That time a group of officers got drunk and trashed Naval Aviation's culture forever - We Are The Mighty
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That time a group of officers got drunk and trashed Naval Aviation’s culture forever

That time a group of officers got drunk and trashed Naval Aviation’s culture forever
It seemed like a good idea at the time, but this guy would grow to regret wearing this t-shirt.


The word “tailhook” didn’t always have a place in American pop culture infamy. There was a time when it simply referred to the piece of hardware under a Navy airplane that allowed it to stop by catching a wire strung across the aircraft carrier’s flight deck. And there was also a time when the Tailhook Association was regarded as the most relevant and professional not-for-profit among all of those that cater to the military community.  But that changed dramatically in the wake of the Tailhook Association’s convention in Las Vegas in 1991.

It’s no secret that military aviators are a type-A bunch, and in many ways Naval Aviators are the most spirited among them. And that spirit is what gave rise to the Tailhook Association in 1956 when a group of carrier-based flyers threw a keg into a bus and drove down to a beach in Baja where they told tall tales for a couple of days.  From there the association grew its membership and got more official, building a headquarters in San Diego and publishing a popular quarterly magazine titled The Hook.

As the years went on the Tailhook Association became increasingly known for one thing over all others: the annual convention in Las Vegas, commonly referred to as “Hook,” as in “are you going to Hook this year?” The convention, which was held at the Las Vegas Hilton, was known for two things: it’s professional panels and the parties in the suites on the third floor.

That time a group of officers got drunk and trashed Naval Aviation’s culture forever

Parties in the suites were hosted by various units like Top Gun and the Naval Air Training Command along with a rotating list of squadrons and competition was keen among them. Some featured drink specialties and signature food like “Cubi Dogs” and others went the risque route with leg shaving booths and even strippers. It was all viewed as innocent fun, the kind of offline frolicking that the members of the community had earned as a function of their achievements as skilled warfighters.

There’s a big difference between racy things that might happen between consenting adults and sexual battery, and in 1991 Hook crossed the line. The victory in Desert Storm combined with a record crowd caused an atmosphere on the third floor that was downright mean-spirited if not criminal.

Most of the reports of misdeeds centered around “The Gauntlet” on the third floor — the line of douchebags on either side of the hall who pawed passersby as they attempted to make their way between suites.  According to reports after the fact the harassment ranged from catcalling to full-up inappropriate touching and tearing off of undergarments. By 3 am in the morning no female was safe going anywhere near the third floor.

After the convention was over reports started to trickle out regarding the conduct of the bad actors on the third floor of the Hilton. Two things came together to trigger an internal investigation: A female admiral’s aide named Paula Coughlin was put off by her boss’ insensitive response to her claim that she’d been a victim of sexual battery, and she went to internal Navy authorities with an official complaint. At the same time, the head of the Tailhook Association gathered the Navy’s active duty aviation leadership to conduct an “after action” session that allowed the media to get wind of the animal acts that had happened.

That time a group of officers got drunk and trashed Naval Aviation’s culture forever
Paula Coughlin, the JO who launched the investigation after her boss blew her off.

When it was all said and done, 83 women and seven men stated that they had been victims of sexual assault and harassment during Hook ’91. The ensuing investigation was overzealous and hamfisted and struck those on the inside as politically motivated, which caused squadrons to close ranks, which made the investigators and those above them resort to increasingly draconian measures.

Insiders labeled the effort a “witch hunt” as officials with a mandate to clean up the culture showed up to their spaces and told aviators to change their callsigns (no one was allowed to be called “Chunks” anymore, for instance; or if your last name was Dover your callsign couldn’t be “Ben”) and even a squadron was made to change its age-old and war-tested name from “The Pukin’ Dogs” to “The Dogs.”  (It was later changed back after the political winds lightened a bit.)

Flag officers had their careers ended for simply being in the Hilton never mind anywhere near the third floor.  COs were fired for having their charges present.  The perpetrators were never really found and punished, but most evidence pointed to flight students who’d never made a carrier landing and Marine aviators from a squadron that didn’t officially exist anymore because the model they flew was decommissioned. (Neither of those groups were really tailhookers, either.)

Meanwhile progressive lawmakers and other influencers used the scandal to forward their agendas. Female integration of carrier-based commands, including pilots and NFOs, was mandated at a great cost of both funds and focus. Many conservatives and retired officers alleged that in ending the careers of over 300 officers, the Clinton administration had gone far beyond punishing wrongdoers and had used the scandal as a pretext for carrying out a purge of the officer corps.

That time a group of officers got drunk and trashed Naval Aviation’s culture forever
There’s a fine line between humor and sad truth.

