Bring your A-game if you want to play World of Warcraft with Karen Sakai, but check your negativity at the door.
“I’m a gamer,” she says. “A gamer likes to play their favorite games with people. So I give out my real information so I can do that. That’s who I am.” Being true to herself is how Sakai stays successful. She was born in Norfolk, Va. but her mother took her to Japan when she was young. She later ended up in the Navy town of Bremerton, Washington, where she experienced a lot of bullying as a kid, growing up biracial in an Asian community.
“There were many Japanese around,” she says. “I’m half-white and half-Japanese and the Japanese, they picked on me because I was half-white: I brought a disgrace to Japan, I’m ugly, blah blah blah. The older folks, they also saw me as kinda weird. They didn’t understand that people could be biracial. I didn’t know many mixed kids either. The friends that I did have didn’t care though, and that was the best.”
The racism she struggled with when she was younger was only compounded by her hobbies and love for all things considered nerdy and geeky. She experienced so much flak for the nerdy things she loved, she took a very long hiatus.
“It was in 2003. I stopped doing it because I got bullied,” Sakai recalls. “But after a while, I thought to myself, ‘I’m an adult now. I can do whatever I want.'”
When Sakai joined the Navy as a Master-at-Arms in 2009, many of the issues surrounding her childhood faded away, despite being stationed in her Washington hometown (which, incidentally is what Sir Mix-A-Lot wrote about in his 1988 song, Bremelo).
“I loved being in the Navy,” Sakai says. “I met a lot of gamer, nerdy folks in the Navy and they thought it was really cool that I am a female who loves this stuff. Everyone was so accepting of me. They didn’t care where you came from as long as you came in and did your job and had a good personality.”
Sakai’s family has a long Navy tradition. Her father was a long time Surface Warfare Officer who practically spent his entire life on an aircraft carrier.
“He was a career officer, always an XO or CO,” she says. “He was in for 22 years and he talked about it his whole life. I think everyone should have an experience in the military, if its something they’re thinking about. I chose the Navy because it runs in my family.”
Sakai was in the Navy for four years and left to finish her dual degrees in Anthropology and Primate Behavior and Ecology. While in school, she began modeling and cosplaying. She found the cosplay community to be the most accepting of which she’s ever been a part.
“I’m a cosplayer who will openly admit I’ve been bullied and it hurt my feelings. I’m open about it because it’s all part of being human,” she says. “This community is a very happy place. It feels like family. People who enjoy the same things as you, they’re not going to criticize you. Comic-Con and events like that feel like a long distance family gathering. It’s a safe place where you can really be yourself.” She compares it to football fandom.
“I’m from Washington,” she says. “So I like the Seahawks. If you like anime and you’re among friends, it’s like a group of Seahawks fans meeting up at Buffalo Wild Wings to watch the game. But people respect each other’s preferences. No one is going to make fun of you for liking Black Butler over Dragonball Z. You can be who you are.”
For Sakai, modeling is a bit different.
“I’ve done car shows, lingerie, cosplay modeling, all that stuff. It’s an industry. Sex sells,” she says. “So they want that generic, skinny, ‘whatever’ because it sells. I’ve done tests on my Facebook page and whatnot, posting different kinds of pictures, seeing the interactions, likes, and views it gets. The ones that get the most attention are the ones where I’m slutty and generic. I’m completely fake in those pictures but they’re the ones that get the most attention.”
So which photos are the real Karen Sakai?
“The ones where I’m not wearing makeup and I’m in a sweats, not showing cleavage,” she says with a laugh. “I’m me. I do my own thing, if they want to see cleavage 24/7 then I’m probably not the person to follow.
Karen, now 25, lives with her boyfriend who is himself an Air Force veteran, in Washington state. They got together because he outdid her own nerdiness.
“If you one-up me and start a conversation about how wrong I am about something, then I know you are a true nerd,” she says. “He knows much more lore, more information, about games, anime, and comics in general.”
Sakai’s game is World of Warcraft. To her, it’s like cosplay.
“I made a character to live in a second world. I’m the hero in the game, not a little kid getting picked on. I create and customize a character who is strong, powerful, and pretty. When I dress up, I like to try and role play as a character I always looked up to or enjoyed. It’s fun to be someone else for a change.”
