A US Air Force general is facing court-martial for the first time ever. He has been charged with sexual assault

U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. William T. Cooley
U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. William T. Cooley

  • A US Air Force general is being court-martialed for the first time in the history of the service.
  • The charge is linked to allegations of sexual assault against a civilian during a 2018 off-duty incident.
  • The Air Force said it is unclear at this time when the court-martial will take place.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A US Air Force two-star general is facing court-martial in a first for the Air Force, the service said Wednesday.

A sexual assault charge against Air Force Maj. Gen. William Cooley, former commander of the Air Force Research Laboratory, has been referred to court-martial, Air Force Materiel Command said in a statement.

“After a comprehensive review of all of the evidence from the investigation and the Article 32 preliminary hearing, I’ve informed Maj. Gen. Cooley of my decision to move his case to general court-martial,” Gen. Arnold Bunch, the AFMC commander, said.

“I can assure you this was not a decision made lightly, but I believe it was the right decision,” he added.

The sexual assault charge against the general is tied to an off-duty incident in 2018 in which Cooley allegedly made undesired sexual advances, specifically kissing and touching, toward a civilian woman in New Mexico, the Air Force said.

Cooley was fired from his position at the research lab in January of last year following an investigation into the incident, and he was charged under the Uniformed Code of Military Justice last November following further review. The case then proceeded to an Article 32 hearing in February, and now the general is headed to a court-martial.

Air Force Materiel Command spokesman Derek Kaufman, as well as the Air Force public affairs office, confirmed to Insider that this was the first time in Air Force history a general officer has faced this type of trial.

The Air Force emphasized in its statement on the decision to proceed to court-martial that just as is true for civilian trials, Cooley is presumed innocent until proven guilty. Insider was unable to reach Cooley’s legal team for comment.

The decision to refer Cooley to court-martial were first reported by Military.com.

Cooley is not the first Air Force general officer to face allegations of sexual misconduct, but none of those cases moved to a general court-martial. The Air Force declined to speculate on why this case is moving forward when others did not.

Retired Air Force Lt. Col. Rachel VanLandingham, a former judge advocate who now teaches law, told Task & Purpose in November that general officers “don’t want to prosecute each other because it’s this old boy chummy network.” But that could be changing.

President Joe Biden’s secretary of defense, retired four-star general Lloyd Austin, has made combating sexual assault in the military a priority. One of his first acts after taking office was to order a review of how the military handles these kinds of cases.

As for Cooley’s case, “the Air Force trial judiciary will identify a senior military judge and coordinate timing and venue for the court-martial proceeding,” the Air Force explained, adding that “jurors, or court members, must either be officers of higher rank, or equivalent grade but with an earlier date of rank to the accused.”

Air Force public affairs officials told Insider that it is currently unclear exactly when the court-martial will take place.

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15 common phrases civilians stole from the US military

Marine Corps vehicle radio convoy Pendleton
A Marine motor transport operator talks to vehicle commanders during convoy training at Camp Pendleton, California, January 16, 2019.

1. ‘Balls to the walls’ (also, ‘Going balls out’)

common

Meaning: To go as fast as one possibly can.

From military aviation where pilots would need to get their aircraft flying as fast as possible. Their control levers had balls on the end. Pushing the accelerator all the way out (“balls out”), would put the ball of the lever against the firewall in the cockpit (“balls to the wall”).

When a pilot really needed to zoom away, they’d also push the control stick all the way forward, sending it into a dive. Obviously, this would put the ball of the control stick all the way out from the pilot and against the firewall.

2. ‘Bite the bullet’

Meaning: To endure pain or discomfort without crying out

Fighters on both sides of the American Civil War used the term “bite the bullet,” but it appears they may have stolen it from the British.

British Army Capt. Francis Grose published the book, “Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue” in 1811 and used “chew the bullet” to explain how proud soldiers stayed silent while being whipped.

3. ‘Boots on the ground’

Air Force boots shoes
US airmen at a change of command ceremony, August 17, 2019.

Meaning: Ground troops engaged in an operation

Credited to Army Gen. Volney Warner, “boots on the ground” is used to mean troops in a combat area or potential combat area.

After the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, the term saw wide use and has ceased to refer exclusively to military operations. It can now be used to refer to any persons sent out to walk the ground in an area. It’s been employed in reference to police officers as well as political canvassers.

4. ‘Bought the farm’

Meaning: To die

Thought to date back to 1950s jet pilots, the phrase quickly spread to civilian circles. There is no clear agreement on exactly how the phrase came about.

