September 27, 2018

Three Days

Three Days

Vincent “Jell-O” Aiello
U.S. Navy (Retired)

Kevin Miller’s latest novel, Fight Fight, opens with our hero “Flip” Wilson facing a sudden aircraft carrier deployment in response to recent world events. Flip and his air wing spend the next days frantically preparing themselves and their equipment for possible combat overseas.

The scene reminded me of my own experiences with an impending deployment during uncertain times.

It was early 2003. The ‘War on Terrorism’ was heating up following more than a year of operations in Afghanistan and now all eyes were on Saddam Hussein and his alleged weapons of mass destruction.

I was fresh off an instructor tour at TOPGUN and was the training officer with the Warhawks, an F/A-18A squadron based in Lemoore, Calif. For months we were told to expect to deploy at any moment. “Be ready.” We were ready.

The uncertain timeline was the most difficult part.

As January relented to February we were on edge, waiting for word as rhetoric in the Middle East and Washington DC ratcheted up. Finally, at the end of the month we were told to deploy in early March.

My last weekend home was a bittersweet one, captured in an email I later penned to my family and close friends after settling aboard the carrier USS Nimitz and heading west. I share that email here to offer a sense of what a pilot and his family endure when war clouds gather on the horizon…