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The Difference between Pilots in the Marines, Navy and Air Force

Posted by /u/therealrico on


Posting this story I saw on Quora that I felt was worth sharing. Not my story.

PREFACE: There are some terrific answers here. There’s not much more to say, but perhaps I can add something about the “Cultural” differences between the two services.

I wasn’t a military aviator, but I’ve been around them beginning when I was a young boy on Camp Pendleton. Several of my Dad’s friends were Marine and Navy fighter pilots from WW2 and Korea.

Later, as a college prof many of my graduate students were U.S. military pilots at both Cal State Sacramento, and University of San Diego. They ranged from Helo, and fighter pilots to heavy bomber, cargo, and tanker pilots in the Air Force (McClelland and Mather Air Force bases in Sacramento), and Marine Corps, and Navy pilots in San Diego.

I have not met Army or Coast Guard pilots as a college Prof, though I did as a Forecon Marine in Vietnam.

INTRODUCTION: I first heard this story from an Air Force F-16 fighter pilot. He was a Captain and a Graduate Student of mine at University of San Diego. At the time he was TDY at Marine Corps Air Station, Miramar. He was in San Diego to learn Marine Corps air ground attack methods.

I heard the story again from a close friend who was a Navy F-14 fighter pilot, and is now retired. To my knowledge, the two pilots have never met and do not know one another. Yet, their stories are nearly identical. The story may sound like an urban legend, but both pilots swore that the story was true:

THE STORY: It occurs in the Willamette Valley about 2 hours north of Medford, Oregon. The occasion is a mid-summer, week-end Air Show in the late 1990s.

Folks have come from as far away as 150 miles to see this 2 day event. Camper rigs of all sizes dot the landscape. Local Hotels and Motels have been booked for a couple of weeks in anticipation because this part of Oregon has never had an air show like this one.

What’s different is that neither the Blue Angels, nor the Thunderbirds are featured. Instead, regular operational fighter squadrons from the Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps are scheduled to perform. The print ads and TV commercials have been encouraging the public to come and see regular fighter pilots flying their F-14s, F-15s, and F-18s.

MARINE F-18 SQUADRON: The first squadron to arrive is an F-18 attack squadron from the 3rd Marine Air Wing at Marine Corps Air Station, Miramar, about 20 minutes north of downtown San Diego. They fly in about 3 PM on the Friday afternoon before the show is to begin Saturday morning. They roll up and park, and while the pilots are disembarking, their squadron leader discusses accommodations for the squadron with a local city official.

The conversation supposedly went something like this:

“Hello, Major . . . I’m Mayor . . . I’m embarrassed to tell you that we have no local accommodations. It seems that the entire state of Oregon has come to see you and the others fly this weekend. Everything is booked. All we have are some local campgrounds that you’re welcome to use. We also have some sleeping bags if you don’t have any, and some cots and tents as well, and some volunteers who will be happy to help you get set up, and drive you back and forth.”

“Oh, that’s o’k. Don’t trouble yourselves. The weekend weather looks good. My guys are happy rolling out their sleeping bags on the edge of the tarmac. We’ll use the Porta Potties like everyone els. We can get by without showering for a couple of days. Also, we don’t mind getting our food from the vendors. We’ll be fine.”

NAVY F-14 SQUADRON: About a half hour later, a Navy F-14 Squadron flew in from the Carl Vinson. She’s about 50 miles offshore. The conversation between the Navy Squadron Leader and the Mayor is a repeat of the Mayor’s talk with the Marine Major, with the F-14 Squadron Leader saying essentially what the Marine Major told the Mayor.

AIR FORCE F-15 SQUADRON: About 7 PM, an Air Force Squadron of F-15s arrived. After they parked, the conversation between the Mayor and the Air Force Squadron Leader went like this:

“Good afternoon, Col. . . I apologize that I must tell you the same story I told your colleagues from the Marines and the Navy. We have no hotel or motel accommodations. However, we have some nice campgrounds just out of town, and plenty of sleeping bags we can let you use if you don’t have any with you. Also, we have some tents and cots, and some volunteers to help you get set up and drive you back and forth.”

The conversation didn’t get as far as the question about food or showers because the Colonel interrupted the Mayor: “I’m sorry, sir, but my people must have proper accommodations, especially showers. Our first performance is not until tomorrow noon. I think we’ll fly to Medford, and stay there tonight. We’ll come back in the morning after breakfast, and be ready for our part at noon.”

CONCLUSION: As I said above, I understand this story to be true.

Semper Fi,

JE-PhD-Political Science (Political Theory, Economics, History, Mathematics)

“Old Corps, New Corps, Same Corps”

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