Air Force pilots are qualified leaders
I am writing concerning a recent letter in The News Enterprise that presents the notion that being a combat pilot and officer in the Armed Forces of the United States doesn’t require the leadership skills to qualify to become a United States senator. At that notion, I scoff. They certainly possess the capabilities and they are qualified. I spent nearly 30 years of my life around military officers and combat pilots during a career in the United States Air Force. I spent a year in a Search and Rescue Control Center where we were involved in the Combat Air Rescue of pilots who were shot down in enemy territory in North Vietnam and Laos. Those pilots on the ground being rescued and those on the mission to rescue them were certainly qualified leaders.
Unfortunately, too many of these pilots instantly were disqualified because they were shot out of the sky and killed. I watched dozens of pilots launch from a base in Germany during the Cold War to practice what were likely to be one-way missions to deliver nuclear weapons on our prime adversary, Russia. They were equipped with eye patches for one eye so that if they survived the trip to the target and were blinded by the blast, they still would have one good eye left to try to get home. They all were qualified leaders.
Additionally, becoming a private pilot or an airline pilot is a wonderful achievement. However, please don’t attempt to equate the experiences of an airline pilot to a combat pilot. That endeavor is ridiculous. It is like equating the driving experiences of a bus driver to those of a Formula I driver on the international circuit.