Graduation Day

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Graduation day is almost upon us! Yes, I finished up T-1’s a few weeks ago, and since then we dropped (got our assignment) to Offutt AFB, Nebraska where we’ll be flying the RC-135!

 

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Graduating UPT would not have been possible without the support of my family! My wife supported me so much, especially with the new baby. Taking care of him, getting up in the night, and basically running the whole house while I flew. Thanks babes!

UPT was long and hard, but a great experience.  We are looking forward to continuing our Air Force life in Nebraska.

-The Pilot

You Know You’re a UPT Wife When…..

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You know you’re a UPT wife when…

  • When you wake up to the sound of Velcro ripping as they change patches from one flight suit to the other.
  • When you hear the phrase “so to speak” and your mind automatically starts trying to figure out the innuendo.
  • When you criticize the “dogfighting” scenes in Top Gun.
  • When you call the other pilots by their last name and sometime get confused when someone mentions a first name.
  • When you know which way the planes will be landing on the runway based on the direction that your flag is flying each morning.
  • When you recognize the plane by the sound it makes.
  • When anyone says, “So your husband is like Top Gun,” you try to hide your distaste because they don’t know that’s the Navy.
  • When you immediately recognize the distinct smell of a flight suit.
  • When you recognize jalapeño popcorn when walking through the buildings.
  • When there are a million ear plugs everywhere.
  • When all your snapchats are of planes or the inside of planes
  • When you know what penguins on an iceberg means.
  • When your pilot runs a checklist when buckling your son into the car seat. “Two legs, lap, seat kit, shoulders, harness…”
  • When you use CRM when driving. “Clear left?”
  • When you have flown a flight simulator.
  • When your husband ask you to read the TAF instead of looking at weather.com.
  • When your husband says “Roger” instead of responding with “okay” or “got it.”
  • When everyone is surprised to see him at family functions.
  • When you actually have to buy an airline ticket and it makes you mad, even though you’ve saved thousands flying for free.
  • When you start to use their lingo. “That checks”, instead of “that makes sense.”
  • When you can list the majority of the Air Force Inventory with little to no hesitation.
  • When drop night is practically a holiday.
  • When you know the pilot is home by the smell when they take off their boots
  • When they say “Can you help me study?” Then they get mad at you for not knowing what anything means.
  • When your children answer “Negative” instead of “No.”
  • When conversations with family take twice as long because you have to explain all of the UPT lingo.
  • When you realize they need an acronym for all the acronyms.
  • When you go over the checklist in the car while doing quick trips into town.
  • When you know the checklist because you’ve recited it so many times.
  • When you know bold face and ops limits better than some classmates.
  • When your husband responds to you by repeating what you said…(Me) Is the front door closed?….(him) front door is closed…(Me) I have the keys….(him) you have the keys
  • When you’re ready to leave and you give the ole “pull chocks” hand signal.

(Warning: Video does contain innuendo, so if you don’t want to hear it….you might want to pass on this one. 🙂 )

Pilot Training: Having a Baby

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One of the most often repeated pieces of advice during pilot training is “don’t have a baby.”  We heard this several times, and we had many people shake their heads in disbelief and say to us (after we told them we were pregnant) “I can’t imagine having a baby during pilot training.  That’s crazy.”  When we first arrived, there were welcome meetings and initial briefings.  During Q&As, there would generally be baby related questions.  “What happens if we have a baby during training?”  The answer, “Don’t.”  Of course, it was usually accompanied with a laugh, followed by the actual answer, whether it was who to call when you go into labor, or how it would affect the training.

While I understand some of where they’re coming from, I’m here to tell you…it’s totally possible! 🙂

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So here is an honest assessment of whether or not you should have a baby in pilot training, from the perspective of a wife  😉  I know we get lots of Google visitors looking for pilot training info, so this one’s for you wives!

There are a lot of variables to take into consideration, such as where you are in training, whether the baby is easy or difficult, and the personality of the student, the baby, and the mother.

My experience is obviously limited…our first baby was born during pilot training.  (Our little Wingman was born just as The Pilot was starting Phase 2 of training, which is when they actually started flying.)  But, from our experience, from the experience of friends, and from the experience of 100+ ladies on my (amazing!) Mom’s Facebook page….having a baby in general tends to change things.  Drastically.  Your life will be forever different, whether or not you are in pilot training.

