A nice man from Britain asked me what the logos were on the title bar – they reflect a portion of my navy and aviation history, I have left the training squadrons out:
From the left you have the crest of the US Naval Academy, in Annapolis, MD – my alma mater. To this day, I cannot see the academy’s chapel dome in the distance without checking my watch to see if I am late, and wondering whether I am going to be in trouble. Call it the echoes of my guilty conscience – As a midshipman, I was very far from perfect.
First squadron logo on the right hand side, reading from the left is from VFA-25, “the Fist of the Fleet,” my first fleet fighter squadron. Here is where I discovered that despite being the only male child in my family, I had twelve brothers. I was young there…
Next is the patch of VF-45, the Atlantic Fleet adversary squadron. We modeled Soviet style tactics in dissimilar aircraft: F-16N, F-5E, and A-4E. The red star on the patch represented that part of our function, and was the logo on our aircraft tails as well. We were called “the Blackbirds,” since in ancient times (1975) the squadron was manned by 4 active duty officers and 20 reservists. Four and twenty, get it? Blackbirds? Sigh… It was The Best Job Ever. I also experienced my worst day ever in that squadron. That was the last place I ever really felt young. Growing older will do that to you.
Next is VFA-192, the “Super Sh!t Hot, World Famous Golden Dragons,” home ported in Atsugi, Japan. We were world famous because the film studio that shot “the Bridges of Toko Ri” used our squadron’s aircraft to film the aerial scenes. The actual squadron that destroyed the bridges (in North Korea) was our sister-squadron in Japan, the “Dam Busters” of VFA-195. We were happy to take credit for it apparently. I’m not quite sure how we came to be “super sh!t hot,” by our own admission I guess. This is where I did my department head tour.
Next up is the patch of the Navy Fighter Weapons School, TOPGUN. Two years here after my department head tour taught me that all shore duty is not created equal. Hard work, long hours, great personal rewards. I worked with the top 20 fighter pilots in the US Navy. Put those 20 young men in any business in the world, and I am firmly convinced they would own the market they served in five years or less. I taught some, learned a great deal, left to go to sea again.
Finally there is the logo of “the Mighty Shrikes” of VFA-94, home based in Lemoore, California. I was the executive officer, and ultimately the commanding officer of this squadron. While I was commanding officer, we won the wing-wide strike fighter derby – I was immensely proud of my boys, and would have matched them against any squadron in the fleet, man to man. A blue collar bunch of get-it-done pilots that partied like rock stars in foreign ports. I had always considered myself no slouch in that category. Here I realized that not only was I no longer young, I was starting to get actually old. In an admin (where the 18 or so pilots share a hotel suite in foreign ports, sleeping where they can after the night’s amusements) in Hobart, Australia, I returned from a night of liberty in all the usually suspect places at 0400, thoroughly exhausted. over-served and jaded to discover I was the first one home. At 4 AM. What a non-hack.
To the far right is the US Navy “Command at Sea” pin. I spent 17 years earning that pin, and wore it for 15 months. It was a fair trade.