Hundreds of men and women dressed in air force mess kit were standing on the tables, they chanted and shouted out loud, before they drowned their gullets with a full glass of wine.
“What’s happening?” I thought to myself, as I watched my younger brother perform this ritual at the mess hall during his graduation dinner.
My brother Stefan was celebrating his wings graduation this past weekend in Moose Jaw, Sask., which is a big milestone in the Royal Canadian Air Force as a student gets recognized as a qualified air force pilot.
My whole family flew to the prairies to take part in the celebration. While I was mostly looking forward to the weekend, I was also a little apprehensive.
I support my brother 110 per cent and I am incredibly proud of his accomplishment. However, I could never do what he does, the rules and regulations of the air force have always been a little too regimented, in my opinion.
The day’s events started with an official security briefing at 7:45 a.m. on Friday morning, to establish a certain set of rules, regulations and time restraints.
As we toured the pilots’ training school, simulators, flights, operations centre, hangars, and the control tower, I began to understand why the rules are set in place. Sending student pilots up in the air and bringing them back safely takes a huge amount of synchronicity.
Everyone involved in the operation needs to be on the same page and has to perform their task accurately each and every time. One single mistake could be disastrous.
Before Stefan and his cohorts ever take to the skies, they have to run through a series of long checklists in sequential order (mostly from memory), and when they are flying in certain training missions they are expected to reach their target to the exact second.
The system works and it produces some of the best aviators in the world; living by its rules, regulations and time constraints.
By the end of the weekend, instead of cringing at the thought of the strict air force structure, which we had been abiding by, I began to respect it.
I was surprised to see Stefan and his four fellow graduates, flight instructors, junior students and senior professionals stand on the tables carousing together. But as they sang the air force march, I noticed they were all perfectly in sync and it was all done with the same precision they live by while defending our skies.
– Sascha Porteous is reporter for the Grand Forks Gazette