor and heroism on the battlefield. I don’t recall hearing them — speaking in their own voice — seemingly boast about it.

I don’t believe I am alone in feeling this way.

Bad call, Ms. Hegar.

Still opposed to Space Force

Count me as remaining opposed to the creation of a new military branch of service, called Space Force.

It’s an idea cooked up by the Donald Trump administration. Its aim is to put more resources and effort into ensuring the United States retains its dominance in space.

The more I think of Space Force’s relevance, the more I am inclined to compare it — odd as it might seem — to the notion of constables here in Texas. We have municipal police departments and county sheriff’s departments, along with the Texas Department of Public Safety enforcing the law. We also have elected constables, politicians who get to carry guns and wear badges who also enforce the law. They don’t make sense to me.

Back to Space Force … another add-on military agency.

It will be administered as a branch of the Air Force; the arrangement reminds of the Marine Corps being part of the Navy. The head of Space Force is likely to be the current commander of the Air Force’s Space Command.

My point is a straightforward one: The Air Force already has a stout and stellar Space Command that does a marvelous job of ensuring our security from potential attack from outer space. The existence of Space Force seems to be a sort of political plaything concocted by a commander in chief responding to an idea he might have heard on the golf links at Mar-a-Lago.

It might work, but only if the Pentagon brass keeps it under the Air Force’s command.

The United States is by far the world’s pre-eminent space power and I am one American who has faith that the Air Force will maintain that standing.

Space Force: It’s back and it’s still a dumb idea

I cannot believe they’re talking yet again about forming another military branch, this one based in outer space.

On second thought, yes I can believe it.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, is pitching the goofy idea one more time. He says we need a “space force” to protect us against pirates who’ll attack us from beyond our atmosphere.

Oh, please help me. Give me strength.

How many times must we say this? The United States already has a military branch — several of them, actually — committed to defending us from outer space attack.

The U.S. Air Force has a Space Command led by a four-star general. The U.S. Navy also has dedicated qualified personnel to monitor the great beyond from ships at sea as well as at naval air stations positioned around the world. The U.S. Army has long deployed units committed to high-tech air defenses.

What in the world are talking about here?

The proposed U.S. Space Force is redundant. It is duplicative of tasks already being done.

The Space Force idea does have its fans. Elon Musk, the Tesla and SpaceX guru, is all in. “It’s cool,” he said, to have a Space Force, noting that they scoffed in the 1940s when the Air Force was split off from the Army.

Donald Trump wants to create this force as a national security matter. He signed a directive calling for additional study of the issue.

Whatever. A Space Force is still a nutty notion.

We do not need to form yet another military service branch. I’m tellin’ ya, the military we have on duty at this time — the most potent fighting force in human history — is quite capable of defending us against space pirates.

But, Secretary Perry, are transgender warriors less brave?

Rick Perry says he is in total support of Donald John Trump’s decision to bar transgender Americans from serving in the armed forces.

Of course he is. He’s part of the Trump team now. The president forgave Perry for labeling Trump a “cancer on conservativism.” His reward was to appoint him secretary of energy.

Perry, though, weighed in on the president’s tweet that became a major policy reversal. Trump declared: “After consultation with my generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States government will not accept or allow … transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. military,” Trump tweeted. “Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming … victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption.”

The president, though, didn’t talk to all of the generals. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Joseph Dunford declared that all personnel would be treated with “respect,” and that no policy changes would be enacted until the order came from the defense secretary. It’s that thing called “chain of command” that has given Gen. Dunford pause.

As for Perry’s support of Trump’s decision, he said the government shouldn’t have to pay for surgeries in which personnel change their sexual identity. Reporters reminded him that studies showed the cost of such procedures amounts to about 10 percent of the money the government pays to provide medicine that cures erectile dysfunction.

Perry’s response? “I don’t check out the cost of Viagra.” Yuk, yuk …

Neither the president or his energy secretary, though, have yet to produce any evidence that transgender military personnel are less capable than any other of their comrades in arms. Nor have they have provided proof that they are less patriotic, less loyal or that they don’t love their country as much as anyone.

