Naval Station Rota, Spain (NAVSTA Rota) is a beautiful Navy base located in Southern Spain. Called “the Gateway to the Mediterranean,” the port sits on the Atlantic Coast, but is only a few hours from Gibraltar, Mallorca, and other Mediterranean destinations. It’s a small base, with the main buildings all within a mile of the port. There are busses to take you from port to the NEX shopping Center, and from there, you can walk or grab a taxi to the destinations below.
There’s plenty to do on base, off base, and in the surrounding towns, so keep reading and make your libbo plans before the ship pulls into port!
Top 7 things to do in Rota, Spain
1. Get essentials from the NEX. When ships pull into port, they can almost double the on-base population. This means longer lines for everything and a shortage of supplies at the NEX and Commissary. If you need to stock up on cigarettes, razors, snacks, or other essentials, then go here directly from the ship. That way, you’ll avoid the empty shelves at the end of the weekend.
2. Check out MWR tours. Rota is an active base with a small number of permanent personnel stationed there, but a large number of troops come through on ships — some of who remain for a deployment. The base MWR office plans weekly activities. You can find them listed in the Vamos magazine, on their website, or by calling 727-1517 (on base). MWR plans bus rides to local towns, flamenco shows, and castle visits. They handle the transportation and the local guide, so you can just relax and take in the sights.
3. Sign up for Outdoor Rec. Whether you want to rent a bike or SCUBA gear, go on a rock climbing excursion, find local hiking trails, or ride quads in Tarifa, the Outdoor Rec Center is the place to begin. They can fill you in on group activities (listed in the Vamos magazine) or help you plan your own adventure.
4. Visit the Liberty Center: If you need a place to relax or get Internet access, the Liberty Center has a lounge, TVs, computers, and pool tables to enjoy. They also host regular events for single service members, like movie and bowling nights, sports competitions, or trips to local restaurants.
5. If you don’t have a car, walk through Rota: You can easily walk out the Rota gate and downhill through the town. There’s a Welcome Center to your left just as you walk out the gate where you can grab a map or ask questions. Visit the town hall (a 13th century castle), a medieval church, the beach paseo (boardwalk), and have lunch at any of the restaurants near the water.
6. Go golfing. The base has a nice golf course with low rates for service members. They host regular tournaments and events, or you can rent clubs and play a round on your own. If golf isn’t your thing, round up some friends to enjoy the Foot-Golf course, which is set up to play with a soccer ball.
7. Enjoy Spanish food. While Spanish food is not at all like Mexican food (it’s much more mild and based on fresh, Mediterranean ingredients), it is refreshing and delicious. To eat, try paella (rice and seafood), tortilla (an egg and potato dish), gazpacho (cold tomato soup), or any fresh seafood. To drink, don’t miss out on sangria (chilled wine with fruit) or a cerveza (beer).
If you have a car:
You can rent a car on base at the airport, or off base, just outside the Rota gate. You just need ID and a valid American driver’s license to reserve a vehicle. It will be more cost-effective if you team up to rent with some friends. Rental cars are typically stick shift, so make sure someone in the group can drive manual. Having a car will give you access to the town of El Puerto (just a few miles outside the base Puerto gate) and any other towns in Southern Spain that are within your liberty limits.
Here are some of the most popular:
1. Spend a day in Cadiz. This city just 40 minutes from Rota has a great history museum, church, and amazing seafood. It’s a gorgeous city with plenty of parks and unique architecture, and it holds the honor or being one of Europe’s longest continuously-inhabited cities — 2,000 years of constant development and counting!
2. Drive to Seville. Over an hour North of Rota is the royal city of Sevilla, once the port where all the New World gold passed through. The medieval cathedral and alcazar (castle) are both gorgeous and worth the visit. This is also a great location to purchase colorful Spanish pottery.
3. Go to Gibraltar for a day. You’ll need a passport to visit Gibraltar because it is not part of Spain! The town actually belongs to England as an overseas territory. The residents there speak English, eat fish and chips, and have occasional parades of British soldiers. After enjoying lunch at one of the pubs around the main square, take the tour up the Rock to see the monkeys and the Pillar of Hercules.
4.See Roman ruins. The Roman town of Baelo Claudia has been excavated and partially restored, near the Spanish city of Bolonia. A quick day trip will let you walk through the ancient avenues, see the amphitheater, and marvel at the pillars of the public forum. This seaside port was once a bustling Roman town, and on a clear day you can see the coast of Africa. There are other places to see Roman ruins in Spain (statues in the history museums of Cadiz or Seville, aqueducts in Segovia, the theater in Merida), but Baelo Claudia is the closest day-trip to Rota.
Things NOT to do in Rota, Spain:
1. Avoid the forbidden clubs. Your libbo safety brief will probably include a list of establishments not to visit within the town of Rota. There are a few bars and clubs that are off-limits to service members. These establishments are on the list either because of illegal substances, or because they have experienced too many service member-related fights inside. Steer clear. Shore Patrol knows these locations and will check them regularly.
2. Don’t go to Morocco: Although the African city of Tangiers is just a ferry ride away from the Spanish town of Tarifa, service members are generally restricted from traveling to Africa. Not only would you need a passport, but you also need written permission from your CO because of occasional political unrest in Morocco.
“I don’t know how many people were outside the vehicle, but I heard them counting down ‘three, two, one, lift!’ while they moved the weight of the tree off the car. I pushed up on the roof with my back to allow just enough room to get the boy out without causing further injury to him,” said the corpsman of 15 years. The boy’s head had been lodged into the side of his own left knee. The vehicle’s roof was also pushed into the child’s back.
At this point, Rory Farrell had already saved the boy’s mother who was not breathing in the front seat of the vehicle. He was now determined to save her trapped son.
Farrell, a native of Colchester, Connecticut, had always shown compassion and the willingness to help others even at a young age, according to his family.
“In that time, there have been moments that hinted to the amazing young man he would become. Sparks of light in moments of darkness that were ignited by Rory,” said Alexandra McGrath, one of his sisters.
Farrell had never been to Yosemite National Park in California before deciding to vacation there. After suffering a hand injury, he thought a simple camping trip would help him “push the reset button.”
Tree involved in the accident at Yosemite National Park.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo)
It was Labor Day weekend 2017, a very busy time to visit the park. Farrell left a day earlier than anticipated. The U.S. Navy special amphibious reconnaissance corpsman finished up on a weapons range the day prior, where he supported U.S. Marines at Camp Pendleton, California, and decided it would be a good idea to keep his medical bag with him on the trip nearly 400 miles away. He did not know just how important that choice would be.
The following day soon after arriving in the park, he realized just how crowded it could be. Not wanting to be around that many people, Farrell decided to drive farther up north in the park.
After some time on the road, he eventually decided to turn around and started to backtrack his way toward the crowds once again for no particular reason.
“To this day, I still look back and say ‘wow that was a big decision,'” said Farrell.
It was only 15 minutes after he turned around that a tree, later measured to be 33 inches in circumference and 110 feet high, fell onto a parked Toyota Prius, crushing the car no more than 100 meters in front of him.
“It didn’t make sense at first, because you’re just seeing a giant tree crush a car,” said Farrell.
He got out of his truck and ran toward the vehicle to figure out how he could help.
Farrell saw two occupants outside of the vehicle and breathed a sigh of relief, thinking everyone made it out OK. He then saw the facial expression and desperation of the driver, clearly panicking – speaking no English – made it clear to Farrell that there were still people in the car.
Running up to the crushed vehicle, he could see a woman unresponsive in the front passenger’s seat and just behind her a 4-year-old little boy pinned down by the roof of the car, trapped in his booster seat.
“In a situation like that, time is of the essence,” said Farrell.
Because there were two people, he had to make the immediate decision of who to assess first. The mother was not pinned in the vehicle. He saw this as an opportunity to get her out of there quickly, according to Farrell.
He gave a single rescue breath to the mother, who responded. He then directed a few bystanders who had arrived at the scene to take the mother out of the vehicle and get her to safety, according to the accident report.
