This weekend was so awesome, I really didn't want it to end. Down here at NAS Fallon, there are Carrier Air Groups and whatnot that come through for training. Well, my old squadron is down here for some training exercises. People cycle through commands every couple of years, and a few old friends of mine transferred out, but have since transferred back in to my old squadron and are down here in Nevada for the training cycle. I can't tell you how thrilled I was to see my old friends.
We had a barbecue on Saturday and it was so nice to be able to sit around, swap stories, and these people knew. There was no explaining acronyms, no trying to remember who was who or what was where. We'd worked in the same spaces, we'd worked on the same birds for goodness sake. It was fabulous.
It made me miss being active duty. I have my times when I miss being in the Navy. I really do. The camaraderie, the feeling of doing something worthwhile. Of doing something you can be incredibly proud of.
Nothing will ever replace the adrenaline rush of being on the flight line and doing the final checks on an EA-6B Prowler. You're standing there, even the slight gust of the exhaust is enough to push you just a little. Head on a swivel, constantly looking around, constantly observing, making sure everything's starting up fine. The hand signals flow, and you're thankful for them because you're lucky if you can hear the engine over the thundering of your heart. And before you know it, it's time to get under the bird.
Yeah, that's right. This mammoth beast has both engines turning and you've got to get up close and personal. I think that was my favorite part, being so close to the bird that the noise reverberated through my whole body. Checking one last time that everything was good to go and that the pilot can take her up for a flight. A flight during which someone will ultimately do something stupid break your baby, and she'll be right back in the hangar, waiting for you to come out and patch her up.
Even the hangar birds were fun. They were puzzles to be figured out. Routine maintenance that you volunteered for just to do something to make the day go faster. They were life savers when you needed to rob a part for a jet on the line that needed to fly. They were engines to change out and you could sit around and bullshit with people from other shops. Take a break and go to the smoke pit, light up and vent about your supervisor or your chief, joke about the weekend and who got drunk or did whatever.
But it also made me remember that I don't miss still having to deal with sexism. It still thrives in a multitude of forms in the military. Don't bother getting riled up about it. There's nothing you can do about it except suck it up, flip the bird to the men, and work hard. Prove them wrong and you'll be accepted as a hard working female who's worth the time to train. But getting them to give you the chance to prove them wrong is a battle in and of itself.
Why is that? Because for as many hard working women as the military has, there are always those who will pull the "female card" whenever it's convenient for them. There are those of us who work hard to break the stereotypes and to gain equal acceptance. But there are just as many who go off and make the rest of us look bad. It's a thin, tense, tightrope to walk when you're in, but there was so much good to make up for it.
I tried. I know I tried. God knows I tried. But there was so much to fight against. No one in my shop actually wanted to take the time to train me. I didn't know much, but I was so eager to learn. And if that's the only thing I could pass on to a man in the military, something I've told MarvMan time and again, I would be happy. If you have a worker who's new but wants to learn, dont' squash that. Keep that fire alive and harness that. It may take them longer to catch on, or maybe they'll pick up quick, but nurture that passion and encourage it. Otherwise, you'll wind up with an untrained, disgruntled worker. Everyone was surprised that when I was transferred to the tool room while I was pregnant with Anaya, I excelled and did better than I ever had in my original shop. A hint, guys? They took the time to train me down there, and didn't hold me back.
For as much as I miss it, and for as much as I don't miss it, I don't regret getting out. I may get back in when both girls are school age. Maybe I'll go officer since I'll have my degree. Maybe I'll be a civilian contractor. I'll never be able to get away from the military, though; I'm married to it. But getting out?