This disabled vet employs wounded warriors at his awesome restaurant - We Are The Mighty
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This disabled vet employs wounded warriors at his awesome restaurant

On the streets of Long Beach, California, a new restaurant has opened where a quadriplegic Navy veteran focuses on hiring other disabled people — especially veterans — to staff the business.


Daniel Tapia, the owner of the restaurant 4th and Olive, told Fox LA, “I’m referred to what’s known as a walking quad, a high functioning quadriplegic. So, I can walk and move but I have a limited strength and feeling in my hands and feet.”

This disabled vet employs wounded warriors at his awesome restaurant
Daniel Tapia is a disabled Navy veteran and co-owner of 4th and Olive. (Photo: YouTube/SupposeWeExpose)

Tapia was a sommelier at another southern California restaurant until he was fired in 2014. Short on employment opportunities and hopeful that he could fight disability discrimination, he decided to launch his own establishment that would provide job opportunities for other disabled veterans.

Some of the vets, like Air Force veteran and bartender John Putnam, are fighting physical battles, but the restaurant also hires people with PTSD and traumatic brain injuries.

This disabled vet employs wounded warriors at his awesome restaurant
John Putnam is a disabled Air Force veteran who now works as a bartender at 4th and Olive. (Photo: YouTube/SupposeWeExpose)

Co-owner and chef Alex McGroarty told Fox that the veterans are great employees.

“They work really hard,” he said. “If they’ve had a little trouble in the past, they are going to be really loyal and work hard for you.”

“By and large, it’s been a great process hiring these vets, and we can’t wait to hire more,” Tapia said in a recent YouTube video.

4th and Olive is located in Long Beach, California and serves food from the Alsace region of France.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3pZONuhGZmE
MIGHTY CULTURE

Recent grads: Look no further than a VA career

Graduating with a degree or certification is an important milestone and a huge accomplishment. Right now, though, you may be facing some economic challenges as you look for a job during a time of fierce competition and high unemployment rates.

Good news: VA is still hiring. New, open positions are posted daily on our career site, www.vacareers.va.gov.


“VA is always looking for motivated, highly qualified candidates in direct patient care and support positions to help us achieve our mission of providing the very best health care to our nation’s Veterans,” said Darren Sherrard, associate director of recruitment marketing at VA.

At VA, we support new graduates through tuition reimbursement and loan forgiveness programs, and provide pathways to continue your education if you choose.

Pay off your loans faster

At VA, you don’t have to let student loan debt hold you back. We provide many programs to help you pay off your debt faster, from several types of tuition reimbursement to federal loan forgiveness for those working in the public sector.

Through the Student Loan Repayment Program (SLRP), some employees may be eligible for up to ,000 in debt repayment assistance. Be sure to ask about eligibility for SLRP when submitting your application.

Medical professionals in hard-to-fill direct patient care positions might be able to receive up to 0,000 in student loan repayment through the Education Debt Repayment Program. Check job descriptions to see if positions are eligible.

Federal jobs, like those at VA, are also eligible for loan forgiveness. After making 120 payments on your loans while employed full time in public service, you could have your remaining debt balance waived.

Continue your education

Gain marketable skills, valuable training and hands-on work experience through the Pathways Recent Graduates Program. You’ll receive a mentor and a supervisor for dedicated guidance and support, and once you successfully complete the program, you may be eligible to convert to a full-time position.

We also provide scholarships to some full- and part-time employees who pursue degrees in health care. As a VA employee, you can sign up for general or specialized courses from nearby colleges and universities or broaden your work experience through temporary assignments to other agencies.

Enjoy other generous benefits

In addition to education support, you’ll receive competitive pay and performance-based salary increases.

Want to explore another part of the country? We have facilities across the United States and its territories.

Other perks include:

  • Up to 49 days of paid time off each year.
  • Paid vacation that accrues right away, unlimited accumulated paid sick leave and 10 paid federal holidays.
  • Premium group health insurance effective on the first full pay period after start date.
  • A robust federal retirement package.

Work at VA

Consider making a VA career your first career. Help care for those who have bravely served their nation.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

popular

This is the ironic reason the Spitfire beat the Bf 109

Every student of history knows that the British won the Battle of Britain in August and September of 1940, and that the Spitfire played a key role. But why was that the case?


The answer is stunningly ironic, and it requires us to look at what both the Spitfire and the Bf 109 were supposed to do.

