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    CombatACE Interview with Barbara Owens
    By Skyviper,
    CombatACE Interview with: Barbara Owens  
    Bullying is a problem we are all familiar with. New reports released by various organizations, including the United States CDC, reveal shocking statistics about the negative impact bullying has on it's victims. CombatACE has featured the interview of an USAF JROTC Cadet who is helping to lead the way for the development of a Speak Life chapter in his area. To learn more about the Speak Life chapter, I reached out to Barbara Owens, the founder of Speak Life. Yes this interview may not be focused on military, gaming, or aviation; however, this organization is something I think many of you would like to know about.
    Ms. Owens has kindly agreed to do an interview with CombatACE and tell us more about Speak Life. Thank you so much Ms. Owens for taking the time to do this interview. So to get started, the short description about your organization, Speak Life, is that it's an anti-bullying program. Could you tell us a little more about Speak Life?
    Speak Life’s Mission is to Unite & Improve Our Community Through Our Local Youth. We strive to bring awareness and hope to educate on the issue of bullying and the effects that it can have on our children today. We want to offer hope for every child who experiences the harmful effects of bullying and help guide them to pursue their passions whatever they may be. It’s so important to teach them that Confidence is key.
    What were the events that motivated you to create Speak Life?
    It was the children. Years ago we didn’t have to worry about bullies except on a school yard or at a local park. Today, that’s not the case. Children and teens, because of social media have bullies that follow them right into their homes. We want to remain a positive outlet for children that reminds them that they are not alone in what they are facing. It is imperative that we show them that no matter what life throws your way, confidence is key. In Speak Life they learn that they aren’t alone, they connect with other children and teens that are going through the same situations that they too are facing, they connect through what they are passionate about and begin working with our organization to make a difference. Once their confidence is restored it’s truly amazing to see these children begin mentoring others.
    How well has your organization been received by your community as well as other communities?
    We have a lot of amazing and wonderful people in our community that have supported our efforts and still do. Other communities love what we are doing with the kids and the events that we have done for the past four years and now have a Speak Life in Beebe, Ark. Others have reached out to start a Speak Life in their area. I think people like the positive message that we try so hard to send to the kids. It’s not about dwelling on what you’re going through but using that as a stepping stone to make you stronger.
    What are some of things Speak Life does for the kids who are victims of bullying?
    I don’t feel that there are victims, just children that have had to deal with bullies. You’re only a victim if you allow the bully to victimize you and life is too short and precious to fall victim to anyone or anything. For children or teens that have been through bullying situations we have connected them with celebrities, internships, jobs, and other areas that allows them to pursue what they are passionate about in order to restructure and build their self-confidence.
    Speaking of being the victim of bullying, is your organization just a place for kids to find a shoulder to cry on? What are some of the things Speak Life does to help the those are subject to bullying?
    We are definitely not just a shoulder to cry on. Of course we are there to support these children in every way possible but the goal is to redirect the negative influences and information into positive concepts that will change hearts and attitudes and have a lasting impression on the kids that need it the most.     What about the bullies themselves? Does your organization offer any help to them? There are some who might say that the bullies too have problems to deal with. Or that kids need to learn how to cope with these things.
    It’s not meant for us to know what someone else is facing and we can’t walk a mile in their shoes so you never know what a bully could also be facing. Yes, some bully just because but there are others that are bullying because they are facing problems that others aren’t aware of. It is so important that you always be open to helping everyone because unless you can walk in their shoes, you have no idea what life has thrown their way and they just may need your help.
    What are some of the challenges you and your team encounter and how are those challenges overcome?
    It took quite some time for us to send the message that we are not here to do anything but send a positive message and support the children in our community in a positive way. When you mention the word “bully” people tend to get really defensive and think that you are wanting to harp on the negative when you are working so hard to do exactly the opposite.
    What kind of impact has Speak Life had on the teens in your program?
    I think it’s had a great impact and we hope to do more. We make every effort to show these children just how amazing they truly are. With every child comes a story and they truly are the light, sometimes they just lose sight of that and need us to remind them of just how wonderful and confident they are.
    What are some of the things you'd like Speak Life to accomplish?
    An office space is now what we are working to accomplish so that we can do more. We have children that are interested in web design, social media, photography, journalism and much more and with an office space we can better connect these children in working directly with our organization, celebrities and upcoming programs.