Because of the boy’s position and not wanting to risk further injury to him, Farrell decided to get into the vehicle and push up on the roof with his back while bystanders outside lifted the tree off the car just enough for the child to be removed from his booster seat.
Rear view of white Toyota Prius involved in the accident at Yosemite National Park. Photo taken after the tree and occupants have been removed from the vehicle.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo)
With the boy free from the weight of the tree, Farrell could start a more detailed assessment. He felt for a pulse, which was high.
“As a medic, this is a good sign, a really good sign,” said Farrell.
The boy was not breathing, and his jaw was locked in place. Farrell’s attempted rescue breath did not work as it did with the child’s mother.
Realizing the increasing danger of the tree pushing into the roof, Farrell called for a bystander to come grab the boy as he passed him through the window. After getting out of the car himself, he immediately took the boy back and put him next to his mom, according to Farrell.
After manipulating his jaw enough to get it open and clearing the airway of any blockage, Farrell gave another rescue breath. This time the boy responded, taking a breath.
Remembering he had his medical supplies in his truck, he sprinted to retrieve the bag and return to the boy and his mother to further administer first aid.
Farrell heard a bystander on the phone with emergency services and requested to speak with the dispatcher. He disseminated vital information to the 911 operator, including a recommendation to fly the patients out instead of using ground transportation. The dispatcher requested a medevac, according to the accident report.
An ambulance arrived shortly after to transport the two to their respective helicopters. Farrell was asked by the paramedics to ride with the boy and further assist until they reached the medevac crew. He hopped into the ambulance and continued his efforts. He did so until the boy was turned over to the helicopter crew.
Farrell’s preparedness for this situation stems from his occupation as a special operations independent duty corpsman.
“Since Rory was a little boy, he has dreamed of being in the military,” said Megin Farrell, another one of his sisters.
With this goal in mind and the aspiration to help others, he joined the Navy in 2004 to be a corpsman. From there, he worked his way into the special operations community.
He became a special amphibious reconnaissance corpsman or SARC, giving him a unique opportunity to complete additional and more challenging schooling, furthering his personal goal of being able to help others, according to Farrell.
Whether during this incident or when helping an injured Marine or sailor on one of Farrell’s multiple overseas deployments, his reaction is no different.
On his behalf, Farrell’s family traveled to Washington, D.C., Sept. 12, 2019, and accepted the U.S. Department of the Interior Citizen’s Award for Bravery for his actions and heroism.
“I was at the right place at the right time with the right training to make a difference, and that’s what’s important in a situation like this,” said Farrell.
Farrell is currently deployed aboard the USS Boxer with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit.
This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.
There are inherent dangers involved with a combat deployment. Even if you don’t have first-hand knowledge, you probably have a pretty solid understanding of what troops go through on a near-daily basis in a country that few can even point to on a globe. Our troops are up against a hostile environment filled with potentially hostile actors that hide behind civilian masks. But one thing that’s never really discussed is downtime — the rest period, the time between missions.
As bizarre as it sounds, it’s often the nothingness that can be most exhausting. At a certain point during a deployment, you adapt to the pressures of war and missions, but being left with nothing to do, without any real outlet to help you escape your surroundings and calm down for a moment, is what gets to some troops most.
So, it’s not unusual for troops to pick up some sort of hobby to pass the time. Some troops take up drawing or learn to play the guitar. Others head to the MWR tent to watch the same late-90s sitcom for the 80th time. Many others pass the time by picking up a controller and playing a video game with their friends.
But the luxury of popping the latest game into an X-Box simply isn’t afforded to all troops — and that’s where care packages from a loved one — or organizations like OSD — come in.
The reason OSD is so in sync with what troops want and need is because many members of the organization are veterans themselves.
OSD has been filling in those gaps of nothingness with a wide assortment of highly-desired goods. Once the OSD team gets a hold of a deployed unit, that unit can usually expect a massive care package filled with entertainment. OSD shipped over 450 such “Supply Drops” in 2017, containing everything from video games to game consoles and televisions to coffee, junk food, and everything else troops might miss from back home.
Troops who are in outlaying bases, like the soldiers of the 101st Aviation Regiment, will now have something to look forward to when their shifts are over.
And that’s just their flagship program. OSD also provides mentorship and resources for veterans seeking employment opportunities through their Heroic Forces program, they assist wounded veterans throughout their recovery processes through Respawn, and they sponsor nominated veterans via Thank You Deployment, a program that celebrates service by giving individuals the day of a lifetime.
Because one care package really can change a deployment for the better.
This October, OSD is running their third annual Vetober, a charity donation drive that helps fuel all of the awesome programs above and more. You can donate the conventional way, but OSD is also staying true to their roots in gaming culture by introducing competition to the mix. Form or join a team, raise cash for veterans, and see if you can come out on top!
Every dollar donated goes to benefit the hundreds of thousands of troops and veterans. 0 raised means a new supply drop goes out to troops who desperately need some entertainment. 0 helps mentor veterans seeking employment. 0 sponsors events in veteran communities across the country. 00 helps OSD grow, allowing them to continue changing thousands of service members’ lives for the better.
Help us break the monotony of deployments and keep our troops happy and healthy. Whether you want to donate directly, help spread the word, organize a fundraising team, or join someone else’s team, you can help make a difference!
On a more personal level, I cannot recommend OSD highly enough. Not only do they hold a Platinum Seal of Transparency from GuideStar, so you know they’re trustworthy, they also personally impacted my life.
My unit received a supply drop from OSD when we were deployed and, man, was it a welcomed sight. We opened a care package only to find, basically, everything we’ve ever wanted. For the first time in a while, we played games and relaxed. It helped give us a chance to come together as a platoon and take our minds off everything.
Military spouses get a bad rap. One need only mention that he or she is a military spouse and the dependa accusations start to flow, especially on social media. But that oft-maligned stereotype is far from the full picture. For every walking caricature, there are hundreds of hard-working, goal getters – pushing past those PCSes, deployments, and solo parenting struggles to blaze their own trails and grab those brass rings. Here are five butt-kicking milspouses who make us all proud.
Brianna Keilar is a CNN anchor, a senior political analyst … and the wife of Army LTC Fernando Lujan. They met when Lujan was working on the National Security Council at the White House and Keilar was CNN’s Senior Washington Correspondent. Though Keilar is better known, by far, for her very public day job, she’s hardly a closeted milspouse. She hosted events for Blue Star Families in 2018 and 2019 and wrote this essay about covering the news with a husband deployed.
Cadets in SS394: Financial Statements Analysis learned from Cracker Barrel Old Country Store CEO Sandy Cochran and Dollar General Chairman of the Board Mike Calbert.
(Image via West Point SOSH Facebook page)
2. The CEO
Sandy Cochran is pretty much who we all want to be when we grow up. The former Army brat doesn’t know how to fail. She was a member of the National Honor Society, the tennis team, captain of the cheerleading squad, and president of her class at Stuttgart American High School. She went to college on an ROTC scholarship and was honor grad of her Ordnance Officer Basic Course. She qualified as a paratrooper and served in the 9th Infantry Division first as a Missile Maintenance Officer in the 1st Battalion, 4th Air Defense Artillery, and then on the Division Staff, while attending night school to earn her MBA.
Cochran left the Army in 1985 (but not the Army lifestyle) and began working her way up the corporate ladder, while married to Donald Cochran, who served in the 82nd Airborne Division, the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) and in Army Special Forces as a High Altitude Low Opening (HALO) parachute team leader. Fast forward through a couple of decades’ worth of both of the Cochrans’ amazing accomplishments (Seriously. They. Have. Done. So. Much.) and in 2009, Sandy was hired as the CFO of Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, Inc. Two years later, she moved into the CEO job, where she has spent nearly a decade successfully leading the company and its 73,000 employees.