(Yes, I said Bf 109. Believe it or not, calling Willy Messerschmidt’s signature design a Me 109 isn’t accurate. Messerschmidt worked for the Bavarian Aircraft Works, or Bayerische Flugzeugwerke. Now, Messerschmidt bought the company in 1938, but planes designed before the purchase, like the Bf 109, kept the old designation.)

 

This disabled vet employs wounded warriors at his awesome restaurant

 

So, with that out of the way, let’s look at the Bf 109 and Spitfire.

Both planes were really designed to fulfill the same mission profile: that of a short-range interceptor.

The Spitfire Mk VB had a top speed of 370 miles per hour, could climb 2,600 feet per minute, and had a combat radius of 470 miles. The Bf 109G had a top speed of 398 miles per hour, a range of 621 miles with a drop tank, and could climb 3,345 feet per minute.

In 1940, the Germans needed a plane to escort their bombers, and the Bf 109 was their only option. They tried the Bf 110, a twin-engine plane with long range and heavy firepower. The problem was, the Bf 110 was easily killed by the more maneuverable Spitfires, so the Bf 109 found itself pressed into service.

But even with a drop tank, the Bf 109 just didn’t have the endurance to be a good bomber escort.

 

This disabled vet employs wounded warriors at his awesome restaurant
A Spitfire Mk. 1A flies in 1937. (Photo: Royal Air Force)

The Spitfire was also plagued with short endurance, but during the Battle of Britain — and even over Dunkirk earlier in the summer of 1940 — it was fulfilling its role as a short-range interceptor.

In essence, it was doing what it was designed to do. The Bf 109 was also a short-range interceptor…but it was pressed into service as a bomber escort, and it just couldn’t hack it.

When the United States entered the war, one thing they were truly successful at was coming up with the perfect escort fighter, the P-51 Mustang. You could say they had learned from Nazi Germany’s mistake.

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Meet the first woman to lead a Marine Corps tank platoon

Second Lt. Lillian Polatchek made history on Wednesday when she became the first female graduate of the Army’s Armor Basic Officer Leaders Course, and the first woman to lead a Marine tank platoon.


Polatchek graduated from the Army-led Basic Armor Officer Leaders Course at Fort Benning, Georgia, at the top of her class of 67 Marines and soldiers.

She will soon report to Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, where she will serve as a tank officer with the 2nd Tank Battalion.

Also read: The Marine Corps just spent $6 million on a war tool invented in the barracks

Despite being a trailblazer, she downplayed her accomplishment in a video posted by the Marine Corps.

“Ultimately, I am sort of just looking at it as another Marine graduating from this course.”

The 19-week course at Fort Benning is required for service members to become armor officers. Polatchek’s class had only five Marines in it, but they all graduated in the top 20% of their class, including three in the top five, according to a Marine Corps press statement.

“The small group of Marines in the class worked really well together and that reflects in the class rankings,” Polatchek said.  “So it shows the success of all of our training up to this point and then how we worked well together as a group thanks to our instructors here.”

This disabled vet employs wounded warriors at his awesome restaurant
Polatchek presents an instructor with a graduation gift during the Army’s Armor Basic Officer Leaders Course at Fort Benning. U.S. Marine Corps U.S. Marine Corps

“I think she’s an inspiration for other female Marine who’ve been looking at the corps and considering joining a ground combat military occupational specialty,” Capt. Joshua Pena, a spokesman for Marine Training and Education Command, told Business Insider in a phone interview. “She’s an example, and we’re very proud of her.”

She is the third female Marine officer to complete training for a front-line combat position. The military opened all combat jobs to women in April 2016.

Two female Marines finished artillery officer training in May 2016. Both are currently serving with the 11th Marines at Camp Pendelton in California, Pena said. Two more female Marine officer will start the Marine’s Infantry Officer Course this month to try to become the first women to serve as infantry officers.

More than 30 female Marine officers have previously washed out from the course.

Polatchek is a native of New York, and attended Connecticut College before being commissioned in November 2015. She reported to the Marine Corps Detachment at Fort Benning after graduating from The Basic School at Marine Corp Base Quantico, Virginia.

“A tank platoon has 16 Marines, and that small leadership-size really gives you, as a platoon commander, the ability to directly work with the Marines you’re leading,” Polatchek said. “I’m excited to take everything we’ve learned here and to get a chance to go out to the fleet and apply it.”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

China’s top stealth fighter might have gotten a range boost

China’s most advanced stealth fighter is ready for aerial refueling operations, giving it the ability to pursue targets at greater distances, according to Chinese state media.

