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How Do Generals Become Generals

Posted by rowdy on November 19, 2013

How Do Generals Become Generals

Most fighter pilots are quite satisfied with just being a fighter pilot.  Whatever rank comes along, whatever position of responsibility is bestowed that's all gravy as long as they get to be an active, participating fighter pilot.  Of course, there are those fighter pilots that, from the very beginning, want to become general officer or the equivalent in whatever air force they might be in around world.  They worm their way into the best, high profile jobs, marry the right woman, go to the right schools, get the right degrees, shake the right hands, slap the right backs; their entire career geared to become a flag officer.  This is not about those kind of fighter pilots.

Well, we all know at least one fighter pilot who doesn't fit into that category of glory/rank seeker.  We all know one of those guys that was, and still is, a good shit.  A fun guy to be around, have a few drinks or cigars, shoot the breeze, yank his chain.  Every once in awhile one of those guys makes general.  So, how do those guys make it?  For sure, for these types of guys there's all kinds of ways that they get their start and today we're going to reveal the secret of one of those good shits who made General.


This is Brigadier General James Mackey, known to his friends as Jimmy Mack or just Jimmy, a long time A-10 Warthog pilot who is a graduate and good friend of Fighter Pilot University.  Jimmy is one of those good-shit guys that worked hard at the craft of being a top notch attack pilot and along the way became a general.  But, there's hundreds of guys like that, what gave Jimmy the edge?  What gave Jimmy the leg up?  How did Jimmy distance himself from the crowd of fighter pilots around him?  How did Jimmy develop the skills that others would see in him?  How did Jimmy make it?

Watch this video and the answer will become very obvious.

It hardly seems fair does it?


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Posted by Maestro on
Ironically, fighter pilots are the absolute worst at understanding how the system really works. The good ones are too busy learning to master their craft and teach other to do the same to be one of the second-best guys who becomes aligned perfectly (thru strats) to follow in the footsteps of the commanders. The fighter guys who do get on the fast track really believe its just because they were super awesome rather than recognizing that they're the winner of the personnel system lottery. That in turn tends to lead to a kind of snobbery towards guys who either didn't get a golden ticket or who pursued their job satisfaction at a lower level. The Up or Out system perpetuates this bunk and should be shit-canned. Our personnel system so consistently weeds out top performers by under utilizing them and clustering them in organizations that (under the guise of egalitarianism) can only recognize one "#1," that by the time guys are going into the GO ranks VERY few of the candidates are really the "best of the best;" mostly they are the "best of the rest." We really lost something from aviation culture in the AF when we stopped being able to recognize gifted misfits who are top-performers. I'm not saying we should let people just get away with anything, but we used to be able to cultivate a few of the really gifted outside the box thinkers.
Posted by DuckPerry on
They become generals because they are able (or desire to and succeed) in making the jump from warrior to politician. It is a critical step that is vital to being a successful GO.
Posted by Thunderkid on
Puke: pejorative (noun).....a person (or persons) who are disdained.
Ex: "Those SAC pukes don't have a clue what they are doing".---The Fighter Pilot's Dictionary.
Posted by Plug on
Once we had a visit, I guess to build morale in the late 70's? by the Deputy Chief of Staff for USMC Air. He was a 1 or 2 Star. In the USMC, generals with any number of stars are rare so this was an unusual visit. He talked about where USMC air was going, etc etc, nothing to exciting. Then he decided to take questions.

One of our CWO-4's, (there were a few left flying in the USMC at the time) asked: General, when are CWO's going to get flight pay equal to the commissioned officers' pay? In typical Marine Corps fashion, unfazed, the General quickly answered: Gunner, when generals start to get flight pay, I will worry about Warrant Officer flight pay. Kind of slowed things down real quickly.

During a WestPac tour, I guess I was lowest Lt on the totem pole, ( and at least in my mind, reasonably competent and would not embarrass the squadron) I got elected to fly with a general from the wing staff. Seems he hadn't been in a Phantom in a while (years) so thought he'd take one of ours for a spin on a Saturday morning. In those days, Marine generals, as I learned at OCS, were like God: they did what they wanted to do. I don't recall his name but he truly was a genuine, upfront guy. After we briefed, we strapped in and he had me read the start up checklist. I suppose I was lucky I could find one. Don't know that any pilot I ever flew with used one.

As the left engine turned up, and then just as quickly wound down, I wondered what had happened and why he shut it down so quickly. There was silence from the front for a few seconds, then (I hope it was just the intercom) he said: I forgot to flip the engine master.

Much to my relief we never made a turn much over 30 deg bank and every thing was uneventful. Later that evening I saw him in club where he thanked me for my patience and he bought me a beer. Not a bad guy and I think he got his fill of driving a Phantom for a while. As a Lt I was pretty impressed.
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