Roger Marolt: Roger This
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
I love a parade. And the best thing about our parades is the fighter jets buzzing over town to start things off. The only complaints I have are that the jets aren’t nearly low enough, going fast enough, or rattling storefront windows hard enough. I mean, come on, leave my hair standing on end upside down after you pass! Show us your afterburners!
Honestly, I can’t believe everybody doesn’t feel the same way. I guess if I had just shelled out $30 million for a new private Gulfstream jet and a Navy F-18 Hornet comes thundering by at Mach 0.9 while I’m out on the tarmac waxing it up, I might feel a little envious and try to belittle the experience by pointing out that there isn’t a full wet bar aboard the seriously overpowered mega-military thrill ride, but other than that I can’t see raising a fuss about those babies zipping by.
I know that I am shallow in my thinking on this. I don’t see those jets as military weapons of mass destruction when they scream over Aspen Mountain. The adrenaline takes over, and I see them for what they are: 37,000 pounds of space-age materials riveted together hurtling through our atmosphere a few hundred feet above my head at nearly 600 mph. Oh, yeah!
Further, those jets aren’t a propaganda conspiracy. You can’t tell me that the four military jets flying low in formation over Big Box Sports Store Stadium in Denver before the Broncos’ season opener was a ploy by our government to brainwash kids into desiring a career in the military industrial complex. That’s ridiculous.
It was the movie “An Officer and a Gentleman” that got me interested in them. It was 1984, and I had just graduated from college into a national economy as abysmal as the current one. The prospects of getting a job for a guy who majored in baseball were about zip. Not wanting to waste my other degree in economics either, I decided to sign up to fly jets for the U.S. Navy.
As it turns out, Aviation Officer Candidate School was twice as tough and three times as scary as it was portrayed in the movie. Worse, there were no women who looked like Deborah Winger hanging around and there was no need for a motorcycle since they never let you leave the base. On top of this, shortly after I arrived my flight physical revealed that my vision wasn’t perfect enough to be a naval aviator, but was plenty good enough to be a Naval flight officer, which is the navigator, who is basically an F-14’s backseat driver. Big whoop.
Needless to say, things weren’t going my way at AOCS. Nevertheless, the movie had a huge impact on me so I knew I didn’t want to get out of the program by “dropping on request”, or DOR, like the losers in the film did when Lou Gossett Jr. yelled at them or made them do pushups in the mud. I kind of liked that stuff, or thought I did at the time, so I stayed in that miserable program for the entire four months knowing I was going to opt out on the day I had to sign the papers for my commission, obliging me to 10 years in the Navy. I thought I was being impressive, enduring all the way until the last possible moment, but my commanding officer had a different view, which he verbalized loudly as I sat under a blazing light for hours until I cried and was convinced that I would never succeed at anything in my entire life if I left the Navy at that point. No brainwashing going on there, though.
Anyway, this is a long, roundabout way to get to the fact that I got to see a lot of the Blue Angels practicing at the Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Fla., while I was standing at attention on the brink of passing out in the oppressive heat or marching up to my chest in ocean with a painstakingly polished M-1 rifle held above my head with arms gone numb under the strain. Now, I have to tell you that those guys aren’t farting around when they practice. They fly lower, faster, louder, and oftentimes upside down or sideways over their own turf … and for hours at a time! Suffice it to say that disturbing the peace isn’t of great concern. But, far from driving me crazy, I couldn’t get enough of them shaking the ground I was doing situps on.
I bring all this up because of the recent flap about military planes flying training missions over “our mountains.” And to this point I will end by pointing out three things: First, they wouldn’t be “our mountains” if lots of people hadn’t been skilled in flying military aircraft to protect our country prior to us taking them for granted. Second, military pilots need to learn how to fly in mountains because we can’t choose where future threats to our serenity will come from. And three, those jets are really cool to watch.