    What can someone do to help your organization? Can they open a new chapter in
    their area?
    Yes, people can always connect with us if they are interested in opening a Speak Life in their area and if they are in the Heber Springs area we can always use volunteers.
    Speaking of opening new chapters, how many different branches does Speak Life and how many are you planning to have by the end of the year?
    Right now we just have a Speak Life in Heber Springs and one in Beebe Arkansas
    Some people will probably like the fact you teach your teens to find the positive things in life. To hold on to them and move forward as much as they can beyond the negativity. So where can they send their donations?
    They can send any donations for Teen Recruiters to any US Bank Location and thank you so much for any donations in advance without them we couldn’t continue our efforts with the children. We are a 501c3 non-profit organization so they can contact us and their donations are tax deductible.
    Do you have final thoughts that you'd like share with your teens, supporters, our readers?
    Yes, thank you.
    To our teens and children, you have changed my life. Watching all of you come into our program and accomplish so much gives me so much strength and happiness you’ll never know. We all face so much in life but surround yourself with positive people and work every day to change the lives of others whether that’s through helping someone with their books, giving someone a smile that needs it or volunteering in your community to create a better tomorrow.
    To our supporters, we couldn’t do half of what we do without you. Thank you for helping us to continue to make a difference.
    To our readers, if your child is withdrawn, going through a situation or being bullied, it’s so important to let that child know that they aren’t alone. That tends to be the first thing a child or teen thinks. In finding that they aren’t alone in what they are facing they immediately feel a sense of relief. Find out what their passion is and create connections that will support that in ways that will help to build their self-confidence again. We will all experience bumps in the road, but as long as you stay positive and believe in yourself, you can get through anything.   Speak Life Videos

    Helping to Lead the Way!
    By Skyviper,
    Helping to Lead the Way!         Over the years we've discussed video games, aircraft, and people who played an amazing role in aviation history. Today, CombatACE is proud to shine the light on a young cadet in the United States Air Force JROTC. An organization that makes it a mission to “develop citizens of character dedicated to serving nation and community.” The organization is “grounded in the Air Force core values”, which are, “Integrity first, service before self, and excellence in all we do.” When it comes to Anthony Conklin, a 16 year old acting Cadet Captain within his JROTC Unit, you will see each of those values in all he does.   Barbara Owens, CEO of Speak Life, an anti-bullying organization, directed CombatACEs attention, to a young man who is helping lead the way for a new, Central Arkansas, chapter of Speak Life. The new chapter has been founded by Kim Helm who states “Mr. Conklin has supported our mission statement by choosing to make a difference. He stands by our mission statement fully on a daily basis by not bullying, judging, or separating people. He wants to help everyone feel that they have a place to belong in this world and is helping us find positive ways to channel these kids into areas they fit in.”   Yes, Speak Life is an organization that helps the victims of bullying find a place to fit in. They also prevent certain victims from committing suicide. However, do not mistake this organization as a giant shoulder to cry on. Their CEO, Ms. Owens, constantly spreads the message of holding on to your strengths, and moving forward with the positive things. Mr Conklin told CombatACE what he likes about Speak Life; he states “What I find fascinating about this Speak Life organization is the fact that we, as a community, can be the difference makers. While bullying will never stop, we can be the reason it slows down in our community!”   And the reason one Central Arkansas Speak Life chapter will make such an impact is Mr. Conklin. As Ms. Helm states “Anthony has already superseded my expectations for what a 15/16 year old would be capable of. He is an exceptional young man with a super heart. He gives his all in everything he does including this organization. If I could turn back time and be half the kid Anthony is – I'd have gone further in life!”   Anthony is heavily involved with coordinating events that the Central Arkansas Speak Life plan to role out soon. He's also designed their website, as well as the website for his local school district. He's coordinating with fellow student and various community leaders to move the Speak Life agenda forward. Below is the interview that we did with Mr. Conklin.               