A Flock Of Seagulls Downed A B-52 Stratofortress Bomber In Guam

Nearly one year after a B-52H Stratofortress bomber crashed shortly after takeoff at Andersen Air Force Base in Guam, the U.S. Air Force has finally identified the culprit: a flock of goddamn birds, military officials announced Monday.

An investigation by Air Force Global Strike Command concluded that the incident, which took place during a routine training mission on May 19, 2016, occurred “after birds on the runway struck the aircraft’s engines and caused thrust failure,” Stars and Stripes reports.

The initial release by the Accident Investigation Board initially attributed the crash to a “bird sighting,” stating that the pilot had “analyzed visual bird activity and perceived cockpit indications as a loss of symmetric thrust required to safely attain flight.” But crew members’ accounts of the incident in the full Global Strike Command paint a distinctly more “Miracle on the Hudson” picture. From Stars and Stripes:

In a summary of the incident, the report stated the pilot of the aircraft from the 69th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron, 5th Bomb Wing assigned to Andersen, observed birds at wing level seconds after the pilot announced the plane was committed to takeoff procedures.

The co-pilot then felt “a couple thuds” on the right side of the aircraft as three of the four engines began “spooling back,” or slowing down, according to the report. A spike in oil pressure indicated likely failure in the fourth engine as the plane yawned to the right, which pointed to loss of thrust, the report stated.

The pilot began aborted takeoff procedures by shutting off outboard engines and applying brakes as the co-pilot deployed a drag chute to slow the aircraft as it quickly approached the end of the runway.

That’s when things got out of control: According to Air Force Times, the B-52’s drag chute failed to inflate, leaving the aircraft to exceed the upper limit of its brakes and skid off the runway. After coming to a halt 300 feet beyond the runway, the fuselage quickly burst into flames, prompting the crew to bail.

Only one of the seven crew members aboard the B-52H suffered minor injuries, but the resulting fire completely destroyed the $112 million aircraft, one of 102 that entered service starting in May 1961. Boeing produced 744 total B-52s for the Pentagon starting in 1955.

Interestingly, the AFGSC report still leaves ambiguous whether birds actually struck the B-52 despite the proximity of the bird sighting and “thuds” reported by the co-pilot. The investigation found “no evidence of any organic material being processed through the engine,” so far that “all of the debris found in the engine consisted of pieces of coral, dirt, and grass that was processed through the engines when they contacted the ground.”

“I don’t think they found any evidence, but the plane was burned up,” Global Strike Command spokeswoman Carla Pampe told ABC News, assuring them that the various mechanical issues surrounding the aircraft’s drag chute and brakes “do not indicate any larger issues among the B-52 fleet.” (Good thing the Pentagon’s fleet of Vietnam-era B-52s is slated for a much-needed modernization plan.)

We look forward to watching Clint Eastwood’s film adaptation of the incident.

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How To Crush Pull-Ups On The PFT Like A World Record Holder

When it comes to crushing the Marine Corps Physical Fitness Test, it’s all about the pull-ups. Sure, if you can lope along like a gazelle and snag an 18-minute three-mile-run, you’re well on your way to a perfect score, but you still need to max out on pull-ups. With the Marine Corps’ new PFT changes, men between 21 and 35 will need 23 pull-ups for a perfect score, while women of the same age will need between nine or 10.

For those who aren’t built like jackrabbits and can’t count on a fast run time, knocking out as many reps on the bar as possible is going to be essential if you want a first-class PFT score. That’s why we reached out to Michael Eckert, the Guinness World Record holder for most pull-ups in one minute — the official count is 50 — and until recently, a sergeant in the Marines. Just before Eckert left the Corps in March, he broke his wrist while competing for American Ninja Warrior, but that hasn’t kept the 26-year-old athlete off the bar. After two surgeries, physical therapy, and a metal plate in his arm, he’s starting over again at 10 pull-ups and working his way back to the top.

“All the recommendations I’ve given everybody else for pull-ups, I’m going back and taking those steps myself,” Eckert told Task & Purpose.

Related: How To Crush Your 2-Mile Run Like An Olympian »

So, if you’re hovering around 10 or 13 pull-ups and want to start blasting out reps on the bar for that upcoming PFT, here’s what you should do to hit your max:

Don’t neglect finger strength.

