Friday, September 25, 2009

No More Automatic Promotions

Slim Buttes
Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, SD
USA 9.09

This fall, when promotion time rolls around, some of you…many of you…well, all of you…are going to wonder why the ‘automatic’ principle doesn’t still apply.

Reason is, is because you simply don’t deserve it. Tell me what you’ve done to deserve it. Go head. Tell me. I want to hear it.

The automatic principle does, in fact, still apply for your wings…16, 16, or six…those who’ve flown 1600 hours, sixteen months, or six shoot-downs, you or them, and you automatically advance from rookie/cadet to full-blown pilot.

That’s standard flight rank/status designation, standard SOP, standard operating procedure. That hasn’t changed. 16, 16, or six, whichever comes first, and you’ve earned your wings.

What has changed, however, is the criteria determining whether or not you advance in pay grade. That’s a whole another story. To advance in pay grade, you must first distinguish yourselves through the performance of meritorious voluntary service to God and your country, in the capacity of ‘combat pilot’* in the Slim Buttes 335th Aviation Detachment.**

Any questions?

Ain’t gonna be no more automatic pay increases like before, just for rolling in for routine maintenance, oil change, lube job, reserve Air National Guard duty, governor, and maybe go on to become president. Those days are over. Just because people die and slots open up, don’t mean you’re automatically getting a promotion.

You might ask why we’re still flying cardboard bi-planes into combat in an age of rockets, shiny robots on Mars, and all kinds of other super-fast shit whizzing in orbit around the earth.

Good question.

Manny always used to say you’ve got to work with what you’ve got, and if you haven’t got any God-given natural talent, you’ve got to buckle down and work hard, and if you’re a lazy-ass, then you’ve got to depend entirely on luck.

If you’re out of luck, or down on your luck, born under a bad sign, or the only luck you’ve got is bad, then you’ve got to go with who you know, or your name. If you don’t know nobody, and your name is mud, then your only option is to go with what you’ve got, or try something else, he used to say.

Does that answer why we’re flying bi-planes?

Ok, then…well, when they flew…back in the day when they flew the machine you’re so fortunate to be flying today, the pilots were cut of a certain uncommon cloth, possessing a certain flair, a certain élan, a certain esprit de corps, a certain elite eche’lon superieur, an esprit de cal, an elle’ gance…an…you get the picture…a whole bunch of French words that describe a pretentious, pompous, affected style.

And that’s why many of you…almost all, I’d say, aren’t receiving a promotion.

No, not because of no style. Wanna know why? Ok. When’s the last time any of you asked about our squadron strength? How many of you asked about those guys who went down? Our guys, not theirs - the Germans, Holtz, or those guys up in Wisconsin working on the trigger mechanism – these were our guys, the 335th, at the air show, and the other two, playing tag. Have I seen any of your names lately on Daily Mission Ops?

Need I say more?

Yeah. So when you’re looking at that pay check, saying, “Hey. I’ve been flying for over a year. Why isn’t it reflected in my pay check?” well, Charlie, you’ve got to do more than barnstorm the family picnic and do kiddie rides at State Fairs.

Or you might say, “Those guys died. The slots were open. I should’ve had the promotion. I was here a full year before Carlson!”

Don’t matter no more. You gotta see the big picture. You gotta look at the war effort, the squadron, the company, the command, the country, inner self, the trees, the forest, the whole mission, beyond your own skin, predicament, what it means for our allies, the other guy.

You gotta do more than just clock in, clock out. You can’t just be sitting around, waiting for slots to open up. You gotta have the drive, the OVERdrive, gotta have ‘what it takes’, the right ‘stuff’, get yo’ mojo working, café latte, double chocolate def wish, double doberman cappuccino, wound up, hopped up, wired, whattimeizzit, meechuatnoon, Go-get-‘em style.

In addition to the necessary combat missions, you must begin to demonstrate an interest in the company. We need ‘company people’ here. We need team players, game-changers. You can ask yourself, ‘am I a team player, or am I out there, a loner, loser, loose cannon floating around in the universe, government salary, flying my little cardboard toy, spinning on a thread?”

UP2U. Gravy train’s over. Get on board.

You might ask, what has any of this to do with style? And you may wonder about the discordant association of cannons, loose or otherwise, to floating. Cannons don’t float. Cannons are found on ramparts, museum displays, and seabeds.


Well, the style went with a certain artistry. A ballet up there. Spinning and diving and climbing in a spiraling love/hate duel, sometimes two-on-one. You could feel the air, smell the engine, hear the rattle of the guns, cumulus fog on the goggles, sometimes a hot brass bullet casing searing into your flesh.

The very first combat aviators. We actually attended the services for the fallen. And that was the enemy. We knew who we were up against. We could see them. They looked like us.


*As any good self-serving journalist or military officer knows, to advance your career, you need a good war. Not just a skirmish or an obscure and irrelevant military intervention. Peace-keeping force doesn’t cut it. You gotta have a good war.

**abbr. officially, ‘Slim Buttes 335th Post-Modern Contemporary Symmetrical Aviation Detachment, USAF.’