Hello Anthony, thank you for taking the time to do this interview with us. To get started could you tell us a little bit about yourself? My name is Anthony Conklin and I am currently 16 years old. I live in Austin, AR. I am acting as a Cadet Captain within my Air Force JROTC unit. I am super involved within every organization that I play a part in. I take everything that I participate in very serious and value my role within those organization.   What are some of the things that motivated you to join your local JROTC program? At first, just receiving the P.E. credit motivated me to join the local JROTC program here. Then knowing and seeing the difference I can make within the corps and the community made me continue to stay super involved within my organization.   What is a job that you like to do when you get out of school? When I get out of school I will act as a correctional officer while I am in college. Post college I will become a Arkansas State Trooper or an Officer in the United States Air Force. Both of these jobs will maintain the military structure, which I like.   We understand that you are spearheading the activities for an organization in your area called Speak Life. What motivated you to join this anti-bullying organization? What motivated me to join the anti-bullying organization, Speak Life, was seeing that a change was needed within our community. I want to continue to be a difference maker within my communities and surrounding communities.   What are some of the things that you do for Speak Life? Some things I do for Speak Life is act as the Secretary, act as the webmaster for our newly created website: speaklifebeebe.org. This was created by me.   What do you find fascinating about the Speak Life organization? What I find fascinating about this Speak Life organization is the fact that we as an organization can be the difference makers. While bullying will never stop, we can be the reason it slows down in our community!   What do you hope others will learn from your actions and from the organization? I hope others will learn that they can all be difference makers and make our community a better place by my actions.   Has working with the Speak Life organization taught you anything? If so the care to In just a short time, Speak Life Beebe has already taught me that people do care. That there are people willing to bridge the gap between bullies and their victims. share some of those lessons that you learned during your time with Speak Life?   What are some of the memories that you will try to cherish as long as you can from your time with Speak Life? As of now, we've only had board meetings. I will cherish those until we start having these amazing events we are currently putting together.     Editors Note: Stay tuned, because we're going off mission next week. I was very curious about Speak Life and reached out to Barabara Owens who agreed to tell me a little more about her organization.

    Feindish Fokkers!
    By 33LIMA,
    Alarums and excursions in a 'prehistoric packing case'!     A common British 'pet name' for an aeroplane, probably originating in WW1, was a 'kite'. New Zealand ace Keith 'Grid' Caldwell got his nickname from calling aircraft 'grids'. 'Packing cases' - perhaps in the sense of what in the UK we call tea chests, light and flimsy plywood boxes much sought after for moving house contents - is a common translation of a German equivalent from the same period. 'Prehistoric packing cases' seems to have been an uncomplimentary form of the term, attributed to Manfred von Richthofen and applied, generally, to single- or two-seat 'pusher' biplanes, like the Vickers F.B.2 'gun-bus', the F.E.2, and the D.H.2 that I'm flying in my current Wings over Flanders Fields RFC campaign. But this is March 1916, and the ascendancy of the new German fighter aircraft in the hands of Boelcke, Richthofen et al are some months away. Instead, our principal fighter opposition is the increasingly-obsolescent Fokker monoplane, which we in 'B' Flight, No. 24 Squadron, met and vanquished in my first operational flight.   Here's the briefing for my second show. The date is 2nd March, and I'm leading four D.H.s to provde an escort for three B.E.2c two-seaters on a reconnaisance mission to just over the lines.     As I've said before, this type of escort was relatively rare. The RFC's offensive doctrine preferred a system of timed patrols, what the Germans (in WW2 anyway) would have called free-booting frei jagd sweeps. 