ASSIGNMENT:
TOP GUN

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"This is no more about Marijuana than the Boston Tea Party was about Tea."

Assignment: Top Gun Assignment: Top Gun
by Steve Kubby


Commander Barrett pushes the nose over and levels off at 30,000 after a heart-stopping, full military, take-off. Barrett advises me over the com line that we have a few minutes to kill before engaging the F-14 Tomcats and F/A-18 Hornets in aerial combat. He invites me to "take the stick." Barrett is in the front cockpit and I am in the back. I see only his white helmet. Our wingmen, Captains Dan Brajkovic and Mark Johnson, two hot shots from Montgomery, break right. I nudge the stick over and the aircraft snaps through a roll. "Yikes!" I must be more careful...I practice again and make a much smoother roll. "This is easy," I tell myself.

I decide to take a picture and bank a 45 degree turn, pulling 2-3 Gs. The auto-focus keeps reading off the jet's canopy and refuses to work properly. I take a moment to reset to manual and suddenly WE ARE OUT OF CONTROL! THE HORIZON IS SPINNING AND IN MOMENTS I AM BADLY DISORIENTED.

I check the altimeter. We've lost 10,000 feet! The desert floor begins to rush up at me. Then blue sky. Then desert, much closer. Closing quickly. I wonder, "Why do I do it? Why do I always have to push the envelope. Why do I have to take risks. FOR WHAT?"

Suddenly Barrett's voice crackles over the com line and in the coolest voice he said, "Ah, Steve, would you, ah, like me to, ah, take the stick?"

I cry out, "YES!" I hear and feel the wings slam against air. The nose stabilizes and pulls up. I begin to relax when my G suit suddenly inflates and I feel the nausiating pull of 7 Gs. It is as if a giant hand was shoving my nose into my stomach. My vision constricts to a dark tunnel and I hear myself grunting and struggling to breath. I hear Barrett tell me, "Hang on, Steve, we're going ballistic. I am lost in another world, fighting to regain consciousness.

The G forces return to normal and it is whisper quiet. We are crusing at 1.2 Mach, well above the speed of sound. I'm sick with fear and as I puke into a bag, I ask myself, "WHY?" An answer stirs deep within. It's an answer that almost all skiers and boarders understand. It's the reason we all place ourselves in high risk situation. It's what's waiting for us on the summit of our worst nightmare. It's what makes it all worthwhile. Why do we do it?

We do it because we want to know what the limits are and how far we can push them.  Sometimes we crash and burn, but sometimes, if we perservere and have some lucke, we can soar like eagles. 

Today I am an eagle.