The “fifth-generation” Chengdu J-20 stealth fighter entered military service in 2017 and was incorporated into Chinese combat units in February 2018. This aircraft, the pride of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force, put on quite a show at Airshow China 2018 in Zhuhai, where it showed off its payload of missiles for the first time publicly while rocking a new paint job.


China Central Television (CCTV), a state-run broadcaster, revealed recently that the aircraft has been equipped with a retractable refueling probe, which is embedded on the right side of the cockpit. The refueling probe was embedded to help the fighter maintain stealth, something with which the J-20 has struggled. A consistently-exposed probe extending from the fuselage would make the J-20 much more visible to enemy radar systems.

Four of the six onboard missiles are stored internally in a missile bay, a design feature intended to make the J-20 more stealthy, Chinese military experts told China’s Global Times.

This disabled vet employs wounded warriors at his awesome restaurant

The two Chengdu J-20s making their first public appearance.

Although the exact range of the Chinese stealth fighter, nicknamed the “Powerful Dragon,” is unknown, the aircraft has a suspected combat radius of roughly 1,100 kilometers, making it suitable for long-range strikes and intercepts. With aerial refueling capabilities, the J-20 can extend its reach, giving China the ability to better patrol the disputed waterways where it desires to exercise authority.

The J-20 could be refueled by a Chinese HU-6 aerial tanker.

The J-20’s chief designer says the world has yet to see the best that the aircraft has to offer, stressing that certain capabilities were unable to be presented at the recent airshow.

Chinese experts argue that the J-20 as a combat platform superior to the American F-22 Raptor and the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter, two elite fighters which have both been tested in combat. The J-20 has only taken part in combat training exercises. Furthermore, while the J-20 was expected to receive a new engine, the technology remains unreliable, the South China Morning Post recently reported.

The J-20 continues to rely on either Russian imports or inferior Chinese engines, which have, according to some observers, prevented China from achieving the kind of all-aspect stealth of which a true fifth-generation fighter should be capable. The J-20 has decent front-end stealth, but it is noticeably less stealthy at different angles.

The J-20 was rushed into production, but as China works some of the kinks out, it could potentially lead to the development of a much more lethal and effective aircraft.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

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The 13 funniest military memes for the week of May 27

Whatever you’re doing to remember the fallen this Memorial Day weekend, be safe out there.


For everyone who’s looking for a few funny memes, here are 13 that made us laugh this week:

1. Hey, if Disney doesn’t measure wait times, why should DTS?

(via Air Force Nation)

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Oh, wait. Disney totally does.

2. Ooooh, forgot to set the calendar alert for “Stop Being Fat!”

(via Coast Guard Memes)

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Maybe a bunch of fiber and coffee will get you under the line?

SEE ALSO: Use Memorial Day to educate, not shame

3. When a grueling PT session finally moves into the recovery phase:

(via Military Memes)

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Remember to hydrate. You’re doing this all again tomorrow.

4. About time those mannequins started pulling their weight (via Sh-t my LPO says).

This disabled vet employs wounded warriors at his awesome restaurant
He had better do everything perfectly. He’s been through CLS more times than any soldier.

5. Highway to the …

(via Sh-t my LPO says)

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… DAAANGER ZONE! DAAANGER ZONE!

6. Transitioning to civilian life can be hard, Animal Mother (via Pop Smoke).

This disabled vet employs wounded warriors at his awesome restaurant
Welcome to the Buy More.

7. Like airmen would ever sleep in a Winnebago:

(via Air Force Nation)

This disabled vet employs wounded warriors at his awesome restaurant
Maybe, maybe if it has a continental breakfast.

8. Ooooh, sounds like someone’s relationship is getting serious:

(via Military Memes)

This disabled vet employs wounded warriors at his awesome restaurant
Better lock that sh-t down.

9. “You like playing with paint?”

(via Coast Guard Memes)

This disabled vet employs wounded warriors at his awesome restaurant

10. Here’s hoping that your LIBO brief is over or will be soon (via Military Memes).

This disabled vet employs wounded warriors at his awesome restaurant
If not, GET OFF YOUR PHONE DURING THE LIBO BRIEF!

11. “Where can we put the ‘Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment’ number so that airmen will see it?”

