This week’s Borne the Battle episode features guest Jeff Struecker, who discusses his life as a soldier, pastor, and author.
In 1987, Struecker enlisted in the army when he was 18. He excelled, serving in the 75th Ranger Regiment, and he played a pivotal role in the Battle of Mogadishu. He also won the 1996 Best Ranger Competition and was also recognized in 1998 as the U.S Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps Noncommisioned Officer of the Year.
Black Hawk Down – KIA Sgt. Dominick Pilla – Convoy Scene
He pretended to be blind so that he could receive benefits. But the Reno County man was spotted driving his car in Wichita, and on Sept. 6 he was sentenced in federal court.
Billy J. Alumbaugh, 62, of Turon, was sentenced to three years of probation and must also repay $70,000 in benefits he received, US Attorney Tom Beall said in a prepared statement. Alumbaugh pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to defraud the government. His ex-wife, Debra Alumbaugh, 58, pleaded guilty to concealing the crime.
In his plea, Alumbaugh admitted he falsely represented to the Veterans Administration that he was blind and home-bound in order to receive monthly pension benefits. In truth, he was able to drive and engage in other routine life activities without assistance.
His wife accompanied him to medical visits during which they pretended he was blind and depended on her for help. Alumbaugh, who served in the US Army from 1973 to 1976, received the supplemental assistance from 2009 to 2016, according to the federal indictment that charged him.
Billy Alumbaugh was seen with his ex-wife arriving at the VA hospital in Wichita last October, according to the indictment. Debra Alumbaugh was seen driving the car and she went on to help Billy Alumbaugh out of the car and into the complex.
After the appointment, they left in the vehicle with Debra Alumbaugh behind the wheel. After she drove for a few blocks, she pulled over and they switched seats, according to the indictment.
A T-38C Talon II trainer aircraft crashed at Sheppard Air Force Base in Wichita Falls, Texas on Sept. 11, 2018, marking the fourth accident for the aging aircraft in the past year.
The aircraft, a twin-engine, high-altitude supersonic jet and part of the 80th Flying Training Wing, crashed on Sept. 11, 2018, while taking off. The two pilots ejected safely and were taken to local medical facilities, the base said in a statement. Both pilots are said to be in stable condition.
Sept. 11, 2018’s incident follows another T-38 crash in mid-August 2018. The 71st Flying Training Wing aircraft crashed at Vance Air Force Base in Oklahoma on Aug. 17, 2018, becoming the sixth aircraft the US Air Force lost to noncombat mishaps in 2018, according to The Drive.
A T-38C Talon used primarily by Air Education and Training Command for undergraduate pilot and pilot instructor training.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Steve White)
Another trainer jet crashed in May 2018 near Columbus Air Force Base in Mississippi. Both pilots were able to eject safely from the plane. And all three of these incidents were proceeded by a fatal crash in November 2017. Capt. Paul J. Barbour lost his life when his plane crashed near Laughlin Air Force Base in Del Rio, Texas, according to Military.com. The pilot’s ejection seat was not armed at the time of the crash.
The T-38 program, according to the US Air Force, is old, expensive, and outdated, a Congressional Research Service report from May 2018 explains, noting these jets are not well-suited for training future pilots for fifth-generation fighter and bomber operations.
The contract for the replacement T-X trainer has been delayed several times due to budget issues.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Steve Houghton’s rugged face shone orange in the firelight as he pulled in a deep breath of the frigid Montana backcountry air and shifted in his chair before taking his turn at a personal story. The stress lines of an often-furrowed brow and eyes tinged with sadness advertised the toll of an especially bruising year for the former motor transportation Marine.
The snipers and special operations soldiers around the campfire were half-expecting a familiar tale of combat trauma and trouble transitioning to civilian life. If anyone in the group of 17 military veterans had a thousand-yard stare, it was Houghton.
A crackle from the fire disturbed the brief silence as the circle waited for him to speak.
“You know, I didn’t know how much I needed this,” Houghton said with a somber Montana drawl as he opened up to the men and women who two days earlier were complete strangers. “It’s been a rough 2020 for me, and before I came out here, I was in pretty bad shape. I went through a divorce, and I’ve struggled with other issues. But the last two days have put a smile on my face even while I was sleeping.”
