Monday, December 5, 2016

Act like a Child!

It was in late '86, and I was driving to Luke AFB to begin a four month TDY to get checked out in the most successful Air to Air Fighter in the world (so far). 

Needless to say, I was enthused.  The assignment to a 4th generation fighter had looked for a time like it wouldn't happen, as I was married to an Air Force Offiecr (still married to the Lady but neither she nor I are in the Air Force any longer) and joint assignments took effort.  However, thanks to the intervention of an outstanding boss, I was headed to Kadena AB Japan where my wife and son would be joining me the following summer.  For now, I had to learn as much as I could about the Eagle and its tactics.



But, as anyone who's driven in the Southwest USA knows, there are long stretches of straight roads with some very beautiful vistas that you can ponder for extended periods of time (i.e. the drive can get boring).  

I'm driving along and pondering life in general, and mine in specific.  One of the topics of the multi-voiced discussion inside my head concerned my son.  Little Juvat had just turned two and was going through all the phases that "Two" means to a parent.  Tantrums were a fact of life, but also the fact that he was beginning to have a notable personality, that I enjoyed interacting with.

So, the voices in my head were discussing what characteristics in life did I want to impart on him, why, and how did I intend to do that?  It was an interesting discussion.  (I wish I could have recorded it.)

My intention was to write it down and give it to him at some point.  However....Much like many good ideas and intention, life gets in the way of actual execution.  

But....

It's been raining since Thursday.



The Christmas Present has been sanded and stained and awaiting final approval of the stain color.



Mrs Juvat is at work.


I've told myself that if I get this posted, I'll allow myself a nap. (ed. Didn't happen!)


So, Here goes.  As Sarge is wont to qualify his observations, YMMV.


I think there are 5 personal characteristics or traits that are crucial to living in this world.  None are 100% attainable or sustainable, but all should be kept in your field of vision as you progress through this life.

They are: Courage, Honor, Integrity, Loyalty and Discipline.

As I participated in that town hall meeting in my head, I realized that the order they were discussed is important, as they represent layers of protection for the most important of the five.  Integrity.

Courage.  This article (I know, Psychology Today, but hey, it fits) describes Courage situationally.  I think it's apt.  First, is "Fealing Fear yet Choosing to Act".  This is the aspect I think most of us first think of when discussing Courage.  Most Military members aspire to this and experience it at some level or another.  I think it is a fundamental part of life in the Military, and crucial to the mission.  

Another aspect "Standing up for what is right"  I liked this quote from the article.  "Sometimes standing against evil is more important than defeating it. The greatest heroes stand because it is right to do so, not because they believe they will walk away with their lives. Such selfless courage is a victory in itself. "  There have been times when I didn't do that, and regretted it immediately and still.  There were other times when I did and won.  But, you never win those.  You just get your way, there is always a cost. My Dad, after commissioning me, told me "You've only got one sword to fall on, make it for a good cause." 

The final aspect in the article that I find relevant is  is "Perservering in the Face of Adversity".  Lance Sijan and Bud Day certainly exhibited this characteristic.  I like the Emerson quote the article cites. "A hero is no braver than an ordinary man, but his is braver 5 minutes longer."  Or to use my favorite quote "Never Give Up!, Never Surrender!"  Things may not go your way, but if you let difficulty cause you to give up, you lose part of yourself in the process and become weaker in standing up to the next adversity.  The hard part of this, of course, is deciding just when that extra 5 minutes is up.  I believe the answer to that is given to you by your opponent.

I witnessed a fine example of this today at Church.  The Cantor is a guy about my age, who in the past few years had been singing as a duet with his daughter.  The daughter carried the show.  She has graduated and is now away at college.  The Dad has been singing occasionally at the early service.  Since, I am not willing to sing myself, I'm not going to criticize.  The pianist does help though.  Today, however, the pianist was sick and I think he got the word late, as in just before the priest came down the aisle.  He proceeds to do his job a cappella.  You could tell he was scared to death, but he hung in there and got it done.  Interestingly, before long, the congregation was also singing.  Not just humming or mumbling the words, but singing.  Hanging in there and singing took courage. (Larry, if you're reading this, Well Done!)

So, in my mind, Courage buttresses the left side.  Honor is the next layer of defense.

I found a simple definition of honor that serves as a starting point for discussion. "Honor is, in part, based on how one performs his duty."

I found this link a couple of weeks ago on Maggie's Farm. The post does a good job, I think of describing honor.  One of the key points is that Honor is NOT the same as Integrity.  I agree.  It also talks about the demise of honor in large sections of Western Civilization, exceptions being the Military, Fire Departments (I would also assume Police Departments to an extent) and interestingly, criminal gangs.  Finally it lays out the required elements for honor to exist.  