The president has used Twitter to make a policy pronouncement without considering for a moment what it means. I would have expected better from the secretary of energy — himself an Air Force veteran — if not the know-nothing commander in chief.

This story just keeps getting better

Consider this item to be the “gift that keeps on giving.”

It involves a teenage girl from Mississippi and a U.S. Air Force pararescue jumper who became acquainted at a time of intense national tragedy: Hurricane Katrina.

LaShay Brown was struggling to escape Katrina’s wrath in New Orleans in September 2005. Airman Michael Maroney rescued her from the torrent. The picture of them embracing after the rescue went viral.

They reconnected a decade or so later. They have remained BFFs ever since that reunion.

LaShay is now 14 years of age; Maroney is set to retire from the Air Force. But they have a date to keep. LaShay has invited the man who saved her life to her junior ROTC ball in Waveland, Miss., where she now lives with her family.

Maroney says LaShay saved his life too. Her embrace of him that day meant the world to the young airman.


The above link is of a blog I posted in 2015 of the two getting reconnected. It warmed my heart then to read of the initial rescue and of Maroney’s efforts to catch up with the little girl he pulled from Katrina’s wrath.

The idea that he now would be the girl’s “date” at an ROTC ball warms my ticker even more.

“I am proud of her no matter what she does and will support her in everything she does,” Maroney says. “I think she understands service and I believe that she will do great things no matter what she chooses.”

Hearing of this upcoming event makes my day.

So much to challenge in Trump’s message


Whatever rhetorical concoction Donald J. Trump is peddling to those who’ve swilled it has been lost on me.

I’m trying to sort through the myriad reasons I detest the Republicans’ presumptive presidential nominee.

I’ve come up with a clear “winner.” It’s that ball cap he wears that bears the message “Make America Great Again.”

You’ve heard the mantra. The United States of America is a loser. Other countries are beating us up on trade. The people who run our government are incompetent. The nation is no longer great. Foreign leaders laugh at us. Our enemies no longer fear us.

Let’s process that for a moment.

Of all the interest groups that Trump has offended with his insults — Hispanics, African-Americans, women, veterans, disabled people — can there be a larger group than, say, the entire nation of 300-plus million citizens?


Just think about this. What the Republicans’ next presidential nominee is saying is that we no longer are a great nation. Haven’t the president’s foes — chiefly Republicans — chided him because he allegedly believes we aren’t an “exceptional nation”? Now their next nominee for president is saying essentially that that — and more. He’s proclaiming that we no longer are a great nation.

My wife, brother-in-law and I attended an air show this weekend at Cannon Air Force Base in Clovis, N.M. I realize a single public address announcer doesn’t speak for a nation, but the young man trumpeting the Air Force Thunderbirds aerial team kept referring to the Air Force as the world’s world greatest military force … and that it is part of a larger establishment that contributes to our national greatness.

At every level I can imagine, I consider the United States to be a great nation. As a patriot and a loyal American, I consider my country to be the greatest nation on Earth.

Trump’s ball cap says precisely the opposite.

Tell me again: Why isn’t every American offended by the message this guy is peddling?


These guys know how to handle the stick


CANNON AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. — Indulge me for a moment or two.

I’m such a sap.

I’ve traveled to 20-some countries around the world; I’ve visited 47 of the 50 states; I’ve shaken hands with some of the most interesting and famous people of our time; I’ve flown over the top of an erupting volcano; I’ve endured a tailhook landing and a catapult takeoff from an aircraft carrier.

My life has been an adventure.

Still, today I welled up as I saluted the six young pilots who taxied past us as they prepared to take off on a demonstration of aerial acrobatics the likes of which I’d never seen.

My wife, her brother and I went to see the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds today. The event took my breath away as we watched them do what they do with astonishing precision. Cannon AFB had its annual air show today, the highlight of which was the Thunderbirds exhibition.

For nearly an hour they flew past us, making incredibly steep climbs, rolling their aircraft as they zoomed past us at about 600 mph.

Up and down they flew — from every direction and occasionally at once.