It could be from war widows being able to pay off the family farm with life insurance payments, or farmers paying off their farms with the damage payout they’d receive when a pilot crashed on their land, or the pilots who wanted to buy a farm after they retired being said to “buy the farm early” when they died.

5. ‘Caught a lot of flak’

Meaning: To be criticized, especially harshly

Flak is actually an acronym for German air defense cannons. The Germans called the guns Fliegerabwehrkanonen. Flieger means flyer, abwehr means defense, and kanonen means cannon.

Airmen in World War II would have to fly through dangerous clouds of shrapnel created by flak. The phrase progressed in meaning until it became equated with abusive criticism.

6. ‘FUBAR’/’SNAFU’/’TARFU’

Meaning: Everything about the current situation sucks

All three words are acronyms. FUBAR stands for “F—ed up beyond all recognition,” SNAFU is “Situation normal, all f—ed up,” and TARFU is “Things are really f—ed up.” FUBAR and SNAFU have made it into the civilian lexicon, though the F-word in each is often changed to “fouled” to keep from offending listeners.

The Army actually used SNAFU for the name of a cartoon character in World War II propaganda and instructional videos. Pvt. Snafu and his brothers Tarfu and Fubar were voiced by Mel Blanc of Bugs Bunny and Porky the Pig fame.

7. ‘Geronimo’

Usage: Yelled when jumping off of something

“Geronimo” is yelled by jumpers leaping from a great height, but it has military origins.

Paratroopers with the original test platoon at Fort Benning, Georgia yelled the name of the famous Native American chief on their first mass jump. The exclamation became part of airborne culture and the battalion adopted it as their motto.

8. ‘Got your six’

Meaning: Watching your back

Military members commonly describe direction using the hours of a clock. Whichever direction the vehicle, unit, or individual is moving is the 12 o’clock position, so the six o’clock position is to the rear.

“Got your six” and the related “watch your six” come from service members telling each other that their rear is covered or that they need to watch out for an enemy attacking from behind.

9. ‘In the trenches’

trenches

Meaning: Stuck in a drawn out, tough fight.

Troops defending a position will dig trenches to use as cover during an enemy attack, reducing the chance they’ll be injured by shrapnel or enemy rounds.

In World War I, most of the war occurred along a series of trenches that would flip ownership as one army attacked another. So, someone engaged in fierce fighting, even metaphorical fighting, is “in the trenches.”

10. ‘No man’s land’

Meaning: Dangerous ground or a topic that it is dangerous to discuss

“No man’s land” was widely used by soldiers to describe the area between opposing armies in their trenches in World War I. It was then morphed to describe any area that it was dangerous to stray into or even topics of conversation that could anger another speaker.

However, this is one case where civilians borrowed a military phrase that the military had stolen from civilians. “No man’s land” was popularized in the trenches of the Great War, but it dates back to the 14th-century England when it was used on maps to denote a burial ground.

11. ‘Nuclear option’

Meaning: A choice to destroy everything rather than give in on a debate or contest

Used most publicly while discussing fillibusters in the Senate, the nuclear option has its roots in – what else – nuclear warfare.

In the Cold War, military leaders would give the commander-in-chief options for the deployment and use of nuclear weapons from nuclear artillery to thermonuclear bombs.

In the era of brinksmanship, use of nuclear weapons by the Soviets or the US would likely have ended in widespread destruction across both nations.

12. ‘On the double’

Army Special Forces Green Berets
Candidates at the US Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School carry a telephone pole on a ruck march as part of Special Forces Assessment and Selection, March 12, 2020.

Meaning: Quickly, as fast as possible

Anyone who has run in a military formation will recognize the background of “on the double.”

“Quick time” is the standard marching pace for troops, and “double time” is twice that pace, meaning the service member is running. Doing something “on the double” is moving at twice the normal speed while completing the task.

13. ‘On the frontlines’

Meaning: In the thick of a fight, argument, or movement

Like nuclear option, this one is pretty apparent. The front line of a military force is made up of the military units closest to a potential or current fight.

Troops on the frontline spend most days defending against or attacking enemy forces. People who are “on the frontlines” of other struggles like political movements or court trials are fighting against the other side every day.

This is similar in usage and origin to “in the trenches” above.

14. ‘Roger that’

Meaning: Yes

This one is pretty common knowledge, though not all civilians may know why the military says, “Roger that,” rather than “yes.” Under the old NATO phonetic alphabet, the letter R was pronounced, “Roger” on the radio.