To hire Karen, email her: firstname.lastname@example.org
To help Karen purchase material to build her own costumes (she loves to make armor) see her Patreon page.
We recently had the chance to attend a veterans’ charity event with a new non-profit upstart. We’ve previously covered the Team TORN training facility in Issue 37 and on RECOIL TV. Now they’ve started an organization for wounded veterans they’re calling the TORN Warriors Foundation. The owners of Team TORN are both veterans with decades of service to this country who were looking for a way to give back to their brothers and sisters in uniform.
Earlier this year, President Trump awarded the Purple Heart to Marine Corps Master Sergeant Clint Trial. Clint lost both of his legs in an IED blast while serving in Afghanistan. The award ceremony went viral on social media specifically because it was all but deliberately ignored by mainstream media. Despite the ability of news moguls to pick and choose what they think is worthy of people’s attention, Clint’s family continues to persevere in the face of grave adversity. We had the chance to meet him, as well as a tight-knit group of other vets, at the event Team TORN hosted at their training facility.
The goal of TORN Warriors is to help wounded veterans recover and rehabilitate through outdoor activities to include shooting and off-road driving. Their school-house is uniquely set up to provide these opportunities in-house, and we were honored to be asked to assist with the effort.
Held over a three-day weekend, TORN Warriors’ inaugural event started on Friday night with a social call at the TORN Team House. We got the chance to speak with Team TORN owners and reps from some of the companies who pitched in to make this event possible, including gear manufacturer First Spear and Black Rifle Coffee. The mastermind of the Work Play Obsession podcast and MMA fighter Kelsey DeSantis were also present. The veterans themselves, including several combat amputees, got the chance to mingle with this network of supporters and tell their stories. We all got a brief overview of the Team TORN facility and had the chance to watch MSgt Trial take a few laps in the TORN Racing off-road rig. He will be riding shotgun in this rig for the Best In The Desert Vegas to Reno off-road race, Aug.16-18, 2019.
Saturday morning we were up bright and early for range day. We started on the flat range, running a whole slew of different pistols and carbines, allowing the vets and their supporters to run guns side-by-side. We love a good reason to shoot guns just as much as anyone, but we were also able to capture a moment that encapsulates not only the TORN Warriors mindset, but the crux of what makes the veteran community — and those who support them — so special. Watching veterans literally hold each other up so that they can succeed is what organizations like this are all about. The range session ended with a shoot-off between the wounded vets, with the winner taking home a new Springfield XDm.
After lunch, we went back out to the range. This time we were shooting longer-range targets from platforms, with combat vets both shooting and coaching to make sure everyone achieved repeat hits on steel out to nearly 500 yards. As part of the fundraising effort, TORN Warriors sold raffle tickets for a table full of prizes including everything from hoodies to custom pistols, some of which were handmade by veterans themselves. The drawing was live-streamed on the foundation’s social media, with all winning tickets being drawn straight from a prosthetic leg belonging to one of the vets on site.
Sunday morning had as back behind a long gun, running the Team TORN “Giffy Challenge” course. This rifle course is named in honor of fallen Marine Gunnery Sergeant Jonathan Gifford, who was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross for actions in Afghanistan. This is a true run-and-gun course, with shooters having to navigate point-to-point across a high-altitude course of fire stretching over 7000 feet in elevation. There are no flat spots or shooting platforms. Every shot must be taken from field conditions against steel targets hidden in thick brush. While the course is often shot as a man-on-man exercise, we ran it in teams that once again paired vets with sponsors and supporters. The capstone event, after lunch, was a 20+ mile off-road ride that put us all on dirt bikes or in ATVs across open country.
All in all, this was a fantastic experience and a true grassroots effort on the part of TORN Warriors. Their entire focus is going hands-on to help those among the veteran community who need it most. But make no mistake, those who are able to donate or support the effort absolutely have a place at the table here. Whether you are a veteran or a supporter of our nation’s defenders, TORN Warriors wants to get you involved in the action. If you are interested in trying to find a way to give back, please consider the TORN Warriors Foundation as a place to start. We know there are beaucoup organizations out there with similar missions, but the level of personal attention that this charity gives to both the veterans they serve and the companies who support them makes them worth a hard look.
This article originally appeared on Recoilweb. Follow @RecoilMag on Twitter.
