The COVID-19 pandemic changed a lot of aspects of daily life. Social distancing, restricted occupancy and wearing masks became commonplace. As these restrictions begin to lift in the summer of 2021, one COVID-driven change looks to be sticking around.
Implemented as a way to minimize interaction and reduce the spread of COVID-19, curbside pickup has become a convenient way for consumers to shop. Whether its your weekly groceries or a new TV, ordering online and having your purchases brought out to your car from the store is extremely convenient. For some people, it saves time in their hectic schedule. For others, it’s a workaround to prevent social anxiety. Whatever the reason for using it, curbside pickup is now offered at many grocery, retail and dining locations across the country.
For service members at stateside installations, curbside pickup at the commissary will be here by the end of the year. Called Click2Go, the online ordering/curbside pickup program has seen great success and has customers calling for further expansion. Over the last two years, Click2Go has been rolled out at 11 bases: Fort Belvoir, Fort Eustis, Fort Lee, Oceana Naval Air Station and Quantico Marine Corps Base in Virginia; Fort Polk, Louisiana; Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina; Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska; McGuire Air Force Base, New Jersey; Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota; and Jacksonville Naval Air Station, Florida.
In 2020, Defense Commissary Agency officials said they expected the number of Click2Go sites to grow to 60 in the next two years. After Bill Moore took over as DeCA Director and CEO, the projection changed. “I want to dramatically increase the number of stores with the service,” Moore said last fall. “I am driven on getting e-commerce to more locations, and I’m hoping we can get a lot more in a very near-term approach.” A fast-tracked rollout aims to introduce Click2Go to all 236 stateside commissaries by the end of the year. Overseas commissaries are expected to receive the program shortly thereafter.
Moreover, Click2Go itself has seen a number of improvements. To better serve customers, the commissary has added online payment options, more product information, improved user interface, featured sales and promotions, and mobile-friendly options like viewing order history. “Perhaps the most significant enhancement is online payment,” Moore said of the updates. “You place your order and pay online, and then it’s simply a matter of driving up to the curbside delivery area of your commissary to have your groceries loaded into your vehicle—that’s a streamlined process our customers expect in this information age.”
The Click2Go rollout schedule will be available on the Defense Commissary Agency website. Although the necessity of stateside commissaries has come under Congressional scrutiny in recent years, modernization efforts like Click2Go aim to keep the benefit on bases for the foreseeable future.
Featured photo: CLICK2GO call box stands in the parking lot of the Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, Commissary April 2, 2019. The program started in 2013. (U.S. Air Force photo by D. P. Heard)
The operation — which involved U.S. special operations troops along with Kurdish and Iraq forces — took place in northern Iraq’s Kirkuk province in the town of Hawija, according to CNN. At around 3 a.m., the area was bombed by coalition air power in support of two helicopters used to land in the vicinity of the makeshift prison, The Guardian reported.
The Pentagon released this statement regarding the operation:
The U.S. provided helicopter lift and accompanied Iraqi Peshmerga forces to the compound. Approximately 70 hostages were rescued including more than 20 members of the Iraqi Security Forces. Five ISIL terrorists were detained by the Iraqis and a number of ISIL terrorists were killed as well. In addition, the U.S. recovered important intelligence about ISIL.
One U.S. service member was wounded during the rescue mission acting in support of Iraqi Peshmerga forces after they came under fire by ISIL. He subsequently died after receiving medical care. In addition, four Peshmerga soldiers were wounded.
Rakan Saeed, the deputy governor of Kirkuk, told The Washington Post that US and Peshmerga forces freed 70 prisoners, extracted them on helicopters, but could not offer any more details.
“We deeply mourn the loss of one of our own who died while supporting his Iraqi comrades engaged in a tough fight,” Gen. Lloyd Austin, commander of U.S. Central Command, told the BBC.
The soldier’s death marks the first time a U.S. military member has been killed in combat fighting against ISIS (also known as the Islamic State, ISIL, or Daesh), which the Pentagon refers to as Operation Inherent Resolve.
Officials have not yet released the identity of the soldier killed in the raid, as it is standard to notify family members before any public notification. The Pentagon has planned a briefing on Thursday at 1:30 p.m. Eastern.
When a Taliban murder-suicide bomber killed two American troops with the 82nd Airborne Division, it particularly hit hard for one family. According to an Army Times report, the solider, Specialist Chris Harris, 25, of Jackson Springs, North Carolina, left behind a wife, Britt, who was expecting their first child.
The Defense Department reported that the August 2 attack that killed Spc. Harris also killed Sgt. Sgt. Jonathon Hunter, 23, of Columbus, Indiana ,and wounded four other troops. Both Harris and Hunter were with the 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment based at Fort Bragg.
An online fund-raiser was launched on Aug. 3 on the crowd-funding site GoFundMe.com to help Britt keep a handle on bills and other expenses. As of 9:53 AM Eastern time on Aug. 4, the online fundraiser for Mrs. Harris had raised $35,570 from 782 donors.
The online fundraiser is not the only fundraiser on the way for Britt and her unborn child. According to the VA website, Serviceman’s Group Life Insurance offers a $400,000 death benefit for a monthly premium of $29.00.
