Exclusive interview with US Naval Undersea Museum curator Mary Ryan - We Are The Mighty
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Exclusive interview with US Naval Undersea Museum curator Mary Ryan

Mary Ryan has been the curator at the U.S. Naval Undersea Museum since October 2010. As curator, she leads the museum’s exhibit program, shapes the artifact collection, and connects the public to the museum’s rich subject matter. Mary has worked for 15 years as a curator, interpretive planner, and exhibit developer creating exhibitions and interpretive plans for museums and historic sites across the country. She earned her Master’s Degree in History Museum Studies from the Cooperstown Graduate Program in Cooperstown, New York, and completed her undergraduate training in science and anthropology at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana.

WATM: How did you decide to become a curator and a steward of our Nation’s history?

Exclusive interview with US Naval Undersea Museum curator Mary Ryan
Screen capture from YouTube

I discovered the museum field at a crossroads in my life, shortly after deciding not to attend medical school. I was immediately drawn to curatorial work — it’s intellectually challenging, always interesting and artifacts and exhibits have such power to tell meaningful stories. After completing a museum internship with an excellent mentor, I earned my graduate degree in history museum studies in 2008 and have worked as a curatorial and exhibit developer ever since.

When I joined the U.S. Naval Undersea Museum staff as curator in 2010, I didn’t know how much I would come to love the subject matter — the history, science, innovation and human ingenuity of the undersea communities is fascinating. I’ve met the most incredible people working here. It’s a privilege to do this job and serve these communities.

WATM: The U.S. Naval Undersea Museum was closed for COVID; what can attendees expect on their tour as it reopens?

We’re thrilled to share we reopened on May 24! We are excited to welcome visitors back to the museum. Initially, our open hours will be 10 AM to 4 PM on Monday, Wednesday through Friday, with weekend hours to resume as state and federal guidelines continue to expand.

Because the safety of our visitors, volunteers and staff is our top priority, we have implemented extra safety measures at the museum. We will be using a reservation system to ensure capacity stays within state guidelines (visitors can make a reservation here), disinfecting frequently-touched surfaces and limiting group sizes to 10 or fewer people. And for the short term, our exhibit interactives have been converted into touchless experiences. As always, there are no admission or parking fees to visit!

WATM: What virtual content do you have available?

We have a mix of virtual content for different ages and interests! We post social media content several times a week on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts — lots of “this day in history” posts, sailor profiles, artifact features, STEM activities, behind the scenes content. In the past five years, our virtual community has grown to more than 20,000 people across our platforms. 

Our virtual 3D tour lets anyone explore our exhibit galleries from any location. Having a virtual tour became an invaluable resource while we were closed during the pandemic. Now that we’re reopening, it makes the museum accessible to many people who can’t visit us in person. A handful of our artifacts have been turned into highly detailed, interactive 3D models by The Arc/k Project, and more than 500 artifacts are digitized on our Flickr page.

Exclusive interview with US Naval Undersea Museum curator Mary Ryan
Master Diver Carl Brashear (via the museum’s Flickr)

And of course, our website is full of virtual content! Users can explore our online exhibit offerings, including our newest exhibit about Master Diver Carl Brashear, whose story was made famous by the movie Men of Honor. For families, our educator has created an extensive series of at-home STEM activities using common household objects. And for a look inside our artifact collection, users can visit our featured artifacts page to learn more about highlights from the collection.

WATM: What are some upcoming virtual events readers shouldn’t miss out on?

This past February we staged our biggest education program of the year, Discover E Day, entirely online. Following up on that success, our educator has teamed up with several local Navy groups to offer two virtual Navy STEM summer camp sessions July 13–15 and August 10–12. Families of local kids who will be in grades 3–8 this fall can email psns_kypt_stem.fct@navy.mil for more information or to register; it’s free and all learning will happen via Zoom.

I would definitely encourage readers to follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram — we’re most active there and always posting new content! Keep an eye on our website, too, as we’re developing a new online collections page that will share digitized documents and finding aid for archival collections.

Exclusive interview with US Naval Undersea Museum curator Mary Ryan
A photo from 2020’s “Discover E” Day (via the museum’s Flickr)

WATM: How can the public support the museum on its mission?

Our mission is to connect people to the U.S. naval undersea experience. Anyone who engages with our subject matter by learning about naval undersea history, technology, operations and people — whether through us or on their own — is supporting our mission.

As a federal organization, the museum is supported by a non-profit foundation that raises funds for education programs, new exhibits and artifact care and conservation. Their support allows us to take on projects that aren’t or can’t be funded by federal funding. Members of the public can support the museum by making a donation or becoming a foundation member.