It’s a tale as old as time…Pattie Millett already had an impressive legal career when she met and fell in love with a sailor. Like so many other military spouses, Pattie decided to figure out a way to make it work. She and her husband Bob got married, had two children, and when he deployed, Pattie did the job of two parents raising their children … while also managing her heavy caseload as a lawyer in the United States Solicitor General’s office.
And this is where her story is a tad different.
She argued a case before the Supreme Court and briefed five more while her husband was deployed. Then, in August 2013, Pattie became Judge Millett when she was confirmed by Congress to serve as a United States Circuit Judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, to the seat vacated by Judge (ahem, now Justice) John Roberts, who was elevated to the United States Supreme Court — where our Pattie had already argued 32 cases. In fact, Pattie’s name even made it on the shortlist for a SCOTUS nomination — and we wouldn’t be surprised if she gets considered for that auspicious position again.
Oh, and did we mention that Pattie also has a 2nd Degree Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do? She earned it during all her free time.
(Image via Facebook)
4. The Olympian
When she’s all dressed up for her organization’s annual gala, you’d be forgiven for mistaking Sally Roberts for a fairy tale princess. But looks can be deceiving. Sally is hardly the type to sit around waiting to be rescued.
Not only is she a two-time Olympic Bronze Medal-winning wrestler and three-time National Women’s Wrestling Champion, she’s the founder and executive director of Wrestle Like a Girl, a national non-profit organization that is largely responsible for making girls’ wrestling a sanctioned high school sport in a growing number of states, bringing women’s wrestling into the NCAA, and for girls’ wrestling currently being the fastest growing sport in the nation.
Sally, an Army Special Operations veteran and the wife of a recently retired Army Special Forces soldier, started the organization not only to introduce more girls to the sport, but also to show girls that they can do anything.
We can’t imagine a better example of that than Sally.
Anna Chlumsky’s character Amy Brookheimer on the television series “Veep” is unflappable, the kind of woman who can handle absolutely anything. The actor, however, admits that being a military spouse can make her a little … flappable.
Anna and her husband, Shaun So, met when they were both college students at the University of Chicago. He enlisted in the Army Reserves and deployed to Afghanistan while they were dating. Anna wrote about her experiences for Glamour magazine, saying, “Being a family member … of a serviceman or -woman is a lonely experience. Every military spouse or loved one has, at one time or another, felt as if no one understands what they’re going through.”
She said her friends were supportive, but they didn’t always understand. “The concept of war was so foreign in our cosmopolitan world,” Chlumsky wrote. “Either people didn’t pay attention at all, or they read too much. I’d meet strangers who, upon discovering my boyfriend was in the Army, would look at me like I was living out some eighties romantic comedy, dating a guy from the wrong side of the tracks.”
After 1000 days, and barriers including dust storms, thunderstorms, and the isolated location, US Air Force airmen at Air Base 201 in Agadez, Niger have completed the largest troop labor project in history. Air Base 201’s 6000 foot runway will give the Air Force a constant intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance presence in a increasingly active region for extremist activities.
Spend a little time around any military installation, and you’re bound to hear tell of ghosts and urban legends. Often, the local gossip is just that, mere myth and fabrication.
But sometimes, an area is beset with enough spooky evidence that is hard to ignore, as is the case with the following ten haunted military bases.
You might want to turn the lights on before reading this list.
10. West Point Military Academy, New York
With reports of a ghostly cavalry still reporting for duty, the academy often pops up on most haunted lists. In 2017, ‘Thrillist‘ named West Point the most haunted place in New York.
Of particular interest is Room 4714, where an opalescent figure is said to drift in and out of stone walls, terrifying first-year plebes as they settle into their new sleeping quarters.
Perhaps, not so coincidentally – Sleepy Hollow and West Point are a mere 42 minute drive apart. Maybe that’s also part of the reason Ed and Lorraine Warren – the famed ghost-hunters whose stories inspired films, “Annabelle,” “The Conjuring,” and “The Amityville Horror” – also lectured at the academy in the 1970’s.
9. Fort Leavenworth, Kansas
Fort Leavenworth’s Frontier Army Museum has documented nearly three dozen haunted houses, making Leavenworth one of the most haunted Army installations. The museum has dockets of stories captured throughout the base, and from the nearby correctional facilities of: U.S. Penitentiary Leavenworth, U.S. Disciplinary Barracks and Midwest Joint Regional Correctional Facility, where multiple inmates within the facilities are on death row.
F.E. Warren is old, having begun operations in 1867 as Fort D.A. Russell. Airmen stationed here have reported other-worldly screams so terrifying that they’ve called base Security Forces to report it. The responders understand, because in the Security Forces Group Building 34, K-9 units whimper and whine at the staircases. The building was once the base hospital, its basement, the morgue.
The base’s haunted reputation routinely fills seats on the Cheyenne Visitors Bureau “Haunted Halloween Trolley Tour,” and has attracted the Colorado Paranormal Investigation (CPI), a Denver-based team of ghost hunters, and the Rocky Mountain Paranormal Research Society. Both agencies have recorded unexplained paranormal activity.
On-base housing residents offer the following advice: “Want to know if your house is really haunted? Wait for Halloween, and see if the trolley tour pauses by your driveway.”
7. Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington
Under the shadow of Mt. Rainer, in what used to be mere uninhabited rugged wilderness, Joint Base Lewis-McChord has accumulated its share of the ephemeral. Once the site of a guest house called The Red Shield Inn, the Fort Lewis Military Museum has been a hub of paranormal activity with reports of hauntings dating back decades – including rumors of an exorcism to placate an actor’s restless spirit who was murdered in the inn.
Although records of the exorcism have not yet been officially substantiated by the Catholic Church, numerous accounts and reporting suggest the event might have indeed occurred.
6. Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana
When a state boasts tales of voodoo, spooky hotels, and ghost roads – it’s small wonder that when hospital and cemetery space is repurposed in Louisiana, the dead don’t get the message. Military members whose office space just happens to be along Davis Avenue, coincidentally the site of the former base hospital, have reported doors slamming shut, footsteps running down hallways, and objects thrown across the room. Even the Base Exchange and Commissary are haunted here, as both locations were built upon the former home of the Stonewall Cemetery.
As if the base hauntings weren’t scary enough, the nearby cities of Shreveport and Bossier-City are a hotbed of spookiness, including an eerie creek crossing called “Green Light Bridge” where unexplained green lights hover around the small, country bridge. Those who live near the area know, “green means go” and if you ever see the lights – run.
5. Warner Robins Air Force Base, Georgia
The ghost stories swirling throughout the misty Georgia landscape are many. As the 13th Colony, the state certainly makes a good case for itself as being one of the most haunted in the continental U.S.
Warner Robins is located 18 miles south of Macon, Georgia – a city home to many haunted legends itself, including the chilling Hay House, named one of the “13 Most Beautiful Haunted Destinations in the World” by Architectural Digest. It’s a house where wedding photographers have captured the wedding party, and ghosts, on camera.
And, if you fancy meeting a witch, just head a few miles outside of the base to “Gravity Hill.” Legend has it that locals were actually kind to the witch who lived here in the 1800’s, and interred her body in a grave upon her death. It’s believed she continues to repay the kindness by helping cars over the ridge. To see her work, place your car in neutral, and watch as it rolls…uphill, against gravity.
There is also plethora of unexplained phenomena that would send Mulder and Scully running, including multiple UFO sightings, and a strange incident from 1954. Still not completely understood, over 50,000 birds, representing 53 species flew straight into the base’s runway flood lights, and careened like projectiles into the ground. To date, the event remains one of the largest mass bird mortality incidents in recorded U.S. history.
4. Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio
Dubbed the “Birthplace of Aviation,” Wright-Patterson is one of the largest Air Force bases and also home to the USAF Aviation Museum – full of historic planes, where some of the former air crews…haven’t quite left.
But it’s Building 219 in particular that has presented the most paranormal activity. The three-story brick building was also the site of a hospital, the basement level of course serving as the morgue.
