Tag Archives: Air Force

At Least

Packing a bag again for a few days away from home. At least it’s not months.

Explaining to my 4 year old that I’ll be gone for a little while. At least I’m leaving when he’s awake and I get to say bye for now. 

Cancelling my leave that was scheduled for six months in advance because “we don’t have the bodies.” At least I didn’t spend any money on it and it’s not use-or-lose leave that might disappear on October 1st.

Stepping onto a plane for the 11th time in 13 days. At least I’m supposed to get some down time later this month.

Hitting my maximum allowable flight hours within a particular period and then got the waiver to just fly more. At least they’re still paying attention to the rules. At least we’re not in a situation like combat where dire and urgent need trumps the regulations for routine missions.

Flying several days for questionable reasons with little chance of accomplishing the mission. At least it was with a good crew that is in the same frustrating circumstance with me, so our individual miseries have great company.

Landing each day with enough time to get home, sleep, and go do it again the next day. At least the schedule changed so I usually see my kids’ faces for a few minutes before they go to bed or before I leave for work.

At least I am coming home each day (usually). At least I am not in a combat zone, threatened in the air or hunkered down on the ground. At least my family is well taken care of, and at least my wife is unquestioningly supportive and undeservedly patient.

I often joke that “I love my job” when there are reasons to complain. At least there are parts of it that I really do love.

Not all our servicemembers can say the same. Not all of them can claim the “at leasts” that I can. My heartfelt thanks to my brothers and sisters in arms in crappier places working longer hours doing harder jobs in worse conditions. Much appreciation also to the family members, friends, and loved ones who provide that support to the men and women wearing America’s various uniforms. You all make me proud.

I raised my right hand and swore an oath of my own free will. At least I serve a nation that–while admittedly imperfect–rewards honorable service in support of lofty ideals instead of demanding subservience to the whims of a dictator or ideology.

I’ll settle for these things today.

The More Things Change

On the day SecDef announced the new U.S. mission in Afghanistan, I hit my 20-year time-in-service mark.

The long-running Operation ENDURING FREEDOM is finished.

We didn’t hear about the change until the 31st, and then only through commercial news media. Everything official assumed we’d be called something else. My deployed crew and I were in the middle of planning the first sortie of the new year, so we went with Chuck Hagel as a pretty good source of guidance.

When we landed, at the end of the day, leadership was still confused about what named operation we supported… because their leadership was still confused. Multiple names floated around. No one had even heard of FREEDOM’S SENTINEL.

It’s frustrating… partly because it makes us all look like bumbling idiots trying to figure out the change, and mostly because the humor of my joke was lost:

Really, we're the good guys. We have America Lasers.
We’re the good guys. We have America Lasers.

Sorry, it’s a hastily-done drawing on whiteboard. If you want a good picture, check imgur. I have missions to fly and stuff.

Comic book fans will recognize this as an old-school Sentinel, a giant death robot programmed to find and eliminate mutants like the X-Men. (If you saw the newest X-Men film, modern “cool-looking” Sentinels feature heavily.)

US News & World Report had a headline about the name change, called War in Afghanistan Ends, Except Not At All.


But given that our tasking and guidance remained exactly the same, it’s hard not to feel a sense of “So What?”

An individual on my crew put together this helpful chart that reinforces the point:

(And there's years of missions flown all around these two countries... but that would get cumbersome if included.)
(And there’s years of missions flown all around these two countries… but that would get cumbersome if included.)

Sorry, whiteboard again. We had other things to do (or so I’ll maintain).

When I went through Professional Military Education, we had lengthy lessons on Change Management. The idea is, change is hard and scary, which causes people to resist it. So there’s a good way to implement change, and some bad ways to avoid.

If you can make a change known well in advance, you can get your experts on board to figure out how the plan will work. Questions are answered before they’re asked in the heat of the moment; problems are solved before they’re encountered on the flight line. Ideally everyone contributes, and the plan becomes both better and well-known. Then, when leadership says, “Execute the plan,” everyone carries out the change with enthusiasm and support that comes from ownership.

