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Letter to a Wannabe Fighter Pilot

Letter to a Wannabe Fighter Pilot

To Lt Col Van Wickler:

Sir, I am DJ Baker and I would appreciate it if you could tell me what it takes to be an F16 fighter pilot of the USAF. What classes should I take in high school to help the career I want to take later in my life?
What could I do to get in the academy?
Sincerely
DJ Baker
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From: VanWickler Kenneth, Lt Col , HQ AETC
Anybody want to help this poor kid from Cyberspace?
A worldly and jaded C130 (Lockheed Hercules) Pilot, Major Hunter Mills rose to the task as shown below!
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Dear DJ,

Obviously, through no fault of your own, your young, impressionable brain has been poisoned by the superfluous, hyped-up, "Top Gun" media portrayal of fighter pilots. Unfortunately, this portrayal could not be further from the truth. In my experience, I've found most fighter pilots to be pompous, back-stabbing, momma's boys with inferiority complexes -- as well as being extremely over-rated aeronautically.
However, rather than dash your budding dreams of becoming an USAF pilot, I offer the following alternative: What you REALLY want to aspire to is the exciting, challenging, and rewarding world of TACTICAL AIRLIFT. And this, young DJ, means one thing -- the venerable, workhorse -- THE C-130!

I can guarantee no fighter pilot can brag that he has led a 12-ship formation down a valley at 300 feet above the ground, while trying to interpret a 9-line to a new DZ, avoiding pop-up threats, and coordinating with AWACS -- all while eating a box lunch, with the engineer in the back taking a piss and the navigator puking in his trash can!

I tell you, DJ -- TAC Airlift is where it's at!

Where else is it legal to throw tanks, HMMWVs, and other crap out the back of an airplane, and not even worry about it when the chute doesn't open and it torpedoes the General's staff car!

Nowhere else can you land on a 3000' dirt strip, kick a bunch of ammo and stuff off the ramp without even stopping, then take off again before range control can call to tell you did your touch and go at the wrong LZ!

And talk about exotic travel. When C-130s go somewhere, they GO somewhere -- usually for 3 months, unfortunately. This gives you the opportunity to immerse yourself in the local culture enough to give any natives a bad taste in their mouths re the USAF and Americans in general -- not something those strat-lift pilots can do from their airport hotel rooms!

As far as recommendations for your course of study, I offer these:
Take a lot of math courses. You will need all the advanced math skills you can muster to enable you to calculate per diem rates around the world and when trying to split up the crew's bar tab so that the co-pilot really believes he owes 85% of the whole thing -- and the nav believes he owes the other 20%.

Health sciences are important, too. You will need a thorough knowledge of biology to make those educated guesses of how much longer you can drink beer before the tremendous case of the shits catches up to you from that meal you ate at that place that had the belly dancers in some God-forsaken foreign country whose name you can't even pronounce!

Social studies are also beneficial. It is important for a good TAC Airlifter to have the cultural knowledge to be able to ascertain the exact location of the nearest titty bar in any country in the world -- and then be able to convince the local authorities to release the loadmaster after he offends every sensibility of the local religion and culture.

A foreign language is helpful, but not required. You will never be able to pronounce the names of the NAVAIDs in France and it's much easier to ignore them and go where you want to anyway. As a rule of thumb: Waiters and bellhops in France are always called " Pierre ". In Spain it's "Hey, Pedro" -- and in Italy, of course, it's "Mario." These terms of address also work in other countries interchangeably -- depending upon the level of swarth, couth and debonair of the linguist.

A study of geography is also paramount. You will need to know the basic location of all the places you've been when you get back from your TDY and are ready to stick those little pins in that huge world map you've got taped to you living room wall -- right next to that gigantic wooden giraffe statue and beer stein collection.

Well, DJ, I hope this little note inspires you -- and by the way, forget about that Academy thing. All TAC Airlifters know that there are waaay too few women and too little alcohol there to provide a well-balanced education. A nice, big state college would be a much better choice.

Good luck and see you on the SKE scope!

Hunter Mills
Major USAF



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