Radio operators would say, “Roger,” to mean that a message had been properly received. The meaning evolved until “roger” meant “yes.” Today, the NATO phonetic alphabet says, “Romeo,” in place of R, but “roger” is still used to mean a message was received.

15. ‘Screw the pooch’

US Army soldiers RPG rocket propelled grenade
US soldiers conduct foreign weapons training at Ft. Benning, Georgia, October 25, 2017.

Meaning: To bungle something badly

“Screw the pooch” was originally an even racier phrase, f-ck the dog. It meant to loaf around or procrastinate. However, by 1962 it was also being used to mean that a person had bungled something.

Now, it is more commonly used with the latter definition.

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A US F-15C fighter jet recently fired the longest air-to-air missile ‘kill’ shot in Air Force history

F-15C fires missile at Eglin Air Force Base
An F-15C fires a missile near Eglin Air Force Base in Florida.

  • A US Air Force F-15C scored the longest “kill” shot ever recorded in a recent test.
  • The fighter took out a BQ-167 aerial target drone in March at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida.
  • The Air Force did not disclose the distance, as that information could be valuable to adversaries.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A US Air Force F-15C Eagle fighter fired the longest known air-to-air “kill” shot to date in a recent test, the service said Wednesday.

The fighter fired an AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM) at a BQ-167 target drone and scored a “kill” from the farthest distance ever recorded during testing at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida in March, the 53rd Wing said in a statement.

US  Air Force F-15Cs
US Air Force F-15Cs.

The wing did not say exactly what the distance was, as that information could be valuable to adversaries, particularly given ongoing efforts by US rivals to develop long-range air-to-air missiles for improved standoff in air-to-air combat.

The weapon that was fired during the testing last month was an AIM-120D, the latest version of an all-weather, beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile that first entered service in the early 1990s, a wing spokesperson told Insider.

It is unclear if the weapon or aircraft involved in the test were modified in any way.

The Air Force plans to eventually replace the AMRAAM with a weapon called the AIM-260 Joint Advanced Tactical Missile, a longer-range air-to-air missile expected to be able to better compete with some of the systems developed by US rivals, such as China’s PL-15 missile.

The Air Force is also pursuing other lines of effort as America’s competitors do the same.

A US Air Force F-16 firing an AIM-120 AMRAAM over the gulf near Eglin AFB
A US Air Force F-16 fires an AIM-120 AMRAAM over the Gulf of Mexico near Eglin Air Force Base.

The aircraft used to launch the missile is a venerable combat platform that has served the US Air Force for decades. An F-15 has never been shot down in air-to-air combat, according to the Air Force.

But the average age of the Air Force’s legacy F-15C/D fighters is almost 40 years, and about 75% of the fleet is flying past its service life.

The Air Force intends to steadily replace all of these fighter aircraft with either the fifth-generation F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter or the advanced fourth-generation F-15 Eagle II, previously known as the F-15EX. The service received its first new Eagle in March.

Air Force F-15EX fighter jet
The F-15EX, the Air Force’s newest fighter, arrives at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, March 11, 2021.

The long-range “kill” shot by a legacy F-15 in March was part of efforts to develop “long range kill chain” capabilities.

The test was carried out by the 28th Test and Evaluation Squadron in partnership with the 83rd Fighter Weapons Squadron.

The test “exercised existing long-range weapons testing infrastructure and laid the ground work for modernizing range capabilities in support of future long-range weapons testing on the Eglin-Gulf Test and Training Range,” the 53rd Wing said in its statement.

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How the world’s largest airplane boneyard stores and regenerates 3,100 retired aircraft

Following is a description of the video:

Narrator: The 309th AMARG stores the world’s largest collection of military aircraft here in the Arizona desert.

Col. Jennifer Barnard: I like to call this the ugliest plane out here, the YC-14. It was an aircraft that never went into production.

Narrator: Eight hundred mechanics work nonstop, reclaiming critical old parts and regenerating aircraft so they can go back into service.

Barnard: I can’t just pull over an airplane like you can a car. And we have to make sure that these aircraft are safe to fly. Our goal is not to be like a cemetery for the aircraft.

Narrator: That’s Col. Barnard. She’s served 25 years as a US Air Force Aircraft Maintenance Officer.