I’ve seen this process go poorly over the last 20 years.

I’ve seen leaders declare sweeping changes without considering what obstacles stand in the way. I’ve seen people ignore regulations governing how we do business, in order to shift to the “new” plan–when no one knows what it is.

Whole squadrons arrived at work wondering “What exactly is it that I’m supposed to do today?”

I sat in a conference room with the leaders of every office in the squadron at a meeting that opened with, “Since the re-organization took effect last week, we’re going to sit down now and figure out how we all fit in to accomplishing the basic mission of this unit.”

That’s a question that maybe could have been answered well in advance.

I left that meeting with a clear understanding of the roles and responsibilities on my shoulders and on my peers. Better yet, I felt equipped to communicate that vision to my subordinates, who had the same questions I did.

I also stepped out of the room and immediately spoke in private with the officers in charge of operations. “Sir, if feedback flows both down and up, then can we make sure the message goes up the chain that what we’ve just done is the exact opposite of everything we teach about how to implement change in an organization?”

To their credit, both officers I spoke with agreed completely and admitted they’d felt the same frustrations. I overheard a conversation with higher-ups where one of the officers I’d spoken to conveyed my feedback and challenged the superior’s mistaken view that creating chaos and thrash in the unit was beneficial, since it would make everyone give 110% to figure out and implement the change.

When I look at this news and how this change has come about, it leads me to believe one of three things:

1) This name change is purely cosmetic. Since it seems nothing fundamental or practical is different from my last OEF sortie to my first “whatever we decide to call this” sortie, I find this very likely.

2) Too few in power care that we do things well–we just need to do things. We teach a right way to implement change that produces ideal effects. But we are often directed to execute the opposite–doing whatever someone higher up the chain desires, at once, regardless of whether its fit existing rules or structures. And asking questions to make sure we’re legal or compliant with standing regs is viewed as a frustration and hindrance. I’m not sure whether that all applies in this situation, but it smacks of the same “rush to change” I’ve seen elsewhere.

3) What I’d hoped was an isolated “one bad apple here or there” case of poor management seems to be a hydra of similar leaders. Ignorance of what’s going on–throughout a squadron, a community, a region, a theater of operations, and so on–that’s going to happen from time to time. But willful ignorance, once an issue is called out, is unacceptable. It’s also called negligence. Or apathy. Or complacency. But definitely not leadership. Again, I’m not sure this directly relates to our changing-but-not-really operations in Afghanistan. But it matches up with past experience.

True leaders realize what they lack, own up to the fault, and then make corrections and adjustments. It’s refreshing to see that happen. Those people stand out from among the drones and yes-men committed only to their own promotion.

We need more Sentinels of that sort, not the robots.

Happy New Year.

So Help Me God

An atheist Airman was denied the right to reenlist in the United States Air Force recently. It’s been my experience that everyone had the option to say the phrase if desired, or omit the phrase if desired. But that changed late last year.

The Air Force cites US law that supersedes its previous guidance on the matter as the reason for a change in Oct 2013 that took out the option to say – or not say – “so help me God.” Title 10 Section 502 covers the oath of enlistment, and it makes no provision for omitting the phrase in question. So the Air Force has a justifiable position for its argument, which boils down to “We have to follow the law. If the law needs to be changed, then Congress has to change Title 10 Section 502 so that we can then change our regulations which fall under it.”

My experience has been that most people say it or omit it as applicable to their personal stance, and no one really cares. But the case, linked above, is proof that if someone wants to fight on this issue, the religious language is clearly going to win.

But that doesn’t make it right.

There’s a petition in the works to change the code to the very reasonable, already-done-in-practice-for-years method of “say this part if you want, and don’t say it if you don’t want.” I hope you’ll support it.

Everyone loves Top 10 lists, so I thought I’d toss one in.