While those benefits will kick in, words from the GoFundMe page still apply: “During this time, money should be the absolute least important thing on [Britt’s] mind. If you feel it in your heart to donate to this cause, it would be kindly appreciated.”
Corpsmen and medics carry a mobile emergency room strapped to their backs along with their weapon systems — and it gets heavy. After going through months of intense medical training they can probably apply a wet tourniquet in the pitch black with one hand while under enemy fire.
Truth is, they can’t be everywhere at every moment. Make no mistake, if the medical staff could take care of everybody and send them home in one piece, they would.
During a mass casualty, “Doc” is outnumbered by the number of people he or she needs to care for. Being able to render care swiftly and take them to medical in a blink of an eye would save time and resources.
1. Winston Churchill’s plan for a militarized iceberg
Everyone knows that Winston Churchill is a certifiable badass — his military strategy in WWII led to the Allied victory over the Nazi Regime, and has secured him a spot amongst history’s greatest leaders.
What few people know, however, is that Churchill’s most glorious military scheme never saw the light of day — and for good reason. It was insane. What exactly was the Bulldog’s grand plan, you ask? To create the largest aircraft carrier the world had ever seen, and to make it out of ice.
Yes, you read that right. Churchill’s dream was to create a 2,000 foot long iceberg that would literally blow the Axis powers out of the water. The watercraft, dubbed Project Habakkuk, was going to be massive in every way: the construction plans called for walls that were 40 feet thick, and a keel depth of 200 feet — displacing approximately 2,00,000 tons of water. Habukkuk was no ice cube.
Eventually the Brits realized that frozen water may not be the hardiest building material, and opted to replace it with pykrete, a blend of ice and wood pulp that could deflect bullets.
Despite the fact that this “plan” sounds like something out of a bad sci-fi movie, Habakkuk almost happened. It wasn’t until a 60 foot long, 1,000 ton model was constructed in Canada that people realized how freaking expensive this thing would be — the 1940s were a strange time. A full-sized Habakkuk would cost $70 million dollars, and could only get up to about six knots. And at the end of the day, Germany could still potentially melt the thing, though it would probably take the rest of the war to make a dent in this glacier.
2. Napalm-packing suicide bomber bats
Fire bombs were a huge threat during the height of WWII, and an excellent weapon to wield against unwitting enemies. The horrific damage done to London and Coventry during the London Blitz is a prime example of the power this weapon of war had when used on England and other Allied nations.
Determined to one-up the Axis forces, President Franklin Roosevelt approved plans for an even better bomb — one that was smaller, faster, and … furrier. That’s right. The plan was to strap tiny explosives to tiny, live bats.
Why people thought this would be a good idea is anyone’s guess. The guy who proposed the scheme wasn’t even military — he was a dentist, and a friend of FDR’s wife, Eleanor. But America didn’t care about that. It was time to blow the crap out of Japan, and they were going to do it with the one weapon Japan didn’t have — flying rodents.
FDR consulted with zoologist Donald Griffin for his professional opinion before giving an official green light, apparently worried this “so crazy it just might work” idea might just be plain-old insane.
Griffin was a little skeptical too, but ultimately thought the whole bat thing was too cool to pass on. “This proposal seems bizarre and visionary at first glance,” he wrote in April 1942, according to The Atlantic, “but extensive experience with experimental biology convinces the writer that if executed competently it would have every chance of success.” Aces, Griffin.
The official strategy was to attach napalm explosives to each individual bat, store about 1,000 bats in large, bomb-safe crates, and release about 200 of those cases from a B-29 bomber as it flew over Japanese cities. That meant up to 200,000 bats could be unleashed at once — which would be terrifying even if they weren’t on a suicide mission.
After they were released into the air, these little angels of death would roost inside buildings on the ground. Then after a few hours their explosives would detonate, igniting the building and causing total chaos.
At least, that was the plan. In reality, the bats were a little too good at their job, and escaped to nest under an American Air Force base’s airplane hanger during an experiment. You can guess how that went. Surprisingly, the incineration of the building didn’t put a damper on the operation — people were just more convinced of the bats volatility, and excited to see them used in real combat.
Unfortunately (or fortunately, let’s be real), the U.S. never got to add “weaponized bats” to its military repertoire. It was decided that equipping small flying animals with napalm bombs could yield unpredictable results, and the investment wouldn’t be worth the possible military gains. Shocker.
3. The “Gay Bomb” that would cause enemies to “make love, not war”
Hindsight is always 20-20, but how anyone took this “military strategy” seriously is completely beyond us. In quite possibly the least politically-correct display of derring-do in American history, the U.S. prepared to take its enemies out in a way they would never expect — by turning them gay.
Let’s take a moment to let that sink in. The United States of America, one of the most powerful countries in the world, was convinced that getting the enemy to “switch teams” was the key to military prowess. Oh, and did we mention this happened in 1994?
The Wright Laboratory proposed a project that would require six years of research and a $7.5 million grant to create this bomb, along with other bizarre ideas — including as a bomb that would cause insects to swarm the enemy. So they really had the best and brightest American minds on this thing.
The goal was to drop extremely powerful chemical aphrodisiacs on enemy camps, rendering the men too “distracted” to um … leave their tents. Yes, this was a real idea that involved discharging female sex pheromones over enemy forces in order to make them sexually attracted to each other.
