The Checkride

August 21, 2008

Next Monday, weather permitting, I will start a three day period containing three consecutive check rides. For pilots, that’s not a fun series of days. The checkrides themselves are rather vanilla in flavor: conduct rather boring autorotations, normal and steep approaches, demonstrate knowledge of emergency procedures, perform some turns in holding, and a few instrument approaches. However, should I fail a checkride, the ramifications for me are severe, with consequences including the potential of losing my flying status.

This leads me to refocus on the purpose of the checkride. The purpose of a checkride is to establish whether I am capable of meeting a given aviation standard. That standard does not exist in a vacuum. The standard exists so I may properly employ the taxpayer’s aircraft in a tactically responsible and effective way, in direct support of other American and allied forces. It is not about me and my piloting skills. It’s about the people who need my support, and my obligations as a professional military officer, the Constitution, and the taxpayer’s money.

Should I fail a checkride, I ought to demand appropriate action be taken against me, as that would be the only responsible, professional thing to expect. It would be a failure of the professional ethic for me to retain flight status with a checkride failure.

My flying career is of little consequence in the scheme of things. I am of equally little consequence. However, my obligations to my fellow Marines, and to my country, are burdensome. It is with these obligations in mind, not my personal fortunes, that I prepare for the checkrides.

Needless to say, I probably won’t be posting much next week.

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Motivations

August 16, 2008

Yesterday I spoke to a younger Marine officer. He was a first lieutenant and a student naval aviator (flight student) who was clearly flustered with his performance on recent flights. I was trying give him a little morale boost while telling him to watch his bearing, as looking flustered and stressed does not inspire confidence in your peers, superiors, or subordinates.

He then confessed to me why he joined the Marines: To become a pilot. I told him not to say that ever again. I cannot answer to the purity of his motivations, save for the fact that in the Marines, and especially in the officer corps, it is “not about you.” The second you start thinking that it is about you is the second you start to fail in your obligations to the Constitution, to the mission, and to your Marines.

His self-motivation is somewhat dangerous: There are countless avenues by which on can become a pilot, and becoming a Marine to become a pilot is perhaps one of the toughest routes to wings that one can undertake. Yet he’s willing to go that distance for himself, and himself alone. This speaks to incredible selfishness. He needs to be watched.

Hopefully, when the pressure is on, at night, with dogshit visibility, and assholes shooting, and he’s flying a casualty evacuation mission, he will have the fortitude to deny his selfishness and continue the mission, even though it might cost him his life. The Marine Corps, after all, is not always great for self preservation, but we will look after each other.