Former Navy Secretary Jim Webb, speaking at the Naval Academy said, “When the Tailhook investigation began, and certain political elements used the incident to bring discredit on naval aviation as a whole, and then on the Navy writ large, one is entitled to ask… Who fought this? Who condemned it? When a whole generation of officers is asked to accept … the destruction of the careers of some of the finest aviators in the Navy based on hearsay, unsubstantiated allegations, in some cases after a full repudiation of anonymous charges that resemble the worst elements of McCarthyism … what admiral has had the courage to risk his own career by putting his stars on the table, and defending the integrity of the process and of its people?” (Wikipedia)

“The essence of that warrior culture has been severely diluted in this decade,” former Blue Angel’s commanding officer Bob Stumpf said, himself a victim of the scandal because he was there, not because he was guilty of any bad conduct. “Politically inspired social edicts enforced since Tailhook ’91 have rendered a ready room atmosphere so different now that it is nearly unrecognizable… Pilots are hampered in their ability to train as warriors by the policies of their senior leaders. They are faced with social experimentation and double standards in training. Experienced pilots are forced to qualify certain trainees who may or may not demonstrate established quality standards. This leads to distrust and resentment, two powerfully harmful factors in terms of unit morale, and thus military effectiveness.”

Former Secretary of the Navy John Lehman (a winged Naval Aviator as well) felt that the scandal had removed the necessary swagger and confidence from the navy’s aviation culture and replaced it with a focus on social issues. But current Navy leaders will say that gender integration has been a success and that Naval Aviation has never been more effective, and they point to things like the Tailhook Scandal and credit them with accelerating the changes for the better.

However the changes netted out, these days you won’t find a fighter pilot with the callsign “Puke” anywhere, and that’s a shame.

Now: The Army is kicking out a Green Beret who saved a child from being raped

 

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11 best-ever nicknames of military leaders

A lot of people get nicknames in the military, usually something derogatory. But not these guys. These 11 military leaders got awesome nicknames by doing awesome stuff.


Here’s what they are and how they got them:

1. Group Capt. Sir Douglas “Tin Legs” Bader

That time a group of officers got drunk and trashed Naval Aviation’s culture forever
(Photo: Royal Air Force photographer Devon S A)

Group Capt. Sir Douglas Bader was a Royal Air Force hero of the second World War known for his exploits in the air and frequent escape attempts as a prisoner of war in Nazi Germany. He did all of this despite the fact that he lost his legs in 1931 in an air show accident. He was drummed out of the service due to disability but returned when Britain entered World War II. He wore two prosthetic legs and earned his insensitive but inarguably awesome nickname.

2. Capt. Michael “Black Baron” Wittmann

That time a group of officers got drunk and trashed Naval Aviation’s culture forever
Capt. Michael Wittman was an evil Nazi with an awesome nickname. (Photo: German military archives)

 

Michael Wittman was an SS-Hauptsturmführer, the SS equivalent of an army captain, in command of a tank crew in World War II. From his time as a young enlisted man to his death as a captain, he was known for his skill in tanks and scout cars. As the war ground on, Wittman became one of the war’s greatest tank aces, scoring 138 tank kills and 132 anti-tank gun kills.

He was recognized with medals and a message of congratulations from Adolph Hitler. He was giving the nickname “The Black Baron” as an homage to the World War I flying ace, “The Red Baron,” Manfred Von Richtofen.

3. General of the Armies John “Black Jack” Pershing

 

That time a group of officers got drunk and trashed Naval Aviation’s culture forever
(Photo: US Army)

General of the Armies John “Black Jack” Pershing led the American Expeditionary Forces through World War I and became one of America’s highest ranked officers in history, second only to President George Washington.

Pershing’s nickname was originally a horrible epithet given to him by students while he instructed at West Point. They angrily called him “[N-word] Jack” in reference to his time commanding a segregated unit. The name was softened to “Black Jack” and has become a part of his legacy.

4. Gen. Norman “The Bear” Schwarzkopf

That time a group of officers got drunk and trashed Naval Aviation’s culture forever
(Photo: US Army)

 

Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf is probably best known for his leadership of Desert Storm. He sported two colorful nicknames. He didn’t like the most famous one, “Stormin’ Norman,” probably because it alluded to his volatile temper. But he seemed to have a fondness for his second, “The Bear,” an allusion to his 6ft., 4in. height and nearly 240-pound size.

In his autobiography, he described his wife as “Mrs. Bear” and he named one of his dogs “Bear” as well.

5. Lt. Gen. James “Jumpin’ Jim” Gavin

 

 

That time a group of officers got drunk and trashed Naval Aviation’s culture forever
U.S. Army

Lt. Gen. James Gavin is probably best known for the same achievement that gave him his nickname, commanding one of America’s first airborne units and literally writing the book on airborne operations, FM 31-30: Tactics and Technique of the Air-Borne Troops.

Even after he rose to the rank of general officer ranks, he kept conducting combat jumps with his men. He landed in Normandy as a brigadier general and jumped in Operation Market Garden as a major general, earning him another nickname, “The Jumping General.”

6. Gen. Sir Frank “The Bearded Man” Messervy

That time a group of officers got drunk and trashed Naval Aviation’s culture forever
Imperial War Museum

Gen. Sir Frank Messervy was a successful cavalry officer in the British Indian Army in both World Wars and later served as the first commander of the Pakistan Army. In garrison, he had the appearance of a stereotypical, well-groomed Englishman. But he famously neglected to shave during battles, leading to a thick beard when he was engaged for more than a few days.

