From our ship’s newspaper though the folks back home might get a laugh out of this:

Sailors Rescue a Nocturnal Creature
MC3 Damian Martinez

When the words foreign object debris (FOD) come to mind the last thing someone thinks about is an owl. On the morning of March 17 on board USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75), an owl is exactly what was found. What might have been a mishap, ended on a happier note thanks to a few Sailors’ attention to detail.

“I was the safety behind the 300 jet. That’s why I probably ended up there first,” said Aviation Structural Mechanic [Equipment] 3rd class Jeremy Smith assigned to the “Ragin’ Bulls” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 37.
He was called over by Aviation Electronics Technician Airman Apprentice Tony McJohnston, also assigned to VFA-37. What they found was a screech owl, as they later found out.

Aviation Structural Mechanic 2nd class Zachary Gorman assigned to the “Dusty Dogs” of Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron (HS) 7 and a licensed falconer in the United States, was called in to check on the status of the bird.

“When I got there I checked him over to make sure he didn’t have any broken wings and if he was dehydrated or malnourished,” said Gorman.

Gorman and the flight deck Medical team nursed the owl, or “FOD” as Flight Deck Control liked to call him, back to health. One of Smith’s main jobs is to collect FOD from inside the cockpit of the airplanes, which is why the bird was caught instead of scared away.

“The main reason I grabbed it instead of shooing it away was that I was afraid it would fly into the cockpit of another jet,” said Smith.

If the bird had stayed hidden in the cockpit, then panicked during take off, it may have caused a serious problem for the pilot. “If this owl was hiding in a cockpit while a jet was on the catapult. It could possibly bring a jet down if the pilot freaks out because an owl is flying around in his cockpit,” said Smith.

Gorman said after treating the bird they found no real problems that may have endangered the animal. “For the most part the bird was healthy, just a little tired and dehydrated,” said Gorman. He also made sure the animal was OK in a box that was his makeshift “stateroom.” Gorman has been working with birds of prey since the age of 12, prior to the Navy he worked for a rehab center for birds of prey. “I’ve worked with a lot of owls throughout the years, but I never thought I’d have to deal with one on a carrier in the middle of the Arabian Gulf,” said Gorman.

The owl could not reside on board indefinitely so they came up with another plan. “Since he was in a weak condition, flying to land would decrease his chances of survival so we thought we would give him a hand,” said Gorman. Preparations were made to fly the owl off the ship on a Carrier Onboard Delivery (COD) to land, where he was released safely and out of harms way. “It was a free ride. They were going there anyway so we made it a little bit easier on him,” said Gorman. McJohnston’s attention to detail might very well have prevented a serious incident from taking place.


  1. Jim Collins

    Just when you thought you had heard it all. What amazes me is that not only was there someone on board who knew about owls, but that someone thought to get him involved. Kind of makes you want to punch out the next Greenpeacer you meet. :mrgreen:

  2. Hey, I’m a falconer too! We exist! Really! 🙂

    Odds of one current or former falconer being on board an aircraft carrier: about 1 in 70. That was a darn lucky screech owl!

    Kudos to you, Gorman. You most certainly saved FOD’s life.

  3. I love green t-shirts!Im currently collecting them.

  4. Cassie

    Thank you for posting this very neat story! I enjoyed it and it’s nice to see Our Navy in action – it’s nice to know that they are not too busy to take care of the little things, too!

    And the owl was probably there to deliver someone’s magic mail! ha ha!! I (Harry Potter reference for those who don’t know!)

    God Bless you, Navy! 🙂

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