Your Navy Operating Forward – Poland, Spain, China

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Right now your Navy is 100 percent on watch around the globe helping to preserve the American way of life. Whether it be operating and training off the coast of Spain or forward deployed to the Arabian Gulf, the flexibility and presence provided by our U.S. naval forces provides national leaders with great options for protecting and maintaining our national security and interests around the world. The imagery below highlights the Navy’s ability to provide those options by operating forward.


PACIFIC OCEAN: An EA-18G Growler assigned to the “Gauntlets” of Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 136 receives fuel from an F/A-18E Super Hornet assigned to the “Kestrels” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 137 as part of an air power demonstration above the aircreaft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) during a tiger cruise. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Matthew Granito/Released)

ROTA, Spain: Equipment Operator Constructionman Calan DeRue, assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 1, drives a backhoe onto a C-130 Hercules aircraft at Naval Station Rota, Spain. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Brannon Deugan/Released)

MEDITERRANEAN SEA: F/A-18F Super Hornet assigned to the “Black Lions” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 213, fully loaded with 10 GBU-32 1,000 pound bombs, prepares to launch from the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Matt Matlage/Released)

CORAL SEA: Sailors aboard the Henry J. Kaiser-class replenishment oiler USNS Rappahannock (T-AO 204) receive cargo from the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) during a replenishment-at-sea. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Gavin Shields/Released)

SOUTH CHINA SEA: Members of Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit (EODMU) 5 perform a fast-rope exercise from an MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter assigned to the “Golden Falcons” of Helicopter Combat Squadron (HSC) 12 onto the flight deck of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force Izumo-class helicopter destroyer JS Izumo (DDH 183). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Nathan Burke/Released)

USTKA, Poland: A landing craft, air cushion lands on the beach in Ustka, Poland, during an amphibious assault landing demonstration as part of exercise BALTOPS 2017. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist America A. Henry/Released)

ZHANJIANG, China: Sailors assigned to the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Sterett (DDG 104) man the rails as the ship prepares to depart Zhanjiang, China. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Byron C. Linder/Released)

SUBIC BAY, Philippines: The Spearhead-class joint high speed vessel USNS Millinocket (JHSV 3) transits Subic Bay behind the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Sterett (DDG 104). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Byron C. Linder/Released)

MEDITERRANEAN SEA: An MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter assigned to the “Tridents” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 9 carries supplies to the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) during a replenishment-at-sea. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Mario Coto/Released)

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Your Navy Operating Forward – Poland, Spain, China

Your Navy Operating Forward -Sri Lanka, Japan, Suez Canal

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Right now your Navy is 100 percent on watch around the globe helping to preserve the American way of life. Whether it be operating and training off the coast of Spain or forward deployed to the Arabian Gulf, the flexibility and presence provided by our U.S. naval forces provides national leaders with great options for protecting and maintaining our national security and interests around the world. The imagery below highlights the Navy’s ability to provide those options by operating forward.


EAST CHINA SEA: Airman Francis Mateodiaz, from Coamo, Puerto Rico, signals a CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter assigned to the “Dragons” of Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 265 (Reinforced) for landing aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Gavin Shields/Released)

SUEZ CANAL: The aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) prepares to sail under the International Peace Bridge as it transits the Suez Canal. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Christopher Gaines/Released)

MEDITERRANEAN SEA: An F/A-18F Super Hornet attached to the “Blacklions” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 213 is fully loaded with 10 GBU-32 1,000 pound bombs aboard the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Matt Matlage/Released)

PACIFIC OCEAN: An F/A-18E Super Hornet assigned to the “Golden Dragons” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 192 conducts a high-speed flyby during an air-power demonstration in the western Pacific. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Matthew Granito/Released)

OKINAWA, Japan: Sailors prepare to launch Landing Craft Utility (LCU) 1651, assigned to Naval Beach Unit (NBU) 7, from the well deck of the amphibious dock landing ship USS Ashland (LSD 48). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jonathan Clay/Released)

SOUTH CHINA SEA: The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Sterett (DDG 104) conducts a replenishment-at-sea with the dry cargo and ammunition ship USNS Richard E. Byrd (T-AKE 4). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Byron C. Linder/Released)