Hauntings there are so well known that the base featured on the SyFy Channel’s “Ghost Hunters” series. The production team actually received DoD permission to be escorted onto the base for an investigation, which heavily focused on Building 219. Several phenomena were recorded, including footsteps and incessant tapping.
When one of the ghost hunters asked the dark, empty air, “Give us two taps if you want us to leave,” and two taps quickly sounded – he said he felt obligated to honor his word and the team quickly left. Only later, while investigating their digital recordings did they hear women’s laughter following the taps.
3. Fort McNair, Washington D.C.
Following the assassination of Abraham Lincoln in April 1865, the arms of justice moved swiftly. After a 12-day manhunt, John Wilkes Booth was shot and killed by police, while his co-conspirators were quickly apprehended and imprisoned in the Washington Arsenal awaiting trial. Four would be sentenced to death by hanging, two others given life sentences.
One of the guilty sentenced to die included Mary Surratt, the proprietress of the boarding house where Booth and his associates developed the assassination plot. Although Surratt adamantly maintained her innocence, she was found guilty – and became the first woman executed by the U.S. federal government, with President Andrew Johnson himself signing the orders for execution.
The guilty watched from their jail cell windows as their own gallows were constructed in front of them, in the south part of the Washington Arsenal Courtyard.
The Washington Arsenal is now…none other than Fort McNair, where it is said an angry, restless spirit roams the grounds, shrouded in a dark bonnet and long black dress, melting snow in a path, as if still retracing her steps to the gallows…
2. Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam
In a place that has experienced intense emotion and devastating tragedy, something is bound to be left behind.
Even before enduring one of the most tragic military attacks on U.S. soil, the Hawaiian Islands teem with stories of the supernatural. Locals warn to watch out for Pele – the goddess of fire who also has a proclivity for hitchhiking as the “White Lady.” There are the ghosts of ancient Hawaiian warriors called “Night Marchers” who drum their way across the sky during full moons, and of course, deities who guard the volcanoes, placing a curse on anyone foolish enough to take lava rocks from the Islands.
Bookended alongside the Islands’ own haunted history is the tragedy of Pearl Harbor. A total of 2,403 Americans were killed in the attack, the majority of deaths occurring in Pearl Harbor, while others occurred on neighboring installations, Schofield Barracks, and Wheeler Army Air Field. The torpedoed USS Arizona took 1,177 souls with her as she sank to the ocean floor, and still lies in memoriam.
Numerous military members have reported eerie noises from the harbor, disembodied screams, and appliances that seem to have a mind of their own. Those living in base housing have also reported mumbling voices, footsteps, and laughter, doors and cabinets that open…and close, on their own, and flickering lights, just to name a few encounters.
1. Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, Japan
Japan frequently tops the most haunted lists in horror film and literature, and the notoriety is warranted. Tales of terror stretch back in Japanese literature to the Heian period (794-1185), in a time so ancient that stories were inked onto scrolls, known as Gaki-zoshi, or “Scrolls of the Hungry Ghosts.”
Unsurprisingly, Kadena Air Base and the surrounding military community have reported all manner of terrifying activity. Ghosts have approached one installation gate so many times, that the activity has been captured in multiple videos.
Building 2283 on Kadena was once a tranquil single-family base housing unit built next to a daycare center, until an alleged family murder took place in the home. The USO used to hold ghost tours here, until curtains parted by themselves and a landline phone – long disconnected, rang in the house in front of terrified tour groups. Before the building was demolished in 2009, the next-door daycare teachers complained that their students kept throwing their toys over the fence. When questioned, the children replied, “the little kids on the other side asked us to.”
And the hair-raising terror continues in the Kadena Hospital Caves on the Banyan Tree Golf Course. The caves were once a former bomb shelter and hospital where 350 medical staff, and 222 nursing students from Japanese military units were assigned in WWII. When U.S. Forces came ashore, the caves were…evacuated. Some evacuated by ingesting potassium cyanide pills, others jumped to their death from nearby Maeda Point.
To this day, off the cliffs of Cape Maeda, scuba divers report seeing ghosts…underwater.
Jack Murphy is no stranger to controversy. In fact, you might even say that the former Army Ranger-turned-Green Beret-turned-journalist has sought it out, or at least had a laissez-faire attitude toward it over the course of his tenure as an investigative journalist. With the release of his memoir, he has given both fans and haters alike an inside look at how he sees the world — whether they like it or not.
Murphy has penned multiple fiction novels in the past, as well as a New York Times best-selling nonfiction report on the Benghazi consulate attack. But he’s gained the most notoriety as editor-in-chief of NEWSREP.com, formerly SOFREP.com. He’s established himself as a serious journalist by breaking stories that have made international news, but has also faced accusations of operational security violations and betraying the special operations community. Most recently, the release of helmet-cam footage from U.S. Army Special Forces operators killed during an ambush in Niger stoked the heated controversy swirling around the publication.
“Murphy’s Law” was released on April 23.
(Photo courtesy of Jack Murphy)
Despite that, Simon and Schuster’s conservative nonfiction imprint, Threshold Editions, published “Murphy’s Law” on April 23. The memoir contains a brief background of Murphy’s upbringing in New York before diving into his military career and, later, the reporting exploits that took him around the world — often to arguably more dangerous corners than he faced while in uniform.
Writing a memoir wasn’t something he was interested in, despite the onslaught of special operations veterans who were publishing books around him. It wasn’t for lack of opportunity though; Murphy had made a habit of avoiding editors trying to convince him to pen his life story. At a book signing for “13 Hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened in Benghazi,” Kris Paranto’s editor approached him, and he once again politely declined.
Murphy in Iraq as a Special Forces NCO training Iraqi SWAT forces.
(Photo courtesy of Jack Murphy)
But the offer stuck with him, and he brought it up to his friend and mentor, Special Forces veteran Jim West. “I told him that I’ve written all these articles, in-depth pieces — that I’ve basically told everyone’s story but my own,” Murphy said in a phone interview. “He told me that I’m avoiding my past. That was the moment I said, ‘F*ck it, maybe I should confront some of these things.'”
And so he did. The book doesn’t paint a picture of the stereotypical war hero, nor does it show him as a PTSD-riddled veteran who struggles to cope with life after combat. His self-examination is as brutally honest as he aims to be in his reporting, often taking shots at himself in one paragraph before dispelling rumors in the next.
Murphy preparing for an aerial overwatch mission as a Ranger sniper in Afghanistan.
(Photo courtesy of Jack Murphy)
He doesn’t expect that the context this book provides will help quiet his detractors though. “I don’t really give a sh*t at the end of the day,” Murphy said, noting that he hopes the book tells the truth while cutting through rumors. “I said what I had to say, and I think the criticism and anger is part and parcel with the job, and if you can’t handle it, you need to find a different profession. I don’t think anyone is going to change their mind after reading this book.”
Indeed, the last chapter of the book is titled “Controversy and Upsets” and directly addresses many of the accusations that have been leveled in his direction. It comes after 100-some pages detailing years of doing a job that many misunderstand or flat-out disdain. For that reason alone, the book is worth the read: more Americans need to understand the great lengths and risk many journalists put themselves through in order to report the news.
Murphy in Kurdistan while working as an embedded journalist with Peshmerga forces during an offensive.
(Photo courtesy of Jack Murphy)
And that’s what Murphy will continue to do, which will likely continue ruffling feathers in the process. “Unfortunately, the military sexual trauma story has been something I’ve continued to work on,” Murphy said, before noting that he also plans to finish his fifth novel, which was pushed aside while writing his memoir. “I have a passion for writing, and I don’t think that’s something I’m ever going to stop doing.”
Army cyber warriors often say one of the things they like about cyber as a career is that it offers the challenges and opportunities of engaging in cyberspace operations either at a desk or in a tactical environment.
Sgt. Alexander Lecea, Spc. Ashley Lethrud-Adams and Pfc. Kleeman Avery are Cyberspace Operations Specialists assigned to the Expeditionary Cyber Support Detachment (ECSD), 782nd Military Intelligence Battalion (Cyber) who were recently at the National Training Center, supporting a training rotation for a battalion from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team (BCT) of the 1st Cavalry Division.