Barnard: As a commander here, I am in charge of the whole operation. The assets stored here are worth somewhere between $34 billion and $35 billion, if you were to try to replace them all. It’s a big number.

Narrator: She took us inside this massive facility to see how these military planes get a second chance at life. AMARG got its start back in 1946. After World War II, the Army needed a place to store old planes. They chose Davis-Monthan Air Force Base here in Tucson. With nearly 2,000 football fields worth of open desert, there was plenty of space.

Barnard: We’re known worldwide as the boneyard. Our guys take pride in being boneyard wranglers.

Narrator: Arizona has the perfect weather for storing these assets. It’s hot, there’s little rainfall, no humidity, and the soil?

Barnard: It’s as hard as concrete.

Narrator: So planes won’t sink.

Barnard: The dryness, as well as the lack of acidity in the soil, prevent corrosion on the assets.

Narrator: Aircraft come here from the Department of defense, military, other government agencies, and froeign allies.

Barnard: We have about 3,100 airplanes. The planes are mostly military. They come from the Air Force, the Navy, the Army, and the Marines. We have over 80 different types of airplanes here.

Narrator: Planes and helicopters arrive and are lined up in sections.

Barnard: So we’re driving down display row here, or celebrity row as some people call it. We do have a sense of humor here. That’s our stealth aircraft, which is actually just Wonder Woman’s jet. The LC-130s have skis along with their landing gear so they can land down in Antarctica and support the National Science Foundation all across that continent. We’re coming up on a NASA aircraft. It’s affectionately called the vomit comet.

Narrator: Some aircraft will be here for weeks before they’re called back into service. Other aircraft can be here for 50 years, similar to this A-4 Skyhawk. Each plane goes through a preservation process before it’s put in the desert. Those that may fly again are re-preserved every four years. They’re defueled, then oil is pumped through the engine to preserve it.

Barnard: The black material that we have on here is the base layer that seals up the aircraft. And then later, as you can see, the rest of the aircraft around here, the coats on top are white. And those white coats will reflect the heat so it better preserves the assets all on the inside of the aircraft.

Narrator: Like the inside of this C5-A Galaxy.

Barnard: The inside of the C5 is the largest cargo aircraft in the Air Force inventory. I have deployed on these.

Narrator: One of six deployments Col. Barnard’s had to Afghanistan, New Zealand, and Antarctica.

Barnard: And we can fit three HH-60 helicopters, and a lot of our equipment that we need, as well as all our maintainers. We have just over 60 of them here. And every one of them needs 72 tie-downs. Airplanes are designed to fly, and when it gets a little breezy out here we want to make sure they stay parked.

Narrator: But not every plane just sits around collecting dust. US military units around the world can request specific parts off these planes.

Barnard: An aircraft has so many thousands of parts. Just like a reservoir keeps things in case you need them. And then we release what’s out of the reservoir as needed.

Narrator: And some of the parts the military can only find here at AMARG.

Barnard: We are that assurance that there’s a part available when the supply system main sources don’t get it. We send anywhere from 4,000 to 7,000 parts out every year to the tune of a few million dollars each week worth of supply parts.

Scott and James here are removing the engines from the back of this T-38 as a reclamation effort because these have been requested to go back into service. So once the crews reclaim the parts out in the desert and bring them into the end of this building, they get washed, they get non-destructive inspection, and they’re going to pack and ship these right out the door as fast as we can.

Narrator: But sometimes, instead of being used for parts, an entire plane will be regenerated, meaning they’ll pull it out of the desert and wash it down.

Mike Serrano: We have to remove all the coatings that are used to preserve the aircraft out in the desert.

Narrator: After getting a nice shower, it’s fixed up.

Barnard: What our team is working on here is a C-130 that’s being regenerated for foreign military sales. In this hangar, the current project that we’re working on is F-16s in post-block repair. It’s a package of structural improvements on the aircraft to extend their flyable life.

Narrator: The unit also handles aircraft modifications.

Barnard: These aircraft come from US units that are active right now. And then they get some work done on them, and they go back out to that same unit. So we’re able to upgrade those and modify them to keep them up with the current standards in the active fleet.

Narrator: Complicated individual pieces are sent to separate back shops for repair and overhaul.

Barnard: Here in the wing shop … We have all the center portions of the A-10 wings being rebuilt here. And the outer portions being rebuilt there. There’s actually hundreds of pieces inside of an aircraft wing. The complexity and the level of structure, it’s really eye-opening for many folks. Each set of wings can take up to 20,000 man hours to overhaul.