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka: The Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Erie (CG 70) arrives in Colombo, Sri Lanka to support humanitarian assistance operations in the wake of severe flooding and landslides that devastated many regions of the country. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Joshua Fulton/Released)

MEDITERRANEAN SEA: An EA-18G Growler assigned to the “Lancers” of Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 131 prepares to launch from the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Matt Matlage/Released)

PHILIPPINE SEA: The fleet replenishment oiler USNS John Ericsson (T-AO 194) transits alongside the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) during a replenishment-at-sea. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kenneth Abbate/Released)

YOKOSUKA, Japan: Seaman Daniel Keaton, assigned to the U.S. 7th Fleet flagship USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19), paints the hull of the ship. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Patrick Semales/Released)

MEDITERRANEAN SEA: A rigid-hull inflatable boat approaches the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship USS Mesa Verde (LPD 19) during small boat operations. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Brent Pyfrom/Released)

PACIFIC OCEAN: F/A-18 Hornets and Super Hornets assigned to Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 2 fly over the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70), front, the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Wayne E. Meyer (DDG 108), right, USS Michael Murphy (DDG 112), left, and the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Champlain (CG 57) in the western Pacific. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Sean M. Castellano/Released)

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Your Navy Operating Forward -Sri Lanka, Japan, Suez Canal

From Sea to Space: NASA Selects Three Sailors for 2017 Astronaut Candidate Class

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Three Sailors are on their way to join the growing list of Navy astronauts!

NASA announced June 7 that Lt. Kayla Barron, Lt. Cmdr. Matthew Dominick and Dr. Jonny Kim were selected from a record breaking 18,300 applicants to join its 2017 Astronaut Candidate Class of just 12 people.

2017 NASA astronaut candidates. (U.S. Navy photo courtesy of NASA)
2017 NASA astronaut candidates. (U.S. Navy photo courtesy of NASA)

Barron, Dominick and Kim as well as their fellow astronaut candidates will return to Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, in August to begin two years of training. Then, they could be assigned to any of a variety of missions, including: performing research on the International Space Station, launching from American soil on spacecraft built by commercial companies, and departing for deep space missions on NASA’s new Orion spacecraft and Space Launch System rocket.

Get to know them below!

Lt. Kayla Barron

As a submarine warfare officer, Lt. Kayla Barron was a member of the first class of women to join the submarine community. The Washington native graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy with a Bachelor’s degree in Systems Engineering in 2010. A Gates Cambridge Scholar, Barron earned a Master’s degree in Nuclear Engineering from the University of Cambridge.

Lt. Kayla Barron (U.S. Navy photo courtesy of NASA)
Lt. Kayla Barron (U.S. Navy photo courtesy of NASA)

Her graduate research focused on modeling the fuel cycle for a next-generation, thorium-fueled nuclear reactor concept. Following graduate school, Barron attended the Navy’s nuclear power and submarine officer training before being assigned to USS Maine (SSBN 741), an Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine homeported in Bangor, Washington. Barron qualified as a submarine warfare officer and completed three strategic deterrent patrols while serving as a division officer aboard Maine. At the time of her selection, Barron was serving as the Naval Academy’s superintendent’s flag aide.

Barron has been awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, and various unit commendations. She is a Trident Scholar and distinguished graduate of the Naval Academy.

Upon completion of two years of training as an astronaut candidate, Barron will be assigned technical duties in the Astronaut Office while she awaits a flight assignment.

Lt. Cmdr. Matthew Dominick

Lt. Cmdr. Matthew Dominick, a Colorado native, earned a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from the University of San Diego and a Master of Science degree in Systems Engineering from the Naval Postgraduate School. He graduated from U.S. Naval Test Pilot School. He has accumulated more than 1,600 flight hours in 28 aircraft models, 400 carrier arrestments, 61 combat missions and nearly 200 flight test carrier landings (arrested and touch-and-go).