(via Maintainer Humor)

This disabled vet employs wounded warriors at his awesome restaurant

12. Daisy the sailor knows her naval traditions (via Sh-t my LPO says).

This disabled vet employs wounded warriors at his awesome restaurant
She raises her in-port colors before going inland for cud.

13. Shouldn’t have mentioned the first sergeant’s divorce if you wanted to stay in this plane of existence (via The Salty Soldier).

This disabled vet employs wounded warriors at his awesome restaurant
Good thing you had your PT belt on. You’ll need it where you’re going.

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This recent pit stop by Navy SEALs was mistaken for a Mexican invasion

When three swift attack boats recently showed up in an unlikely spot — Dana Point Harbor — speculation ran in two directions: The boats were from the Mexican Navy or from Department of Homeland security on an immigration mission.


An Aug. 1 article by Parimal M. Rohit in the Log, a boating and fishing magazine, described the July 11 sighting of the stealth-looking boats in the harbor.

This disabled vet employs wounded warriors at his awesome restaurant
No sir, it wasn’t us. (Photo by J. Michael Schwartz, US Navy)

“These boats might have been moving around out in the open for all to see, but no one really knows why these vessels were visiting Dana Point Harbor in the first place,” Rohit wrote.

The Log reported that officials from three local agencies, OC Parks, the Orange County Sheriff’s Department and the U.S. Coast Guard, said they did not know why these boats were in the harbor or what agency they came from.

Eventually, Rohit reported, the Log confirmed both vessels “were indeed part of the Mexico Navy fleet, as a few people on the internet guessed.”

On Wednesday, Aug. 2, three boats like those mentioned by the Log appeared again in the harbor at the fuel dock, reigniting the speculation.

The next day, the Orange County Sheriff’s Department confirmed to the Register that what the Log had identified as the Mexican Navy was, in fact, U.S. Navy SEALS.

“This is the second time they stopped in our harbor,” he said.

“If the Mexican Navy were in the harbor, we would be informed ahead of time by the Department of Defense or Homeland Security,” Himmel added.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Army ditches search for 7.62 battle rifle — for now

Multiple sources are reporting that the Army has put on hold its search for a new battle rifle to field to troops in overseas operations that fires a heavier round than the service’s current weapon.


The Army has been facing pressure from Congress and some in the service to field a larger caliber rifle to troops fighting ISIS and other militants who use Russian-made weapons and body armor. Defense officials have said the American M4 carbine and its variants fire a 5.56mm round that cannot penetrate new Russian-designed armor and that the answer was to field an immediate supply of rifles chambered in 7.62mm.

This disabled vet employs wounded warriors at his awesome restaurant
The M110 SASS is the Army’s current 7.62 compact sniper rifle. Some service leaders pushed a version of this rifle for more deployed troops to penetrate Russian-made body armor. (U.S. Air Force photo/Justin Connaher)

“We recognize the 5.56mm round, there is a type of body armor it doesn’t penetrate. … Adversarial states are selling it for $250,” Army chief Gen. Mark Milley told lawmakers in May. “There’s a need, an operational need [for a 7.62 rifle]. We think we can do it relatively quickly.”

But less than two months after the Army issued a request from industry to provide up to 50,000 7.62 battle rifles, sources say the service has pulled the plug on the program, citing internal disagreements on the true need for the rifle and cost savings. The shelving comes as the Pentagon is finalizing a broad-based report on the military’s small arms ammunition and what the future needs of the services are given the existing threats.

Some insiders say the service is leaning toward a rifle chambered in an entirely new caliber that has better penetration and fires more accurately at longer distances, and that pursuing an “interim” solution is a waste of time and resources.

“There are systems out there today, on the shelf, that with some very minor modifications could be adapted to munitions that we’re developing at Fort Benning that could be used to penetrate these SAPI plates that our adversaries are developing,” Milley said in May. “It’s not necessarily an either or proposition on that one. I think there’s weapons out there that we can get, in the right caliber, that can enhance the capability of the infantry soldier.”

Other experts say most hard body armor can withstand multiple hits from both 5.56 rounds and 7.62 ones, so spending limited funds on a new rifle in a caliber that current body armor can already resist is simply spending good money after bad.

So for now, it looks like the Army is going to stick with its M4 for now. But with the service holding off on buying an interim 7.62 rifle, it could be that soldiers might be looking at a whole new rifle platform a lot sooner than they thought.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

US aircraft carrier and Japanese warships sail together in South China Sea

The Navy’s forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) participated in a cooperative deployment with Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) ships JS Izumo (DH-183), JS Murasame (DD-101) and JS Akebono (DD-108) June 10-12, 2019.