Nazi subs prowled the Gulf of Mexico during World War II.
Herbert G. Claudius was in command of the patrol ship USS PC-566 in 1942. His mission and that of his crew was to monitor the Louisiana coast and its territorial waters for signs of any Nazi u-boat activity. On July 30, 1942, they got their chance, sinking a submarine that was preying on American shipping. For this, he was awarded the Legion of Merit with a Combat V device. The medal was issued in 2014, 72 years after the action.
At the time, Claudius was relieved of command for the same action.
USS PC-566 was a submarine chaser patrol boat, much like the one seen here.
In all, Hitler sent around 22 or more u-boats into the Gulf of Mexico at the outset of World War II, and they were successful. The submarines prowling the coasts of Texas and Florida picked off an estimated 50 ships during the war. They were wreaking absolute havoc on American shipping, and the United States Navy was only able to sink one of them. That’s the u-boat taken down by Claudius’ USS PC-566 and her crew.
On July 30, 1942, the passenger liner SS Robert E. Lee was torpedoed and sank by U-166 45 miles south of the Mississippi River Delta. Upon entering the area, Claudius and his crew spotted U-166’s periscope and dropped depth charges into the water until an oil slick bubbled up to the surface – proof positive they hit their target, possibly destroying the boat.
When Claudius reported the action to the Navy, the Navy was skeptical because the crew of PC-566 had not yet received anti-submarine training and admonished the crew of the patrol boat for poorly executing the attack. Their skipper was relieved of his command and sent to anti-submarine school instead of receiving the Legion of Merit he so richly deserved. After reviewing the evidence presented to the Navy by Ballard and by oil companies who also found the wreck, the Navy reversed course, just 72 years too late.
In a 2014 ceremony, Claudius’ son, also named Herbert G. Claudius, received his father’s Legion of Merit from then-Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus and Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert at the Pentagon. The elder Claudius, who died in 1981 after 33 years of Naval service, “would have felt vindicated.”
The word “Dependa” has often been a derogatory label put on military spouses. The word itself insinuates that they sit on the couch all day collecting the benefits while their service member works hard and risks their lives for this country’s freedoms. There’s an even uglier way of saying that word but that term doesn’t deserve a discussion.
Guess what? The married military member themselves are just as much a “Dependa” as their spouse is. You read that right – turns out in a marriage, it’s supposed to be that way.
The role of a soldier, guardsman, Marine, sailor, airman, or coastie is simple: mission first. The needs of the military will always come before their spouse, children, and really – anything important in their life. This is something that the military family is well aware of and accepts as a part of the military life.
Often the spouse will hear things like, “well, you knew what you signed up for.” Yes, the military spouse is well aware of the sacrifice that comes along with marrying their uniformed service member. But are you?
While the military member is off following orders and doing Uncle Sam’s bidding – the spouse is left with the full weight of managing the home, finances, and carrying the roles of being both parents to the children left behind, waiting. Both depend on each other to make it work – and that’s how it should be. Here are 5 reasons why servicemembers depend on their spouses:
When a married service member deploys, they typically leave behind not only a spouse but children as well. While the service member is off focusing on their mission, for many months on end, life at home doesn’t stop just because they are gone. It’s just taken care of by the spouse. Without the home front being handled by the spouse, the service member cannot remain mission-ready or deploy.
Even when they are home, they aren’t really home
Just because a service member isn’t currently deployed doesn’t mean they are completely present for the family. Between training exercises, TDY’s, and the needs of the service, they are never really guaranteed to be home and of help to the military spouse. Military spouses face a 24% unemployment rate due to a number of factors like frequent moves but also lack of childcare. Did you know 72% of military spouses cannot find reliable childcare for their children?
The PCS struggle is real
The military family will move every 2-3 years, that’s a given. While the military member is busy doing check-outs and ins – the spouse is typically handling all of the things that come along with moving.
Organizing for the PCS
Researching the new duty station area for best places to live, work (if they can even find employment), and good schools for the children
Gathering copies of all the medical records
Finding new providers for the family
Unpacking and starting a whole new life, again
Blanchella Casey, supervisory librarian, reads the book, “Big Smelly Bear” to preschool children at the library as part of Robins Air Force Base’ summer programming.
