I have just returned from my nephew's graduation from flight school in Columbus, Mississippi. An Air Force Academy graduate, he is now headed to fly KC-135's out of RAF Mildenhall, which is a pretty nice assignment for a young kid. Although most of these aircraft are older than the pilots (and, in many cases, their fathers), they have been upgraded several times in their over 40 year careers. I suppose for pilots, receiving their wings is akin to a submariner getting his dolphins, and, because it is a big group occasion, the Air Force does a nice job making a very big deal out of it (I suppose the Navy does, too, but there are no Naval Aviators in my family, just three Air Force pilots).
I know the Navy requires a pretty long commitment from its aviators, but the USAF has these guys for basically another 8 years, which equates to 5 for their education, and 5 for getting the privilege to fly (he's been in training for 2 years, much like our submarine pipeline). I suppose that's a small price to pay for the kids, but, I don't know, after getting through Submarine School, if I could have stayed sane facing 8 years, rather than 3. I do suspect, though, that had the requirement been 8 years, that after 10 years, I might have had a much different outlook on staying in the submarine force. Of course, without some compelling reason to sign up for that long (like MONEY), I think that would serve as a huge deterrent to getting guys to join the sub force. Just my thought on that particular matter.
Anyway, if you ever have the opportunity to be a part of something like this, I highly encourage you to take advantage of it. It will help remind you of how special these kids are to sign up to serve, what they're serving for, and how committed they are to their country, especially in a time of war. This nephew's older brother is also a USAFA graduate, and a C-17 pilot, who completed in January a 4 month deployment flying in and out of Afghanistan and Iraq from our base in Qatar. Thanks to all of you for your service.
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