We are lucky to have wonderful public support from the local community. Our volunteer corps includes more than 50 veterans, retired Navy civilians and community members that give generously of their time and expertise. Their contributions are almost immeasurable, and include greeting visitors, giving tours, operating the museum store, working with artifacts, supporting education programs and helping to build and install exhibits. Locals who are interested in joining our volunteer corps can learn more here.

WATM: Do you have anything you would like to say to the veteran and military audience?

Exclusive interview with US Naval Undersea Museum curator Mary Ryan
Retired Master Chief Machinist Mate Harry Gilger, one of many veterans volunteering at the museum (image courtesy of navalunderseamuseum.org)

Sharing the stories of undersea Navy veterans is an essential aspect of our work! There’s a lot we can’t say as a Navy organization because it’s not publicly cleared, but that just means we work harder to amplify the stories we can share.

We meet so many veterans at the museum and it’s an honor to be a place they can reminisce or show their families more about what they did in the Navy. To all the veterans out there, please come say “hi” if you visit the museum! Many of the volunteers who staff our lobby are veterans themselves. And if there is any way we can be of assistance, please reach out anytime!

WATM: What is next for you and the museum?

Every summer we host a popular education program called Summer STEAM, which offers hands-on science, technology, engineering, art and math activities for kids. Summer STEAM will be back this July and August with a twist: this year families can pick up activity kits to take home! Our educators and volunteers have been hard at work assembling kits to make this possible.

And coming next spring, we’ll open a new temporary exhibit called “Giving Voice to the Silent Service.” It’s an inside look at the strong collective identity that submariners share. While it centers on the submarine community, many of the ideas will resonate with anyone who served. This was one of the most interesting and fun exhibits I have ever developed and I can’t wait to see it come to life in our exhibit galleries!

Readers can follow future developments at our website, www.navalunderseamuseum.org.


Feature image: photo courtesy of navalunderseamuseum.org

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Meet the first Marine Officer commissioned from Columbia University since the Vietnam War

Exclusive interview with US Naval Undersea Museum curator Mary Ryan


NEW YORK – Staff Sergeant Patrick Poorbaugh received his commission to become the first Marine officer commissioned from Columbia University since the Vietnam War began during a ceremony in the Low Memorial Library Rotunda, Columbia University, New York City, May 21.

The Ivy League school has not accepted Naval ROTC graduates since that time due to the unpopular stance of the Vietnam War.

“I want Marines to know that I will be competent and I will get the job done and I will be looking out for them,” Poorbaugh said after his commission. “This is exactly what we expect from our SNCOs and that’s what they can expect from me as a second lieutenant.”

Poorbaugh’s commission was attended by dozens of well wishers including service members from other branches and other leadership, including the Columbia University School of General Studies Dean, Peter Awn, and the Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Juan Garcia.

“This is a big deal!” said Brig. Gen. Terry Williams, Eastern Recruiting Region and Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island commanding general. “This is the first Marine Corps commissioning since 1970. Your choice to continue to serve this great nation, for the commitment we know it will take from you to carry out the duties of an officer of Marines, your willingness to confront dangers on the nation’s behalf in the months and years to come are all noteworthy.”

Exclusive interview with US Naval Undersea Museum curator Mary Ryan
Staff Sgt. Patrick Poorbaugh stands at attention while his citation is read during his commissioning ceremony at the Low Memorial Library Rotunda, Columbia University, New York City, May, 21. Poorbaugh became the first Marine in 40 years to commission from the school. Poorbaugh is a Mackinaw, Ill., native, and graduated with a degree in Political Science from the College of General Studies

Poorbaugh was raised in Mackinaw, Illinois, and joined the Marine Corps after graduating Dee-Mack High school in 2005. He deployed to Iraq in 2006 and 2008. He planned to initially leave the Marine Corps after his first enlistment, but decided to stay and get more change, and more of challenge and to keep leading Marines.

“One trend among non-traditional students and especially vets is that we sell ourselves short,” Poorbaugh said. “Most of us didn’t perform well at the high school level and don’t think they can achieve that higher level of education. But after you been in for a little while you realize that you can do anything. I can go to any school; I can learn anything; I can do any job. You just have to have a plan and put in the time and effort.”

So he did by earning his chance to become an officer through the Marine Enlisted Commission Program and starting school at Columbia in 2012.

“Having access to the Ivy League schools (gives the Marine Corps) that diversity of thought and the Marine Corps needs diversity not because it makes us the best fighting force in the world, we get that through training,” said Williams, the oath of office administrator for the ceremony. “But this keeps us tied to the nation, to the people. We are America’s Marines.”

According to Awn, having an active-duty Marine attend Columbia was a benefit to all parties involved.

