Archive for August, 2010

The means change, but the end remains the same.

25 August 2010 5 comments

‎”Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:34

This definitely won’t be an easy entry for me to write, but it’s one of those that must be written. As my friend Zach said (in a roundabout way), “It’s not there to be just about the good…it’s there to be the good, the bad, and the ugly.” This is a blog about my life, ups or downs. The goal of this blog isn’t to go on and on about how successful I am, or how lucky I am…It’s to tell my “Journey” that of a 2d Lieutenant. An officer, in the United States Air Force. Not a pilot, not a 92T0, not any other career field, but an officer. That has always been my “end” and being a pilot in the Air Force was the means…It just so happened that the means to that end was doing something I have always dreamed about and thought would be cool. Fifteen years I’ve thought and “dreamed” of flying…during that whole time and as time went on I slowly realized that my first job and the real desire was to serve, and lead…to be an Air Force Officer and lead some of the best people in the world. Growing from a boy into a young man…I moved on from the fixation of just doing something “cool” and going fast…maybe even blowing something up, to wanting to serve the Air Force in the best way I thought I could. Using my skills and abilities in the best way, to best serve the Air Force. That of course was to be a pilot, but again, I was an officer first…a wingman, warrior, leader. The more training I went through, the older I got, the more people I talked to…I realized this more and more. My goal, my ambition, my desire, my destiny, my future wasn’t revolved around being a pilot, but an officer. The end result, was being an officer.

For those that don’t know yet, which is surprising (news travels really fast around the circles of people that read this…be that good or bad) but I dropped from Pilot Training during initial flight screening. I completed three of the four weeks, and I finally made a decision at the end of week three to drop. I never had any real thoughts of not wanting to be a pilot before I got to IFS. Looking back on it all though I think I should have seen the writing on the wall when I was an aviation major in college and switched to political science. How I felt then (freshmen year of college) and how I felt at IFS were very very similar, just IFS was multiplied by several degrees due to the intensity and the situation. I didn’t enjoy the aviation major, I didn’t even like the environment/atmosphere of it all. That same environment and atmosphere is the same during pilot training and here. At times it’s fun, but it’s not exactly my cup of tea. Any day I had to fly (during college and at IFS) I dreaded it…Getting in the airplane I did fine, on par…wasn’t terrible….but I just didn’t enjoy it. I switched to political science (my interest) and loved it, even the not so awesome classes. It also was a decent backup in case I never got a pilot slot…for intelligence. I should have taken that feeling back then and stuck with it…but I felt that it was just civilian flying and this wasn’t the real deal. Of course IFS isn’t the “real deal” persay either…but it’s pretty darn close to what Undergraduate pilot training will be like for a year+ and a lot of the same stuff you’ll do on active duty.

What it all really boiled down to at IFS was really one thing…the same as college. I didn’t enjoy it. It wasn’t for me. Every day I spent at IFS the thought and feeling kept growing in my head and in my heart. I was steadily losing more and more sleep by week 3. I passed every single quiz, and test on the first try. I knew most if not all of the radio calls, challenges, callouts…my procedures were a little behind the curve but that’s mainly due to me getting airsick during three flights and unable to really learn. I was on par with most of the class, and was doing fine. I guess I could have stuck it out and finished, but I’d be in the same situation I am in now. Why prolong the inevitable if you know what is in your heart is true?

