Air or USAF?
a former Naval aviator who did an exchange tour flying the F-15
Eagle. He is now an author of
entertaining books about Naval Aviation including "Check Six" and
"Fly-Off". His web site is: http://www.bobnorris.com. This is Bob's
response to a letter from an aspiring fighter pilot on which military academy to
Man, Congratulations on your selection to both the Naval and Air Force
Academies. Your goal of becoming a fighter pilot is impressive and
a fine way to serve your country. As you requested, I'd be happy to share
some insight into which service would be the best choice. Each service has a distinctly different culture. You need to ask yourself
"Which one am I more likely to thrive in?
USAF Snapshot: The USAF is exceptionally well organized and well run. Their
training programs are terrific. All pilots are groomed to meet high
standards for knowledge and professionalism. Their aircraft
are top-notch and extremely well maintained. Their facilities are
excellent. Their enlisted personnel are the brightest and the best trained. The
USAF is homogenous and macro. No
matter where you go, you'll know what to expect, what is expected of you, and
you'll be given the training &tools you need to meet those expectations. You
will never be put in a situation over your head. Over a 20-year career, you will
be home for most important family events. Your Mom would want you to be an Air
Force pilot...so would your wife. Your
Dad would want your sister to marry one.
Naval Air Snapshot: Aviators are part of the Navy. So are 'black shoes' (surface
warfare) and 'bubble heads' (submariners).
Furthermore, the Navy is split into two Fleets (West and East Coast). The Navy
is heterogeneous and micro. Your squadron is your home; it may be great,
average, or awful. A squadron can go from one extreme to the other before you
know it. You will spend months preparing for cruise and months on cruise. The
quality of the aircraft varies directly with the availability of parts. Senior
Navy enlisted are salt of the earth; you'll be proud if you earn their respect.
Junior enlisted vary from terrific to the troubled
kid the judge made join the service. You will be given the opportunity to
lead these people during your career; you will be humbled and get your
hands dirty. The quality of your training will vary and sometimes you will be
over your head. You will miss many important family events. There will be long
stretches of tedious duty aboard ship. You will fly in very bad weather
and/or at night and you will be scared many! times. You will fly with legends in
the Navy and they will kick your ass until you become a lethal force. And some
days - when the scheduling Gods have smiled upon you -
your jet will catapult into a glorious morning over a far-away sea and
you will be drop-jawed
that someone would pay you to do it. The hottest girl in the bar wants to
meet the Naval Aviator. That bar is in Singapore.
Bottom line, son, if you gotta ask...pack warm & good luck in Colorado.
P.S. Air Force pilots wear scarves and their wives iron their flight suits.