“GS is an extraordinary college as it brings into the undergraduate program people like Patrick Poorbaugh, who not only represents the best of the Marine Corps but his impact on the other students at Columbia has been substantial,” Awn said. “To see him commissioned today is an extraordinary honor both from Columbia and for the college from which he graduated. To get to know an enlisted man and now an officer is life changing for lots and lots of people on this campus.”

“For us to have a Columbia alum of that caliber is really an honor.”

Exclusive interview with US Naval Undersea Museum curator Mary Ryan
Staff Sgt. Patrick Poorbaugh stands poised to take charge as America’s newest Marine second lieutenant and Columbia University graduate during his commissioning ceremony in the Low Memorial Library Rotunda, Columbia University, New York May, 21. Poorbaugh became the first Marine in 40 years to commission from the school. Poorbaugh is a Mackinaw, Ill., native, and graduated with a degree in Political Science from the College of General Studies.

According to Williams, The Marine Corps recognizes that America’s vast diversity in cultural backgrounds, skillsets and ideas has been and always will be critical to its success as a nation.

“We need smart leaders and he is a smart man and a great Marine,” said Williams. “It’s always great to have a Marine graduating from one of the Ivy League schools because he brings a different perspective and different way of thinking and that only makes us better.”

Williams ended the ceremony by giving America’s newest Marine second lieutenant words of encouragement.

“You will fight shoulder-to-shoulder with the Marines you lead,” Williams concluded. “Have the confidence to lead them … for you are in charge of an elite warrior class.”

Poorbaugh graduated with a degree in Political Science and will report to The Basic School in Quantico, Virginia, to begin his commissioned career as a ground officer.

NOW READ: The definitive guide to US special ops

 

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The ambitious US Air Force plan to make a flying aircraft carrier

U.S. Navy aircraft carriers are a dominant presence in waters around the world, and interestingly enough, the Air Force once tried to make a flying version.


During World War II, bomber aircraft could fly thousands of miles to their targets, unlike gas-guzzling fighters, which had much shorter ranges. This was a big problem for bombers, since they were sitting ducks without fighter escorts.

After the war — amid the beginnings of the Cold War and the rise of long-range strategic bombers — Air Force Maj. Clarence “Bud” Anderson began testing a coupling system on a C-47 Skytrain in 1949, according to The Dakota Hunter. Using a lance on the wingtip, the World War II ace successfully connected with the ring mounted on a C-47.

From the book “Flying Aircraft Carriers of the USAF: Wing Tip Coupling”:

In short order Anderson acquired confidence in his ability to make the link-up and maintain the proper attitude in coupled flight. He found that it was easy to accomplish the coupling in less than half a minute. Once the lance was lined up with the coupling ring, a small decrease in throttle setting was adequate to decelerate the Q-14B and engage the coupling mechanism.

The testing became known as Project FICON (Fighter Conveyer) during the 1950s. The goal was ambitious: Get fighters linked up to the larger aircraft, turn off the engines, refuel, and enjoy the ride. And if the enemy showed up, delink and defend the bomber.

Exclusive interview with US Naval Undersea Museum curator Mary Ryan

The project sounded simple, but it was far from it. In a disastrous setback during a test hookup between a B-29 and an F-84 in 1953, the smaller fighter flipped over onto the bomber’s wing right after both connected, and both planes crashed and killed everyone on board.

The tests still continued despite other mishaps. But the project was eventually canceled due to other technological advances that made the concept of a “flying aircraft carrier” obsolete. Instead of a large aircraft towing around smaller ones on its wingtips, the Air Force debuted the KC-97 Stratofreighter in 1951, which used a “flying boom” to transfer fuel to smaller fighters.

Exclusive interview with US Naval Undersea Museum curator Mary Ryan

The KC-97 has since been retired, but the Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker is still in service today, extending the range of all types of U.S. aircraft.

NOW: Boeing’s new laser fits in suitcases and shoots down drones

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Is the new Iranian fighter a paper tiger?

Iran has made waves announcing new weapons, like the Bavar 373 and Qaher 313 in recent years, and they’ve been conducting a lot of tests. Iran even claimed to have copied the RQ-170 “Beast of Kandahar” reconnaissance drone after one of the American spy planes made a forced landing in Iran.


But are these systems paper tigers? According to the National Interest, the Iranians may not have thought through their Qaher 313 very well. In fact, the Qaher 313 may be in the pantheon of “most useless combat planes” that includes such luminaries as the Boulton-Paul Defiant and the Brewster F2A Buffalo.

Exclusive interview with US Naval Undersea Museum curator Mary Ryan
Lineart of the Qaher-313 mockup based on estimations. (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

In fact, when Iranian-made versions of the Chinese C-802 missile were fired at American ships on multiple occasions this past October by Iranian-backed Houthi rebels, they failed to score any hits, and drew a retaliatory strike.

