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Top Drone Pilots Battle At Elite Training School

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Top Drone

CORONADO, CA – Two months ago, Senior Airman Rod Wilkins was a flyboy without a war. Due to what he describes as “typical military bureaucracy,” his Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) unit at the time remained stateside without any real mission.

So Wilkins—who goes by the call sign “Ghostbuster”—spent his days flying UAVs around base, harassing Security Forces on patrol by zipping in front of their vehicle windshields and startling them.

“One guy veered off the road and died,” Ghostbuster said with a chuckle. “It was a tragedy.”

In Ghostbuster’s mind, though, the real tragedy was that his skills were being wasted. He had finished at the top of his class in tech school, well ahead of his peers.

“I think I did so well because I got a headstart as a boy flying radio-controlled planes and kites,” Ghostbuster said. “Actually, mostly kites.”

Ghostbuster’s command eventually recognized his talent and sent him to Top Ground Command and Control Station School (GCCSS) in Coronado—the so-called “Top Drone” program that produces the military’s elite drone pilots.

“I knew right away that I was facing some stiff competition,” Ghostbuster said. “As soon as I walked in the building, there were all these pilots who were overweight and soft and pale, and their faces were covered in acne. You don’t get that kind of body without hours and hours in the cockpit [sic], away from the light of the day. These guys were the real deal.”

Ghostbuster was soon paired up with A1C Jeremy Rodriguez, a Pilot Supply Specialist who goes by the call sign “Pidgey,” after the Pokémon creature. (It is common for Drone pilots to take call signs of flying Pokémon.)

Pidgey’s job was to make sure that Ghostbuster stayed well-stocked with snacks and soda during long training missions.

“I feel the need,” the two were known to say in unison, “the need to feed.” Then Pidgey would drive out to Taco Bell and bring back an order of Nachos Bell Grande and a large Pepsi.

If Top Drone had the best of the best drone pilots, then Ghostbuster and Pidgey were the best of the best of the best. They outperformed every other team in the program, except for one: SrA Ted “Ice Tea” Kazinsky and his partner, A1C Frederick “Cheesesteak” Hawkins.

“Ghostbuster thinks he’s such hot shit,” Ice Tea said, “but every time his drone is in the air, it’s unsafe. I don’t like his drone because it’s dangerous.”

“That’s right, Ice Tea, my drone is dangerous,” Ghostbuster replied, before turning back to the YouTube video he was watching on his second screen.

The tension between the two teams came to a head during a volleyball game at the beach last weekend. Spectators reportedly couldn’t keep their eyes off the four men glaring at each other before the match, circling each other like testosterone-filled Brahma bulls.

The spectators left, however, immediately after the men took off their shirts.

Despite his undeniable talent, Ghostbuster’s cocky attitude and risk-taking have made him a target for his superiors’ ire.

“If you screw up just this much,” one instructor was overheard saying, “you’ll be flying a drone full of propaganda leaflets out of the Rio Grande.”

The course is still in progress, but Ghostbuster and Pidgey have already been on a real-world mission. They were assigned to monitor drug smugglers operating in an undisclosed location in the American South.

During the operation, Ghostbuster lost control of his plane. Ice Tea was the first to notice.

“Mayday, mayday,” Ice Tea said. “Ghostbuster is in trouble. He’s in a flat spin heading out to sea.”

Pidgey tried to help his partner out, but he couldn’t reach the ejection handle.

“You’re gonna have to punch us out,” Ghostbuster said to Pidgey, with panic in his voice.

After a tense couple seconds, Ghostbuster sat forward in his chair and reached around the back of his computer screen.

“Okay, never mind,” he said. “Who’s been dicking with the monitor’s V-hold?”

For scaring everyone, Ghostbuster was grounded by his Commander for three weeks.

Upon hearing the news, Ghostbuster went out to the parking lot and drove home, leaving Pidgey to fly the UAV back to base himself.

Pidgey stuffed a handful of Cool Ranch Doritos into his mouth and wiped off the orange film on his fingers onto his cubicle wall. Then he pressed a button for autopilot and leaned back in his chair.

“Ghostbuster taught me everything I know,” Pidgey said. “He can be my wingman anytime.”

“Wait, I didn’t mean it like that,” Pidgey quickly added.

Duffel Blog reporters Jerry, Dark Laughter, G-Had, John “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” Mittle, and Mike enthusiastically contributed to this article.

