Everything about being a strike
fighter pilot is challenging. First, with
rank comes increased responsibility,
and yet the expectation that I stay on
top of my game in the jet. Being able
to find the time to remain as proficient and tactically relevant while
meeting all the other responsibilities
and obligations of a department head
in an operational squadron is really
challenging. The tactics constantly
evolve. The threat is always getting
more capable and more advanced,
and that drives our tactics.
Second is the balance between
remaining proficient in the air and
then being a good leader and officer.
Not all good pilots are good leaders.
Finding the balance between both
of those is absolutely critical for the
command to function correctly.
Third, and by far the most challenging, finding the right balance
between the amount of time and
effort that is required for work, and
somehow being able to put the
same amount of time and effort into
home and your family.
A good leader is predictable and
fair in his/her decisions. Even if it
has a negative impact on a subordi-
nate, that subordinate will still
carry out that order because he/she
knows it is fair and it is expected.
A good leader has to have competence. He/she has to make people
believe that the direction that we’re
going is one that is well thought out
and can be executed rather than just
blindly going down this path without knowing what the end stages
will be. Lastly, a leader needs to be
passionate about leading and to
have a passion for living life rather
than just getting through it.
The most interesting flight for me
was in July 2003 with VFA-94,
which I joined on USS Nimitz in
port in Dubai. Back at sea, after a
couple of warm-up flights, I was
assigned to my first combat mission.
For a “nugget’s” first mission, you’re
assigned to a very senior flight
leader who promises that any situation that we’re faced with, he will
handle it and he will tell me what to
do. Well, the flight leader’s aircraft
went down before the launch, so he
was not able to take off.
So there I am on my first flight in
the fleet — my first combat mission
in my squadron — in the Persian
Gulf by myself. On return, I was told
to marshal on a certain radial that
kept me clear of mainland Iranian
airspace but still kept me clear of
other operating areas out in the
Gulf. And then the carrier air traffic
controllers changed that marshal
radial and, in doing so, it required
me to navigate to the new marshal
fix. I did a point-to-point straight to
that next fix and, in doing so, I flew
right over Farsi Island.
I had no idea that such a place
existed, but, apparently, it was
Iranian territory I flew right over
the top of out in the middle of the
Gulf. After I landed on the boat, still
in my flight gear, I had to go see the
admiral. That is how I started this
aviation career. Somehow they let
me keep flying. The rest of the JOs
[junior officers] in the squadron
took care of me and absorbed a lot
of the heat as best they could.
We naval aviators act with the
interest of the United States and
those interests require us to execute
air-to-surface missions or provide
counter-air missions anywhere in
the world. We are ready, able
and willing to do that.
WWW.SEAPOWERMAGAZINE.ORG SEAPOWER / FEBRUARY 2014