At the time the Pentagon and the Department of Defense held that “homosexuality is incompatible with military service,” consistent with Clinton’s infamous “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.
The gay bomb never got off the ground because researchers at the Wright lab discovered no such “chemical pheromones” existed, leaving the crazy idea with zero means to execute it. The Wright Lab did, however, win the IG Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 for its efforts, a tongue-and-cheek gesture from the Annals of Improbable Research.
4. B.F. Skinner’s pigeon-guided missile system
WWII is a treasure trove of weird military experiments, and famed psychologist B.F. Skinner’s contribution to the American cause may be one of the most bizarre.
The plan? Place live pigeons inside missiles, and train them to direct it to the correct target, ensuring that no target was missed. The target would be displayed on a digital screen inside the missile, and the pigeon would be trained to peck the target until the bomb would correct its course and start heading in the right direction.
Despite pretty hefty financial investment in the idea, it was ultimately decided that the time it would take to train the pigeons, and the fact that missiles would have to be updated with tiny screens for them to peck at, wasn’t worth the trouble.
5. America tried to take out the Viet Cong with clouds
This is one experiment that actually did happen, though that doesn’t make it any less ridiculous than our other contenders. When people think of the American military’s methods of chemical warfare in Vietnam, Agent Orange is what immediately comes to mind — but this chemical wasn’t the only weapon the U.S. employed in its battle against the Viet Cong. The CIA developed a strategy called cloud seeding in 1963, which would release chemicals into the air that would manipulate weather patterns, causing unusual amounts of rainfall for the surrounding area.
And we’re not talking your run-of-the-mill thunderstorm, either. Vietnam gets a ridiculous amount of rain already (remember that clip from Forrest Gump?), so the U.S. needed weather that would literally wash away the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Or at least try to.
The mission, called Operation Popeye, involved dumping iodine and silver flares from cargo planes over Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam. Scientists predicted that these chemical agents would cause a surge in rainfall and even extend the monsoon period, screwing with the Viet Cong’s communication networks and basically making things more unpleasant for everyone involved.
The results weren’t fantastic, but the U.S. didn’t roll over. The operation continued for five years, undertaking over 2,000 missions and releasing nearly 50,000 cloud-seed chemicals throughout the trail. Lack of results aside, the dedication is still impressive.
From a 440-pound bear to pigeon-guided missiles, here are nine notable examples of wartime animals.
Elephants, with their massive stature and fearsome tusks have been employed in warfare since ancient times. Elephantry units were first incorporated in militaries in India, but throughout time, famous generals including Pyrrhus of Epirus, Hannibal, and Alexander the Great all used elephants to literally crush their opponents.
War elephants were usually deployed in the center of the line, where the imposing beasts would charge at up to 20 mph towards the enemy. They were also used to carry heavy materials across difficult terrain before tanks and helicopters were an option.
Unlike horse-mounted cavalry, elephants didn’t fear infantry lines bearing spears, their muscular and articulate trunks could navigate a wall of spears much better than a charging horse.
The mere sight of elephants charging was enough to break lines and cause many armies to flee in terror. Only cannon fire made the war elephants impractical. The giant animals were resilient against musket fire, but provided a huge target for cannons.
Off the battlefield, militaries still found ways to make use of elephants. As recently as 1987 Iraqi troops allegedly used elephants to transport heavy weaponry for use in Kirkuk.
In 1960, the US Navy first began its studies on dolphins. At first, the studies were limited to testing how dolphins were so hydrodynamic, with efforts on applying the findings towards improving torpedo performance.
However, by 1967 the US Navy Marine Mammal Program evolved into a major project. The program, which is still ongoing, began training dolphins for mine hunting and force protection missions. In the case of mine hunting, dolphins were trained to locate underwater mines and release buoys over their location, allowing the Navy to safely clear the weapons.
During the Iraq War in 2003, such dolphin-led operations led to the clearance of over 100 mines in the port of Umm Qasr. Additionally, dolphins have been trained to guard harbors against enemy divers. When a diver approached, the dolphin was trained to bump a buoy device onto the person’s back which drags them to the surface.
“These animals are released almost daily untethered into the open ocean, and since the program began, only a few animals have not returned,” according to the Navy.
The Nazi betrayal of the Soviets during World War II caught the Russians completely off guard. In a desperate attempt at staving off the Nazi advance into their territory, the Soviets originally attempted to train dogs to place bombs in front of tanks before running back to safety.
When this proved too difficult a feat for training, the Soviets instead began strapping bombs to dogs that were activated by a small lever rising from an attached pouch on the dog’s side. When the dog would dive under a tank, the lever would strike the tank’s chassis and detonate.
Soviet propaganda claims that around 300 German tanks were destroyed in this manner. However, the majority of the program proved to be a failure. The dogs were trained on Soviet diesel tanks, instead of German gasoline tanks, so during deployment the dogs had a habit of running towards Soviet vehicles based on scent.
Pigs have been recorded in multiple ancient texts as one of the most effective counter-weapons to war elephants. War elephants were reportedly terrified of the squealing and charging of pigs, so both the Romans and Alexander the Great made use of them in campaigns against enemies that fielded elephants.