So what happens next…Well I’m considered “DOR” or Drop on Request. It’s not really frowned upon, as we are saving the air force some time and money by us not starting pilot training and dropping then. Which from “rumors” (and this may not be fact or not) but if you drop from UPT your chances of reclassification are slimmer. We were told when we first got here that if we aren’t sure then drop early…because our chances of staying would be better. What happens is the Air Force starts a class every three weeks…say there are 20 people in each class…IF 20 start and 10  drop, well the Air Force will forever lose those 10 slots. They can’t advance people and have them “hurry” up to fill forward…They are gone. Thus, initial flight screening is emphasized more and more (especially so during times like these where there are cutbacks and force shaping going on.) The goal and purpose of IFS is to “screen” the pilot trainees to see if they can make it when they start pilot training. Something to keep in mind though, this is a screening process for you as well…for you to decide if this is what you want to do for the next 10-11 years of your life (or even longer) in the Air Force.  For me, It gave me a taste and my fears were confirmed…it wasn’t for me. Probably the bigger fear for me was the fear of either making the wrong decision (enjoying flying but it was just IFS causing it) as well as the fear of deciding to drop, and then not being retained in the Air Force. As far as the first fear goes, I’m pretty darn sure that it’s not for me…a part of me would love to fly an airplane…but not as a job. If I could fly  maybe once a month then I think I’d be fine. Or even just riding in one or something. The second fear is much more real. Anyone that washes out or drops out of initial skills training is being looked at for two things…to be retained or not, and then reclassification. What happens for me first is I fill out some paperwork that gets submitted to my commander. I meet with him and he’ll get a vibe for my situation and he’ll write a favorable or an unfavorable recommendation for me to either advise the board…to retain me, or not to retain me. If I am not retained then I leave the Air Force, a better man than what I started…with a lot of lessons learned, but without the life I really enjoy. I seriously love being an Air Force and serving my nation. I couldn’t see myself doing anything else…this is…my life. If I am retained, I then meet another board to decide my new career field (or classification) in the Air Force. I fill out a “dream” sheet in advance with my top five jobs. Intelligence is of course number one…followed by space and missiles, communication, contracting, and security forces. Once I am reclassified I then go to that training.

It’s definitely a big step….the plus side is while I’m waiting my “fate” I stay at Laughlin and continue my casual duties, which is being a gate guard. I still get paid, I still have a place to live, and something to do.

The main thing is being happy with life…and I really do believe that my happiness isn’t flying…it’s being an intelligence officer and putting what I studied in college to use in some way. My senior year I took a ton of Middle Eastern studies courses…and I loved it. Hell I love almost everything dealing with political science, and all the different jobs in intelligence are right up my alley. I really believe that “this is what I was meant to do.” My path has kind of lead me here, even if it were a bit longer and out of the way than it could have been. But that’s part of living, that’s part of finding that path…and traveling on it. Something at IFS just made me wake up and see it…and by last Friday I had my “Epiphany” and knew that I was on the wrong road. I know it’s hard for some people to understand…especially some of my peers…the ones that know that flying is their path, they really can’t see how I view it all. At first when I had all of those feelings of this not being for me…I blew them off, attempted to cover them up and bury them…hope they’d go away and that everyone had those thoughts…I was afraid of dropping and then not being retained. Afraid of being meant to fly and making the wrong choice. It’s incredibly hard to want to do something for 15 years…and then to just change from that. Many people that have known me that long see me as “Michael the future Air Force aviator” …they don’t associate me being an officer first…it’s being a pilot. For me for the first couple years it was the same way. Even contemplating dropping made me feel like a failure…Like I couldn’t hack it. I never fail at anything.Any challenge I meet and overcome it. I don’t fail, it’s not in my vocabulary. By the time I made my decision I didn’t see it as failing. I still don’t. I could have completed the program, but I knew it wasn’t my path anymore. I dropped, I didn’t fail out, I didn’t get terminated because I wasn’t pilot material. My skills, abilities, and assets are meant to be used elsewhere…I was meant to do something else. I believe I was meant to be an Intelligence Officer, but time will tell if the Air Force puts me there or not. Regardless of what career field I get I know I’ll do it well. I’m only a little worried about not being retained, just because it’s not guaranteed. The same goes for being reclassified to intelligence, but something just tells me that It’ll all work out. What I was meant to do will happen, it just takes time. I wish to serve my country, and hopefully that will be as an Intelligence Officer…but I’ll do it anyway I can.

And a side note…The people are what make the Air Force so amazing…

Part of me is definitely worried, scared, and nervous about the future…But I need to just have faith…I still don’t like the fact I’m not in control of my future. That’s when I just have to keep reminding myself    “Control what you can control…the rest will work itself out.”

Categories: IFS, The Journey, Training

Time to Fly – Week 2, as the Stress Multiplies.

Week two has finally come to a close. This week was definitely tough and it was a challenge along the way. I’ve always been pretty sure of what I wanted to do in life, but this past week really made me start to ask that question “Is this made for me? Do I still want to do this?” I don’t think I’ve ever had such thoughts before, be that good or bad. It was a challenge to deal with such thoughts, but then again this is IFS…this is the one time in our flying careers that flying is going to have this much suck.

For those people coming into IFS with a ton of hours (one guy in my flight has 1800+) than it really wont be that bad. For those of us with only a little time, or even no time at all (I have 13 hours in a Cessna 152) well, things are a little more rough. After all this is a screening process, it’s to really test us to see if we’ll stick it out and not just waste the Air Force’s money.

I flew four times this past week, everyday but Thursday. My Monday flight is your “intro” flight called a “dollar ride.” It went alright for the most part but I did feel a little nausea from the flight. I flew with the same IP again on Tuesday and Wednesday. This IP was alright, but I really wasn’t learning too much from him…he’d usually just correct the mistake himself instead of teaching me how to do it. It also didn’t help that I got active airsickness (actual vomiting)  on Tuesday, and then passive airsickness (Nausea that made me relinquish controls to the IP) on Wednesday. At this point my mind was a mess. Anytime I thought about flying my body would feel ill and not really encourage me to try to fly again. I switched Instructor Pilots (IPs) on Thursday and he could tell I wasn’t feeling well/doing well. I took Thursday to rejuvenate and study up for Friday. My Friday flight went about 300% better than the previous flights. I didn’t get airsick and only had a very momentary period of nausea. My new instructor is pretty awesome, and I learned a ton from him. I did my first completely unassisted takeoff and landing as well…so that felt pretty good. I am a good amount behind (about one flight) from where I need to do. This is due to my airsickness and I wasn’t able to execute a lot of the maneuvers or do some pattern work since I had gotten airsick by that point in the flight.

This place definitely makes you question what you want to continue to do in the Air Force. For some, they’ll leave because they just don’t enjoy it anymore (I don’t really enjoy it at this stage either, but that’s due to it being IFS…and flying a DA-20.) Though I did have fun on Friday…which was awesome. One of my friends (who is at Laughlin with me and was in my flight of 13 at ASBC) also left on Friday. His was more than just “this isn’t for me anymore.” With him it wasn’t about ability or not being able to fly, I mean he even has 60 hours in the DA-20 (the aircraft we fly here at IFS.) For him it’s just that he believes his happiness and life is meant to be doing something else in the Air Force. I hope he finds what he’s looking for, he’s a great guy.

With at least 10 people leaving from my IFS class of 80…it’s definitely a wake up call. Two of them were from my flight. I don’t blame or question any of their decisions…as I was wrestling with the same decision for most of Weds and Thursday. If I didn’t have a good flight on Friday, I don’t know what would have happened. I know my IP was going to make me fly a sortie with him before I decided anything. He knew what I was feeling and experiencing and his main objective on Friday was to make me comfortable in the aircraft so I stopped thinking about not being able to do it, as well as getting sick. Evidently it worked, and my self-esteem is renewed for the most part.

When it comes to academics or studying, I can do just fine…I’m not struggling or having trouble with that portion of it at all. What was happening was I wasn’t learning from my previous IP, and after I got sick then my body was just not wanting to have any part of it. I’m the only one of the 29 in my flight that were having airsickness problems. That’s an added huge obstacle for me to overcome. I talked to a couple people from the class ahead and they gave me some examples of people getting sick 5+ rides and still being able to pull through. It just meant I was going to have to chairfly (sitting in a mock up cockpit of the DA-20) and run through all the motions of the flight like radio calls, maneuvers, and navigation. Most of this stuff you have to commit to memory as  you just don’t have time to hesitate and think. The biggest hurdle is just getting the whole procedure of it all down…because each flight is very similar, it’s just knowing what to do and when to do it. “Being ahead of the airplane.” I learned a ton with my new IP so I’m pretty hopeful of what is to come. Regardless I’m going to stick it out and give it my all. I know I can do it now.