Having a baby will change your life.  You will not be able to stay up late, reading or watching movies, only to be able to sleep in and relax the next morning.  You will not be able to have a full night’s sleep (for anywhere from a few weeks to several years).  You will be exhausted (honestly, there needs to be a stronger word in the English language than just “exhausted”).  You will have to plan your outings on when the baby last ate or slept.  You will have poop and spit up on your clothes.  You may realize you haven’t showered in 5 days.  Going to the bathroom, eating, and sleeping are luxuries you just might be able to only accomplish once the baby is (finally) in bed.

Having a baby will change your marriage.  Not necessarily negatively….it will just be different.  Together, you will now have new priorities and new goals.  Date nights are rare.  You won’t be able to just hop in the car and go somewhere with your husband at any time of the day or night.  You will get snappy.  You will feel underappreciated.  (Heads up, your husband just might feel that way, too!  Communication is important!!!)

Having a baby will change your social life.  You may feel like you have no social life.  Your idea of going out means a trip to the grocery store alone.  You will have to say “no” to a lot of events and opportunities.

But…all of that generally tends to be true even when you’re not in pilot training.

Factor in your husband’s 12 hour days, late nights studying, and 8 hours of required sleep, and you can probably tell how there could easily be a lot of added stress.  There will be times where you, as the Mom, will be getting up alone 1-15 times a night to take care of the baby.  There will be many times after a grueling day of poop, screaming, spit up, and no naps where you will not be able to say, “Here, take him” when your pilot comes home.  He will have to study for a big test the next day.  You might not be able to take food into the flight room like you had wanted.  Your involvement on base might not be quite what you were picturing.

My advice to anyone considering having a baby during pilot training: Pray about it.  Know what you’re getting into.  And go for it.  Having a baby is one of the craziest yet most amazing decisions anyone can make.  I can see how some couples could have a very difficult time with it.  But some couples won’t.  In my opinion, there are other things to take into consideration than just being in pilot training.

There are some great reasons to have a baby during pilot training.  One of the huge ones that we love…..the fact that my amazing husband will definitely be around for the first year, guaranteed, of our son’s life.  No deployments!!!

Plus, during those long days while The Pilot is gone, I have an awesome little friend to hang out with.  😀

Having a baby changes your life, but it is absolutely incredible.  For me personally, the first 6 months were very, very difficult for a few reasons (pilot training definitely being one of them).  But honestly…..being a Mom just keeps getting better and better.  I keep falling more and more in love with our sweet baby.  You can’t put a price tag on the giggles and smiles and hugs and cuddles.  There’s no way to explain how a little tiny person can fill your heart and lives with so much more love and joy than you could ever imagine.

So….having a baby during pilot training is hard.  But having a baby in general is, in some ways.  Do I have regrets?  Not at all.  We truly wanted to be parents and we prayed that God would give us a baby.  His timing is perfect and, while it was hard, we learned so much!

There were many times even after we were obviously pregnant that people commented and said how crazy it was to have a baby during pilot training.  I never could decide if the comments were funny or rude.  😉  But I think it would be a rare situation for me to tell someone in pilot training that they should not have a baby.  I also wouldn’t just tell every couple that they should have a baby.  Every person’s circumstances and situations are different.  There will need to be sacrifices made, but it is definitely doable.  Plus isn’t sacrifice a huge part of what parenting is about?

If you do have a baby during pilot training, or if you already had kids when you started…..a few thoughts.

1. Communicate.  You have to communicate.  You might feel like your husband never helps.  (Keep in mind that…you did choose to have a baby in pilot training, so the amount he can help will be limited in some fashion.)  You might feel like you are the only one taking care of your baby.  Please talk to your husband about it.  Chances are, he is processing a lot too and he is trying to figure out how to balance everything.  Don’t harbor bitterness….try to work it out.

2. Figure out a schedule.  Find out what nights your husband can get up with the baby.  Ask him when the best times are that he can take diaper changing duty.  He is still the Dad….find ways to help him be a part of your baby’s life even while he is so crazy busy.  As training progresses for him, his Daddy schedule might need to change.  Be flexible.