Reagan, Akebono, Izumo and Murasame conducted communication checks, tactical maneuvering drills and liaison officer exchanges designed to address common maritime security priorities and enhance interoperability at sea.

“Having a Japanese liaison officer aboard to coordinate our underway operations has been beneficial and efficient,” said Lt. Mike Malakowsky, a tactical actions officer aboard Ronald Reagan.

“As we continue to operate together with the JMSDF, it makes us a cohesive unit. They are an integral part of our Strike Group that doubles our capability to respond to any situation.”


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Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force ships with US Navy forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, in background, during a cooperative deployment.

(Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force)

This disabled vet employs wounded warriors at his awesome restaurant

Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force ship JS Murasame, foreground, alongside US Navy forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan during a cooperative deployment.

(Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force)

This disabled vet employs wounded warriors at his awesome restaurant

Japan Maritime Self- Defense Force ship JS Izumo, left, alongside US Navy forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan during a cooperative deployment.

(Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force)

Ronald Reagan, the flagship of Carrier Strike Group 5, provides a combat-ready force that protects and defends the collective maritime interests of its allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific region.

This article originally appeared on United States Navy. Follow @USNavy on Twitter.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Disney unveiled a free ‘bedtime hotline’ and it’s pure magic

There’s something special about the magic of Disney. With Disney’s continued support of our service members and military families with the Armed Forces Salute deep discount and the special military accommodations, we love supporting them.

Now, you can bring that magic to bedtime. Whether it’s for you, your little one, a grandchild or just that Disney lover in your life, calling for a bedtime message is easy, fun, and best of all, it’s free.

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The author’s daughter sound asleep at Disney. Photo/Tessa Robinson

For a limited time (until April 30), ShopDisney.com is offering bedtime messages from some of our favorite Disney characters. Callers can choose a special goodnight greeting from Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy or Goofy. The messages are so endearing, tucking your little one in for the night and telling them to have sweet dreams.

Simply dial: 1(877) 764-2539 and after a quick message you’ll be able to select which character you’d like to hear from. Disney also offer free printable sleep activity cards and sleep progress cards to help your child see bedtime as special, not scary.

This disabled vet employs wounded warriors at his awesome restaurant

Even though spring break trips are canceled and the legendary theme parks have shut down all over the world in response to COVID-19, we all could use a little Disney magic.

When you wish upon a star, makes no difference who you are
Anything your heart desires will come to you
If your heart is in your dream, no request is too extreme
When you wish upon a star as dreamers do.

Sweet dreams from Disney!

Articles

9 amazing facts about General George Custer

Most Americans don’t know much about General George Custer beyond the fact that he was killed — along with all of his troops — by Native American warriors at the Battle of Little Bighorn. Here are 9 other facts that illustrate there was a lot more to the man beyond the bad tactical decisions he made that day:


1. He didn’t graduate with the rest of his West Point class because he got in trouble

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Cadet Custer at West Point.

The night before he was supposed to graduate with the Class of 1861, he was the cadet duty officer. During his watch he came across two junior cadets having a heated discussion, and instead of breaking it up he suggested they settle it by fighting it out. He was punished by the officers on the staff for his lack of judgment and kept from getting his diploma and commission until a few months later.

2. His future father-in-law wasn’t a big fan at first

This disabled vet employs wounded warriors at his awesome restaurant
Custer with his wife Libbie (seated).

Custer had a romantic interest in Libbie Bacon, who was from a prominent Michigan family, but her father was concerned about his working class roots and excessive drinking.

3. He was given sick leave following the Battle of Antietam

This disabled vet employs wounded warriors at his awesome restaurant
Custer (right) with rebel prisoner.

Custer distinguished himself at the bloody Battle of Antietam near Maryland’s border with West Virginia on the Potomac River, but the campaign took a physical and emotional toll. He was given sick leave, which he used to return to Michigan and pursue his relationship with Libbie.

4. He pinned on his first general’s star at age 23

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Custer remains the youngest general officer in U.S. military history.

5. He became a national hero after the Battle of Gettysburg (and his future father-in-law started to like him)

This disabled vet employs wounded warriors at his awesome restaurant
Custer hanging with the boys (and a dog) at Gettysburg.

