MISFIRE: The latest thing to go wrong with the $1.5 trillion F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program: A night-vision camera in the plane’s $400,000 helmet failed during Marine pilot’s test flight aboard the amphibious assault ship America in November. The test pilot was unable to see the ship’s deck as he landed, so he had to dead-reckon where he was above the ship. A spokesman for the Joint Program Office said solutions for the defect will be tested this fall, but given the severity of the problem and the potential for disaster until it is fixed, the Defense Department and prime contractor Lockheed Martin would be well advised to hit the afterburner on a solution.
Look out Amazon and Walmart!
MEDAL: It’s been five years since the Army & Air Force Exchange hired its first ever civilian CEO, Tom Shull, a West Point grad with actual experience working in private-sector retail. And veterans will soon benefit from his efforts to expand and improve military exchanges. Starting later this year, the exchanges will offer online sales and shipping to all honorably discharged veterans (of all services). In effect, its a boost in benefits for retirees who’ll be able to access the exchanges’ cheaper prices on a range of goods. At the same time, it’ll help boost the exchanges sales after years of shrinking the force. Shull says “the intent is to really beat Amazon at their game.” That’s an admirable goal.
How much trouble can one troubled sailor cause?
MISFIRE: The misfire of the year among Navy sailors might go to Peter Mims, the E-3 sailor who was initially thought to be lost at sea and caused a 50-hour manhunt off the coast of Japan only to be found later hiding in an engine room aboard the guided-missile cruiser Shiloh off the coast of Okinawa, Japan. The Navy doled out it’s own version of a misfire on July 13 when Mims was handed undisclosed non-judicial punishment at an secretive admiral’s mast. It’s not clear why Navy leaders opted for a mast instead of a court martial, which meant Mims’ punishment was probably capped at 30-days confinement tops. And it’s not clear why the Navy won’t disclose his punishment. Either way, it’s a good bet Mims will be administratively separated from the Navy soon. The swift closure to the case that created embarrassing headlines around the world suggests the Navy was eager to have this matter resolved. It’s hard to know just how much Mims’ bizarre misconduct cost the Navy in terms of money, readiness and morale. But the sailors aboard the Shiloh and elsewhere who mounted the round-the-clock search-and-rescue effort probably have some idea.
A change-of-command ceremony with a breathtaking view
MEDAL: An Army Special Forces unit in Washington state took multitasking to new heights on July 7. With one well-planned event, three dozen soldiers in a headquarters detachment carried more than 850 pounds of lumber up Granite Mountain, reaching a summit that’s more than a mile above sea level, as part of a change-of command ceremony. And it wasn’t just for PT kicks: The U.S. Forestry Service hadn’t come up with a plan to get the wood to the top of the mountain so it could be used to fix up a fire lookout tower. So, team-building? Check. Core-strength and endurance workout? Check. Community service? Check. Unit business? Check. Plus, it’s a heck of a view.