In one particularly brutal scenario, the use of incendiary pigs was also recorded.
Eglan notes in Beasts of War that “Antigonus II Gonata’s siege of Megara in 266 BC was broken when the Megarians doused some pigs with combustible pitch, crude oil or resin, set them alight, and drove them towards the enemy’s massed war elephants.
The elephants bolted in terror from the flaming, squealing pigs, often killing great numbers of their own soldiers by trampling them to death.”
Developed by the US for use against Japan during World War II, the bat bomb was literally that. Each bomb would contain 26 trays that each held 40 hibernating bats. Each bat was meant to be outfitted with an individual incendiary device that was set to detonate after a specified amount of time.
The bombs could deploy their own parachutes, giving the bats time to fly out and look for places to roost. The US was planning on dropping hundreds of the bombs over Japan’s industrial cities in Osaka Bay.
As Japanese cities at the times were largely constructed of wood and paper at the time, the bombs would have caused thousands of fires and burned large sections of Japanese cities to the ground. The project was ultimately superseded by the atomic bomb.
Trained in the same facilities, and even sometimes working on the same missions together, the sea lions helped to protect US harbor installations and ships against enemy divers as well as retrieving text equipment that is fired from ships or dropped from planes.
The sea lions are naturally excellent divers, out performing even experienced human divers at a fraction of the price.
The Navy first used sea lions to recover a test anti-submarine rocket from a depth of 180 feet in November 1970.
Pigeon-guided missiles were developed by noted behaviorist B.F. Skinner during Project Pigeon. Although the project was ultimately canceled because of the impracticality of the weapons, the idea of pigeon-guided missiles showed promise.
The missile had an array of lenses at the front that projected an image of the target to an interior screen. The pigeons were conditioned to peck at the target on the screen. The pigeon’s pecks corrected the missile’s flight path.
Although the project was canceled in 1944, it was revived in 1948 by the US Navy. However, after missile guidance systems were proven effective in 1953, the idea of pigeon-guided missiles was finally laid to rest.
Wojtek was born in in 1942, but by the end of World War II he was a corporal in the Polish Army.
After being released from a Siberian labor camp during the Nazi invasion of Russia in 1942, the 22nd Polish Supply Brigade began a long trek south toward Persia. It was then that they encountered Wojtek.
The bear became a mascot for the troops in its youth. The bear would frequently drink alcohol and smoke, even eat, cigarettes with the men.
After a long journey, Wojtek’s company finally reached Egypt where they prepared to reenter the war zone through Italy. The army had strict rules denying pets passage to war zones, so the company did the only thing they could — they made Wojtek an official soldier.
Wojtek, at a massively strong 440 pounds, carried weapons and munitions much faster than the men in his company. Eventually, Wojtek became so symbolic of the company that they immortalized them on their emblem.
The acoustic kitty was a CIA project in the 1960s that set out to use cats to spy on the Kremlin and other Soviet embassies.
Cats used in the project had microphones implanted in their ear canals, and radio transmitters in the base of their skulls. In theory, the cats would become mobile, albeit unpredictable little spies reporting immediately back to the CIA.
In the first deployment of an Acoustic Kitty, the cat was unleashed around a Soviet compound in Washington, D.C. The cat was released nearby, but a taxi struck and killed the cat almost immediately.
Predictably, the CIA abandoned the project due to the difficulty of getting a cat to do pretty much anything on command. The project reportedly cost $20 million.
Saudi forces who have been fighting Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen will now have to find some alternative sources for precision-guided munitions and intelligence.
That’s because the United States is cutting back on some support for Riyadh due to high-profile strikes that have caused civilian casualties.
According to a report by CBSNews.com, the United States will continue to provide aerial refueling assets for the Saudi-led coalition, and will step up intelligence sharing on threats to the Saudi border.
American training for the Saudi-led coalition is also being adjusted to address concerns about the civilian casualties in the war, which has been raging since March 2015. Other military sales, including a sale of CH-47 Chinook helicopters, will be proceeding as well.
The decision to reduce American support for the Saudi-led coalition came about after the White House ordered a review in the wake of reports that an air strike hit a funeral hall, killing over 100 civilians. Last month, a professor at Columbia University claimed that US personnel aiding Saudi-led anti-Houthi coalition could be guilty of war crimes.
This past October, Houthi rebels were responsible for threeattacks on the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Mason (DDG 87) using Noor anti-ship missiles, an Iranian copy of the Chinese C-802 anti-ship missile. The destroyer USS Nitze (DDG 94) fired Tomahawk land-attack cruise missiles at radar stations controlled by the Houthi in response to the attacks on USS Mason.
The former U.S. Navy ship HSV 2 Swift was damaged in an attack off Yemen as well, prompting the deployment of USS Nitze, USS Mason, and USS Ponce (AFSB(I) 15) to the waters off Yemen.
Tommy Diaz was looking to make a career move after graduating community college in 2008, so he joined the U.S. Army. In 2010, he was deployed to Bagram, Afghanistan, where he worked in military intelligence.
“I talked with high-level Taliban members,” Diaz said. “I did over 400 debriefings. The euphemism is debriefings. They’re really interrogations.”
The job was high pressure, but Diaz knew it mattered. He picked up important skills, but he struggled to put those skills to work when he came home to Southern California. He got his first full-time job tracking inventory for an aircraft parts supplier.
