In early 1915, a British camera manufacturer, Thornton-Pickard, built what would become known as the Hythe MK.III Machine Gun Camera.
Designed to look like a Lewis machine gun, the Hythe Mk. III was intended to train pilots and aircraft gunners in aerial combat. The camera took photos every time the ‘trigger’ was pulled during mock dogfights (the initial trigger pull snapped a photo so it was only the initial aim that was documented for evaluation). In front of the film there was a glass plate with a crosshair (or sometimes a grid) which would be superimposed on each photograph. These would be later developed and studied, thus allowing the gunner’s technique to be corrected and improved.
Although absent in this example, the camera even used a functioning Lewis pan magazine so that the gunner could also practice changing magazines under combat conditions.
It was widely used by the RFC/RAF, and eventually by the French and American Air Services. It remained in service with the RAF well into the 1930’s.
In this photo we can see it mounted on a USAS Curtiss JN-4 Jenny trainer.
 An HH-60G Pave Hawk from the 26th Expeditionary Rescue Squadron sits ready to respond to an alert call on the ramp at Camp Bastion, Afghanistan.
 (From left) Capt. Shaun Cullen, Capt. Tripp Zanetis, Tech. Sgt. Jim Denniston and Tech. Sgt. Erick Pound are all members of the 101st Rescue Squadron, New York Air National Guard, currently assigned to the 26th Expeditionary Rescue Squadron, take turns “busting each other’s chops,” following shift-change at Camp Bastion, Afghanistan. When not activated, they are all firefighters: Cullen, the aircraft commander, is assigned to Engine 54, in Midtown Manhattan; Zanetis, the copilot, is assigned to Ladder 11 in Lower East Manhattan; Pound, the aerial gunner, is assigned to Engine 58 in Harlem; and Denniston, the flight engineer, is assigned to Engine 285 in Queens. Together at the 26th ERQS, the team makes-up Pedro 24, a quick-response HH-60 Pave Hawk medical evacuation crew.
While deployed, the squadron’s crews are on standby around-the-clock to provide personnel recovery capabilities with medical evacuation operations in Afghanistan’s Regional Command Southwest. The Pave Hawk is a highly modified version of the Black Hawk helicopter, which features specialized rescue mission equipment, including a hoist capable of lifting a 600-pound load from a hover height of 200 feet. The Pave Hawk helicopter aircrews are teamed with Air Force pararescuemen and Combat Rescue Officers. Together they are the only Defense Department elite combat forces specifically organized, trained, equipped and postured to conduct full-spectrum personnel recovery to include conventional and unconventional combat rescue operations.
(U.S. Air Force photos and article by Master Sgt. Russell Martin, 29 NOV 2012.)
CAMP BASTION, Afghanistan - Four New York City firefighters, four airmen, four friends, one team, one HH-60 Pave Hawk, one crew deployed together with the 26th Expeditionary Rescue Squadron to Camp Bastion, Afghanistan, and they brought a flavor unique of New York Fire Departments with them.
Capt. Shaun Cullen, Capt. Tripp Zanetis, Tech. Sgt. Erick Pound and Tech. Sgt. Jim Denniston are all members of the 101st Rescue Squadron, New York Air National Guard, and they are all firefighters when not activated. Cullen, the aircraft commander, is assigned to Engine 54, in Midtown Manhattan; Zanetis, the copilot, is assigned to Ladder 11 in Lower East Manhattan; Pound, the aerial gunner, is assigned to Engine 58 in Harlem; and Denniston, the flight engineer, is assigned to Engine 285 in Queens. Back home, they’re all from a different “ladder” and a different “engine” designation, but at Camp Bastion they share one, Pedro 24.
“This is a first,” said Zanetis. “An entire rescue crew made up of New York City Firefighters. We may have different jobs to do, but we all know what each other are capable of and what to expect when we fly together.”
Crews are on standby around-the-clock to provide personnel recovery capabilities with medical evacuation operations in Afghanistan’s Regional Command Southwest. The Pave Hawk is a highly modified version of the Black Hawk helicopter, which features specialized rescue mission equipment, including a hoist capable of lifting a 600-pound load from a hover height of 200 feet. The Pave Hawk helicopter aircrews are teamed with Air Force pararescuemen and combat rescue officers. Together they are the only Defense Department elite combat forces specifically organized, trained, equipped and postured to conduct full-spectrum personnel recovery to include conventional and unconventional combat rescue operations.
