They’re the units that everyone wants to beat, that every commander wants to squash under their heel, and that most average Joes accuse of cheating at least once — the “Opposing Forces” units at military training centers.
The OPFOR units are comprised of active duty soldiers stationed at major training centers and are tasked with playing enemy combatants in training exercises for the units that rotate into their center. They spend years acting as the adversary in every modern training exercise their base can come up with.
So while most units do a rotation at a major training center every couple of years, soldiers assigned to OPFOR units often conduct major training rotations every month. This results in their practicing the deployed lifestyle for weeks at a time about a dozen times per year.
Through all this training, they get good. Really good.
And since they typically conduct their missions at a single installation or, in rare cases, at a few training areas in a single region, they’re experts in their assigned battlespace.
All this adds up to units with lots of experience against the best units the military has to deploy — units that are at the cutting edge of new tactics, techniques, and procedures; units that have the home field advantage.
“The first time you fight against the OpFor is a daunting experience,” Maj. Jared Nichols, a battalion executive officer that rotated through the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California, said during a 2016 training iteration. “You’re fighting an enemy that knows the terrain and knows how American forces fight, so they know how to fight against us and they do it very well.”
An OPFOR Surrogate Vehicle from Coldsteel Troop, 1st Squadron, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, travels through the city of Dezashah en route to the objective, during NTC rotation 17-01, at the National Training Center, Oct. 7, 2016. The purpose of this phase of the rotation was to challenge the Greywolf Brigade’s ability to conduct a deliberate defense of an area while being engaged by conventional and hybrid threats. (Photo: U.S. Army Sgt. David Edge)
For the military, this arrangement is a win-win. First, rotational units cut their teeth against realistic, experienced, and determined opponents before they deploy. This tests and stresses deploying units — usually brigades — and allows them to see where their weak points are. Do their soldiers need a tool they don’t have? Are there leaders being over or under utilized? Does all the equipment work together as expected?
But the training units aren’t expected to get everything right.
“One of the largest challenges I face as the OPFOR battalion commander is conveying the message to the other nations that it’s OK to make a mistake,” Lt. Col. Mathew Archambault said during a 2016 training rotation. “When they come here it’s a training exercise, and I want them to take risks and try new things. I want them to maximize their training experience; it helps them learn and grow.”
But the military also gets a group of soldiers that, over a two or three-year tour of duty at a training center as opposing forces, have seen dozens of ways to conduct different missions. They’ve seen different tactics for resupplying maneuver forces in the field, different ways of hiding communications, different ways of feinting attacks. And, they know which tactics are successful and which don’t work in the field.
When it’s time for these soldiers to rotate to another unit, they take these lessons with them and share them with their new units.
The Army’s King of Battle will soon be restored to its throne: Army M109A7 self-propelled howitzers are getting a massive, much-needed upgrade. The Paladin system is getting an advanced new cannon that will be mounted onto existing Paladins by BAE Systems, an overhaul that will not only increase the range of the guns, but also increase its rate of fire.
The U.S. Army’s artillery has long been overshadowed by America’s competitors when it comes to artillery. China has developed satellite-guided artillery rounds that can reach targets 40 kilometers away. The M109A7 currently has an effective range of 18 kilometers. With this in mind, the U.S. Army’s top modernization priority is improving the range of its artillery, like those of the Paladins.
It’s all a part of the Army’s Futures Command effort to cut through procurement red tape and deliver six highly-needed modernization programs in critical Army functions. The Extreme Range Cannon Artillery is one of those six critical areas for modernization. The howitzer is also getting a turret upgrade, from 38-caliber to 58-caliber. The idea is to minimize performance issues with the chassis while delivering the much-needed upgrade.
Artillery crews will be happy to know that BAE is also trying to integrate an autoloader for the cannon, which would not only increase its volume of fire, but also decrease the wear and tear on the gun crews. The new Paladins were already tested at the Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona in December 2018. That test was primarily conducted for rounds with more propellant and the use of a 30-foot cannon.
The Army’s goal for the ECRA is to develop strategic artillery cannon with an effective range of more than 1,800 kilometers.
In the heights of the Cold War, Soviet First Secretary Nikita Khrushchev banged his shoe against his desk as he vowed to show America at the United Nation General Assembly in 1960. The following year, on October 30th, the most massive nuclear explosion ever was detonated over Severny Island.