“I did that for about 10 months, but I just got bored of it,” Diaz said. “It just felt like a dead end. It wasn’t clicking. I was just hashing out reports, and I wanted to do more.”
So, he left. And Diaz isn’t alone. A 2016 survey by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation found that 44 percent of veterans left their first post-military job within a year.
The unemployment rate for U.S. military veterans is down from nearly 9 percent back in 2010 to just above 4 percent today. Thanks to a big push from the federal government and a bunch of corporate initiatives, U.S. companies have done a good job hiring veterans in recent years, but keeping them is another story.
Many leave because they have trouble matching military skills to job requirements or finding a sense of purpose in the job. But for many vets, the very experience of being in an office causes problems.
“It just becomes kind of a minefield of how to interact with people,” said Emily King, author of “Field Tested: Recruiting, Managing and Retaining Veterans.”
King has been hired by companies to help integrate veteran employees. She said it’s hard for them to reorient from the military way of doing things.
“An attitude where the mission comes first and interpersonal communication and effectiveness come second is not usually effective in a civilian environment where they tend to pay as much attention to how you do something as to what you do,” King said.
Some veterans’ service providers say the recent push to get companies to hire veterans has actually unwittingly played into the turnover problem.
“They’re looking more into quantity than they are into quality,” said Mark Brenner, of Los Angeles nonprofit Veterans Career XChange. “If you have to put 40 people to work, they’ll put them to work wherever they can.”
So, vets are thrown into jobs they’re not prepared for, or jobs they don’t see a future in. Brenner said if we need people to volunteer to fight wars, helping them find meaningful careers when they get back is crucial.
There are some battlecruisers that might have lasted for a bit, but all too often, battlecruisers had a very short combat career — usually ending in a spectacular fashion.
They had originally been designed to carry a set of big guns to blast apart enemy cruisers, but they also had a very high top speed, so they could outrun anything that could give them a fair fight.
The Royal Navy was familiar with battlecruisers blowing up when hit. They saw it happen at Jutland and the Denmark Strait. But Japan had its own bad experience with battlecruisers. Here are three case studies.
1. HIJMS Akagi
Okay, technically, this is an aircraft carrier, but she was converted from a battle cruiser. Akagi was impressive – ww2db.com notes she displaced 36,500 tons and was over 850 feet long. She carried as many as 90 planes.
She went down because of one bomb. Granted, it was a 1,000-pound bomb, but it was still just one conventional bomb.
According to the book “Shattered Sword” by Jon Parshall and Anthony Tully, that bomb (plus the presence of aircraft being armed and fueled) lead to catastrophic fires that eventually forced Isoroku Yamamoto to order his old command to be scuttled.
Akagi had packed a powerful punch in six months of combat – including credit for wrecking the battleship USS Oklahoma (BB 37) and damaging the USS West Virginia (BB 48). But she proved to have a glass jaw.
2. HIJMS Hiei
On paper, the HIJMS Hiei (along with her sister ship HIJMS Kirishima) should have torn through Daniel Callaghan’s force at Guadalcanal like a kid through Christmas presents. They were two of the four Kongo-class battlecruisers, and brought the biggest guns to the fight.
But instead, it was Dan Callaghan who triumphed that night (at the cost of his life). As for Hiei? She took an 8-inch armor-piercing shell in the steering compartment, and was left a cripple. The next morning, planes from Henderson Field finished her off.
Crippled by a cruiser, then sunk by planes from the airfield she was supposed to bombard, makes Hiei a classic loser.
Her sister, Kirishima, didn’t fare much better. She went toe-to-toe with the USS Washington (BB 56) two nights later, and was reduced to a wreck before she was scuttled.
3. HIJMS Kongo
The lead Kongo-class battlecruiser lasted longer, mostly because during World War II, carriers were rightly seen as the more valuable targets. But when the USS Sealion (SS 315), commanded by Lt. Cdr. Eli Thomas Reich, got her in its sights, Kongo ended up as just another battlecruiser statistic.
Here sources disagree on how many hits she took. Anthony Tully notes at CombinedFleet.com that the Kongo took at least two hits, leading to an eventual capsizing and explosion.
Rear Adm. Samuel Eliot Morison said in the “History of United States Naval Operations in World War II” that a single hit lead to the explosive end of Kongo.
So, there you have it. Three more reasons why battlecruisers are losers — provided by the Japanese Navy.
The F-14A Tomcat was a hard airplane to land aboard an aircraft carrier. Engine response was slow. A wingtip-to-wingtip distance of nearly 70 feet meant there wasn’t much room to deviate away from the centerline of the landing area on the flight deck. Any lateral stick input caused the airplane to yaw in the opposite direction, which forced the pilot to simultaneously feed in rudder to counter. The velocity vector on the heads-up display wasn’t accurate enough to be used as a flight path marker. The tail hook-to-eye distance was more than any other airplane in the wing, which made any vertical corrections very precarious in the endgame.
And for her crime of doing well in flight school, then-Ensign Carey Lohrenz was selected to fly Tomcats, the first female naval aviator to get orders to that community. And by accepting those orders, Lohrenz embarked on a pioneer’s journey, one that had more ups and downs than anyone could have predicted, and one that would have crushed the spirit of the average American woman.
