This is a part one of a three part series I wrote for the the Civil Air Patrol Cadet Newsletter. In August of 2014, I attended a presentation by an Air Force Reserve Helicopter pilot. The story changed my outlook on things significantly. I wanted to tell the cadets that life is a journey but not with the same old stories. The significance of this story for the cadets won’t be the same as it was for me but maybe someday they will remember what I wrote and it will make sense.
Spanky began Air Force Officer Training School in 1991. Upon graduation, he expected to be assigned to a flight training school and eventually fly fighters. Ten days before graduation from OTS, the Air Force closed all new pilot slots. He still had a commitment to work for the Air Force. He now had to decide if he wanted to go to the missile program or become an Aircraft Maintenance Officer. He chose the Maintenance Officer career field.
He was then assigned to the B-1 Bomber Squadron at Dyess Air Force Base near Dallas, Texas. To gain experience about the work the enlisted force did, one hot day, he went to help the maintenance crew with a brake problem prior to a flight. He removed his blouse to keep cool. The job was running late. The flight crew arrived and was frustrated with the maintenance delay. Spanky said the flight crew didn’t treat the maintainers very well. He said that if the flight crew knew he was an officer, they wouldn’t have treated the maintainers like they did. He vowed to not treat anyone as he had been treated especially if there is difference in rank. Everyone was part of the team to get the mission executed.
Meanwhile, Spanky continued to apply for a pilot slot and after a few years, he was assigned a slot. Even though his first choice was to fly fighters, he met someone that was in a rescue squadron and really enjoyed helicopters. Spanky liked the idea of having the mission of helping people and saving lives so he chose to go to helicopter pilot training.
He didn’t get what he wanted. In some ways it was what he needed. He picked up a unique perspective that many of his peers may not have received. He learned about what makes up a team and how to keep a team together.
Next time: All quiet on the southern front.