All three say they chose an Army cyber career because of that mix — being able to move between working in an office and taking part in operations and exercises.
Spc. Ashley Lethrud-Adams, Pfc. Kleeman Avery, and Sgt. Alexander Lecea (left to right), cyberspace operations specialists with the Expeditionary Cyber Support Detachment, 782nd Military Intelligence Battalion (Cyber) provide cyberspace operations support to a training rotation for the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division at the National Training Center on Jan. 13, 2019.
(Photo by Mr. Steven P Stover, INSCOM)
The detachment provides, “A little bit of both aspects of the cyber field,” Lecea said. “You get hands-on technical training — you can do this job in an office. But at the same time you can do it in the field. And there are real-world applications.”
While cyberspace operations can be done in an office, it’s not as effective as being on the ground with maneuver units, the sergeant said.
During training exercises such as this rotation in the southern California desert, the trio functioned alongside the cavalry battalion as an Expeditionary Cyber Team that provided cyber effects and intelligence for the rotational training brigade, Lecea said.
“We provide the maneuver commander with cyber effects and support the troops on the ground,” working in concert with the 3rd BCT’s Electronic Warfare officer and Cyber Electromagnetic Activities (CEMA) chief, Lecea explained, to achieve the brigade commander’s intent and guidance.
Capt. Adam Schinder, commander of the Expeditionary Cyber Support Detachment (ECSD), 782nd Military Intelligence Battalion (Cyber), provides command and control for ECSD cyberspace operations specialists supporting training for the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division at the National Training Center on Jan. 14, 2019.
(Photo by Mr. Steven P Stover, INSCOM)
Lecea said he went became a cyber warrior because he, “wanted to do something that was challenging and rewarding and also have applications outside the Army. It’s one of the toughest [Military Occupational Specialties], but at the same time I feel that it’s the most rewarding. You have a lot of challenging situations and you have to use your brain. You have to have good teamwork, too.”
The sergeant said he isn’t sure if he will stay in uniform long-term, but added that the Army also offers training opportunities that will prepare him for the future, whether or not he reenlists.
“We’re talking about SEC+, NET+, a lot of industry standards certifications you’ll need outside in the civilian world to get hired. It’s all the stuff they look for,” he said.
Spc. Ashley Lethrud-Adams, Pfc. Kleeman Avery, and Sgt. Alexander Lecea (left to right), cyberspace operations specialists with the Expeditionary Cyber Support Detachment, 782nd Military Intelligence Battalion (Cyber) provide cyberspace operations support to a training rotation for the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division at the National Training Center on Jan. 13, 2019.
(Photo by Mr. Steven P Stover, INSCOM)
“I was interested in the field and I didn’t just want to go to college, so I joined Army Cyber,” said Lethrud-Adams. “The Army is a great opportunity because you’re getting paid to learn all this stuff and you get experiences you wouldn’t get elsewhere in the world. You’re not going to get experiences like this in college.”
Lethrud-Adams said his favorite part of cyber operations is malware analysis, and his two teammates vehemently agreed.
Avery, the newest soldier on the team, said he wants to become an ION (Interactive On-Net Operator) and eventually join the FBI.
Until then, he said, he enjoys the challenges of cyber operations and trying to figure things out.
Seventy-five years ago yesterday, troops crossed the English Channel and disembarked onto the shores of Normandy to send the Nazis scum back to where they came from. Countless American, British, and Canadian lives were lost within moments of landing and many more died to secure the beach. It was a feat few higher-up believed would work, but they did the impossible.
This week, many troops gathered on this hallowed ground to pay respects to those lost and ceremonies were held in their honor. They were beautiful and heart-warming, seeing the younger troops helping the older WWII vets.
Now, logically speaking, all of the troops and veterans should still be in the area before going back to their respective bases or homes. I’m just saying, the ceremonies were fantastic. But veterans never change, and the WWII vets could still probably out-drink most of us. If you’re a young soldier in the area, buy the older gents a beer. They deserve it!
The ceremonies may have one, more polite, version of how it went down. Get them a round, and you’ll learn that the fire in them is still burning seventy-five years later.
The United States military loves slapping an acronym on anything that moves. Actually, things that don’t move are equally likely to be described with a jumble of letters when words would do the trick just fine.
Sometimes it’s obvious that the acronym-izer should’ve put more thought into the process, and we get some unintentionally hilarious descriptors.
Every Professor of Military Science is used to the giggles because every new set of students is equally immature.
While we’re on the subject of bodily functions, anyone who’s carrying a Man-Portable Air-Defense System better be ready for a few comments about whether they might need a diaper.
A male chicken is usually called a rooster but it’s also known as a cock.
Students at the Army’s Maneuver Advanced NCO Course must’ve gotten mighty tired of questions about their MANCOC. Perhaps that’s why it’s now called the Senior Leader Course.
Richard Cheney is known as Dick to his friends.
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)
But those guys likely were not nearly as tired as the intelligence officers answering questions about their Defense Intelligence Collection Cell.
John Travolta is king of the disco in “Saturday Night Fever.”
Spending an evening processing requests down at the Defense Industrial Security Clearance Office isn’t nearly as glamorous as the acronym might suggest.
Aladdin and Princess Jasmine take a magic carpet ride.
6. MAGIC CARPET
OK, maybe the acronym for Maritime Augmented Guidance with Integrated Controls for Carrier Approach and Recovery Precision Enabling Technologieswasn’t unintentional. Someone put a lot of effort into making that one work.
One Dr. Bob is a noted folk artist. The other co-founded Alcoholics Anonymous.
The future of commissaries and exchanges may be in the hands of the Defense Resale Business Optimization Board, but how many New Orleans folk art fans think of the famed painter behind the city’s “Be Nice or Leave” signs? What about the AA members who know Dr. Bob as Bill W.’s cofounder of Alcoholics Anonymous?
Rick and Morty should be your preferred source for fart humor.
Everyone at the Forward Area Refueling Point is tired of your fart jokes.
We can’t really go there.
The Fleet Assistance Program, aside from assigning Marines to extra duties outside the normal chain of command, raises an entire set of issues that we can’t really discuss here.
A fine-looking bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich.
Who wouldn’t enjoy a delicious Battalion Landing Team?
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
“I have no idea why I joined the Army,” said Spc. Ken Park, a soldier with the 414th Civil Affairs Battalion, based out of Southfield, Michigan. “My parents were extremely against it. I was a spoiled brat. I was fat.”
Park came from what he considered to be a privileged life. He was constantly told that he was special by his parents and his teachers. But Spc Park never really felt like that was a life for him. “Coming from that sort of privileged background, joining the Army, being told that I was the same as everyone else sort of put me in my place.”
“My recruiter even told me I couldn’t join, the first time. He said I should go to school instead, and I could join later” said Park. He was about 60 pounds overweight at the time, so he joined a gym and, through hard work and discipline, ended up losing 70 pounds. Park was, perhaps unknowingly, starting to re-program himself into the Army life even before he officially enlisted.
By being in the Army, Park said, he has learned life skills that he may not have learned otherwise. “I didn’t know how to do laundry until the first or second day of basic. Actually, my battle buddy looked at me weird. He said, ‘How do you not know how to do laundry as an 18 year old?’ I had someone do that for me my whole life” said Park. “But now I know the value of a dollar. How hard you have to work to be something. And how to do laundry,” he said with a chuckle.
Spc. Ken Parks, a soldier with the 414th Civil Affairs Battalion listens to the range safety officer issue commands targets during a qualification table at his unit’s November drill weekend at Fort Custer, Mich. on Nov. 16th, 2019.
(Photo by Sgt. Bob Yarbrough)
Park went on to say that his Army experience has only gotten better. “In AIT (Advanced Individual Training) I had a case of bronchitis, but I kept going. We had a PT test and I had to pass. “There was [harsh winter] weather like this. And I had to go on. The fast guys came back, because they knew I had bronchitis, but I had to pass. I made it and it was hard, but I don’t know that I would have made it without them.”