Houghton and 16 other military veterans traveled to eastern Montana’s vast swath of public lands Nov. 6 through 10 for an inaugural event hosted by Backcountry Hunters & Anglers (BHA), a nonprofit committed to preserving North America’s outdoor heritage of hunting and fishing in a natural setting through education and advocacy on behalf of wild public lands and waters.
After launching its Armed Forces Initiative in June, BHA developed its first-ever Veteran Dual Skill Acquisition Camp, where BHA mentors covered skills such as e-scouting, shot placement, field-dressing, meat considerations, carcass disposal, and education about public lands and related legislative issues. But as Houghton and the others quickly learned, the best parts of camp weren’t listed in the promotional materials that drew them to the event.
“I’ve been on my own for quite a while now, and I was kind of getting into a real rough spot just before I came out here,” Houghton continued. “But getting out in the woods with a bunch of veterans has made a world of difference. I feel supported on multiple levels, and it just feels really good. I’ve learned so much, and I think this is about the most therapeutic stuff I’ve experienced since I got out of the Marines. It gives you back that sense of camaraderie and that mission that, once you’re out, you just lack in life.
“This gives me hope for the future with myself and other veterans that are struggling to find a sense of meaning again. Just being around everybody and seeing that you’re not alone, it’s been absolutely incredible — absolutely lifesaving. You’re saving lives with this.”
Knowing nods and grunts of approval from Houghton’s newfound tribe validated his sentiments. There was the sergeant major from the 19th Special Forces Group, the recently retired special operations pilot, Marine snipers and grunts, Army snipers and other soldiers, sailors, National Guard members, and an Air Force member who cheerily absorbed all the standard trash talk that always gets heaped on extra thick for members of the “Chair Force.”
Morgan Mason, BHA’s Armed Forces Initiative coordinator and a former Army intelligence analyst, coordinated the camp. Mason was 20 when he participated in the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
“When I left the Army, I just wanted to head West and break free of everything,” Mason said. “I spent a lot of time on public lands, and they were my source of decompression. I thought it was amazing that I could go do all these outdoor activities — whitewater rafting, mountain biking, climbing, hunting.”
Mason said his experiences led him to the path he’s on now. His passion and mission are to make sure all military members and veterans can have the same experiences outdoors that were integral to his transition and that continue to enrich his life. For BHA’s Armed Forces Initiative, he focuses on three pillars: active-duty programming, veteran programming, and legislative efforts.
BHA has forged a unique relationship with the US military to develop its active-duty programming initiative. It has partnered with several major military installations, including Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and Camp Pendleton, California, to promote outdoor activities on public lands among military members at those locations and others.
“Spending time outdoors is like a reset button for your brain,” Mason said. “For military members and veterans who are dealing with issues like post-traumatic stress, survivor’s guilt, or opioid addiction, outdoor activities like hunting aren’t a cure-all, but having these experiences makes you a better person because they destress your mind by dumping some dopamine into your brain and making you feel good. We want people to feel the weight of the world drop off their shoulders and feel that stress melt away, and public land makes that possible for everyone.”
Mason put together the veteran camp as a pilot program for the veteran programming pillar, picking a diverse group of veterans — both mentors and mentees — from a pool of candidates who applied for the mule deer and whitetail hunt in Montana.
“We tried to bring folks of various skill levels and experiences,” Mason said. “Some are first-time hunters — never shot a deer until this camp — and some have been hunting since they were kids.”
Mason organized the camp around two focus areas: tactile and cerebral. The tactile portion covered skills such as stalking, glassing, and other field tactics. The cerebral portion consisted of campfire talks and bonding over shared experiences and public lands education.
One of the topics around the campfire was the Accelerating Veterans Recovery Outdoors Act, which advanced through the US Senate Nov. 10. The bipartisan legislation would require the secretary of Veterans Affairs to establish an interagency task force on the use of public lands to provide health and wellness for veterans through outdoor recreation. That means if President Donald Trump signs the act into law, the federal government will study the health benefits of trips and activities like BHA’s veteran hunt.