U.S. Air Force
Many of the support programs for the military are run off the backs of volunteers – the military spouses, to be exact. The Family Readiness Group (Army and Navy), Key Spouse (Air Force) program, or the Ombudsman (Coast Guard) programs are all dependent on the unpaid time of the military spouse. These programs all serve the same purpose – to serve the unit and support families.
More than 2.5 million United States service members have been deployed overseas since 9/11. Service to this country comes with a lot of personal sacrifice for the military member. Half of them are married, many with children. They leave a lot behind all in the name of freedom. It comes at a heavy price. That service to the country affects every aspect of their lives – including their mental health. Their spouse becomes their secret keeper, counselor, and advocate. 33% of military members and veterans depend on their spouse to be their caregiver.
The military spouse serves their family, community, and are the backbone of support for their military member to have the ability to focus on being mission ready. They are both a “Dependa” to each other and cannot be truly successful without the other’s support – and that’s okay.
DARPA’s AlphaDogfight trials have officially come to a close with Heron Systems’ incredible artificial intelligence pilot system defeating not only its industry competitors, but going on to secure 5 straight victories against a highly trained U.S. Air Force F-16 pilot, without the human pilot scoring a single hit.
Eight teams were selected to create artificial intelligence (AI) “agents” that would be capable of simulating a real dogfight between fighters, referred to as within-visual-range air combat maneuvering, more formally. The first two rounds of this competition saw these virtual pilots engage with one another in simulated combat environments in November and again in January. This third round of AI dogfighting included similar competitions, with the four finalist firms squaring off in a round robin. The event then culminated with the hands-down victor, Heron Systems, taking on a real human fighter pilot in another simulated fight.
And Heron really brought the heat, with its artificial intelligence system ultimately securing the AI championship by defeating Lockheed Martin’s AI system.
Heron consistently proved to have the most accurate targeting apparatus of any AI agent, as it engaged opponents with laser-accurate gun strikes often in the first merge of the fight.
“It’s got to keep that opponent in that one degree cone to win the game,” Ben Bell, Heron’s Senior Machine Learning Engineer, told Sandboxx News.
“You saw that a lot with Lockheed, we’re both nose on, we’re both creating damage, but when their nose is off by that one degree, that’s where we were able to win a lot of these engagements.”
That superior aiming capability was on particular display when squaring off against the U.S. Air Force F-16 pilot representing humanity in this battle for what some consider to be the future of aviation. While the pilot’s name was not released due to OPSEC concerns, DARPA did provide his callsign: Banger. They also explained that Banger was not just a working fighter pilot, he’s a graduate of the Air Force’s Weapons Instructor Course, which could loosely be described as the Air Force’s “Top Gun” school, for the movie buffs out there. The real Top Gun, of course, is a Navy school called the United States Navy Strike Fighter Tactics Instructor program.
Heron’s AI system racked up the first four wins against Banger in quick succession, leveraging its incredibly precise aiming to whittle Banger’s aircraft “life” down in a series of looping merges. In the fifth and final bout, Banger changed approaches, sweeping his aircraft out away from Heron’s F-16 and creating separation with high-G turns.
However, the new tactics only seemed to delay the inevitable, with Heron managing to kill Banger’s F-16 once again, without the human pilot managing to get a single shot on target.
Heron’s AI pilot was widely described as “aggressive” by DARPA staff and the Air Force pilots on hand throughout the competition. Under control of Heron’s AI, the virtual F-16 would practically play chicken with its opposition — something the human pilots were quick to point out would be a violation of training regulations in a real simulated dogfight. Of course, in an actual dogfight, there are no such limitations… but Heron’s aggression may still have been turned up just a bit too high to serve as a reasonable wingman.
“It’s important to realize that a BFM (Basic Fighter Maneuvers) engagement can occur in any direction and any altitude. We’ll often begin with a basic starting parameter to develop a site picture to reference, but a real engagement doesn’t have those cuffs,” Major Justin “Hasard” Lee, an F-35 Pilot instructor and former F-16 pilot, tells Sandboxx News. “The enemy always has a vote, meaning they always reserve the right to do something you’re not expecting. When that occurs you have to find a creative solution to counter the unexpected problem. “
F-16 Fighting Falcon (DoD Image)
According to Bell, their AI agent placed an equal emphasis on damaging the opponent and minimizing its own risk.