The Qaher 313 is touted as Iran’s fifth-generation stealth fighter, capable of carrying 2,000-pound bombs, Chinese PL-12 missiles, and other weapons. That’s the hype. But what is the reality?

Exclusive interview with US Naval Undersea Museum curator Mary Ryan
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani joins Defense Ministry officials at the unveiling of the Bavar 373 SAM system. (Photo: Tasnim)

The claim drew skepticism, with the National Interest reporter recalling a comparison of the Qaher 313 to a GI Joe toy. One of the reasons is that the Iranians appear to only have the option of using reverse-engineered versions of the J85 engine, which is used on their inventory of F-5E Tiger fighters.

Exclusive interview with US Naval Undersea Museum curator Mary Ryan
Public Domain

The aircraft’s size has also caused some discussion, with some believing that the Iranians displayed a small-scale mock-up. Others, though, have claimed that the plane is just a propaganda exercise — and a poorly executed one, at that. Haaretz.com called the plane a “glorified mock-up” that “won’t cause any panic in the Israeli Air Force’s intelligence wing.”

Exclusive interview with US Naval Undersea Museum curator Mary Ryan
Iran has reportedly made a killer drone based on a secret U.S.-designed RQ-170 Sentinel.

This isn’t the only such dispute. Iran’s claims to have copied the RQ-170 also drew skepticism, with some claiming the Iranians had built a static mock-up. It should be noted that Iran has successfully built naval vessels, notably the Jamaran-class frigates and the Peykan-class missile boats, as well as an indigenous coastal submarine.

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Pentagon approves new tanker for production

The U.S. Defense Department has approved the Air Force’s new KC-46A Pegasus refueling tanker for initial production despite recent technical challenges that resulted in program delays.


The service late last week announced that Frank Kendall, the Pentagon’s chief weapons buyer, approved the Boeing Co.-made aircraft based on the 767 airliner for low-rate initial production, known in acquisition parlance as Milestone C.

Exclusive interview with US Naval Undersea Museum curator Mary Ryan
Secretary of Defense Ash Carter receives a tour of a Boeing KC-46 at at the Boeing facilities in Seattle, March 3, 2016. | US Navy photo by Tim D. Godbee

“I commend the team for diligently working through some difficult technical challenges,” Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James, said in a statement.

Earlier in the week, she suggested Kendall’s decision might not come until later in the month and that failure by Congress to approve a budget for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1 would hurt the acquisition effort.

Under a continuing resolution, “KC-46 production would be capped at 12 aircraft,” not the 15 as proposed in the fiscal 2017 budget, and the result would be to “delay operational fielding of this platform,” James said.

Parts of the plane that required reworking included the boom used to refuel Air Force planes (hoses extend from the body and wings to refuel Navy and Marine Corps aircraft, as well as those from allies); the fuel system (which was overhauled after workers loaded a mislabeled chemical into it); and wiring and software.

Boeing has reportedly spent more than $1.2 billion on the repairs, including installing hydraulic pressure relief valves to alleviate “higher than expected axial loads in the boom” discovered in tests to refuel the C-17 Globemaster III, according to the Air Force statement.

Exclusive interview with US Naval Undersea Museum curator Mary Ryan
Concept image | Boeing

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein said he was confident “the KC-46 is ready to take the next step.”

Meanwhile, Darlene Costello, an acquisition executive with the service, said, “I appreciate Boeing’s continued focus as they work to finish development prior to first aircraft delivery.”

Boeing plans to deliver the first 18 KC-46As to the service by January 2018, a date that was previously scheduled for August 2017.

The Air Force within the next month will award the Chicago-based aerospace giant two contracts with a combined value of $2.8 billion for 19 aircraft.

The service plans to spend $48 billion to develop and build 179 of the planes to replace its aging fleet of KC-135s, according to Pentagon budget documents. Boeing forecasts an $80 billion global market for the new tankers, the website Trading Alpha has reported.

The Air Force has selected as preferred bases for the aircraft Altus Air Force Base in Oklahoma, McConnell Air Force Base in Kansas, and Pease Air National Guard Base in New Hampshire.

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First female Tomcat pilot turns trials into successes

 


Exclusive interview with US Naval Undersea Museum curator Mary Ryan

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.

Exclusive interview with US Naval Undersea Museum curator Mary Ryan
Carey Lohrenz giving one of her keynote addresses.

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.

MIGHTY TRENDING

5 honorable ways veterans pay respect to the fallen

Veterans visit their fallen brothers and sisters at cemeteries all around the globe every day. Most people pay their respects by leaving some flowers to decorate the area while others leave a personal touch. Some of the tokens left at gravesites have rich history and deep meaning.


Check out these five ways we’ve paid homage to our fallen.

