Basic Officership: Paperwork and Reality


One of the more important (and unfortunate) things that a fighter pilot will discover in his military career is the preeminence of paperwork.  One day a pilot may go out and save the world, but unless it’s documented on an official Air Force form, it’s as though it never happened.  Like it or not, an officer’s career may live or die based on his Officer Performance Reports (OPRs), which are evaluations of his professional career.  A pilot’s supervisor will be required to complete a report on him regularly; normally, every 12 months, but depending on the circumstances, from every six to 18 months.  Pilot training and other formal courses create Training Reports instead of OPRs, so a young pilot could be well into his first operational assignment—more than two years after being commissioned—by the time he receives his first OPR.  The first time one is coming due, a predictable thing will happen:  his supervisor will ask him what he’s been doing for the past 12 months.  In a perfect world, the leadership would monitor their subordinates’ successes and failures and document them accordingly.  Unfortunately, in the real world the leadership will be so busy that unless the subordinates are being derelict they’ll likely go unnoticed.  For that reason the leadership will ask those below them to provide bullet statements of the things that they have accomplished since the last time they received an OPR or training report.  They’ll use this information to fill in all the “white space” on the report.  Read more


From my arrival in Qatar in February until my departure in April, I spent approximately 70 days in what was classified as a combat area.  During my entire stay I never experienced fear for my life, either in the air or on the ground.  Our base was on a peninsula in the Persian Gulf, relatively distant from the fighting in Iraq and low even in potential terrorist threat.  Prior to the outbreak of hostilities, a small civilian aircraft had approached the airfield undetected, much to the chagrin of the Patriot batteries ringing the base.  During the war, the presence of a light aircraft near the base was the cause of the only increased threat condition during our stay.  The base rapidly went from MOPP 0, a protective posture where no chemical protection gear is worn, to MOPP 4, where full gear—heavy overgarments, boots, gas masks, and gloves—is required.  Whatever it was that approached the base turned out to be no threat, and there were no further reactions while we were there.  In fact, a few days before I returned home they brought the base out of “lock-down” and allowed us to leave the base to see the local area.  So our home was a fairly safe one, particularly when compared to the airbases further north that came under fire from SCUDs and other missiles and were in a MOPP 4 fairly frequently.  Our route to and from the combat area was also a safe one.  While we flew along the gulf we were in range of several other neutral countries, but we could virtually walk along the Navy sea craft from Qatar to Iraq.

The true threat only began once in Iraq, and even then the threat was minimal.  Read more

One Fighter Pilot’s Naming

One of the first and more dramatic examples of the fighter pilot culture that a new pilot will face is that of the traditional Naming.  Done professionally and respectfully, a traditional “rite of passage” Naming could be considered a source of comradery and esprit d’corps.  Unfortunately, the Namings in which I have participated have been more akin to fraternity initiations than events that call on the history and pride of a unit, the Air Force, or the country.  Read more

Is “Military Christian” an Oxymoron?

Praise be to the Lord my Rock, who trains my hands for war, my fingers for battle.  –Psalm 144:1

Before even considering the phrase “Christian fighter pilot,” many argue that “Christian” and “military” are mutually exclusive themselves.  Particularly for new Christians who have recently been introduced to Christ’s teachings, or Christians who grew up in peaceful times and areas, the concepts of a “warring Christian” who is a child of the loving God can seem contradictory.  There are many books and pamphlets written on the topic, and most categorize their analysis in two categories.  The anti-war division centers on the uncontextual pacifist teachings of Jesus.  The pro-war division centers on the Just War doctrine supported with Biblical citations.  Well-researched books quote Augustine and Thomas Aquinas (generally credited with the formulation and articulation of the Just War theory) and cite lists of well-known theologians who opposed and supported Christian military service.  Whole volumes analyze this subject from a much more learned position than I can.  The objective of this section is to briefly address the question, “Is ‘Military Christian’ an Oxymoron?” Read more

Respecting the Beliefs of All Airmen (AF Message)

[The text below was forwarded through the enlisted chain of command; portions were quoted on FoxNews.]

