It has been said that "fighter pilot" is an
attitude, not an AFSC (Air Force Specialty Code). I couldn't agree more
and will go one step further. It is my considered observation and opinion
that not all of those who fly a fighter aircraft are fighter pilots, and
indeed there are multitudes flying cargo, bomber, rotary-wing and utility
aircraft, who are unconditionally qualified and deserving of the title.
Indeed, the typical "fighter pilot" does not fit the widely-portrayed,
stereotypical image. Although each has gone through rigorous screening
and demanding training, intentionally designed to eliminate all but the
"best of the best", those who eventually earn their wings come
in all sizes, races, degrees of intelligence, bravery and patriotism.
Each of these stories is based on happenings and events of which I have
direct knowledge. Many are written in the first person. In the vast majority
of cases actual names, dates, and places have been used. However, in some
instances the naming of individuals, living or dead, could be disparaging
and possibly bring undeserved distress to their friends and families.
To avert this eventuality I have intentionally made a limited number of
alterations of names and dates. Despite this the stories themselves remain
authentic, as they are firmly rooted in actual events. I realize many
readers will be unfamiliar with the acronyms, jargon, and slang typically
associated with the tactical fighter mission. Indeed, such examples of
these are prolific within these stories. However, I feel it would dilute
the content and distract from the tone and pace of the stories should
I attempt to reword or directly explain all unique and unfamiliar terms
"on the spot." Instead, I have, for the most part, chosen to
include such expressions within a Glossary of Terms.
Since my retirement from the Air Force in 1984, I have been asked on numerous
occasions, "Do you miss it?" My reply has consistently been,
"Every day that I'm alive." Try as you may, it is not possible
to explain to someone who has never been there what it is like to hold
50,000 pounds of thrust in your left hand, fly a tight formation with
a trusted leader in weather so thick you can't see anything but the green
navigation light on a right wing tip, mere feet from your eyes, then suddenly
break into the incredibly bright sunlight of a pristine blue sky and in
your peripheral vision watch the top of the dense cloud bank from which
you have just emerged fade rapidly beneath you like a big, white, feather
bed. One cannot begin to explain the self-satisfaction which accrues from
the heartfelt thanks and embrace of a wingman whose life you have just
saved, the élan of a truly, tight-knit, combat squadron, or the
sheer thrill of successfully defying terrible odds.
I will always consider myself one of the luckiest men alive because God
gave me the body, talent, and opportunity to experience incredible things
for over a quarter century, which others have only dreamed about in their
wildest fantasies. I hope the reader will enjoy these stories as much
as I have in their recall.
Colonel, USAF (Ret.)