Custer led several charges at Gettysburg, including one where his horse was shot out from under him. On his final charge (mounted once again), Custer raised his saber and shouted, “come on, you Wolverines!” as he drove off the dismounted Rebels. His glory came at a great cost, however: 50 percent of the soldiers in his company were killed during the battle. The tales of his heroism spread far and wide, and his name was soon synonymous with victory in the war.  His notoriety also shifted the attitude of Libby’s dad, and in time he was able to successfully ask for her hand in marriage.

6. He considered being a coal baron or a politician after the Civil War

Because of his celebrity Custer was well-connected, and as the military grew smaller and his sense of purpose after the war faded, he considered working in both the coal industry and politics. But before he could move on either option, Gen. Sherman summoned him to help move the country westward.

7.  He was demoted to colonel for a while

As tends to happen after every major war, the U.S. Army downsized following the Civil War, which reduced the number of general officer billets. In order to remain on active duty Custer had to accept being reduced to the rank of colonel for a while.

8. While he was popular with troops during the Civil War, his men hated him while he blazed across the wild west

From his first days establishing a more permanent U.S. military presence in Texas until that fateful day on the plains of Montana he was constrained by an unresponsive military bureaucracy and limited resources, and those things contributed to a draconian, self-centered, and often hypocritical leadership style that tended to trash morale.

9. He was killed at Little Bighorn only 15 years after leaving West Point

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Custer with a group of scouts, including Bloody Knife (kneeling left), who warned him about the number of Sioux braves waiting at Little Bighorn.

Custer miscalculated his enemy on June 25, 1876.  When his scout Bloody Knife told him there were more Sioux waiting for the Seventh Cavalry than they had bullets, he simply responded, “Well, I guess we’ll go through them in one day.” Somewhere Sitting Bull was saying the same thing, and his prediction proved to be the accurate one.

Here’s the Battle of Little Bighorn as portrayed in the movie classic “Little Big Man,” starring Dustin Hoffman as Custer’s scout and Richard Mulligan as Custer:

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‘Noose around the neck of ISIS’ as carrier airstrikes move south

ABOARD THE USS GEORGE H.W. BUSH, Persian Gulf — The hiss and scream of F/A-18 Super Hornets launching from the flight deck is business as usual on this city at sea, where sorties on Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria have been launched a dozen or more times a day since early February.


When aircraft loaded with AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles and 1,000-pound bombs aren’t being catapulted into flight, training and qualification flights commence.

Constant through the action is a sort of deck ballet of positioning, as the 74 aircraft based on the ship are guided onto elevators for maintenance and storage, or moved to make room for the daily C-2 Greyhound delivery of people and Amazon packages.

The routine of life aboard the carrier is perhaps the most conventional element of the unconventional war against ISIS.

American troops on the ground in Iraq and Syria, mostly special operations and advisory elements, operate in relative secrecy, with few opportunities for journalists to observe them up close.

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U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Matt Brown

On the carrier, by contrast, public affairs officers host three or four media visits per month, boarding them in comparatively luxurious “distinguished visitor” berthing, complete with monogrammed bathrobes, and offering them interviews with pilots and unit commanding officers.

Aboard the carrier, multiple sailors said they are on their second deployment in support of Operation Inherent Resolve — the coalition anti-ISIS fight — and compared the consistency of operations today favorably to the frenetic nature of the campaign when it first began in 2014.

With OIR about to enter its third year next month, the commander of the Bush carrier strike group said he is seeing progress in the fight.

Related: Iran tests advanced torpedo in Strait of Hormuz

While many strikes continue to target enemy positions in Raqqa, Syria, and Mosul, Iraq, where assaults on ISIS’s urban strongholds continue, the carrier’s fighter pilots are seeing more missions to the south, along the Euphrates River Valley. The strikes follow the path of retreating ISIS leaders, Rear Adm. Ken Whitesell said.

“Their vision of a geographic caliphate is coming to an end,” Whitesell told Military.com. “As they move and that unblinking eye stays on top of them, they will be targeted as they move down the valley.”

The number of fighter sorties launched from the carrier daily ranges from 12 to more than 20, plus several EA-18G Growler electronic warfare sorties, said Capt. Will Pennington, commanding officer of the Bush.

Pilots fly punishing eight-hour missions one to three times a week, in addition to daily training and currency flights. But the mission tempo has stayed largely steady since the carrier deployed, and the air wing has yet to be pushed to its limits, he said.