A huge help has just been the other guys here with me at IFS. If you get a little down or negative they’ll pick you back up and make sure you head is back in the game. Even the guy that left made sure I had a clear head about it all. One guy (Matt) has been chairflying with me…he’s got quite a bit more experience with it all than I do, so he’s been a huge help. He also went with me to Pikes Peak along with another group of guys.

Friday and Saturday definitely helped me to get my head back in the game and refocus on the next two weeks (hopefully I’m done before that.) Friday we had a class party for the three flights of people here at IFS. Beer, food, and friends…lol. I love the pilot type environment….gotta have beer. Then on Saturday I drove up to Pikes Peak with Matt. Got to finally use the lancer driving up a mountain…It was definitely an awesome time. I recommend anyone coming to IFS to go up to Pikes Peak on some weekend. And since it is “Pikes” peak….I definitely made it applicable to my fraternity (pike.) I even found a hoddie that had our fraternity colors.

(You can see my facebook album for more pictures)

Once the week was over though, I’m definitely glad I’m here and continuing on. I know this is probably about as much “suck” as there will be, and UPT also wont be fun, but it’s the people who make it a fun experience. Without these guys, It would be hell here.

Thanks for reading, and who knows, maybe next time I update I’ll have soloed!

Categories: IFS, The Journey, This and That

Academics, Studying, Academics, Studying, with a side of Exercise

9 August 2010 1 comment

Well loyal readers, it is officially the end of Week 1 here at IFS. What a fun week indeed. When they say “learning from the fire hose” they definitely mean it. This is a screening program so thus they want to see how well we can perform with this fire hose effect. When I say “learning from the fire hose” it’s an analogy they use to explain how quick the information comes at us. Think of a normal classroom setting and you’re drinking from the water fountain.

I’ll start off with the IFS complex as a whole. It’s a renovated industrial building so it makes for an interesting “complex” in terms of living quarters. All the metal that the building is made of limits the cell phone reception (luckily I’m on an exterior wall so it doesn’t suck too much.) The building doesn’t really have any windows save for the flight rooms/dining facility/ a couple officers. A very few living quarters have windows. I really never know what the weather is since I rarely even see outside. The rooms aren’t bad, I’d rate them better than ASBC for sure, but the rooms at Laughlin had better TVs. The internet here is really good though (which is bad because I’ve played WoW and StarCraftII here…) The exercising area is pretty nice, and the dining facility is actually really good. I definitely don’t have any complaints with the place (I know shocking!) A window would be nice, but eh…It makes sleeping really easy.

Monday was in-processing, nothing special there really. Just got my security badge, checked into my room…That’s really about it.

Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday/Friday were all the same. Complete mirror images of one another. Wake up at 5:30, go to physical training at 6am. Shower and change into blues by 7:20 to start briefings until 12:00. Then we’d break for lunch until about 12:40…then have more academic briefings until 4/5pm. This repeated all four days. In total we had about 20 academic lessons. This covered almost every aspect of basic flight…Aircraft systems, maneuvers, airspace, weather, etc and so on. It’s about the amount of stuff I covered in a semester of school (six credit hours) in the course of 4 days…Of course my 6 credit hours of it were more in depth, but right now we are just getting the very basics. Once UPT starts it’ll be much much more in depth.

We then have an academic test on monday (tomorrow). In total there are around 500 possible questions or so, taken from our practice quizzes. Not every single question on the test will be from the quizzes though, but same basic concepts. Of those 500 or so questions (50) of them are randomly chosen when you log in to take the test. This weekend I hammered away at everything and I’d say I’ve put in over 20 hours of studying. I did at least 10 hours just today. I really don’t think I’ve studied for anything so much, but this is how it’ll be for pilot training as well. That and you add in the whole aspect of this being my job now, and the one thing I’ve wanted to do in life. It’s pretty easy to find motivation to study. First flight tomorrow, and my academic test tomorrow. You fail it twice you’re done, 85% or higher is a pass. I’m aiming for a 100% =)