The 50-megaton, 60,000-pound hydrogen bomb was said to have been 1,570 times larger than the combined energy of the nuclear devices dropped over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, 10 times the collective destructive power of every conventional weapon ever used in WWII, and it alone accounted for 10 percent of all nuclear yields ever.
The mushroom cloud of the blast soared up 40 miles high (seven times the height of Mount Everest) and had a 59-mile-wide cap. The blast was so incomprehensibly large that it’s nearly impossible to contextualize just how devastating it would have been if detonated over American soil.
To put all of this into perspective — and much to the delight of Yankees fans — let’s measure the hypothetical blast using today’s pitcher’s mound at Oriole Park in Baltimore, MD, as a point of reference.
The initial blast would have decimated the entire city and everything within 12 miles. The mushroom cloud, with a radius of 29.5 miles, would have stretched all the way into Washington D.C. The heat from the blast would have extended out 62 miles, and would have left everyone in Dover, Delaware with third-degree burns.
According to NukeMap, roughly 1.4 million people would have been killed immediately and the nuclear fallout would have made its way through Philadelphia, PA and into Trenton, NJ. Shockwaves reached 430 miles, which would have put it past Cincinnati, OH. Windows would be shattered up to 560 miles miles away, reaching Chattanooga, TN.
With a height of 40 miles, the mushroom cloud would have been visible from 564.5 miles. That means everyone in the outskirts of Atlanta would have been able to see it. The fireball was visible from 620 miles away, which would have meant everyone in Chicago would be witness to it.
For more information on the destructive power of the Tsar Bomba, check out this video.
Few American veterans will ever officially earn both the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the title of Crow War Chief. Joe Medicine Crow might be the only one. His other awards include the Bronze Star and the French Légion d’Honneur. How he earned the title of War Chief of the Crow tribe is a feat unheard of for decades before World War II started.
But for all his feats, he was still a Private in the U.S. Army.
“Promote ahead of peers.”
There are four criteria to become a Crow War Chief, all of which Joe Medicine Crow accomplished during two years of service with the U.S. Army in Europe:
Touching an Enemy Without Killing Him
Taking an Enemy’s Weapon
Leading a Successful War Party
Stealing an Enemy’s Horse
The Crow did not likely think this would be so difficult in the age of machine guns and tanks, but as Joe Medicine Crow showed, it was clearly not impossible.
Also, that’s Dr. Joe Medicine Crow. Just sayin.
The Native American GI was working in a shipyard in Washington state for the first part of World War II. In 1943, he decided to join the U.S. Army. He came from an incredible nomadic warrior tradition. He was the last person to hear a first-hand account of the Battle of Little Bighorn and his grandfather served as a scout for Gen. George Armstrong Custer before the general’s last stand. Joe Medicine Crow would carry this tradition forward, as well as many others.
Before he left for the war, a medicine man provided him with a painted eagle feather he would wear under his uniform before fighting. He would also paint traditional war paint under his uniform, placing two red stripes on his arms. And then, he became a War Chief, the last Crow War Chief.
Crow lived to the ripe old age of 102.
While fighting at the Siegfried Line, the border fortification that would take the U.S. Army into Germany, the warrior was ordered to take a team – a war party, if you will – and cross a field under a hail of bullets to retrieve some dynamite from a previously destroyed American position. Joe Medicine Crow and seven fellow GIs crossed a field of devastating fire that probably should have killed all of them, grabbed the explosives and blew a huge hole in Hitler’s vaunted line. No one was killed. One down.
After penetrating the line, Joe Medicine Crow and the 103d Infantry advanced on a nearby town that turned out to be heavily defended. As a scout, Joe was ahead of most of his unit. After they were ordered to flank some German defenders, Joe was separated and decided to take a shortcut. That’s when he ran right into a Nazi defender while running at full sprint.
For anyone else, this might have been embarrassing at the least and deadly at the most, but this is Joe Medicine Crow. He sent the Nazi flying and the Nazi’s rifle across the lawn. The American was still standing as he bent over and grabbed his enemy’s weapon. Two down.
Instead of killing the German, Joe decided to drop the weapon and let his warrior skills take over. The two men fought hand-to-hand for what seemed like hours. When Joe finally got the upper hand and started to kill the Nazi soldier with his hands at the man’s throat. But the German began to whimper, and Joe let him go. Three down.
Then, there’s the task of stealing a horse.