Lt. Cmdr. Matthew Dominick (U.S. Navy photo courtesy of NASA)
Lt. Cmdr. Matthew Dominick (U.S. Navy photo courtesy of NASA)

Dominick was commissioned through the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps following graduation from the University of San Diego in 2005 and reported to Pensacola, Florida, for flight training. He was designated as a naval aviator in 2007 and reported to Strike Fighter Squadron 106, Naval Air Station Oceana, Virginia, for transition to the F/A‑18E Super Hornet. Following his initial training, Dominick was assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron 143. He made two deployments to the North Arabian Sea, flying close air support missions in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. While with Strike Fighter Squadron 143, Dominick was selected to attend the Naval Postgraduate School / U.S. Naval Test Pilot School Co-Operative Program, where he earned a Master of Science in Systems Engineering from the Naval Post Graduate School and graduated from the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School.

Designated a developmental test pilot in 2013, Dominick was assigned to the fixed wing carrier suitability flight test department of Air Test Evaluation Squadron 23. There, he served as developmental flight test project officer for a variety of carrier suitability test programs, including MAGIC CARPET, Joint Precision Approach & Landing Systems, Infrared Search and Track Pod, and the precision approach and landing certification of aircraft carriers. He flew developmental flight tests in the F/A-18ABCD, F/A-18E/F, and EA-18G. Additionally, he contributed to the X-47B (Unmanned Carrier Launched Surveillance and Strike), V‑22, T-45, E-2C, C-2A and F-35C test programs.

In 2016, Dominick returned to an operational naval squadron, Strike Fighter Squadron 115, flying F/A-18E Super Hornets in the forward deployed naval forces stationed in Atsugi, Japan.

At the time of his selection as an astronaut candidate in June 2017, Dominick was at sea aboard USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) serving as the department head for Strike Fighter Squadron 115.

Dominick was the 2015 Naval Test Wing Atlantic Test Pilot of the Year. He has been awarded the Strike Flight Air Medal (three awards); Navy Marine Corps Commendation Medal, and Navy Marine Corps Achievement Medal (three awards)

Upon completion of two years of training as an astronaut candidate, Dominick will be assigned technical duties in the Astronaut Office while he awaits a flight assignment.

Dr. Jonny Kim

Dr. Jonny Kim (U.S. Navy photo courtesy of NASA)
Dr. Jonny Kim (U.S. Navy photo courtesy of NASA)

Dr. Jonny Kim, a California native, trained and operated as a Navy SEAL, completing more than 100 combat operations and earning a Silver Star and Bronze Star with Combat “V”. Afterward, he went on to complete a degree in Mathematics at the University of San Diego and a Doctorate of Medicine at Harvard Medical School.

Kim enlisted in the Navy as a seaman recruit following graduation from Santa Monica High School in 2002. After completion of training at Naval Special Warfare, he was assigned as a special warfare operator to SEAL Team 3. He served as a combat medic, sniper, navigator and point man on more than 100 combat operations spanning two deployments to the Middle East before he was commissioned into the Medical Corps following graduation from the University of San Diego in 2012.

At the time of his selection in June 2017, Kim was a resident physician in emergency medicine.

Kim’s military decorations include the Silver Star Medal, Bronze Star Medal with Combat “V”; Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with Combat “V”; and various other service awards.

Upon completion of two years of training as an astronaut candidate, Kim will be assigned technical duties in the Astronaut Office while he awaits a flight assignment.

Comment below to join us in congratulating these Sailors!


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From Sea to Space: NASA Selects Three Sailors for 2017 Astronaut Candidate Class

How’s Your U.S. Navy “Big E” Trivia?

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From Naval History and Heritage Command
Communication and Outreach Division

On Feb. 3, 2017, USS Enterprise (CVN 65), the eighth ship to bear the name, was formally decommissioned. For some it can be a sad day to see a ship retire, but for others it is a time to celebrate. We’re in the latter category. Especially since there’s so much to celebrate. Having steamed more than a million miles – that’s about 40 trips around the planet at the equator – and participated in every major operation of her age, Enterprise’s story is an amazing one! So put on your thinking caps and show us how well you know the story of the “Big E.”

Q: What was the first type of aircraft to make an arrested landing aboard Enterprise?

A: Enterprise went to sea for the first time as a commissioned ship for her shakedown cruise, on Jan. 12, 1962. During this underway period she began fleet flight operations, when Commander George C. Talley, Jr., Commander Air Group (CAG), Carrier Air Group (CVG)-1 (Tail Code AB), made an arrested landing and catapult launch in a Ling Temco Vought F-8B Crusader (BuNo 145375) from Fighter Squadron (VF) 62 on Jan. 17.

