No Jim, You’re Not Screwed Up…

After I wrote about our Christmas 4-ship last week I received the following reply from Jim N.

“Yes it seems like only yesterday…but I checked the calendar and it says no.  Hey, it’s important to see the other 3 guys in your four-ship right!!  Especially if two of them are solos…right.  So why did ATC paint their ’38s camo shades of gray?!?!!  To make it hard to find #4 during rejoins at 30,000ft?!?!!  This makes no sense or am I just old and screwed up?  Jim”

Jim raises an issue I have thought about for years.  This is one of the ‘gray camo’ jets he talks about:


And these jets below are painted white as they were when Jim and I were at Vance AFB, OK together in the mid-70’s.


There was a purpose for having them white.  Our mission was “student training,” and part of that training involved formation flying.  Getting lost in formation training is just part of it.  It happens.  So now, as Jim observes, on a gray, overcast day, which jet do you think an inexperienced student pilot will spot first?  The whit one, or the spiffy camo one?

The jets were all converted to that spiffy camo paint job in the early ’90’s when the Fighter boys took over T-38 student training.

I instructed in the T-38 for over 13 years; from 1975 – 1988, logging over 3,200 hours in the Jet.  I flew with a lot of guys, and a couple gals.  For the most part the Fighter boys always felt it below their state of life to come back to the Training Command – to fly ‘trainers.’  It was just below their dignity.

Often my first ride with one of these guys was an “orientation ride in humility.”  Yeah, I would endure the briefing laced with such Fighter talk as, “Shit-Hot, and Fuck,” followed by calls of “Fox 1,” or “Fox 2” in the hallway as we walked to the chute room.  Pretty extensive vocabulary, and I had to really concentrate to keep up with it…

Once we got in the Jet it became a different matter.  Usually the F-4 guys and the A-10 guys caught on pretty quick.  The guys who flew F-15s and F-16s were a different matter.  (The F-4 had been around for years and was kinda ‘old,’ and the A-10 was the bastard step-child in the fighter world.)  However the differential was that the F-4guys and the A-10 guys knew how to use the rudder; the spiffy jet guys flew with their feet on the floor.  And therein was my opening to teach ‘humility.’  More often than not, the debriefing was quite a bit quieter than the briefing…

In the 90’s Air Training Command (ATC) went through numerous changes.  First the name: it morphed into Air Education and Training Command (AETC – Air et cetera.)  Well swell, I am sure we needed that.  I don’t know how we missed this for so many years?  Then it was decided to go to a “dual track” system of pilot training wherein after basic jet training in the T-37 students would be designated into 2 categories: Fighter/Attack/ Reconnaissance (fast movers) or Tanker/Trainer/Bomber. (‘heavies’)  There were a couple exceptions to these categories, of course, but for the purpose of this conversation, this works.

Now, since the guys only going into T-38s would eventually be going to fighters, it was decided that only Fighter guys should be T-38 IPs.  And I suppose there is merit to this… And to further create the environment the students would be eventually flying in, they repainted the jets to gray camo.  This, in turn, had an additional benefit.  It made the Fighter boys, coming back to the command, feel a lot mo’ better… And that’s important.

So no Jim, you’re not screwed up.  Like me, you’re just ‘old!’  LOL!  However, just think how “shit-hot” they’ll look with a mid-air at 30,000 feet!

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2 Responses to No Jim, You’re Not Screwed Up…

  1. Cheeta17 says:

    Writer’s Comment: Of course I was “generalizing” here. Not all Fighter Pilots fit this mold – matter of fact, probably just a small minority of them do. But that small minority can make it real miserable for the rest of us with their unchecked egos at times! LOL…

  2. Cheeta17 says:

    Received from Jim N. vis email:

    “Bob, in rereading your article I find more and more of your humor…like the..extensive vocabulary of the fighter guys and how you had to pay attention to keep up!! That’s choice…did you get to where you understood all the grunts, groans and farts??? Jim”

    Jim, by the way, is a Fighter Pilot himself, having bagged a MiG in Vietnam…

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