The awesome callsigns of the pilots bombing ISIS

ISIS parading flag

Photo: Youtube.com

The U.S. has conducted more than 4,700 air strikes against ISIS militants since Aug. 2014, and the American pilots carrying out those attacks often have awesome — and sometimes hilarious — callsigns.

In an interesting article for The New York Times, journalist Helene Cooper profiles some of the pilots flying from the USS Theodore Roosevelt, who go by names like “Yip Yip,” “Pope,” and “Pizza.” The pilots talk about some of their missions to strike inside Iraq and Syria and the camaraderie among their squadron.

“Quite honestly, the U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marines own the skies,” Maj. Anthony Bourke, a former Air Force fighter pilot, told The Times. “So even though pilots dream of dogfights, the biggest risk now is small-arms fire, and if you stay above 10,000 feet, you’re not going to be hit.”

150130-N-ZF498-210 ATLANTIC OCEAN (Jan. 30, 2015) An F/A-18E Super Hornet assigned to the Knighthawks of Strike Fighter Attack Squadron (VFA) 136 lands on the flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71). Theodore Roosevelt is underway participating in a composite training unit exercise, which tests the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group's ability to effectively react to real-world scenarios and perform as an integrated unit. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Anthony N. Hilkowski/Released)

(Photo: U.S. Navy, Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Anthony N. Hilkowski)

Though the Times article does not explain how they got their new names, it’s well known in the fighter pilot community that callsigns are usually earned during a “naming ceremony,” where fellow pilots bestow a newbie with something of a play on their name, or a name that evokes a past screw-up (cool names like “Iceman” or “Maverick” are usually out of the question).

USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) sails in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations

USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71)

So who are the mystery men flying in on F/A-18s to strike terrorist infrastructure? According to the photo spread accompanying the article, they are:

  • “Yard Sale” — Navy fighter pilot
  • “Chaz” — Navy fighter pilot
  • “Xerxes” — Navy weapons officer
  • “Pope” — Marine fighter pilot
  • “Yip Yip” — Navy fighter pilot
  • “Pickle” — Navy fighter pilot
  • “Skull” — Marine fighter pilot
  • “Pope” — Marine fighter pilot
  • “Betty” — Marine fighter pilot (and yes, he’s a guy)
  • “Sweet P” — Navy weapons officer
  • “Smoat” — Navy fighter pilot
  • “Bones” — Navy weapons officer
  • “Pizza” — the commander of the Roosevelt’s air wing

Now after an ISIS truck gets blown to bits, we know it may have all been the work of a guy named Yard Sale.

Now check out the Times article >

OR: That time when Americans and Germans fought together during World War II >