Learn more about the early days of USS Enterprise.

Commander George Talley lands his Vought F8U-1 Crusader (Bu# 145375) on board, January 17, 1962. This was the ship's first landing. Note phased array radars on island.
Commander George Talley lands his Vought F8U-1 Crusader (Bu# 145375) on board, January 17, 1962. This was the ship’s first landing. Note phased array radars on island.

Q: How many combat deployments did Enterprise make in support of the Vietnam War?

A: As 1966 began, Enterprise had been on deployment for about a month – the first nuclear powered ship to engage in combat operations. That 1966 deployment would be the first of six combat deployments to Southeast Asia in support of the Vietnam War. Some of the stories from these deployments are truly hair-raising and in many cases heroic by all measures.

Read more about the first few of Enterprise’s combat deployments.

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The nuclear-powered Attack Carrier USS ENTERPRISE (CVAN-65) steams into the wind of the South China Sea as she launches an A-4 Skyhawk jet bomber on its way to an air strike in North Vietnam, 28 May 1966.

Q: During her 51 years of active service, how many Sailors served aboard Enterprise?

A: When the ship returned to its homeport of Norfolk, Virginia, from its final deployment Nov. 4, 2012, she had deployed a total of 25 times and participated in every major conflict since the Cuban Missile Crisis and had become the home to more than 100,000 Sailors. Enterprise has been homeported in both Alameda, California, and Norfolk, and conducted operations in every region of the world.

For more information about the life of this storied ship, check out the notable ships page on the website of the Naval History and Heritage Command.

NORFOLK (Nov. 4, 2012) Port operations personnel stand ready for line handling as the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65) arrives at Naval Station Norfolk. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Alice C. Hall/Released)
NORFOLK (Nov. 4, 2012) Port operations personnel stand ready for line handling as the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65) arrives at Naval Station Norfolk. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Alice C. Hall/Released)

Q:   What was the first aircraft carrier to deploy with the F-14 Tomcat?

A: Of course, it’s Enterprise! On Aug. 12, 1973, Enterprise entered Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, Washington. Among projects completed during her extended selected restricted availability (ESRA) were repairs and alterations to enable the ship to operate Grumman F-14A Tomcats. Equipped with AIM-54A Phoenix air-to-air missiles, Tomcats could engage targets up to 100 miles out.

Find out more about the ship’s life in the early 70s.

Aboard USS ENTERPRISE CVAN-65. The squadron marking on this aircraft is the same as the original VF-2 aircraft on the first carrier, USS LANGLEY.
Aboard USS ENTERPRISE CVAN-65. The squadron marking on this aircraft is the same as the original VF-2 aircraft on the first carrier, USS LANGLEY.

Q:  How does an aircraft carrier pull a Houdini?

A: With a little help from her friends. During the Cold War Enterprise, like many large Navy ships, was nearly always shadowed by sometimes troublesome Soviet spy ships. In February 1977, a Soviet rocket cruiser was making a nuisance of himself when Enterprise and USS Long Beach (CGN 9) teamed up to give the bear the slip for three days. The secret to their success? Complete reliance on satellite communications and maintaining a strict emissions control (EmCon) posture. 

USS Enterprise (CVN-65) Underway off Southern California, Dec. 11, 1978. Photographed by PH3 Ted Kappler. Official U.S. Navy Photograph.
USS Enterprise (CVN-65) Underway off Southern California, Dec. 11, 1978. Photographed by PH3 Ted Kappler. Official U.S. Navy Photograph.

Q: On April 28, 1983, while returning home from deployment, CVN-65 ran aground. Who was the Enterprise helmsman onboard the ship that day?

A: Lt. Cmdr. Hikaru Sulu, Starfleet. Okay trick question! But it’s true: Actor George Takei, who portrayed the helmsman of the fictional starship Enterprise was aboard that day, but he was not at the helm. The accompanying photos are of a die cast model of the starship, which is one of many Star Trek related artifacts collected by the ship for which the starship is named. The model became a part of the artifact collection of the Naval History and Heritage Command in 2006. Oh, and the grounding was temporary and the ship got underway a few hours later as the tide rose. During the cruise, the ship’s air wing, CVW-11, had flown approximately 29,000 hours and recorded over 11,000 traps.

