Things You Need To Know About The US Airforce

Things You Need To Know About The US Airforce

1. If you’re a weatherman in the Air Force, you’re probably a battle-hardened commando.

Before the Air Force sends squadrons of $150 million aircraft into areas, it likes to know what kind of environmental conditions are waiting for them. But the kinds of places where it sends such aircraft aren’t exactly friendly or hospitable to U.S. military operations. To gather meteorological and geological intelligence, the Air Force sends in Special Operations Weather Teams—commando forces with special training to read the environment and report back. To join such an elite fighting force, these men endure a punishing training pipeline that tests their mental and physical limits. The airmen who make it through earn the coveted gray beret and crest, and are trained to jump out of airplanes, climb mountains, snake through jungles, blow things up, and use small unit tactics in hostile territory.

2. For a while there, North Dakota could have annihilated all human life.

During the 1960s and 1970s, the vast majority of nuclear weapons in the United States were located in North Dakota. Minot Air Force Base was a major Strategic Air Command facility, hosting intercontinental ballistic missiles, bombers, and refueling planes. (In other words, everything you need to start the apocalypse.) Accordingly, had North Dakota seceded from the United States it would have become the third-largest nuclear power in the world.

3. George Bailey was a one-star general.

When the Army drafted Jimmy Stewart, he failed to meet the height and weight requirements and was turned away. Undaunted, he later tried enlisting in the Army Air Corps, but again missed the weight mark. He had to persuade his recruiter to run more agreeable tests, which he somehow passed. Once in uniform, the Army wanted to use him to make promotional films, but he balked and worked to get an assignment to a combat unit. (Indeed, he spent his entire career shunning publicity, preferring to serve as an Air Force officer and not as a celebrity recruitment tool.) By 1943, he was flying bombing runs over Germany, and earned the Distinguished Flying Cross. (The first of two.) By the end of the war, he was a full-bird colonel, and joined the Air Force Reserve, eventually retiring as a Brigadier General.

4. Air Force One isn’t the name of the plane.

When the president isn’t on board one of the planes we think of as Air Force One—yes, there are two of them—the Boeing VC-25s are simply known as 28000 or 29000. “Air Force One” is the air traffic control designation for any plane on which the president is a passenger. (To wit, when President Nixon resigned, his plane took off as Air Force One, and by the time it landed, was called SAM 27000.) Air Force One is considered a “protection level one” asset—the security equivalent of a nuclear weapon—and airmen are permitted to use deadly force on unauthorized personnel. So don’t try to charge it.

5. The Air Force shares a birthday with the CIA.

The National Security Act of 1947 completely reorganized the national security apparatus of the United States. It separated the Army Air Forces from the Army, and made it an equal branch of the military—the U.S. Air Force. The bill also created the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the National Security Council, and the Central Intelligence Agency. Notably, Truman signed the National Security Act of 1947 into law on what would become the first plane to be designated as Air Force One.

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