HOW TO BE MARRIED TO A MARINE FIGHTER PILOT--A Marine Corps pilot's wife: F-4s, F/A-18s and aviators from my perspective.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Aviator Brief III: Squadron Jobs (#3)

The Administration Officer worked for the XO doing all the grunt work of the picayune details of filling out all the paperwork a military bureaucracy can generate--and then taking the shit dished out when it wasn’t done right. Admin was a thankless job even when the pilot liked the XO he worked for.

What was the worst job in the squadron? Call it the Voting Officer. The pilot holding that ‘esteemed’ position had to make sure everyone had absentee ballots if needed. Later, when drug tests came into vogue, the VO made sure guys peed in the bottle. Why was that the worst job? Well, part of an aviator’s mystique and power was tied to the importance of the job he had in the squadron and the excellence in which he performed it. Absentee ballots and drug tests were completely non-essential to flying, with no opportunity for excellence. In fact, being excellent at getting your fellow pilots to pee in the bottle pissed them off in more ways than one.

The main job an officer had in the squadron was to be a pilot or RIO. Pilots were judged on their competency in the air, whether they were ‘a good stick’. This ranking went on a scale from “a damn fine stick’ to ‘unsafe at any speed’. Pity the pilot in VMFA 314 known by the call sign Unsafe-At-Any-Speed. Pity him, but don’t respect him--and if you’re a RIO, try not to fly in his backseat.

RIOs lacked control in the air--except through the radio yelling at their front-seater to land before they ran out of fuel and through a RIOs capacity to command eject. They could decide to eject both seats if the pilot was incapacitated--or too stupid to realize he had reached the point of no return to controlled flight. Since some pilots would rather be dead than look bad at the field, that ability to make the decision to abandon a multi-million dollar airplane often rested on a RIO’s realization that staying alive allowed for redemption, while a smoking hole in the ground did not.

Control. Woo-eee. Some people want to control everything. Some people spend years trying to set the boundaries for a controller--parent, friend, spouse, child, or sibling.
Try to control the world and the world/life/God eventually gets around to giving a lesson and whomping you upside-the-head.

One thing I’ve learned in my lessons: I don’t control everything. I can’t control everything. I don’t want to control everything. That’s the Big Guy’s job. I can only control how I act, not how it is perceived by others. I can only control my words, not how they’re heard and interpreted. I can only control the gifts I give, not how they are used, squandered, rejected, or loved and appreciated.

And staying alive allows for redemption.

One other thing--the wife job has no designator. There is no alpha-wife job versus low-life job. Well--I guess some wives could be designated a ‘good stick’.

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