Find out more about the early 1980’s history of Enterprise.

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Q: In what decade did Enterprise become the first nuclear powered aircraft carrier to transit the Suez Canal?

A: The 1980’s. Beginning at 3 a.m. on April 29, 1986, Enterprise became the first nuclear powered carrier to transit the Suez Canal. When she exited the north end of the canal 3:14 p.m. when she entered the Med for the first time in almost 22 years.

Read more about life on Enterprise in the late 80’s.

The US Navy's nuclear powered aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65) transits the Suez Canal. Enterprise, is transiting the Suez Canal and Red Sea enroute to the Persian Gulf in support of Operation Southern Watch.
The US Navy’s nuclear powered aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65) transits the Suez Canal. Enterprise, is transiting the Suez Canal and Red Sea enroute to the Persian Gulf in support of Operation Southern Watch.

Q: In what year did Enterprise receive its first local area network (LAN)?

A: 1993, during which Enterprise was entering her third year in overhaul. One of the most important changes to Enterprise during that time was the installation of a Local Area Network (LAN), involving the running of thousands of feet of cable, both coaxial and fiber optic. The ship still had more than a year of overhaul to complete before leaving the shipyard on Sept. 27, 1994.

Read more about the overhaul and how the ship’s crew maintained its combat edge.

A port quarter view of the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS ENTERPRISE (CVN-65) undergoing overhaul at the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Corporation on the James River.
A port quarter view of the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS ENTERPRISE (CVN-65) undergoing overhaul at the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Corporation on the James River.

Q: How many pounds of ordnance did Enterprise aircraft drop on Iraq in the four days Operation Desert Fox?

A: 692,000 pounds. Operation Desert Fox was a coalition air campaign against Iraq Dec. 16-20, 1998, in response to that country’s failure to cooperate with United Nations resolutions. Enterprise launched more than 70 Navy and Marine Corps strike and strike support aircraft. Targets included weapons facilities, security sites and forces, integrated air defense and airfields, and Iraqi command and control infrastructure. Direct hits ripped apart an Iraqi military intelligence center, and four of the five barracks housing a Republican Guard H.Q. were demolished. There was no opposition from Iraqi aircraft. Enterprise launched and recovered 297 combat sorties during 70 hours of operations, with CVW-3 aircraft dropping 200 precision guided bombs, more than 30 free-fall weapons and more than 80 anti-radiation missiles.

Read more about Enterprise’s final days in the 20th century.

The aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65) makes its way to the southern end of its operating area the morning after the first wave of air strikes against Iraq during Desert Fox.
The aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65) makes its way to the southern end of its operating area the morning after the first wave of air strikes against Iraq during Desert Fox.

Q: Where was Enterprise on Sept. 11, 2001.

A: She had just left the Arabian Gulf, only two days earlier having conducted strikes against Iraq as part of Operation Southern Watch. She was headed south to Capetown for exercises with the South African Navy. Upon learning of the attacks on America, she turned around and charged north to a position 100 miles south of Pakistan. She was quickly joined by a large force of American and coalition ships and just a few weeks after the attack, she went into combat once again completing the final few weeks of her deployment before heading home. During that time, the ship flew around the clock for 18 consecutive days, dropping more than 829,150 pounds of ordnance on al Qaeda and Taliban targets. The ship completed 10,111 incident free launches and arrestments. A total of 13,624 sorties (8,182 day and 5,442 night) were flown from the deck of Enterprise in 2001, resulting in 28,262 flight hours (17,495 day and 10,767 night). By the time she returned home to a grateful nation on Nov. 10, 2001, she had steamed 90,426 nautical miles, conducting six moorings, 22 anchorages and 48 underway replenishments.

Find out more about Enterprise in a new century.

An F-14 "Tomcat" from the "Black Aces" of Fighter Squadron Four One (VF-41) roars off the flight deck of USS Enterprise (CVN 65), Sept. 12, 2001. (U.S. Navy photo by Photographer's Mate 3rd Class Clifford L. H. Davis/Released)
An F-14 “Tomcat” from the “Black Aces” of Fighter Squadron Four One (VF-41) roars off the flight deck of USS Enterprise (CVN 65), Sept. 12, 2001. (U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 3rd Class Clifford L. H. Davis/Released)


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How’s Your U.S. Navy “Big E” Trivia?

