September 19, 2013
What does a Navy admiral tell a ballroom full of Air Force officers? If you’re vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, just about anything, as long as it’s nice.
Admiral James Winnefeld Jr. used his appearance at the Air Force Association’s conference September 18 at National Harbor, Maryland to stress not only the importance of readiness for the next conflict in the face of shrinking budgets, but his own ties to the Air Force.
In wishing the service a happy 66th birthday, the former Topgun instructor called himself “an island of white in a sea of Air Force blue.” Then Winnefeld reminded the audience of his past. “I’ve had the joy of flying with and against, and literally taking gas from, a lot of talented airmen—always trying to keep them in front of me, which is not an easy task, I assure you. I’ve tried to keep up with a B-1 in mil power [just short of using afterburners] with my old Tomcat in full afterburner.
“I’ve been directed by many a superb Air Force Joint Terminal Air Controller. I’ve lived on an Air Force base. I’ve literally lived with the Air Force, my college roommate for a while having been Phil Breedlove [a four-star general, commander of U.S. European Command, and NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander]. People expected him to be successful.
“I’ve even thrown a football with Peyton Manning in the back of a C-17 high over Afghanistan. I can also say that given my last three jobs [Joint Chiefs of Staff, head of U.S. Northern Command, and head of North American Aerospace Defense Command or NORAD], I now probably know as many Air Force generals by their first names as I do Navy admirals. Heck, in this job, sometimes people call me general, which always quickens my step. And as a Georgia Tech graduate, I can say that I’m somewhat—somewhat—neutral regarding Air Force-Navy football.”
He closed his remarks with thanks from “this humble Naval officer” and exhorted the assembled airmen to “fly, fight, and win!”
December 5, 2012
NASA has its countdown clock. The Aerospace Industries Association has one, too. It ticks down the days, hours, minutes, and seconds until the dreaded “fiscal cliff” arrives on January 1, 2013.
Forgoing the usual big-screen charts and graphics at the group’s 48th annual year-end luncheon on Wednesday, AIA President and CEO Marion Blakey took the stage with the clock as her sole prop.
“Not only are we running out of time, we’re running out of metaphors” for the automatic spending cut known as sequestration, she told about 300 members of the media and industry at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Washington, D.C. “It’s been called everything from a self-inflicted wound to a Satan sandwich.” Next to her, the clock—labeled “Countdown to Over 2 Million American Jobs Lost”—ticked away. In smaller type was printed: “Stop the clock. Write your elected officials today.”
She predicted significant job losses to the aerospace industry if $487 billion is slashed from the Defense Department over the next decade, as Congress has directed, and an additional $500 billion in defense spending is cut due to sequestration.
Despite the looming threat, the numbers for 2012, she said, “still look promising,” with aerospace and defense industry sales up 3.4 percent, from $211 billion last year to $218 billion, aided by sales of civil aircraft. Industry exports also were up, from $85 billion in 2011 to an estimated $95 billion this year. And the number of industry jobs rose over the same period from 625,000 to 629,000.
Still, “we have a lot of work to do” to ensure that the industry remains healthy. “But first, we must avoid the fiscal cliff. More and more, we’re like Thelma and Louise, careening into the void.”
July 23, 2012
In the course of her too-brief career, Sally Ride was many things: astronaut, educator, trail-blazer. But America’s first woman in space, who died of pancreatic cancer July 23 at age 61, also was something else: job recruiter. As the space beat reporter for USA Today in Arlington, Virginia, I was surprised to answer my desk phone one day in the fall of 1999 to hear, “Hi, Paul. It’s Sally Ride. How would you like to come work for us at Space.com?”
Sally was the Web site’s first president, having been recruited by TV’s Lou Dobbs. Dobbs at the time was on hiatus from CNN and had been bitten by the “space bug” to set up a 24/7 Web site devoted to all things space. He and Sally persuaded me to open the first Washington bureau and serve as its chief. (Other bureaus were set up in Florida, Texas, and California.) Since my bureau was in a rented office at NASA headquarters, I got to see Sally whenever she came to the nation’s capital. She was always gracious with the staff and once gave me a signed copy of her book, The Mystery of Mars.
When the dot-com bubble burst in 2000, Dobbs closed the bureaus and laid off staff. (Sally left voluntarily around the same time). I went on to other things, and wasn’t in touch with her again until mid-2010, when I asked her for permission to reprint an article she had written for the magazine about the view of Earth from space. Helpful as ever, she readily granted it.
Sally, I thought, always seemed a bit uncomfortable with her fame. Her famous first shuttle ride, STS-7 in June 1983, came five years before I began covering the program. So I wasn’t there for Sally-mania. But here’s what she recalled in an essay many years later:
“At the end of our mission, after the shuttle landed at Edwards Air Force Base in California, we were flown to Houston to meet our families and the press. At the airport, someone handed me a bouquet of flowers. When we reached the space center and I got out of the limousine, I handed the flowers to the man from NASA who was standing next to me. He handed them back. I handed them back again. This went on a couple of times. We were both a little flustered by everything that was happening.
“That one little action — giving back the flowers — probably touched off more mail to me than anything I ever did or said as an astronaut. I received hundreds of letters, almost evenly divided in what they said. Half of those who wrote were incensed. ‘How could you be so rude and ungracious as to give back the flowers? That’s just like you feminists.’ The other half were thrilled. ‘Good for you! You let them know women don’t just want flowers.’ The truth was, I hadn’t been making a big statement one way or another. I just wanted my hands free.”
The Sally Ride Science Center suggests that those who wish to make a gift in memory of Sally should donate to the Sally Ride Pancreatic Cancer Initiative.