As part of the 26th ERQS, the airmen may serve many different functions, but they are all part of one crew, one team that’s charged with responding to air-evacuation calls for downed Airmen, injured service members on missions outside the wire, and even humanitarian missions to aid civilians in the event they are involved in an improvised explosive device explosion or have been injured during a small-arms conflict. In the past 60 days since being deployed to Camp Bastion, they have more than 50 missions together as a team, and they assisted in stabilizing and extracting casualties close to double that amount.
Their relationship is forged in fire, and galvanized daily in the skies above and the mountainous terrain below in Afghanistan. From the start, they knew their experiences back home would bond them together downrange.
“From day one we gelled,” said Denniston. “There’s something different about firefighters. You can walk into any given situation when you’re called up (on active-duty) and meet another Airman that you have never seen a day in your life and within minutes can say, ‘What ladder are you on? What department?’”
Their first day as a team required them to scramble for an alert in Helmand province. The crew, carrying three Guardian Angel pararescuemen, negotiated the mountainous terrain to find their objective, civilian casualties who were the victim of an IED strike. Prior to landing, they had to quickly assess the situation before possibly entering harm’s way.
“You really didn’t know what to expect, it was our first day,” Cullen said. “We went out in a two-ship to the site and our adrenaline started pumping…we knew there were casualties and we needed to get them out. But were insurgents laying a trap for us? There have been scenarios where they bate rescue forces in only to ambush them, and we needed to quickly assess if this was one of those instances.
"After surveying the area and the terrain enough to where we felt comfortable setting down, we began to dive at about 6,000 feet-per-minute, just slicing through the sky. It was amazing. And because we, as a team, were able to coordinate so well, something that seemed daunting went off without a hitch.”
The crew admits that though their ride may be different, their attitude and drive to save lives remain the same.
“Here, we can fight our way in; we can fight our way out. We have a different platform, but we’ll use our tactics to try and save anyone when called upon,” Denniston said. “But just like at home, we’re going in. Whether it’s a massive fire with people trapped on the 16th floor back home, or a hot-zone here with IEDs and small-arms fire. We’re going to go in, and we’re going to do everything in our power to ensure they get out and have a chance.”
At home, or in Afghanistan, they are rescue. But here, they brought a little bit of FDNY flavor to their unit. Though many Airmen assigned to the 26th ERQS are from the 101st New York ANG, only a handful are firefighters and they have a style all their own.
“We’re deployed, so we know that we’re not going to have the best cooking, not that it’s bad, but it’s definitely not like it is at home,” Cullen said. “So we take the same approach from time to time that we do back home… we get everyone together to chip in and buy some food and then we’ll all get together and cook it up for a big feast. It definitely brings that sense of being in a fire unit back.”
The crews work around-the-clock, on 12-hour shifts. Pedro 24 is on standby for the morning missions from 1 a.m. to 1 p.m. And when they’re not in the air, on a mission, they’re on alert waiting to respond at a moment’s notice. A 15-minute response time is the standard, but the entire 26th ERQS has blown away that mark and cut their response time to an average of 7-8 minutes, according to Zanetis. But until they hear the call “Scramble, scramble, scramble,” come across the loud speaker they do what comes naturally, “bust each other’s chops.”
“Oh we’re vicious,” Pound said. “It’s a lot like it is at home, 'no thin skins.’ We give each other a hard time but no one takes it to heart. It’s part of who we are and we know it’s all in good fun, after all we’re family. But if the 'scramble,’ is called, we get right down to business.”
The team said no one wants to necessarily hear the call to scramble. The call to scramble generally means that someone, somewhere is badly injured. But a scramble and a save is a good day for Pedro 24.
“We don’t like sitting around waiting for a call to come,” said Cullen. “But we also understand that if we’re needed, then someone is having a really bad day. Just like at home, if the bell sounds, it’s an emergency and we have to respond quickly to save lives. We will answer that bell, that scramble-call without hesitation. That’s our mission, and that’s what we love.”
As part of the Air National Guard, units can determine how they want to distribute deployment length. They have the option of deploying for 60 days or the full 120 days. While most of the crew will stay on for the full 120, Denniston, who was newly married in May, will be redeploying in the coming weeks to backfill an Active Guard/Reserve position at the 101st RQS back in New York, breaking up the all-FDNY firefighter team.
“I’d stay if I could, but they needed a body back home and since I don’t want to be divorced already, I have to go,” Denniston laughed. “But they’ve already anointed me the man in-charge of putting together the welcome-home party for when they join me in a couple months. ”
A soldier poses with a Hythe Mk III Gun Camera
during training activities at Ellington Field, Houston, Texas in April
of 1918. The Mk III, built to match the size, handling, and weight of a
Lewis Gun, was used to train aerial gunners, recording a photograph when
the trigger was pulled, for later review, when an instructor could
coach trainees on better aiming strategies.