'Working aeroplanes' if they had an escort, were often provided it from within their own squadron (which sometimes had 'fast scouts' on its strength, useful for this purpose). This eliminated the difficulty in effecting a rendevous between slow machines flying in from different locations. In fact in January 1916, at the height of the 'Fokker Scourge', the RFC ordered that each recce machine be escorted by three others. Thus the Fokkers significantly reduced the RFC's sortie rate, never mind the aircraft and crews they actually shot down - 'virtual attrition' I think they call it.   Speaking of 2nd March 1916, I see the RFC's 'Comic Cuts' internal communiqué for that date recorded, as regards air combat, that '2Lt Fincham and 2Lt Price (B.E.2c. 2127, 8 Sqn) were persistently attacked by a Fokker biplane when doing artillery patrol in the Ypres salient. The result was indecisive. The pilot reports he distinctly saw the hostile machine using tracer bullets. Sgt Bayetto (Morane Scout, 3 Sqn) on escort duty to the Valenciennes reconnaisance, reports having been attacked by 5 Fokkers in the neighbourhood of Valenciennes. The reconnaisance machine dived to get clear, but was closely followed by the hostile machines. Sgt Bayetto opened fire on the nearest hostile machine and drove it down, apparently into the woods at Valenciennes. After the engagement he saw no more signs of the reconaisance machine and returned over Lille where he was again attacked by 3 Fokkers. These he eventually evaded and after circling around Lille for 15 minutes, returned to his landing ground.' The fate of the 'reconnaisance machine' is unrecorded, but may be deduced from being last reported as diving away, 'closely followed by the hostile machines.'   How will 2nd March be for me, Lt. Jock Higgins, from Stirling, Scotland? Would I have got a mention in 'Comic Cuts'? It's time to find out!     It's about 09:00 and the sun is having a bit of bother breaking through the fairly extensive cloud cover. Undaunted, we head off to the north-east, to meet up with the recce machines, giving me time to admire the effects of the low morning sunshine, filtered by the clouds.     I suddenly notice four aeroplanes slipping past above us, in a patch of open sky. I recognise them as 'pushers', confirming they are friendlies - the Huns had so few of this type it's more or less a given thing. I wonder if they might be our own squadron's 'A' Flight, which is supposed to be supporting us, but their more slender, less stubby appearance tells me they are the bigger F.E.2b general purpose two seaters, off on a mission of their own.     Gaining height as we press on, I see the town of Doullens to our left, which provides a welcome re-assurance that we haven't managed to get lost, yet. You know what they say, about an officer with a map ('The most dangerous thing in the Army').     Shortly after this, I spot three machines below and ahead, against some clouds, heading the same way. Doctor Livingstone, I presume.     Ankor's latest DX9 mod's mouselook includes smooth scroll-wheel zoom, an excellent new feature.     I start zig-zagging above the two-seaters. Our D.H.2s aren't fast, but the B.E.s are climbing hard, so we are able to do this without falling behind. Soon, we can see the churned earth of shelled ground, slipping in ahead and on both sides, replacing the previously-unspoilt countryside as we near the front.     Looking down and over the side - another thing made easy without head-tracking, with Ankor's latest mod - I can make out one of our observation balloons, far below. You can see him close to my starboard wheel rim, in this next picture.     Serves me right for sight-seeing, for when I look around again, I can see neither head nor tail of the B.E's. Where the heck have they gone?     Have we got ahead of them, or are they out of sight somewhere beneath us, hidden by our airframes? I begin a wide turn to the right, confident that I will pick them up again pretty quickly. They can't have gone that far.     Or can they? The B.E.s are no-where to be seen. I circle around again, feeling increasingly desperate. Still no sign! At least, I don't see any indication of an air fight, no pillars of smoke marking the fall to earth of one of my charges. Well, if they're still in the air, they're most likely ahead of us by now, so I level out and race off towards our objective. I have lost some height and the B.E.s were climbing when last seen, but I fly straight and level, the faster to catch them up.     To my boundless relief, I soon spot the three B.E.s, ahead and above. A gentle climb enables me to continue to catch them up; I will worry about getting right up to their level, after I have done that.     But suddenly, I have other, more pressing things to worry about. I haven't slowed down to ensure my flight can keep up during my recent manoeuvres, and now, I pay the price, as rounds whack into my machine from behind. A lone Fokker has slipped in between me and my spread-out flight mates and what's more, the Hun is making a very determined effort at bringing my career to an early and violent end!     ...to be continued!

    "Attack EVERYTHING!"