Joe Medicine Crow was scouting a farmhouse behind enemy lines one night when he realized it was full of high-ranking SS officers. They all rode there on horses, which were corralled under guard near the house. Joe Medicine Crow snuck through the guards with only his M1911 to protect him. Having grown up learning to ride horses bareback, mounting one of them in Europe was no problem. He let out a Crow war cry and sang a song as he herded all the horses out of the corral and into U.S. Army lore.
Sometimes you just got to break it down, “Barney-style,” for some soldiers. You know, instruct them in such an easy-to-follow manner that even a kid watching Barney could understand.
As much as we’d all like to pretend that no one in our unit got into the Army through an ASVAB waiver, the fact remains: There’re friggin’ idiots everywhere who need to be told exactly what to do. There are so many simple instructions in the Army, designed so that even our crayon-eating Marine brothers could easily follow them.
The Drug Enforcement Administration is the premier law enforcement agency on the front lines fighting the War on Drugs. The mission of the (DEA) is to enforce the controlled substances laws and regulations of the United States and bring to the criminals involved in the growing, manufacture, or distribution of controlled substances appearing in or destined for illicit traffic in the United States.
This Federal Law Enforcement Agency recruits, trains, and deploys America’s elite agents into the world’s harshest environments to combat cartels and disrupt their operations. Due to the dangerous nature of their job, 85 agents have sacrificed their lives in service to the United States. Here are 6 things you didn’t know about these clandestine operators fighting the evils of narco-terrorism.
No one: Nixon: That’ll teach those hippies!
It was founded by President Richard Nixon
On July 1, 1973, President Nixon merged the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs (BNDD), the Office of Drug Abuse Law Enforcement (ODALE) and over 600 Special Agents from the Customs bureaus into the consolidated force we know today.
“Why is the DEA storming the lobby, Karen?”
They provide oversight of legal drugs too
The Drug Enforcement Administration licenses anyone who prescribes or dispenses drugs. However, the license must be renewed every three years. The DEA has strict rules on prescription authority and record keeping. Prescribing personnel who, in the view of the DEA, abuse their privilege, are subject to the full extent of the law and loss of said license.
To date, over 60 doctors and counting have been charged with pushing opioids and healthcare fraud by the Department of Justice. This greed is the root cause of today’s opioid epidemic exacerbated by secondary and tertiary problems as well.
You can rest assured, when medical professionals behave like drug dealers, the Department of Justice is going to treat them like drug dealers. – Assistant Attorney General Brian Benczkowski
Operation Albatross in Afghanistan, 2007
They were trained for combat by the Army
The drug trade also funds actual terrorists in the middle east, and their source of income had to be destroyed. The U.S. expanded its counter-narco mission in Afghanistan in 2005 with the DEA at the helm. The U.S. military provided air support and cargo planes to the DEA, as well as intelligence and logistics support.
The Army trained agents in spotting IEDs, combat maneuvers, and weapon systems.
Leyenda means legend in Spanish.
Enrique S. Camarena was a Marine
If you’re familiar with the hit Netflix series Narcos, you’ll remember that one of the main characters in season 4 is Enrique S. Camarena, also known as Kiki. The series did not emphasize that he was a U.S. Marine. Oorah.
Prior to joining DEA, Special Agent Camarena served two years in the U.S. Marine Corps. He worked in Calexico as a fireman and then as a police investigator, and was a narcotics investigator for the Imperial County Sheriff Coroner. Special Agent Camarena was survived by his wife, Geneva and three children, Enrique, Daniel and Erik. – dea.gov
This special agent was part of the DEA’s Guadalajara Mexican cartel investigation. He was kidnapped and tortured by drug traffickers on February 7, 1985, for over 30 hours. He was also injected with drugs to ensure he remained conscious. He was a tough one, but even Marines aren’t immortal.
In the wake of his death, Operation Leyenda was formed to solve his murder and was the largest homicide investigation ever conducted by the DEA.
Kiki Camarena was posthumously awarded the Administrator’s Award of Honor, the highest award given by the DEA.
“I don’t know but I’ve been told, Eskimo p-“
They have Spec Ops all over the nation
Special Response Team (SRT) program was created in 2016. The SRT was designed to bridge the gap between tactical operations conducted by field agents and those requiring specialized tactics due to elevated mission risks. SRT operators are highly trained in breaching tactics and an array of weapon systems.