U.S. Air Force Live

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By Staff Sgt. Jake Barreiro
51st Fighter Wing Public Affairs

“Without mercy, man is like a beast. Even if you are hard on yourself, be merciful to others.” – Quote from Kenji Mizoguchi’s 1954 film, Sansho the Bailiff

On Aug. 20, 2012, I woke up at 2:30 a.m. My bed, usually crowded with my wife, Cece, and two cats, Miki and Lulu, was empty. Down the hallway of the one-floor, three-bedroom house we rented in Cabot, Arkansas, I heard noise from the kitchen. When I went to see what the noise was, I found my 23-year-old wife on the floor and erratically painting on a canvas.

The painting was of an Airman Battle Uniform next to a bottle of prescribed depression medication. Streaks and spots of deep red paint blotched the canvas, which also had gashes and holes littered in it because Cece had been stabbing it with a kitchen knife.

“What the (obscenity) are you doing?” I asked.

She looked up at me, her body shaking, our two cats flanking her sides. I saw a hurt face and fear-riddled eyes, scorched red from sleep deprivation and sobbing. With our little family together in the kitchen that morning, “I’m sorry,” was all she could say.

Lessons in Compassion

Months earlier, Cece was sent to stay for a week at the Bridgeway, a mental health hospital in Little Rock, Arkansas. Three weeks later, she went back for another week for what eventually became a diagnosis of severe anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

An Airman herself, recent military-related stress of deployments, family separation and being over worked, coupled with the loss of her uncle and past personal traumas, led to my wife’s sleeping problems. She lived in a constant state of fear. Unable to sleep at night, she’d only shake helplessly in the bed next to me. These mounting pressures for my wife led to a serious conflict in our relationship for the first time since we met in 2007. I was seeing a different landscape of what had always been a very happy woman.

Strife at work, a splintered relationship at home, being put on depression medication and sleeping pills, being taken from her home twice for treatment, being whispered about by co-workers, being unambiguously accused of faking her condition by her first sergeant and awaiting the upcoming staff sergeant promotion results sent Cece into a severe panic that morning.

After my wife apologized, I talked her into getting up. We picked up the canvas and painting supplies, but I kept thinking about the red streaks of paint all over the floor and that I’d have to clean it up later. I then made Cece lay in bed until it was time for her to get dressed for her 4 a.m. shift.

The rest of that day reverberates in my conscience. The memories echo in my mind like the lingering twang of a released guitar string.

I received a call from my wife’s co-worker at 6 a.m., telling me to get to their workplace immediately. I found Cece pale-faced, shaking and not wearing boots or belt. I remember taking her to mental health and being unable to sit in on the confidential session. Cece was discharged from mental health and sent back to work. Then, we found out she made staff sergeant, but we didn’t feel like celebrating like we did when I made it two years earlier. I remember a silent car ride home.

As soon as we got to the house, I tried to help Cece sleep, but I couldn’t quell her anxiety. We lay in bed, me holding her and telling her to go to sleep while she shook and whimpered in pain. I silently scorned her condition, constantly thinking about how much effort I had to make for her and how her problems were affecting my behavior. It was a sweet relief when Cece finally stopped shaking and slept. When I finally went to sleep that night, I was glad such an emotionally taxing day was over.

Afterward, things didn’t become easier for us. We kept having arguments, and I became increasingly agitated with my wife, who was still suffering, physically and emotionally. Our problems escalated until one night, after getting off a 4 a.m. – 1 p.m. shift, Cece hadn’t come home by 6:30 p.m., and we argued via text message. At one point I threatened to leave her and told her I couldn’t handle her condition anymore.

After she got home, Cece told me she was thinking about killing herself, and that she thought about intentionally crashing her car into a tree on one of Arkansas’ back roads. Talking to a person so heartlessly while they suffered still shames me. We once again lay on the bed, her unable to sleep or relax and me holding her. I remember vividly what she said to me, “I just need you to help me right now. You know I’ll help you when you need it.”

She was right. During our five years together there were times when I was, at best, difficult to get along with and at worst insufferable.

