Saturday, February 25, 2012

Teddy Roosevelt's speech which saved my career

I am an unabashed admirer of Teddy Roosevelt’s remarks regarding an approach to life.

I am certain the quote is familiar to you.  It is one of my all-time favorite quotes.

"It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat."
"Citizenship in a Republic,"
Speech at the Sorbonne, Paris, April 23, 1910

These words have helped me throughout my adult life when I faced difficult situations. Although I have many examples; one that comes to mind was when the Air Force assigned me as the Maintenance Operations Officer at Bitburg Air Base in Germany in 1979. 

Right after I went to my new post, I realized that the wing has seriously over-flown its maintenance capability and unless drastic action was taken, the wing would not be able to carry out its assigned mission of training F-15 fighter pilots to counter the Soviet threat we faced.  Our wing and others like it served as the stopgap if the Soviets ever attacked in central Europe.

At Bitburg we practiced hard to counter the Soviet threat with exercises which simulated wartime conditions at least once a month.  These unannounced exercises required maintenance to generate missile loaded F-15s and to launch a great number of sorties.

We failed to supply enough airplanes to Operations during my first two exercises and failed miserably.   
It became obvious that we had a lot of work to do if we were to regain the ability to carry out our mission.  

It was a critical situation.  I knew, given time, the enlisted people assigned to maintenance would overcome the situation. 

The senior NCOs in the scheduling shop create an aggressive maintenance schedule designed to get the aircraft back in shape and then I conducted a Production Meeting every day at 2 PM where the Non Commissioned Officers (NCOs) in charge of production and I reviewed the maintenance status and looked at the flying schedule for the next day.  These dedicated NCOs then came up with a plan to produce operationally ready aircraft to fill in the flying schedule.

All I really did was show an overhead transparency at the end of each meeting which condensed Teddy’s speech and read:


I condensed it because Production NCOs in Air Force maintenance squadrons don’t have a lot of time. 

Those NCOs came through.

I ran a little interference, like a offensive guard in football protecting the quarterback . . . I had 4 quarterbacks; the production NCOs from the 4 squadrons.  

I took a little heat from the senior leadership in the wing but fortunately, the Wing Commander backed me up at critical moments.

We supplied all the aircraft needed the next exercise; but the one following that, we failed again.

Then we began a string of successes and I never felt prouder of the maintenance folks when I would stand up from my position in the Command Post and shout to the Operations position, “Where’s your pilots?  I have more airplanes for you!” 

I think Teddy’s quote exemplifies the kind of people I write about.  These are the people who inspire me.

Harry Miles is one of them.  He is an Air Force fighter pilot . . . one of the good ones.  He doesn’t quit.   
He has baggage but he does not quit.

In this debut tale, Harry Miles finds himself facing the ultimate test.

With his life in the balance, flying his F-15C Eagle fighter over Iraq, Harry faces his demons in the form of two flights of four Iranian Su-27 Flankers aimed toward Harry with one goal in mind . . . to blast Harry and his jet out of the sky.

Will they succeed?

Will Harry prevail?

If you choose to read this tale, you will discover the prelude to Harry’s flight, how Harry responded to the threat with a description of the air battle over Iraq between Harry’s F-15 Eagle fighter and four Iranian Su-27 Flanker aircraft, and the aftermath to the battle . . . which begins Harry’s real war.

“Harry’s War” is available for 99 cents only via digital download at the following eBook retailers.  You will get your money’s worth from the action sequence alone; but I hope you will understand and appreciate the real war I describe as well.

Here are some of the booksellers who are selling my story.
Barnes and Noble Nook

Baker and Taylor



Thank you for reading this blog.

I hope you will be looking forward to the future adventures of Harry Miles.


Ed Benjamin