I don’t feel like I’m struggling (but we’ll see when I start having to fly.) It’s all come to me pretty easily and I actually feel more prepared after a week than I did a whole semester at ISU. That all probably helped lead me up to this though. It’s pretty amazing what you can make yourself do given the circumstances. I’ve been pretty exhausted the whole past week due to not sleeping well, and I’ve still been on the ball. I’m motivated, I’m excited, I’m ready to kick ass. What I’ve always planned, hoped, dreamed, or aimed for all starts tomorrow. I’m definitely anxious, but I’m not worried. If I put my mind to something, focus on it, and strive to obtain it…I do, failure just isn’t an option for me…I don’t even think I know the definition of that word anymore. Of course this is just a “screening” and the real deal starts sometime in October, but you have to get through here in order to get to the next part…so one thing at a time…one thing at a time.

Control the things you can control, and to hell with the rest.

Categories: Uncategorized

Enroute to Pueblo

3 August 2010 1 comment

Since my last entry, I did another week of casual status, and drove to IFS (Introductory Flight Screening) at Pueblo, Colorado. I’ll break down each, starting with last week of casual status.

Casual status last week (for the most part) was much like the previous weeks. Did gate guard shifts (I mainly worked the morning shifts this time) and finished up my checklists for in-processing. It was nice to finally turn those things in. I also got issued all my flight stuff (flight suits/helmet bag/gloves/ and even air force aviators….) I guess each base is different on the “extra” stuff as we got the aviators, and others got watches.

I also took my Physical Fitness Test last Monday. Even though I do another one here, tomorrow…The one last Monday will hold me over until I start phase 1. I scored a 90 which means I should only take it once a year, but since I’m a pilot trainee…we take it during every phase of training. The one I have to do tomorrow morning is going to be bad…This altitude is going to be killer.

There were a couple awesome things that happened last week. I finally moved into my dorm (woohoo for my own place again!) I got the key to my room Tuesday, and moved all my stuff in on Wednesday right after my gate guard shift. I had the cable guy there hooking up my cable/internet within a matter of hours. The internet isn’t the best, but it’s a hell of a lot better than what I’ve had  the past couple months. (The internet here at IFS is actually pretty good, just a side note.)  I don’t even have a TV yet, as I haven’t had the money for one, but that’s the “awesome thing to happen last week, number 2!” I got all my back pay from ASBC, my TDY and my PCS money (PCS = Permanent change of station.) The drive to Maxwell is TDY while the drive from Maxwell to your base is considered a PCS (if you’re enroute.) All of this combined was a lot of money. Most of that money has been money I’ve paid out for gas/lodging and food.

On Saturday I left Laughlin and headed to Lubbock, Texas for my first stop along the way to Pueblo. This six hour leg was pretty long, there wasn’t a whole lot to see (at first there kind of was as the road I was on required constant turns and was fun to drive/maneuver.) Once I made it to Lubbock I went to my friend Kelsey’s apartment. She’s a friend from my flight at field training and I hadn’t seen her since then. It was also nice to meet her fiancé, Jacob, who is also a WoW player (Kelsey is also.) I definitely appreciated them allowing me to stay with them/ hang out, it was fun.

The next day I continued my trip to Walsenburg, Colorado. The first part of this drive was pretty boring, and flat. New Mexico brought about the start of the Sangre De Cristo mountains. By the time I was in Colorado I was right in the heart of them. Once I made it to Walsenburg I made a side journey over to La Veta to see the Twin Spanish Peaks. Which is the picture below.

After that I took a side road over to Gardner, Colorado and drove by some familiar spots. I made my way over to the start of the Upper Huerfano area and snapped a couple pictures. The Upper Huerfano area is where I’ve actually hiked/camped back in high school for three summers in a row. You can see all that info on my facebook though. And the people that actually want to know all about that are probably my facebook friend. The below image is a shot is along the road leading back into that area more. I wasn’t going to risk going further with my car though.

The last image is just a map I found of the area. You can pretty see where everything is laid out that I discussed. That V area of the map with Mt Blanca making the base of the V is where I used to go/took the last picture from.

My next post I’ll detail the first week of IFS, as I’ve only in-processed today. So until next time!

Categories: IFS, The Journey