But Carey Lohrenz isn’t an average American woman.
Lohrenz developed a love of sports while growing up in Green Bay, Wisconsin. While she claims she wasn’t a tomboy, she played little league hockey on boy’s teams until high school. (“I quit when they started taking a little too long to get off of me after a check,” she jokes.) After that she took advantage of her six-foot-tall stature and joined the volleyball and basketball teams.
At the same time another love was growing inside of her: aviation. Her father was an airline pilot who’d flown C-130s in the Marine Corps, and her mother was a flight attendant. Both she and her older brother were determined to fly, and they often discussed the best routes to make a career out of flying.
But Lohrenz didn’t discuss her dream with anyone else. “I didn’t want their doubts about what females could do at that time to taint my dream,” she said.
So as soon as she had her Psychology degree from the University of Wisconsin in hand, she followed her brother’s lead and applied for the Navy’s Aviation Officer Candidate School. Months later she reported to Pensacola, Florida for flight training.
Her brother was just over a year ahead of her in the training pipeline, and in spite of the fact he selected the transport community (and ultimately wound up flying E-6s) she wanted to fly tactical jets. And because her performance was at the top of her class, she got what she wanted.
But her selection for jet training came with some inherent tension. The combat exclusion law that prevented females from being assigned to carrier-based squadrons was still very much in place in the early 1990s. The only jets that females were piloting were shore-based EA-6s that flew missile profiles against surface ships for training.
“I got a lot of ‘why are you here?’ questions from instructors and fellow flight students,” Lohrenz said.
But she was undeterred and pressed on with an eye on what she hoped might happen. “If combat billets opened up I wanted to be in a position so that nobody could say I got a slot simply because I was a girl but because I was qualified,” she said.
But in spite of her hope and planning, it wasn’t looking good as she neared the end of her flight training.
“I got a call six weeks before I was supposed to get my wings that the combat exclusion clause hadn’t been lifted and there was no place for me to go,” Lohrenz said. “I could get out of the Navy or go to a non-flying job.”
She hung up the phone and went back to her scheduled flight brief and fought the instinct to cry.
The next day she went to her commanding officer and asked him to find “a third way.”
“I wasn’t taking no for an answer,” she said. And because she’d done well her CO went to bat for her.
But he didn’t have to try too hard because about that same time the combat exclusion law went away. Lohrenz pinned on her Naval Aviator’s Wings of Gold and got orders to VF-124, the F-14 training squadron at NAS (now MCAS) Miramar in southern California, the first female to go right from winging to Tomcats. (The other females were transferred from the EA-6 community.)
But the challenges for Lohrenz didn’t end there.
“I got to Miramar as the trifecta of bad things were happening,” she said.
There was the fallout from the Tailhook scandal that resulted in careers ending for several high-ranking and popular fighter crews. There was a Navy-wide reduction in force happening that was forcing people out of the service against their will. And there was disappointment in the Tomcat community about the fact that the F-14 wasn’t getting upgraded.
One of the instructors posted two articles on the main bulletin board in the ready room: One about how the upgraded F-14 was being cancelled, and one that highlighted that the cost to retrograde ships for females was $200 million.
“There was a lot of animosity that had nothing to do with me but merely my presence,” Lohrenz said. “It wasn’t an easy environment. It took an unwavering belief that I had the ability to do the job.”
She had the first hiccup in her flight training toward the end of the VF-124 syllabus, failing to qualify the first time she tried landing the Tomcat on the carrier. But she wasn’t alone. About 75 percent of her class failed the first time, primarily due to the weather conditions that resulted in rough seas that made an already difficult task of landing a beast of an airplane on the ship for the first time even harder.
Lohrenz focused on her additional training and qualified without any issues the second time through.
She joined her first fleet squadron – VF-213 “Blacklions” – at the most rigorous phase of pre-deployment training, one of two female pilots in the squadron.
The other female pilot was Lt. Kara Hultgreen. Hultgreen was senior to Lohrenz and had come to the Blacklions by way of the EA-6 community.
“Because she had a lot of flight hours people assumed she was experienced,” Lohrenz said.
Two months into Lohrenz’ tour tragedy struck. Hultgreen’s Tomcat had an engine stall in the landing pattern behind the carrier, and she lost control and crashed. While the backseater managed to initiate ejection in time to save his own life, Hultgreen was killed.
The mishap became a lightning rod of emotions and political agendas. Experienced pilots believed Hultgreen had mishandled a basic inflight emergency and that her death was her own fault. Others resented the level of effort that was put into recovering the Tomcat from the bottom of the ocean.
“Nobody addressed the details of the situation and it caused a lot of people to feel less valuable and hurt morale,” Lohrenz said. “And there was a bit of a leadership vacuum that could have nipped the whole thing in the bud.”
Lohrenz was now the sole female carrier-based fighter pilot.
“If I thought the spotlight was bad before it was now nuclear fusion level,” she said.
She was caught in a lose-lose matrix of sorts. “If I was stoic people thought I didn’t care,” she explained. “And if I showed emotion people thought I was a bitch.”