Ben Kuroki, the only Japanese-American of the US Army to see air combat in the Pacific Theater (and the European) during World War II, flying a total of 58 combat missions during the war,
After Pearl Harbor, both Kuroki brothers were pushed to enlisted by their father and upon their first attempt were denied. They tried again, the second time joking that Kuroki could be a Polish name, and were admitted into the US Army.
In 1942, after being told that Japanese-American soldiers would never see action overseas, Ben Kuroki petitioned his commanding officer and was allowed to become a clerk for the Eight Air Force in England. In a twist of fate, there was a need for aerial gunners and Kuroki volunteered; he was immediately sent to gunnery school to become a dorsal turret gunner on a B24 Liberator.
During his time in the European theater, Kuroki flew 30 combat missions, even though regular enlistment required 25. When asked why he desired to fly more than the mandated enlistment number, he said he so for his brother Fred, who was still stateside. On his 30th mission he was slightly injured when his turret was struck by flak.
When he returned stateside, the US Army sent him on a tour of the internment camps to “encourage able-bodied males to enlist.” It was during this time that Kuroki made a request to fight in the Pacific, it was denied. It was only by chance that his request to fight in the Pacific was granted—by the Secretary of War Henry Stimson. In the Pacific, Kuroki joined a B-29 Superfortress crew (who name their plane Sad Saki after their new gunner) in the 484th/505th/20th US Army Air Force based on Tinian Island.
Ben Kuroki then flew another 28 combat missions in the Pacific.
At this point, Kuroki is the only Japanese-American known to have participated in air combat missions in the Pacific; he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his 25 missions in Europe, and another for his role in the Ploesti raid. By the end of the war, Kuroki had been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross three times, as well as the Air Medal with five oak leaf clustered.
When asked about the prejudice that almost prevented him from service, Kuroki said: “I had to fight like hell for the right to fight for my own country.”
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Luke Spain, 66th Rescue Squadron aerial gunner, waits to depart for training during the terminal employment phase March 18, 2013, at the Orchard Combat Training Center, Idaho. Service members from rescue squadrons across Air Combat Command participated to support the phase. The “T.E.” mission objective is to demonstrate and instruct HH-60 Pave Hawk weapons employment and landing zone options to U.S. Air Force Weapons School students by maximizing weapons proficiency and quickly recover survivors. The phase is one out of a series of advanced training programs administered at the USAF Weapons School located at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Brett Clashman)
World War II Aerial Gunner at Alamogordo Army Airfield. The B-24 heavy bomber crews (pilots, navigators, bombardiers and gunners) trained for 6 weeks at Alamogordo Army Air Field, then were sent to war.
From the Clarence E. Schurwan Collection (of photos taken while he was an Air Force Photographer) New Mexico Museum of Space History. Submitted by JR Gomolak.
Senior Airmen Talon Leinbaugh, a 66th Rescue Squadron aerial gunner, conducts aerial surveillance in an HH-60G Pave Hawk over the Pacific Ocean during Angel Thunder 2015, June 11, 2015. Angel Thunder is hosted by the 355th Fighter Wing at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., but many flying operations extend throughout Arizona, New Mexico and California. Leinbaugh is stationed at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Betty R. Chevalier/Released)
The first hands-on event (private) is going on today and yesterday media got to play and write articles. Here is what we have learned about the 3 monsters so far, much more to come which I’ll update this.
First, an overview of the demo:
Foamiest reported that it’s the new monster to get people used to hunting large monsters, like Great Jaggi was. It doesn’t spit fire or poison, so it’s a good monster to practice controls against. Most of its moves are heavily telegraphed allowing you to set moves up. Its most powerful move is the jump kicks it does with its tail.
This is an intermediate monster who is our new annoying status monsters, sort of like how Giganox was I suppose. When it starts to spread the yellow dust you need to book it–if you are affected by it, the controls for forward/backward/left/right get REVERSED. Let’s call it “Controlblight” for now, perhaps? You can cure it by eating a Bitterbug so bring those if you hunt it. If you get hit by its sonic beam it puts you to sleep (might be able to cure this by using a stamina drink). It likes to fly a lot so gunners and aerial style are going to have an easier time against it.
Air Force Staff Sgt. Luke Spain, 66th Rescue Squadron aerial gunner, waits to depart for training during the terminal employment phase March 18 at the Orchard Combat Training Center, Idaho. Service members from rescue squadrons across Air Combat Command participated to support the phase. The phase is one out of a series of advanced training programs administered at the U.S. Air Force Weapons School located at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev.