David's Top JCOC Experiences, No. 3: Flying the Military Way

The Joint Civilian Orientation Conference is designed to give non-military members a deeperunderstanding of what the U.S. Armed Forcesdo and what they are -- their capabilities, culture, history, and more. It's a fascinating program, and DavidGardnerwants to share with his listeners a few things he learned from it. In this segment of theRule Breaker Investingpodcast, David discusses how they got where they were going: in a C-17 Globemaster, the workhorse cargo-mover of our military, capable of carrying three tanks at a time. But they didn't always fly cargo class -- they also rode in an Osprey (the same type as Marine One, the president's helicopter), a Blackhawk, and C-2 Greyhound COD.

A transcript follows the video.

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This podcast was recorded on Aug. 24, 2016.

David Gardner:

No. 3: Number three is the aircraft that I got to ride in, JCOC 86. The C-17, first of all, is a very large plane. It's green and it's really big. It's as big as any commercial jet you'll see. I think it might even be bigger, and it was that C-17 that ferried us around from one airbase to the next. Each morning we would wake up around 5 a.m., which is approximately three hours [earlier] than I like to wake up each morning. Every morning we were up at 5 a.m. and then we were off to get to the airbase to fly to the next military base.

The C-17 was our friend. It can carry three tanks fully inside it. It's modular. You can put in anything you want. They put in two Jiffy Johns and 40 seats. Kind of low-quality theatrical seating, but it gave us the experience of riding the C-17.

Each of us, over the course of the week, was invited up to the cockpit to see what that looked like and talk to the pilots up there. Really the interstitial conversations we had with things like pilots and soldiers throughout the week -- as I've mentioned, and as I will be mentioning at the end -- was really what made it special, but the C-17 was our friend.

I also got to ride an Osprey 22. That's the helicopter that carries the president around Washington, D.C., and other places. Those of us who live in the D.C. area will see the Osprey up there. That was a really cool experience from the Quantico base with the Marines.

And the second-most interesting aircraft I was in was a Black Hawk helicopter. We were taken around Fort Bragg in a Black Hawk helicopter. And this is what a nitwit I was. I boarded the Black Hawk which seats about eight to 10 people. I had a cup of water in one hand and my iPhone in the other. And I got some cool iPhone clips this week. I was like,I'm going to take a cool iPhone clip of me in this three-minute ride in the Black Hawk helicopter.

As it took off, the first five seconds or so looked kind of cinematic. My video looks awesome as we pull away and people are waving at us down below. And then the pounding starts -- the rotors up above my ahead. I was sitting right on the edge, so I'm sitting right next to...the air! These helicopters are only going up about 500 or 600 feet -- at least on the trip we took -- because that's what they do. They go low along the forest and they drop off soldiers in key areas for extraction, sometimes.

So in my case, within about five or six seconds, I realized, "What am I doing with a cup of water that I was thinking of holding?" So I quickly [drank the water] and dropped that into my lap and no longer cared about it, and then with both hands holding on for dear life, I held onto my iPhone as I did fully take this three-minute video.

But within about 30 seconds (I've never seen my iPhone do this before) the video itself starts undulating. And I'm not really sure, to this day, why it looks like that, but as I held it out of the helicopter looking over the forests of Fort Bragg, the whole thing is just shaking like waves. I think it had something to do with the rotor blades pounding down on me. Anyway, suffice it to say I'm really glad I was not such a newb that I dropped (which I thought I would) my iPhone somewhere in the forest and [asked if we could] go back for it at some point. But that was an intense ride in a Black Hawk helicopter.

And then my favorite ride, as we close out number three, had to be in what is known as theC-2 Greyhound. I didn't know it that way. Everybody around the Navy was calling it a COD, which I believe stands for the purpose of the missions that these run, which is "carrier onboard delivery." I can't tell you too much about that, like a lot of other military acronyms, but what I can tell you is that this is the plane that took us from the Norfolk Naval Base to an aircraft carrier.

Now, a lot of people have been aboard an aircraft carrier (and I bet you have). I hadn't. I bet you have, but I had never. You can do it. Sometimes when they're at port, especially, you can go visit it. At Norfolk, or maybe San Diego, or any one of these ports. But I had never done this.

A lot of people will say that it's much larger than you can ever imagine. You can't possibly capture it, people would say, in high definition television, even, or your iPhone picture, just what an aircraft carrier looks like. Then other people will say that these things are actually smaller than you would think. And after having had the experience, I can tell you I'm more in the latter camp. I've been aboard some really big cruise ships. I don't feel like this aircraft carrier is particularly bigger. It might even be smaller than some of the largest cruise ships.

The USS George Washington, which is what I was aboard in the Atlantic Ocean, goes about three football fields in length, so it's just over 1,000 feet long. Anyway, picture any plane that you're on stopping after 1,000 feet. That's what it's actually like to ride in the C-2 Greyhound, literally. As the plane touches down on the aircraft carrier a hook pops up, and the pilot has to be able to hook the plane to stop it, you are going from 145 mph to zero in two seconds.

I wasn't fully prepared for that. I didn't realize that's how things worked. Humorously, our pilot actually missed the hook the first time through, but we didn't fully know, because here's the experience of being on this COD on this Greyhound. There are no windows, so you're sitting in your seat, and you're simply wondering, Wow, when are we going to touch down? When is that two seconds going to happen when it goes from 145 mph to zero? If you've never had that experience -- I hadn't. I would personally prefer to be able to look out a window and know when it's about to happen, but you don't.

And so as we first touched down, I thought we'd done it, because the guys onboard with us (the Navy guys) were signaling we're just about to land, and we felt a hitch. Then it all kind of ended. I literally didn't know if we were still moving forward or not and I thought, Wow! Was that it? That was a lot easier than I thought it would be.

But as it turns out, we had missed the hook. We needed to spend about five minutes circling back around. It's not always easy to hit these hooks with the aircraft carrier listing left and listing right. Different tidal conditions and different winds. So we came down, and that second time, by Jove, I knew we had hit it. The two seconds of going from 145 mph to zero -- are they as intense as anything I've ever felt?

Yes. I've been to Mission Space at Disney in Florida. There's a little bit of that feeling. What was fun, and also was the reverse of that. As we left that day, we were shot...catapulted...off the carrier, zero to 145 mph in two seconds, as well. All of those aircraft experiences were memorable and a very special part of the week.

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