3. Enjoy every moment.  These moments will pass so quickly.  Find ways for both of you to be in your baby’s life.  Get down on the floor with him/her. Savor the cuddles.  Enjoy times together as a family, whether it’s going on a walk together or cuddling and laughing with all of you in bed on a Saturday morning.

If you’re a new Mom, you might enjoy this post.  Every now and then I go back and re-read it to be both encouraged and convicted by what God has taught me.

I asked a couple friends to give some of their advice as well about having kids while in pilot training.  Some great stuff here…

I guess just the main thing I would say is that your husband doesn’t stop being a husband and father during his year of pilot training. You are still equal partners with equal responsibility when it comes to raising your children. You do not suddenly become a single mother for the year. Your husband is still there and your kids are going to require his time and attention. If your husband is a good father he will always put his family first and he will find a way to balance his time. You cannot tell him how to balance his time though. You take a lot on during pilot training but you do not need to be a martyr. It takes balance to raise a family. You will take on more, but your husband still wants to help. I tried to do everything on my own at first and my husband got upset that I wasn’t giving him time with his kids or letting him help. He still wants to be a part of their lives. You may find yourself up in the middle of the night with one kid puking and the other kid running a very high fever and coughing so bad they can’t breathe and your husband has a checkride at 7 am. In that time of need you will know what is most important to your husband. Pilot training doesn’t last forever, your time in the air force doesn’t last forever, but your family is forever. It can easily fall apart if not taken care of with delicacy. And carrying the load yourself day in and day out and not sleeping and feeling so stressed you can’t take it anymore is not going to help anyone. Let your husband help when he can. In turn, your date time after the kids go to bed is best spent quizzing him with flashcards and helping him study. Its all about finding balance in your family.

 

You can’t tell a 3 year old to leave their dad alone for a year while he is sitting right there at the computer. Life is going to go on, and in ways you didn’t plan. If your not moving along together, because someone is putting life on hold, then you are going to find yourselves in very different places at the end of a year.

So bottom line: Having a baby is life changing no matter how you look at it.  Children are always, always, always a blessing.  All couples are different.  God is the One you should ask about it….not the IPs. 😉

-Bonnie

Pilot Training: From a Wife’s Perspective

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The Pilot has posted about pilot training…..but this is one of my first posts on the topic!  It’s so crazy to realize that we are almost at the end of this adventure.  It seems like not so long ago that we were waiting to find out which base we were assigned…..and then waiting for our orders (which got switched around a few times)…..and then moving….and then waiting for him to start training….and finally starting.  We have been here for a year and nine months….and it has been a busy year and nine months!

So….here are a few thoughts for any pilot training spouses out there!!  (It is mostly directed toward wives, as that is obviously my experience…but most applies to any of the male spouses, too! 🙂 )

1. If you have some time where you are APT (Awaiting Pilot Training), take advantage of it!!  I know that it is kind of frustrating to make the move and then sit and wait for weeks or months (we waited five months) until pilot training actually begins.  You want to start what you’re there for!!  Try to view it as a blessing.  Your spouse will likely have a lot of free time.  Enjoy it!  Take advantage of the opportunities to set up your house, go on dates, go for a walk, or otherwise spend time with your spouse.

2. Be forewarned: There will be long days ahead of you.  12 hour work days are normal.  The good news is that they aren’t allowed to be at work for any longer than 12 hours.  So….if they go in at 5 am you can know for sure (most of the time!) that they will be home shortly after 5 pm at the latest.

3.  Find community. This is so important.  You need people around you for support.  Yes, your friends and family back home are invaluable…but it is also so important and so helpful to have people you can talk to face to face.  People who understand completely what you’re going through.  That is one of the reasons that the three training bases are so great.  Yes, they are small (Laughlin is actually the biggest of the training bases….all y’all who are there might get a kick out of that fact 😉 ), but they force community.  There are many ways to get involved with people.  You can get to know the other wives in your class.  Get to know your neighbors.  Host a girl’s day and invite everyone who lives on your street.  Get involved at church.  Join a Bible study.  See if there is a Facebook group for the spouses from your base.  Take a class at the gym.  Find a walking or running partner.  Get a job.  Find a place in town that would be a fun place to invite the girls to hang out.  Attend a spouse social.  Join the Officers Spouses Club.  There are many possibilities!

4. Find out what you can about what you’re getting into.  Attend a spouse’s welcome.  Go to Heartlink.  Have fun at Red Carpet.  The information you learn will be invaluable.