“We’re not surging to make this happen; this is a comfortable pace. We could up it and still get comfortable,” Pennington said.

The fight is proceeding carefully and deliberately from the air in large part because of the complexity of the urban ground battle. In Iraq, where a little more than half of the air wing’s sorties are tasked, the strike mission was simpler before coalition forces arrived in Mosul, he said.

“There were more targets and less complicated aerials,” Pennington said. “Now that the effort is moving forward and being successful … that operation, both from the ground and the air, needs to be carried out with much more prudence, given civilian entanglement.”

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U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Neo Greene III

In both Mosul and Raqqa, the ground fights have been slow-moving. Coalition troops began their first assault on Mosul in October, and began a campaign to retake Raqqa the following month. Whitesell pointed optimistically to the words of Iraqi Army Chief of Staff Othman Al-Ghanmi, who predicted earlier this month that the fall of ISIS in Mosul would be complete in just three weeks.

It’s not the first time a top official has predicted victory close at hand. But the changing nature of strike targets also gives Whitesell reason to believe the end is near.

In addition to targets including enemy personnel, vehicles and improvised explosive devices, Whitesell said pilots are being tasked with destroying a key source of the militant group’s economic survival: oil wells.

While previously aircraft would target vehicles used to transport the oil, most of those are gone, thanks to the air mission, he said. “Now we get it before it comes out of the ground.”

Whitesell contrasts today’s operational picture to that of 2014, when the Bush became the first aircraft carrier to launch airstrikes on ISIS.

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U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Christopher Gaines

“ISIS had made the push out of Syria and Raqqa, way down, so they had incredible geography. So this carrier was the first striking on the Iraqi assets to stop ISIS at the gates of Baghdad and start moving them back,” he said. “Fast-forward three years to where we are. We’ve got, essentially, a noose tied around the neck of ISIS.”

On a given day, a pilot might be tasked with engaging a specific target over Iraq or Syria, or with flying to a region and remaining “on call,” to be assigned a future target, sometimes with scant notice, by a controller on the ground.

Also read: Here’s how the F-16 Falcon could replace the F-15 Eagle

While pilots’ assignments can change at any time during the mission, they generally know the day’s mission set by the time they’re walking to their aircraft on the flight deck, said Lt. Cmdr. “Butters” Welles, a pilot with Strike Fighter Squadron 37, the “Ragin’ Bulls.” The squadron flies the F/A-18C Hornet.

Multiple pilots who spoke with Military.com asked that their full first and last names not be used, a subtle acknowledgment of online threats ISIS militants have made on various occasions against U.S. troops and their families.

Welles, who is on his fourth combat deployment, said he still feels the power of the moment when dropping ordnance on a ground target.

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U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Sean M. Castellano

It’s a sense similar to other high-stress moments, whether it’s landing on the ship at night or doing something that requires intense attention,” he said. “There’s a sense of time compression, where everything sort of slows down, but you feel like it’s still moving very quickly … it’s definitely a very intense moment.”

At that point, a pilot’s day is far from done. Still ahead are a series of tanker refueling operations, a flight back to the ship, and hours of debriefs. The workday of a pilot with a strike mission can easily stretch to 12 hours or more, the work continuing long after exiting the cockpit.

But after a day in the fight, they return to the ship, where four meals are served daily, gyms and movie channels are available for free time, and routine keeps chaos at bay.

And pilots are well aware of the contrast between the reality of the island-like carrier and that of coalition troops in the gritty, drawn-out ground battles.

“It’s a very different perspective and involvement for us to be up and somewhat detached from what’s going on down on the ground,” Welles said. “So I would say it’s a sense of pride, knowing that we contributed in some way to a very difficult effort on the ground. Because once we’re complete, and we either leave to airborne refuel, or need to go home, then the people we’re talking with are still there in the fight.”

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Marine Corps’ last Prowler returns from final deployment

The last of the Marine Corps‘ remaining EA-6B Prowlers have wrapped up their final mission in the Middle East, where they supported troops taking on the Islamic State group. Now, the electronic-warfare aircraft will soon be headed to the boneyard.

More than 250 members of Marine Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron 2 are returning to North Carolina after spending seven months operating out of Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar. The squadron — the last to fly the service’s decades-old electronic-warfare aircraft — is only about four months away from being deactivated.


But that didn’t slow the Death Jesters downrange, where they were tapped with supporting two campaigns simultaneously: Operation Inherent Resolve in Iraq and Syria, and Operation Freedom’s Sentinel in Afghanistan.