    By 33LIMA,
    Flying the 'spinning incinerator' in Wings over Flanders Fields!     "Led by Lanoe Hawker, No.24 Squadron (DH2s), Britain's first single-seater scout squadron, arrived in France on 8 February 1916 in great excitement but was immediately absorbed in a crisis of its own. The day after their arrival, one of the flight commanders, on the first flight of a DH2 from a French airfield, got into a spin and failed to recover. Five days later, another pilot spun in, and this time the machine caught fire. It had happened before, earning the DH2 the grisly sobriquet of the 'spinning incinerator'...Hawker responded by taking up a DH2 and, according to his biographer, spinning it from every conceivable angle, engine on and engine off, and demonstrating how, with correct remedial action, and provided there was sufficient height, it always recovered."   Ralph Barker, 'A Brief History of the Royal Flying Corps', Constable & Robinson, 2002   Major Lanoe George Hawker, VC, DSO, deserves to be remembered not so much as a famous early victim of Manfred von Richthofen in November 1916, but rather, as the aggressive pioneer air fighter who won a VC for victories over three Germain aircraft - all I think machine-gun armed 2-seaters - on a single day in July 1915, flying a Bristol Scout with a Lewis Gun which had to be fixed to fire at an angle ahead to clear the prop disc - a real feat of arms. This is the actual machine he flew:     As a Flight Commander in those days, Hawker's motto, pinned to the notice board, was 'Attack EVERYTHING!' and it was certainly a dictum he lived up to. Later, he was a natural choice to lead the Royal Flying Corps' first real single-seat fighter squadron. Just as No.24 Squadron was a natural choice of unit, when I decided to fly an early-war British fighter campaign in Wings over Flanders Fields.   I had only just ended a 1916 campaign in another 'pusher', the two-seat F.E.2 - after one mission! We crashed after a dramatic collision with a Fokker...     ...which didn't survive the encounter...     We lasted a bit longer, surviving further damage in another Fokker attack as we drifted down with a dead motor and elevator control gone, but didn't live through the ensuing crash landing...     So, you might say that I had a score to settle, when I chose to try my hand with another lattice-tailed aircraft, the De Havilland D.H.2, which was credited with a large part in ending the 'Fokker Scourge'. My new career starts in early March 1916, with 24 Squadron's first operations following its deployment to Bertangles in Flanders. You can see from the roster that the redoubtable Major Hawker is very much on the squadron roster - COs were forbidden to fly on ops due to the need to preserve experienced leaders, but Hawker still flew, letting one of the other flight commanders lead. One of whom is me, for my pilot, Lieutenant 'Jock' Higgins - no relation to famous pioneer RFC flier 'all bum and eyeglass' J.F.A. 'Josh' Higgins - is the leader of 'B' Flight.     Our first mission is a patrol up to the lines, more or less directly to the east. I'm leading no less that six machines, and 'A' flight are putting up another four, so we should be able to give any Huns we meet a run for their money. The C.O isn't flying with me today, but I see one or two other famous names in my flight, including the later Air Marshall Sir Robert Saundy, who wasn't a 'Sir' (knighted) in 1916, butI think should be an officer by that point, rather than the Sergeant he's recorded as...maybe the Recording Officer has made a bit of a mix-up in the squadron roster somewhere.     We make a fine sight on the grass before the sheds at Bertangles in the fine early morning March weather...     ...and it's not long before we're off the ground and climbing away.     Those Huns had better watch out - 'Twenty-four' has opened shop and means to do some business this day!   ...to be continued!

    By 33LIMA,
    First mission in a new two-seater career in Wings over Flanders Fields     'Truly, this machine is a whale' ('walfisch' in German), one of the acceptance commission officials is reported to have said of LFG Roland's C.II two-seater, when it first flew about October 1915. Not the kindest of epithets, but it stuck - indeed, one famous flier of the type, Eduard von Schleich, made his Roland look even more whale-like by painting a mouth and eyes onto the nose of his machine, as people familiar with the old Airfix 1/72 kit will recall. Portly though it looked, the Roland was in its time an advanced machine, fast and well-armed, with superb view and fields of fire upwards, for a biplane. Less happily, the thin wings were reported to warp under front-line conditions, reducing climb rates, and the poor downward view and high approach speed made for rather a lot of landing crack-ups. Nevertheless, about the middle of 1916, RFC ace Albert Ball described the Roland as 'the best German machine now' and they type soldiered on over the Western Front till about mid-1917.   This isn't my first WoFF mission report in this type - that can be found here. However, it's been a while since I have flown the Roland. I decided it was time to break out of my traditional 1917 campaigns with one the year before, flying and fighting against an earlier generation of combat aircraft. For the German side of that experience, I was initially tempted to fly the neat Halberstadt D.II..     