I wrote this post once and my site decided it didn’t like it so it all disappeared. I guess I didn’t convey the message I should have so I will just have to give it another go. Or maybe I just needed to read Ron Rapp’s excellent post on instructing to help me realize how important it is.
I don’t think there is much doubt about how much I love flying on the C-130. It is such a versatile air frame that can do so much, especially when you consider how bulky of a plane it is. As much as I have enjoyed flying on the Herc, I have found something that has been even more rewarding in the last few months.
The last thing that I did before leaving Arkansas was earn my instructor qualification. Because I moved shortly thereafter, I never had the opportunity to instruct before leaving. Add to that a good amount of leave and necessary ground training, and I went about three months without flying, which was essentially torture. After a few indoctrination flights here in Japan, I was finally able to do some instructing, which has been more fulfilling than I could have expected.
It is such an incredibly amazing opportunity to share some small bit of knowledge with young, developing aviators. I don’t claim to know everything, in fact the more I instruct the more I realize I don’t know, and the more I learn. However, it has been so much fun to help build on the knowledge base that they already have.
All of my students have been fully qualified navigators which is really an interesting dynamic because they are capable of flying all by themselves, but they need me there for some particular aspect of their development. What has been one of the most amazing things to me is that most of them don’t really need a ton of instruction, they really just need someone to put them in the right situation so they can learn from experience.
In reality, they really just need someone to express confidence in them so that they will have that confidence in the future when they look over their shoulder and there is no one there to help them find a solution to a problem. I have been blessed with many of these types of instructors and I would be remiss if I didn’t take a minute to publicly thank some of them.
Jesse for being the first to really instill that confidence in me. Right after I finished my initial C-130 training there was a decent chance that I would be up for a no-notice checkride by an evaluator from Air Mobility Command (essentially the people responsible for all mobility assets in the Air Force e.g. C-130, C-17, C-5, KC-10, and KC-135). As you can imagine it was a little intimidating for a guy that had only flown without an instructor about three times at this point. Jesse just told me not to worry because he had flown with me and he knew I would be just fine. Just a few simple words, but they gave me the confidence I needed to do exceptionally well on my checkride, despite the best efforts of the pilot.
Ryan for always looking at the big picture when it comes to instructing. There are all kinds of crazy minutiae that you can get into as an instructor, especially when you know as much as Ryan does, but he had an incredible ability to give you just the right amount of instruction so that you learned what you needed to learn, but never felt overwhelmed.
Tiffany for teaching me the ropes of Afghanistan, and showing me just how much fun it can be on the Herc. She has this uncanny ability to go from all business to total goofball in the blink of an eye while at the same time remaining totally professional through it all. She could always set me at ease and help me to understand how to work through problems in a way that could make the flying even more fun.
Chris for never letting me get by with just enough. About a year ago as I was progressing through my lead upgrade training he realized that I had a pretty good break between flights due to the holidays and other constraints, so he came up with a couple of scenarios to work through. It forced me to get into the books and made me realize just how much we have to understand to lead a formation, and ultimately to instruct well.
Phil is the only pilot that makes the list, but I can honestly say that I would not be the navigator that I am without him. Phil sets an incredibly high bar and he expects everyone on his crew to meet that bar and raise it. At the same time he has a knack for giving you the tools necessary to rise to the occasion. Phil was my pilot at the Advanced Mountain Airlift Tactics School which was some of the most fun I have ever had flying. That is a whole different level of instructing when you have the ability to improve the other crew positions around you.
As I said before, all of these instructors, and many more, instilled in me a confidence that has made it possible for me to succeed in my career. They each had their own unique way of approaching essentially the same material to provide me with the best possible bag of tricks to carry throughout the rest of my career.
I have no idea what my students thought of flying with me, but I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity that I had to instruct them. It is fulfilling in ways that I never understood before having this opportunity. My hope is that I can leave them with the confidence they need to succeed in the same way that others did for me.