Ron is a technical writer and Navy veteran. His background was in intelligence and translation, but now he's paid to write technical manuals that no one reads.

Air Force

North Pole warns of pilot shortage as reindeer leave for commercial sleighlines

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SANTA’S WORKSHOP — The North Pole is in the midst of a readiness crisis as it struggles to fill its pilot ranks with qualified reindeer, who are leaving the service in record numbers to work at commercial sleighlines, sources confirmed today.

Santa Claus claims he has only 75 percent of the deerpower he needs to deliver presents this year, especially in crucial heavy lift squadrons.

“This is truly alarming. There is no way I’ll be able to deliver presents to all the good girls and boys, let alone coal to all the naughty ones,” said Claus. “The reindeer we do have are being worked to the antler, flying three or four gumdrop sorties a day.”

Santa is offering hefty incentive bonuses to keep reindeer from leaving for more lucrative jobs at commercial sleighlines like Hoofthansa. But even offers of triple helpings of moss and herbs are not enough to keep them in the service. Unless he can fix the retention problem soon, Santa says he might have to cancel Christmas across large swaths of North and South America.

“We’re trying to do more with less, but the fact is that’s impossible,” said Lt. Col. Rudolph, commander of Red Squadron. “With this Op Tempo, my guys already refuse to fly over Detroit and Chicago. It’s just too dangerous.”

The average reindeer costs about $1 million and takes 3 years to train, according to North Pole figures. The North Pole needs to keep those ruminants in its ranks past their initial commitment to maximize return on its investment.

“Not only are large numbers of reindeer getting out, our best reindeer are getting out,” said Rudolph. “Donner and Blitzen dropped papers last week, and Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen all took private jobs at Doeing testing unmanned sleighs.”

While Claus increasingly has been filling the ranks with unmanned aerial sleighs (UASs), turnover among the elves who pilot them has also been an issue.

“These UAS pilots are always on the clock, delivering presents to hundreds of houses an hour from thousands of miles away,” he said. “Nobody can handle that much Christmas cheer. Nobody.”

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Charles ‘Wide Neck’ McDowell leads USO Tour request voting

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ARLINGTON, Va. — After weeks of neck-and-neck voting, Charles “Wide Neck” McDowell has pulled ahead of adult film actress Riley Reid as the most requested USO star for an upcoming international tour, sources confirmed today.

Service members from throughout the military placed more than 645,000 votes for McDowell and 320,000 for Reid this month following McDowell’s fame after his mugshot went viral.

“This is the kind of guy that everyone has necks-level love for,” commented Andrew Green, a specialist with the 82nd Airborne Division. “Soldiers across the world are coming together and neckworking to bring this god to bless our troops and potentially end racism.”

Though the voting does play a large role for the USO in selecting and funding the star, many more factors come into play before booking can actually begin.

“We sent someone down to Charles’ neck of the woods in Florida where he is currently training for his MMA debut. But despite his schedule he seemed interested, and we will discuss more necks week,” said Robert Hales, booking agent for the USO.

Hales did show some hesitation about bringing McDowell along for the European and Middle East tour starting next March.

“I want to give the troops what they have requested, but they’re in for a shock as soon as they see his neck is normal and his head is just tiny,” he said.

Reid volunteered to go on the tour for free if McDowell decided to attend.

“No lie, wide neck, a go pro, and me could trade his 15 min of fame to 15 min of bliss,” she tweeted.

Florida authorities have also voiced their full-throated support for McDowell to give back to the troops, offering to count it as community service and allowing him to travel internationally. Currently out on bail, McDowell has been capitalizing on his fame by appearing on MTV’s show “Necks,” singing in a feature of Ariana Grande’s “Thank You, Necks” hit song, and swallowing watermelons whole for five dollars in Orlando. Hopes are Ol’ Saint Neck could travel by Christmas.

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Space Force now soliciting uniform concepts from industry

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Two months ago, President Donald Trump announced the creation of a new branch of military service within the Department of Defense, the U.S. Space Force. A recently released Pentagon report revealed that, almost immediately after the President’s announcement, a Pentagon official named Mr. James Fortran deployed to various locations within the U.S. in an attempt to find an answer to the question that what was cited as “the Space Force’s most significant hurdle in its long road to activation:”

“What will the uniforms look like?”

The report details that Fortran was first sent to California to meet with interested uniform suppliers. Bored by extraordinarily simple suggestions like “let’s make human exosuits with built-in jetpacks” or cost-effective, nonsensical ideas such as “just keep the same design as the rest of the military, you idiot,” Fortran decided to head to the San Francisco Comic Con event for inspiration.

