Naval Aviator, Defined

Merriam Webster tells us that “A Naval Aviator is a commissioned officer or warrant officer qualified as a pilot in the United States Navy, Army, Marines, and Coast Guard. However, Merriam Webster also tells us that a man is “an adult human male.” I know for a fact that every adult human male is not a man. My definition of man would include a reference to his having balls, and I am not talking about anatomy,  I’m talking about BALLS, as in courage or nerve.

I recently met a man -with a lot of nerve- who insisted my son was a naval aviator. According to Merriam Webster,he is correct. However, Coast Guard pilots, my son among them, are as different from Navy pilots as cats from dogs. I know this from years of observing military pilots from all the services in all types of aircrafts – fixed wing to helicopters. Let me explain.

A helicopter by definition of those who fly them is ten thousand parts flying in loose formation, and a helo pilots lands this loud hulk of a machine on a pitching deck of a Navy destroyer (sounds big but is actually quite small) in high seas at night. To fly a helo anywhere, the pilot requires the right and left arm and the right and left leg to respond individually to the pilot’s commands. Sit in a chair and try to do this. Whenever I have tried, I collapse in laughter.

This skill set manifests itself not only in bed (think about it) but also in their personalities. If you want to have a helluva good time, spend an evening with a couple of helo pilots. Outsiders have remarked to me that they come across as immature. Well, yes, they most certainly do but when the shit hits the fan, they focus. They have balls. They get the job, whatever it is, they get it done. I have been married to one for 42 years. The man is a prince.

My observations of other military pilots have not been so up close and personal, but primarily in the aisles of the military commissary where we all go shopping for food. Helo pilots RARELY go to the commissary. The first time I sent my husband to the commissary after I had given birth to our first child and could not get out of bed, he returned to tell me he would do absolutely anything at all in the world for me, but please “never ask me to do that again. “On those rare occasions when I have seen a helo pilot at the commissary, it is usually at the front door where they are overly concerned in finding a shopping cart without any wheel problems. AND their flight suits have grease and oil stains all over them.

Jet pilots. Well, bless their hearts, they cannot help but be full of themselves. We all would if we flew, solo, in an aircraft that goes really fast, really high, and costs tens of millions of dollars of the taxpayers’ money. But when they are walking around the commissary in their clean flight suits -that almost appear pressed – they are so easy to pick out because jet pilots SWAGGER. They use the little baskets, never a cart, and usually it holds dinner for one…a steak, expensive cheese, artisan bread, teeth whiteners, and some hair gel. (I must add though that female jet pilots, a relatively new breed, are the most remarkable mothers I have ever seen. They are never in the commissary. These women get the groceries delivered so they can play basketball, soccer, baseball, and football with their kids every evening from when they get home to when the sun sets. They are remarkable.)

Now Coasties in the commissary are a sight to behold. They move so quietly you would barely notice them If you were not on the lookout for them. Their baskets most usually hold large bags of potato chips, jars of salsa, and hard pack cheese spreads. They know exactly where these necessities are, and with quiet confidence, walk directly to that aisle, peruse prices, placing the chosen items in their baskets, which never exceed the number of articles to qualify for the express lane. If two are together, throughout this whole process, they do not even talk. They just get the deed done, done well, and get out of there, kind of like search and rescue missions.

How about United States Marine pilots? I double-triple dare anyone talking to a Marine pilot to call him anything other than a Marine Aviator. These pilots have a unique skill set that specializes in air to mud operations. Don’t mess with them or you may be left somewhere waist high in mud. And Air Force pilots don’t really come into the conversation as most of their lives are spent near the ozone layer-resulting in a distinct lack of interest in whatever is occurringon the ground…unless it involves a golf course.

Merriam Webster has a definition that puts them all under one term. According to my logbook, over my 42 years as a Navy wife I have completed 2,184 weekly trips to the commissary and my observations confirm that each pilot is a distinct genus. My son is a Coastie pilot, my husband a Navy helo pilot. It doesn’t get much better than that. My husband is good in bed, and my son is my very own search and rescue teamshould I ever need one.


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