Considered one of the most covert outfits in federal law enforcement, very little is known about DEA SRT capabilities and its operator selection process. – dea.gov
“This is your new partner, Special Agent Dogg.”
The DEA wants to double marijuana production…for research
The agency has increased the amount of marijuana from 978 pounds in 2017 to more than 2,500 pounds in 2018. In 2019, the agency proposed a cannabis quota to more than 5,400 pounds — that’s a lot of weed.
This move is to support federally-sanctioned research in preparation for nationwide legalization — whenever that will be is uncertain.
The U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command Soldier Center at Natick is testing new Army Combat Boot (ACB) prototypes at three different basic training and active duty installations over the next four months. The effort will gather soldier feedback toward development of improved footwear.
The Army’s current inventory of boots includes seven different styles designed for different environments and climates. The boots issued initially to recruits are the Hot Weather and Temperate Weather Army Combat Boots. Requirements for these are managed by the Army Uniform Board as part of the recruit “Clothing Bag.” The Program Executive Office Soldier’s Project Manager Soldier Protection and Individual Equipment maintains and updates the specifications for both boots.
The current generation of Army Combat Boots has not undergone substantial technical or material changes since 2010. New material and technologies now exist that may improve physical performance and increase soldier comfort.
(Photo by Mr. David Kamm, RDECOM)
“Great strides have been made recently in the Army’s environment specific footwear, for jungle, mountain, or cold weather locations, but there is substantial room for improvement in the general purpose boots which are issued to new recruits,” explains Anita Perkins, RDECOM Soldier Center footwear research engineer and technical lead for the Army Combat Boot Improvement effort. “Most components of these combat boots have not been updated in almost 30 years.”
(Photo by Mr. David Kamm, RDECOM)
Surveys conducted by the Soldier Center report soldier satisfaction with ACBs is lower than that with commercial-off-the-shelf, or COTS, boots, leading many soldiers to purchase and wear COTS boots.
“The survey of over 14,000 soldiers world-wide discovered that almost 50% choose to wear COTS combat boots instead of Army-issued boots,” Perkins said. “Many soldiers reported choosing combat boots from the commercial market because the COTS boots are lighter, more flexible, require less break-in time, and feel more like athletic shoes than traditional combat boots or work boots.
Unfortunately, these characteristics often come at the cost of durability and protection.”
(Photo by Mr. David Kamm, RDECOM)
The Soldier Center’s Footwear Performance team believes new technologies can bridge the gap between the lightweight, comfortable, COTS boots and the durable, protective, Army boots. Recent advancements in synthetic materials and rapid prototyping can produce a boot with potentially the same protection, support, and durability of current Army boots, but lighter and more comfortable out of the box. To reach this goal, the Soldier Center is evaluating new types of leather and even some man-made materials which are much more flexible than the heavy-duty, cattle hide leather used in the current boots.
(Photo by Mr. David Kamm, RDECOM)
“Also included in the prototypes we are testing are new types of rubber and outsole designs, which are more than 30% lighter than the outsoles on the current boots,” said Al Adams, team leader for the Soldier Clothing and Configuration Management Team at the Soldier Center.
When working with industry to develop the prototype boots for this effort, Adams and Perkins put an emphasis on cutting weight. The boots being tested are up to 1.5 pounds lighter per pair than the ACBs currently being issued.
“In terms of energy expenditure or calories burned, 1-pound of weight at the feet is equivalent to 4-pounds in your rucksack,” Adams said.
(Photo by Mr. David Kamm, RDECOM)
The test boots will be fitted and fielded to 800 basic trainees at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri and Fort Jackson, South Carolina, followed by 800 pairs going to infantry Soldiers at Fort Bliss, Texas. The Soldier Center team will be hand-fitting each pair of prototype boots throughout the month of January 2019 and then return in March and April 2019 to collect surveys and conduct focus groups to gather specific feedback.
(Photo by Mr. David Kamm, RDECOM)
“Soldiers live in their boots and many will tell you that there is no piece of equipment more important to their lethality and readiness,” said Adams. “A bad pair of boots will ruin a soldier’s day and possibly result in injuries, so we really believe that each of these prototype boots have the potential to improve the lives of soldiers”.