“If the agent sees a 51% chance of scoring a kill as it heads into a neutral merge, it’s going to take it,” Bell explained.
Of course, aside from some really exciting video game playing, this entire exercise had official purposes too. DARPA is not only seeking to improve drone aircraft systems, they’re also looking to increase the level of trust between human pilots and AI systems. In the future, these same sorts of artificial pilots will likely be flying alongside humans, and other similar systems will fly along with them in the cockpit of their own aircraft.
By outsourcing some tasks to a highly capable AI, pilots can focus more of their bandwidth on situational awareness and the task at hand. We’ve already seen this approach lead to data fusion capabilities in advanced platforms like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which automates simple tasks and provides the data to the pilot by way of helmet mounted and heads up displays.
Bell explained that the current AI agent used to secure this victory could be adjusted to prioritize its own safety to a higher degree, which might make pilots a bit more comfortable with its approach to combat. He also pointed out, however, that just because something’s scary to human pilots, doesn’t mean it isn’t effective.
A U.S. Navy Grumman F-14A Tomcat of Fighter Squadron 213 (VF-213) “Black Lions” flown by CDR Greg “Mullet” Gerard and LTJG Don “Coach” Husten engages a General Dynamics F-16N Viper aggressor aircraft flown by Lieutenant Commander George “Elwood” Dom during training at the Navy Fighter Weapons School (TOPGUN) at Naval Air Station (NAS) Miramar, California. (US Navy Photo)
“Trust comes from being able to execute a mission with a high degree of success. There’s some point where you have to say you know that it works and in all the ways we tested it, it was superior to its opponent.”
He went on to clarify, however, that there will certainly be “some give and take” between their engineers and real pilots moving forward.
When asked about Heron’s ace in the hole, its incredibly accurate targeting system, Bell made sure to point out that the way in which this competition was executed was to the human pilot’s disadvantage. Banger was flying in a simulated environment using a VR headset, which doesn’t equate that well to a real fight in the real sky, and gives their computer pilot instant awareness of its surroundings.
However, that VR environment may have also worked in Banger’s favor, as his final bout against Heron’s AI saw him executing a number of 9G maneuvers that would have taken a significant toll on a human pilot. Heron’s system, on the other hand, would not be physically affected by executing these maneuvers in a real aircraft.
“Dogfighting, or Basic Fighter Maneuvers as we call it, is an incredibly complex and dynamic environment. The most difficult part is perceiving what the adversary is doing,” Lee explains. “You’re looking for minute changes in their lift-vector which foreshadows their next move. That’s why it’s important to have good vision (which can be corrected with glasses or surgery).”
While going undefeated against a highly trained human pilot is a great feather for Heron System’s cap, this doesn’t mean the end of human fighter pilots is near. DARPA’s goal isn’t to replace humans in the skies, but rather to supplement them with capable drone assets and an auto-pilot system that could conceivably make human pilots far more capable, by freeing up their mental bandwidth in a fight.
The National Guard, a unique part of the American military, traces its origins to the birth of the first organized colonial militia regiments on December 13, 1636.
The Guard, which includes some of the oldest units in the US military, is a reserve component that can be called up on a moment’s notice to respond to domestic emergencies or participate in overseas combat missions.
These 11 stunning photos from the past year show the Guard in action — dealing with fires, hurricanes, volcanoes, and more.
(N.Y. Army National Guard photo by Spc. Andrew Valenza)
A Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System (MAFFS), a C-130 Hercules plane modified for fire-fighting efforts, releases fire retardant over Shasta County, California, during the Carr Fire in early August 2018.
(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Brittany Johnson)
(Florida National Guard photo by David Sterphone)
(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Matt Hecht)
(North Carolina National Guard)
(Florida National Guard)
(Oregon Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Zachary Holden, Oregon Military Department Public Affairs)
(Photo Composite by SSG Brendan Stephens, NC National Guard Public Affairs)
(Photo courtesy of the State of Hawaii, Dept. of Defense)
(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Becky Vanshur)
11. An Idaho Army National Guard sniper, from the 116th Calvary Brigade Combat Team, practices his skills during the platoon’s two-week annual training at the Orchard Combat Training Center on June 8, 2018.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Watches can be incredibly personal—after all, they’re worn every day throughout many of life’s ups and downs. Why shouldn’t you have one that serves as a reminder of all the hard work you’ve done and the things you’ve accomplished? For veterans and first responders, NFW watch company allows them to do just that.
