Sunday, April 13, 2014

Week Fifty-Three: VIPERS

Assignment night finally arrived this week, and as you can probably guess from the title of this post, I got my first choice: F-16s to Luke AFB!

I am extremely stoked, it's still sinking in and it's pretty unbelievable to know which plane I'm heading to.

The week of assignment night flew by. Before I knew it my dad, mom, step-mom, and sister had arrived into town. We spent a lot of time checking out things around the base, like our flight room, the life support area, the flight line and the T-38, and the simulators. They even got to try their hand at flying the sim, and it was pretty funny seeing some of the things they did while flying. My favorite was my little sister pressing the pickle button to release a bomb, and then when I told her to roll right and pull away, she rolled inverted and pulled, then pushed forward to try and get away from the ground, under-G-ing and crashing anyway. Good stuff haha. But my family had a great time with it overall.

We had to go to a couple briefings and finally it was time to head over to the Vance Club to get our assignments. It's tradition to make a giant wooden copy of your class patch to present to the wing commander, so that was placed up front covered by a sheet. The guy who actually made the giant patch and I, the designer of it way back when, revealed it.

Then came the assignments. It was a very surreal experience, seeing my friends get their aircraft and locations. I couldn't believe it was actually happening. As I stepped up to get mine, my heart was pounding with anticipation. They of course made fun of me pretty good, but that's to be expected. I turned to look up at the screen that would reveal my plane. And there's where my soul got crushed… well at least for about 30 seconds or so.

They got me pretty good. The slides that revealed our assignment start out with a big globe, and it's centered on Vance AFB. It then moves around showing various locations before finally settling someplace. Mine moved from Vance to Offutt AFB, NE, which houses the RC-135. Then to Tinker AFB, OK, which is the base for the E-3 AWACS… so far, not so good. Then it moved to Robins AFB, GA, and the plane that popped up was the E-8 JSTARS, which is a command and control plane that manages battlefields from the sky. Not. Good. I stared up at the screen in disbelief, but managed to shake our MC's hand and salute him before walking slowly back to my class. I looked once more back up at the screen, and all of a sudden, the globe appeared again and moved over to Arizona. I saw Luke AFB pop up, and then video clips of the F-16 flying around appeared. I couldn't believe it. The room erupted after the fake-out and I doubled-over out of excitement. It was one of the best feelings I've ever had. Preceded closely by one of the worst haha.

Anyway, after a weekend of celebrating, it's back to the grindstone as we start up four-ship formation this week. Two more weeks to graduation and I couldn't be more ready to finish strong and move on to bigger and better things. It feels amazing to finally know what I'll be doing, and where I'll be doing it. I have a lot of hard work cut out for me now, but the payoff will be tremendous. Here we go!

~ Dakota

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