1. Connection through coins

Exclusive interview with US Naval Undersea Museum curator Mary Ryan
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Susan Roberts)

We’re not talking about command coins, even though leaving one is still respectful. We’re talking about quarters, dimes, and nickels. Each coin has a special meaning attached to them that dates back to WWII.

  • A penny on a headstone is a message to the fallen’s family that someone visited the grave to pay their respects.
  • A nickel indicates the grave was visited by another veteran who trained in boot camp with the deceased.
  • A dime means the veterans served together in some way.
  • A quarter tells the family that someone visited the site who was near the hero when he or she died.

2. Placing stones on the headstones

Exclusive interview with US Naval Undersea Museum curator Mary Ryan
(Wikimedia Commons)

If you haven’t seen Schindler’s List, then you need to stream it tonight after you buy a box of tissues (trust me, you’re going to need them). At the very end of the film, you’ll see a powerful moment where “Schindler’s Jews” and the actors who played them in the film place stones on his gravesite.

Many Jewish military veterans continue this tradition of placing stones on the graves to help keep the dead from haunting the living.

 

3. Sticking lit cigarettes into the ground

Go to any base, and you’ll see service members “smoking and joking” at designated areas called “smoke pits.” It’s a time where we socialize while puffing on a cigarette or enjoying a lip full of dip.

If the fallen was known for his or her tobacco use, lighting a cigarette for them to smoke is a standard practice.

4. Leaving a small bottle or two of liquor

Exclusive interview with US Naval Undersea Museum curator Mary Ryan
Wikimedia Commons

The majority of service members drink — it’s just what we do when we bond with our military brothers and sisters. So that tradition carries on well after we get out. When we visit one of our fallen comrades at the cemetery, we commonly bring their favorite alcoholic beverage with us and leave it behind.

If we feel like it, we’ll even take a shot with them.

 

Also Read: 7 times when heroic veterans saved the day

5. Reliving old memories

There’s nothing better for veterans than to get together with their military family while visiting a deceased grave site and relive the good times through story. Having a few beers and reminding the group all the funny experiences you had with the fallen can be incredibly therapeutic and bring the group closer together.

What are some unique ways you’ve paid you’re respects? Comment below.

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Army shows off new killer robots

The United States Army recently demonstrated some new killer robots at Fort Benning, near the city of Columbus, Georgia. While these robots are new, some of the gear they used looks awfully familiar to grunts.


According to a report by the Army Times, automated versions of the M113 armored personnel carrier and the High-Mobility Multi-purpose Wheeled Vehicle, or HMMWV, were among the robots that were shown off to high-raking brass. These vehicles are currently planned for replacement by the Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle and the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle.

Exclusive interview with US Naval Undersea Museum curator Mary Ryan
Troops make their exit from a M113. (Photo: US Army)

While it might seem odd to use the older vehicles as the basis for robots, keep this in mind: The military has thousands of M113s and thousands of HMMWVs on inventory. The vehicles have also been widely exported. In fact, the M113 is so widely used, it’s hard to imagine anyone would want the used M113s the United States Army has to offer. The same goes for the HMMWV.

Furthermore, while these vehicles may not be ones that you can keep troops in during combat, they can still drive. They can carry cargo. Or, they can carry some firepower. With today’s ability to either drive vehicles by remote control, or to program them to carry out missions, these vehicles could have a lot of useful service left to give.

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A U.S. Army HMMWV in Saladin Province, Iraq in March 2006. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

An Army release had details about how the old platforms helped. One M113 was used to deploy other robots from its troop compartment – one that could hold 11 grunts. Another M113 was used to provide smoke – and conceal a pair of M1A2 Abrams tanks. An unnamed HMMWV demonstrated its ability to use a remote weapon station and a target acquisition system.

That’s not all. The military also had a modified Polaris all-terrain vehicle show its stuff. The ATV also featured an unmanned aerial vehicle on a tether. Such an eye in the sky can have huge benefits. Furthermore, the ATV has a much lower profile.

If these experiments are any indication, American grunts will still be seeing the M113 and HMMWV on the battlefield. This time, though, they will be fighting alongside them, not riding in them.

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This woman was likely the first journalist to ever make a combat jump

In February 1967, the U.S. Army launched Operation Junction City, one of the largest operations of the Vietnam War and one that included the only major combat jump of the war.


Joining the 173rd Airborne Brigade on their historic mission was a young civilian, Catherine Leroy, who many believe to be the first civilian journalist ever to participate in a combat jump.

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Catherine Leroy was born in Paris in 1945 in the shadow of World War II. Raised in a convent, she was intrigued by the photos of World War II she saw. Then in 1966, at the age of 21, she bought a one-way ticket to Southeast Asia and left home with nothing but a camera and $100 in her pocket.