7. Lt. Gen. Lewis “Chesty” Puller

That time a group of officers got drunk and trashed Naval Aviation’s culture forever
U.S. Marine Corps

 

One of the greatest heroes of the Korean War, Lt. Gen. Lewis “Chesty” Puller tried to join World War I but the conflict ended just before he could ship out. Instead, he fought in anti-guerilla wars, World War II, and the Korean War. But for all of his battlefield exploits, he received a nickname for his physical appearance. His impeccable posture and large frame made him look “chesty,” so that became his name.

8. Maj. Gen. Smedley “The Fighting Quaker” Butler

 

That time a group of officers got drunk and trashed Naval Aviation’s culture forever
U.S. Marine Corps

Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler was born into a Quaker family in Pennsylvania in 1881. Despite the Quakers’ aversion to violence, Butler lied about his age to become a Marine Corps second lieutenant in 1898, developed a reputation for being fierce in a fight, and made his way to major general while receiving two Medals of Honor in his career.

Butler also received a brevet promotion to captain when he was 19 for valorous action conducted before officers were eligible for the Medal of Honor. In recognition of his huge brass ones, his men started calling him “The Fighting Quaker.”

9. “The Constable” Gen. Charles de Gaulle

That time a group of officers got drunk and trashed Naval Aviation’s culture forever
Wikimedia Commons

Gen. Charles de Gaulle was the highest ranking member of France’s military in World War II and led Free French Forces against the Nazis after the fall of France.

De Gaulle gained the nickname “The Constable” on two occasions. First, in school where he was known as the “Grand Constable.” After the fall of France, the nickname was bestowed anew when British Prime Minister Winston Churchill called him “The Constable of France,” the job title of ancient French warriors who served Capetian Kings until the 10th century.

10. Staff Sgt. William “Wild Bill” Guarnere

That time a group of officers got drunk and trashed Naval Aviation’s culture forever
Photo: US Army

Staff Sgt. William Guarnere fought viciously against the Germans as a paratrooper in Europe and gained a reputation for it, leading to his nickname “Wild Bill” and his portrayal in Band of Brothers.

Because of his exotic last name, he also gained the unfortunate nickname of “gonorrhea.”

11. Francis “The Swamp Fox” Marion

That time a group of officers got drunk and trashed Naval Aviation’s culture forever

 

Brig. Gen. Francis Marion was best known for leading guerilla fighters through the woods and swamps of the southern colonies during the American Revolution. After repeatedly being harassed by Marion and his men, the British sent Col. Banastre Tarleton to hunt him down.

Marion evaded Tarleton over and over again. When a 26-mile chase through the swamps came up empty, Tarleton complained that he would never find that “swamp fox” and the name stuck.

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Stories Behind the Stars: An extraordinary commitment to our fallen World War II heroes

World War II veterans are widely regarded as “The Greatest Generation.” Interviews with the surviving veterans are sacred but one man felt like something was missing. We’d forgotten to tell the stories of the 416,000 heroes who didn’t make it home. 

“It always bothered me a little bit that coverage goes to those who survived but we don’t get a lot of attention on those who never made it back,” Don Milne, Founder and Director of Stories Behind the Stars said. He began by using his free time to research and tell the stories of those fallen World War II heroes who’d be celebrating their 100th birthday, if they’d survived. 

That time a group of officers got drunk and trashed Naval Aviation’s culture forever
Photo submitted by Don Milne

Milne started with those who died in the attacks on Pearl Harbor, thinking he’d stop there. “I thought that could be my contribution as a memorial to remember these people,” he shared. 

But it didn’t end there. When he announced he’d be stopping, those following and reading his stories implored him to keep going. Through research Milne learned about Fold 3, an Ancestry company that saves the stories and records of America’s military. “So we said, why don’t we start saving the stories here and invite other people to do the same,” he explained. 

Not long after that, his 30-year role at a bank had been eliminated and he was given a generous severance package. The pandemic had just hit the United States and opportunities for employment were slim. With a year on his hands, Milne knew what he wanted to do with it. 

The Stories Behind the Stars was founded as an official nonprofit and he was all in on honoring the fallen of World War II, beginning right at home. “I reached out to the media in Utah and explained what I was doing and my hope to tell the stories of all the World War II fallen in the state,” Milne explained. “I got some good help and ended up with 126 volunteers. Over a six month period we ended up doing all 2,100 stories.”

After that, Milne connected with the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Virginia. “We got their list of the 2,502 Americans who died on day one of D-Day. I put the word out for more volunteers…since January until now, these 130 people have been taking time out of their day writing these stories,” he said. “It’s a way to raise awareness…we are hoping enough people will see this and think it’s a fun project to be a part of.”

He hopes that this will reach young people in particular. “As they walk through these fields and scan these graves, they’ll find that many of them are around their age,” Milne said. 