But instead for additional novelty, I thought I'd go for a two-seater, with the Roland being an obvious choice - like the RFC's Sopwith Strutter, it was no mere target, but more of an all-round combat aircraft, with a decent air-to-air capability.   To digress slightly, I'm still flying the original version of WoFF - my PC, though able to produce acceptable FPS (most of the time) with high graphics settings, has been left behind as the minimum specs have crept up. However, though I think it has introduced some stutter on my old rig at low level in graphically 'busy' situations, I am using the latest version of Ankor's DX9 mod, which to aircraft and ground shadows, has now added two really outstanding new features to Wings over Flanders Fields - subtle 'head bobbing' during manoeuvres, and mouse look. Marvellous stuff!   For my Roland campaign, I wanted a unit equipped with this type in the summer of 1916, based in the British sector  - until the arrival of WoFF Ultimate Edition, the sim has somewhat limited coverage of French orders of battle, now pretty well remedied with the addition of the Caudron G.IV and Breguet 14. So I ended up with Feldflieger Abteilung 3, based at Menen in Flanders, starting in August 1916.   Here's the squadron roster, which shows me at the head of the second flight as usual in WoFF, in this case Kette Zwei; also as usual, I've enabled the 'Always lead' option to ensure that I fly at the head of my flight, every time, with no need for tedious formation flying. The unit still has some old Aviatik C.IIs. It was quite common for German two-seater units to operate a mix of aircraft types, helped no doubt by the fact that many had similar makes of engines, which probably shared many parts.     Our first mission was artillery observation, directing the fire of a battery. I believe Rise of Flight is the only WW1 sim which provides a game mechanism to simulate this activity; in the others as in WoFF, it's a case of flying to the objective, where you can orbit back and forth between the likely positions of target and battery, simulating your task (which was commonly flown in a back-and-forth figure of eight pattern).   'Art obs' planes generally operated alone, on the British side having escort only in the form of timed patrols; but the Germans often seem to have provided direct escorts. In fact, the 'CL' or light C-type two seater, though much employed later for ground attack, was intended to have just such an escort role. And the Roland C.II is arguably the immediate progenitor of the CL types that followed, like the Hannover CL.II and III and Halberstadt CL.III and IV.   For this job, four of us are detailed: three Rolands and an old Aviatik. I have accepted the unit's stock colour scheme for my kite, though with the now-free historical skin pack, I could have chosen something different, but all I did was reduce the flight's fuel load to 80%, more than enough for this operation.   Here I am hareing across the grass at Menen. The weather is good, Kette Eins is said to be flying in support, plus we have two Fokker eindekkers coming down from the north as additional cover. All in all, it's quite a big effort for an art obs mission, so perhaps the target is especially important.     Early on, I realise the Aviatik is going to struggle to keep up with our fast Rolands. I should perhaps play it as if he is the one with the morse transmitter plotting the fall of shot, and maintain formation with him so as to act as a close escort. But I decide instead to press on and sweep the skies clear, ahead of him.     Although WoFF doesn't have a functional 'warp to next event/waypoint' feature and has limited time acceleration, I generally prefer flying in real time. Even if the flight to the front is longer than this trip, the visuals are sufficiently impressive to make it a valued part of the experience, for me. The excellent cloudscapes are a major part of this, especially with Arisfuser's cloud mod.Love it!     For much of the trip down to the south-west towards the lines, I see neither Kette Eins nor the eindekker escort. But finally, nearing the front, I look up and behind, and there, hanging in the skies above, is a Fokker monoplane. The second one is lower down, but also catching us up...or trying to, not very successfully.     Soon, seen through the broken cloud, the green and yellow fields below us are giving way to the muddy earth brown of the shelled area. It won't be long now, till we are in the target zone.     At this point, we see the black smudges of German AA fire below and ahead. As I watch, I can see that the bursts are tracking towards us. Looking for their targets, I can just about make out two small specks close together, below and ahead of the flak bursts. They're on a roughly reciprocal course, but are not climbing as if to intercept us.     I watch the two enemy aircraft warily as they pass below and slightly right. I can see as they pass that they are 'pusher' types, probably F.E.2s, 'Vickers two seaters' as they Germans commonly knew them. If they'd been DH 2 fighters, they would likely be attacking us.  