Military stories from past to present, both wars.

Today’s Entitlement Mentality…

April 30th, 2012 Posted in Military


This whole topic started among some pilot buddies of mine who were discussing some of the “Naval Aviation Pipelines..” websites out there.  The entitlement mentality is alive and well in the military aviation community as well as the 1st CivDiv.


A buddy of mine “Grinch” (thanks again for letting me post this Grinch) happened to be an extra on a flight where he was able to snap a bunch of pictures of one particular flight student (Stud for short) and his flight.  At the winging ceremony of the student he asked Grinch if he wouldn’t mind emailing those shots to his folks.  Not an uncommon request right?  Well it was the response from the parents that made Grinch sit back and say “WTH???”
Maybe the parents just assumed that if you got jets, you would be flying fighters but in this Stud’s case, he got S-3’s that provide the anti sub missions and tanking etc.  I have landed on the USS Lexington in the back of a TA-4 as ballast and know that flying any jet onto an aircraft carrier is just one of the most incredible feats an aviator can make as I watched the IP smoothly complete this ballet act.


So with that in mind, this email from the parents comes from what the son probably tells them (how he got screwed out of a fighter pilot slot etc) since he has talked about being a “Fighter Pilot” all his life and told anyone who would listen while at the Naval Academy that he was a shoe in for the F-18.


We had a Marine like this who was a graduate of the A.F. charm school when I was in primary down in Corpus.  When his time to select came up, he put down Jet’s, Jet’s and Jet’s (you get three choices, Jets/props/Helo’s) but it turns out he wasn’t even close to Jet grades and when he received Helo’s, he drove to his dad’s ranch in San Antonio and shot himself over the fact he didn’t get Jets.  His dad was an F-4/F-15 fighter pilot in the Air Force and if you weren’t a fighter pilot then you weren’t crap…what a waste.


So, guess the point of this post is to show you that while you might want one thing in life, you may get the other.  You need to realize that some things work out for a reason and embrace your life no matter what that may be.  As they say in our area, “Life is too short to live in Dallas”


Hat’s off to Grinch to patiently put together this fantastic response to the parents as to why little Johnny didn’t get that F-18 slot.  A lesson for all who wanted something but instead of door A, you opened door B.


… wrote:
Just wanted to drop a line to thank you for the
photos. They all turned out great. We are certainly
proud of Kevin and what he has accomplished since his
graduation from the Naval Academy. It was his
ambition and goal to become a fighter pilot since
high school. But as you may know that was not the case
being assigned to S-3s. We still haven’t figured that
out yet. It would be nice if someone could explain to
us why that assignment and not just saying that is
what was available. We don’t completely buy that.
Anyway thanks again for thinking of us and sending the
pics. We certainly appreciate that. Take care, keep
safe and God Bless.



Mr. and Mrs. ….,
Glad you enjoyed the pictures. I’m also glad to hear that you’re proud of your son Kevin. You have good reason to be. He seems like a pretty good guy. I do not know specifics about Kevin’s selection. I’m not involved with that process at all. It wouldn’t be appropriate for me to discuss that information if I knew it anyway.

I would like to share with you the story of my own selection that might help put Kevin’s assignment into a better perspective for you. My goal since I was very young was to be a fighter pilot as well. But I too received orders to fly S-3s. I had slightly better than average grades. Average grades in the jet pipeline usually means a student will get fighters. I do not know what Kevin’s grades were but I know that aircraft selection depends heavily on grades. When I selected there was a pilot with a lower Navy Standard Score than mine that received orders to fly F-18s. Nobody explained to me why I received orders to fly S-3s and the pilot with the lower grades received orders to fly fighters.

But just before my winging I happened to be in the administrative office one afternoon when nobody was around and I saw my selection sheet. I put F-14’s first, F-18s…etc. At the bottom of the sheet I saw something handwritten by my Squadron Commanding Officer. It said “finished 12 out of 14, however, do not recommend for strike fighters.” (I have no idea if the process still works like this or not…perhaps the process has changed).

Why did my squadron commanding officer write that? I don’t know exactly. But I do know that he was doing his job right when he made a judgment call about my future based on whatever information he had. I assume that he had recommendations from several instructors in the squadron.

Then my situation became even worse than Kevin’s. After I had received my orders to fly S-3s, the Navy decided that it had too many S-3 pilots waiting for training and not enough E-2 pilots. So they changed my orders and sent 5 other S-3 guys and myself to fly E-2s instead (the E-2 is a disgusting looking airplane with turboprops and a large radar dome on top of it…even less desirable to fly than the S-3). I spent 4 years flying E-2C Hawkeyes. This was a much greater disappointment at the time. But the needs of the Navy for E-2 pilots outweighed my “need” to fly fighters or even S-3s.