A trip to Gettysburg National Ceremony with his grandson would lead to a life-changing teaching moment. Milne said he found the grave of a fallen World War II veteran he’d written about and asked his grandson to figure out how old he was when he passed away. 

“He did the math and said ‘He was 16 years old, that’s how old I am!’ and I think that touched him more than more than most because that was an individual that had to lie to get into the Navy, probably because he wanted to support the effort to bring freedom here and around the world,” he shared. “Stories like this will not be forgotten.”

What’s unique about this project and all of these stories is that they aren’t just going on the internet. “We are going to have a smartphone app so that you can find any of these people from World War II and scan their headstone to find and learn their stories,” Milne said. “There’s no reason why we can’t bring the vast knowledge that we have on the internet and make every grave a portal to the stories of the fallen.”

Although covering all of the World War II fallen is a lofty goal, Milne feels confident in being able to do it with enough volunteers. “If we can get a couple thousand volunteers and write one story a week…we can have them all done by the 80th anniversary of the end of World War II in September of 2025,” he said. 

Signing up to volunteer is easy and it’s done through their website. As we approach Memorial Day, this is a true way to honor and remember America’s fallen heroes. By telling and sharing their stories, we can ensure that the willing ultimate sacrifice of their lives will never be forgotten.

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Army ground-launched Hellfire missiles destroys drone target

The U.S. Army destroyed a flying drone target with a Hellfire missile fired from a truck-mounted launcher designed to protect ground troops from enemy rockets, mortars, artillery fire, cruise missiles and aircraft, service officials explained.


The live-fire test, which took place at White Sands Missile Range, N.M., a Multi-Mission Launcher shot the Hellfire out of one of 15 rotating launch tubes mounted onto a mobile tactical truck.

“The MML is mounted on a medium tactical vehicle. The launcher can rotate 360 degrees and elevate from 0 to 90 degrees. It consists of fifteen tubes, each of which can hold either a single large interceptor or multiple smaller interceptors,” an Army statement said.

With ISIS rocket fire killing a U.S. Marine at a firebase in Iraq recently, this emerging ground-based troop protection is the kind of system which could quickly make and operational difference for forces in combat situations.

The firing represents an adaptation of the Hellfire missile, a 100-pound tank-killing weapons typically fired from aircraft such as Gray Eagle, Predator and Reaper drones and Apache attack helicopters, among others.

The Hellfire was fired as part of a development force protection technology called “Indirect Fire Protection Capability Increment 2-Intercept (IFPC Inc. 2-I).” The live fire exercise demonstrated the ability to fire a second interceptor type because the Multi-Mission launcher has also fired a ground-launched Stinger anti-aircraft missile and a AIM-9X missile, an air-to-air attack weapon adapted for ground-fire troop protection.

That time a group of officers got drunk and trashed Naval Aviation’s culture forever
US Army photo by John A. Hamilton

“We are fully integrated with AIM-9X and Longbow (Hellfire). This is a monumental effort by our PEO family,” Col. Terrence Howard, Project Manager, Cruise Missile Defense Systems Project Office, PEO Missiles and Space told Scout Warrior.

The Multi-Mission launcher works in tandem with radar and fire-control software to identify, track, pinpoint and destroy approaching enemy air threats with an interceptor missile.

IFPC Inc 2-I is a joint collaborative effort between the Army’s Program Executive Office for Missiles and Space’s Cruise Missile Defense Systems Project Office and the Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center, an Army statement said.

“This is a capability that, when fully matured and fielded, will match and counter a very wide variety of sophisticated airborne threats. MML will greatly help protect our ground troops from harm’s way under the most stressing battlespace operating conditions,” James Lackey, Director of AMRDEC, told Scout Warrior in a statement.

The IFPC Inc 2-I System will use a technology called Integrated Air and Missile Defense Battle Command System for its command and control along with a Sentinel radar system to provide 360-degree protection with the ability to engage simultaneous threats arriving from different angles of attack, Army officials said.

“MML (Multi-Mission Launcher) gives me confidence we can do more of these types of efforts when it comes to future prototyping,” Lackey added.

The live-fire demonstration involved Army subject matter experts, industry participants and international partners interested in the systems’ development.

“This is a marked achievement that proves the open systems architecture of the IFPC capability works as designed.  We have demonstrated the ability to offer a multiple interceptor solution to defeat multiple threats. True multi-mission capability” Lt. Col. Michael Fitzgerald, IFPC Product Manager.

Weapons development experts are now using telemetry and data collection systems to assess the results of the live fire with a mind to quickly preparing the system for combat use. The weapon should be ready for combat within three to five years.

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Army Rejects M9A3 Proposal, Opts For New Pistol

That time a group of officers got drunk and trashed Naval Aviation’s culture forever
Photo: US Army


U.S. Army weapons officials will not evaluate an improved version of the service’s Cold War-era 9mm pistol, choosing instead to search for a more modern soldier sidearm.

In early December, Beretta USA, the maker of the U.S. military’s M9 pistol for 30 years, submitted its modernized M9A3 as a possible alternative to the Army’s Modular Handgun System program — an effort to replace the M9 with a more powerful, state-of-the-art pistol.