“The mission of the Prowler is and always has been to deny, degrade and disrupt the enemy’s use of the electromagnetic spectrum,” said Capt. Robert Ryland, an electronic-countermeasures officer with VMAQ-2. Being based in Qatar, he added, allowed them to respond to missions for both operations.

Ryland declined to specify how many flight hours the crews flew throughout the deployment, due to operational security concerns. But the operational tempo remained high throughout the deployment, he said.

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A U.S. Marine Corps EA-6B Prowler.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Michael B. Keller)

“The presence of electronic warfare is extremely important to the supported unit,” he said. “Though this is the final EA-6B deployment, the need for electronic warfare will remain high worldwide in the future.”

The Marines were called on to support not only U.S. ground troops, but coalition forces as well. From planning missions to executing them, the squadron worked with troops from several countries.

“There were a lot of people on this deployment who’ve dedicated their entire lives to this aircraft, its community and most importantly, the electronic-warfare mission,” Ryland said.

The end of an era

The Prowler has been a part of the Marine Corps’ aviation arsenal since the Vietnam era. The aircraft has been vital on the battlefield, since, including during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and now in the fight against ISIS terrorists.

Seeing the Prowler used all the way up until its sundown says a lot about its capabilities, said 1st Lt. Sam Stephenson, a spokesman for 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing. Despite the aircraft’s age, Ryland said the Marines with VMAQ-2 were able to maintain high readiness throughout this final deployment.

“There’s sometimes a bit of a misconception that old equals having a hard time getting jets airborne, but that’s actually not the case with the Prowler,” he said.

Ryland credits their skilled maintainers, who’ve worked on Prowlers for a long time. Some joined VMAQ-2 when other Prowler squadrons deactivated.

Now as VMAQ-2 prepares to deactivate, too, the Marines with this squadron are on the lookout for new opportunities. Some will transition to other Marine Corps aircraft, join a different branch, or leave the military when their service time is up, Ryland said.

“Everybody has their own personal plan for what they’ll do next,” Ryland said.

Lt. Col. Greg Sand, EA-6B requirements officer with Marine Corps headquarters, told Military.com in 2017 that the Prowler’s sunset wouldn’t force anyone out of the Marine Corps.

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Three EA-6B Prowlers.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. N.W. Huertas)

If Marines weren’t selected to transfer to work on another aircraft, he said they could always serve in B-billets or support their headquarters. And some with EA-6B aircrews were also transitioning to work with drone squadrons, he said.

Despite the end of the Prowlers’ era, the need for electronic-warfare capabilities on the battlefield isn’t going away. Throughout the aircraft’s sundown process, Stephenson said the Marine Corps has been building up a suite of new electronic-warfare capabilities across the Marine air-ground task force.

According to Marine Corps planning documents, that includes pods or sensors that can be affixed to other aircraft and new signals intelligence and cyber capabilities.

“This will be the new way the Marine Corps plans to transition from utilizing the Prowlers to a more distributed strategy where every platform contributes and functions as a sensor, shooter and sharer and [includes] an EW node,” Stephenson said.

Marine units heading to sea or combat are already carrying some of those capabilities, Sand said. They offer commanders a great deal of flexibility, since they can be added to fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft.

“A MAGTF commander can just walk out onto a flightline now, see the asset, and he or she owns that asset and can task that asset,” Sand said.

And Marine ground troops will still be able to call on joint forces when they need airborne electronic attack capabilities, he added.

“The Prowler in practical terms has been replaced in additional capacities by the Navy [EA-18G] Growler,” Sand said. “That’s a Super Hornet … with a pretty fierce EW capability. The Growler really is the follow-on to the Prowler.”

For now, VMAQ-2 still has a few months of work left before the Prowlers’ final flights. When the squadron does get ready to say goodbye to its beloved aircraft in March 2019, Ryland says they’ll hold a sundown ceremony at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina. Any Marine who worked with the Prowler, whether a year or decades ago, is invited to attend.

“The Prowler has been a really incredible workhorse for the Marine Corps, the United States and allied forces for many, many decades,” Ryland said. “I know the people who fly and fix these aircraft have a lot of respect for them and certainly for those who came before us.

“There is a tremendous amount of hard work and training that goes into performing the Prowler mission,” he added. “It’s a great honor, every time I get to fly in one.”

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

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