(Photo by Mr. David Kamm, RDECOM)
Simultaneous to the field testing, lab testing will be conducted on the boots at the Soldier Center to quantify characteristics like flexibility, cushioning, cut/abrasion resistance, and breathability. The combination of lab testing and soldier recommendations will identify soldier-desired improvements to the boot prototypes and rank the state-of-the-art materials and designs for soldier acceptance, durability, and safety. The Soldier Center will then provide recommendations to PM SPIE and the Army Uniform Board to drive the next generation of Army Combat Boots.
(Photo by Mr. David Kamm, RDECOM)
“The development of new boots take advantage of the latest materials technology, and are functional and comfortable, is critical to ensuring that our soldiers are ready to fight and win in any environment,” said Doug Tamilio, director of the RDECOM Soldier Center. “Soldiers are the Army’s greatest asset, and we owe it to them to make them more lethal to win our nation’s wars, and then come home safely.”
The US Marine Corps just set forth its vision of a battle plan to take on growing threats around the world — and it calls for small “Lightning carriers” armed to the teeth with F-35s.
The 2017 Marine Aviation Plan acknowledges the burgeoning “missile gap” between the US and adversaries like China, who have a number of “carrier killers” — long-range precision weapons specifically designed to hit land bases and aircraft carriers before they can hit back.
While the US Navy is working on the MQ-25A Stingray as an unmanned refueling system to extend the range of its carrier aircraft, the Marines seem ready to press ahead with a similar concept in “Lightning carriers.”
Basically, the Marines will already have enough F-35Bs to equip several of their smaller amphibious assault ships, sometimes known as helicopter carriers, while the Navy waits on their F-35Cs to sort out carrier-launch issues for its larger, Nimitz-class carriers.
“While the amphibious assault ship will never replace the aircraft carrier, it can be complementary, if employed in imaginative ways,” reads the plan. The Marines refer to one such creative use of the smaller carriers as a “Lightning carrier,” or an amphibious assault ship with 20 F-35Bs and an “embarked, organic aerial refueling capability” to extend their range.
The Marines plan to further reduce reliance on land and sea bases with “mobile forward arming and refueling points” that employ decoys and deception to confuse the enemy and keep US aircraft spread out and unpredictable.
The F-35B with its stealth, unparalleled intelligence gathering, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities, plus extended range, can match the long range missiles fielded by Russia and China and help the Marines secure land and sea bases by allowing them to see first, and if need be, shoot first.
Additionally, the F-35 won’t just increase capabilities, but if acquired faster to replace the aging F-18s and Harriers in the Marines’ fleet, it could save $1 billion, according to the US Naval Institute.
But the Marines aren’t just waiting on the F-35B to save them. The service has big plans to network every single platform into a “sensor, shooter, electronic warfare node and sharer – able to move information throughout the spectrum and across the battlefield at light speed.”
With upgraded data sharing and command and control abilities, every asset from boots on the ground to satellites in the sky will work together to provide decision-quality information to war fighters, whether they’re on carriers, land bases, or taking a beach.
While China cements its land and sea grab with militarized islands in the South China Sea, the Marines’ aviation plan takes on a new urgency. The plan details how the first F-35B squadrons will deploy to Japan and the US’s West Coast.
Much to the joy of most airmen and the disdain of most soldiers, it looks like the Air Force is going to officially adopt the Army’s OCP uniform. Meanwhile, I’m just sitting here on the sidelines wondering if they’ll steal the Pinks and Greens as well (since, you know, they technically wore them, too, back when they were the Army Air Corps).
Have a good weekend, everyone! Enjoy yourself. Go see Deadpool 2 if you want. Just don’t do anything that Deadpool would do — that’s how you get random bullsh*t tacked on to safety briefs.
The F-14A Tomcat was a hard airplane to land aboard an aircraft carrier. Engine response was slow. A wingtip-to-wingtip distance of nearly 70 feet meant there wasn’t much room to deviate away from the centerline of the landing area on the flight deck. Any lateral stick input caused the airplane to yaw in the opposite direction, which forced the pilot to simultaneously feed in rudder to counter. The velocity vector on the heads-up display wasn’t accurate enough to be used as a flight path marker. The tail hook-to-eye distance was more than any other airplane in the wing, which made any vertical corrections very precarious in the endgame.
And for her crime of doing well in flight school, then-Ensign Carey Lohrenz was selected to fly Tomcats, the first female naval aviator to get orders to that community. And by accepting those orders, Lohrenz embarked on a pioneer’s journey, one that had more ups and downs than anyone could have predicted, and one that would have crushed the spirit of the average American woman.