The US Army Is Ditching The M9 Beretta Pistol – Here’s What Could Replace it

The improved M9 features new sights, a rail for mounting lights and accessories, better ergonomics and improved reliability, Beretta USA officials said.

But by late December, it was all over for Beretta’s engineering change proposal for the M9. The Army’s Configuration Control Board decided not to evaluate the M9A3, according to a source familiar with the decision.

The move clears the way for the Army to release a pending request for proposal that will launch the MHS competition.

Program Executive Office Soldier would not comment for this story until Army Public Affairs has approved a statement, PEO Soldier spokesman Doug Graham said Thursday night.

The Army began working with the small arms industry on MHS in early 2013, but the joint effort has been in the works for more than five years. If successful, it would result in the Defense Department buying nearly 500,000 new pistols during a period of significant defense-spending reductions.

Current plans call for the Army to purchase more than 280,000 handguns from a single vendor, with delivery of the first new handgun systems scheduled for 2017, according to PEO Soldier officials. The Army also plans to buy approximately 7,000 sub-compact versions of the handgun.

The other military services participating in the MHS program may order an additional 212,000 systems above the Army quantity.

The effort is set to cost at least $350 million and potentially millions more if it results in the selection of a new pistol caliber.

Beretta USA officials said they have not received official notification of the Army’s decision.

“Obviously, they didn’t take a whole lot of time on this,” said Gabriele De Plano, vice president of military marketing and sales for Beretta USA, reacting to the news of the Army’s pre-Christmas decision after the M9A3’s December 10 unveiling.

Army officials “didn’t ask a single question; didn’t ask for a single sample” for evaluation, De Plano said.

The Army maintains that the M9 design does not meet the MHS requirement. Soldiers have complained of reliability issues with the M9. One problem has to do with the M9’s slide-mounted safety. During malfunction drills, the shooter often engages the lever-style safety by accident, Army weapons officials say.

The M9A3’s “over-center safety lever” can be configured to act as a de-cocker, a change that eliminates the accidental safety activation, De Plano said.

As part of the joint requirement process for MHS, Army weapons officials did a “very thorough cost-benefit analysis” that supported the effort, Army weapons officials said. The old fleet of M9s is costing the Army more to replace and repair than to buy a new service pistol, officials said.

The M9A3 is not a perfect pistol, De Plano says, but the Army should at least evaluate it.

The M9 pistol can be “improved for hundreds of millions less than a new MHS pistol,” De Plano said. “We can sell them this new pistol for less than the M9 pistol.”

Beretta currently has an open contract for M9s that the Army awarded in September 2012 for up to 100,000 pistols. Deliveries of about 20,000 have been scheduled, leaving 80,000 that could be ordered in the M9A3 configuration for less than the cost of the current M9, De Plano said.

“Why not do a dual-path like they have done in other cases,” De Plano said.

The Army was determined to do just that when it set out to search for a replacement for the M4 carbine. The service launched a competition to evaluate commercially available carbines while, at the same time, it evaluated improvements to the M4.

In the end, the service scrapped the competition and ended up adopting the M4A1 version used by special operations forces.

“They could explore this,” said De Plano, by ordering 10 M9A3s. “What’s the downside?”

— Matthew Cox can be reached at Matthew.Cox@military.com.

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This article originally appeared at Military.com Copyright 2014. Follow Military.com on Twitter.

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‘Ensign Dilbert’ taught pilots to not accidentally kill their friends

Your grandparents and great grandparents fighting in World War II were hit with just as much safety rules as troops are today, it’s just those rules rarely make it to the history books.


But they weren’t always given their safety rules in boring briefings. When the 1940s War Department and Department of the Navy really wanted to drive safety rules home, they made snazzy safety videos and posters.

The Navy used “Ensign Dilbert,” a soup-sandwich who always breaks safety rules, to highlight the grisly results of incompetency in aviation.

That time a group of officers got drunk and trashed Naval Aviation’s culture forever
Shocker: This guy is the idiot. (Photo: YouTube/Nuclear Vault)

And Dilbert does some truly stupid stuff. He mishandles his weapons, tows aerial targets into ground crews, and even accidentally kills a civilian his first flight of the day. And the Navy isn’t afraid to show the (PG-13) bodies of his victims.

Check out the Dilbert video on aerial gunnery, Don’t Kill Your Friends, below:

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The Special Forces op that supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq

From 2001 to 2003, the Kurdistan region in northern Iraq was in a state of conflict between autonomous Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga forces and the terror group, Ansar al-Islam. The group was made primarily of Al-Qaeda veterans of the Afghanistan War and was carving out an enclave in the major city of Halabja. Locals from the Islamic Group of Kurdistan rose up to support Ansar al-Islam. The CIA also suspected the terror group of manufacturing poison and chemical weapons in the region. To address this threat in northern Iraq and put more pressure on Baghdad, the U.S. planned to open a second front during the 2003 invasion of Iraq from the north through Turkey.