Top Ten Reasons to Change Section 502 of Title 10:

10. Yes, there are atheists in foxholes. I’ve served alongside many atheists who were among the hardest-working and most skilled in my almost 20 years of military experience. I count it an honor to have served beside them, and denigrating their choice to reject a religious belief is actually unlawful, just as it is unlawful for someone to discriminate against me based on my Christian faith. I mean, the whole “unlawful” part should be enough to require no other reason. Article VI of the Constitution states: “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.” While this clause at the end of the oath might not exactly meet the standard of a “religious test” it certainly sits in a very grey area. But since this point is clearly not enough, let’s move on:

9. There are plenty of other faiths in foxholes too. The military needs bodies, and so we take all kinds. That means that we’ve got Buddhists, Catholics, Druids, Hindus, Jews, Mormons, Muslims, Protestants, Sikhs, Wiccans… to name a few off the top of my head. Half of those belief systems – to my knowledge – don’t recognize a monotheistic God. So the “so help me God” doesn’t work for them. Yes, they may be a small minority, but the law has to protect the rights of everyone, not just the special people.

8. This would take us back to our roots. Now, some of my Christian friends and many of the inane comments on the Interweb talk about going back to our identity or roots as a Christian nation by keeping this phrase mandatory. News flash: much like “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance, this “so help me God” was a recent addition. Prior to 1962, you wouldn’t be prompted to say any such thing if enlisting into the Armed Forces. And honestly, I hope going back to the 60s is not what the Christians have in mind. (Side note: the Internet, it turns out, is a wonderful source of information. Using it before stating opinions and misinformation as fact is a very considerate course of action.)

7. This is not a Christian nation. Again, contrary to many comments on social media declaring it so, America is a secular nation by design, with a Judeo-Christian culture making up an arguably large part of past influences, along with deism and humanist philosophy. God didn’t pen the Constitution on stone tablets that George Washington brought down from Mount Vernon. However, many of the colonials were inspired to come to the New World to escape persecution and mistreatment on the basis of holding minority religious beliefs. That helps explain why American law and government was designed to ensure no requirement for religion would be enforced upon the people. Yes, there are quotes from Founding Fathers who speak about the need for faith in God. But they clearly didn’t intend an enforcement of one religion over every other.

6. We can use all the proud, honorable service we can get. I’ve served with atheists who are quite honorable and some who are jerks… just like there are Christians who are quite honorable and Christians that I wouldn’t trust to hold my Bible outside of my sight. Our nation has a large number of military commitments and missions, and we are striving to keep up that pace (if not increase it) while reducing the number of people in uniform available to execute the mission. If an atheist Airman is volunteering to serve, I’m happy to stand beside him. Because what matters on the flightline or the frontline is that we both swore to defend the Constitution of the United States.

5. This doesn’t take God out of anything at all. Some Christians worry that this is a case of persecution, or an instance of taking God out of the public sphere. But the language of the petition is clear: If you want to keep “so help me God” in your oath, do so. If you don’t want to say it, don’t. Nothing is lost for the believers, but the same level of equality and freedom to choose would be granted to those of other faiths or no faith.

4. This upholds equality. We don’t want to live in an American version of an Orwellian fable. “Everyone is equal but some are more equal than others” can’t be permitted or upheld here. That’s not what our servicemembers–religious or atheist–are fighting to protect and defend. How can some people rejoice that Hobby Lobby gets to stand on its religious beliefs, and then rejoice just as loud when someone else’s freedom is tread upon? Well… I know how they can do so. But it’s still vile and wrong.

3. Yes, it is a big deal to “just say it.” Imagine showing up to work on Monday and being told unless you deny your faith, you’re fired. Just a few words. No big deal, right? Just say it, and keep earning a paycheck. Who would stand for this? I can’t. So if I’m not okay with the hypothetical, then I can’t accept when it is really happening to someone else.

