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Homestead Air Reserve Base wrote:Commentary: Homestead pilot gives thanks
by Maj. Peter S. Smith
93rd Fighter Squadron
12/1/2008 - HOMESTEAD AIR RESERVE BASE, Fla. -- Members of the 482nd Fighter Wing, I've had an opportunity to thank many of you personally. The Thanksgiving spirit and the Holiday Season catches me in a deliberate state to ensure I close the entire loop of gratitude for spending another year with my family after nearly losing my life Jan. 15, 2008.
I am making my way to the B.F. Goodrich Propulsion Division to thank their employees for their attention to detail and fine craftsmanship in constructing the ACES II ejection seat.
I also feel compelled to ensure all my Air Force Reserve Command colleagues hear my thanks and lessons learned from placing an F-16 on the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico.
It isn't often someone gets the chance to review the lessons learned when coming within less than a second of dying. It isn't often we get the opportunity to reach out and express ourselves when such an event occurs.
My mishap occurred at night, northwest of Key West, during a training mission over the Gulf of Mexico. We were training in night vision goggles.
This is a highly unforgiving spatial environment and on the evening of Jan. 15, I did not properly prepare myself for the traps being set by Mother Nature or our own human physiological limitations.
After reviewing my mission tape forward and backwards for the thousandth time, I've boiled down what went wrong; none of which had to do with flying - complacency, overconfidence or over aggression all can be killers in the dangerous military environments of our trade.
Often the blood of bold fighter pilots had nothing to do with their flying...it amounted to "chinks in their armor", weakness in character no matter how slight, momentary deviated or temporal in nature.
The margin of error between the weaknesses and strengths of my character was .87 seconds on the evening of Jan. 15.
So what went right? What allowed me to pull the ejection handle less than a second before exceeding the envelope after approximately 10 seconds of failed attempts in discovering which way was up?
Three things, once again, which have nothing to do with flying ability - humility, gratitude and purpose defeated complacency, overconfidence and aggression by a very thin margin in my case.
Ego did not get in the way of my pulling the ejection handle. Humility was the antidote to ego...humility was the antidote to fear.
Gratitude and humility go hand in hand. I'm grateful for the privilege to do what we do in defense of our nation. There are hundreds of people, even thousands, responsible for my privilege to fly fighters.
Hundreds of things had to work perfectly for me to successfully eject at almost 400 miles per hour while descending close to 500 feet per second towards the water.
There are numerous people I'm unable to thank who I'm eternally grateful for doing their best and making all the difference in my life.
The last "thing" is purpose. One of the last of many visions going through my head was my children in cap and gown, holding back their "be strong" tears because their father wasn't there to see them and their achievements.
I had a responsibility to be there. I decided not to miss it. Everyone has someone or something as provision providing their purpose to live.
Statistically, 9 out of 10 "spatially disoriented" are not there to share this with you. I'm aware of the last thoughts presumably going through their minds. I'm aware of the reality and probability of them seeing their life flash before their eyes.
I'm aware of their hope to survive and live to fight again. I'm aware of what their last thoughts were and what really mattered to them when they accepted their fate.
I speak for them - I'm the lucky one.
Let this be reminder to all of us...character moves mountains. Character is what saves a fellow warrior when we properly pack his parachute.
The outpouring of support and camaraderie regarding my mishap is testimony to the caring caliber of our people. I feel unworthy - I am humbled and grateful.
Thank you again for all that you do and have a wonderful Holiday season.
source: http://www.homestead.afrc.af.mil/news/s ... =123126039
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