However, Turkey refused to allow U.S. forces to cross their border into Iraq for the purpose of invasion. Although this development halted the mechanized 4th Infantry Division, thousands of paratroopers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade and soldiers of the 10th Mountain Division’s 2-14 Infantry Regiment were inserted from the air to form an ad hoc northern coalition. Their push south was paralleled by paramilitary operators of the CIA’s Special Activities Division and Green Berets from the 10th Special Forces Group. The roughly 40 CIA officers and Green Berets supported the 7,000-strong Kurdish Peshmerga fighters of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and the Kurdish Democratic Party who wanted to defeat Ansar and Islamic Kurdish fighters and push south to join the fight against Saddam.

On the morning of March 21, 2003, Operation Viking Hammer kicked off in northern Iraq. Directed by the U.S. advisors, a total of 64 Tomahawk cruise missiles struck Ansar and Islamic Kurdistan forces. However, the ground assault was postponed until the conventional U.S. forces were in place for their parallel push south. The attack was scheduled for March 28.

On the eve of the attack, the Islamic Group of Kurdistan surrendered. They had already lost 100 fighters during airstrikes on March 21 and were heavily demoralized. The attack the next morning was met with heavy resistance from the Ansar fighters. However, the U.S. advisors called in airstrikes on the Ansar positions and the Peshmerga were able to push through. They reached their first checkpoint, the town of Gulp, hours ahead of schedule.

That time a group of officers got drunk and trashed Naval Aviation’s culture forever
The mountainous terrain was difficult to navigate and fight through (U.S. Army)

The bulk of the surviving Ansar forces fell back to the town of Sargat where they consolidated for a final stand. As the Peshmerga fighters and their U.S. advisors approached Sargat, they were pinned down by heavy mortar and machine gun fire. The town’s location deep in the valley blocked radio signals and prevented the Americans from calling in airstrikes or friendly reinforcements. Instead, Green Berets used a Barrett M82 .50-caliber rifle to take out Ansar machine gun crews while Peshmerga forces brought up artillery to destroy the Ansar mortar positions. It took three hours, but the Ansar forces were eventually driven from Sargat.

That time a group of officers got drunk and trashed Naval Aviation’s culture forever
Green Berets during Operation Viking Hammer (U.S. Army)

As they routed the Ansar fighters into the hills, the Peshmerga were again pinned down by machine gun fire. However, the elevated battleground allowed U.S. advisors to call in airstrikes into the night. Once darkness fell, four AC-130 gunships battered the retreating Ansar forces as they retreated toward the Iranian border. Some fighters were reportedly arrested by Iranian forces while others were sent back across the border and captured by Kurdish forces. However, the Kurds allege that many Ansar fighters were given refuge in Iran.

Operation Viking Hammer resulted in the destruction of Ansar al-Islam in northern Iraq and allowed Kurdish fighters to continue south to attack Saddam’s forces from the north. Traces of poisonous Ricin and potassium chloride were discovered in Sargat, as well as chemical suits, nerve gas antidotes and manuals on manufacturing chemical weapons. Peshmerga casualties were light with three fighters killed and 23 wounded.

In addition to the 100 Islamic Kurds who were killed in the initial airstrikes, an estimated 150-200 Ansar fighters were killed during Viking Hammer. There were no American casualties. Seven Green Berets were awarded the Silver Star for their actions around Sargat and several CIA officers were awarded the rare Intelligence Star for extraordinary heroism in combat. The operation has been lauded as one of the greatest Special Forces engagements in modern history.

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This Spitfire shot down near Dunkirk just flew again

During the famed and perilous evacuation of Dunkirk in World War II, brave pilots, sailors, and citizens fought tooth and nail to rescue soldiers trapped on the French beach from the German Luftwaffe as it attempted to wipe them out.


One of the pilots, Squadron Leader Geoffrey Stephenson, was shot down in a Spitfire MK1 N3200 on May 26, 1940, the opening hours of Operation Dynamo. Stephenson spent most of the war as a prisoner of the Germans, eventually staying at the famous Colditz Castle after numerous escape attempts from other prisons.

That time a group of officers got drunk and trashed Naval Aviation’s culture forever
A Spitfire Mk. 1A flies in 1937. (Photo: Royal Air Force)

But his aircraft, hit through the radiator and with other damage to the body, was left on the beach near Calais, France. The Spitfire plane became a popular photo destination for German soldiers who would often take small parts of the aircraft with them as souvenirs.

By the time the Allies liberated Calais in 1944, no one was too worried about digging what scrap remained out of the beach. And so the plane continued to sit, slowly becoming more and more buried by the mud and sand on the beach.

That time a group of officers got drunk and trashed Naval Aviation’s culture forever
The restored Spitfire Mk. 1A taxis to the runway at an air show in England. (Photo: YouTube/Imperial War Museums)

It wasn’t until 1986, over 40 years after the war ended, that the plane was recovered — and it wasn’t until the new millennium that someone decided to actually restore the old bird.

Thomas Kaplan, an American investor and philanthropist, backed the 14-year restoration project and gifted the plane, now back in flying condition, to the Imperial War Museum.