When she arrived in Saigon, she met legendary photojournalist Horst Faas who gave her three rolls of film and promised to pay her $15 for every photo that was published.

At 5 foot nothing and weighing only 85 pounds, she humped the jungles in combat boots two sizes too big – she couldn’t find any small enough to fit her size four feet – and carrying near her body weight in camera equipment and other gear. But she was determined to capture the human element of war.

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A Marine screams in pain, Operation Prairie, near the DMZ (Photo by Catherine Leroy)

Not long after arriving in country, she found her way to the front lines with American forces. Her determination lead her so far forward that on February 22, 1967 she joined the 173rd during their combat jump as part of Operation Junction City. This made her the first newsperson to jump into combat with American forces. However, she was soon slapped with a 6-month ban from the front lines for cussing out an officer – in her defense, most of the English words she had learned up to that point had come from hanging out with foul-mouthed grunts, so cussing was about all she could do in English.

In early 1968, Leroy was with the Marines during the Battle of Khe Sanh. It was while she was with the Marines battling for Hill 881 that she took her most famous photo “Corpsman in Anguish” depicting a Navy Corpsman tending to a wounded Marine as he passes away.

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Corpsman in Anguish (Photo by Catherine Leroy)

Two weeks later during more intense fighting Leroy was wounded and nearly killed by an enemy mortar. She was badly wounded and as she lay stunned, she heard what she thought would be her last words: “I think she’s dead, Sarge.” She credits her camera with saving her, as the largest piece of shrapnel destroyed it instead of entering her chest.

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A soldier of the 1st Air Calvary Division punches a Viet Cong who was caught hiding in a stream, Bong Song (Photo by Catherine Leroy)

Later in 1968, she was captured by the North Vietnamese during the Tet Offensive. Relying on nothing but wit and charm she was able to convince her captors to let her go. Before she left, she managed to do something no other photographer had done in the war, get pictures of the NVA behind their own lines. These pictures made the cover of Life Magazine under the title “A Remarkable Day in Hue: The Enemy Lets Me Take His Picture.”

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A North Vietnamese soldier atop his foxhole (Photo by Catherine Leroy)

During her time in Vietnam, Leroy also became known as “the woman with the wine” to the troops out in the field. Instead of carrying the heavier C rations in her already heavy pack she would bring a six-pack of wine in cans and trade or share it for food with the troops she was with.

Leroy also said she never had a problem being a woman in Vietnam. “I was never propositioned or found myself in a difficult situation, sexually,” she told the Chicago Tribune in 2002. “When you spend days and nights in the field, you’re just as miserable as the men – and you smell so bad anyway.”

Catherine Leroy would continue to cover the war in Vietnam until the Fall of Saigon in 1975. In 1972, she made a documentary, “Operation Last Patrol,” about anti-war Vietnam Veterans, particularly Ron Kovic. Kovic was inspired by the movie to write a book, “Born on the Fourth of July,” that would later become a movie starring Tom Cruise.

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Wounded soldier being bandaged (Photo by Catherine Leroy)

After Vietnam she covered other war zones. She covered the civil war in Lebanon and later the Lebanon War between Israel and Lebanon. She co-authored a book, “God Cried,” about the siege of West Beirut by the Israeli Army in 1982.

During her career, she was awarded the George Polk Picture of the Year in 1967 and the Robert Capa Gold Medal Award for her coverage of the street fighting in Beirut in 1976. Leroy died of Lung Cancer in 2006.

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Leroy in Vietnam

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That time three Coasties walked a thousand miles in the snow to rescue trapped sailors

As the newly reunited States began to recover from the Civil War, expansion westward returned with a new fervor. While the eyes of those who lead the government looked towards California and the Pacific Coast, the eyes of the Revenue Cutter Service, the nascent Coast Guard, looked at the 6,640 miles of coastline that laid along the newly purchased Alaska territory.


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Semper Paratus!

Secretary of State William Seward negotiated its purchase in 1867 and turned to the U.S. Army to help police the territory that largely consisted of native populations and a few Russian settlers that did not leave after the purchase. The Army did not have the ability to police the coastline where the vast majority of the population was and failed to secure by the beginning of the Nez Perce War of 1877, abandoning the territory altogether. President Ulysses S. Grant put the responsibility on the U.S. Revenue Cutter Service, who would time and time again prove they had Alaska’s best interest in mind, even when it seemed that the rest of the government did not.

Ask any fisherman in Alaska what the most unpredictable thing about life is, and his answer will be the weather in Northern Alaska. The winter of 1897 came early and the early ice trapped eight whaling ships, along with 265 men, with few supplies and little food. In an appeal to President William McKinley, the ship’s owners begged for the government to help save the men, who they believed would starve if they were not saved.