NFW was started by George Fox, who left a 10-year career at Timex to focus on making watches in his vision, without compromising quality or price point. He accomplishes this goal by spending money on what really matters — the watches — instead of high-priced marketing. For 13 years, his company has been growing steadily with a supportive fan base, especially among the military. He also believed that he could do good with his craft, which has been realized through NFW’s partnerships with charities that support veterans and first responders.
The first partnership started in 2011, when George was approached by a Special Forces Unit to create a special watch for them, with their insignia engraved on the face. He met with unit representatives in Fort Bragg, N.C., and broached the idea of allowing the public to buy the watches as a way to show support and raise funds for the Special Forces Association. This idea was enthusiastically received and the watch was a success.
This first collaboration between military and small business was the start of a series of charity watches that celebrate Operation Enduring Warrior, the Chris Kyle Frog Foundation, Honor Flight, and first responders. Fifty dollars from each sale goes to the charities and nonprofits that support veterans. These watches do more than just advertise the organization. They also serve as a constant reminder to the wearer of the qualities that are endemic to the men and women who served and continue to serve under that symbol. Taya Kyle, Chris Kyle’s widow, said, “It’s great that the watches raise money for CKFF. But the best thing these watches do is every time someone wears one, sees one, or comments on one, it helps keep Chris’ spirit alive.”
To showcase these watches, NFW relies on the men and women who served in the honored units and wear their timepieces with pride. By not using the traditional watch marketing techniques, such as hiring celebrity endorsers, they are able to keep the watch costs down, allowing more people to wear this reminder of their service every day.
Recently, NFW was chosen to make watches for Medal of Honor recipients, further cementing the company’s relationship with our service men and women, and exemplifying the integrity that George Fox based his company on. He believes that his work with veterans had been more than repaid tenfold, as he has learned from their grit, ingenuity, and spirit. He also feels that it has helped him become a stronger father to his children, allowing him to model strength and integrity. In his spare time, George volunteers with the organizations, such as helping World War II veterans on Honor Flights and running with Operation Enduring Warrior in Spartan Races.
Five al-Qaeda militants hijacked American Airlines flight 77 on Sept. 11, 2001. The plane was on its way from Dulles Airport outside of Washington, D.C., to Los Angeles. The plane made it as far as eastern Kentucky before the terrorists took over the plane and slammed it into the Pentagon.
The FBI added 27 images the agency took on the ground that day to their photo vault, as first responders raced to rescue the wounded and remove the dead from the shell of the nation’s symbol of military power.
Debris from the plane and the building are highlighted in the Mar. 23 release of photos. The attack killed 125 people in the Pentagon, as well as all aboard the flight
The Boeing 757 took off from Dulles ten minutes early.
Some of the passengers were teachers and students on a National Geographic Society field trip.
Authorities estimate the flight was taken over between 8:51 and 8:54 in the morning, as the last communication with the real pilots was at 8:51.
The terrorists were led by a trained pilot, as the other four herded the passengers to the back of the plane to prevent them from re-taking the aircraft.
The hijacker pilot did not respond to any radio calls.
With no transponder signal, the flight could only be found when it passed the path of ground-based radar.
At 9:33 am, the tower at Reagan Airport contacted the Pentagon, saying “an aircraft is coming at you and not talking with us.”
At 9:37:46 am, American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon.
Flight deck operations on an aircraft carrier have often been compared to a ballet. Sailors at work on a flight deck wear an assortment of colored jerseys to specify their job. The yellow shirt is one of the most coveted.
The aviation boatswain’s mates who work on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz are directly responsible for the handling and maneuvering of aircraft as well as the safety of all personnel during flight operations. Any mistake or lack of better judgment can cause damage to equipment or injury to personnel on the flight deck.
“At first being a yellow shirt was scary, but now that I have some confidence, I would say there is a sense of pride,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Melanie Cluck, an aviation boatswain’s mate. “On the flight deck, we are not only responsible for directing aircraft, but also for directing people. Normally, anyone who needs guidance on the flight deck looks for a yellow shirt. Safety of all the personnel on deck is a big part of our job as well. So we don’t only need to know our job, but everyone else’s as well.”