Now the plane is housed at the same hangar on the same base that it flew from that fateful day in 1940, but it has a much different mission. It serves as a flying history exhibit for the museum, soaring over air shows and allowing visitors to hear what the original Spitfires sounded like in combat.

Learn more about the history of the plane and see it in flight in the video below:

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How this Navy jet ended up 3,000 feet under the Atlantic

The US Coast Guard rescued a Navy pilot whose jet crashed in the Atlantic Ocean off the Florida Keys.


Lt. Russ Chilcoat said in a news release the pilot ejected and was rescued in early August with no apparent injuries. The crash happened some 20 miles (32 kilometers) southeast of Key West. The pilot, whose name wasn’t released, was the only person on board.

That time a group of officers got drunk and trashed Naval Aviation’s culture forever
A US Navy Northrop F-5N Tiger II  assigned to Fighter Squadron Composite 111 “Sun Downers” launches from Boca Chica Field of Naval Air Station Key West, Florida. (US Navy photo)

Chilcoat says parts of the F-5N were recovered but the rest is under about 3,000 feet (900 meters) of water. He says the Navy has no immediate plans to recover the aircraft.

The pilot is attached to Fighter Composite Squadron 111, the “Sun Downers,” based at Naval Air Station Key West. Officials say the jet was conducting training operations and the cause of the crash wasn’t immediately known.

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New Air Force secretary is a former lawmaker and Academy grad

The Senate has confirmed Heather Wilson as Air Force secretary, making her President Donald Trump’s first service secretary nominee to be approved by the GOP-led chamber after fits and starts for several others.


Senators voted 76-22 Monday to approve Wilson, who represented New Mexico in the House before becoming a defense industry consultant. Her post-congressional work drew scrutiny for several Democrats, who had questioned an arrangement with government laboratories that paid her $20,000 a month. Wilson denied any impropriety.

Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island, the top Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, said he voted against Wilson’s nomination because of his lingering concerns with the payments. Reed also cited as troubling a call Wilson made a decade ago while still a member of Congress to a federal prosecutor handling a politically charged corruption probe.

That time a group of officers got drunk and trashed Naval Aviation’s culture forever
Secretary of the Air Force Nominee Heather Wilson testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee, as a part of the confirmation process March 30, 2017, in Washington, D.C. In her opening statement, Wilson said,

Trump’s attempts to fill the other two service secretary jobs have failed so far. His picks for secretaries of the Army and Navy were forced to withdraw from consideration.

Mark Green, Trump’s second choice for Army secretary, stepped aside late last week amid growing criticism over his remarks about Muslims, and gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans.

The president’s first pick to be the Army’s top civilian, Vincent Viola, dropped out in early February because of financial entanglements, and about three weeks later Philip B. Bilden, the Navy secretary nominee, withdrew for similar reasons.

The Trump administration has been slow to fill many other senior civilian posts at the Pentagon, leaving Defense Secretary Jim Mattis short of the support he needs to manage the nation’s vast military enterprise. The Senate Armed Services Committee is holding confirmation hearings Tuesday for three important financial positions at the Defense Department: comptroller, deputy comptroller and director of cost assessment and program evaluation.

After serving five terms in Congress from New Mexico, Wilson collected nearly half a million dollars in questionable payments from federally funded nuclear labs, the Energy Department’s inspector general said in a 2013 report. Wilson failed to provide documentation for the consulting work she did to earn $20,000 a month from the Los Alamos and Sandia national labs in New Mexico from January 2009 to March 2011, the report said.

Wilson deflected questions about the payments, saying during her Senate confirmation hearing that she’d performed the work and that the inspector general had found no fault with her.

The telephone call referenced by Reed, the senator from Rhode Island, was made by Wilson in October 2006 to David Iglesias, a U.S. attorney in New Mexico. Iglesias was one of seven federal prosecutors fired a few months later by the Bush administration. At the time, Iglesias was handling a number of public corruption cases. Reed said the call raised the possibility Iglesias may have felt pressured by Congress in an ongoing investigation. Wilson said she did nothing improper.

Wilson served as an Air Force officer in Europe during the 1980s and was on the National Security Council staff under President George H.W. Bush during the fall of the Berlin Wall. She graduated from the Air Force Academy in 1982 and later earned master’s and doctoral degrees as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University in England. Wilson is the first graduate of the academy to hold to hold the service’s top civilian post.

Wilson said that once confirmed she would resign as president of the South Dakota School of Mines Technology. She’d also assured the Defense Department’s general counsel that she would divest of stocks she holds in companies that do work for the U.S. military, including Intel, IBM, Honeywell and Raytheon.

Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the Republican chairman of the Armed Services Committee, called Wilson a “proven leader” and said she would lead the service to a stronger future.

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South Korea wants North Korea to host some 2018 Winter Olympics events

South Korea’s sports minister, Do Jong-hwan, suggested that North Korea host some events at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympic games in an attempt to engage Kim Jong Un and promote peace, the Guardian reports.


