Chair Force Engineer

Thursday, February 16, 2006


During a recent meeting, I had to pose the question why Air Force Research Lab doesn't offer firearms training for its officers. (I think I phrased it "We're in the freaking Air Force. Why don't we get to shoot shit?") The people in the meeting didn't seem to appreciate my gripe; they were of the mindset that engineers don't get to shoot shit (at least not on the Air Force dime) and shouldn't have a desire to shoot shit.

If I want to shoot things so badly, why did I become an engineer? It's a story for another day, but it can basically be summed up in this bit of advice for ROTC cadets: whenever one of your ROTC instructors gives you career advice, you should discard it.

Despite the cold reaction I got during the meeting, I know that most of my fellow lieutenants feel the same way that I do. They have a hard time seeing how the nation benefits from their work. They see themselves helping the nation by putting 50-cal rounds in the head of "Jihad Joe." Doing anything that looks "operational," like Readiness Support Team or field exercises, is highly motivational for young Air Force engineers. There is never a shortage of engineers who want to volunteer for deployments overseas.

When I was taking the Air & Space Basic Course at Maxwell Air Force Base, we were working in teams with the senior enlisted. We had a competition where our team was timed in disassembling and reassemblng an M16. I was totally clueless about what to do. I stood in the back of the line, and I luckily wasn't called to the assembly station before time ran out. I realized that the engineer was a totally different breed from the average Air Force officer. I did not view that as being a good thing.

Somehow, someway, I'm going to find a way to get trained in the M9 and M16. If I can fire the grenade launcher, that's even better. And putting a 50-cal in Jihad Joe's head? Priceless.