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.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Aviator Brief XX: Quick Change #3

When the Change of Command ceremony was held without a marching band or printed programs, presided over by the frown of the Group Commander, and with the outgoing CO conspicuously absent, did Duke Lynne, the brand new CO, feel any need to knock wood, cross his fingers, or light a candle in the base chapel?

Duke had been on the schedule to fly well before the emergency change in squadron leadership. What better way to celebrate, or mourn the ouster of a friend, than to launch into the sky? The flight of two prepared to take off on their briefed, low-level navigation mission. Unfortunately, Duke’s plane did not cooperate in the celebration. It broke in the chocks seriously enough that Duke and the plane were grounded.

The FNG pilot in the other plane asked if he could continue, flying the briefed mission solo. Duke saw no reason both should suffer from his bad luck. He cautioned the new lieutenant, on the radio, to stay above 5000 feet--although the original brief had been down to 1300 feet above ground level.

Perhaps the radio was broken, too.

The FNG lieutenant returned and landed--miraculously--at MCAS El Toro in an A-4 that had its canopy and tail sawn almost in half by 90 to 100 feet of high tension wire. No ceremony was held for Duke’s ouster.

His tenure as a CO? Six hours.

Sometimes shit happens through no fault of our own. In the Corps, the final responsibility rests with the Commanding Officer. I hope Duke went on to live a long and happy life regardless of his tenure as a CO of a squadron.

I know I have not been a perfect wife or an infallible mother. I wish I could have been better at either task. But no one gave me a training manual! I never had the equivalent of carrier quals. Flying the ball in a marriage with teenage daughters is landing without an LSO, the ball, or a hook on a pitching deck in a howling gale at night.

So I am working on accepting that I did the best I could--just as my dysfunctional parents did the best they could. Each day I try to make the world a bit better for someone else. I can’t fix what I did. I can live each day forward while hoping I am not trailing high tension lines.

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