On this Memorial Day I would like to point out that we lost friends before it was on CNN. Wolf Blizter never lamented our loss. On FOX, Bill O, Reilly never called them patriots. We mourned and buried our dead without fanfare.
Before Enduring Freedom. Before Iraqi Freedom. Before Desert Storm. We were fighting. It was the Cold War. For not a “Shooting War” our body count stacked up. Many were lost on “Routine Training Missions”. Even more were lost in car wrecks, alcoholism, depression, cancer and more.
We Lucky Puppies are a Band of Brothers and Sisters. We’ve lost our share.
On my first day in Germany, while reporting in, we drove to base in a snow storm. Traffic was rerouted into a farmer’s field. A young First Lieutenant had hit black ice while trying to pass. The pilot had died when he hit an on coming truck head on.
1980s: Capt. Mike “Seed” Caraway, 313th TFS, F4 crash
The Lucky Puppies were deployed to Zaragoza, Spain for weapons training when TOPGUN premiered in Europe. Everyone wanted to go see it.
We were turning and burning all week long. We deployed twice a year from our base in Germany. Hahn AB was notorious for bad weather, the deployments gave us two shots of 30 days in good weather to do all the things that just couldn’t be done safely back home.
The first showing was Friday night in the base theater. As we strapped the pilots in for the last go, they were told to not screw around. Bring the jets back early and do not break them. They wanted to go see Top Gun as much as we did and they promised to not screw up the show.
You send them to school and pay them big bucks and pilots still fly jets like boys on bikes. We stood there watching as they wheeled into the pattern. Everyone is looking at their watch. Timing how long the Post Flight Inspections would take. Would we get to the 7pm showing or the 9pm? What do the pilots do? They start shooting touch and goes. Over and over. By onesies and twosies they wander in to park. And they come in broke all to hell. We even had an engine change. We were there all night working on them.
Needless to say we were pissed. To add insult to injury we worked Saturday as well. No movie for us. Then something wonderful happened. The pilots were feeling bad about screwing up our weekend. The movie was sold out Friday and Saturday and it didn’t look good for Sunday. So they all chipped in and rented the theater for us on Sunday. Our own private showing.
So it’s 2pm and we were in the theater all by ourselves. Just the squadron. Officers and enlisted. Rowdy as hell. I still pity the girl running the concession stand. For some reason it was behind the screen so she had a booth set up on the left of the stage. To fill an order she would disappear behind the curtain and then reappear with sodas, popcorn and junk. She was a cutie and every time she reappeared she would be met with hoots and howls and whistles. One of the officers finally stood up and told us to knock it off. Maybe he was talking to the pilots. Maybe to everyone. Everyone shut up.
The lights go down and the curtains open. We all stand for the National Anthems of America and Spain (that happens in military theaters). Somebody yells “PLAY BALL!” and we all sit down. The movie was great. we got loud again. The Crew Chiefs are hooting and cheering. The pilots are going, “That’s you Dude. No that’s you asshole.” A great time was had by all.
Everyone was still buzzing from the movie. People were already doing their favorite scenes. We already fell into “Topgun Talk”.
“Hey, you going to just sit there or do some Crew Chief Shit?”
“Holy Shit! It’s QA, break right.”
“Maddog defeats the QVI with a technical deviation.”
But business is business and we still were working. When you launch a jet you’re on a Comm Cord so that you can talk to the pilot as we go through the launch procedures. There’s a button on the cord and you press it to talk. It takes three decisions to launch an F-16. The pilot is looking at his stuff in the cockpit. You’re looking for leaks and stuff on the outside. Then the aircraft itself has to decide if it wants to fly. It’s called the BIT check (Built in Test). We call it the “Funky Chicken”. As the BIT check runs, the flight controls twitch and shudder as the Flight Computer checks to see if everything is all right. It looks like an epileptic bird. Hence, “Funky Chicken”.
While it’s going through it’s paces I’ve got nothing to do but stand there. You’ll get your head hit if you’re under the jet. Well, I’m still hyped on Top Gun so I start singing “You Lost That Lovin’ Feeling”. I get to the chorus when I notice someone is singing along with me. It’s the pilot. I’ve got a hot mic on the cord and he can hear me. I abruptly stop singing. He finishes the chorus and says, “I loved the movie too chief. Flight controls clear.”
The Navy gets “Topgun” and the Air Force gets “Iron Eagle” (or as I like to say, “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes Meets the Air Force”). There is no justice in the world. But “You Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” is still one of my good ones on Karaoke Night. We pulled that stunt on many unsuspecting ladies at the NCO club.