4.  Learn to let go.  This one can be very hard.  I have heard it said a few times that the year (or year and a half in our case) of pilot training is all about the pilot….the rest of their career is for you, the spouse.  I’m not sure I entirely agree that the rest of the career is about us (deployments anyone?) but I see the point.  Pilot training is very intense, mentally, physically, and emotionally.  You have to learn to let things go.  Your spouse will need lots of time to study.  Lots of time to unwind and decompress.  Your spouse will need to talk (constantly sometimes) about airplanes.  Let him.

5. That being said….you’re still his wife. You and your spouse will need to find a balance.  You still need your husband and you still need time together.  Be honest about your feelings and needs.  Try to keep up date nights.  Make sure you share your heart with him.  I’m pretty sure that even though he comes home and talks about his flight, this acronym and that acronym….he still cares about you and your day.  Don’t buy into the temptation to throw a pity party and become a martyr because this year is “all about him.”

6.  Be prepared for changes. Stuff happens.  Your husband’s show time might change, his flight might get canceled, or he might get home when you aren’t expecting him (either late or early).  He could hook (fail) a ride.  He could wash back one (or more) classes.  He might completely wash out.  If something big like this happens….it is okay if you need time to process it.  It is okay if you struggle with it.  But….you have to learn to live with it and move on.  Your husband needs your support and love no matter what happens.

7. There is good in every place.  Don’t succumb to the temptation to hate on where you are based.  Yes, the training bases are remote.  Yes, there are a lot of inconveniences.  But no place is 100% horrible.  There are beautiful and amazing things about any place.  Look for the good where you are.  Sometimes you have to search for it…sometimes it might be right in front of you.  But find the things to love about where you live!  (Yes, I will need to remind myself of this every time we move!  I’m pretty sure no place can compare to So Cal. 😉 )

8.  Remember that your husband, your marriage, and your situation is unique.  Don’t compare your pilot training experience with your friend’s.  Find what works for you guys and go with it!

9. Pray, pray, pray!!  This can be a tough season of life, but remember that you are not alone.  Pray for strength.  Pray for wisdom.  Pray for love.  Pray for peace.  Pray for contentment.

I asked some of the wives I’ve met here at Laughlin for any advice they wanted to share.  They had some great advice!  Here are some of their nuggets of wisdom…

  • Whenever possible, take food into your husband’s flight room. Taquitos, cookies, burritos, anything!  They will love you!!
  • Be your husband’s #1 fan and biggest supporter!
  • Be social.  Step out of your bubble.
  • Open communication and compromise between both of you is imperative.
  • Find a hobby or a job.  Those 12 hour days can really get to you!
  • Pilot training is emotionally exhausting, and the last thing your husband wants is to have another instructor in his house. Expect him to be tired when he gets home and let him unwind before asking anything from or criticizing anything about him.
  • Volunteer whenever possible.
  • Find the positives in the little things.
  • Your husband will be on more of an emotional rollercoaster then a pregnant woman. They put up with our raging hormones, smile and put up with their emotional instability.
  • Take time on the weekend to relax and enjoy each other’s company.  No airplanes allowed!!
  • Take each day as it comes.
  • Stay in the loop.  Ask questions.  Find out what those acronyms mean.  Try to know at least some about each plane your spouse flies.  Flying is their world right now…try to join that world as much as possible.
  • Be grateful.
  • Make it a point to have dinner together every night.
  • Don’t complain to your spouse (vent to your girlfriends if you need to!).  But make sure you still share your feelings because it will be hard for you too.
  • If you are long-distance, keep them in the loop.  Send cards, packages, and kid’s artwork.   When you do have visits together, go on dates, be grateful, and stay positive.
  • Have extra grace toward your husband.

So much great advice!  If you’re reading this and you are just starting pilot training….or even if you are partway through…hang in there!!  It is long and hard, but it really is an exciting time of life.  Your spouse’s career is just taking off (pun intended).  You will have a very adventurous and exciting life!

-Bonnie

P.S. I just discovered The Pearl and the Pilot.  It was so exciting to find another blogger who has written about pilot training.  Check out her post about UPT!

The Lord Directs Our Steps

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Life is full of unknowns and uncertainties.  We are facing that in a big way once again.

