When I was an adversary pilot in Key West, we’d get the chance to work with just about all of the east coast Hornet squadrons, a fair number of Tomcat folks and reservists from pretty much everywhere. We put the visiting squadrons through a two-week course of instruction: Academics in the morning for most of the first week (which gave the youngsters time to recover from their festivities on the previous night’s Duval Street Crawl) followed by a graduated syllabus which ramped up in complexity. They’d start with a 1v1 dissimilar fight against older and lower performance aircraft like the A-4 Skyhawk and F-5 Tiger II – both of which could prove more difficult in capable hands than many the unwary gave them credit for – before fighting the F-16N, a jet that was a handful for anyone.
After the Basic Fighter Maneuvers hops were over, it was on to increasingly complex offensive and defensive counter-air missions using 2- and 4-ship formations against a more numerous threat, sometimes augmented by simulated surface-to-air missile defenses. As you can imagine, anchoring in a turning fight with two FA-18′s against 3-5 “enemy” aircraft very often meant trouble. There’s only so much a man can process at six to seven g’s, and his own orientation, the position of his lead and the position and vectors of two adversaries is about the most anyone can routinely hope for. If there’s one more bandit in the mix than that – and we always tried to ensure that there were – the fighters would have to be ruthlessly efficient at killing whomever they could in the first 30 seconds or so before bugging out. Analysis of both actual combat and training sorties showed that our kill ratios even when outnumbered remained positive for the first minute or so of the engagement before turning sharply negative after that time. As always, it was the ones you didn’t see that got you. The ones at your six o’clock, who’d shoot you from behind, right up your tailpipe – the most lethal shot for an infrared missile.
One squadron came to town, brawled with us, and then at the end of the exercise, celebrated with us at a “boat ex” – we’d raft up our fishing and skiing boats, eat pizza, drink adult beverages, watch the sun go down on the bay of Florida and thank our lucky stars for being who we were. As the feast was nearly at its best, our guests proceeded on a little ceremony all their own, handing out an award that I, as a west coast pilot, had never heard of: It was given to the pilot who had most frequently been shot at “unobserved”, from the six o’clock position. Winning was not a particular honor, neither for the awardee, nor for his wingman, who owned partial responsibility for clearing his partner’s six.
They called it the “Moe Debbinly Award.”
I was driving with my younger sister in Virginia one day when I mentioned the award. She asked me what it meant, and to tell the truth I hesitated to tell her. Of the three of us, she was ever the most staid. I will not say that she was a prude, but it was a coin toss in her youth whether she would take on the orders and habit of a Catholic nun, or venture out into the world. Suffice it to say that even today we find different things amusing.
Well sis, I said – do you remember that gameshow that used to be on TV, “The Newlyweds”? When she replied that she did, I continued, asking her if she remembered the kinds of questions that Bob Eubanks would ask – about “whoopie” and whatnot?
Yes, she said, frowning a little and narrowing her eyes as the light changed. She accelerated down the street and into traffic – go on.
“Well I guess that they’d had the groom on and asked him while his bride was in the soundproof room what had been the most unusual place that they had ever ‘made whoopie.’ He answered that his bride would probably answer that it had been in the back seat of her father’s car. Later they brought his wife out – both of them had a rather unique regional accent apparently – and asked her the same question. To which she replied…”
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