The atmosphere on the carrier was increasingly uncomfortable, even insulting, as the deployment wore on. Female crew were made to take pregnancy tests after every in-port period. The admiral in charge stated in a very public forum that the reason he supported women aboard ships was “because they made the carrier smell better.”
She tried to simply do her job, to fly the airplane and perform as a normal first-tour junior officer should, but that ultimately wasn’t enough to overcome the forces around her.
“To be cryptic about it, the rug was yanked out from under me by a cadre of people who didn’t want women in the military . . . period,” Lohrenz said.
She saw a shift in her commanding officer’s attitude. Her previous landing grade performance that had characterized her as a normal first tour pilot dealing with an airplane that was just plain hard to control now had her listed as “unsafe and unpredictable.”
“I was set up,” she said.
Lohrenz was given an evaluation board that pulled her out of the Tomcat community and assigned her to fly small propeller-driven transports from a shore base. She left the Navy shortly after that.
But in spite of the challenges and the emotional turmoil, Lohrenz has used the experience as a pivot point. “I went from Mach 2 to mom to entrepreneur,” she said.
During the course of being a homemaker, which included being a wife to a FEDEX pilot and raising four kids, she found herself increasingly being sought after for business advice, especially that pertaining to organizational change.
Lohrenz connected the dots and – after a short and semi-chaotic stint with a consulting firm run by military aviation alums – she launched Carey Lohrenz Enterprises. She is now in high demand as a consultant and keynote speaker.
Her efforts are anchored by her book Fearless Leadership that outlines her approaches to both business and life. The book is organized around the three fundamentals of “real fearlessness” — courage, tenacity, and integrity — and offers Lohrenz’ take on how to stay resilient through hard times.
And Lohrenz’ life would suggest that staying resilient is something about which she knows a thing or two.
Former Marine officer Elliot Ackerman is now an accomplished author living in Istanbul, but prior to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, he considered himself a “fortunate son” of privilege who chose to serve while many of his peers did not.
“The best and the brightest didn’t show up for Vietnam. And I understand. I get that it was an unpopular war,” he told photographer Brandon Stanton for his popular Humans of New York project. “But they chose to not show up and there was a consequence for that. There were leadership failures. Standards were lowered and people were killed because of bad decisions.”
He graduated from Tufts University in 2003 and decided to join the Marine Corps as an infantry officer. He was assigned as a platoon commander in 1st Battalion, 8th Marines.
“I was a fortunate son of this country,” Ackerman told Stanton. “I went to a private school. I graduated from a great college. A lot of the guys who served under me didn’t have those advantages. They relied on me to make tough decisions in dangerous situations. And I’m glad I was there to make those decisions.”
One of those tough decisions came in Nov. 2004, during the bloody second Battle of Fallujah during the Iraq War. He and his platoon of 45 men moved across a highway in the middle of the night on Nov. 10 to establish a fighting position in what they called “the candy store.”
It was only about 150 meters away from the rest of his company.
“The guys were excited at first because the place was filled with chips and soda,” he said. “And we were starving and thirsty. But all hell broke loose when the sun came up.”
At dawn, the insurgents had figured out where they were and surrounded them, while opening fire on the platoon with everything they had. The Marines were getting razed by AK-47 and RPG fire from all sides, with every exit blocked.
“You couldn’t even poke your head out,” he said. “We were pinned down all day. And suddenly my company commander is on the radio saying that we’ve got to advance. And I’m shouting into the radio over the gunfire that we’re probably going to die if we leave the store. I’m shouting so loud and for so long that I lost my voice for four days. But he’s saying that we have no choice.”
He repeatedly exposed himself to enemy fire while trying to pull wounded Marines to safety, and coordinated four separate medical evacuations, despite being wounded by shrapnel himself.
In order to get out, he ordered his men to set up explosives on a back wall. Once it blew, he and his men — with nearly half the platoon having been wounded — were able to escape, alive.
“Twenty-five guys were wounded, but everyone survived,” he said. “A lot of that was luck. And a lot of that was our platoon and how good those guys were. But I also feel that my decisions mattered that day. And if I had decided not to serve, and stayed home, it could’ve ended much worse. So no, I don’t have any regrets about going to Iraq.”
Humans of New York is featuring a number of stories from veterans on its page, in partnership with non-profit The Headstrong Project (Full disclosure: The author is a friend of the executive director).
We’ve all see the Avengers movie featuring SHIELD’s massive flying aircraft carrier — you know, the one with the gigantic fans and stealth cloaking?
But what you may not know is that the concept of an actual flying carrier isn’t really anything new, and the US military has investigated it time and time again throughout its history. The most recent proposal for such a vehicle came in the form of a highly modified Boeing 747 called the Airborne Aircraft Carrier.
While oceangoing aircraft carriers can bring their complements of fighter and attack aircraft quite literally anywhere around the seven seas, areas deeper inland are far less accessible and sometimes require the use of larger numbers of support assets like refueling tankers, which aren’t always available for a variety of reasons.
The AAC concept tried to solve that problem by using a larger aircraft to fly smaller aircraft above or near deployment zones, where it would release its fighters to carry out their missions.
In the 1930s, the US Navy first began exploring the idea of an airborne carrier by outfitting two dirigible airships, the USS Akron and the USS Macon, with a trapeze mechanism for recovering and launching small propeller fighter planes, along with an internal hangar for storage.
