Air Force Carpet Bombing 2.0

Amid budget drought, service takes steps to keep its putting greens lush.

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Back in the old days, the Air Force punched holes in the ground the old-fashioned way: by dropping bombs from B-52s, like the 126,000 sorties they flew over Vietnam between 1965 and 1973 in Operation Arc Light.

On Wednesday, the service announced it is seeking help with a different kind of carpet bombing: conducting missions over the 38 greens and 36 tees (there’s a pair of practice putting greens) at the Bay Palms Golf Complex at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, along Florida’s Gulf coast. The base is home to U.S. Central Command, which ran the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as the U.S. Special Operations Command.

Fittingly, for the Air Force, this process is known as “aerification.” It consists of running lawnmower-like machines outfitted with hollow tubes over the greens and tee boxes. These tines plunge through the grass and into the dirt, extracting soil cylinders the size of a man’s finger. “This requirement is to reduce compaction and open portals for water, oxygen and nutrients for the health of the turf grass,” the Air Force says. “Periodic Air Force exercises,” it adds ominously, “may require the contractor to vacate the work area.”

Carpet Bombing 1.0

The cost of aerification isn’t sky-high — a former golf course superintendent pegs it at about $250 per green or tee – but it does send a strange signal amid the Pentagon’s current budget woes. The roughly 10% budget cut mandated by sequestration has led to grounded airplanes, sharply-reduced training and furloughs. “Sequestration has driven us over the readiness cliff,” says General Mark Welsh, the Air Force chief of staff. “We’re doing the best we can to live with the resources we’ve been given at this point in time.”

Carpet Bombing 2.0

One way to deal with such austerity would be to shutter the military’s golf courses. Why is the U.S. military in the golf business anyway? The Air Force currently operates 65 of the Pentagon’s 152 courses. We’ve never quite figured out how these links are vital to national security. After all, it’s not like the good duffers at MacDill would miss it: there are 72 other golf courses in and around Tampa.

8 comments
HudsonValleyTim
HudsonValleyTim

i drive past the west point golf course each day in the way to work. They opened a percentage of their tee times to the public a few years ago, but it is still mostly private. Worse still, the usma operates its own ski slope...completely private. Complete with lights, lifts, and snowmaking. Both seem to be a monument to wastein the millitary.

MaxWright1
MaxWright1

This is one of the stupidest articles I have ever read. "Oh, it really doesn't cost that much, but it looks 'strange' and lets bring up bombing in Vietnam while we are at it."

And who is "We," as in, "We’ve never quite figured out how these links are vital to national security." We who? You and your liberal d----bag buddies?

Why do you feel a need to write an article like this rather than one that focuses on Obama's seemingly "strange" expenditures amid our budget crisis? Vacations? Family trips? Personal trainers (at over $100K)? Excessive parties and celebrations? Excessive personal assistants, for his wife? etc, etc.

I'm sure he is wasting far more money than the Air Force is on golf courses. Why don't you get your head out of your a$$ and stop trying to make the military look bad, and instead tell the truth about the damn president!

"We've" never quit figured out why you do that.

cent-fan
cent-fan

How else would we be protected from the Varmint Cong?

rickmaze
rickmaze

Easy targets, those military golf courses, but these are mostly self-sustaining businesses, with maintenance and staff covered by greens fees, pro-shops, food service and the like. Taxpayers do help, providing utilities, fire and police protection and some infrastructure support, a consequence of the golf courses being located on a military installation. Hardly the greatest scandal of questionable spending by the Defense Department.

MrObvious
MrObvious

I didn't know that; why do Pentagon operate golf courses? Is it part of some kind of vital rehabilitation of wounded or exhausted soldiers or an amenity to the brass?

What a waste of money.

PaulDirks
PaulDirks

 After all, it’s not like the good duffers at MacDill would miss it: there are 72 other golf courses in and around Tampa.

Clearly the problem is that contact with Civilians is harmful to readiness. Much in the same way that contact with reality can upset political convictions.

shepherdwong
shepherdwong

@rickmaze "...these are mostly self-sustaining businesses..."

You haven't a clue what you're talking about. The "greens fees" don't even cover the water bill for most 36-hole golf courses, including some of the best and most popular courses in the country. Pebble Beach, Augusta and Chevy Chase are making money but most of the industry is struggling to make a dime. I doubt that the Air Force's golf course (which is ridiculous on it's face, considering the economic clusterf#ck most of the rest of the country is suffering from) is sustaining a profit unless it's on the taxpayer's dime.