2. Defending the rights of the atheist means defending my own right as well. If the government can mandate someone to swear an oath contrary to their belief, then that has far-reaching implications. I cannot be okay with that so long as it’s done to “them” without realizing that the government then has the same power to someday inflict such a requirement upon me. Call it the Golden Rule, call it common sense, call it sticking up for the underdog, or whatever you want. Sadly, I saw hundreds of comments of “Amen!” “Praise God!” and other passionate expressions of joy on this subject. If that’s your initial reaction, take a moment to think about how it would feel to be told you must deny your faith, or swear to Allah or something similar in order to serve your country. Why would anyone be okay with this?

And finally, my overall reason to change Title 10 and do away with this enforcement of “so help me God” in the oath is:

1. Nothing is gained but hypocrisy. The atheist has no faith in this God we are demanding he or she call upon. It forces the enlistee to lie while swearing or affirming a solemn oath. I’m not accusing the atheist here; I’m accusing the enforcers and defenders of such a requirement. Those four words mean nothing at all if forced upon someone who doesn’t believe. This serves no purpose. It is wasted breath. What should matter to a Christian isn’t whether these four words are said, but rather are they being lived out? Plenty of people, Christians and atheists and whatever else, have said “so help me God.” But apart from sincere faith informing and motivating devout action, who cares? It’s empty. No one’s life has been transformed to emulate Christ by the addition of “so help me God” in their oath of enlistment. Instead, we have a vast majority of people saying something that means absolutely nothing to them, and the political Christians will call it a victory. “We defended God in public,” they’ll say. “We kept God in the oath!”

No, all you did was create hypocrisy, forcing lips to say what hearts don’t believe.

And He said to them, “Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘THIS PEOPLE HONORS ME WITH THEIR LIPS, BUT THEIR HEART IS FAR AWAY FROM ME.'” (Mark 7:6 NASB)

'Murica! If only we could remember what that stands for...
‘Murica! If only we could remember what that stands for…

So, please, whether you’re a believer or not, go to Whitehouse.gov and sign this petition. You’re not just defending the freedoms of others, but also your own.

If you think I’ve missed a key point in my top ten, or if you think I’m way off base on this one, I’d love to hear from you. Please let me know in a comment below! Thanks for taking the time to read, and even more so if you’ve signed.

Restful Activity

I woke up in the middle of the night while on an alert status for the Air Force, and couldn’t get right back to (much needed) sleep. So if nothing else, you all get a poem about the frustration of waiting for a call that may or may not come:

I’m not supposed to be awake
For another four hours or so
When it’s time my boss will make
A call to let me know

I’ll spring up from within the bed
And throw my flightsuit on
I’ll gather up my gear and head
Out to our plane, then–gone

But it’s more likely that I’ll spend
The next day by the phone
Waiting, ready to be sent
Soon as the need is known

Several days of readiness
Yet still not called upon
Have turned my schedule to a mess
Once-peaceful sleep now gone

This leads to an odd condition
Ordered to stand by
Paid for work I haven’t done
Awaiting call to fly

And so, awake, my eyes go wide
And, breath caught in my chest,
I check the time–just past midnight
I still have hours to rest.

If I can just relax once more
And from this darkness wrest
Passage to that dreamful shore
The mind’s release from stress

So I shall embrace the dark
And hope to slip away
Into a land with lines less stark
Where thoughts and passions play
Where cares familiar and unknown
Are considered and released…

But still there is the telephone
Lurking within arm’s reach


What I Love

Some of my recent rants on Facebook or in this forum have highlighted problems I’ve encountered with leadership in the military… so much so that I got some pointed feedback on one Facebook post asking about my plans to separate (…which I turned into a different rant, but that’s beside the point).

I was thinking how easy it is to focus on all the bad things and complain about what I think is wrong or what I don’t like, while paying no attention to all the good that has come from the last 18 years in the military.

So this is my tirade about what I love about this job.

Kadena AB, 2012
Best job ever. Usually.

