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Fighter pilots do not wear their survival knife in their flight suits

Fighter pilots do not wear their survival knife in their flight suits

Both the flight suit and speed jeans of the US Air Force and Navy pilots have a special pouch on the left thigh for a survival knife. If you wear "speed jeans" or Anti-G force garment, you won't use the one on the flight suit but the one on the speed jeans. This could seem trivial but that makes a BIG difference as you'll discover in the following story was found in Colonel Robin Olds memories:

"The round the clock mission schedule at UBON meant the club was open 24/24 both bar and dining room. My arrival hadn't been widely noticed yet, so I didn't feel conspicuous when I stopped at the O club at about 4:00 AM for breakfast. I wore a flying suit that I'd had for several years both in the Pentagon and at Shaw for use when I'd beeen flying some of the support aircraft. I didn't think much of it. I was preoccupied with thoughts about the bas, the morale, the troop, and the leadership that I'd seen so far. 

  I ate and headed to the cashier to pay my tab. I fell in line behind a couple of young lieutenants, both apparently backseat F-4 pilots* who had been on the night schedule and stopped at the club for dinner and more than a few drink. They glanced at the stranger standing behind them and then began in a stage whisper to discuss my attire.

  "Must be a trash hauler. Probably on some Gooney Bird from the Philippines getting his monthly combat time."

  "Yeah, sucking up the combat pay and tax exclusion. Patches say Air Defense Command, don't they ?"

  "Looks like an interceptor pilot maybe. Probably doesn't know that combat pilots don't wear patches. Check the leg! Is that Gooney Bird survival kit? Even interceptor pukes don't pull enough g's chasing bombers to need speeed jeans." He turned to me, "Excuse me, Colonel, are you a fighter pilot ?"

  "Let's make him one..." The bigger one reached down for the knife pocket on the left leg of my flight suit and in one practiced motion grabbed the top flap, snapped it open and smoothly tore it off my flight suit. Before I could react, the other one snuck behind me and grabbed me around the chest. "Now, let's get the patches".

  Being manhanded by a pair of lieutenants on the day of my arrival seemed a bit out of place and I resisted. I turned and grabbed the one behind me. The second went at my waist and within seconds the three of us were romming around the floor of the dining room, wrestling, grunting, and grappling as my flight suit sleeves were ripped and both patches and chunks of cloth were removed. Other pilots gathered to watch the melee and the club manager frantically dialed the phone to call the air police.

  By the time they had arrived it was over. The Lieutenants were sitting with me, having another beer, and I was having a third cup of coffee. I told the cops it had been a brief misunderstanding and they left. The explanation the two gave me seemed reasonable. Combat pilots didn't wear patches, nor did they ever carry their issue survival knife in their flight suit pocket. It went in the pocket on the left thigh of the G suit. Anybody violalting the rules got patches and pockets ripped off. Rank made no difference. I wondered why no one at Davis-Monthan had told me. But, I knew that there was a spark of morale at the flying squadron level that could be built into something bigger. These guys had spirit."

 *Unlike the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps, which flew the Phantom with a Naval Aviator (pilot) in the front seat and a Naval Flight Officer as a radar intercept officer (RIO) in the back seat, the USAF initially flew its Phantoms with a rated Air Force Pilot in front and back seats. While the rear pilot (GIB, or "guy in back") could fly and ostensibly land the aircraft, he had fewer flight instruments and a very restricted forward view. The Air Force later assigned a rated Air Force Navigator qualified as a weapon/targeting systems officer (later designated as weapon systems officer or WSO) in the rear seat instead of another pilot.

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