Air-Minded: This Wokeism Has Gone Too Far

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.

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2 thoughts on “Air-Minded: This Wokeism Has Gone Too Far

  • I have qualms about equating sports with patriotism and never understood the playing of the national anthem at ball games or the pledge of allegiance any time- sports are international. The pledge smacks of McCarthyism, better keep mumbling along with the others with hand on ribcage lest you be reported to the House Committee on Un-American Activities. Like the first Soviet functionary on Red Square to stop clapping for Stalin gets to visit the Siberian gulag. I feel the same about jet fighter flyover ‘tributes’ at ball games. It feels more like onanistic self congratulations than an unasked for ‘tribute’. It’s a waste of fuel too and pollutes the air. I don’t want to hear about how it’s all training and they would have burned that fuel anyway: stadium flyovers are not training and simulators are the training wave of the future. We need no ‘tributes’ or flyovers to pimp the flying services and increase recruitment. If we want to help the services recruit young people we should ditch the macho, big ego, all male, sky-God Blue Angels and Thunderbirds in favor of massed drone flyovers. Human pilots are going to be an endangered species soon; so 20th century. We need to attract potential drone pilots. I think you did the right thing passing the gig on to a younger spokespilot regardless of gender, your experience was too long ago to be very germane to kids considering the military these days. Like my service, different world. You would not believe the online flame wars I started from suggesting the dismantling of the service stunt teams and flyovers in favor of cheap less polluting drones. Volks sure love them some zoom zoom, no matter how dirty and expensive. Gots to see what they’re paying so much for I guess.
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  • Paul, I’d have to answer your question with a firm, “No, it ain’t wrong to want to present a picture of a more inclusive, gender-neutral military.” There were frustrating moments during my time in the Navy when it seemed like we were being asked to stand in for the Petri dish in various social experiments, but the truth is that the US military is and always has been a reflection of society at large. I have observed a great deal of ignorance on both sides of the divide between the civilian populace and service members, but I’ve never seen a negative reaction when that essential truth sinks in.

    For better or worse, humans more readily accept truths from people they relate to. That’s not to say that we white-dudes-of-a-certain-age no longer have anything to offer, it’s just harder for high school students of today to image that we were ever young, uncertain about our place in the world, and motivated by a desire to make that world better.

    To my mind, it’s unusual and kinda great these days when someone expresses a desire to share their experiences and is also willing to help find a better, more effective messenger.

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