“The first thing I tell everyone is you’ve got to work from the fingertips, back,” Eckert explains. “Everyone tries to just slam out their back muscles — working out their lats — or working out their biceps, triceps. They try to slam all the big muscle groups first, but they neglect all the small muscle groups in your forearms and fingertips: your hand strength and grip strength. That’s all huge in pull-ups. Grip strength and pull-ups go hand-in-hand, 100%.”

Build the right muscles the right way.

“I do a super set between bicep curls and weighted dumbbell walks. Just take 70% of your max curl weight, and do about 20 reps of that,” Eckert says. “From there, without putting the weights down, go for a 50-foot walk, down and back. It’ll burn out your biceps and work its way down to the forearms, as well. It’s a good way to fatigue your arms as much as possible and does a lot of what the pull-ups will do.”

Do ledge pull-ups.

Fortunately, you don’t need fancy equipment to build up that forearm and finger strength: Just find a ledge. “I recommend doing ledge pull-ups, or at least hanging on flat ledge as much as they can,” Eckert says, adding that it’s best to do this after you’ve already worked out the larger muscle groups; that way they’re not overcompensating. “You really want to work fingertips, then hand strength, then forearms, biceps, rear deltoids, and back.”

Use ab straps.

“The secret weapon when it comes to pull-ups is ab straps,” Eckert says. “The reason being, While you’re hanging in those things and doing a core workout, it’s working the exact muscles you’re going to want to work when you’re doing pull-ups. It’s going to be working those inner lats and a little bit of your obliques.

“A lot of people don’t stress core when they’re doing pull-ups, but it has a huge role when you’re actually performing them. It’s going to stabilize your body so you’re not swinging. If you train three days a week on those things, you’ll be doing more pull-ups in no time.”

Don’t cross your legs.

“For me, people could say it’s a mental thing, but I never cross my legs when training for doing pull-ups,” Eckert explains — noting that if he’s going for a world record, he may cross them to keep his body tight, because at that point it’s about doing “whatever it takes to get the amount you need.”

The reason not to do it while training is because keeping your legs straight keeps your body nice and loose. Plus, when you cross your feet, it raises your hips a little higher on one side than the other — and if you’re doing a ton of pull-ups, eventually your muscle strength might become imbalanced or uneven, with one side overcompensating. Keeping your legs straight will help keep your muscles more symmetrical.

Tack a mini-workout onto morning PT.

For civilians, building a solid physical fitness foundation can be a bit of struggle. Not so for Marines. Every day, five days a week — and on the weekend, if your platoon sergeant is a hardass — they’re hitting the ground running, stopping only to knock out back-to-back flutter kicks, push-ups, or burpees. But if you want to dominate the bar and hammer out 23 pull-ups like it’s nothing, you’ve got to make it part of your daily routine.

“Take 20 or 30 minutes out of your day to go do some fingertip and forearm strength training after morning PT,” Eckert says. “Maybe even just 15 minutes, just something that’ll add onto your workout that’ll give you that strength training you need for your pull-ups.”

But don’t overdo it.

“I used to train almost every day, but I could do it because my body was conditioned to it,” Eckert says. “But if you’re not conditioned to it, you really want to feel out how your body is feeling.”

So, if you’re sore, maybe take a day off, but try to do something every other day. “Break it down, so one day is finger-strength training,” Eckert says. “Another day might be back and biceps, and maybe the next day is going to be core; that way, it’s a cycle.”

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Remembering The Lost Troops Of Operation Eagle Claw, The Failed Iranian Embassy Hostage Rescue Mission

In the early hours of April 25, 1980, President Jimmy Carter made a sober announcement to the nation: An attempt by U.S. military forces rescue the 52 staff held hostage at the American embassy in Tehran since the Iranian Revolution in 1979, had ended in a catastrophic failure without even engaging the enemy.

According to Carter, equipment failure aboard several of the eight RH-53D Sea Stallion helicopters launched from the USS Nimitz led the president to abort the mission. But during the strike forces’ withdrawal, one of the Sea Stallions collided with an EC-130. Five airmen and three Marines were killed in the ensuing explosion.

“There was no fighting; there was no combat,” said Carter. “We were all convinced that if and when the rescue operation had been commenced that it had an excellent chance of success … To the families of those who died and who were wounded, I want to express the admiration I feel for the courage of their loved ones and the sorrow that I feel personally for their sacrifice.”