Spc. Park isn’t new to the U.S. Army Reserve, but he is new to the Civil Affairs Community, and the 414th, first drilling with the unit in September. He says his time in the 414th has been eye-opeing. “There aren’t many places you can go, in the Army or in normal life, where someone will see you struggling, and say ‘Hey, I know you’re tired, I got you’ and they take care of you so the mission still gets done.”
Park came to the 414th after being contacted by an Officer in the unit. “Cpt. Babcock actually reached out to me on LinkedIn,” said Park, “because I’m fluent in Korean and Japanese. Now I feel proud to be part of the unit, and I hope to live up to the expectations of the Commander and the First Sergeant.”
“Despite being told that I shouldn’t, and couldn’t, join the Army, I’m glad I did,” said Park. “It gave me a higher value, a better reason for doing what I do.”
Natapixie asks: Has a non-pilot passenger ever managed to land an airplane?
A common Hollywood trope when dealing with commercial airline-centric plots is inevitably at some point the pilot or pilots will become incapacitated and the lead character, who may or may not have any piloting experience, will be forced to take over, lest they die a fiery death when gravity decides to establish dominance. But has this scenario ever actually played out in real life? And what is the likelihood a passenger with limited to no formal pilot training could actually land a commercial airliner safely if they were being talked through it as is often depicted in movies?
To begin with, as to the first question, when talking large commercial aircraft, yes, a passenger of sorts did once and only once, take over for the incapacitated pilots. This occurred aboard the Helios Airways Flight 522 in 2005. So how did both pilots become incapacitated and what happened after?
In a nutshell, the cabin pressurization switch was set to manual, instead of automatic, and the pilots, who had over 20,000 hours of flight experience combined, didn’t realize there was an issue despite this being something that they should have noticed if they’d done their checklists properly. Later the system alerted them to the pressurization issue as they climbed, but the warnings were misinterpreted. Next, the oxygen masks automatically deployed for passengers at around 18,000 ft, something the pilots were seemingly unaware of. This is curious as when the masks deployed the passengers and the rest of the crew would have put theirs on. When the crew observed the pilots still having the plane climb after this event instead of descending immediately (noteworthy here is the passenger oxygen supplies only last 15 minutes or so), they should have attempted to at the least bang on the locked security door, if the lead flight crew member who had the code to open it was incapacitated or otherwise unable to remember it to get in.
As to why they didn’t do this or if they did and the pilots were simply too out of it for any banging to register, this isn’t known. On that note, at one point the ground engineer who had switched the pressurization to manual during some maintanence before the flight asked the pilot when issues were reported if the pressurization setting was on Auto. The captain at this stage was already a little too far gone mentally from lack of oxygen, and ignored the question. Given his radio communication stopped shortly thereafter when he simply commented about trying to locate some circuit breakers in response, it is presumed he succumbed mere seconds after the question was asked. Had he registered the question an looked, then simply turned the little knob, all would have fixed itself in short order.
Ultimately one of the flight attendants, Andreas Prodromou, did take over flying the plane. There was a problem though. It would seem from the investigation that he had difficulty getting access to the cabin, seemingly only doing so after a couple hours of the plane flying itself and a plane full of passed out people, which we imagine must have been incredibly terrifying for Prodromou on many levels.
So how did it turn out?
Tragically, this ended with the plane crashing and all 121 people aboard killed. Prodromou was actually a pilot himself, though as far as we could tell without any professional experience and certainly not in a Boeing 737. As to why he wasn’t able to bring the plane back down, he wasn’t really given a fair chance in this case. It seems as if moments after he finally got into the cabin, one of the engines ran out of fuel, and then not long after the other died too. Even an extremely experienced pilot in that plane would have had low odds in this case unless in glide range of a suitable airport.
And that’s it. In the over a century old history of commercial aviation, that is the only time we could find that a passenger has had to take over completely in a large commercial airliner. That said, moving on to much smaller planes, it turns out while rare, this sort of thing has actually occurred many times, even in some commercial scenarios.
Perhaps the most notable case of this was when none other than Mr. Bean (aka Rowan Atkinson) chartered a flight for he, his wife, and two children in Kenya in 2001. The aircraft was a little six seat Cessna. Unfortunately for the Atkinson family, at a certain point the pilot lost consciousness. Doing his best not to mimic his clumsy alter ego, Atkinson took over flying the plane. Thankfully for him and his family, they were eventually able to revive the pilot, reportedly after Atkinson slapped him several times. Said pilot then landed the plane without incident.
Moving on from there, perhaps our personal favorite case of a chartered flight resulting in a passenger having to take over is the case of one Doug White, who is a bit of a legend.
In this case, White had chartered the plane to transport himself, his wife, and two daughters. He did have his private pilot’s license, but flying a small Cessna 172 many years before. He didn’t fly much after up until the weeks leading up to the event itself, when he decided to take the hobby back up. Unfortunately for him, in this case rather than finding himself having to fly a nice little trainer plane like the Cessna 172, he was sitting in a twin engine, turbo prop Beachcraft Super King-Air, which seats up to 10, cruises at near 300 mph, and otherwise makes the Cessna 172 look like a child’s toy.
So what happened? During the takeoff phase of the flight, the pilot, Joe Cabuk, randomly slumped over dead, as White describe, “I looked over and his chin was on his chest… He made a loud, guttural sound, kind of a groan, and his eyes rolled back, and his hands never left his lap. It was quick, it was sudden, and it was final.”
Luckily for the four other souls aboard Cabuk did engage the autopilot directly before his own soul left his body so there was time for assessment of the situation.
Knowing how to use the radio, White contacted Air Traffic Control (ATC) and declared an emergency- the go-to thing to do in this scenario. In a nutshell, this basically means from that point on you can do more or less whatever you want in your attempt to get safely back on the ground and ATC is at your beck and call to help out in any way they can, diverting any other planes as needed, providing you any information they can, getting ground emergency personnel nearby where you’re going to attempt to land, and otherwise organizing help in any way possible. Though it is noteworthy here that most ATC personnel are not pilots themselves, and so there is sometimes a delay getting anyone who actually knows how to fly a plane on the line.
On that note, while the initial ATC contact White found himself talking to wasn’t terribly helpful, they eventually got an ATC employee, Lisa Grimm, who was a pilot herself and would go on to be an absolute superstar during the event, helping White to get the aircraft under control and otherwise helping keep him calm.
Later they were able to track down a King Air pilot, Kari Sorenson, to help with the specifics on how to land the thing. During the whole ordeal, beyond having to figure out how to fly and land the plane, White also had a bit of a worry of the dead pilot potentially slumping over the controls at an inopportune moment. But efforts by he and his wife to remove said body from the pilot seat were unsuccessful, so they simply cinched the seatbelt as tight as they could and hoped that would be good enough.
We’ll spare you most of the details, as they are best just gone and listened to, other than to mention our favorite part in which ATC asked Doug “Are you using AutoPilot or are you flying the plane?” and he responded with a thick country drawl, “Me an’ the good lord are hand flying this…” Classic Doug.
Another great line during the final moment before touchdown ATC told White, “Looks good from here, good job.” To which White calmly responded in his best impression of John Wayne, “It ain’t over til’ it’s over friend…”
Remarkably, with a lot of help from his angels on the ground, White was able to land the plane not only safely, but in pilot speak he “greased the landing”, meaning it was a rather gentle and uneventful touchdown and pretty much right on center-line to boot.
Said the aforementioned Sorenson who was in the background telling ATC what to tell White, “I don’t think you could have made the plane more complex or the pilot less experienced and have had a successful landing.”
When all was said and done and he was later interviewed about how he kept so calm through the ordeal, White simply said in his thick drawl, “There were buzzers, amber lights, horns: It was like a circus. The only thing I was concentrating on was keeping the airspeed up and the wings level. You know, just fly the plane… You just focus your fear and go into a zone… There’s no time to chit-chat, or lock up. Just ‘git er done.’… If you’re gonna die, at least die trying not to…”
We’re pretty sure that last line needs to go on a t-shirt pronto.
