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Could I be a Fighter Pilot?

Posted by Jolly on October 28, 2007

FUA6EMichaelFreer.jpgThere have been many in the past who have defined “what it means to be a fighter pilot.” Friar Tuck's version has been circulated for years and is in almost every fighter pilot song book I’ve ever seen or put together. We here at FU have attempted to describe what it means to be a fighter pilot, and we will continue to educate those who yearn for knowledge about everything fighter pilot. But who are fighter pilots? Are they only the guys who fly jets with an F or an A in front of a number as Lester described in his last blog, or can a regular Joe be one? Do you have to be the driver of said machine to be a fighter pilot, or are Weapon System Officers (WSO) and Radar Intercept Officers (RIO) fighter pilots too? Does it matter what kind of genitals one was born with in order to be a real fighter pilot? Enquiring minds have to know. Of course opinions are like assholes—we all have one. So here’s a look at mine (STS) for you fighter pilot proctologists in the crowd.

I was brought into the fold as a young pup F-4 WSO at a place called Taegu AB, Korea. I was an FNG then (a F—kn new guy). I had the honor and privilege of flying with some great fighter pilots who taught me the craft of hurling a 50,000 pound piece of flaming metal through the air and turning it into a lethal killing machine. I couldn’t think of a better way to get my teeth cut as a fighter pilot than with a bunch of old heads, most of whom had combat time in WW Nam. To learn this art form in a classic fighter like the F-4 Phantom II was a beautiful thing. When these guys told you how to handle an SA-2 launch, all the FNG’s listened like EF Hutton was doing the talking. These warriors had done it for real many times and had lost some friends in the process. The squadron was the 497th Tactical Fighter Squadron, or “The Hooters.” The typical day at ”Da GU” was to brief, fly, debrief, drink, sing, puke, sleep (a little), and then do it again the next day. I had died and gone to fighter pilot heaven and didn’t even know it yet.

One common thread from the old heads in my first operational fighter squadron was that “being a fighter pilot is an attitude, not an AFSC” (Air Force specialty code). There was no inferiority complex between pilots and WSOs, it took two guys to fly and employ that jet. It took two guys with their shit together to do it well. Never once was I treated like a second class citizen because I didn’t wear radiator wings. WSO’s briefed and planned tactics, directed the radar intercept, guided the laser guided weapons to the target, talked on the radio, ran the formation pre-merge, got our nose gunners eyes on the bandit so they could get an ID and “do the Lords work,” and checked six when we were wrapped up with bandits to keep us from getting our asses shot out of the sky. We had a stick and throttles in the back seat and our pilots wanted us to be able to fly and land the jet if we had to. After all, the guy up front was going to be a shit magnet if we ever took a bird strike! When I finally got the opportunity go through pilot training and get my radiator wings it was sort of a non event thanks to all the guys who trained me in the F-4. I showed up at Pilot Training with many hours of a jet strapped on my back and knew what it took to tame the beast. So in answer to my own question -- “are WSOs and RIOs fighter pilots?” -- you bet your sweat ass they are.

Now genitals are a completely different thing all together. We all have one or the other, except Lester—I think he may have both, and we have no choice about which one since we are born that way. Let me go on record as saying we here at FU dig chicks—a lot, not just a little. We may poke fun at them from time to time, as they do us, but life would be boring without them. “Fighter Chicks”, as they like to be called, have been around for about 15 years now. They even have their own web site, We here at FU think you should check it out, it’s funny as shit. The first chick entered Lead in Fighter Training (LIFT) when I was at Holloman flying “The Six” in 1993. She was a media magnet, and I can teIl you first hand she didn’t want it that way. I’ve had the opportunity to fly with her and several other of these fighter chicks in the F-15. Our biggest concern when they first appeared on the radar was “are we going to be forced to clean up our act and become more Pat Shroeder like?” I’ve got to tell you, these gals showed up in our squadrons realizing they were plowing new ground, were the FNGs, and did not want to go out of their way to piss us off. They really did a hell of a job just trying to fit in and not change what we were all about, after all they wanted to be one of us not change us like our wives (might catch some shit for that one).   My personal experience in flying with these gals is they are damn good and with the exception of looking a hell of a lot better in a flight suit than Lester, they are one of us. So yes, chicks are real fighter pilots and we are proud to fly with these patriotic Americans and tell the world they are fighter pilots. 

If we stay focused on the fact that being a fighter pilot is an attitude, we can take this one step further. Do you even have to be a pilot or WSO to be a fighter pilot? I’ve met a couple of Doctors, Lawyers, Dentists, Pig Farmers, Heavy Drivers, GCI Controllers, and Rocket Scientists whom I would consider fighter pilots. They have names like Meat, Tooth, Mr MO, Jeep, Ice, and MOTA (master of the ass – he was one of my flight docs). I can tell stories about all of them, but one that sticks out is a sortie I had with MOTA one glorious afternoon at Mountain Home. He would fly in the back seat of the D-model whenever he had time to get out of the office and pull his finger out of our opinions. We were flying back home one day after a little Air Combat Training and had a spectacular sunset off our right wing. I said to him, “hey MOTA, check out that awesome sunset.” His response was quick and to the point, “Shut the f—k up and fly Jolly, I could give two shits about your gay sunset, but feel free to let me fly the jet if you are getting all teary eyed you little girl.” Now if that’s not being a fighter pilot, I don’t know what is.

So I guess the bottom line is, if you see a guy or gal at the bar, they have a call sign or nick name, and you want to go up and have a cocktail with said individual and talk about flying jets and blowing shit up---guess what, that’s a fighter pilot. You can always tell the fighter pilot in the crowd, you just can’t tell them much!




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