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Retired Col. Joe Jackson poses with a permanent Medal of Honor display March 24, 2015, at the Pentagon in Washington D.C. The display depicts him and other medal recipients. Air Force photo by Scott M. Ash.

​Joe M. Jackson 1923-2019

Retired Col. Joe M. Jackson, who received the Medal of Honor in 1969 for heroism in the Vietnam War, died Jan. 12 at the age of 95. Jackson amassed more than 400 combat missions in the Korean and Vietnam Wars, and served in WWII as a fighter pilot gunnery instructor and bomber pilot. He was also one of the first Air Force pilots to fly the U-2 spy plane and organized aerial reconnaissance over Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis. In addition, he was an aviation innovator who developed navigational methods for poor weather conditions and developed a bomb-tossing technique for nuclear weapons. Read the full story by John A. Tirpak.

US Airstrikes Continue to Increase in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria

US aircraft in Afghanistan conducted more strikes from January through November of 2018 than in the previous three years combined, for the highest yearly total in at least 10 years. US Air Forces Central Command on Friday released its roundup of November 2018 totals, showing 841 weapons dropped in Afghanistan for a total of 6,823 through the end of that month. In addition to a large increase in strikes, US aircraft have dramatically increased the airlift mission in Afghanistan. Through November, US aircraft have airdropped more than 602,980 pounds of supplies as part of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel. This compares to just 33,423 in 2017, and no supplies at all dropped the previous two years. Meanwhile, in Iraq and Syria, the US-led coalition dropped 1,424 bombs against ISIS targets—the highest monthly total in more than a year. The command has not released its tally for December. —Brian Everstine


US Military Begins Process of Drawing Down in Syria

Although the military has begun the "process of deliberate withdrawal" from Syria, combat operations have continued inside the country. President Trump posted a Tweet on Sunday evening saying the pullout was "long overdue," though the military will continue to strike "the little remaining ISIS territorial caliphate hard, and from many directions." Additionally, Trump said he would "devastate Turkey economically" if that country's forces strike US-backed Kurdish fighters inside Syria, and claimed there will be a "20-mile safe zone." The US-led coalition announced the start of the drawdown on Friday, but declined to give specifics about the process, claiming operational security. The announcement follows the December claim that the US has defeated ISIS in Syria, which Trump said via Twitter was the "only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency." Following the announcement, US and coalition aircraft have increased their pace of operations, including doubling the amount of airstrikes inside Syria to end 2018. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, speaking Thursday in Cairo, said the US will still use diplomacy and work with partners inside Syria, to "expel every last Iranian boot from the country and bring peace and stability."—Brian Everstine​


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B-2s Deploy to Hawaii for the Second Time

Three B-2s and more than 200 airmen deployed to Hawaii for the second time ever, following the inaugural deployment last fall. The B-2s from Whiteman AFB, Mo., landed at JB Pearl Harbor-Hickam on Thursday for a US Strategic Command Bomber Task Force mission, according to a Pacific Air Forces release. While in the Pacific, the bombers will “integrate capabilities” with regional partners. “This training is crucial to maintaining our regional interoperability,” Lt. Col. Joshua Dorr, director of operations at the 393rd Bomb Squadron, said in the release. B-2s have regularly deployed to Andersen AFB, Guam, but this is only the the second time they have visited Hawaii. During the first deployment, the bombers flew long-duration sorties, conducted hot pit refuelings, and flew with the Hawaii Air National Guard’s 199th Fighter Squadron. —Brian Everstine

Survey: Active Duty Military More Likely Than Veterans to Seek Mental Health Counseling

A new survey from the University of Phoenix has found Active-Duty service members are more likely to seek out mental health counseling than their veteran counterparts. Results showed that both groups agreed mental and physical health are of equal importance. But, according to the university’s news release, survey data also reflected a generational paradigm shift between the Active Duty and veterans’ communities when it came to the stigma surrounding mental health treatment and faith in counseling’s effectiveness. Read the full story by Jennifer-Leigh Oprihory.

Shaw Civil Engineers Recognized for Tyndall Response

A team of civil engineers from Shaw AFB, S.C., was recently recognized for its work in rebuilding Tyndall AFB, Fla., including clearing hundreds of thousands of yards of debris to begin the rebuild after October’s hurricane. The 17 airmen from the 20th Civil Engineer Squadron deployed to Tyndall from Oct. 21 to Nov. 18, where they cleared more than 650,000 cubic yards of debris and preserved 365 buildings worth more than $683 million, according to a Shaw release. “We were restoring water, power, and heating, ventilation and heating systems, putting tarps on roofs, boarding up windows, and beginning the process of mold remediation,” said 2nd Lt. Kevin Stolle, lead programmer with the squadron and officer in charge of the task force that responded, in the release. “Additionally, throughout all the above, TF Phoenix was clearing debris from all over base.” Hurricane Michael hit Tyndall on Oct. 10, causing catastrophic damage to the base, forcing aircraft to flee, and damaging nearly every building. —Brian Everstine

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RADAR SWEEP


Op-Ed | In 2019 Let’s Address the ‘Real Problems’ in National Security Space
Former Congressman Mike Rogers pens an op-ed highlighting four key areas that need closer examination as the Space Force debate continues: strategic priority setting; improved equipment and material acquisitions; budgetary support and realignment; and innovation and risk. Space News

SpaceX Plans to Lay Off About 10 Percent of Workforce
SpaceX, the upstart rocket company that has shaken up the launch industry with low-cost reusable boosters and ambitious long-range plans to carry people to Mars and beyond, plans to reduce its workforce by about 10 percent, company sources said late Friday. CBS

China and NASA Share Moon Landing Data
China’s landing of a lunar probe on the dark side of the moon was a big deal, scientifically and on the international political front. Fortune

DC Air Guard Unit Protects Skies Over Nation’s Capital
“Scramble, scramble, scramble," a monotonous, booming voice blares from a speaker inside a spotless hangar. As the words echo through the open space, Air Force Col. John Vargas springs into action. National Guard News

F-35s Unlikely, Taiwan Upgrades F-16s Fighters to Counter China
Taiwan is upgrading a fleet of American-made fighter jets, but may scrap ambitions to acquire the more advanced F-35 models, showing the limits of U.S.-Taiwan military cooperation despite a common interest of resisting China. Voice of America

125 Retired Pilots, Other Rated Officers Apply to Return to Air Force to Lend a Hand
The Air Force says 125 retired pilots, combat systems officers and air battle managers have applied to return to active duty since May. Air Force Times

Air Force Taps GSA to Fast-Track Cloud Platform Buy
The Air Force is partnering with the General Services Administration on a fast-track buying procedure to acquire a cloud-based development platform for artificial intelligence and “internet of things” applications. Bloomberg Government

One More Thing …

An F-35 Demo Team Pilot Was Caught on Video Showing Off Some Awesome New Moves
An F-35 demonstration team pilot was recently caught on video showing off previously-unseen maneuvers during a suspected practice session. The videos show Capt. Andrew "Dojo" Olson pulling off moves like a 360-degree flat spin in an F-35A at Luke Air Force Base near Phoenix, Arizona. Business Insider