What the…

[The following blog post is rated M for mature audiences, it contains some language that may offend, but then again What the …]

As June 1973 began, I attended my first fighter jock party in a combat zone.

I wrote home a very censored letter of the events:

6 June 1973: Today is finally a day off–since I’ve been here, I flew five times in one week, so I needed a rest. I am still awaiting amended orders assigning me here. I can’t get my pay until I get them. We have been bombing Cambodia on most of our rides.

Last night the sq. had a going away party. A lot of people got thrown in the pool at the hotel downtown where it was held. I have been flying early mostly, up at 3:30 a.m. and down by noon or so if I am lucky. I still haven’t gotten my hold baggage, but they think it might be here this week.

That was my first Sawadee party for the 13TFS at Udorn RTAFB. Sawadee in Thai meant both hello and goodbye. So we said farewell to those leaving and hello to us new guys. I wore the new party suit I had gotten from the Maharajah. These parties were consummate fighter jock events. Many at this party were old heads who had flown combat in Linebacker II, over North Vietnam, during one of the worst years of the war.

The last jock dinner I attended was the formal dining-out at Luke. This dinner was raw and far from traditional.

In the minds of the old heads, all we newcomers were F’ing New Guys (FNGs), and they welcomed us as such. An old head got up and said, “Let’s welcome the F…ing New Guys.” And the crowd roared, “Hello A..holes.”

Then he said, “Let’s welcome the A..holes;” they responded, “Hello FNGs.” Then to complete the welcome, a volley of dinner rolls hit our table.

Fighter crews used the F word with great frequency. They had a mastery of it that utterly amazed me; they used it in every conceivable combination: noun, verb, adjective, adverb, and just for fun.

One of my favorites was: “He didn’t know the square root of F’all,” which, when applied to another jock, meant he didn’t know a lot.

In addition to expanding my swearing skills, I quickly picked up a whole series of new phrases, primarily funny, that few outside the fighter fraternity would understand:

First to the runway is lead
F-4, the greatest distributor of MiG parts!
First in — Last Out
Brief on Guard
Go cold mike
Martin Baker backbreaker
Balls to the wall
All I want to hear from you “2” is bingo (fuel expended need to return to base)
No alcohol within 12 feet of aircraft. Hmmm…maybe that was 12 hours of flying.
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (What the F?)
Gear Up, Flaps Up, Lunch Up!
One pass haul ass
In thrust, we trust
FFF- F’ it, Fly it, Fix it later
Do we count that as one landing or two?
— and many, many more.

We began to talk the talk, but it would be a long time before we walked the walk. We new guys had come to SEA proficient but not adept at what we were doing. They crewed us with more experienced men. We had to learn from them and grow in flying skills and abilities. They did not give trust easily – just because you joined a group, you were not an insider. You needed to work to earn your place in a combat unit. In combat, trust is essential to do your job. We soon learned we had a long way to go.


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About jenorv

John E. Norvell is a retired Air Force Lt Colonel, decorated air combat veteran of the Vietnam War, and former Assistant Professor of American and Military History at the U.S. Air Force Academy. He has written freelance for the Washington Post, the Middle Tennessee Journal of Genealogy and History, and for several newspapers around the country.
This entry was posted in 13 TFS, Air Force lingo, American History, Combat, F-4 Phantom II, F4 emergency, F4 Phantom II, F4 PhantomII, Fighter Aircraft, Fighter pilot lingo, Fighter pilot slang, Thailand, U Dorn RTAFB, Udorn RTAFB, Vietnam War and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to What the…

  1. Master Chief USN says:

    Air Force says it all.

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