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.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Aviator Brief III: Squadron Jobs (continued)

The Ops O--Operations Officer--held a lot of power in the squadron because he wrote the flight schedule. Everything depended on getting as many hops--flying the planes--as possible.

The AMO--the Maintenance Officer, Aircraft Maintenance Officer--held a position of respect. As stated before: Everything depended on getting as many hops as possible. If planes were broken, they couldn’t be flown. A good relationship with the man in charge of the troops who fixed the planes the pilots flew was therefore essential.

The Safety Officer’s job also involved keeping planes flying--safely. The ASO--Aircraft Safety Officer--had done his job when there were no accident reports for the quarter, the year, or so many hours of planes in the air. Somehow, AMOs and ASOs had different ideas of how to accomplish this objective. A Safety Officer who micromanaged every little hydraulic fluid leak and stuck valve into a downed airplane created negative attitudes in the AMO, the pilots who wanted maximum hops, and the troops. An airplane taken off flight status meant a pilot and a RIO not flying it. It also meant the troops had to work longer hours repairing it.

Colonel Mike Sullivan maintained, “If twelve aircraft takeoff down the runway everyday, nothing else matters.” Corollary: When all the planes fly, the troops are happy--because when planes are in the air, they don’t have to be fixed, loaded, unloaded, or fueled, and ordinance guys could lift weights and the maintenance guys could jaw-jack, shoot the breeze, and bullshit each other--what they liked to do when all the planes were in the air.

As a Marine wife, I had my own planes to ready for takeoff down the runway everyday--my husband and children. In the early days, I didn’t work outside the home--notice I did not say I did no work--and so my squadron job was support for the troops, my troops, my guy and our three little girls.

I already knew how to bake bread and make cookies, but learning to cook a family meal took a very different skill set and little praise. Many would ooh and aah over homemade wheat bread. Cookies? The cook was a hero who made cookies. But no one applauded casseroles and baked chicken. More likely they’d whine, “Macaroni and cheese tuna casserole, again?” or “I’m allergic to succotash.” No one was really allergic to corn or lima beans in my family; they’d just break out in a bad case of the I-don’t-want-to-touch-those-with-these-lips-itis.

I turned to my main resource of support and information--just like the squadrons are supported by H&MS--other wives. Potlucks are the best way to acquire new recipes--they’re time-tested, family tested, and almost always easy. Besides, at a potluck there was lots of food, but I only had to make one thing; and there were lots of sympathetic ears.

Food to eat and friends to listen. Can’t get much better than that.

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