It didn’t take long for fast friendships to form in the teams and hunting parties Mason organized. Houghton hooked up with BHA mentor and former Idaho National Guardsman Matthew Carlock and husband-and-wife-duo Andrea and Patrick Nofio — both Navy veterans — to form “Team Send It.”
Carlock’s stocky frame and boundless energy in the backcountry terrain earned him the moniker “The Mountain Goat,” and after Houghton bagged his first of four deer, Carlock helped pack the whole animal back to camp so he could give a demonstration on how to field-dress a deer, a vital skill that several first-time hunters put to use in short order.
On the second day of camp, Andrea earned her nickname, “Eagle-Eye Andrea,” when she spotted at about 300 yards a beautiful six-pointed mule deer buck at the 11th hour of a long day of following the Mountain Goat up and down endless ridges and valleys in frigid conditions. The Alaska native said she “saw every wild animal you could ever see” growing up in the Great North State, but her father, who raised four daughters, never took her hunting.
“I’d been thinking about it for a long time, but there’s so many barriers to entry,” Andrea said about finally learning to hunt with BHA’s support. “Hunting is expensive. You need a mentor, and you need to just be really intrepid.”
Andrea said she and Patrick jumped at the opportunity when they heard about the Montana hunt because it removed a lot of the intimidation factor they felt.
“The vast knowledge that is shared freely by everybody here has just been amazing,” Patrick said. “We’re checking off bucket list items with this trip, getting out here and finally putting the miles down, and being able to share in the pride and camaraderie of harvesting an animal with all these awesome veterans — it’s really meaningful and just an absolutely phenomenal experience.”
Around the campfire each night, a common theme kept permeating the conversation: Nobody gets veterans like other veterans.
Healthy competition, trash talk, and crude humor were sources of bonding throughout the weekend.
After former Army sniper Jim Vinson shared his personal story around the fire one night, he couldn’t help but end with a flex: “I smoked a doe last night at 511 yards, so somebody needs to top that.”
On a long hunt the day after Andrea bagged her buck, Carlock — The Mountain Goat — promised Team Send It they’d likely find deer if they’d follow him for yet another long push to a far-off ridge.
“Yeah, we’ve heard it before, Matthew,” she said. “Just the tip, just for a second, just to see how it feels.”
Houghton, who needed eight rounds to bag his four deer and was dubbed by his Team Send It brethren “Two-Shot Steve,” howled at the joke. “I love veterans,” he said.
Andrea, who is currently enrolled as a college student in Montana, said, “Yeah, I don’t usually get to make those kinds of jokes these days. I really miss being around veterans.”
After three days, on the Marine Corps birthday, the veterans broke down the camp. A handful of them held a small ceremony, taking down the American flag that had flown proudly at the entry path and folding it in accordance with military tradition. Together, they had killed 18 deer over three days and would feed their friends and families for months to come.
They shared some hot coffee on a final cold morning together, traded hearty hugs, handshakes, and contact information, and left for home — batteries recharged by new friendships and experiences and with plenty of great stories and newfound respect for public lands to share with friends and family.
The U.S. Air Force is hopeful it could have its first female battlefield airman spring 2019.
In written testimony before the Senate Armed Services subcommittee on personnel, Lt. Gen. Brian Kelly, deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel and services, said one woman is making her way through the grueling challenges of Tactical Air Control Party (TACP) training.
“Currently, we have one female in Tactical Air Control Party training with a potential graduation date later this spring,” he said.
“To date, 10 female airmen have entered into special warfare training, but none have yet to qualify and graduate,” Kelly added.
Attrition is high in this elite training pipeline, ranging between 40 and 90 percent across the specialties.
“Consequently, we do not foresee large numbers of females in operational units in the near term,” Kelly said.
Since the Defense Department opened combat career fields to women in December 2015, few female airmen have qualified for Air Force special warfare training. Some have self-eliminated or sustained an injury; others have not met the standards of a particular program.
