By lex, on November 21st, 2008
Got a call from ENS P, who solicited opinions from the local graybeards about flight school what? Three years ago? He’s a LTJG, now.
Got his wings, spent a year instructing in Meridian, recently completed SERE. On his way to the east coast Hornet RAG. Going to fly Super Hornets, good man himself. Positive and upbeat, serious about the work ahead. Attentive to his duty. Kind to his elders. Has come a long way. Has a very long way to go.
Wanted to get together for a beer, maybe, and our old accustomed haunt was agreed upon. Son Number One was asked to join us, and it turned out that his leisure suited our pleasure. It was good seeing him again.
It always is.
He’s on the brink of service selection, will know within a week or so. Three weeks at the outside. Aviation, EOD, surface warfare. It’s a hard time. Everything he’s dreamt about and worked so hard for seems so close, and the destination still so unclear. With everything trembling in the balance.
He’s run the harder course than did his old da, an electrical engineering major. Serving now as the second in command of his NROTC unit and on his way to fleeting up to the number one spot next semester. I’m fiercely proud of him.
And I remember how it was to stand there on the threshold, promised nothing but the opportunity to compete for a position in flight school. A position from whence a successful student, having cleared the non-trivial medical examination and completed aviation pre-flight indoctrination and primary flight training in the T-34C, might hope to compete for jets. From which position the successful student might compete for fighters. And so on.
It all seems so easy looking back on it through the lens of three decades. You get a flight school billet, select for jets, get fighters, cruise successfully, spend twenty years pushing fast metal around, lead young men in combat in a worthy cause. Command a squadron on the line.
It looks a lot different down at the bottom, looking up. There are a lot of Swiss cheese slices that have to line up just so for you to see your destination through the holes. See yourself where you dreamt to be.
You eat them one at a time.
Nothing to be done for it of course, not at this point. You strap the harness on, pull as hard as you can, hope for the best. Pray that the “needs of the service” align with your personal goals. Try to bloom where you’re planted if things don’t work out. Work on a Plan “B” if that’s what’s called for.
Things have changed over the years. A lot of things. Some haven’t. Flight school is fun if you keep your mind right. SERE schools sucks no matter who you are. There are brothers to meet, brothers of other mothers. There are leaders you’d die for, and a few you wouldn’t mind offing. The former outnumber the latter dramatically, especially in the aviation ranks.
But you learn from all of them.
I had my pints, bad the boys farewell – I had places to be. They seemed inclined to stay a bit, talk some more, like young men will.
It’s their Navy now.