Both the Akron and Macon were lost in storms that decade, but not before they were able to successfully demonstrate that with enough practice and patience, aircraft could be deployed from airbases in the sky.
The onset of World War II made the Navy forget about this idea. But during the Cold War, the notion of having an airborne carrier was resurrected — this time by the Air Force.
At first, the Fighter Conveyor project attempted to put a Republic F-84 “parasite” fighter in the belly of a B-36 Peacemaker nuclear bomber, launched in-flight for reconnaissance operations. The creation of the U-2 Dragon Lady spy plane made the FICON project a moot point, sending it to the graveyard after four years of testing.
Later on, famed defense contractor Lockheed proposed a gigantic nuclear-powered flying mothership with a crew of over 850 and an aerial endurance of 40+ days. The Air Force, by 1973, decided to go a slightly more conventional route instead.
At the time, the Boeing 747 was easily the largest civilian aircraft in the world, serving as a long-range passenger airliner and a cargo transport for a number of freight companies. It wasn’t wholly unreasonable to suggest that such an aircraft could be converted for use as an airborne carrier, fielding a small group of aircraft inside its cavernous interior.
The Air Force’s Flight Dynamics Laboratory, based out of Wright-Patterson AFB, was put on the case to determine the feasibility of such an experiment.
The AAC project called for a Boeing 747-200 to be hollowed out and refitted with a two-level internal hangar that would hold “micro fighters”, small short-range fighter aircraft that could fight air-to-air and air-to-ground sorties after being dropped out of the underside of the jumbo jet. Should the fighters need an extension on their range, the AAC mothership could refuel them as needed from a rotating boom on its rear. Upon concluding their sorties, the micro fighters would simply fly underneath the AAC and be picked up by a mechanism, bringing them back into the hangar.
The AAC would also contain storage for extra fuel, spares and parts, as well as a magazine for missiles and bombs for the microfighters. In addition, sleeping quarters for the crew and pilots, and a small crew lounge for breaks in-between missions was also to be part of the hypothetical flying carrier.
All in all, the concept seemed to be absolutely doable and certainly something the Air Force seemed interested in pursuing, given that the report also projected that conventional Navy aircraft carriers would apparently be obsolete by the year 2000.
However, the project was stalled when research into the design and development of the AAC’s necessary microfighters went nowhere. An airborne warning and control version of the AAC was also proposed, replete with a pair of reconnaissance micro aircraft for surveillance missions; this was also shot down.
Eventually, the Air Force shelved the concept altogether not long after the Flight Dynamics Laboratory claimed it was possible.
While the US military hasn’t done much, if anything at all, to investigate flying aircraft carriers in the four and a half decades since, this seems to be an idea that just won’t go away. Maybe, just maybe, we might see these bizarre vehicles in the not-so-distant future, as technology advances and mission types evolve!
You don’t have to play like Arnold Palmer or Jack Nicklaus to appreciate a round of golf. Veterans of all ages with many types of disabilities can enjoy playing the game. That was certainly true of Veteran graduates who completed a six-week program through their local VA Recreational Therapy service in October.
With the help of the VA Sierra Nevada Health Care System in Reno, Nevada, the Professional Golf Association’s “Helping Our Patriots Everywhere” (HOPE) program introduced, and in some cases reintroduced, the game of golf to 14 Veterans with disabilities to enhance their physical, mental, social and emotional well-being.
Seven professional golfers donated their time to share their love of the game. “Golf is a game that can be played for life. There are so many benefits for Veterans who want to learn,” said Mike “Mazz” Mazzaferri, PGA golf pro at Sierra Sage Golf Course.
“What other game do you know where four family generations can play together?”
Mazz remembered the day when he, his father, his grandfather and his son played a round of golf together.
PGA helping to prevent Veteran suicides
“This program is all about Veteran suicide prevention. If a Veteran suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome or a traumatic brain injury, is blind, or even an amputee, we can make adaptions to still enjoy playing golf. PGA wanted to join VA to eliminate Veteran suicide,” said Bob Epperly, PGA HOPE lead instructor.
The HOPE Program is free to Veterans who participate.
Three of the 14 Veterans who participated are blind. Dennis, a Vietnam Veteran, can see very little in one eye and is completely blind in the other. But his limitation never bothered him on the golf course. “I just love being outside with other Veterans,” he said, laughing.
“I know I need practice, but it feels good to be active. To do something different than sit at home and listen to the news.” After graduation, Dennis was presented with a new set of golf clubs. He was surprised and grateful to VA and PGA for making this day possible.
Veterans from the Cold War to Iraqi Freedom
The camaraderie between the Veteran golfers was evident by the smiles and banter. Their military service spanned from the Cold War in the late 1950s to serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2010, and represented most military branches of service.
One OIF combat Army Veteran, Daniel, brought his family. Daniel suffered severe injuries due to an IED blast that ultimately led to the amputation of his left lower leg. The HOPE Program has put on smile on Daniel’s face and now he is aspiring to go pro. That’s him in the top photo, teeing off, and with his family in the golf cart
For more information of how to bring the HOPE program to your community, contact your local VA Medical Center or reach out to the PGA Foundation.