Skills: As a guy fresh out of high school, I was an experienced grocery bagger and stock-boy. I also had a paper route. Highly marketable skills. The Air Force taught me two foreign languages and trained me for intelligence production and first-line analysis. Then they instructed me as an aircrew member and developed my communication skills and crisis management. They’ve taught me decision-making and resource management, and they’ve shuffled me through a variety of jobs and programs that give me some understanding of what works and what doesn’t in a corporate office. Perhaps most importantly, I have been in a variety of positions requiring management and interaction with other people, whether as peers, subordinates, or supervisors. I’ve learned how to get along with others in order to get the job done, even when we personally don’t see eye to eye. I’ve developed empathy for the needs of others, and I like to think that there’s some element of the servant-leadership we hear about during military education–that leadership style which says “I as a leader am here to take care of your needs as you accomplish the mission.” Most of these skills have proven essential over the years, and I know they’ll serve me well after I take off the flight suit and set a retirement shadow box up on the shelf.

Travel: One of the main selling points of military service is that “you get to see the world.” I am quite grateful in this regard. Prior to Basic Training, I never traveled more than two or three hours outside the Chicago area. Now I can say that I have stood on the beaches and battlefields of Okinawa, and I’ve enjoyed the weather in Florida. I hiked the side of Mount Fuji and ate wild strawberries in autumn in the hills of Washington state. I’ve walked the Las Vegas strip at night and visited rural villages in the Philippines on a medical relief mission. I’ve driven through every state west of the Mississippi and I’ve flown around the world. From the markets of Doha, to the temples of Thailand, from the scenic drives of the Monterey Bay, to the tropical paradise of Diego Garcia, I have seen far more of the world than I ever expected. And I have the Air Force to thank for this.

Experiences: The travel is made all the sweeter because of the special memories associated with these places. There’s the satisfaction of flying operational sorties that provide needed intelligence to soldiers on the ground in harm’s way. There’s the excitement of seeing another nation’s military in operation, up close and personal. There’s the joy of interacting with members of other services and other nation’s Air Forces, learning about our commonalities and our different styles of operations. Then there’s the unique opportunities – picnics with the crew eating tuna steaks fresh off a grill, from a fish that was swimming in the open ocean three hours earlier… pig roasts at the park, parties on the beach, and crew traditions in the squadron lounge, hearing stories from the men and women who were doing this job long before I enlisted… connecting with fellow believers around the world and walking into a Chapel on the other side of the earth from home, accepted and allowed to minister to the local congregation through music and song. There’s the special camaraderie that comes from dealing with a frustrating or challenging situation, and knowing that I’m not alone in this, that I’m there with my brothers and sisters in arms, and we’re all fighting to get through it. (And also I got to fly an F-15 that one time.)

People: These experiences would be nothing without the special and tremendous group of people that make up the Armed Forces. On a day-to-day basis, I get to interact with people who have (for one reason or another) raised their right hand and volunteered their service and their very lives for a cause greater than themselves. Not only that, but my job puts me in constant contact with the very best and brightest of this special class of American. As a sheltered young man from a very conservative background who preferred solitude to socializing, my time in the Air Force has been eye-opening, shattering any stereotypes and preconceived notions I had about anyone “not me.” Every day I see people who are totally different from me, and yet they share the desire to excel in what we do, to improve the situations and circumstances around them, to take care of the needs of their fellow Airmen and those less fortunate. I see the selfless service and devotion of individuals to their peers and to this nation, and I am deeply proud to be a part of it. More importantly, when our task sucks and our deadline is looming, and we’re pushing ourselves to the limits to get the job done, I feel a sense of success as my peers tell me, “You made that difficult time better for me. Thanks.”

Family: There is a special group of people that I wouldn’t know at all if it was not for my time in the Air Force. I met my wife in 1996 when she was serving in the Air Force as a Civil Engineering troop on Kadena Air Base, Okinawa. She was my ride to church, my sister in Christ, eventually my best friend, and soon after, my fiancee. We met because a friend from Goodfellow Air Force Base in Texas had a neighbor who had a friend on Okinawa who was a missionary from Hong Kong who happened to know another young Airman who attended a good church where I felt accepted and loved. That’s a mouthful! Now I have a wonderful teenage daughter and three amazing sons (and a pain-in-the-butt wiener dog).

