Aviation Electronics Technician Airman Apprentice Tony McJohnston of Fighter Attack Squadron 37, the “Ragin’ Bulls,” was inspecting an F/A-18 Hornet aboard the carrier Harry S. Truman in the Persian Gulf when he noticed something unusual in the plane’s wheel well.
He called over his shipmate, Aviation Structural Mechanic (Equipment) 3rd Class Jeremy Smith, to take a look. They reached inside the $45 million jet and pulled out a foreign object not usually found in a modern warplane — a screech owl.
The ship’s newspaper, the Give ’Em Hell Herald, reported that Smith grabbed the bird, instead of shooing it off, because he worried it might flutter into the cockpit of another fighter being lined up to take off.
But the Truman’s sailors weren’t just worried about their pilots; Aviation Structural Mechanic 2nd class Zachary Gorman, a licensed falconer and a lifelong bird handler, took a look at the owl — which sailors nicknamed “FOD,” as in “foreign object damage” — and pronounced it to be in good shape.
“For the most part the bird was healthy, just a little tired and dehydrated,” Gorman told the Herald.
After being assigned a cardboard box as its “stateroom” aboard the carrier, FOD caught a ride off the ship aboard a C-2 Greyhound carrier onboard delivery flight. When it landed, the sailors let it fly free.
“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,” Gorman said.