I surprise myself sometimes with what thoughts or memories come to mind as I hear of new events… at first glance it may seem unrelated but then it ties together.
I’ve spent many years on flightlines around the world. One of the things I use to do was take my girls out on slow days to let them see what “daddy does” and give them a chance to be on the jets. They were always excited to sit in the cockpit or explore the cabin (big smiles). Lots of other mechanics did the same, bringing children, visiting relatives or friends out. I like to share the story of one mechanic and his special son.
Steve was a Technical Sergeant stationed with me at Mildenhall RAF in
. One day he called me on the radio and asked if we had any jets down that he could take his son on. I told him “I have a Fred (our slang for the C-5A/B) we just finished refueling and still have power and hydraulics on it for lights and ladders… Good enough? I’ll pick you up in a few minutes”. England
As I pulled up to the flight office Steve and his son were standing at the door. The little boy sparked up and popped me a salute saying “Hi Sir, I’m Anthony”, he looked to be maybe 10 years old and I knew he was special, this little boy is due a bit of VIP treatment, I thought. We drove out to the jet and started the tour. I sat in the truck watching as father and son walked around the outside of the largest jet in the Air Force. The boy stopped at one of the main landing gear wheels stretching his arms up trying to reach the top of the tire that stood taller than him. When Steve and Anthony finished looking at the outside I got out of the truck and started up the entrance ladder just to give a hand as they climbed up. Anthony’s eyes widened when he looked down the massive cargo bay loaded with a couple of vehicles and web covered pallets of equipment but the climbing wasn’t finished yet, we had one more ladder to climb up to the cockpit. In the cockpit Anthony went straight for the pilots seat climbing into it, griping the control wheel as if he were ready for takeoff then he stood up in the seat to look out the window saying “Look Daddy, the truck is so small” (that gave me a little giggle).
When we climbed back down to the cargo bay I told Steve, “the nose and ramp need to be opened for cargo loading later, want to let Anthony open it?” Steve says, “That would give him thrill”. They stood at the control panel, father showing son what buttons to push, levers to move and lights to watch. Anthony pushed the first button and the indicator lights came on, he pushed the next and the sound of the hydraulic fluid rumbling through the lines began, he lifted the lock lever and the popping of the lock latches echoed through the cargo bay. Anthony looked back to his father not quite sure of himself now as the strange noises and flickering lights began to overwhelm him a bit, Steve put his hand on Anthony’s shoulder and said “You’re doing fine, one more button to push.” Reassured now the button was pushed and the monstrous nose door began to move, lifting slowly at first with the gap widening and sunlight pouring in, the look of excitement then uncertainty that had been on the young boy’s face had now given way to amazement.
Steve and I secured the door, lowered the ramp and the three of us walked down to the truck. In the truck with one of the biggest smiles I’ve ever seen Anthony said “I’m going to work on the big jets just like Daddy” at that Steve and I looked at each other a bit tight lipped and with a slight knowing nod it went unsaid, it would never be… Like I mentioned earlier, Anthony was a special boy, Anthony is a little boy with down syndrome.
For all the excitement and desire of the little boy he would never have the capability to be an aircraft mechanic, he would never be able to master the skills and retain the level of knowledge he would need to ensure the safety of the crew and passengers on a jet. Excitement, desire, even commitment will never change the fact that some are not capable of doing jobs they want to do especially if it would put others in danger. Inserting women into combat positions is the current example. Yes you can always find the 1%+/- that can perform at the level of today’s combat troops but why disrupt cohesive units to prove that the exceptions may be out there? The military combat unit will never be an equal opportunity organization; it will never be 50% male 50% female without lowering the standards. How do lower standards improve effectiveness? Will there be a quota (females make up approximately 15% of the force) or will it be voluntary and if so will the male troop be afforded the same option? Will the emphasized “equality” really be EQUAL? In the event of a pregnancy could the female have administrative action taken against her for willingly compromising her combat readiness? If a male combat troop engaged in any activity that compromised his combat readiness (not to mention for 9+ months) you know his A$$ would be in the proverbial sling. A combat unit trains as a team and depends on each member. There has been discussions of cutting back troop levels in all branches will more qualified members be dismissed just to make room for a less qualified individual? Again I’m feeling safer already. Women and men are different. And by the way… the wife is also a retired Air Force Master Sergeant; I’m not against women in the military, I’m against putting a person into a job they can’t do!
Everyone has to be able to carry their part