The images featured above represent a portion of Fortran’s portfolio, which he submitted to the Pentagon at the conclusion of his trip. Published transcripts from his presentation cite him as commenting that “they’re perfect… look at how eccentric, robust, and forward-thinking these designs are! When Americans think of space marines, this is what they will picture in their minds.”

Fortran’s portfolio also mentions a meeting with Bungie, the creators of the Halo gaming universe. Details from this meeting were unfortunately classified, but Fortran was cited as stating that the meeting went “very, very well” and that the ensuing discussion was “very, very promising” in the presentation’s transcripts.

Fortran has returned to the Pentagon, where a series of meetings are currently underway to evaluate his findings. The Pentagon declined to comment on any specifics relating to the consideration of Fortran’s uniform findings. However, inside sources revealed that Captain Charles Bunkley of the United States Navy, who led the introduction of the blue type 1 working uniform made to have sailors blend in with the ocean, suggested a black uniform imprinted with various constellations, nebulas, and galaxies. It appears as if this idea is also being seriously considered.

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Air Force decreases deployments to Afghanistan to a 3-hour tour

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PENTAGON – Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson announced today that the Air Force would limit future rotations to Afghanistan to a three-hour tour with free lunch.

“These exotic tours should hit peak efficiency by limiting Air Force personnel to groups of five or so. The limited duration will keep burnout low and enthusiasm high.” said Wilson. “We’ll put America’s Airmen on expertly skippered three-hour tours.”

“A three-hour tour,” echoed Wilson’s aide.

The shortened tours are expected to increase the likelihood of Air Force Reserve personnel with unique civilian skill sets – such as professors, movie stars, millionaires, and millionaires’ wives – to volunteer for deployments.

“We used to require lengthy pre-deployment training,” Wilson added. “Today’s airmen don’t even need to pack. They’ll be on the ground for three hours.”

Wilson, who also introduced the new C-130M Minnow, emphasized how easy it was to get out of Afghanistan efficiently before concluding the press conference.

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Air Force can’t figure out why sailor would spend $1,280 on tattoo

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WASHINGTON — A visibly annoyed Air Force called a sailor’s decision to pay for a full-sleeve tattoo financially irresponsible, adding with just a hint of disdain that this sort of extravagant spending is to blame for the Defense Department’s slew of budgetary woes, sources confirmed today.

“One thousand, two hundred and eighty dollars for some body art?” scoffed Air Force. “What a waste! Think of all the golf balls you could buy.”

“At least two, maybe three,” the fiscally-sensible service surmised. “Certainly no more than three.”

The Air Force’s steadfast reputation among the military for doing more with less is rooted in its proud history of battling fraud, waste and abuse.

The sailor in question, Intelligence Specialist 1st Class Michael Parker, recently had the finishing touches added to an intricate sprawl of nautically-themed tattoos covering the entirety of his right arm.

“A poor mistake like that [tattoo] isn’t some simple mulligan,” said Air Force. “Just think, if you saved $1,280 every year for 20 years, you’d be able to buy yourself a decent, middle-of-the-road nine-iron and be ready for retirement.”

Parker, 28, has been gradually adding tattoos to his arm over the past three years so as to not “break the bank.”

The Air Force expressed worry at the American public’s response to what it views as fiscal waste.

“You know, I hate to be ‘that branch,’” the responsible steward of taxpayer monies said, “but these sorts of things really make me question the professionalism of our sister services.”

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Air Force

ISIS thanks Air Force for bombing North Carolina with Humvee

The group said it wished it thought of the idea.

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FORT BRAGG, N.C. — The U.S. Air Force received accolades from ISIS for totally missing a massive Fort Bragg drop zone and “bombing” civilian property in North Carolina with a Humvee, sources confirmed today.

The praise was apparently in reference to bungled airborne operation on Oct. 25, when a C-17 Globemaster accidentally dropped a Humvee by parachute into an area with private residences, miles short of the designated drop zone.

“In the name of Allah, the most Merciful, we send appreciations to the disbeliever Air Force for spreading terror into the decadent western province of North Carolina, home of infidel soldiers who kill our brothers and live on smokeless tobacco and energy drinks,” the terror group said in a statement.

“Truly, turning a Humvee into a 5,000 pound sky bomb was such a great idea, we wish it was ours. We only wish that the infidel vehicle had damaged the nearby nest of debauchery known as Fayetteville, where pawn shops, strip clubs and bars already help the Caliphate by hoovering money out of the wallets of crusader army soldiers.”

