|By Mike Hangge|
Fifty feet up, open desert below, 110 knots. Heat forgotten, sweat pouring. Crew meshed, flight locked tight. Target in sight. One minute out…
To me, there just isn’t anything quite as perfect as those moments when life is forgotten and there’s nothing but the mission. Everything depends on me doing my job. Everything depends on each of us doing our jobs.
We are fused together for those moments—our shields locked tightly—the mission balancing tenuously on a thousand marbles that must roll in unison or we will fail our country, our unit, ourselves and, worst of all, each other. Everything in life comes down to succeed or die. No traffic jams, no lines at the grocery stores, no bills to pay—just the mission.
Succeed or die might sound a bit melodramatic and maybe it is, but to many of us, anything less than success is death.
My daughters love to remind me that I don’t get to go to the target much anymore, but my heart will never forget those days. As my flying hours dwindle and my desk days grow, I have to enjoy every single minute the military will pay to keep me in the air. I know those moments will soon be gone for me. The prospect of their passing has given me a different outlook on aviation. I cherish the memories with a fresh appreciation, while valuing each additional one with a vigor that is difficult to explain.
And that finally brings me around to my point. Many of us have forgotten how special this gift of flight truly is. We’ve taken it for granted and “let the military ruin flying” for us. Yet it is our fault for letting anything ruin it.
Think back to how we got here. We grew up with dreams of flying. We watched the skies for contrails. We admired people with names like Wright, Rutan, Yeager and Sikorsky. We drooled over Sopwiths, nose art, Mustangs, Hueys and Cobras. We listened to the music of Pratt & Whitney radials or Rolls-Royce Merlin V-12s. We looked up, wishing we were looking down.
But now that we’ve joined the brotherhood of aviators, it’s become a “job” and lost its dreamlike qualities. We’ve forgotten how hard we struggled, suffered and studied to get this opportunity. We’ve lost our inner child and forgotten how to appreciate the special moments.
Sure, there are days, even weeks when finding a magical moment is difficult. But then that moment comes… billowy clouds that wisp up and pass gently over. A formation at three rotor disks. Sticking the drogue hard to get gas off the tanker. Every flight offers some brief moment when we are granted a quick glimpse of this godly gift we’ve been given.
I love this job. I know it sounds corny, but I do. I say it in the aircraft all the time. Some crews laugh. Some probably think I’m just crazy. But I hope none ever wonder if I’m serious. I love to fly. I love this job. I just can’t say it any clearer.
So, to all my military aviation brethren, remember to live in the moment. Cherish the blessings of this job. Forget the hard times and remember the awe-inspiring sights you’ve seen. Grab onto each moment, no matter how simple, as if it might be your last above Earth. Appreciate the steady hover, the smooth landing, the ray of light through a crack in the clouds, the desert plateau, the mission-focused crew. When you find those moments, remember to key the microphone to say, “I love this job.”
Above all else, tell others how much you love to fly. Share your stories of aviation. Instill that love in others. Nurture it for the next generation. Find enjoyment in everything you do and you will truly enjoy everything about your life.
And always remember there are a thousand in line behind you with dreams of doing what you are paid to do.
Related: Military News