THE MOUSE THAT ROARED
Every now and then,
the mouse roars. There aren't too many things an O-2 pilot can
do to claim the spotlight. The following is an incident of my
one moment of glory in the annals of aviation.
The stereotype fighter
pilot is Mr. Macho himself. There's nothing he doesn't know. Nothing
he can't do better than anyone else. No other man knows women
better than he. Nobody has a greater sexual prowess than he. Just
look at "Top Gun". He can just barely tolerate living on the same
planet with the rest of us mere mortals. He is the ultimate in
creation. At least that's the way he sees himself.
The rest of us can
recognize them by the sloping foreheads, single thick eyebrow,
calluses on their knuckles from dragging them on the ground, non
opposable thumbs, and other simian trails.. You can always tell
a fighter pilot, as long as you use simple, easy to understand
words. When you brief fighter pilots, you know its time to move
on to the next slide when you see their lips stop moving. They
are living proof that with enough bananas ...
I know dozens of fighter
pilots who do not fit either image. Most of them are ordinary
guys, representing an average cross section of the population
from ministers to ex-NFL football players. However, there are
those who insist on living up to the stereotype.
As a much younger
(23 years old) 1st Lt, Forward Air Controller (FAC), one of my
assigned missions was to teach fighter pilots at MacDill AFB,
FL. how to work with FACs. MacDill is where the Air Force taught
F-4 "school" for pilots coming in from pilot training or cross
training from other aircraft. During one of my pre-mission briefings
to a group of F-4 "studs1,"
I got the distinct feeling that they regarded anyone who flew
an aircraft that didn't have afterburners as sub human. What they
thought of non fliers, I don't know. They listened to my briefing
only because it was part of the lesson plan. After all, what could
I tell them that they didn't already know.
I did have something
they wanted. I got to choose the targets they would attempt to
hit. What they wanted to hit was a convoy on the tactics range.
This was a new target consisting of 5 non-serviceable trucks hauled
out to the range on a flatbed truck, and placed along one of the
roads. It was a "virgin" target. Unlike the other targets on the
range, this one wasn't beat up. In fact, we were the first flight
with an opportunity to run an airstrike on it. This group of jocks
couldn't wait to "deflower" that virgin. My initial thought was
not to work them on that target, but I figured that the target
would still be a there after they got through with it. (I later
read a quote in Clancy's "Red Storm Rising" that sums it up, "They
couldn't fight their way into a Turkish bordello, much less do
something useful while they're there")
According to the lesson
plan given to me verbally by the F-4 instructor, I was supposed
to give these guys a general purpose workout. Each F-4 was loaded
with two 750 lb canisters of water (to simulate napalm), 4 BDU-33
(little blue bombs that go "poof" but fall exactly like big green
bombs that go "bang"), and 100 rounds of 20 MM. My plan was to
them out with napalm passes on another target to simulate a low
threat environment, practice dive bombing on the convoy, and strafe
for score on the panels.
As the last F-4 came
off the first target, I was already into my briefing and positioned
my Oscar Deuce for the second strike. As number 4 pulled into
strike formation, I went in for my mark. I came down the road
along the length of the convoy, aiming for the middle truck. I
unleashed my "willie pete" at what looked like the appropriate
immediately pulled off and out of the way to work the airstrike.
During the few seconds it took me to maneuver into position, I
gave the flight their final instructions. The last part of the
instructions was how many meters off my mark to aim. I usually
planned my speech, and my flying so I could look back and find
where the rocket hit. Unlike the movies, you don't see the rocket
hit. You don't watch it go in, you get out of the way.
I had a problem finding
my smoke. The first I saw of it was as it started pouring out
of the windows of the middle truck. One of the F-4 instructors
told me during the debriefing, that it had gone into the back
window of the cab. What I wanted to do was an aileron roll3
and scream over the radio in a pitch slightly lower than that
audible only to dogs; "I GOT THE TRUCK ... I GOT THE TRUCK ...
GOD DAMN, I GOT THE TRUCK". What I actually did, was punch the
mike button, and say as deadpan as I could muster, "Er, I got
the middle truck, you guys can pick up the rest."
Only one of their
bombs got close enough to do any damage if they were dropping
500 pounders. As it was, I don't think they even got close enough
to get the trucks dusty. My BDA (Bomb Damage Assessment) was that
all of their bombs impacted in Florida.
It was a slightly
more somber group I met upon debriefing.
On another trip to
MacDill, there was a group of four of us lieutenants who were
flying the midnight to noon shift (you don't think they'd make
higher ranking officers fly those hours). So we met at the Officer's
Club bar about 2 in the afternoon for some cold ones. This old
timer comes in and sits down. He notices our patches, knows that
we're from out of town, introduces himself as "Eddie," and strikes
up a conversation. He buys us a round of beer, and seems very
interested in our quaint O-2s, and the mission we fly.
He finishes his beer
and leaves. One of my squadron mates asks the bartender who the
old geezer was. The bartender replies that he frequents the O'Club
a lot since his old squadron, the 94th, is stationed there. The
old geezer used to be the commander of that unit … in WW I ...
is supposed to stand for "students," but they considered
themselves under some other interpretation
I was rarely on dive angle, airspeed, or altitude at release
time. I made "best guess" corrections for being off. While these
tactics made it more difficult for me to hit them;
it also made it more difficult for them to hit me.
Yes, it is possible, albeit illegal to do aileron rolls in the
O-2. Don't ask me how I know.