The 11 Most Interesting Works On The Air Force Reading List

The job of an airman includes a long list of responsibilities, and commanders want to ensure that their troops develop their minds along with their combat prowess.

To help guide servicemembers in their training, the Air Force’s top general, the Air Force Chief of Staff, publishes a list of various works to help guide members to topics relevant to the life of an airman. The list changes yearly and contains a multitude of works ranging from military-centric to advice on life and career skills.

Unlike the Marine Corps and Army Lists that we have previously covered, the Air Force list includes not only books but also works of art, movies, and even TED talks. We went through and selected the 11 most important and interesting works in the list and offer a brief glimpse into each piece.

'Band of Brothers' by HBO

'Band of Brothers' is an HBO Emmy-winning miniseries produced by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks and is based on the book by Stephen E. Ambrose. The series follows 'Easy Company' of the 101st Airborne Division from jump training to their time spent fighting in Europe during World War II.

The series offers a dramatic look into the personal lives of men at war, and the issues they face. The book was based on countless personal interviews with the men of 'Easy Company,' and the series continues in that vein with many interviews and recollections from the veterans depicted in the series. The interviews with the men, almost 60 years removed from the war they fought, sets the series apart as powerful filmmaking.

Buy it here >

'The Invisible War' by Kirby Dick

Documentarian Kirby Dick received the U.S. Documentary Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival and his second nomination for Best Documentary Feature at the Academy Awards for his work 'The Invisible War.' In it, he tackles the pernicious issue of sexual assault in the military.

The film is so moving that two days after watching it, then-Secretary of Defence Leon Panetta held a press conference to discuss changes to the way the military handles sexual assault. This is an important film about an issue that still plagues the military and will likely leave you infuriated after watching it.

Buy it here >

'The Battle of Algiers'

An Italian war film from 1966 may seem quite strange as a recommendation to airmen, but not only is this film entertaining, it is also a look into an important conflict that is still studied today. Algerian independence was won after a hard-fought insurgency that included atrocities committed by both sides.

Director Gillo Pontecorvo stayed true to that theme, and his movie is an objective, equal-handed portrayal of the French and the Algerians. The guerrilla campaign by the Algerians produced great works on the subjects of insurgencies and counterinsurgencies, and this movie is one of those works. It was even screened privately at the Pentagon in 2003, shortly after the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

Buy it here >

'Zero Dark Thirty'

Nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture, 'Zero Dark Thirty' is an exhilarating film that covers the events leading up to and including the mission to capture or kill Osama Bin Laden. The movie follows Maya, a CIA operative who makes it her life's mission to find Bin Laden.

'Zero Dark Thirty' shows her remarkable dedication in tracking down the world's most infamous terrorist. However, the film is an interesting inclusion on the Air Force list as the enhanced interrogation techniques depicted in the movie were disputed by the CIA and caused some to charge the film as being pro-torture.

Buy it here >

'Fire Over Ploesti' by Roy Grinnell

The image depicted here is one of the works of art included on the Air Force's list. The painting by Roy Grinnell depicts the lead aircraft in an air assault during World War II. The assault was called Operation Tidal Wave and aimed at dealing a blow to Axis forces petroleum production.

Hell's Wench, the B-24 Liberator pictured, was the lead plane in the Allied attack after the lead group took a wrong turn. Pilot Lt. Col Baker guided the allied forces into the attack. After his aircraft was damaged, he dumped his bomb load so that he could continue leading the formation instead of safely landing in a field.

After the attack, Baker attempted to gain altitude to allow his crew to escape, but sadly ended up crashing. Baker and his co-pilot, Maj. John L. Jerstad were both posthumously awarded the Medal of Honour for their actions that day.

Photography by Staff Sgt. Jonathan Snyder

The Air Force's multi-faceted 'reading list' even includes some photography from outstanding airmen. This shot comes from Staff Sgt. Snyder and depicts a medic giving aid to a young Afghan boy who was burned by another villager.

There are two other galleries to view at the Air Force website, and all the photos are fascinating. They include photos of families, missions, training, and many various aspects of military life.

You can view the photo gallery here >

'The Doolittle Raid: America's Daring First Strike Against Japan' by Carroll V. Glines

The air raid led by Jimmy Doolittle over Japan during World War II is one of the most amazing and daring air raids in the history of the United States. Many books and movies about the bombing have been produced over the years following the attack.

Glines' work is different in that it follows not only the attack but the story of the last raider. After dealing with the trama of being captured by Japanese forces and later disbelieving his release, Lt. George Barr was found by Doolittle, now a general, who helped set his former soldier on the road to recovery. The book shows the difference that good leadership makes in the lives of warriors.

Buy it here >

'A Higher Call: An Incredible True Story of Combat and Chivalry in the War-Torn Skies of World War II

'A Higher Call' is a fascinating work that addresses one of the more unbelievable and yet fantastic stories of World War II. The story begins when American bomber pilot Charles 'Charlie' Brown met German fighter pilot Franz Stigler in the skies over Germany.

Stigler was ordered to intercept and destroy Brown's plane, but when he overtook Brown, he found a plane badly damaged to the point that he could peer in and see the injured crew members. What took place next neither Brown nor Stigler spoke of publicly for 40 years.

We won't ruining the ending by telling you what took place, but this book tells an incredible story of friendship, brotherhood and the bonds of service, and how people can be enemies and yet still view each other as human.

Buy it here >

'On Combat, the Psychology and Physiology of Deadly Conflict in War and Peace' by Dave Grossman and Loren W. Christensen

While Dave Grossman's book 'On Killing' is an entry on both the Marine Corps and Army reading lists, his latest work 'On Combat' expands on similar subject matter. Dave Grossman was a Lt. Col. in the Army and a West Point professor and has a depth of knowledge on the psychological effects arising from combat.

As unsavory as it can be to talk about killing, the subject matter deals with a primary responsibility of servicemembers. Grossman takes the reader through the science of how people respond to combat and how they deal with the effects of combat afterwards. 'On Combat' is an insightful look and is recommended for not only military members but also for law enforcement and other paramilitary organisations.

But it here >

'A Motto for Life' a TED talk by CMSAF Robert Gaylor

Author Robert Gaylor was the fifth Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force (CMSAF), which is the highest enlisted advisor in the branch. Over his long career, Gaylor served in many overseas unit and in Vietnam and advised many high-ranking officers to include the Secretary of the Air Force.

Gaylor's TED talk is as entertaining as it is enlightening. He uses personal reflections, storytelling and a mixture of light-hearted and serious observation that keeps you watching. His story is gripping and is a fine example of how to live purposefully while leading and inspiring those under you.

Watch it here >

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