I could ignore them, and possibly should. I hesitate, remembering that we have artillery fire to direct. But I decide that can wait, and pull around and down, after the two Englishmen, before they get too far away. Leaving the rest of my own flight lagging, I'm soon attacking their leader from his blind spot. Obligingly, my trusty observer starts shooting at the second F.E. to our left, even as I'm knocking bits off the first one.     My target turns right out of formation. I close the range, firing as I come and getting more hits.     At this point, the F.E.'s speed drops off, and a wisp of dark smoke begins to unravel in his wake. I weave but end up overshooting, giving his observer the chance to put some rounds into my machine, in return. I try a rolling scissors but he's going so slowly I just can't keep behind him, working hard as I have to, to control my Walfisch's tail-heavy tendency to push the angle of attack well up. The F.E's bobbing up and down now, like he's strugling to stay under control, but I know only too well that he's still dangerous. So I do what I should have done earlier and make a clean break, swerving away and then coming around in a wide arc to make a fresh attack. This at last has the desired effect. After some more short bursts from my forward-firing MG, the F.E. goes down with a stopped propeller.     I look around for the others, but see nothing of them. I recall noticing two of them flying close together straight and level, so perhaps they had decided to leave me to it, and go on with the mission (the WoFF AI will reportedly do this, if they conclude their leader is giving up or no longer able to fly the mission). My plans for my next move are interrupted, however, when the noise and revs of my motor drop back. The power dies too and I'm left to turn east and search for somewhere to force land. Evidently, the hits the F.E. did managed to land on my Roland are responsible for this unfortunate turn of events.     Happily, I'm well on our side of No Man's Land and almost clear of the ground torn up by shellfire. And there's an airfield nearby, but while I edge around in its direction, I haven't enough height to make it there. Instead, I manage a creditable forced landing in a big field that's fortunately bereft of the lethal fences which can bring many such a move to grief, in WoFF.   Well, my diversion meant that I failed to get to my artillery spotting location, which is not good; but my flight may have been able to carry on. In return, I've knocked down an Englishman, at the cost of a damaged motor. Not too bad a day's work, for my first day at the front!   Below, is my pilot logbook after this sortie, opened to show that I have made my victory claim, as yet unconfirmed...     A couple of pages further on, I can re-read the combat report which I typed up afterwards, against the entry for the claim.     So far, so reasonably good. Very early days yet, but I'm rather hoping that this will be the start of a long and successful career!

    GT:OS - campaign finale
    By 33LIMA,
    Das Reich finally secures the Pavlovka bridgeheads!     Well, I finally reached the end of my first campaign in Graviteam Tactics: Operation Star, having in the process just about secured and held my campaign objectives, though not earning a victory (in a typically arcane GT:OS reckoning!).   The Pavlovka campaign had reached its final (eighth) operational-level turn, so although I might have several battles to fight at tactical level, I knew my time was running out. So to the east of Pavlovka, I pushed a combined force of StuG III assault guns and panzer pioneers northwards towards the River Mzha, intending to reinforce my battered units on the far bank and establish a bridgehead so strong that the Reds would be unable to kick me out of it, try as they might. That was the plan, anyway.     It was quite a tense business, as my SPWs, advancing on the left, changed from line to column formation to ford the river in the snowy darkness. There was a  certain amount of bunching up as they reached the near bank...     ...but the half-tracks quickly shook themselves out and made the crossing without opposition, passing the frozen bodies of casualties from the earlier fighting.     To their right, my two StuGs had moved up to a fire position on the southern bank, accompanied by an infantry platoon...     ,,,but meeting no opposition, they then made their own crossing and swung north-east, to establish a blocking position against the Red tank brigade still expected to hit us from that direction.     At this point, the GT:OS curtain came down. I don't recall there being any contact as I write this, so I'm not clear what caused the handful of wounded reported on each side (or why they aren't counted in the casualty total). I'd achieved what I'd set out to, and gained some ground at the enemy's expense, so I'm not especially bothered that GT:OS only awarded me a draw. Equally I'm not bothered about the lack of combat. For me, 75% of the fun is laying and carrying out your plans, with the excitement and uncertainty as to whether, how and when the other side may, or may not, make the effort to mess things up for you.     I didn't know it at the time, but the next battle was going to be my last one of the campaign. And it was going to be an altogether more violent and bloody affair.   ...to be continued!

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