July 25, 2007

What's a Flight Officer?

Tonight I closed the most interesting chapter of my life so far with my promotion to First Lieutenant.

"What's a Flight Officer?" I asked myself almost 3 years ago at my Level 1. It was there I discovered that instead of becoming a 2d Lt. like I had been told, I would become a "Flight Officer". Disappointed (and arrogant), I scoured the regs for some loop-hole, or something I could exploit to become a Lieutenant early. There was none, or at least none that applied to me. Being one of a handful of CAP members who have progressed through the Flight Officer ranks without being a cadet, I have discovered that a Flight Officer can be special.

"Flight Officers" are our version of Warrant Officers (with standing similar to AFROTC Cadet Officers), accorded the respects and traditions of Officers, but not 'commissioned'. Unlike regular officers, Flight Officers are younger, more driven, but prone to make mistakes. It is as Flight Officers that CAP officers can hone their skills for the officership

The stripe of the FO should not be taken lightly. It's either a cadet who earned their Mitchell, or a newly minted Senior with enough dedication to earn them a place at the unit. Flight Officers are CAP's only remaining tradition. They have been around since the beginning, and have continued to endure. We were formed for those members who weren't 21 yet, but were otherwise qualified for Officer ranks. As a result, Flight Officers participated and died on Coastal Patrol. The list found at the back of "The Flying Minute Men" contains 3 men holding that rank.

And in truth, as I get ready for a time when I will be called "lieutenant", I find myself wishing that I could stay "Flight Officer". I wish there was another grade above "Senior Flight Officer", maybe a "Chief Flight Officer" or "Master Flight Officer", at least something more to aspire to in this cadre.

"What's a Flight Officer?" I asked one time. 3 years later, I know that A Flight Officer is one who is dedicated, young, inexperienced, but filled with potential. A Flight Officer is one who is not burdened by experience, but often has an open mind and a fresh solution. Finally, we're here to stay. Not just the grade, but Flight Officers tend to marry CAP, and as I do, inevitably become full officers. But they do so possessing enough experience to be peers among the officer corps. What's a Flight Officer? A Flight Officer is something special.

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