A Tactical Air Control Party Airman with the New Jersey Air National Guard’s 227th Air Support Operations Squadron scans the training area for targets on Warren Grove Range, N.J., Jan. 31, 2019.
(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Matt Hecht)
Recently, a female candidate entered the pararescue (PJ) training pipeline, but was injured during the first week of training and had to drop out, Air Education and Training Command (AETC) officials told Military.com in January 2019.
The woman is expected “to return at a later date to try again,” AETC spokeswoman Jennifer Gonzalez said January 2019.
“We are fully committed to the integration of women into combat positions, [and] have increased targeted marketing to further attract female recruits,” Kelly said.
The service has placed a female cadre within these training units, he added.
The Air Force has had a tough time attracting candidates for special operations, particularly in the explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) and survival, evasion, resistance and escape (SERE) pipelines. Kelly said the service missed its recruiting goals for these specialties in three of the last four months.
While the service missed those goals, Kelly said special warfare overall has seen early successes through its new recruiting squadron. The service established its first Special Operations Recruiting Squadron in 2018 to find next-generation combat airmen.
“This past year, we established a new training group and new recruiting squadrons focused on critical warfighting career fields, such as special warfare airmen,” Kelly said.
Recruiters and mentors train the candidates in a step-by-step, streamlined program to get a better sense of what type of airmen are needed for the next dynamic conflict.
“The Air Force is committed to improving how we recruit and prepare airmen to succeed,” Kelly said.
This story will be updated.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
One of the most overlooked monuments at the National Mall, the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial is located in West Potomac Park between the Tidal Basin along the Cherry Tree Walk and the Potomac River in Washington, D.C. The memorial dedicated to America’s 32nd president is about halfway between the Lincoln Memorial and the Thomas Jefferson Memorial.
President Roosevelt led the nation during both the Great Depression and WWII during his four terms as president. The sprawling memorial is designed to guide visitors through a walk back through each of those terms. There are more than seven acres of space to explore the FDR Memorial. Each feature at the site is designed to help a visitor understand more about this dynamic president and how he directly impacted modern-day America.
The memorial was dedicated on May 2, 1997, by President Bill Clinton.
There are sculptures at the memorial inspired by photographs of DRF seated alongside his dog Fala. There are also scenes from the Great Depression, ranging from bread lines to people gathered at a radio to listen to FDR’s Fireside Chats. A bronze statue of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt standing in front of the United Nations emblem honors her dedication to the UN and global causes. FDR’s memorial is the only one at the national mall which depicts a First Lady.
Capstone Achievement for Designer
The memorial was designed and developed by Lawrence Halprin. He called this his crowning achievement because of the difficulty in creating the monument and because of Halprin’s fond memories of listening to Roosevelt’s Fireside Chats.
Halprin won a design competition to create the memorial back in 1974, but Congress didn’t appropriate funds for more than 20 years. The final design features Halprin’s work and ideas and several other prominent architects and designers, including Leonard Baskin, Robert Graham, Thomas Hardy, George Segal, and Neil Eastern.
Running water is an important metaphor that’s carried throughout the memorial. Each of the four rooms contains a waterfall, and as visitors move from one place to the next, the waterfalls become larger and more complex. This is meant to reflect the complexity of the presidency.
The five main water features all represent something specific.
The single large drop of water represents the economy’s crash, which led the country to the Great Depression.
Stair-stepped water features are meant to pay homage to the Tennessee Valley Authority dam-building project, which was the first of its kind in the country.
There are also several chaotic waterfalls at sharp angles, all that signify WWII.
To commemorate President Roosevelt’s death, there’s a still water pool.
The array of combining waterfalls is intended to be a retrospective of Roosevelt’s presidency.
The memorial is designed to give people options on how they experience it, allowing them to reverse directions, experience different sites, smells, and sounds, pause and reflect, and even be alone. All of these options are meant to indicate some of what Roosevelt did as president.
Steeped in Controversy
Because of Roosevelt’s disability, the memorial designers wanted to create an experience that would be accessible to all. The memorial includes an area written in braille for people who are blind, and the wide pathways are accessible for those who use wheelchairs.