“We’re a little conflicted,” said spokesman Maj. Stephen Raskins. “On one hand we certainly don’t endorse ISIS or anything it stands for. On the other hand, we think this was a successful mission and are glad somebody sees it the same way.”

“Sure, hitting the drop zone is optimal,” said Raskins. “But its really only that last part of an airborne operation that has hundreds of moving parts. When you consider that that Humvee sailed off the C-17 like a dream and that the aircrew still made happy hour, this mission was 99% successful, just like Operation Market Garden in World War II. And really, compared to all the explosives and automatic weapons we lost at Minot Air Force Base this year, dropping a truck into a bunch of pine trees looks pretty damn good.”

Raskins also added that successful missions like this help the Air Force earn more funding for golf courses, dining facilities, and maybe training if there’s enough money left.

At press time, the Air Force planned to award Air Force Achievement Medals to the entire crew of the C-17. Reports of medals from ISIS could not be confirmed.

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Air Force

Air Force suffering from massive sky penis envy

“This is totally unfair,” said Maj. Richard “Kinda” Small

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NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE — Following news that the Marine Corps has made its own “sky penis” over Southern California just a year after the Navy pulled off a similar feat, the Air Force is reportedly “super jelly” and suffering a “massive case of sky penis envy,” Duffel Blog has learned.

According to sources close to the matter, the issue is highly sensitive and being felt all the way at the very tip of Air Force leadership.

“This is all cocked-up,” said Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson to top leadership in a meeting Wednesday. “Get your dicks together. This is affecting our recruiting. Air Force is over here pounding our puds while these Naval Aviators are out there like Red Bull air races meets PornHub. Our competition is stiff and we’re getting shafted!”

Disappointment at the lack of sky penis exists not just at the tip of the Air Force spear, but is also being felt up and down the length of the service’s rank and file, some of whom say they are feeling shafted.

“This is totally unfair,” said Maj. Richard “Kinda” Small, a fighter pilot with the Air Force’s flight demonstration squadron, the Thunderbirds.

“My F-16 could make a stunning sky penis. That jet is such a prolific unit. The list of things it can do is long and distinguished!”

While some senior civilian Air Force leaders are clearly demanding their own sky penis — which pilots are more than willing to sky-write — the hardest pushback is apparently coming from its own generals.

“Gentlemen, we don’t do sky penis,” said Brig. Gen. Phil Lacid. “Besides, we are way too busy prematurely ejecting humvees on the army right now.”

At press time, it was reported that the Commandant of the Marine Corps and Chief of Naval Operations co-authored a memo to the Air Force regarding successful sky-penis operations, which explained that it’s not just about man-power but also aircraft “thrust.”

The two intended to hand-deliver the missive but were too busy snickering in a Pentagon E-ring bathroom.

rockorsomething contributed reporting.

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Air Force removes baptism from basic training graduation requirements

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WASHINGTON — The Air Force announced today that it would no longer require recruits to become baptized Christians in order to graduate basic training following yet another bout of criticism over bias from Air Force leaders who identify as evangelicals.

Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson addressed the change in policy in a press conference at the Pentagon.

“After deep prayer and reflection, we have concluded that Jesus will just have to enter all of our new airmen’s hearts in His own way,” Wilson said. “We pray for our Lord and Savior’s grace and forgiveness in this matter.”

The move comes amid increasing scrutiny from groups like the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) who say leaders are pushing their religious beliefs in inappropriate ways. By removing the baptism requirement, the Air Force hopes to tamp down mounting controversy.

The MRFF says there still is room for improvement.

“I mean, for goodness sake, the Air Force Academy – an engineering school that is supposed to mass produce pilots – has outsourced all science and engineering classes to Focus on the Family,”  said MRFF President Mikey Weinstein, an academy graduate himself. “We’ve got a generation of aviators and potential astronauts who think that gravity is the devil trying to suck them down into hell and that Elijah’s magic chariot dust is what propels them into the air.”

The Air Force is exploring other moves to further address concerns of organizations like the MRFF. Proposed ideas include discontinuing punishments for airmen who do not attend Bible study on a weekly basis and no longer issuing chastity belts to females in the service.

“We’ll continue to seek guidance from our pastors, and we also intend to check the Constitution again to see if there’s an amendment about Jesus in there” said Wilson.

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