Imagine what ISIS would do if it managed to capture one of our pilots.
The monsters in black no doubt would try to top the video they made of burning the Jordanian pilot alive.
And there is no guarantee that one of our pilots will not fall into their hands.
Yes, our pilots are better trained than are the Jordanians.
And, our airplane maintenance probably is superior.
But even the best-trained pilots with the best ground crews can suffer mishaps.
A reminder of that came on Dec. 1, when 30-year-old Air Force Capt. William DuBois of the 77th Fighter Squadron took off from what was only identified as “a host country” in the Middle East, but almost certainly was Jordan.
DuBois, who flew by the call sign “Pyro,” was setting off for an airstrike against ISIS when his F-16 Fighting Falcon jet developed mechanical difficulties.
“Apparently there were some maintenance problems on takeoff,” a Pentagon spokesman later said. “It turned around and unfortunately was not able to land.”
DuBois was killed in the crash. His wife, Ashley, released a statement through the family.
“I loved him with all my heart and soul and I’m lucky to call him my husband. And I close my eyes and hear him laughing and see him smile and I’m forever grateful for all the love and joy that he brought to my life. Push it up and double down my love.”
In fighter pilot lingo, to “push it up” means to push the throttle stick forward, the equivalent of flooring the accelerator in a car.
“Double down” is what all our pilots do each time they embark on yet another mission in what is dubbed Operation Inherent Resolve.
The resolve is no more manifest than in the pilots, who swoop over ISIS turf knowing that there is always a chance of a mishap.
If a pilot goes down and is captured, we almost certainly will mount a major military rescue effort.
But there will be no guarantee of success.
Any experienced SEAL will tell you that the most difficult mission is a hostage rescue mission.
A U.S. pilot could still end up in an orange jumpsuit getting beheaded or burned alive.
And our pilots know that each time they rocket anew into harm’s way.
But they also know that they are making a difference. And it is not just in immediate military terms as measured by terrorists killed and vehicles destroyed.
They also are hurting ISIS financially.
That may be harder for ISIS to bear than the loss of a couple thousand more aspiring martyrs.
Back in October, the U.S. Treasury Department estimated that ISIS was making as much as $1 million a day by selling discounted oil. The purchasers were said to be Turks and Kurds and a crew that rivals ISIS when it comes to evil, the Assad regime in Syria.
The Treasury Department reports that ISIS oil revenue is now down much more than can be explained by shaming the Turks and Kurds or by a drop in the price of crude.
“The relative value of oil as a source of revenue to ISIL is diminishing,” Deputy Assistant Secretary for Terrorist Financing Jennifer Fowler told the Washington Institute for Near East Policy on Monday. “This is largely due to the impact of the coalition. A key example of this is the targeting of modular refineries that ISIL has stolen and used to refine crude oil drawn from wells in territory where it operates.”
ISIS continues to rake in millions from extortion and kidnapping and many millions more by looting the banks it seized.
But in the view of the folks at the Treasury Department, ISIS is beginning to feel a pinch.
“The sources of ISIL’s wealth—notably the money stolen from banks and revenue from oil sales—are either no longer replenished or diminish over time,” Fowler noted. “We expect ISIL will increasingly struggle to finance its operations.”
She went on, “Just like any commercial enterprise whose income is less than its expenses, ISIL’s financial strength will diminish unless it is able to find alternative sources of revenue or take additional territory.”
Any effort to take additional territory is likely to encounter airstrikes by our pilots, with the Air Force operating out of “host countries,” and the Navy from the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson.
These brave souls are largely forgotten by too many of us at home even after we have seen the horrific images of what awaited the Jordanian pilot when he was captured.
Our pilots have seen those images, too.
But you can be sure that makes them only more inherently resolved to push it up and double down.
The Department of Defense regularly posts airstrike summaries, such as this one covering from 8 a.m. Feb. 1 to 8 a.m. Feb. 2:
“Airstrikes in Syria:
—Near Kobani, nine airstrikes struck three large ISIL tactical units, five ISIL tactical units, and destroyed six ISIL staging areas and an ISIL vehicle.
—Near Dayr as Zawr, an airstrike struck an ISIL checkpoint.
Airstrikes in Iraq:
—Near Al Asad, an airstrike struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL mortar position and one ISIL fighting position.
— Near Huwayjah, an airstrike struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL fighting position.
—Near Al Rutbah, an airstrike struck an ISIL tactical unit.
—Near Kirkuk, three airstrikes struck two ISIL tactical units and destroyed two ISIL fighting positions, an ISIL vehicle, an ISIL tactical vehicle, one ISIL bunker, and three ISIL earth movers.
—Near Bayji, an airstrike struck an ISIL tactical unit.
—Near Sinjar, an airstrike struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL building.
— Near Tal Afar, an airstrike destroyed an ISIL weapons storage facility.
—Near Fallujah, four airstrikes struck an ISIL tactical unit, one ISIL vehicle and destroyed eight ISIL vehicles.
—Near Haditha, two airstrikes destroyed an ISIL fighting position and one ISIL vehicle.
—Near Mosul, two airstrikes destroyed an ISIL fighting position and an ISIL vehicle.”
Then came six beautiful words that we can only hope will appear at the end of every summary in this fight with the monsters in black.
“All aircraft returned to base safely.”