However, disability advocates say that the braille is incorrectly spaced and positioned at eight feet, too high for anyone to actually read.
One of the statues of FDR also stirred controversy. Initial designs planned to showcase FDR in his wheelchair, but the final design depicts the president in his chair with a cloak obscuring the wheelchair. This is often how he maneuvered throughout his day, even though his reliance on a wheelchair wasn’t widely publicized during his lifetime. Historians and disability rights activities wanted the wheelchair to be shown since they believe it depicts his source of strength. Finally, the sculptor decided to add casters to the back of the chair to create a symbolic wheelchair. However, the casters are only visible behind the statue.
In 2001, an additional statue was placed at the memorial entrance that shows FDR seated in a wheelchair.
This is actually the second memorial
In a conversation with friend and Supreme Court Associate Justice Felix Frankfurter in 1941, Roosevelt said if he were ever to have a monument erected in his honor, it should go in front of the National Archives and be no later than his desk. Roosevelt said he wanted the memorial to be simple, without any ornamentation.
In 1965, a 3-foot tall, 7-foot long, and 4-foot wide white marble block was dedicated to Roosevelt. This memorial was placed near the southeast corner of Ninth Street NW and Pennsylvania Avenue NW. The simple stone reads, “In Memory of Franklin Delano Roosevelt,” just like the president wanted.
When you look at the results country by country, however, some interesting nuances emerge.
First, the US, most European countries, and Russia see ISIS as the foremost security concern. This was the case last year, as well.
But a growing number of people, particularly those in Africa and the Americas, are now saying that climate change is a bigger threat to them than terrorism, cyber attacks, the refugee crisis, or the economy.
In countries that are hurting economically, like Venezuela and Greece, survey respondents predictably said the condition of the global economy was their biggest concern.
People in South Korea and Vietnam both listed China’s power and influence as the main security issue facing their nations.
And while it didn’t rank as the top threat for any nation, more people now say they worry about the United States’ power and influence than in previous years before President Donald Trump took office.
Worldwide, only 22% of people said in a separate Pew survey that they have confidence in Trump, compared to 64% when former President Barack Obama was in office. Similarly, 49% now have a favorable view of the US, vs. 64% at the end of Obama’s presidency.
Army Veteran Kathleen Cashaw will celebrate her 62nd birthday this summer. She is also celebrating this summer for another reason – earning her college degree. With the support from Butler VA’s Vocational Rehabilitation Program, Cashaw has achieved her goal of completing her Associates of Arts Degree as a medical assistant at Butler Community College.
“The Vocational Rehabilitation staff at Butler VA always gave me encouragement. I had doubts about completing the degree, but the VA staff always directed me to the positive of completing the program rather than the negative thoughts that I was having. Like being too old. I knew I had potential. I knew that it was in myself.”
Vocational Rehabilitation at Butler VA assists Veterans to prepare for, find, and maintain suitable jobs. Employment services such as job training, employment-seeking skills, resume development, and other work-readiness assistance is available for Veterans to achieve their employment goals.
“I cannot thank the staff in Vocational Rehabilitation enough. They were instrumental in my success and I have been given confidence to continue my education for a Bachelor of Science degree, my ultimate ‘Bucket List.”
“Messed” up but moved on
Middle child of a hard-working illiterate father and a strict mother who instilled the importance of education, Cashaw did what neither her parents nor her two siblings ever did: Enroll in college. But her degree pursuits at Tuskegee University and Howard University began and ended within a year.
“I messed up in college.”
She enlisted in the Army and in 1986 joined the Mississippi National Guard. She also took jobs in customer service and in making ice cream machines in one factory and automotive parts in another.
“My father didn’t think I would ever go back to college,” Cashaw said. A disabled Veteran, she volunteered at Butler VA while making the dean’s list and the president’s list at Butler Community College. “For my age, I completed it. Finally.”
Vocational Rehabilitation: “If you want to succeed, you will.”
Kathleen encourages other Veterans to reach out to Vocational Rehabilitation for support and assistance. Her other advice: “You are never too old to pursue your dreams. If you really want to succeed you will. It takes hard work, but never succumb to the negative, look for the positive.”