Before donning the sought-after yellow jersey, aviation boatswain’s mates wear blue jerseys to indicate that they are in a more junior status. These sailors are normally newer airmen who have yet to acquire all of the necessary qualifications. Their main responsibilities during flight operations include chocking and chaining, running elevators, and tractor operation.
“Being a blue shirt is hard work, but it makes you tough,” said Seaman Michael Lothrop. “It’s hot up there right now, and we work long days, but you have to be on alert at all times and ready to get the job done whenever you are needed.”
Blue shirts are normally covered in grease and always carrying something heavy, whether it be a chain, tractor bar, or chock. They play a big part in the maneuvering of aircraft on the flight deck because they do most of the hands-on work. During their time wearing blue, they learn the ins and outs of properly directing aircraft, which helps build the foundation of a high-performance yellow shirt.
The job requires attention to detail and an extreme amount of knowledge to be performed well. The training and the number of hours a sailor needs to put in to become a yellow shirt is impressive.
“There are two main qualifications you get as a blue shirt, but from there, it’s all about if your chain of command sees you have the initiative to take on being a yellow shirt,” Cluck said.
Earning the Yellow Shirt
Sailors must qualify as flight deck observers and learn directing and handling in addition to the qualifications all sailors are required to attain when they report to Nimitz. The requirements take roughly 12 weeks to complete. Sailors then take a written and oral test administered by the flight deck leading petty officer, assistant LPO, and any other yellow-shirt-qualified chief petty officers or first class petty officers who decide to attend.
Once sailors earn the right to wear the yellow jersey on the flight deck, they enter an apprenticeship period called “under inspection.” This means they need an experienced yellow shirt to help them along the way toward becoming an expert at their new job on the flight deck.
UI yellow shirts are always accompanied by a seasoned mentor who is observing every signal and decision they make.
“It’s a case-by-case basis on how long the UI process takes,” Cluck said. “The process is just there to make sure you fully understand what you are doing on the flight deck. It’s extensive work to say the least, but it helps you build character. The goal of the process is just to build you up to be the great yellow shirt you are supposed to be.”
Yellow shirts have to communicate through hand signals with pilots and other personnel working on the flight deck to safely move aircraft onto the catapults and off of the landing area.
“You have to be able to really get control of your aircraft and understand the pilot,” Cluck said. “It’s a gut feeling that you develop during your training. If you feel you need to slow the aircraft down, you can, and you start to learn when exactly to turn it. We have hundreds of hand signals we can use to take control of the aircraft on deck. The people in the pilot seats are officers, so you have to be professional, and every motion you make has to be crisp and precise to prevent accidents.”
The working environment of a yellow shirt is unlike anywhere else on the ship. The yellow shirt locker, or crew area, is on Nimitz’ flight deck. The tight-knit group of men and women spends their time out of the scorching heat joking, laughing, and preparing to launch multi-million dollar aircraft into the sky. It is here where the instructors of the world’s most dangerous ballet reside. It is here where the yellow shirts dwell, mentally preparing themselves to launch aircraft as their ship sits at the tip of the spear.
On June 22, 1941, Nazi Germany broke its non-aggression pact with the Soviet Union, invading the Russian-held area of Poland. Nazi tanks streamed across the border between the two occupiers, arriving in the Lithuanian town of Raseiniai the next day.
The resistance there almost threw a wrench in the entire Nazi war plan.
As the Nazis advanced on the town, Soviet mechanized divisions moved to defend it. The local tank garrisons happened to be equipped with Kliment-Voroshilov tanks, an advanced armored vehicle invulnerable to almost anything the German infantry could throw at them.
Anti-tank weapons were useless. The Nazis tried everything to disable the KV tanks — other tanks, artillery, anti-aircraft guns, but nothing worked. Even the vaunted sticky bomb couldn’t stop them.
As this day wore on, the KV started tearing up Nazi anti-tank weapons and heavy machine guns as “armor piercing” rounds bounced right off the tank’s skin. The Russians even took out 12 trucks. German engineers threw satchel charges at the tank, with little effect.
According to MK, Nazi battle group commander Colonel Erhard Raus wrote in his account of the action that an 88-mm anti-aircraft gun couldn’t even put a dent in the KV tank’s armor.