I took a couple of thoughts away from this experience today … other than the obvious one about how proud I am of these young aviators and the amazing teams that work with them. As one with a smattering of aviation experience myself — owing to my service in the Army many decades ago — I appreciate and understand the work that the maintenance crews and the assorted ground-based staffers must do to make all this work.

How do these aviators practice to do what they do? I understand fully that these individuals don’t strap themselves into the cockpit of these F-16 Fighting Falcons without first training many thousands of hours. I’m still struck, though, by the idea of practicing for these close-order fly-bys.

How do these pilots maintain such laser focus?  On occasion I wonder about the psychological profile of those who are trained to fly high-performance aircraft. Just maintaining one’s focus in combat conditions would be daunting enough. These pilots all have combat experience, according to the public address announcer. Their focus must be intensified by some staggering multiplier in order to fly these birds with such precision — and so damn close to each other!

The flight line today was full of spectators just like us, marveling at what they saw.

Some hours later, after a 90-minute drive home from Clovis, N.M., my head is still spinning at what we just witnessed.

These young individuals should make us all proud.

Now I’m wondering … how can we get to watch the Navy’s Blue Angels? I understand they’re pretty good, too.

‘Rolling Thunder 2.0’ … perhaps?


Bring on the B-52s.

The Pentagon has deployed an unspecified number of the Cold War-era strategic bombers to Qatar to take part in the fight against the Islamic State.

The brass says the aircraft bring “multi-platform” forms of firepower to rein down on the terrorists. The Air Force describes the weaponry as precise and finely tuned to hit military targets.

Good to hear!

The B-52 remains one of the U.S. Air Force’s most potent weapons. It went into operation in the 1950s and has gone through several upgrades over the decades.

It poured thousands of tons of ordnance on North Vietnamese and Viet Cong targets during the Vietnam War. The planes played a key role in softening up Iraqi troop positions during the Persian Gulf War in 1990-91.

Now the Islamic State is about to feel the wrath of a weapon that our nation’s enemies always have feared on the battlefield.

My very first visual sight of the Vietnam War occurred as I peered out the window of a jetliner en route to Bien Hoa, South Vietnam in the spring of 1969. I looked down and saw a flight of the big birds flying out over the ocean after, I presume, completing a bombing run over South Vietnam.

Once I settled in at our Army aviation base near Da Nang, I could hear the thunder to our west as the planes fulfilled their mission. It was music to our ears, but it meant something quite different to those on the receiving end.

I welcome the news of the B-52 coming back into active wartime duty. I’m quite certain the terrorists who are about to find themselves on the receiving end of some serious pain will not.


Keep flying, B-52

The Air Force wants to upgrade its B-52 bomber fleet. My hunch is that the bird will be performing missions for the United States until hell freezes over … meaning forever.


Have you ever noticed the absence of the term “aging” when referring to the B-52? It’s been operational for more than 50 years and is still performing the mission for which it was built, which is to inflict heavy damage on enemy forces.

I actually have a B-52 story.

My story is brief, but fascinating — at least for me.

I was en route to Vietnam in March 1969. My TWA charter jetliner had departed from Oakland, Calif., with stops in Honolulu and Okinawa. We left Okinawa and were headed to Bien Hoa airport in South Vietnam.

As we approached the coast of Vietnam not long after dawn, I peered down from my window seat and saw plainly below us a formation of B-52s heading in the opposite direction. They were painted in jungle camouflage colors — as if that would make them more difficult to spot from the ground? I don’t know their destination, but I’m presuming it was perhaps to Guam, where the Air Force ran a huge bomber base during the Vietnam War.

We continued on and I saw bomb craters all over the landscape as we started our descent into Bien Hoa. I cannot attest that B-52s created the craters, but I’m guessing it’s a good bet they did.

That was 44 years ago. The B-52s hadn’t been in service all that long.

I would hear the big birds at work once I reported to my post at Marble Mountain, just south of Da Nang. I took comfort then as a young soldier in the constant rumbling we would hear on the other side of the mountains.

The LA Times reports that the fleet is about a tenth of the size it was during the B-52s’ heyday. Still, the Air Force wants to keep them in service. I’m not betting on anyone grounding the remaining B-52s any time soon.