Narrator: Once parts are fixed, they go through a thorough inspection. We’re here in the non-destructive inspection area. Pete’s working on a fluorescent dye penetrant.

Pete Boveington: It’s basically a liquid that absorbs into cracks, and we can apply a black light to it. And you can see there’s a crack right here that shows up. This crack right here on this part in the landing gear could cause catastrophic failure on the landing gear.

Narrator: Not a single crack on an entire plane can get past this team.

Barnard: We have to make sure that these aircraft are safe to fly so that we protect that asset, and we protect the air crew that’s inside of that asset. So the stakes are pretty high.

Narrator: Once fixed, the planes go through a rigorous final flight test. Pilot Scott Thompson is testing these regenerated F-16s.

Lt. Col. Scott Thompson: I will take them out to the airspace just south of here. Close enough to where if I do have a problem I can get back onto the ground immediately and pretty much put them through the wringer. We test flight controls, and the handling, and the engine performance, and all the systems on the plane pretty extensively, at all altitudes.

Barnard: They go out to become full-scale aerial targets.

Narrator: That’s a happy ending for a plane pulled from the desert here at AMARG. But for other aircraft, this is the end of the line. The planes marked with a big D are destroyed by a third-party contractor.

Barnard: So these are our guys that work the demil, and they prepare aircraft for disposal. Well, and I will get out of the way of the crowbar.

Worker: I’m pretty good with this crowbar.

Barnard: I’m pretty good at destruction too, but you guys are being super careful about it, which you should be.

Narrator: The planes are demolished for good reason.

Barnard: We’ll make sure everything’s accounted for and that the materials and the technology don’t fall into the wrong hands.

Narrator: While some Americans may not have heard of AMARG, it actually saves taxpayers a lot of money.

Barnard: The assets stored here are worth somewhere between $34 billion and $35 billion. And so to make a new one may not be possible, versus to rejuvenate an old one might be the best-case scenario.

Narrator: But for the workers, it’s not just about saving the military some money. It’s also about giving these planes another life.

Thompson: A lot of these airplanes haven’t flown for a very long time. I flew a lot of them operationally back in the day. It’s great to get back in them and bring them back to life.

Barnard: These airplanes have a lot of stories to tell, and it’s wonderful to spend time with them and think about that. There are very few of us military that are lucky enough to be assigned here. It’s just a joy to be able to work with these people every day and be around these airplanes.

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A man broke into the Air Force One base and walked aboard a plane unnoticed until his ‘mouse ears’ cap gave him away

biden air force one
US President Joe Biden steps off Air Force One upon arrival at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland on February 8, 2021.

  • A man who broke into the Air Force One base last month was caught partly because of his cap.
  • The intruder wore a cap that seemed to resemble “mouse ears,” according to officials.
  • An Air Force investigation concluded that the security failure was due to “human error.”
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

In a rare security breach, a man broke into Joint Base Andrews last month and went unnoticed for about five hours until his strange headpiece that appeared to resemble “mouse ears” blew his cover, several news outlets reported Thursday.

The 36-year-old trespasser from Maryland, whose name has not been disclosed, was unarmed and wore “a bright red or pink cap that partially covered his ears and had distinctive balls on top that looked a little like mouse ears,” according to an Air Force investigation of the February 4 incident reported by The Associated Press.

An employee at the base saw the man on the flight line and was suspicious of the intruder partly because of his cap, and notified security, according to AP. The Air Force report blamed the unusual security failure on “human error.”

The Air Force first reported the security breach last month and released its investigation on Thursday. Military officials handed him over to local law enforcement at the time because he had two outstanding warrants.

Air Force Lt. Gen. Sami Said said that a “distracted” security guard had let the unauthorized man drive through an entrance gate and onto the military base located in Maryland, which is home to the presidential aircraft, Air Force One.

Afterward, the intruder slipped past another fence and entered the flight line, walked aboard a parked plane and stayed for a few minutes then left. He was stopped and arrested as he walked back on the flight line toward the security gate, AP reported.

The man went aboard a C-40 aircraft assigned to the 89th Airlift Wing, sometimes referred to as the “President’s Wing,” which is used by senior military and government officials. He never got close to the highly-protected Air Force One, officials said.

The report concluded that the intruder was “simply wandering” and did not harm anyone nor have plans to meet anyone. He told officials that he came to the base “because he wanted to see airplanes,” the report said.

The White House did not immediately return Insider’s request for comment.

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