So… when I complain on Facebook about the Air Force doing something stupid, or when I go off on a Thursday Tirade about mismanagement and abuse of power, please understand that I am not whining because I hate my job. I’m venting because I have so many reasons to love this job. So I get upset when our silliness and poor decisions obscure all the awesome reasons to join and stay in the military.

My friends know that when something difficult comes up at work, I will occasionally mutter, “I love my job I love my job I love my job” in an intentionally unconvincing monotone. We all laugh – misery loves company, after all.

But maybe, way deep down, I secretly mean it.

No Fatties

Your run is not the proper form. Those steps don’t count toward completing the mile and a half.

If you aren’t closely associated with the Air Force, you may not know about our focus on physical fitness. The service has gone to great lengths in the last ten years to push our Airmen to be physically ready for the rigors of deployments and demanding operations tempo.

We used to be known as the Chair Force. (Maybe we still are.) It was accepted wisdom that if you wanted a physical challenge, you joined the Army or Marines. If you had brains and wanted an easy job with high quality of life, you joined the Air Force or the Navy.

Then, after September 11th, we started deploying with members from other branches, and the Air Force couldn’t cut it. Our Chief of Staff took drastic measures to turn that trend around. I totally understand the reasons for that change, and the results have been a clear benefit.

We’ve been pushing hard for physical fitness ever since. We’re not the Marines or anything, of course. But God help you if you don’t meet standards.

Now here’s the reason for the Thursday Tirade:

Though PT is a core component of being your best as an Airman, it’s not the most important. Yet we often treat it as if it is.

This isn’t just a fattie whining because I like to eat bacon. (Seriously, though. More bacon!)

My frustration is how we apply fitness as a determining factor for things completely unrelated to it.

If you’re failing your PT test, you cannot get promoted, because you don’t meet standards. Makes sense.  You can’t reenlist. I get that – we want to make sure we retain people who can and will keep up. You can’t attend professional military education, because that’s part of progressing in your career, which is going to end fast if you can’t pass the test. Sure, that’s understandable.

No, seriously. How can you be counted on to help disabled kids in your bloated condition?

Turns out there’s a lot of other things you can’t do.You can’t volunteer at the Distinguished Visitor tent for the big base Air Show. To that, I say, “meh.” I get it. We’re not going to put someone busting the seams of their uniform in front of our generals. No surprise there.

But what about helping disabled children experience the Air Show through the Make-a-Wish foundation? Nope, you can’t volunteer for that either. Well, you can, but you have to send in PT test scores. And the only reason you should have to do that is if it affects whether you can volunteer. So the unspoken message is clear: fatties need not apply.

Because disabled kids are probably going to get a bad impression of the Air Force if the person who helps them can’t do enough push-ups, or has a 40 inch waist. Right.

The straw that broke the blogger’s back and moved this into Tirade Thursday territory came a week ago. A sergeant in our squadron was driving off-base and witnessed an auto accident. He stopped, rushed to the first vehicle, and confirmed that the passengers were okay. Then he went to the second vehicle, an SUV that rolled over (if memory serves). He ensured the kids in the back were fine, and then started using the Self-Aid Buddy Care medical training the Air Force taught him in order to treat the severely injured mother of said children. Then he directed paramedics to the scene and explained all he had done to treat the mother prior to their arrival.

We give medals for that sort of thing. It’s a way of saying, “What you did that day in that situation was awesome. Good job.”

There was a comment on his achievement medal submission. This individual had a two PT failures in the last two years or so. Someone asked whether we would need to put in a letter to justify a medal for such an individual. We thought that was ridiculous, because we’re talking about “on this particular day, you did something phenomenal,” not “Over the last three years, you’ve done good.”

But we asked the question.

And the answer was, “Yes, please submit a letter to justify this.”