But Carey Lohrenz isn’t an average American woman.
Lohrenz developed a love of sports while growing up in Green Bay, Wisconsin. While she claims she wasn’t a tomboy, she played little league hockey on boy’s teams until high school. (“I quit when they started taking a little too long to get off of me after a check,” she jokes.) After that she took advantage of her six-foot-tall stature and joined the volleyball and basketball teams.
At the same time another love was growing inside of her: aviation. Her father was an airline pilot who’d flown C-130s in the Marine Corps, and her mother was a flight attendant. Both she and her older brother were determined to fly, and they often discussed the best routes to make a career out of flying.
But Lohrenz didn’t discuss her dream with anyone else. “I didn’t want their doubts about what females could do at that time to taint my dream,” she said.
So as soon as she had her Psychology degree from the University of Wisconsin in hand, she followed her brother’s lead and applied for the Navy’s Aviation Officer Candidate School. Months later she reported to Pensacola, Florida for flight training.
Her brother was just over a year ahead of her in the training pipeline, and in spite of the fact he selected the transport community (and ultimately wound up flying E-6s) she wanted to fly tactical jets. And because her performance was at the top of her class, she got what she wanted.
But her selection for jet training came with some inherent tension. The combat exclusion law that prevented females from being assigned to carrier-based squadrons was still very much in place in the early 1990s. The only jets that females were piloting were shore-based EA-6s that flew missile profiles against surface ships for training.
“I got a lot of ‘why are you here?’ questions from instructors and fellow flight students,” Lohrenz said.
But she was undeterred and pressed on with an eye on what she hoped might happen. “If combat billets opened up I wanted to be in a position so that nobody could say I got a slot simply because I was a girl but because I was qualified,” she said.
But in spite of her hope and planning, it wasn’t looking good as she neared the end of her flight training.
“I got a call six weeks before I was supposed to get my wings that the combat exclusion clause hadn’t been lifted and there was no place for me to go,” Lohrenz said. “I could get out of the Navy or go to a non-flying job.”
She hung up the phone and went back to her scheduled flight brief and fought the instinct to cry.
The next day she went to her commanding officer and asked him to find “a third way.”
“I wasn’t taking no for an answer,” she said. And because she’d done well her CO went to bat for her.
But he didn’t have to try too hard because about that same time the combat exclusion law went away. Lohrenz pinned on her Naval Aviator’s Wings of Gold and got orders to VF-124, the F-14 training squadron at NAS (now MCAS) Miramar in southern California, the first female to go right from winging to Tomcats. (The other females were transferred from the EA-6 community.)
But the challenges for Lohrenz didn’t end there.
“I got to Miramar as the trifecta of bad things were happening,” she said.
There was the fallout from the Tailhook scandal that resulted in careers ending for several high-ranking and popular fighter crews. There was a Navy-wide reduction in force happening that was forcing people out of the service against their will. And there was disappointment in the Tomcat community about the fact that the F-14 wasn’t getting upgraded.
One of the instructors posted two articles on the main bulletin board in the ready room: One about how the upgraded F-14 was being cancelled, and one that highlighted that the cost to retrograde ships for females was $200 million.
“There was a lot of animosity that had nothing to do with me but merely my presence,” Lohrenz said. “It wasn’t an easy environment. It took an unwavering belief that I had the ability to do the job.”
She had the first hiccup in her flight training toward the end of the VF-124 syllabus, failing to qualify the first time she tried landing the Tomcat on the carrier. But she wasn’t alone. About 75 percent of her class failed the first time, primarily due to the weather conditions that resulted in rough seas that made an already difficult task of landing a beast of an airplane on the ship for the first time even harder.
Lohrenz focused on her additional training and qualified without any issues the second time through.
She joined her first fleet squadron – VF-213 “Blacklions” – at the most rigorous phase of pre-deployment training, one of two female pilots in the squadron.
The other female pilot was Lt. Kara Hultgreen. Hultgreen was senior to Lohrenz and had come to the Blacklions by way of the EA-6 community.
“Because she had a lot of flight hours people assumed she was experienced,” Lohrenz said.
Two months into Lohrenz’ tour tragedy struck. Hultgreen’s Tomcat had an engine stall in the landing pattern behind the carrier, and she lost control and crashed. While the backseater managed to initiate ejection in time to save his own life, Hultgreen was killed.