Moving on from there to some people with zero flight experience who successfully “got ‘er done”, we have one Henry George Anhalt who was aboard a small Piper Cherokee 6 (as you might expect from that, a six seat plane) with his wife and three sons when the 36 year old pilot, Kristopher Pearce, died. The plane at the time was low on fuel, but thankfully only about ten minutes from their destination of Winter Haven airport in Florida. Shortly after the pilot slumped over, Anhalt keyed the radio and asked for help.
Said Anhalt after taking the controls, “I kept my mind on flying the plane on a course for Winter Haven. I started calling, ‘Mayday!’ over and over and kept praying for Kris to revive. We made it to the airport, but we still hadn’t heard from anybody. I started circling. Becky was hollering that I was going too steep, so I made wider circles. Then I noticed that the fuel was low in the tank we were on. I tried switching to the full tank, but the engine would sputter, and I’d put it back to the nearly empty tank. Finally, somebody gets on the frequency and says, ‘Are you the Mayday?’ ‘Yes, my pilot passed out,’ I said. ‘We’re over the Winter Haven airport.’ Then another pilot came on and said, ‘We’re close by. We’ll be over to help.'”
The person who answered the call was flight instructor Dan McCullough who was giving a flight lesson at the time. After calming Anhalt down, he gave him his first flight lesson and being a bit of a gentlemen, didn’t even charge him.
Said McCullough later, “We flew down closer and got him lined up on a real good glide path to the runway. You can get anybody over the numbers on the ground, but it’s that last five feet that’s tricky. I asked him to fly around the airport a bit to get more used to the aircraft. … The only real disadvantage I had over any other time I’ve done it is I couldn’t actually been in the airplane with him… I just gave him directions how to get it over the runway and then to cut the engine. I had to keep him level. If he came in too steep, he’d dive into the ground. If he came in too far back, he’d stall.”
In the end, Anhalt was able to get it down, stating, “I had the flaps—or whatever they’re called—up, and I idled the speed down. After that, it happened real quick.”
His wife added, “We bumped twice on the ground and veered a few feet into the grass.”
And if you’re wondering, as this is often asked in these situations, at least in this case, yes- the flight instructor Dan McCullough was happy to endorse the flight and landing as Anhalt’s first solo in a logbook, if Anhalt wanted to get one.
Moving on from there we have one of the more notable cases of a person with zero pilot experience flying in one of the aforementioned Cessna 172s in 2013. The passenger, a then 77 year old John Wildey, had been a member of the Royal Air Force for 24 years, but not as a pilot.
In short, he and his friend, who went unnamed in the reports, were up flying around as they frequently did, when his friend turned to him and, to quote Wildey, “He said he was sick and asked me to take care of the aircraft controls… He set the controls and put me on the right path. Then he was unwell again, completely unresponsive. I called his name but he didn’t answer.”
As flying such a plane, in terms of keeping it straight and level, isn’t actually that terribly difficult, in fact, if the plane is properly trimmed as it apparently was, it should mostly fly itself straight and level without touching the controls at all, there was no real immediate danger.
Thus, he simply held things steady and, being familiar with at least how to queue the radio, did so. And if you’re curious about this, we have more on how to do that in the Bonus Facts later.
What Wildey also had going for him was that a plane like the Cessna 172 is built as a trainer plane and thus is extremely forgiving of bad landings and relatively easy to fly. But you do have to be able to get it over the runway pretty close to the ground before powering back the engine, and then as the plane sinks hold the nose off as best you can to land on the two rear wheels, while trying to time it so you’re extremely close to the ground when you reach stall speed- aka the speed at which the plane will stop flying and more or less fall with style.
In this case, an RAF helicopter was sent to guide Wildey to the airport, and then in the meantime he was being talked through the whole thing by one Roy Murray, chief flight instructor at Frank Morgan Flying School. Wildey ended up making 3 attempts to land the plane and each time failed in a good approach and was instructed to go to full power, climb back up, and try again. Remarkably, he executed reasonably good go-arounds each time without crashing.
On the fourth attempt, he committed and while it wasn’t what anyone would call a pretty landing, it was one in which not only he, but the plane walked away mostly unscathed save apparently some sparks at one point on touch down. Wildey would later describe:
I know you bring back the controls but I didn’t bring them back hard enough. So really I was sort of nose down rather than anything else… Then we touched and there was a right bump – two or three bumps. I suppose it was a controlled crash really. But I just couldn’t get the brakes because I couldn’t reach them. I managed to get them in the end. But then we sort of went off the runway and all I could see was this runway indicator wall coming towards me and I thought: “I am not going to do it”. But we managed to stop in the end. I’m a lucky bloke…
Sadly, his friend was later pronounced dead at the hospital.
In yet another case of someone with no experience, a student pilot from Australia, Max Sylvester, up on his first lesson in August of 2019 in a small two seat Cessna 152 was about an hour into it when his instructor, Robert Mollard, passed out and slumped over on to him in the cramped aircraft. Ultimately while being talked through it, he successfully executed his first ever landing without incident and actually from his cockpit footage almost dead on center-line and reasonable gentle touch down all things considered. His instructor, as far as we could find, later recovered from whatever happened to him.
Trainee pilot lands aircraft with instructor passed out on his shoulder | ABC News
Moving on from the sighted among us, we have the case of a legally blind person managing to successfully land a plane…
It helped that he, Charles Law, was a former pilot. Law’s flying days had long since been over as he at this point in his life had 20-200 vision in one eye and 20-400 in the other. He was tasked with one more landing when his pilot friend, an 80 year old Harry Stiteler, passed out on approach to the runway.
Said Law as he came in for the landing, all I could see were “the airport thresholds (white markings)… I just aimed for that… We bounced a little hard and it was a little squirrely, and I guess I was a little crooked. But I thought it was a very good landing.”
Unfortunately, despite landing the plane almost immediately after Stiteler passed out, medical personnel were never able to revive him.
On the other end of things, there are many incidents where the passenger was unable to land the plane and all aboard were killed, but we are choosing to go ahead and omit any specific examples as nobody wants to hear about that. We mentioned it, however, just so you don’t get the false impression that this is somehow super easy to do.
Moving back to the big boy planes, one of the reasons, outside of one exception, this just isn’t a thing is because in many regions of the world, it’s usually required that there be two trained pilots aboard in such airliners. Further, in most countries, said pilots are subjected to extremely rigorous and regular medical checkups, far more so than the already reasonably strict requirements for non-commercial pilots.
Thus, it’s just not terribly likely that something would happen to take out both pilots and leave some passengers still able to do anything. In fact, even when talking just one pilot, according to a study done by the Australian Transport Safety Board, incidents of a pilot on commercial aircraft becoming unable to continue with their duties only occurred in about 1 in every 34,000 flights. While that might seem high to you, in most of these cases, there was nothing seriously wrong with the pilot in question. For example, a full half of these incidents were, to put it bluntly, diarrhea related. We’re guessing if there wasn’t a backup pilot, said pilots in these incidents would choose to poop their pants rather than let the plane crash.
So what happens when one pilot is taken out more seriously in these scenarios? While you and your 1000 hours of flight training on Microsoft Flight Simulator might now be thinking “This is what we’ve trained for…”, waiting for that momentous announcement over the intercom requesting anyone with flight experience to come help out, this is not actually what would likely occur. In many cases, the remaining pilot will simply request one of the crew aboard to come sit in the unoccupied seat, perhaps reading through a checklist for them, or if they have some experience doing a little more. This is something we found a handful of otherwise uneventful cases in our searching, with the passengers rarely ever informed there was an issue.