“I’m sorry, I know you responded with honor and selflessness in an emergency, and you possibly saved the life of an injured mother while her kids were looking on… but you didn’t meet standards a couple years ago, so… how about a nice pat on the back? (Oh, and put down the fork.)”

I would think this is exactly what we want Airmen with PT failures to do. Get involved in the community. Help some disabled kids have a special day. Save a life here or there as the need arises.  Refocus priorities and go serve others. Think about something bigger than themselves, pun intended. (I’m fat. I get to make fat jokes.)

But apparently that’s not what the Air Force wants.

I’m not saying fitness should not be a priority. But let’s keep it in perspective a little bit, please.


I had a silly thought today while waiting for our jet to get fixed. I do have the nickname mentioned in this story, and I do love to say the most horrible things about what could go wrong… so I thought of a fun “power” for a fictional character to have, and jotted down a rough idea of his story.


Aircrew are a superstitious lot.

“Don’t eat your lunch during maintenance delays on the ground,” they say, “or else you’re sure to fly your full sortie.”

“Don’t say that equipment, or weather, or the aircraft, or the evaluation, or any blasted thing is ‘good to go,’ because that means it won’t be.”

“If you DO say such a thing, knock on wood, or else you’re jinxing us.”

Well, our Navigator said some things yesterday, and knocked really hard on the plastic top of the mission planning room podium. But here we are, delayed again for… five, six… no, seven different issues with this fifty-year-old plane.

But the pilot says they all check out good now, so we’re ready to press on with our day.

Apparently, plastic lecterns don’t have the same natural anti-Jinx powers of wood. Maybe it’s something like Monty Python and the Holy Grail. “Did you knock on it, and you were not jinxed? Then SHE’S A WITCH! BURN HER!”

I make it a point to jinx us as often as possible. “Well, we know that the mission software will all be accounted for and ready to go when we get to the jet!”

Or, “You know there will be perfect data-link connections with all the other participants.”

“All the radios will be loud and clear all day… of course they will! Why wouldn’t they be?”

Aircrew usually end up with a nickname of some kind, a handle based more often than not on some profound mistake that serves as the basis for a great story. My friends call me Jinxie now. That’s mine. They want me to watch my mouth, and they glare at me when I make an innocent joke about diverting to a different airfield or cancelling a flight because of some catastrophic emergency.

To be fair, both of those events were pure coincidence.

“Be careful what you wish for,” I suppose. My friends would agree with that ubiquitous logic.

That’s when it hit me. I should be careful. Why not use these powers for good?

“We’ll probably find another tanker for air refueling since we can’t meet up with the first one as planned.”

Nope! No tankers available right now; they’ve all given up their fuel loads to other aircraft.

You’re telling me that in the absolutely largest logistic organization of the most powerful, worldwide-capable Air Force, where we provide millions of pounds of JP-8 jet fuel every day, we cannot possibly find one tanker that has just a bit of gas?

Nope. Jinx.

“That convoy is going through the thickest concentration of insurgent positions with snipers, RPGs, IEDs, and every other God-forsaken acronym, all of them looking to spill American blood. Our boys are in for trouble.”

Morbid, maybe. But go with me on this.

Those guys drive right through the hottest part of eastern Afghanistan, where we’ve been seeing troops in contact with enemy forces every single day for the last two months… and today, not a peep.

Maybe the bad guys are busy picking poppies today. Maybe they’re meeting to protest girls attending school in the classrooms the Coalition built. Maybe they’re busy with young Afghan boys. I don’t know or care.

All I know is our guys got through safe, despite me naming every bad situation I could think of.

Or maybe because of it?

Either way, jinx. Insha’Allah.

“You’ve got a gift; use it well.” Of course, my Dad was talking about playing piano, but the meaning still applies. “With great power comes great responsibility.” Yeah, Spider-Man was probably talking about something else too. But you get the point.

We always brief that every crewmember has a voice. if you see something happening that doesn’t look right or safe, speak up about it.

My handle is Jinxie, and I plan to speak up a lot.