First there must be a "code of honor", the standards or rules that describe what it takes to gain honor.  There also had to be an "Honor Group", the group of individuals that have "committed to live the code of honor".  These groups must be exclusive and tight-knit.  Finally. there is Shame.  Failure to live up to the code must have a penalty.  Without shame, honor loses it's ability to encourage one to do his duty to the very best.

Oh, my Lord!  If that doesn't describe life in a Excellent Fighter Squadron, I don't know what does.  I've been in several Squadrons, most very good, two outstanding (the name of one of those, I use as my callsign) and one not so good.  Most of the time, the "code of honor" wasn't written down.  But it was well known.  As a wingman, it meant, being where you were supposed to be no matter what.  If lead flew into the ground, there would be two holes.  Mission debriefs were merciless.  It didn't matter if the Wing Commander was your wingman.  If he was out of formation, didn't follow the briefed targeting plan, and you didn't call him on it (Politely, of course. Using terminology like "Stupid SOB" was likely to have ramifications, although I was called that quite a few times as a LT), you might not be a flight lead much longer.  Similarly, if you were the flight lead or instructor, and the LT bent the aircraft due to an error on your part, similar things would befall you.  

Shame was also a part of the system.  Friday nights at the Kunsan O'Club would involve pre-dinner drinks at the bar where gun camera highlights would be shown for the week.  I got my first flight at the Kun (I hadn't flown in 6 weeks)on a Friday.  To say I was behind the Aircraft on takeoff would be an extraordinary understatement.  I'm airborne, trying to find the gear handle, when my IP says "Need to be looking....".  I think, "I am looking, where is the gear handle?", when an F-4 comes roaring over the top of me and climbs off into the distance.  Later that night, I'm treated to the sight of an F-4, gear and flaps hanging with a pipper dead steady on the front cockpit as the radar range goes through the entire gun envelope.  It was the Wing Commander!  He comes up to me, buys me a drink and says "Son, I don't get to do that very often, but if you're going to be flying in my Wing, you've GOT to be looking."  A very important lesson was learned, not in the flight debrief, although it was mentioned.  No, it was in the bar, with the people I aspired to become, but was shamed by my actions.  Highly effective, if a bit hard on the ego.

As I said, the great squadrons had these aspects in place, in spades.  The good ones also had them.  The Not So Good Squadron, kinda went along to get along.  I was glad to have that squadron in my rear view mirror.  So were most of the IPs.

Those two articles, are part of two series and I'm looking forward to reading the next installments.

Let's skip the next  aspect for the time being and discuss loyalty.

Wikipedia (AKA "The Source of all Knowledge, vetted or unvetted), says Loyalty is devotion and faithfulness to a cause, country, group or person.

One of my favorite Christmas Traditions is watching White Christmas.  I love that movie, even it's errors.  But there are several scenes that really resonate with me.  The first is the Sergeant in the first scene who is told to "take the short cut."  Knowing he's going to get busted, but by delaying the incoming General, the others in the unit are going to get some down time instead of bureaucratic make work.  Loyalty is devotion to a group. 

Then, of course, the scene when General Waverly walks out into the room and his troops, although no longer under his command, are there and come to attention.  Loyalty is devotion to a person.  But Loyalty works the other way also.

As most know, I wasn't a big fan of the Republican nominee for President, but I LOATH the democrat. (I have been in a meeting with her and seen her without her newsie protectors. It's an ugly thing, use any definition you feel appropriate for that pronoun.)  I will confess, that my opinion of the democrat is at best unchanged, but the actions of members of that party are getting worse.  However, I am feeling more confident in the President Elect, mostly because of the people he's selected for his cabinet.  General Mattis, in particular.  If he's a tenth as good as his actions and words seem to indicate, he'll be outstanding.

But we were discussing loyalty.

Earlier this week, I read an article that talked about the Commandant of the Marine Corps visiting Quantico on Christmas when General Mattis was assigned there.  General Mattis was performing as the Officer of the Day.  When asked why by the Commandant, he said it was " better for the young officer scheduled for the duty to spend Christmas Day with his family", and so General Mattis chose to take the duty on Christmas Day.  Loyalty downward to a group and a person.

Let's move to the outer defense layer. Discipline.  According to the source of all knowledge, vetted or unvetted, discipline is the "suppression of base desires and is usually understood to be synonymous with restraint and self control".  Ok, so not 40 lashes then? 

