Not only are there stereotypes from people outside the fighter community about fighter pilots, there is also another set of stereotypes INSIDE the fighter community about what a “true” fighter pilot is. I found out about these first hand.
Quite a while ago, I had a “wife of authority” tell me that I was more like a “fighter pilot” than my husband was. She informed me that it looked bad when my husband held our daughter at squadron family functions, and that I should be the only one holding her while he socialized with the guys (that he’d already spent 12+ hours at work with). She told me that I needed to get my husband to act more “fighter pilot-ish” or that his career in the jet would be very short lived. I didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry during that conversation, and honestly, I think I did a little of both. (In her defense, she was just trying to help, but our views of Mark’s role as a fighter pilot are vastly different.) It took a while for it to all sink in, and then I got pretty pissed off. There seems to be the mentality, of some, that you’re not a true fighter pilot unless you party every weekend, are loud and obnoxious, pull pranks on people whenever possible, and walk around like your sh*t doesn’t stink.
My husband is one of the most humble and modest guys I know. Every once in a while, when he does something impressive (outside of work) he’ll jokingly say “And that’s why I fly jets.” (And then every time he does something dumb I say “And that’s why you fly jets”.) But he’s not one to brag about anything (with the exception of our kid), and he’s a pretty quiet guy who likes to stand on the sidelines and observe, instead of be the center of attention. He gladly works the church nursery with me, and has fun with the kids. I’ve gotten many compliments from friends about how he’s a natural with children. He obviously loves flying the jets, but he loves spending time with his family even more. I’ve had quite a few people tell me that he doesn’t fit the fighter pilot mold, and most of them mean it in a great way, but there have been a few in our past that look down on him because of his personality.
There are some people that have preconceived notions that fighter pilots are/should be: egotistical, macho, big partiers, heavy drinkers, cuss frequently, etc. A lot of this stems from way back when, when young kids (late teens/ early 20’s) were flying planes in wars. I think back then they probably did live a pretty care-free lifestyle and “lived it up” to the best of their abilities. There are still people in the fighter community that hold tight to these old values that were created years and years ago and this is where the discrepancies come into play.
Is someone a fighter pilot because they like to drink and be loud and obnoxious and pull pranks on people? Or is someone a fighter pilot because he flies a fighter jet for his country? Is it based on their personality or their ability? Mark’s previous commander made it very clear that there are “fighter pilots” and there are “people who fly jets”. By his standards, Mark was most definitely not a fighter pilot because he doesn’t drink a ton, he’s definitely not a “life of the party” type of guy, and he puts more emphasis on family than your average “fighter pilot”. It seemed like Mark stuck out like a sore thumb in his last squadron since most of the guys were more “push it up” type people, but in his current squadron, I think Mark fits in much better. There are quite a few more family-oriented guys in the squadron and Mark has had discussions with many of the guys he works with that have kids about how it’s hard to be away from them. People here are much more laid back and not as out to impress as they have been previously, which is why Mark fits in much better.
So what do you think makes someone a fighter pilot? Do you think someone is or isn’t a “true” fighter pilot, based on their personality? Does anyone else have any experience with this?