The other day a friend gave my name to a high school principal who’s looking for a pilot to talk to students interested in military flying careers. I love talking and writing about my experiences flying trainers and fighters for the U.S. Air Force, but I have misgivings about this request and will probably turn it down.
I thought about what these girls and boys, no doubt a diverse mix of races and ethnicities, will see when they see me: a white guy in his 70s, a relic of the age when military flying was a closed boys’ club, largely ignorant of how to position oneself for a hard-to-get flying training slot or how pilot training is conducted today. I mean, when I came in we were still in Vietnam and the pilot training pipeline was operating at maximum capacity … it’s nothing like that today. I can picture them mumbling “sure, white boy” and “okay, Boomer” to themselves, and writing off the possibility of flying for the military.
Instead I picked up the phone and called my friend Michelle. I explained what’s going on and told her I was looking for a better representative of today’s pilot force than me, and she got it right away. Michelle came into the military in the 1990s through the Air Force Academy (the main route to pilot training today) and flew A-10s in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. She’d be perfect, but can’t make the date, which is Friday next. There’s still hope, though: she knows several current A-10 pilots at the nearby air base and is beating the bushes for me.
Beside looking for someone with a better understanding of how military flight training works today, is it wrong to want to present a picture of a more inclusive, gender-neutral Air Force to high school kids? I guess it depends on how woke they are. And maybe I’m being too woke for my own good. But it’s one thing to write about flying here on my blog, where you can ignore me outright or check out any time you want to, and another thing to impose myself on a captive audience that’s likely to see me more as a representative of days gone by than a person with useful experience to impart.