Her education has changed her life. “It has made me more confident. “Now, there are things that I can do.”
Over the past four months, a small team of air advisors, deployed in support of Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve to Qayyarah West Airfield, Iraq, combined its efforts to enhance and improve the US Air Force’s compound, changing the working conditions for the airmen assigned there.
When the 370th Air Expeditionary Advisory Group replaced the 123rd Contingency Response Group at Qayyarah West Airfield in early March 2017, they inherited bare bone facilities. The prior contingency response groups had built the US Air Force’s part of Qayyarah West up from scratch to start operations, but their mission was not long term.
There was a small, open tent used for a passenger terminal that exposed waiting service members to the heat, a canopy spread across two conex boxes used as a vehicle maintenance area, which provided limited protection from the sun, and some of the enclosed tents had mold and rotting wood floors.
The air advisors immediately identified that the air terminal operations center tent had a mold issue that needed to be addressed, said Tech. Sgt. Joseph Tenebruso, the 370th Air Expeditionary Advisory Group, Detachment 1 expeditionary maintenance flight chief.
After Qayyarah West Airfield, commonly referred to as “Q-West,” was recaptured from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria in October 2016, the US Air Force promptly established a presence, repaired the destroyed airfield, and made it ready to be used as a strategic launching pad for the offensive in Mosul.
From mid-October until early March, the 821st and 123rd CRGs deployed personnel to quickly open the airfield and establish, expand, sustain, and coordinate air mobility operations in the austere environment.
The current team from the 370th AEAG was the first air expeditionary force rotation or permanent party to call Q-West home outside of the short-term deployed CRG units assigned to rapidly establish operations.
“Everyone wanted to make this place better than what we came into,” said Staff Sgt. Peter Johnson, the NCO in charge of vehicle maintenance assigned to the 370th AEAG, Det. 1. “We identified the needs to better the compound trying to make things more efficient and safer. Everything we’ve done has a purpose and we worked together as a team to make the improvements happen.”
The small team of air advisors worked together to procure and establish tents to be used as a new passenger terminal, morale facility, vehicle maintenance tent and tactical operations center. With the assistance of their joint-service partners, the tents were placed on flooring designed to reduce future mold issues.
The new passenger terminal helped improve the 370th AEAG’s daily facilitation of large passenger movements for both rotary and fixed wing aircraft in support of CJTF-OIR.
The new vehicle maintenance facility improved efficiency for the maintainers as they can now not only get out of the sun to work on their vehicles, but also complete tasks during all hours of the day.
In order for the compound’s expansion to take place, the power grid needed to be upgraded.
“Staff Sgt. Benton took the lead on expanding the power grid,” said Tenebruso. “He is an AGE guy used to working on flightline equipment, but here he is working on power production and distribution. Thanks to his capabilities we are now almost as close to uninterrupted power as possible, which make our operations much more sustainable.”
Staff Sgt. Shawn Benton, an aerospace ground equipment craftsman, as well as the other maintenance personnel, often work outside of their scope to assist with facility upgrades and sustainment at Q-West.
“We want to make this the best place that we can for future rotations,” said Tenebruso. “Everyone here is under the mentality that we leave this place better than we found it and make it so the next rotation does not have the issues we did. Things are very different than when we first got here.”
Initially, there was not a cargo grid yard for the 442nd Air Expeditionary Squadron’s aerial port function, but the aerial porters worked with the Army to procure Hesco barriers and enclose a 32,000 square-foot grid yard to secure its assets.
With limited resources, the aerial porters scrounged up supplies from around the base to create a gate for the cargo yard and a flag pole out of reconstituted metal. The flag pole, which the whole aerial port team helped place in the ground, is the tallest flag pole on the base, Master Sgt. Cliff Robertson, the 442nd AES’s aerial port superintendent, proudly stated.
Another proud achievement of the Q-West Airmen is their “Iron Paradise” makeshift gym. According to Tenebruso, prior to their arrival there was just a wooden bench and a bar with chains duct taped to it that weighed in at a standard 135 pounds. The air advisors have since built a makeshift squat rack and preacher curl bench and acquired more weights, creating an area often filled with Air Force and Army personnel trying to maintain physical fitness in their austere location.
