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Tell Us About Your Military Job

Tell Us About Your Military Job

 I'm an naval aviator, one of the many women aviators that are now around the Oceana flight line.  I was commissioned from USNA and was out in the fleet on the USS Eisenhower for their 6 month deployment Oct 95-March 96.  Originally I wanted to be a Marine but figured that Marines really didn't want women so I decided to try to break into the boys club of naval aviation because, you know, they were so much more receptive to the idea of having babes around.  The infamous "Tailhook" occurred while I was a senior at college which meant number 1) I missed it unfortunately (contrary to popular belief, many women had a great time) and 2) it would change the way my
career would develop  I selected tactical fighters out of flight school and life has never been the same since.  The Eisenhower cruise I joined was the first east coast deployment of a carrier with women on board.  Millions were spent to purchase spraypaint to designate heads as "Female".  Billions on actual toilet seats, an unheard of thing prior to women serving on ships. And I never heard the end of it.  But after 8 years in the fighter community, it has been nothing but an overwhelmingly positive experience.  As an officer and an aviator, I have a pampered lifestyle as any "black shoe" or enlisted person will tell you.  But don't think that we haven't earned at least a little of what we get.  We spend months away from home unbeknownst to the American public, as much as 9 months out of 12.  Even when the ship is in port, we are training in Fallon or somewhere else for weeks at a time.  Prior to our 6 month deployment we will spend no less than
4 months away from home in preparation for deployment.  And it doesn't matter whether we are at war or not-- the Navy has deployed units 24/7/365.  Most of my friends have missed at least one of their children's births because they were floating off the coast of Iraq, Afghanistan or some other place.  In addition, every time I hear about a jet or helicopter that has crashed I am reminded of the very dangerous job that aviators perform from the carrier pilots returning from 9 hour missions over Afghanistan (yes, I've done it and it's painful) to the Apache drivers in Iraq that fly along at 50' and 100 knots while getting shot at from every direction (thank God I haven't done that).

 A day in the life of a deployed carrier aviator depends on your rank.  A junior officer (JO) will do about as much work as aviators are rumored to accomplish--not much.  They are there to fly, be tactical, be the back bone of the ready room.  A typical day is getting up at 1000, eating breakfast, working out, checking yourself in the mirror to ensure you're still lookin' good, eating lunch, flying, eating dinner, tracking down your lost laundry, checking that mirror again, going to the ship's store to purchase junk food, and finally staying up until 4am watching movies, eating all the junk food you can possibly stuff down your gullet recently purchased at the ship's store and playing Sega while making fun of other JOs.  If you are middle management as a Department Head (usually at about 11-12 years as a commissioned officer), you will work 18 thankless hours a day, never have time to eat or workout but still manage to gain 30 pounds in 30 months, fly
only when you don't have paperwork and deflect heat from the front office directed towards the JO's because they are making too much noise at 4am.  Squadron commanders have about 18 years under their belts.  They spend 24 thankless hours a day wondering and worrying how some knuckle head JO is going to do something stupid and kill him/herself.  Oh yeah, and yell at the JO's for making so much noise at 4 am.    

What is it like to fly in a Navy jet?  Depends on whether or not you're going to be landing at night.  Landing on the boat during a beautiful sunny day is awesome.  Like a sport, shooting hoops with your buds but on a much more grandiose scale.  You launch off the front end, join up, do some tactical intercepts, maybe some dog fighting if you're lucky, then orbit overhead while you wait for the next launch to happen.  Things happen in cycles on a boat.  Launch at 1000, recover at 1015.  Next launch at 1130, recover at 1145, etc.  It's all about the proverbial ballet miracle that the flight deck crew performs flawlessly every day of flight ops.  Night is no different, except for the fact that you are now wearing a blindfold.  It's not fun.  It's as un-fun as the day is fun.  I'd rather be watching movies and playing Sega at 4am.

After 8 years, I wouldn't trade this job for anything, despite some of the bad days and long family separations.  The men I have worked with over the years have evolved in the way you would hope Neanderthals would evolve.  Seriously though, while we are kinder-gentler and annoyingly PC almost to a fault these days (except for chiefs and I wouldn't have it any other way) but I can still find someone that isn't afraid to tell it like it is (which is mostly that I'm doing something wrong again) and talk to me like "one of the boys".  A better group of people never existed.  Of course I'm biased. From the old timers, Vietnam fighter vets that run our simulator building to the 18 year old Plane Captain that shakes my hand when I walk up to a jet for a flight, you won't find a better group of people or a better place to be.

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