The botched rescue operation is widely credited with costing Carter re-election in a crushing defeat to former California Gov. Ronald Reagan during the 1980 presidential election. (Mark Bowden, the journalist best known for the story that became “Black Hawk Down,” authored a remarkable timeline of the operation of Operation Eagle Claw in a 2006 issue of The Atlantic).

But as our friends at Soldier Systems point out, their sacrifice was not in vain. In fact, it led to the development of the modern special operations capability we know today.

In May 1980, the Joint Chiefs of Staff commissioned a Department of Defense’s Special Operations Review Group to evaluate the underlying causes of the botched rescue mission, examining every stage from planning and organization to mission command and control. Led by former Chief of Naval Operations Adm. James L. Holloway III, the so-called Holloway Report concluded that the “ad-hoc nature” of Eagle Claw’s organization and planning created too much room for error.

The eight U.S. armed forces servicemen killed during Operation Eagle ClawPhoto via U.S. Air Force/DoD

The eight U.S. armed forces servicemen killed during Operation Eagle Claw

“By not utilizing an existing JTF organization,” Holloway and his fellow senior military officers wrote, “the Joint Chiefs of Staff had to start, literally, from the beginning to establish a JTF, create an organization, provide a staff, develop a plan, select the united, and train the force between the first mission capability could be attained.”

Within a few years, the Holloway report catalyzed not only a sweeping reorganization of the Department of Defense but the creation of the United States Special Operations Command, a unified command apparatus to ensure that a lack of inter-service communication didn’t yield another unforced error for special operators downrange.

Despite the perception of Operation Eagle Claw as a failure, the sacrifices of those eight American servicemen were not in vain. The botched mission “pointed out the necessity for a dedicated special operations section within the Department of Defense with the responsibility to prepare and maintain combat-ready forces to successfully conduct special operations,” as airman Luke Kitterman wrote Monday.

Without that failed mission, we likely wouldn’t have elite units like Delta Force, Army Rangers, Navy SEALs on the front lines of the Global War on Terror. Those eight servicemen may have died without firing a shot, but without them, U.S. special operations wouldn’t be what it is today.

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This Running Back-Turned-Soldier Is Trying To Return To Football

After four years as a U.S. soldier, and seven years away from the NFL, Glen Coffee is trying to return to football, the NFL Network reports.

Coffee played briefly for the San Francisco 49ers as a running back after being drafted in the third round of the 2009 NFL draft from the University of Alabama.

In his lone season as a pro football player, Coffee put up decent numbers as a backup. He ran for 226 yards on 83 carries, and added 76 receiving yards over 11 receptions. He found the end zone once.

But after that season, Coffee unexpectedly retired. He would later say he fell out of love with football.

In 2015, the Washington Post’s Dan Lamothe stumbled upon Coffee when Lamothe was covering the first group of women to attend the Army’s elite Ranger school. Lamothe reported that Coffee had planned on joining Special Forces, but wound up assigned as a paratrooper at Ranger School. He now works for 6th Ranger Training Battalion in the waterborne operations section, according to Lamothe. 

“I just felt like the league and that path wasn’t for me,” Coffee told Lamothe. “I just knew that I didn’t want to waste, for me, my younger years doing something that I didn’t want to do. That was kind of my viewpoint on the situation.”

But now, out of the Army, Coffee wants to see if he can play football again. After he came out of retirement on April 21, the 49ers promptly waived their rights to his contract, making the soon-to-be 30-year-old a free agent. With a running back-rich NFL draft fast approaching on April 30, it remains to be seen how much interest Coffee will garner on the free-agent market.

One advantage he may have? Coffee told Lamothe that the Army put him in better shape than football ever did.

“My cardio and endurance is definitely a lot better right now,” he said. “Because in football, you’re not really in shape. People think you’re in shape, but you’re really not. Not like that.”

CORRECTION: This article incorrectly referred to Coffee as a Ranger in the headline. He works for 6th Ranger Training Battalion in the waterborne operations section, but is not a Ranger himself. (Updated: 4/24/2017; 5:54 pm)

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This Running Back-Turned-Army Ranger Is Trying To Return To Football

After four years as a U.S. Army infantryman, and seven years away from the NFL, Glen Coffee is trying to return to football, the NFL Network reports.