I’ve always had a confrontational and contentious nature. This makes it hard for me to connect with people, and in my early 20s I often felt lonely and alienated, which led to an unhappiness that I often projected onto other people. Yet, even in my worst moods, I remember my wife holding onto me, joking with me, making me smile or laugh. She may have never known, but her signature smile, a beaming, full teeth-baring grin, often elevated me from the depths of negativity. So when she pleaded with me so bluntly, I couldn’t feel anything but shame and compassion.

This proved a turning point for us, and after that night I tried to act with mercy or compassion toward her struggle. For all of us, life has summits and cellars. No one is exempt from adversity and at times we all need kindness. After that day, I was committed to being supportive before critical and being helpful before skeptical. Things started to improve for both of us.

That’s not to imply everything changed right away. Mental conditions don’t evaporate or disappear because of good intentions. It takes commitment and patience to persevere the brutalities of depression, anxiety and PTSD. My wife still has hard days and difficult moments like everyone else. Traumatic memories still haunt her, but our efforts to keep an open, honest, nonjudgmental and supportive dialogue about ourselves helps. Just a year later, I was confident enough in her recovery to volunteer for an unaccompanied tour to South Korea. Cece is now out of the Air Force and going to school full time, and we’re both happily pursuing our goals and supporting each other as much as we ever have.

So why should anyone care about this highly personal story? Because there are many people like my wife and many people like me. There are people suffering, scarred, afflicted, overburdened and unfairly judged — unsure if something is wrong with them or if they can even ask for help. There are also people in a position to help, but unsure of what to do.

For the last 65 years, May has been designated as Mental Health Awareness Month. For a lot of us these monthly observances, of which there are plenty, are easy to dismiss or blithely endorse. It usually takes a personal stake in the issue to really care about it. Not just my wife, but personal experiences with my family have left me an advocate for the accepting treatment of suffering people. That means not only encouraging those who need it to seek help, but also encouraging others to treat the suffering with patience and kindness, even if they can’t understand them.

I’ve seen the consequences when people don’t get support, and while there’s no catchall method to stop someone from hurting him or herself, treating all people with dignity and compassion is the right place to start. Sometimes we don’t understand the influence we cast on others, how a kind action or showing genuine concern can seriously alter somebody’s day for good and how meanness, cruelty or indifference can do the opposite. It’s possible that kindness is all it can take to convince somebody they can ask for help, or that they’re valuable enough to be cared about.

Cece tells me the hardest thing about asking for help is the inevitable stigma that comes with it. She used to be afraid to talk about her feelings and problems because it was embarrassing and perceived as weakness. Also, personal cases of depression are hard for others to understand.

Much effort has been made to promote the truth that asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness, but this gives little comfort to people when they’re being ostracized at work or being treated different by friends and family. This is why all of us have a responsibility to value and care for the people around us. It’s important to treat those seeking help kindly, because despite progressive efforts, negative attitudes still exist.

However, I’m not writing this to ask you to change your mind about mental health. If you truly believe someone is faking a condition or if you think they’re too sensitive or weak for asking for help, chances are I’m not going to convince you otherwise.

Instead, compassion is my gospel. Treat those who are suffering, even if you’re skeptical, with mercy.

There’s no simple solution to the ailments of mental health. No acronyms, pills, PowerPoint slides, books, slogans or training can cure anxiety, depression or PTSD. There is, however, a universally good starting point, which is being respectful and compassionate to everyone, but especially to those who share their struggles and seek help.

If we do this, the worst thing we can do is be excessively nice. The best we can do may be to bring someone back from the abyss. Kindness, mercy and compassion are traits I value in people above all else. Her abundance of these is one of the reasons I fell in love with Cece when we were dating in 2008, and her enduring and helpful nature has inspired me and helped me be a better person ever since.

Celebrated poet John Donne poignantly wrote: “Any man’s death diminishes me because I am involved in mankind.”

As human beings, Americans, service members and Airmen, we should not take the suffering of our own lightly or callously, but as a detriment to our family. Every single loss diminishes the whole, and every single person in the world is important.