The mishap became a lightning rod of emotions and political agendas. Experienced pilots believed Hultgreen had mishandled a basic inflight emergency and that her death was her own fault. Others resented the level of effort that was put into recovering the Tomcat from the bottom of the ocean.
“Nobody addressed the details of the situation and it caused a lot of people to feel less valuable and hurt morale,” Lohrenz said. “And there was a bit of a leadership vacuum that could have nipped the whole thing in the bud.”
Lohrenz was now the sole female carrier-based fighter pilot.
“If I thought the spotlight was bad before it was now nuclear fusion level,” she said.
She was caught in a lose-lose matrix of sorts. “If I was stoic people thought I didn’t care,” she explained. “And if I showed emotion people thought I was a bitch.”
The atmosphere on the carrier was increasingly uncomfortable, even insulting, as the deployment wore on. Female crew were made to take pregnancy tests after every in-port period. The admiral in charge stated in a very public forum that the reason he supported women aboard ships was “because they made the carrier smell better.”
She tried to simply do her job, to fly the airplane and perform as a normal first-tour junior officer should, but that ultimately wasn’t enough to overcome the forces around her.
“To be cryptic about it, the rug was yanked out from under me by a cadre of people who didn’t want women in the military . . . period,” Lohrenz said.
She saw a shift in her commanding officer’s attitude. Her previous landing grade performance that had characterized her as a normal first tour pilot dealing with an airplane that was just plain hard to control now had her listed as “unsafe and unpredictable.”
“I was set up,” she said.
Lohrenz was given an evaluation board that pulled her out of the Tomcat community and assigned her to fly small propeller-driven transports from a shore base. She left the Navy shortly after that.
But in spite of the challenges and the emotional turmoil, Lohrenz has used the experience as a pivot point. “I went from Mach 2 to mom to entrepreneur,” she said.
During the course of being a homemaker, which included being a wife to a FEDEX pilot and raising four kids, she found herself increasingly being sought after for business advice, especially that pertaining to organizational change.
Lohrenz connected the dots and – after a short and semi-chaotic stint with a consulting firm run by military aviation alums – she launched Carey Lohrenz Enterprises. She is now in high demand as a consultant and keynote speaker.
Her efforts are anchored by her book Fearless Leadership that outlines her approaches to both business and life. The book is organized around the three fundamentals of “real fearlessness” — courage, tenacity, and integrity — and offers Lohrenz’ take on how to stay resilient through hard times.
And Lohrenz’ life would suggest that staying resilient is something about which she knows a thing or two.
The desert screams by below. The clouds scream by above. Both stretch on into the horizon. It’s deceptively calm in the cockpit. There’s a constant, seemingly discordant stream of chatter coming through his helmet. The digital screens in front of him, along with images projected onto his visor, provide enough information to save lives and take a few as well. In the sky ahead are more than 60 advanced enemy aircraft, flown by some of the best fighter pilots in the world. They are hunting — looking to kill him and his wingmen. He just graduated pilot training. Welcome to Red Flag.
“I haven’t been flying that long. There are things that stand out in my career. My first solo flight, my first F-35 flight and my first Red Flag mission. I don’t think I’ll ever forget those things,” said 1st Lt. Landon Moores, a 388th Fighter Wing, 4th Fighter Squadron, F-35A Lightning II pilot.
Moores is one of a handful of young F-35A pilots who recently graduated their initial training and are currently deployed to Nellis Air Force Base as part of exercise Red-Flag 19-1. Now they are being battle-tested.
An F-35A Lightning II takes off at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Feb. 1, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw)
“Going from F-35 training a little over a month ago to a large force exercise with dozens of aircraft in the sky is pretty crazy,” Moores said. “For the initial part of the first mission, I was just kind of sitting there listening. I was nervous. I was excited. Then the training kicked in.”
Red Flag is the Air Force’s premier combat training exercise where units from across the Department of Defense join with allied nations in a “blue force” to combat a “red force” in a variety of challenging scenarios over three weeks.
“For us, the biggest difference between this Red Flag and our first with the F-35A two years ago is that we have a lot of pilots on their first assignment,” said Lt. Col. Yosef Morris, 4th FS commander. “Putting them alongside more experienced wingmen is what Red Flag was designed for.”
Combat training has changed dramatically over the years, Morris said.
