Chief Pilot Assesses the Weather

Almost every boy's dream job; I worked hard to get to the left seat (Aircraft Commander) of the HC-130, piloting Special Operations and Combat Rescue missions for the US Air Force.  It was certainly a respectable job.  Now I had an opportunity for even further advancement.  As a young captain and new aircraft commander, I was recently selected to pin on Major, and I obtained a new assignment as an instructor pilot on a small corporate jet the Air Force uses to train pilots to fly heavy aircraft.

I really had it made.  The deployments to Iraq, Afghanistan and east Africa had not been too long or intolerable.  The missions were exciting and I racked up tons of combat hours and decorations for my dress uniform.  The pay was very good, affording my family all that was needed and nearly everything we wanted.  Everyone in the family was proud of me.  Now, my new assignment would allow for even more family time, and would certainly pave the way to a top paying airline career.  Or, I could stay in the military and continue blazing that path of success. Isn't this what I wanted?  It's what everyone I knew wanted, and seemed to think I should want.  But I knew some who were at the top of those ladders; Majors, Colonels, airline pilots, they were 10 or more years ahead of me, and something was missing.  They were not in love with their wives, and they did not know their sons or daughters. 

Did I really want this?   Surely I could avoid their fate, after all, I was, as I am now, a believer, a follower of Jesus Christ. I was 33 years old, and encountering an indescribable crisis.  I began to seriously consider the path I was on and whether or not I should get off.  My new training assignment to upgrade to instructor pilot, was not without challenges.  The stress was intense as I battled health issues with my prostate and vision.  We were soon to have the arrival of our fourth daughter… I was quickly losing all motivation to stay in the Air Force.  And then the Air Force inadvertently sealed the deal.  "Force shaping" initiatives, another name for down sizing, had officers receiving pay to get out of the Air Force.  I saw an opportunity, and I took it.  I got out.

I had no clue what I was doing, and many doubts.  I knew then, and I know now, that one's contentment is not wrapped up in one's circumstances… at least it shouldn't be.  Occasionally I do look back on that decision and wonder if it was a good one.  But my decision then, was not about seeking contentment, it was about priorities.  Sure, I could have stuck with my Air Force career and reorganized those priorities, but that's not the way it happened.  I made my decision, and it seemed to me, more of a leap of faith than anything I'd ever done before, and more like His orchestration, than my decision.

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