In our living room, centered above our couch, we proudly display the painting Cece attacked with a knife. Its presence reminds me that we all have flaws and need support in our weakest moments. As individual human beings, the mistakes we make and scars we give and take can’t be undone any more than knife punctures can be erased from a canvas. We can never take back what we say and do. The wounds we endure never completely heal. However, as someone’s fellow human being, we have the chance to help by supporting each other. The most important thing in life isn’t what you did or what you’ll do, but what you’re willing to do now. There’s no nobler impulse in mankind than mercy, and there’s an abundance of people in the world who need it. Help them.

PHOTO: Staff Sgt. Jake Barreiro and Cece Guadalupe Ortiz days before their wedding Jan. 3, 2011, in Dover, Del. They first met in December 2007, began dating June 1, 2008, and got married Jan. 8, 2011. (Courtesy photo by Cynthia Ticas)

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U.S. Air Force Live

Reserve F-16 Pilot Helps Squelch Wildfires Across West

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A small and maneuverable Beech King Air, like the one flown by Lt. Col. Paul Delmonte while on the job with the U.S. Forest Service, pulls away after leading a tanker to a retardant drop spot over a wildfire. During peak fire season, May to October, forest service lead plane pilots can assist in putting out as many as 60 fires. (Courtesy photo)

By Kari Tilton
419th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

Air Force Reserve F-16 pilot Lt. Col. Paul “Buster” Delmonte flies several types of aircraft as part of his full-time civilian job, but instead of dropping bombs he delivers an entirely different kind of weapon.

Delmonte, the 466th Fighter Squadron commander, is an aerial firefighter and aviation safety manager with the U.S. Forest Service. Between May and October each year, he flies above fiery mountain ranges to drop smokejumpers and direct the delivery of fire retardant.

He’s currently in Durango, Colo. with more than 1,400 forest service personnel to extinguish the West Fork Complex Fire, which as of today has consumed more than 83,000 acres. He’s also working alongside Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard aircrews deployed there with specially equipped C-130s that are dropping thousands of gallons of retardant on the blazing wilderness area.

Just like flying in a combat zone, conditions above wildfires are often rough and the drop zones are always challenging.

“Typically, we drop the smokejumpers over tight clearings in the forest canopy,” Delmonte said. “It takes about 30 minutes to empty the plane and it can be challenging to maneuver through narrow canyons while steering clear of trees and other obstacles.”

“If the fire is big, often times smoke combined with the angle of the sun will make it extremely difficult to see,” he added.

When transporting smokejumpers, Delmonte flies either a DHC-6 or DC3-TP aircraft. Both are known for their ability to fly at slow speeds and in tight circles. The smokejumpers jump from the aircraft, parachuting into rugged terrain to reach areas that are hard to access by road.

When fire retardant is the weapon of choice, Delmonte flies as “lead plane” in a Beech King Air, a smaller, highly maneuverable aircraft. His role is to orchestrate the location and timing for large forest service tankers to drop the retardant, foam or water.

“We have a smoke generator onboard – similar to airshow aircraft – so we can mark the start point and designate the best course for the tankers,” Delmonte said. “Piloting the lead plane is much like being an F-16 FAC-A (forward air control – airborne). I get the objectives and priorities from the ground incident commander and then go to work sequencing other aircraft over the target.”

The forest service can send Delmonte anywhere in the U.S., but he typically covers hot spots in the western U.S. like New Mexico, Arizona, Idaho, Montana and California where wildfires are most common in the hot, dry summer months.

During a busy season, a lead plane pilot can assist in putting out as many as 60 fires, he said. So far this year, he’s been called to New Mexico, California, Idaho and Colorado.

But with weather reports calling for a record-setting heat wave across the western U.S. this weekend, things are likely just warming up.

“I expect I’ll get busier real soon, as July and August are typically our biggest months,” he said.

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Reserve F-16 Pilot Helps Squelch Wildfires Across West

Joint Strike Fighter F-35C CF-6 Ferry & Arrival

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The first U.S. Navy-owned Lockheed Martin F-35C Lightning II carrier variant (CV) arrived at its new home with the Navy’s Strike Fighter Squadron 101 (VFA) in Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.

The arrival of this first jet fighter is just one of many to come. Strike Fighter Squadron 101 is set to be the replacement squadron with the F-35C Lightning II CV, whom will train both pilots and maintainers.

But, what’s so special about this aircraft? You can find out here!

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Original source – 

Joint Strike Fighter F-35C CF-6 Ferry & Arrival