Coffee played briefly for the San Francisco 49ers as a running back after being drafted in the third round of the 2009 NFL draft from the University of Alabama.

In his lone season as a pro football player, Coffee put up decent numbers as a backup. He ran for 226 yards on 83 carries, and added 76 receiving yards over 11 receptions. He found the end zone once.

But after that season, Coffee unexpectedly retired. He would later say he fell out of love with football.

In 2015, the Washington Post’s Dan Lamothe stumbled upon Coffee when Lamothe was covering the first group of women to attend the Army’s elite Ranger school. Lamothe reported that Coffee had planned on joining Special Forces, but wound up assigned as a waterborne instructor at Ranger School.

“I just felt like the league and that path wasn’t for me,” Coffee told Lamothe. “I just knew that I didn’t want to waste, for me, my younger years doing something that I didn’t want to do. That was kind of my viewpoint on the situation.”

But now, out of the Army, Coffee wants to see if he can play football again. After he came out of retirement on April 21, the 49ers promptly waived their rights to his contract, making the soon-to-be 30-year-old a free agent. With a running back-rich NFL draft fast approaching on April 30, it remains to be seen how much interest Coffee will garner on the free-agent market.

One advantage he may have? Coffee told Lamothe that the Army put him in better shape than football ever did.

“My cardio and endurance is definitely a lot better right now,” he said. “Because in football, you’re not really in shape. People think you’re in shape, but you’re really not. Not like that.”

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Celebrate The Blue Angels’ Birthday With These Insane Secrets And Videos

On April 24, 1946, Adm. Chester W. Nimitz ordered the creation of a Navy flight exhibition team to boost morale and engender good civil-military relations. The legendary Navy chief turned to a war ace, Lt. Cdr. Roy Marlin “Butch” Voris, to whip up a team of F6F Hellcat pilots to do crazy and daring stuff for gawking crowds. The men trained secretly, practicing dicey maneuvers so that “if anything happened, just the alligators would know,” as Voris put it.

Thus the Blue Angels were born, and they continue wowing crowds and making journalists barf today, 71 years later.

To celebrate the Blues’ many years of diamond rolls and double farvels, we’ve excerpted some secrets on their ops from Foxtrot Alpha editor Tyler Rogoway’s fantastic 2015 interview with Cdr. Sean “Linus” Swartz, the Blues’ naval flight officer and No. 8 man. And to underscore just how good these pilots are, we’ve included some videos you won’t want to miss. Happy birthday, U.S. Navy Flight Demonstration Team!

1. Getting into the Blue Angels “is like a fraternity rush.”

Let’s say you’re one of the nearly 100 pilots who shadowed the Blues during their show schedule from April to June, and you were one of the 30 or so who got invited to HQ in Pensacola for July testing and the “dreaded interview,” as Swartz calls it:

The interview is a 1 vs 16 interview. Candidate comes into the ready room and all 16 Blue Angels officers are in there. Each Blue Angel asks the candidate one question, which can be anything. I won’t repeat any of the questions, but suffice it to say the goal of the interview from the team’s perspective is to flush out anything that might make this candidate not a good choice to represent the USN and USMC for 2 years in the public eye. It’s also a good chance to see how the candidate reacts to all sorts of questions – very akin to the media interviews this candidate will have to perform week in and week out should they be awarded a coveted slot on the team.

Shortly after, you get a call from the boss of the team. “When the Boss calls you to let you know if you made the team, if he puts you on speaker you’re in, otherwise you’re out,” Swartz says. “When a candidate makes the team the Blues have a special message for that candidate that they share in unison and gives no mistake about the fact that you made the team.”

Swartz declined to share that exact message. But Rogoway said he believes it’s “something akin to ‘Welcome to the team asshole!’”

2. “When the Blues were founded in 1946, one of the original requirements was that all members had to be bachelors.” It’s not like that anymore… technically.

“About once a month my girlfriend (now wife) would fly out and spend the weekend at the show with me, which was great,” Swartz said:

I didn’t have a family at home, didn’t have kids activities I was missing. I’m sure this was very challenging for the married folks. No doubt for someone married to be a successful BA, they need absolute buy-in from their spouse and family. The spouse basically runs the family Thurs-Sun and then Mon-Wed the BA is home disrupting what the spouse has been doing.

