November 28th, 2005

Meme Sheep

Quiz: "What Kind of Soldier Would You Be?" Close, but No Cigar

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I should have realized when I first saw this quiz (even before I cleaned up two typos and some butt-ugly HTML in the result) that I wasn't going to have a good fit with the results, because the test was clearly written with a ground-pounder's mentality, Army or Marine Corps. Special Ops work would have been interesting, for all that I'm in neither the physical shape nor up to the educational requirements of modern special ops. (For one thing, I suck at languages.) It ended up where it did because I said I was equally comfortable with the limelight and without it, working alone or with teams, getting recognized for my work or not. That, and because I like it when things go all 'splodey.

The funny thing is, if every road not taken spins off an alternate universe, there's one remarkably close to this one where I did spend 20 years in the military, and I absolutely wasn't going infantry or cavalry. Nor was I going Marine or Navy, for all that my father's WWII service was Navy and my uncle was a career Marine officer. It goes like this. I graduated from college in May of 1982, at the tail end of the worst of the Reagan Recession, before the big military-buildup spending programs started creating jobs en masse. And, of course, my Asperger's and chronic depression were impairing my ability to find work, as much then as they do now. Still, there just weren't a lot of tech jobs in St. Louis for me to be turned down for. So after months of searching, I decided to fall back on what was, at the time, the employer of last resort, the US military. I knew that the Air Force used military personnel for some sensitive information technology positions, and that they had the least strict physical requirements. So I figured I could finesse my way through the less-rigorous Air Force physical into an Officer Training School posting, end up as some kind of half-lieutenant, and get myself an office job at the Pentagon, NORAD, SAC, or on some air base. I got accepted, and had signed everything but the one document that would have finalized it and gotten me my entry date, when I got an offer from a defense contractor and took that instead.

I had been accepted into Air Force Officer Candidate School (with early admission for Fat Camp). But the Air Force was not even vaguely promising me an I.T. job, because they'd seen my Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (Air Force version) scores, and they were visibly salivating at the idea of sticking me into a job for which, as far as they were concerned, I was almost uniquely qualified: combat aircraft navigator. There's a part of the USAF ASVAB (or at least there used to be) that consisted of a tightly timed test showing you a long series of flat black featureless aircraft silhouettes, followed by multiple choice questions. Assuming you're on such and such a heading, what heading is that aircraft headed on? Towards you or away from you? Above you or below you? Not only did I complete that part of the test, which hardly anybody ever did, but I got the first perfect score that testing center had ever seen. Which makes a certain amount of sense, because of a quirk in the way my vision works. I have nearly non-existent depth perception, so I wasn't missing any of the cues I use for depth perception in the real world ... and as a kid, I had the fighter aircraft bug, bad. Not only could I tell them which direction those planes were going, for all but a couple of them I could have told you the model, year, and armament. So I could easily answer the part that most people couldn't tell from silhouette, towards/away from me, by seeing at a glance which of the plane's proportions were skewed larger than they should be and which ones smaller.

I didn't want a combat aircraft job, I wanted a desk job. But years later, reading an account of the least popular airplane in the US Air Force, I realized that the Air Force had a back-seat job that I would really have loved, and if I had gotten lucky enough to get that job, I might well have stuck with it as a career. In the opinions of nearly everybody else in the US Air Force, flying an A-10 Warthog air cavalry/ground support fixed-wing aircraft isn't "really" combat flying. "Real" combat flying involves high speed jets in dog fights. The A-10 is dead slow. "Real" combat aircraft are sleak and sexy looking. The A-10 comes by it's "warthog" nickname honestly, it's a plug-ugly aircraft. So most pilots consider being rotated into A-10 duty to be a punishment.

But there's a small, tight corps of pilots and navigators (bomber/gunners) who love the A-10 for its virtues. They love it because the A-10 isn't a conventional bomber, or a conventional fighter. It's an Abrams tank with wings. The cockpit, including canopy, are armored to the point of being able to withstand direct hit from a tank round or a shoulder-fired anti-aircraft rocket. Instead of carrying bombs and air-to-air missiles, it carries ridiculously oversized gatling cannons -- and a howitzer. It has massively overpowered engines so that it can (a) carry all that armor, (b) fire that chin-gun without the recoil stalling the aircraft, and (c) comfortably return to base even if one of the engines takes a tank shell to the air inlet. Now that's what ideal combat looks like to me! Cruising along at tree top height in a plane that everybody else thinks is ugly, but I love. Ignoring most incoming fire, (and small obstacles on the ground) because it can't hurt me. Circling lazily around the battlefield, picking my targets at leisure. And then blowing them up with a gun that makes a Very Satisfactory Sound when it fires. Did I mention that I like it when things go all 'splodey?

I would have hated the office politics of the Air Force just as much as I hated it in the civilian world, and probably would have played it no better. Although, in the A-10 corps, I would have been among like-minded people, and that always helped me when I could find it. And in between, there would have been bouts where all I had to worry about was the comforting, familiar, almost lazy sensation of psychopaths trying to kill me, which instills no fear in me because I know it never works. I'd be operating the weapons on a plane that's like me, slow but deadlier than it looks, and nigh-invulnerable because of its remarkable ability to absorb punishment. And assuming I finished my "20 years and out" by July of 2002, that is to say if I had managed not to get sent to Iraq for this latest war, I wouldn't have even had any serious objections to any of the fights that we used A-10s in. (Heck, I would have actually enjoyed the Highway of Death at the end of the first Gulf War.) That career might actually have worked, and I strongly suspect I would have enjoyed quite a bit of that job.
Meme Sheep

Meme: "Would You?"

The "Would You?" meme:

Would you...
1. give me your number?
2. let me hug you anytime I wanted to?
3. let me kiss you?
4. watch a movie with me...even a really sappy one?
5. let me take you out to dinner? Collapse )

I wouldn't have done this one without being asked, at least indirectly, but someone I have a hard time saying no to. That being said, and even knowing that I partially dread the answers, do not lie to me, not even to spare my feelings. No, I am not just saying this. I didn't pick the questions (I think that arkhamrefugee is to blame for this one?), they're not my questions; a long list of "no" answers is quite OK.