“I am amazed at how well this team has come together to improve the FOB’s conditions since they got here,” said Maj. Dave Friedel, the 370th AEAG, Det. 1 commander. “They made the camp much more livable while still performing their primary advise and assist mission. It’s all about teamwork here and there are a lot of people working well outside their expertise level to make things happen.”
I can feel the gaze of the maintenance master chief beating down on the back of my neck from a mile away. At that moment, I exist in the paradox of being micromanaged by the front office while working a set schedule, flying sorties, and doing minimal maintenance.
Night check, on the other hand, is a different kind of ass-backwards; catch a couple of late flights in and fix whatever gripes the officers make up, including classics like:
“It smells like burning toast in the back of the aircraft.”
“The rudder sticks when held in position for too long.”
“The seats are uncomfortable.”
VAW-125 E2C sits on a flight line
A flight rolls in. Unphased, I throw up a salute, welcome the aircrew back, and start my inspection.
Every DET has its ups and downs. Sometimes you’re flying exercises at TOPGUN in the middle of Fallon, Nevada, sometimes you’re drinking double-shot margaritas with a parrot on your shoulder in Key West. This time, it was the latter.
I stroll into the hangar for muster a little disoriented and hungover from exploring the town the night before. Another surprising Navy DET tradition is to drink — and to drink heavily. Detachments are the only time fraternization is brushed under the rug; an E1 sailor and an officer can be seen throwing back a couple shots, calling each other by their first names, but find their military bearing by 0600 the next morning.
Naval Air Station Key West: Where magic happens.
I check the flight schedule and don my gear as I see my name scribbled on the board. My supervisor yells for me as I’m running out the door to catch my flight.
“Listen Kim, the sooner we get this sh*t done, the sooner we’re off — and the sooner we’re off, the sooner we’re at Cowboy Bill’s!”
Blurry, much like the memory of the night.
Photo by Sung Kim
On Wednesdays, the neon lights of Cowboy Bill’s is a beautiful sight for any metaphorically shipwrecked sailor, marooned far from home and looking for good times, cheap drinks, and morally flexible women. There, they honor a time-old tradition, one that’s highly recommended by the saltier vets in the squadron: topless mechanical bull riding. And it’s every bit of Christmas your six-year-old heart could ever dream of.
Warrant’s “Cherry Pie” will exist for as long as strip clubs do.
I’m one flight away from having Warrant’s “Cherry Pie” ring in my ears and I’ve already picked up scent of the drunken regret ahead of me when I get the call over the radio: My pilot discovered a hole in one of the stabilizing rudders. Unlike most complaints, this was an actual gripe that downs an aircraft. And if the aircraft is down, pilots can’t get their hours in.
I mourn the loss of the wonderland filled with inebriated bachelorettes slow-grinding on a mechanical bull that I’d built in my foolish imagination.
A quarter-sized divot in the rudder stands between me and my paradise; a quarter-sized problem that’s about to be fixed with a dollar-sized piece of duct tape. I run into the shop, grab a roll of duct tape, patch the hole, and epoxy the sides so that the integrity of the tape stays flush while in flight. My supervisor signs off on it, calls maintenance control, and we’ve got the green light.
Upon pre-flight inspection, my pilot calls me up to the top of the aircraft. “What is that, Kim? Duct tape?” I panic.
“No sir, it’s high-speed aero-tape sir,” I lie, reflexively. What am I doing? Why wouldn’t he know what duct tape looks like?
He’s puzzled because he’s never heard of it, so he summons my supervisor. He hasn’t heard of it because it doesn’t exist, just like my soon-to-be-over naval career.
“High-speed aero-tape?” My supervisor chuckles. “You’re lucky we’re on DET son, as soon as this b*tch comes back, write that sh*t up for day check. We’re going to Cowboy Bill’s.”
I was bailed out. My supervisor had my back like he always did and confirmed that the hardware store duct tape my lieutenant (with an engineering degree) saw, was, in fact, a fictional, quick temporary fix patch substance called, “High-Speed Aero-Tape.”