3. That’s not an illusion: Your F-18 is diving by itself.

“The Blues attach a 40lb spring to the stick in the jet,” Swartz said. “This spring applies 40lb of nose down stick pressure, so to fly straight and level each pilot is essentially doing a 40lb curl.” What the hell for? This:

The purpose of this is it takes out the slop in the stick (imagine driving down the street in your 1965 Ford F-100 and the wheel moves +/- a couple inches left or right without the truck actually moving, same thing happens in a jet, and you can’t have that flying a few feet apart).

4. One of the best perks of being a Blue Angel? Golf.

Every Blue Angel ends up doing a lot of other duties on the ground. Sometimes, as in Swartz’s case, business and pleasure mix easily:

One of my jobs that I voluntarily took on was arranging golf each weekend. I would find out how many people were interested in playing and ask the show site to find a tee time for us. Most of the time this resulted in a round at the finest course in town. I tried to play golf every weekend, and probably played 50 courses that I would never be invited to play at now.

5. Doing military air shows is kind of meh, actually.

Can’t decide if you want to catch the Blues this year at Oshkosh or Oceana? Take Oshkosh, Swartz said:

I can also say that generally speaking, the military shows sites were typically less fun than the civilian sites. Part of that is budget. Military shows don’t charge admission, they use all in-house labor, and don’t make a ton of money (what they do make is generally fed into the base MWR programs – Morale, Welfare, and Recreation). Part of that is some military shows “expect” you to be there. The Blues come every year as part of the military outreach and the show sites develop a sense of entitlement. It’s just a different reaction than when you make it to Janesville, WI once a decade.

6. “The Blues are required to shave before being seen in public, must iron and tuck in their shirts, and are not permitted to wear open toed shoes (men anyways). Violations cost you $5.”

It’s the price of privilege, Swartz said:

You want folks on the Team that will respect the status the blue suit affords and use that opportunity to promote our USN and USMC and all the wonderful men and women that serve in it. You want that blue suit to make a difference to the 14 year old kid at an airshow that will go home and tell his parents he wants to be a fighter pilot, and will work hard for the next 10 years to achieve that. You want folks wearing the blue suit that want to continue the awesome legacy started by Boss Butch Voris and his Team in 1946. You can’t afford having folks on the team that will abuse the privilege of wearing that Blue Suit for some personal gain. You can’t afford dudes on the Team that forget that who the public loves is Blue Angel #XX, not Johnny Go-getter.

7. Deployment is a lot more challenging than flying with the Blues in a lot of ways.

Playing flyboy isn’t easy, but it’s hardly comparable to going downrange, Swartz said:

How does all this differ from deployment? Much different. Besides the obvious that you are sleeping in nice hotels and eating in restaurants instead of sleeping in a 6-man on the boat and eating chicken in the Dirty Shirt Wardroom, think of the mission: The Blues fly the same thing, every day. The warriors on the front end are preparing to go into battle, potentially kill people, protect our troops on the ground and possibly get shot at…. followed by a night trap (landing aboard the carrier at night). The Blues flight, while dangerous, high pressure, and high stress, lasts 45 min. A typical mission off the boat “in country” lasts 6-8 hours.

8. Blue Angels mess up all the time. But they admit it.

No environment is a zero-defect environment… and all aviators are expected to police themselves:

One of the tenets we are taught as a Blue Angel is the ability to admit when we’ve made a mistake, or have not “achieved perfection.” This is done in the form of “Safeties.” Each debrief is started by an around the room tally of “safeties”, starting with the Boss and working down to the supply officer in order. For example when it was my turn I might say “I’ll take a safety for late hits on the Low Break Cross and Fortus and an additional safety for an early hit on the Delta Roll. I’ll also pay $5 for not shaving before I went downstairs for a coffee and I’ll pay $5 for a zipper. I’ll fix it tomorrow, Glad to Be Here.” This is essentially telling the Team that I made mistakes on 3 maneuvers and also recognize I violated policy by being in public unshaven and for having a zipper on my flight suit unzipped. Since the latter two are policy violations, they cost me $5. The essence of my mistakes is not important, that will come out during the meat of the tape review during the debrief, but the fact that I recognized them and owned up to them IS important.

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