Beginnings Part 1

I wish I could write that my love of aviation began at a very early age. Such a tale might begin with, “I had many toys, all of which were abandoned when I got my hands on a little red biplane. From that moment on, my fate was sealed.”

The truth is far from that of a flier’s storybook. No hanging around the airport, sweeping floors for the chance to fly with a grizzled eighty-year-old barnstormer in a Stearman. No yearning to take to the skies every time I heard the throaty sound of a radial coughing to life or marveled at an aerobatic routine dancing against an azure sky above my head. None of that. With the exception of knowing my older brother wanted to be a pilot, aviation played no part in my childhood.

As a high school senior I remained blissfully uncommitted to my professional future until a family friend suggested geology. With no better plan of my own (other than not wanting to sit behind a desk), I enrolled in a college best known for mining engineering. In those days, two years of ROTC participation was mandatory. I signed up with the Army.

Before the end of my freshman year I had decided that oceanography was for me. I can’t offer any better reason today than I could then for choosing to work submerged in water over digging in dirt. When I arrived at my new college to begin my sophomore year, the Army and Navy contingents were full. By default, I became a member of the Air Force ROTC. I never intended to continue past the second year.

Enter my Air Force advisor, who skillfully pointed out that the last two years of ROTC paid real money. Eager to reduce the strain on my parents’ finances, I signed up. The advisor also encouraged me to consider applying for pilot training. By the end of my sophomore year he had convinced me.

On the first class day of my junior year, I suffered a major crisis (word play intended). The calculus, physics, and chemistry required for a degree in oceanography had become so repulsive that I raced to my course advisor with a frantic question. “Can I declare any other major and still graduate in a total of four years?”

With an exasperated sigh, she retrieved a folder from a filing cabinet and proceeded to examine my record. After a moment, she peered at me over a pair of reading glasses perched on her nose. “Psychology. Your elective choices have already fulfilled many of the requirements. But it will take a heavy course load and a summer session.” We made the change, and my goals at that moment became clear: get my degree, accept a commission as a USAF 2nd lieutenant, go to pilot training and serve four years (the minimum active duty commitment at the time). Then I’d be better able to choose what I wanted to do for a “real” job. And in naive fashion typical of youth, I figured that would be the last really important decision of my life. The rest would be a piece of cake. Right.

Please visit again soon for Part 2 of Beginnings.

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6 Responses to Beginnings Part 1

  1. Jobie Guzman says:

    Great site Tosh. Interesting stories that show off your talent as a soon-to-be-published (I’m sure) writer.

    I really like the colors and layout you’ve chosen. Classy and soothing, if those two words can be used in the same sentence!

    Keep up the great work.
    Jobie

  2. Tosh, Well writing thumbnail bio of a life well lived. I was flying with an instructor years ago around the Ft Worth area and we were coming into a small area airport for late lunch where we’d landed earlier that day. The instructor (who was also a friend) told me to fly straight in, but the weather had changed and with it the wind direction. I pointed out the wind-sock on the roof of one of the hangers and he said, “Oh yeah, better go around.” This guy had 5,000 hours. So you didn’t do so badly at all. Keep flying and keep writing, amigo ~ Darrell

  3. Laura Resnick Chavez says:

    This is an awesome site and I love the Beginnings Blog. Look forward to more

    Best.

    Laura

  4. Ray Fuentez says:

    Great looking site, Tosh. It’s everything you said it would be.
    Congratulations!
    Wam Regards and best wishes.
    Ray

  5. Cindy Phillips says:

    Tosh,

    Your story reminds me why I love pilots. On my first ride in a private plane, Ted, a relatively new pilot, put the engine into a stall and said, “Want to fly the airplane without an engine? I know how. Let me show you.”

    Between gasps of breath I managed to mutter something like, “please turn the engine back on.” Didn’t know my blood could pound so hard through my veins. Ted’s dog, riding in the back seat didn’t even crack an eye open. Ted did this all the time. And he knew how to recover.

    I think Ted is still laughing at me.

    I love stories about aviation, aviators, and all things that make me soar beyond today. I’ll be back to read your stories. I’m not very experienced at the blogging stuff, but I’d love to get an RSS feed from your site.

    I expect this to be more interesting than my now canceled subscription to Aviation Week and Space Technology. 🙂

    Take care,

    Cindy

    Cind

  6. Tosh, my gosh (that rhymes!) It took me a while to read all this, but what a interesting life and experiences you have had. I am waiting to hear more! Seems like I should know all this after spending as much time as we do together in heaven (Fredericksburg)…guess we are too busy putting you to work on the ranch as our super safety engineer! Beautifully written! “Merneil”

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