In July, my amazing husband is graduating from pilot training, Lord willing.  I am SO proud of him and all of his hard work.  It has been an intense year, and I am so proud of him for making it through.

But….it is also in July where our future is decided.  In July we’ll have an event called drop night.  That is when the Pilot will find out what plane and what base he is assigned to.  And that will be the start of his career!!

It’s kind of strange to know that before the year is out we could be living just about anywhere.  We could be on the East Coast.  We could be in the Midwest.  We could be on the West Coast.  We could end up staying here at Laughlin.  We could even be in another country, like Japan or Germany.

I am reminded of how, before we moved to Laughlin, I prayed for months that God would bring us to the base He wanted us to be at.  That He would prepare us for the people He wanted us to meet.  That He would pick friends for us.  And I am convicted that I have only recently begun to pray for this upcoming momentous life event.

Our Bible study leader mentioned something that he was told as he was preparing for graduation from the Air Force Academy.  “The Air Force doesn’t send you places.  God does, because God controls the Air Force.”

I love that.

It’s so basic and yet so huge.

It is so comforting to know that we are not just in limbo.  That we do not have to anxiously await whatever “they” decide.  It is so encouraging to know that God not only knows our future, but that He is actively shaping it.

I rejoice to know that when I feel myself getting anxious over the unknowns that I can rest in the fact that our lives and our future are securely in God’s hands.

I can’t wait to see where God will take us next!

-Bonnie

T-6 Complete

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Its been a while since my last UPT (Pilot Training) update. Since then, I have completed the T-6 Program, which included aerobatics, instrument and formation flying. It was a blast and I learned a lot with almost 100 hours in the T-6.

Solo wBonnie

The first hurdle in T-6’s was getting to the first solo flight (aka the Pogo flight). The first flight was just around the pattern for about a half hour. After the Pogo flight, I was caught and dunked in the dunk tank. After that flight, I went on to solo the T-6 four more times throughout the T-6 program, including flights in the pattern, out to the practice area, and the last solo flight which was in formation. 

Solo Dunk

Now I am T-6 Complete.  Last Wednesday I tracked to T-1’s. In T-1’s I will continue my flight training with a multi-engine platform. I cannot wait for the next few months as I learn the new aircraft and have a blast flying. Once completed with the T-1, I will drop (be assigned) to a MWS (Major Weapon System) and we’ll move on to a new base…

The Pilot

IFS Complete

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Its been over a month since I finished IFS (Initial Flight Screening). It was a program designed to screen pilot candidates in order to save money on “real” pilot training. While it was a screening program, it also is designed to teach candidates how to fly, especially if you have no prior experience. While I have flown a few flights with the Young Eagles program, and with my brothers from time to time, before going to IFS I only had 1.9 hours of training under my belt. So, IFS was a great time where I learned a lot about flying, flew 20+ hours, and flew the mighty DA20 solo. Before arriving at IFS, I had been told about the super fast paced academics, the stressful flying, and being stuck in a white building for a whole month straight. I felt that I was pretty prepared (as much as I could be), and while the academics were hard, I felt like I could do it well. What I wasn’t expecting was the flying portion. Once we started flying in week 2, I felt like I would never be able to pass IFS. It wasn’t that actually flying the aircraft was hard, but because of the precision which was required in PROCEDURES, I felt almost hopeless. After my 2nd flight, I felt like 10 flights weren’t going to be enough for me to master the procedures, but I learned them all and did well by the end. Once I had shown that I could “safely” fly the aircraft according to the procedures, I went on to my Solo Flight. On my solo flight, I was very nervous before takeoff. I was nervous up until I took off. After I called the tower, received permission to takeoff, I rolled onto the runway. As it had been snowing the night before, the snow was barely melting off the pavement. I hit full power (which isn’t much…) and accelerated down the white runway. As soon as the wheels left the ground, all the nervousness left. It was the best feeling in the world. The world was beautiful and it was just relaxing. Due to time and weather constraints, I only got to fly two patterns on my solo, but it was amazing. Once I was done with the solo flight, we still had the check ride left. This was rather easy, because it is more of a formality, and it was the same destination and training area as my previous flight. The check ride was as smooth as butter! I was on my way back to Del Rio to start Undergraduate Pilot Training!! – The Pilot