Of course, like Kevin, I was quite upset when all of this selection business happened but less than a year into my sea tour I felt it was most appropriate that I ended up there. I came to believe that my Commanding Officer, whose judgment I so despised at the time of my winging, actually knew better than I did where I belonged as a pilot. Imagine that! …a senior pilot with 1,000s of hours being able to determine where new pilots would perform best for the Navy! He knew where I belonged even better than I did and certainly better than my parents did.

I don’t have time to go into why I believe that belonged outside the fighter community but trust me when I say that I now know it’s so. Now, not every person that gets S-3 or E-2 orders ends up believing they belonged there as I did. But most of them stay there. I know only one E-2 pilot that believed strongly enough that he belonged in a fighter that he pushed for and received a transition to fighters. That happened only after his first sea tour in E-2s.

Again I don’t know why Kevin received orders to fly S-3s. I have no idea what his grades were or what the overall assessment of his flying ability was. Perhaps the S-3 community needed a replacement pilot and Kevin’s name was randomly drawn out of a hat. Or perhaps the S-3 community was complaining that they had recently received a lot of bad students and so it was decided to send them the best pilot to finish the program in the last 20 years as a way to compensate them. And maybe Kevin was that guy.

Again, I don’t know how or why this decision was made. But what if the explanation was simply that your son was not up to the fighter community standards? Is that really an explanation that you’re prepared to take and would really want to hear? Perhaps they were doing Kevin and you a favor when they didn’t tell you exactly why he selected S-3s. Did that thought ever occur to you? Maybe nobody wanted to tell you that your son flew poorly and that he was actually extremely lucky to get winged in the first place. This happens sometimes. Would having any of these possible explanations before his winging have satisfied you? I couldn’t say for sure if any of my above explanations are true but any of them are possible. If you really care to know more about this then find out how Kevin’s grades were compared to his peers. Did he ever get any flight downs? Ask him. How did he do in ACM and WEPS?

Guess what…somebody has to fly S-3s (and even E-2s) and I’m not too cool or important to do that (neither is Kevin). Sure S-3s and E-2s aren’t as cool or fun to fly as fighters. But I have to tell you that there is nothing less honorable about flying S-3s or E-2s than there is in flying fighters…no matter what we wanted to fly when we were kids or how hard we worked to get fighters. Just being one of about 100 pilots on a ship is quite the honor you know. Are you aware of how many 1,000’s of jobs there are on a carrier that are less enjoyable or glorious than being a pilot? He’s lucky that he will get to fly. Period.

The truth is that your son Kevin doesn’t “deserve” fighters anymore or any less than I did or any more or less than a lot of other S-3 pilots out there. Selection isn’t about what somebody “deserves.” It’s about putting people where they will best serve the Navy. Kevin serves the United States Navy. That means he is a servant as am I. And right now he is a Navy servant with orders to fly S-3s. I hope he makes his service to the Navy in the S-3 community honorable. And I believe he will (even if he is disappointed at first like I was).
I understand your disappointment…trust me I do. So I hope all of you get over this soon. But it’s really not as important as you think. While the type of airplane I flew in the fleet might influence the flying stories I can tell or the way some of my peers look at me here in Meridian it does not define who I am as a person. I’ve only met a few of those types of people in each community who define themselves by the aircraft they fly and trust me…you don’t want your son to turn into that. His character is much more important than what type of plane he flies.

Bottom line…the Navy doesn’t owe it to you or your son to put him in fighters right now. It also doesn’t owe either of you an explanation about why he has S-3 orders. The Navy determined that’s where it needed him and that’s all the explanation any of us deserves. This explanation about orders is frequently used as an excuse for bitter people to get out of the Navy. That’s understandable. But this is the military and the needs of the service come first.

Kevin has the potential for a great career ahead of him. Much of that future will depend on what he makes of his first tour. Do everybody a favor and continue to know that you’re the proud parent of a son that serves in the United States Navy with honor…no matter what job he has been assigned. I wish you and your family all the best.

Very Respectfully,

P.S. If you’re still disappointed about this then you’ll be happy to know that S-3s are going away soon and so Kevin is probably going to transition to fighters in a couple of years anyway. Let’s not send him down that path with an improper perspective

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