Captain Francis Tuttle had recently taken command of the USRCS Bear from Capt. Michael Healy, who was temporarily relieved of duty for drunk and disorderly conduct in front of his crew. Tuttle had just returned from his first grueling Bering Sea Patrol when on November 15, 1897, Tuttle received an urgent letter from Secretary of the Treasury Lyman Gage. It was a letter of instruction to save 265 people who were surrounded by ice near Point Barrow, Alaska.

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While normally a vessel would simply sail to help distressed whalers, the “advanced season of the year” closed the Bering Straits, so the Bear would be unable to even attempt it. The expedition had to be done over land. The letter left little for interpretation: there were to be two commissioned officers and one petty officer sent on the expedition. The exact course to be taken by dogsled, reindeer-pulled sled, snowshoes, and skis was outlined, from Unalaska to Cape Nome. Communications were to be done through W.T. Lopp, superintendent of the Teller Reindeer Station. Food was to be taken to the whalers in the form of a herd of reindeer from Port Rodney and Cape Prince of Wales.

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The USRCS Bear in its natural habitat.

After the USRCS Bear sailed from Seattle to Unalaska, today known as Dutch Harbor, 1st Lt. David Jarvis, 2nd Lt. Ellsworth Bertholf, and ship’s surgeon Samuel Call led the expedition. While walking, skiing, and dog-sledding over 1,500 miles in 104 days, they did not ignore the issues that they saw along the way. Jarvis, Bertholf, and Call would all attend to the natives that they met along the way, with Call taking care of childbirths, injuries, and illnesses along the way, including Jarvis’s chronic tonsillitis. The men also dealt with blizzards and temperatures as low as negative forty-five degrees, and often continued on through days of blinding snow.

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To be fair, these would kill your grandma if she were run over by them.

Jarvis’ journal recalled the intense trials they underwent through the months of harsh Alaska winter but on the day they arrived, he wrote, “March 29 was a beautiful, clear morning… with a cloudless sky and little or no wind… it seemed as if nature was trying to make amends for the hard trial she had given us…” The expedition reached the whalers with an underweight and exhausted herd of reindeer, but sixty-six men would be lost by Summer 1898, the majority to disease.

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In case you needed an idea of the weather in Barrow.

Jarvis, Bertholf, and Call received Congressional Gold Medals for their work in 1899. Call and Bertholf went on to make their names, even more heroic, in the Revenue Cutter Service and Coast Guard. Call would become one of the most well-known doctors in the Alaska territory, an expert on native medicine and medicine men. Bertholf became the first Commandant of the Coast Guard, leading the service through World War I. Jarvis, though, would suffer a tragic fate at his own hands. After his time in the Revenue Cutter Service, he twice turned down the governorship of Alaska and instead worked for a salmon cannery and the development of a railroad and copper mines in Alaska. After being accused of corruption and bribery during the development, he committed suicide in June 1911.

Alaska has long been seen as the “Final Frontier” of the American west but the settlement of the largest state in the union did not come without great trial and consequence to settlers. Following the legacy of the US Revenue Cutter Service, US Coast Guard, assures that the fishermen and residents of Alaska live and work safely in an environment that is as unpredictable as life itself.

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This is how the largest British infantry regiment trains for war

The largest infantry regiment in the British army, The Rifles are made up largely of straight infantrymen and are organized into five active-duty battalions and two reserve ones. It was established in 2007 under a larger reorganization of the British army and has deployed multiple times to Iraq and Afghanistan.


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Army Reserve soldiers from 6th Battalion The Rifles (6 RIFLES) taking part in Exercise Wyvern Tempest on Salisbury Plain on Sunday 13 October 2013. (© Crown copyright 2013)

Not only are The Rifles Britain’s primary ground troops, the unit also plays an important role in ceremonial marches and events. And as the recruiting video below shows, the unit gets to do a lot of overseas training with plenty of bang bang mixed in. Mortar support, sniper ops and full-on trench warfare make up just a fraction of what The Rifles get into — not to mention rugby tournaments in the U.S. and climbing expeditions to the Alps.

“It’s hard graft, but it’s worth it,” one Rifle officer says in the video. “We work hard, and we get to play hard as well.”

The Rifles deployed for training operations in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, counterinsurgency in Basra, Iraq, and were involved in the tough fight in Sangin, Afghanistan, alongside U.S. Marines.

During a live fire training exercise in Kenya, the Brits were storming trenches, advancing on objectives and sniping targets — all with mortars flying over their heads.

“The life is definitely full-on and full of action,” another Rifleman says.

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These 5 new military technologies will make your combat lifestyle POG-easy

Famed science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke once wrote that any sufficiently advanced technology will be indistinguishable from magic. Some of the tech the Army and other scientists are working on aren’t quite in the realm of magic, but given the incredible nature of the work they’re doing, there are many reasons to be excited about the future if you’re a U.S. servicemember. There’s no telling how long it will take to apply these ideas to military life, but the possibilities seem endless.