 In another section of the same source, Self control "...an aspect of inhibitory control, is the ability to control one's emotions and behavior in the face of temptations and impulses. As an executive function, self-control is a cognitive process that is necessary for regulating one's behavior in order to achieve goals."  That's much more along the lines I'm interested in.  Sort of "There's no I in Team" kinda thing.

Discipline to me, is in the planning phase, bring your best to the table, make your points, defend them as well as they need to be with whatever ammunition you have, and then when the boss says "This is the way we're going to go..." respond "Yes, sir!" and give it your best effort even if it wasn't your idea.  Don't look for ways to subvert the decision.  Don't look for ways to say "I told you so."  Do your best to support the plan.

That's a tough one for most people.  They invest themselves in a view point, spending a great deal of time and resources coming up with an idea only to have it not used.  It's tough, but you've got a choice.  Either follow the plan or leave.   Sometimes, the other attributes I've talked about will come in to play.  

And that's where we get to...Integrity.  

Every one of the attributes discussed so far have direct connections to Integrity.  Integrity, to me, is your entire being.  The dictionary even talks about that.  Definitions 2 & 3 in the dictionary  talk about "an unimpared condition" and the "quality or state of being complete or undivided".  Obviously, those are pointed at physical objects, "the integrity of a ship's hull".  But it also refers to the integrity of your soul, being, life.  "Firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values".  Integrity is a hard one to attain, an easy one to lose, and an almost impossible one to regain once lost.

Integrity is buttressed on one side by Courage and Honor and on the other by Loyalty and Discipline.  Each provides distinct support to insure the "unimpared condition" or  "quality or state of being complete or undivided".  Losing even one endangers the center, the whole.  

I loved this quote about Integrity from Will Rogers "Lead your life so you wouldn't be ashamed to sell the family parrot to the town gossip."

Well, Little Juvat, it's been 30 years since I took that drive, but I finally got it done.  Looks to me that you're dead on target with the attributes I never directly addressed, I appreciate your perception and I couldn't be prouder of you.  

Love, Dad

20 comments:

  1. Wow. Just wow.

    There's a lot to digest here, but one thing I will say, if Little Juvat is anything like his Dad, then he's a fine man indeed.

    Well done Juvat.

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    1. Thanks. I think he's a better man than I. But...I might be prejudiced.

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  2. Thanks for another in a series of great posts.

    Paul L. Quandt

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  3. I can't add to what's been said already, other than I look up to you, sir.

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  4. BZ dad. On behalf of fathers of daughters everywhere, thanks for that, will be passing it along. Thank the Lord, it seems my son the jarhead got the message somehow inspite of me. Deo Volente, my daughters will stumble upon young men that got the message likewise from their dads, uncles or father proxies.

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    1. I'm pretty sure that " There also had to be an "Honor Group", the group of individuals that have "committed to live the code of honor". These groups must be exclusive and tight-knit." describes the Marines to a T.

      Thanks.

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  5. I know that you cannot be brave if you are not afraid. There is no bravery where there is no fear, without fear you are merely walking to the mailbox to get your mail.

    There is naught there but children and ladybugs.

    Ah, but if there is a Grue, there is something to fear. And bravery when you do not let that stop you.

    Brave men will tell you they did nothing special, merely what was required of them.

    Did you know that when you are terrified enough, your knees really do knock together? It is really true, I have discovered that characteristic on several occasions.

    And yet over the edge I went. It was more difficult rappelling off a 90 foot tower and off the edge of a four story building than stepping off the tailgate at 30,000 feet.

    Brave? Apparently.

    Scared shitless? Absolutely.

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    1. I do know that the one time I had time to ponder doing something (an actual scramble from Osan), my knees were bouncing up and down so hard I could barely write the scramble info down. Most of the time I was scared happened after the fact. Near misses, very low pullouts etc. At that point, what's the point of worrying. "It coulda happened, but didn't so get over it".

      Now, jumping out of a perfectly good airplane, on the other hand.... ;-)

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    2. Yeah, you flying types never met an aircraft that wasn't good enough. No such thing as a perfectly good airplane. You guys will ride it all the way to the scene of the crash. ;-)

      Some stuff I did was the same for me, ex post facto I realized how close things had been. Hands shook for awhile, sat down, calmed down, then moved on with things. Yup, coulda, shoulda, woulda. If bullfrogs had wings, they wouldn't slap their ass every time they jumped. So much for if.

      Another nice post by you. You're addition to the masthead here has been an increase to the quantity of quality this place is known for.

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Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)