Everyone who has flown has been an FNG more than once. For the uninitiated that is a F’ing New Guy. The term FNG has been used in the Air Force, I can bet, as long at there were aircrews. It doesn’t matter your place in the cockpit there was always a time when you were an FNG. Moving on was a rite of passage; some achieved it easily, others not so much. I had several FNG moments.
The first occurred during the phase of training where we learned how to do a parachute landing fall -PLF This entailed some class room time, practice on a static stand where we learned to drop to the ground, land, and roll executing the PLF. Then we were towed up in the air hanging from a line attached to a truck, and then pulled a release at about 300 feet and came down to do a PLF. When I finished the Chief Master Sgt turned to me and said “Captain, that was not a PLF – it was A PFL — a Poor F’ing Landing.” I knew from his tone I had reached my skill level as parachutist.
My second during my first flight in the F4 backseat. This occurred in September 1972. Our F4 taxied out of its parking space and slowly moved into position. In the back seat I finished my checklists as the AC got permission to take off. I wasn’t excited or even nervous – actually I really didn’t know what to expect – just did what I was trained to do. Now on the runway, the AC pushed the throttles which had been idling in what was called “Military Power,” past the detente into afterburner, and released the brakes.
In the back, I called off 100 kts as we passed that speed and began to rapidly lift off. Once in the training area we accomplished our training objectives.
When the flight was over the IP told me that I had handled the checklist very well, the best he had ever seen. That was the last nice thing he said to me. The F4 took off at about 180 knots, the T-29 that I had trained on in Nav School cruised only slightly faster than that. Consequently I was behind the power curve for most the the first flight, truly an FNG moment.
When I left Luke, I had only about 180 hours in the backseat and I was on my way to combat in SEA. By definition all the men who arrived in SEA were FNGs and they were welcomed as such. Shortly after my arrival we had a squadron party to bid goodbye to the men leaving and welcome us. The squadron commander got up and said, “Let’s welcome the New Guys (AKA F’ing New Guys).” And the crowd roared “Hello A..holes.” Then he said, “Let’s welcome the A..holes;” they responded “Hello New guys.”
Many of the New Guys were very cocky. We had come to SEA proficient but not adept at what we were doing. We would be crewed with more experienced men. It was a process of learning from them and growing in our abilities. We were FNGs but we weren’t yet trusted.
That trust would be slowly earned.