“When I was a young pilot in the F-16, I had a couple of responsibilities in the cockpit. One, don’t lose sight of my flight lead. Two, keep track of a bunch of green blips on a small screen in front of me, and correlate the blips to what someone is telling me on the radio,” Morris said. “Now, we’re flying miles apart and interpreting and sharing information the jets gather, building a threat and target picture. We’re asking way more of young wingmen, but we’re able to do that because of their training and the capabilities of the jet.”
Capt. James Rosenau flew the A-10 in four previous Red Flags, but he’s brand new to flying the F-35. He graduated from the transition course in December 2018.
Pilots from the 388th Fighter Wing’s 4th Fighter Squadron prepare for launch at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Jan. 31, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw)
“I loved the A-10 and its mission. It’s like a flying tank. Like Chewbacca with chainsaw arms. A very raw flying experience,” Rosenau said. “Obviously the F-35 is completely different. It’s more like a precision tool. After seeing the F-35 go up against the near-peer threats replicated here at Nellis (AFB), I’m a big believer.”
The two aircraft are similar in one way. They do very specific things other aircraft aren’t asked to do.
“In the A-10, I liked being the guy who was called upon to directly support troops on the ground. To bring that fight to the enemy,” Rosenau said. “Now I like being the guy who can support legacy fighters when they may be struggling to get into a target area because of the threat level. We have more freedom to operate. We have this big radar that can sniff out threats. We can gather all of that and pass it along or potentially take out those threats ourselves.”
The threat level is high at Red Flag. From the skill and size of the aggressor forces in the air to the complexity and diversity of the surface to air threats, there is a real sense of the ‘fog and friction’ of war. The adversary force also uses space and cyber warfare to take out or limit technology that modern warfighters rely on. Cutting through the clutter is a strength of the F-35A.
“One of the jet’s greatest assets is to see things that others can’t, take all the information it’s gathering from the sensors and present them to the pilot,” Moores said. “One of our biggest jobs is learning how to process and prioritize that. For the more experienced pilots it seems like it is second nature. … If we don’t, it’s not like we’re getting killed (in the F-35), but we could be doing more killing.”
The pilots say seeing the F-35A’s capabilities being put to use as part of a larger force has been invaluable.
“When we mission plan with other units, it’s not always about kicking down the door,” Rosenau said. “It may be about looking at what the enemy is presenting and ‘thinking skinny.’ With the F-35, we can think through a mission and choose how we want to attack it to make everyone more survivable.”
The Coast Guard is the smallest of America’s armed forces, with about 42,000 active-duty personnel. Their task is to secure America’s maritime borders, about 12,380 miles in length – about six times that of the U.S.-Mexico border that has become a hot issue in the 2016 presidential campaign. The Coast Guard doesn’t just provide border security, it also is the primary maritime search-and-rescue organization of the United States government.
It’s a huge task, and the Coast Guard can be stretched very thin while carrying it out. Matters aren’t helped when you have some joker making false alarms, and the Coasties have been dealing with a bad one in the vicinity of Annapolis, Maryland. Over the last two years, the Coast Guard has responded to 28 false alarms – costing the service over $500,000 – from the same person.
The money is not the big issue. $500,000 from July 2014 to the present is a drop in the bucket given the Coast Guard’s budgets from 2014-2016 were just over $30 billion. The real issue centers around that fact that every mission launched means that Coast Guardsmen are risking their lives. That includes rescues, medevac missions from ships at sea, drug interdiction, enforcing safety regulations, training to keep skills honed, and of course, responding to false alarms. In the last ten years, two HH-65 Dolphin helicopters, a HH-60 helicopter, and a HC-130 Hercules have been lost during operations, with 18 of the 19 Coast Guardsmen on board being killed.
Lieutenant Commander Sara Wallace said in a Coast Guard release on this hoax caller, “Calls like these not only put our crews at risk, but they put the lives of the public at risk. Our efforts to respond to what may be a hoax can delay us from getting on scene to a real emergency.” There is a reason that the Coast Guard’s unofficial motto is “You have to go out, but you don’t have to come back.”
Penalties for calling in a false alarm include up to six years in prison, a $250,000 fine, and reimbursement to the Coast Guard for expenses incurred by the false alarm. Those penalties would apply for each count the hoaxer is convicted on.
Anyone with information on the hoaxer is asked to contact the Coast Guard Investigative Service via e-mail at CGIS-Baltimore@uscg.mil or the Coast Guard Sector Maryland-NCR Command Center via phone at (410) 576-2525.