1. Robo-Parachutes

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The U.S. Army is working on a new airdrop system it calls JPADS – Joint Precision Airdrop System. JPADS is intended to be used to drop critical supplies to troops in dangerous locations without endangering more troops by using a truck convoy. Current systems use GPS guidance systems that are prone to the same errors as any satellite system, such as satellites being out of place and their vulnerability to hacking. The new JPADS doesn’t use GPS. It drops the pallet from 25,000 feet at distances up to 20 miles. The JPADS optical sensors analyze the local terrain and compare it to preprogrammed satellite imagery so the chutes move the cargo to its programmed destination.

2. Stealth Coating

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It turns out stealth aircraft technology isn’t 100 percent fail proof. Radar works by bouncing electromagnetic waves off of objects to pinpoint their locations. Original stealth technology scrambled the returning waves using “destructive interference,” solid layers of material that would amplify the waves so that they effectively cancel out the returning waves. It doesn’t work 100 percent of the time, however. Scientists have created a polarized crystal material that absorbs radar waves to prevent them from bouncing back instead. Hexagonal boron nitride captures 99.99 percent of radar waves and prevents refraction. Researchers will now need to create a thin coating to be able to apply it to current aircraft.

3. Smart Tanks

DARPA, or the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the military’s premier think-tank for future weapons, is developing a light armor all-terrain tech for vehicles called “Ground X-Vehicle Technology.” This next-gen tank is lightweight, highly mobile, and hard for the enemy to spot on any spectrum, visual, infrared, or electromagnetic. The “crew augmentation” system on the X-Vehicle gives the tank “semi-autonomous driver assistance and automation of key crew functions.” The external sensors on the vehicle allow for the tank not only to avoid being spotted by enemy tanks but to dodge incoming fire if they are.

4. Space Drones

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NASA’s Proteus Unmanned Space Shutte (U.S. Air Force photo)

DARPA strikes again. The new XS-1 space shuttle doesn’t go into space but rather boosts a payload into low-Earth orbit as it flies to the edge of space. The new shuttle has no pilots, but will be so reusable that it could fly ten times in ten days. A flight to boost something into space will still run as high as $5 million, but DARPA is working with private contractors Masten Space Systems, Virgin Galactic, Northrop Grumman, and the Jeff Bezos-owned Blue Origin to make the trips faster, smoother, and cheaper. DARPA already developed a space drone for military purposes, the X37-B, but few details are available, as the X37-B is classified.

5. Jetpack-Assisted Running

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The Wearable Robotics Association conference opened in Phoenix last Wednesday and featured there were Arizona State University students who developed a jetpack that enhances a troop’s ability to run in combat. Using compressed air, the pack can boost running speeds up to 15 mph.

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This is what a joint US Marine-Japanese training exercise looks like

Military planners spend years putting training exercises together and the political ramifications can be steep, such as with the annual Foal Eagle exercise on the Korean Peninsula. North Korea has a history of shelling South Korean islands and firing missiles into the Sea of Japan whenever the U.S. and South Korea come together to train. Calling them “maneuvers” or “war games” is an oversimplification. The long-term consequences could be life or death.


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Japanese soldiers with the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force move the F470 Combat Rubber Raiding Craft off the beach during a beach raid as part of training for Exercise Iron Fist 2016, at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Ryan Kierkegaard, 1st Marine Division Combat Camera)

There are times the U.S. will even conduct joint training operations with rivals and allies, such as the annual Cobra Gold exercise in Thailand, where Chinese forces were allowed to join in the humanitarian part.

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Marines with 1st Battalion, 4th Marines, 1st Marine Division, post a security perimeter and provide suppressive fire during the Amphibious Landing Exercise (PHIBLEX) for Exercise Iron Fist 2016 aboard Camp Pendleton, Calif. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Xzavior T. McNeal)

2o16 marked the tenth year of Iron Fist, an exercise where soldiers of the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force trained with U.S. Marines from the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) to refine their amphibious landing abilities. The 11th MEU trained with the Japanese for five weeks at Camp Pendleton and Twentynine Palms, California. Their focus was on small unit combat and amphibious landings.

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Western Army Infantry Regiment, Japan Ground Self-Defense Force, soldiers conduct a firing mission during the Supporting Arms Coordinating Center Exercise (SACCEX) for Iron Fist 2016 aboard San Clemente Island, Calif. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Xzavior T. McNeal)

The above video of the Marine-Japanese training exercise was produced by Gunnery Sgt. Robert Brown of the 11th MEU. It’s a compilation of the kinds of maneuvers our Marines and allied troops make during war games.

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