That said, as stated by a former pilot at US Airways, “There are thousands of commercial certified pilots who do not fly for the airlines. So having a commercial pilot on board would not be that uncommon… They can handle the radios, they understand the terminology, they can help prepare the airplane for landing, offloading [responsibilities from] the pilot…”
On that note, we did find one instance during a United Airlines flight when Air Force Captain Mike Gongol was requested to come help out when the captain of that flight had a heart attack. In this case, the flight attendants first requested that any doctor aboard please make themselves known. They later asked if any pilots aboard would push their call button to make themselves known- a sequence of requests not exactly geared towards keeping passengers worry free.
As for Gongol, while he had never flown that particular aircraft, a Boeing 737, his extensive flight experience, including mainly flying a B-1B Lancer Bomber at the time, made him an ideal candidate to come help take a little of the workload off the first officer who was tasked with actually flying the plane in this instance. He later stated she mostly just had him take over the radio communication, which he was well skilled at. We’re guessing had she become incapacitated too, Gongol probably had a high probability of being the first ever passenger to successfully land a commercial airliner. But of course, said first officer had little trouble getting the plane down safely, being herself extremely well trained and all.
But this all does make you wonder, outside of our sample-size of one where the circumstances were stacked against him, in the more general case, how likely is it that a random passenger could land a large commercial airplane if they were being talked through it?
First, if literally zero experience flying a plane or using a really good flight simulator, basically no chance. The problem here is that you do need to actually know how to call someone for help on the radio. And with the myriad of buttons and switches all over, it’s unlikely a random person could figure that out, unless they keep reading to our Bonus Facts section.
That said, pro-tip, if you’re under about 10K ft and in a reasonably populated area, your cell phone will probably work just fine as a way to call for help that could then eventually potentially end up telling you how to operate the plane’s radio. Of course, most commercial airliners don’t spend much time under 10K feet, so odds are you’ll be much higher than that, and if lower, probably in a critical phase of flight meaning there’s no way you’re getting up to the cockpit to help out in time anyway unless they’ve set the autopilot pretty quickly after takeoff. And even then, a noteworthy thing, as tragically the aforementioned Andreas Prodromou demonstrated, is getting into the cockpit in today’s large commercial aircraft in flight is easier said than done if the pilots are both incapacitated and a crew member who knows the code isn’t available. So good luck with that.
But in this increasingly unlikely scenario, if the autopilot was engaged giving you time to work with, and you could get into the cockpit, and then figure out how to use the radio, from there, you might have a chance. But not because you could actually land the plane. The odds of that are basically zero if you have no flight experience and pretty slim even if you do unless you have some training in that or a similar aircraft. The reason you might actually have a fighting chance if you can establish communication with someone on the ground is that most large commercial planes are perfectly capable of landing themselves if you know how to setup the system and then help the system along appropriately.
On that note, if you’d like to see a commercial pilot with a rather excellent YouTube channel walk you through how to do this in a professional level simulator, do go check out MentourPilot’s crash course in the topic titled “How You Can Land a Passenger Airplane- 12 Steps” And, hey, you could always use the airplane WiFi to watch it in-flight…
Finally, if you’re now wondering if any small aircraft have a similar auto-land system, turns out yes some do, the best of which, which is actually superior to the large plane auto-land systems in some ways, is Garmin’s recently launched Autonomi system which is soon rolling out in the approximately million Cirrus Vision Jet under the name Cirrus’ Safe Return system, and will likewise soon be found in the million Piper M600 SLS.
This system is idiot proof and requires only about one sentence of training, which even a three year old could execute. And, truthfully, you’d probably want to tell a 3 year old NOT to do it in most cases, as left to their own devices they’re sure to activate the system on their own randomly. That sentence of training is simply, “Push this big red button.” That’s it.
From there, the system will take over flying, analyze the weather, your fuel, state of the plane, potential terrain in your path, etc, as well as declare an emergency with ATC, and continually update ATC on what it’s doing and its intentions. It will at the same time inform the passengers audibly and on the screen what they should be doing- strap in, enjoy the ride, and don’t touch anything. It will also politely inform the passengers where it’s taking them and when it will be landing.
From there the plane will fly to the destination airport, which will be picked among the safest options within range of your fuel supply. It will then land itself, which in the demos we’ve watched, does a shockingly good job at it, with the worst that can be said is that in one random Piper M600 demo, it was slightly off center line, but otherwise well on the runway and a very gentle landing.
Once down, the system will shut down the engines and inform the passengers when it is safe to exit. Presumably in the coming decade or two this system will rapidly find its way into most smaller aircraft making the stories of passengers taking over for a pilot markedly less dramatic. “I pushed the big red button,” doesn’t have quite the same newsworthy appeal as “Me an’ the good lord are hand flying this…”
If you’re wondering, reportedly approximately 1% of commercial airliner landings are done with auto-land, though in most cases pilots prefer to do it themselves as, among other reasons, auto-land isn’t awesome when there is much wind, particularly if it’s of the gusty variety. The cases where it might be the preferred option for the pros is in scenarios like virtually no wind where visibility is extremely poor, such as in thick fog. In this case, the pilot may deem it safer to allow the auto-land to do its thing while they closely monitor it.
Going back to how to queue up the radio in an aircraft, whether big or small, you can usually do this via putting the headphones on and then pressing a button on the yoke (looks a bit like a steering wheel) or stick. Noteworthy is that in some cases there might be other buttons to do with trim, engaging or disengaging autopilot and the like on that control as well, so not always good to just go pushing buttons without looking close to see if there’s a label. But if there is just one button, that’s going to be what that is for. And if multiple buttons, it’s probably the one positioned for your index finger wrapped around the stick or yolk or a prominent button for your thumb, often red. In large commercial airliners, it also might not be a button, but rather a toggle switch with an up and down position, for example one for transmitting on the radio (probably labeled MIC) and one for the flight interphone (probably labeled INT). You want the MIC position.
Assuming you push the correct button, whatever radio frequency the pilot had queued up already, which is usually the local one you’re flying over, whether a nearby tower or local traffic, or might be a large area ATC frequency, you’ll be talking to someone who can give you more information when you do. Press to talk; release to listen; just like a walkie-talkie.
And if you really want to sound like a pro before your almost certain death when fuel runs out or probably much sooner, structure your talk- Who you are talking to, who you are (as in the plane type and call-sign which will probably be printed somewhere on the instrument panel in front of you), where you are, what you want or are going to do, who you are talking to.
For example- “Deer Park traffic, Archer 7967C, mayday, mayday, mayday, just departed Deer Park and the pilot just died. Me and Jesus are now flying this plane. One soul aboard. Requesting immediate assistance. Deer Park.”
Or, you know, just press the button and freak out. You’re declaring an emergency after all and you don’t know what you’re doing. Nobody is going to care you don’t know how to talk on the radio properly. But just remember this, if you’re in the U.S., odds are strong your radio communication and situation is going to be viewed by hundreds of thousands of people, probably even your friends and family, on various YouTube channels that cover this sort of thing… So keep your cool if you want to sound awesome later if you happen to survive.
Also, even for pilots, an almost universal truth you’ll find if you listen to many of these is you can almost always predict which ones are going to end well or not based on, not the exact circumstances of the emergency or experience of the pilot, but how panicky the person flying the plane is. The only exception we’ve personally ever heard is that time a guy was on a whole lot of drugs when he was declaring his engine-out emergency. He might as well have been sipping a beer on a beach as far as his tone was concerned, literally right to the point he crashed and died… So do yourself a favor and try to keep your head. If you’ve got someone talking you through it, flying and landing a lot of types of small planes where at least you can walk away isn’t actually super difficult if you can get over a runway. Landing so the plane itself can be flown again without repairs… well that generally takes some training. But that’s the insurance company’s problem, not yours.
This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.
If you haven’t heard, the generous folks at Amazon are celebrating Veterans Day with the best discount ever: $40 off your Amazon Prime membership. For those of you doing the math at home, that’s 32% off. Free two-day shipping (and sometimes one-day shipping and in some locations, even same-day shipping) on all your favorite things like paper towels, and furniture, and clothes and, well, everything, should be enough to entice you to take advantage of this incredible deal.
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