Fly high, son. Fly high!
It isn’t often that I envy my kids. They live in a such a high-tech and fast-paced world, that I think my days of Saturday morning cartoons and playing outside until dusk seem downright genteel. But the ol’ green-eyed monster did rear his head after picking up my son from a week long experience he had the honor to attend.
My parents made mention of this academy a few years back and remarked about how they really wanted him to attend. When I told the Boy Wonder, he was intrigued by the idea of an elite training in all the subjects he loves. I’m telling you the apple does not fall far from the tree on this one. Science, Math, and Engineering, oh my! On the beaches of Pensacola Bay! I ask you what is not to love here? When we further researched the experience, I was momentarily deterred by the cost, but nonetheless made a vow that the summer between his junior and senior years we would make it happen. My parents kept us up-to-date of times to apply and opportunities for scholarships.
Let me back up a little bit in this story. Every time, we have gone home (to Pensacola), we get up early to go watch the Blue Angels practice. If my children bleed Laker blue from school pride, then I think the color of my blood must look like a combination of gulf green and Blues paint. Following the aerial show, we tour the museum. The volunteers have asked my kids if they would like to fly like that. The boys always answered with an enthusiastic, “Yes!” to which the tour guide faithfully replied back, “Study your math and science!” If that wasn’t enough to swell this teacher momma’s heart, I don’t know what would. (Seriously y’all! Melt My Heart!)
The dream slipped by the way side when he endured years of hospitalizations and surgeries, but his commitment to excellent study never did. Even though it seemed like an impossibility, he completed the very rigorous application process. Not only was he accepted but also offered a full scholarship. After what seemed to be a sequel to Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, the Boy Wonder and I arrived in Alabama where he was swiftly whisked away by my folks.
I won’t give away everything that he did in the week so as to not spoil it for future AXPs, but let’s just say I was jealous before he began and even more so afterward. From the moment he arrived, they are welcomed on board their carrier, Ambition. Throughout the week, they train, coordinate, plan, and complete missions. Think: intelligence and rescue missions. The technology is so amazing at this academy that my son could name every local airstrip within a short drive of Pensacola Naval Air Station (because he had flown over them or to them). Not to mention, when we toured the Ambition at the closing, he showed us equipment that exists nowhere else in the world.
At graduation, they received their wings, but family members were in for a real treat when we learned our children’s call signs. I was a little perplexed when I learned my son’s co-pilot (6’4” and already a Marine) had the call sign, “Elsa”. When I later learned that it is very common for pilots to sing during missions, I was still a little baffled. With a small chuckle, he explained that the Commander overheard his friend singing Frozen songs and the name stuck. No, Goose and Maverick, here, but Astro and Elsa have their own ring, I guess.
During the debriefing (by which I mean the point when you go grab an amazing burger with your mom and grandparents at Whataburger), we heard his tales of the great blue sea and sky. We heard about his dismay on the first day they introduced themselves. Everyone there had experience as pilots or the dream of being pilots. When it got to him, the Boy Wonder explained, “I’m planning to be doctor. Um, naval doctor.” He didn’t let the disconnect deter him one bit. Going on to successfully complete missions, he loved every minute of strategy, navigation, and of course, flight.
While eating our burgers, he did share one story that had my dad’s and my hearts swelling with pride. He explained that not everyone was as versed in some skills as others and about how on his first mission, he and Elsa were the navigators at the beginning. The pilots weren’t responding to his coordinate instruction, and it was frustrating him. When it was their time in the cockpit, he quietly whispered to his buddy. “We are NOT taking navigational advice from those guys. I’ve got this! I know vectors like the back of my hand.” I know that is not exactly a team mentality, but as math teachers, we understood. I think Minnesotans could have seen our beaming smiles, and to every single one of his math teachers up to this point, I THANK YOU!!!
Well, he didn’t attend the National Flight Academy with the intention of being a pilot, but he sure caught the bug while he was there. On our three hour drive home from the airport, he remembered something he learned at med school camp a year earlier. Sometimes the pilots for medical rescue missions ARE the doctors. And yes, he has already asked to earn his pilot’s license, just to be ahead of the game.
Oh, Boy! Here we go! Up, up and away!
Special Note: A very special thank you to the National Flight Academy for the opportunity he had to attend and to learn that his knowledge and passions have real-world applications. He is waiting anxiously to learn if the advanced academy will be up and running next year. On a similar thought, I am waiting for the teacher training academy. I will bring friends! Also, to my readers, if you want to learn more, go to www.nationalflightacademy.com or ask us, we have some great stories to share.