Over 4, troops, including 1, Royal Marines, and 44 ships from seven countries have conducted wargames over recent weeks. The deployment will end in July. HMS Albion fires a 21 gun salute as the ship approaches Laboe Naval Memorial, near Kiel, Germany, decicated to sailors of all nationalities who have lost their lives at sea.
Aurora, the United States Air Force Academy's year-old gyrfalcon and official mascot, was kidnapped last month.
The goats are in an undisclosed location. Over the years, tighter security for the mascots has only made the raiders bolder, and the missions more elaborate, with months of preparation, choreographed assault teams, and sometimes even military aircraft.
Just last month, Aurora, a glacier-white gyrfalcon and mascot of the Air Force Academy, was abducted in the middle of the night, and nearly met a tragic end.
When the kidnappers stuffed her into a dog crate, Aurora panicked, and beat her wings frantically until they were bloody. And senior commanders have often quietly — and sometimes loudly — encouraged the shenanigans as a boost for school spirit.
Last year, West Point produced an elaborate mascot-stealing spoof video , with the role of the airborne commando played by none other than the officer in charge of discouraging such behavior, the West Point commandant, Brig.
Steven Gilland. Robert Caslen, the academy superintendent at the time. West Point declined to make leaders available to discuss the video or the episode with the Air Force falcon.
West Point would not say. Three years ago their record was But while the military demands obedience to authority, it also prizes a certain reckless audacity. So punishments for mascot raiding are often light, and imposed with a wink. You would never get away with that today.
Carhart said. If you can capture that, there are no boundaries in life. The tradition has largely died out at civilian colleges, but it still resonates at the service academies, where students prepare for careers in covert strikes and plausibly deniable mayhem.
Wesley Clark, a classmate of Mr.
Carhart, wrote in a foreword to Mr. Many of the pranksters have gone on to successful military careers. The raids have not been without casualties, human and animal.
Handlers for Aurora the falcon initially thought she might have to be euthanized after her traumatic abduction in November.
But she has since made a full recovery, and during a recent visit, she plucked vigorously at a dinner of raw quail, flecking her talons with its blood.
Don Rhymer, who oversees the Air Force falcon program. The Navy started keeping the goat at a high-security naval base between appearances, but that precaution did not hinder Mr. Dressed in black with faces darkened by burned cork, he and five other Army cadets made it through two fences topped with barbed wire.
Then, with the goat in sight, they froze as a Ford station wagon pulled up near the Marines guarding its pen. Two college-age women got out of the car.
I think one of them cried. We sneaked in to the goat pen, only 25 feet behind them all, but the guards never turned around.
They were looking at the girls. The Corps does. Wanting payback, the Navy launched Operation Missing Mascot , the daring plan to snatch four Army mules from the center of the West Point campus in broad daylight.
Dressed as military police, 17 midshipmen, including Mr. Each midshipman had a job: door breacher, phone line cutter, mule handler. Wiseman said. As the raiders got away, the Army scrambled helicopters and notified law enforcement, but the midshipmen stuck to back roads and were not stopped by the police until they were pulling in to the Naval Academy campus.
Before the raiders could be arrested, Navy leadership intervened and had them escorted to a waiting pep rally, where they marched the four mules through a cheering sea of midshipmen.
In hindsight, Mr. Wiseman said he has come to believe that the top brass at the academy had probably known about and approved the raid from the outset. Dave Philipps covers veterans and the military, and is a winner of the Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting.
Since joining the Times in , he has covered the military community from the ground up.