Dave Shunk is a retired USAF Colonel, B-52G pilot, and Desert Storm combat veteran. His last military assignment was as the B-2 Vice Wing Commander of the 509th Bomb Wing, Whitman AFB, MO. Currently he is an Army government civilian working in the Army Capabilities Integration Center (ARCIC) Initiatives Group, Fort Monroe, VA.
Bill Whittle, from the Eject! Eject! Eject! blog (leveraging Coram's book) writes:
About a hundred miles north of Las Vegas there is a clump of wild grass and cottonwood trees called “The Green Spot.” Not much to look at from the ground, but from thirty thousand feet above the brown Nevada desert it stands out for a hundred miles.
In the mid to late fifties, a fighter pilot could earn himself a quick forty bucks and perhaps a nice steak dinner in Vegas – not to mention everlasting renown, which is to fighter pilots what oxygen is to us lesser beings – by meeting over the Green Spot at thirty thousand feet and taking position just 500 feet behind an arrogant and unpleasant man with precisely zero air-to-air victories to his credit.
From that perfect kill position, you would yell “Fight’s on!” and if that sitting duck in front of you was not on your tail with you in his gunsight in forty seconds flat then you would win the money, the dinner and best of all, the fame.
Tank commanders may be charging cavalrymen at heart; sub skippers may be deer hunters using patience and stealth. But fighter pilots are Musketeers.
They are swordsmen whose survival depends on remaining on the offensive… that is to say, they are men who survive because they can (and have) initiated 16-to-1 fights because they possess the confidence – actually, the untrammeled ego – to know they will win.
To be challenged in such a manner is an irresistible red flag to men like this, and certainly no less of one because the challenger was a rude, loud, irreverent braggart who had never been victorious in actual air-to-air combat.
And yet that forty dollars went uncollected, uncollected for many years against scores of the best fighter pilots in the world.
That is more than luck. That is more than skill. That is more than tactics. That level of supremacy is the result of the ability to see things in an entirely new way. It is the difference between escaping from a maze you are embedded in, versus finding the way out from one that you look down upon from above.
Having your ass handed to you in such a spectacular and repeated fashion causes some men to curse and mutter about ‘one trick ponies’ and so on. But for others, for those who are more invested in victory than in ego, it reveals a level of skill that instantly removes all swagger and competition and puts one in the place of a willing supplicant, eager for knowledge.