The idea reflects a larger effort by South Korea’s newly elected President Moon Jae-in, who seeks to revive the old “sunshine policy” whereby South Korea makes overtures of friendship and unity to the North to ease military tensions.

Moon has also pushed for both Koreas to host the 2030 World Cup, saying “if the neighboring countries in north-east Asia, including North and South Korea, can host the World Cup together, it would help to create peace.”

That time a group of officers got drunk and trashed Naval Aviation’s culture forever
President of South Korea, Moon Jae-in. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

North Korean athletes have made limited appearances at global sporting events like the World Cup and the Olympics, with two gold medals in Rio’s 2016 games. In soccer, the North Koreans haven’t fared as well.

Do said the Winter Games could go down as the “peace Olympics,” and help to “thaw lingering tensions” between the North and South, according to the Korea Herald.

But building stadiums and holding games in North Korea would raise two major questions: How sound is investment in a nation that continues to threaten its neighbors and enemies with an ever-evolving nuclear missile program, and would international travelers feel at ease visiting the country that just released a US detainee in a coma?

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Watch the Marines’ F-35 fire an 80-round burst from its gun pod

On July 6, at the Naval Air Station at Patuxent River, Maryland, US Marines carried out the first successful test of the F-35B’s GAU-22 gun pod, Business Insider has confirmed.


Five days later, the gun pod fired it’s first 80-round burst. Both tests were resoundingly successful, and the video is posted below.

Business Insider previously reported on the first test of the F-35A’s integrated gun, but the gun pod, which will be used on the F-35B and C variants, is an entirely different animal.

That time a group of officers got drunk and trashed Naval Aviation’s culture forever
Pilots with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 exit F-35B Lightning II’s after conducting training during exercise Red Flag 16-3 at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, July 20, 2016. | US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Harley Robinson

Instead of the integrated design of the US Air Force’s F-35A, the Marine Corps’ F-35B and the US Navy’s F-35C will feature a 220-round, 25 mm gun in a modular pod.

This means that the Navy and Marine variants, which launch from aircraft carriers or amphibious assault vessels, will have the option of excluding the gun to save weight and increase fuel efficiency.

Here’s the GAU-22 ripping a target with pinpoint accuracy:

While the F-35 has fielded some criticism for its gun, which at 55 rounds per second can empty its entire magazine in under four seconds, the gun actually makes sense for the type of close air-support environment that the F-35 is expected to operate in.

The much-loved A-10 Warthog, which holds 1,350 rounds, is ideal for flying low and slow, loitering in the sky, and delivering its precise fire to provide close air support. But this makes sense in only uncontested air space.

The F-35’s smaller magazine capacity reflects the future of close air support as military planners envision it. The F-35 will usher in an era of quick and precise strikes that leverage a suite of sensors, electronic-warfare capabilities, and stealth.

Watch the full video of the GAU-22 gun pod firing an 80-round burst for the first time below:

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The 4 times Sam Shepard played an outstanding military officer

Hollywood has suffered yet another loss. Iconic TV and film actor Sam Shepard recently passed away at the age of 73 from complications with ALS. The Oscar-nominated and award-winning playwright’s career lasted almost five decades, and he’s accredited with over 65 movies roles.


The Illinois native was the son of Army officer, Samuel Shepard Rogers Jr., who served during World War II as a bomber pilot — which probably contributed to the longtime actor’s acumen in military roles.

Related: 5 nuggets of wisdom in ‘Black Hawk Down’ you may have missed

Here are the four times Shepard played an outstanding military officer.

1. Stealth

In 2005, Shepard played Capt. George Cummings, a “mission before the man” thinker, in charge of three radical Navy pilots picked to team up with a new fourth wing man — an independently thinking stealth jet.

After a fierce lightning strike, the AI stealth jet begins to create havoc and now must be taken down and destroyed at all costs.

That time a group of officers got drunk and trashed Naval Aviation’s culture forever

2. Black Hawk Down

In 2001, Ridley Scott decided to cast Shepard as Maj. Gen. William Garrison, the overall commander of Task Force Ranger and the chief of Joint Special Operations Command. According to most accounts, Garrison did everything in his power to retrieve his men from the battlefield after a raid in Mogadishu quickly went south.

That time a group of officers got drunk and trashed Naval Aviation’s culture forever

3. One Kill

Shepard starred as Maj. Nelson Gray alongside Anne Heche in 2000’s crime drama”One Kill.” The two actors played Marine officers who began an affair with one another in this TV movie directed by Christopher Menaul.

That time a group of officers got drunk and trashed Naval Aviation’s culture forever

4. The Right Stuff

In 1983, Shepard took on the role of legendary Air Force test pilot Charles Elwood “Chuck” Yeager who became the first man to exceed the speed of sound during flight. In the film, Yeager has to help the original Mercury 7 astronauts get prepared for their upcoming space mission.

That time a group of officers got drunk and trashed Naval Aviation’s culture forever
Shepard as Air Force legend Chuck Yeager. (Source: WB/Screenshot)

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