SUBJECT: Respecting the Beliefs of All Airmen

Importance: Low


1. Every Airman needs to respect every other Airman and be a good wingman. Air Force leaders and commanders have continued to emphasize the importance of mutual respect. This includes our respect for the beliefs of others. Climate surveys at our Air Force Academy have pointed out instances where respect may be lacking or where declaring one s own religious beliefs may be perceived as imposing on others.

Commanders must be alert to the issue of religious respect throughout our Air Force. The Air Force Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel, Lt Gen Roger Brady, is leading a Task Force that will gather the facts at USAFA, assess policy and practice, and compile a report of findings and recommendations that will be completed over the next few weeks. In the meantime, the acting Secretary has asked that Commanders across our Air Force bring the following principles into their crosscheck: Read more

Fighter Pilot Linguistic Games, so to speak

Profanity is not the only vice with which a Christian fighter pilot’s senses will be bombarded.  Standard fighter pilot lingo is laced with various forms of sexual innuendo, most through the use of linguistic games.  The most frequent fighter pilot linguistic “skill” is the phrase “so to speak” (often written as “sts”).  The phrase follows any sentence that can in any way, shape, or form be construed as a double entendre; the frequency of the phrase in a fighter pilot’s speech indicates how often he can come up with a sexual reference in virtually any combination of words in the English language.  If a pilot uses a phrase that is worthy of a “so to speak” because of its potential double meaning, other pilots in the room will generally say “so to speak” and cajole those who do not. 

Another less vulgar use of the “so to speak” phrase is in reference to the “misuse” of a pilot’s name.  For example, in the movie Top Gun, Tom Cruise’s weapons system officer had the nickname Goose.  If another pilot said that they had to “goose the power,” a fighter pilot would suffix the phrase with “so to speak” to acknowledge the use of Goose’s callsign.


Another fighter pilot linguistic skill is replacing certain words that have a possible sexual connotation with their generic or scientific equivalent.  Read more

Fighter Pilot Songs

While I have never been in a position where fellow pilots have demanded profanity in my speech (some have even complimented my ability to form a grammatically correct sentence without it), I have been placed in positions where fellow pilots have insisted that I participate in singing fighter pilot songs.  Unfortunately, the decisions surrounding pilot songs are more difficult to make.  The F-16 B-course students were responsible for providing “entertainment” for the instructors at pilot meetings.  This entertainment necessitated a pilot song or two.  In other units, every fighter pilot event ended with stirring renditions of traditional fighter pilot songs.  In each case, there was tremendous pressure to join in on the singing to “support my wingmen” and squadron mates.  Regardless of the strength of tradition in fighter pilot songs, the profanity, vulgarity, and glorification of evil in fighter pilot songs makes them an anathema to the Christian spirit.  Because of their content, I believe that a Christian should not participate in singing them.

The true question is how much he allows himself to be around other pilots who are singing those songs.  Their vulgar lyrics are set to familiar and catchy tunes; what goes in, even if only passively, will invariably attempt to come out.  Read more

Profanity and the Christian Fighter Pilot

One of the more clear-cut vices in the fighter pilot culture is profanity—including the use of God’s name in vain—which is rampant in the fighter pilot community.  Profanity punctuates the hyperbolic bravado of every fighter pilot’s speech.  Some consider it a requisite to being a fighter pilot, much like the Navy cliché of “cursing like a sailor.”  Fighter pilots who do not curse do exist, though they are a rarity.  In several cases I even knew fighter pilots who attended church regularly with their families but still used vulgar language.  The temptation for any fighter pilot to use profanity will be strong, particularly if it was present in his past.  Also, refusing to use profanity is difficult even for a strong Christian for one significant reason:  constant exposure.  Regardless of a Christian’s personal actions, the fighter pilots around him will still use profanity in their language and casual conversation.  The continuous, daily bombardment of profanity leads to the greatest threat to modern Christianity:  Read more

1 581 582 583 584 585 586