But hey, if you can’t fix it with duct tape, it can’t be fixed.
This is not an idle thought. On March 26, 2010, the Pohang-class corvette ROKS Cheonan was torpedoed and sunk by a North Korean mini-sub firing a 21-inch torpedo. So, the concern is what one of these subs could do to a carrier.
Let’s look at what these subs are. The North Koreans have two front-line classes of mini-sub, according to the 16th Edition of Combat Fleets of the World. The Yono — the type of sub believed to have fired the torpedo that sank the Cheonan — is about 110 tons and carries two 21-inch torpedoes. The Sang-O is 295 tons and also has a pair of 21-inch torpedo tubes.
North Korea also has Romeo-class submarines, which have eight 21-inch torpedo tubes (six forward, two aft), with a total of 14 torpedoes. North Korea also has some mini-subs built to a Yugoslavian design with two 16-inch torpedoes, but those are believed to be in reserve.
That said, American aircraft carriers are very tough vessels. In World War II, the carriers USS Yorktown (CV 5) and USS Hornet (CV 8) took a lot of abuse before they sank. The carrier USS Franklin (CV 13) had one of the great survival stories of the war, despite horrific damage.
But today’s carrier are much larger.
In fact, the Russians designed the Oscar-class guided-missile submarine to kill America’s Nimitz-class carriers – and those have 24 SS-N-19 “Shipwreck” missiles, plus four 21-inch torpedo tubes and four 25.6-inch tubes meant to fire torpedoes with either massive conventional warheads or even nuclear ones.
This points to a North Korean sub being unable to sink a Nimitz-class carrier on its own.
But two torpedoes will still force a carrier to spend a long time in the body shop. And the escorts are more vulnerable as well.
A U.S. carrier could take a couple of hits and in a worst case scenario, she’d have to fly her air wing to shore bases.
Soldier’s Angels, a national non-profit organization, is continuing its annual tradition of collecting Valentine’s Day cards to send to veterans in VA hospitals and to those who are forward deployed. But this year they are asking volunteers to include a financial donation of $1 to their cards.
Each year, Soldier’s Angels collects thousands of Valentine’s Day cards to send to veterans around the country as well as to service members who are deployed overseas. However, this year, with the increase in the cost of shipping, the non-profit cannot afford to send the boxes of cards.
“This year the organization is asking for those who send Valentine’s cards to include $1 per card. The money received will help to offset the cost of shipping boxes of cards overseas or shipping to representatives for distribution at VA Hospitals,” a press release statement said.
Soldier’s Angels is a non-profit organization that provides aid, comfort, and resources to active military, veterans, and their families. It was founded in 2003 by the mother of two soldiers and it currently has thousands of volunteers that assist veterans, deployed service members, and their families. Solider’s Angels volunteer network is mostly virtual this year due to COVID-19 restrictions but they continue to provide support in the form of care packages, hand-crafted items, and cards and letters.
Although the act of sending a simple card is small, the leaders at Soldier’s Angels note that it can mean a great deal to veterans and those who are deployed.
“Many deployed service members do not receive any mail from home,” said Amy Palmer, Soldiers’ Angels CEO, and a U.S. Air Force Veteran in a press release.
“Receiving a card from someone they may not know, but who supports them nonetheless, is a fantastic way to boost the morale of our service members.”
In addition to those who are deployed, veterans in VA hospitals are experiencing even less interaction from family due to COVID-19 precautions.
Many are staying in a hospital that may be many miles or several states away from their nearest family members,” Palmer said.
“And, due to COVID-19 restrictions, these patients may not have any visitors so receiving a card or other support helps to keep them going.”
If you would like to send a Valentine’s Day card, along with a $1 donation per card, to Soldier’s Angels, you can send it to the address below:
Soldiers’ Angels 2700 NE Loop 410, Suite 310 San Antonio, Texas 78217
If you would like more information about their Valentine’s Day project, you can visit their website here.
If you would like to volunteer with Soldier’s Angels, visit their website here.