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no killer instinct fa18 hornet cockpit

No Killer Instinct

I was a brand new F/A-18 Hornet pilot, and my skills were about to be tested by the squadron’s Commanding Officer. We were going out to execute Basic Fighter Maneuvering (BFM), a skill set which involves aerial combat in the visual area–up close and personal!

The training setup had me starting out with an offensive advantage, and the goal was to maintain that advantage while attempting to gain a weapons solution on the adversary.

I called “Fox-3” to begin the set, and my adversary–and new boss–maneuvered to defeat my initial shot. I began flying my jet according to the study manuals, but it wasn’t having the desired effect.

“Don’t fly in front of my nose,” the bandit lectured me over the radio, as I struggled to avoid an impending simulated gunshot from his 20mm cannon.

He appeared larger and larger through the canopy glass, and I was forced to maneuver to defeat his gun shot.

I lost my offensive advantage.

How did that happen?

Then it happened again. Same setup. Same maneuvers.

“DON’T fly in front of my nose,” he called out again, bothered this time.

Same effect. I did not yet fully understand the principles of BFM. I failed to learn from my mistake and managed to miss several weapons employment opportunities during the rest of the flight.

What stung more than losing the offensive advantage was the remark on my grade sheet, which included the judgement:

“No killer instinct.”

Ouch. Not good for a fighter pilot. That was 10 years ago.

Lately, I have been thinking about the concept of a killer instinct. Death seems like the most unnatural state imaginable. A healthy person no more wishes to take another’s life than they do to lose their own.

The decision to kill is not a human instinct, and it would never arise were we not part of a fallen world.

Love, on the other hand, is the highest of human virtues. It’s s why we are here, what we pursue, and from whence we came.

When I return to from whence I came, God will not judge me on my instinct to kill; he will judge me on my decision to love my brothers and sisters. Jesus teaches the righteous in heaven in the Book of Matthew:

“Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me” (NIV, Matt. 25:40).

Of the man who finds difficulty denying himself the pleasures of vice, who denies the extent of his selfishness, of his brokenness, who does not yet understand the principles of life–that God is real and loves him as he does his own Son–I give the parting words of my Commanding Officer about my instinct:

He’ll get it.

Photo Credit: Sgt Marcy Sanchez / PD

The views presented are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the DOD or its components.

About Jason

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is an author, speaker, Marine, and father of five. He has flown the F/A-18 Hornet as a Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron 1 (MAWTS-1) Instructor Pilot and the F-16 as an Instructor Pilot. Jason also writes about leadership, parenthood, and worldview development on FIGHTER FAITH. His book One of the Few: A Marine Fighter Pilot’s Reconnaissance of the Christian Worldview is now available on Amazon.

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7 comments

  1. Avatar

    Wow, so far out of my realm, yet you made it all clear and interesting! Trying to imagine the life of a fighter pilot … amazing. Great article!

  2. John Clark

    Thank you for being part of us. You will definitely give us a unique perspective on things.

  3. Avatar

    I love to learn from a viewpoint I could never have on my own. Nice job! Thanks so much.

  4. Avatar

    Thanks for reading, everyone.

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