Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Kindred Spirits?

(Sources: Olds, Lasalle)
I have always been of the opinion that fighter pilots are the descendants of cavalrymen. Both have a certain dash, a certain swagger, a certain je-ne-sais-quoi. When The Missus Herself and I first met our future son-in-law, a very junior Lieutenant, the fellow you've come to know as Big Time, my better half indicated a certain misgiving as to the nature of this fellow our youngest child was dating. So, of course, I had to ask what bothered her.

"I don't know, he seems a little arrogant. Too cocky."

"Uh, he's a fighter pilot, honey."

"But does he need to be so cocky?"

"Well, if he wasn't, he wouldn't be a fighter pilot."

I still don't think that The Missus Herself understands the distinction. I mean, as Juvat is wont to say, there are fighter pilots and there are pilots who fly fighters. They ain't the same. One will grow up to wear stars and attend lofty meetings at the Pentagon. The other refuses to grow up and just wants to get back in the cockpit again.

Occasionally fighter pilots will get the chance to become generals. Witness Robin Olds, he made one star before he retired. In my own, not so humble, opinion, the Air Force would be a much different organization (and a better one) had he gone on to four stars and been the Air Force Chief of Staff. The man was a warrior.

Now I remember a blurb from Colonel John Elting's book Swords Around a Throne concerning the things a new officer had to do upon joining a certain cavalry regiment. Involved a certain number of bottles of an adult beverage, a couple of willing members of the opposite sex, two (I believe, perhaps three) horses, and a cross-country course. The young beau sabreur could perform his tasking in any order and in any combination he chose. However, all of those tasks must be, ahem, taken care of by the young cavalryman within a certain time period (I recall it being 24 hours).

The cross-country course was by no means simple, factor in the adult beverages and the, ahem, exercises to be performed with the willing (and hopefully attractive) jeunes dames, and I imagine that the young man would be pretty exhausted and intoxicated at the end of the course. A rite of passage no longer practiced in these modern (and enlightened) times.

Fighter pilots in my day had their own rituals and customs. No doubt many involved adult beverages. These days? Well, I have met and quaffed a beverage or three with members of two Navy fighter squadrons. When it comes to partying, as Lex once said, there is no slack in fighter attack. The young 'uns defending our nation these days can more than hold their own. Their predecessors, both in the fighter community and in the saddle, would be proud of them.

As Juvat has said, more than once, being a fighter pilot is as much an attitude as it is a specialty code. That being said, I don't really see much difference between Napoleonic light cavalrymen and modern fighter pilots, attitude-wise. Some great tales of the French Napoleonic cavalry can be found here, a great tale of a certain fighter pilot can be found here. Of course, Lex and Ras were no slouches as story tellers either. They were most certainly Sierra Hotel fighter pilots. I'll betcha they would have made fine cavalrymen as well.

Yup, kindred spirits in many ways.

French 4th Hussars at the Battle of Friedland, 1807 - Edouard Detaille (Source)
U.S. Navy Phantoms "Up North" (Source)


  1. I definitely think you're on to something there, Sarge. The Cav was always about Shock and Awe. A lightning fast surprise attack delivered at a critical moment to allow the heavy hitters time to do their thing. That's the John Warden's airpower theory to a T. It's also why the Airpower attacks on Hanoi didn't work. (Until December 72). The North Vietnamese were on their knees, just waiting for the knockout blow. Johnson never had the gonads to deliver it.

    As per the Cavalry challenge....Well, I've described portions of the version in place when I was a neophyte in posts past. Not all, mind you. Some are classified beyond even the highest classifications in the DOD.

    1. As to your last, if that information was to fall into the wrong hands...

      Well, you know where I'm going with that. Need to know is key, and no one needs to know.

  2. There is a special kind of crazy that is required of military, police, firefighters and others that i don't understand, but i sure am glad we've got them

  3. I can't help but think of George A. Custer and wonder what might have been if he'd reined in some of his enthusiasm.

    1. He did well in the Unpleasantness of 1861 to 1865.

      Cavalrymen did get overly enthusiastic at times. Much to their (and their troopers') dismay and destruction.

    2. The enemy does get a vote in the execution of your plan. Deception is a valid tactic. An excellent execution of a deceptive tactic often results in an "Aw....5h!7" response from the opponent. I suspect that statement might have been uttered by the young General at some point in his Montana Expedition.

    3. "Look at all those fire trucking Indians!" As might have been said...

    4. Or, as the old joke goes: What was the color of the Custer battlefield?

      Paul L. Quandt

  4. Yep, the attitudes carry over...LOL

  5. I know, I know, y'all get tired of hearing from the Army side but if one is interested in the theory of audaciousness, one only has to read about (then) CPT McMaster's E Trp, 2nd ACR role in the larger Battle of 73 Easting during Desert Storm. "Hot knife through Iraqi armor butter" doesn't begin to describe this action. And I'm not even a Cav guy! regards, Alemaster

    1. I never tire of hearing from the Army. E Troop of the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment, studs.

      The spirit of the Cav!

  6. Thinking about feats of rites of passage in the military aviation community always puts a smile on my face. I ain't ashamed of any of my feats, but I'm sure glad they happened before cell phones and the interwebz!

    Balls and style often win the day in the face of impossible odds. Not always, but more often than there's any right to expect. A healthy dose of simple-minded ignorance helps, too.

    1. Oh yeah, I'm glad those things weren't around BITD.

      Balls, style, and simple-minded ignorance. Not always a battle winner, but if it spooks the other guy (and it often does) then whatever works! (Throw in some luck and you have a story for the history books, Custer was missing that last element at the Little Bighorn.)

  7. So do cavalry people wear big watches too?


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