“… It turned out that the crew and the tank commander had nerves of steel. They calmly watched the approach of anti-aircraft guns, without interfering with it, as long as it didn’t not pose any threat to the tank. In addition, the closer the anti-aircraft gun, the easier it is to destroy. A critical time in the duel of nerves, when settlement began to prepare the gun to fire. While gunners, nervous, bridged and loaded the gun, the tank tower turned and fired the first shot! Every shot hit the target. The heavily damaged antiaircraft gun fell into the ditch.”
The KV harassed the attacking Germans throughout the night and by morning, the full force of the German infantry attacked the lone KV tank. The tank struck down as many as possible with its machine guns, but it wasn’t enough. The troops were finally able to throw grenades down the tank’s hatches and kill the crew.
Pitched fighting at Raseiniai lasted three days. The lone Soviet tank delayed them by a full day, taking on two full Nazi mechanized divisions.
Russians have tried for years to postulate why the lone tank stopped and didn’t even try to maneuver. The most likely reason is that the tank ran out of gas. Red Army supply lines to Lithuania weren’t very good to begin with and a Nazi invasion sure wouldn’t have helped.
For 22 hours, the KV blocked the road, preventing the Germans from advancing into greater Russia, destroying or killing every Nazi man and machine in sight.
The Eastern Front of World War II is remembered by history for its brutality. Prisoners and war dead between the German Wehrmacht and the Soviet Red Army were treated with shocking disregard by any standard on both sides. The Nazis considered the Russians subhuman — theirs was a war of extermination.
In this instance, however, the German troops removed the Russian tank crew from their KV and buried them in the nearby woods with full military honors. Colonel Raus recounted in his memoirs:
“I am deeply shocked by this heroism, we buried them with full military honors. They fought to the last breath … “
When Hurricane Harvey made landfall in southeast Texas, Aug. 25, it flooded thousands of homes and displaced more than 30,000 people. In response to the devastation, thousands of people from across the country rushed to Texas to help, taking time away from their homes and work to help others out.
Among those who headed to Texas was Marine Corps Cpl. Eric Gore, a dark-haired, easygoing and friendly chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defense specialist at Headquarters Battalion, Marine Forces Reserve in New Orleans.
“I just wanted to help my fellow countrymen out,” Gore said. “Helping our neighbors in Texas was something I was able to do, so I went.”
Gore, his unit’s CBRN training noncommissioned officer, was sitting at home going through social media when he first saw the effects of Hurricane Harvey. At that moment he decided he had to take leave and join the relief efforts.
“I knew I had the capacity to do something, but instead I was just sitting at work going through my day-to-day tasks,” he said. “There’s no sense in standing-by when people need assistance, especially when you’re perfectly able to help them.”
Gore left New Orleans Sept. 1, taking an additional four days of leave after the Labor Day weekend to extend his time in Texas.
He first drove with another Marine to Beaumont, Texas, where they linked up with members of the Cajun Navy, an informal group of private boat owners who helped in the relief efforts following 2005’s Hurricane Katrina.
With the Cajun Navy, Gore used his experience in the Marines to first help them set up an operations center in the back office of a dance studio. He then communicated with members of the Cajun Navy through phone calls and mobile apps to direct vehicles to distress calls and organize supply convoys to flooded neighborhoods.
“Emergency management is at the heart of my job,” Gore said. “CBRN is the 9/11 of the Marine Corps. Everyone just thinks we run the gas chambers, but we’re also trained to respond to hazmat incidents and things of that nature.”
Besides organizing and directing assets in the makeshift command center, Gore also participated in many of the supply convoys, personally delivering supplies to people affected by Hurricane Harvey whenever an extra hand was needed.
“I did as much as I could,” he said. “But, in reality, I was a small part of the relief efforts. Without the help of all the individuals involved donating their time and money to relief efforts, none of my work would have been possible.”
Gore said he planned to take leave again to help in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria, which made landfall there Sept. 20 and left the majority of Puerto Ricans without power. He organized a private flight to the island with a cargo of 12 donated generators, as well as additional relief supplies. However, he had to cancel his plans due to Hurricane Nate, which made landfall in New Orleans.
He said he is still communicating with members of the Cajun Navy though social media, instant messaging and phone apps, hoping to head to Puerto Rico in the near future.