9 Lives of a Fighter Pilot
by Colonel Gregory G. Raths USMC (Retired)

.....Luke Air Force Base is west of Phoenix and my dad would take us kids to air shows at the base. I loved going to the shows and appreciated all the different military aircraft in the U.S. arsenal. I loved to watch as the pilots would perform their death-defying stunts in the air. The deep blue skies over the base provided a playground for these dare devils to entertain the large crowd. “Wow, I wanna do that!” I told my dad as my eyes followed the pilots’ maneuvers in the air above us. He replied, “You’d make a great pilot, Son.”......


.....Before we entered the combat zone to find targets over Kuwait 
we refueled on a Marine Corps KC-130 tanker and then we entered Indian country. Over Kuwait, we found Iraqi targets, such as artillery pieces, fortified troop embankments and scud missile sites. I successfully marked the first two targets, but on my third run when I rolled in on an artillery site and marked the target for the attack Hornets, I was low when I pulled off target. I heard Bone scream over the intercom, “BREAK RIGHT, BREAK RIGHT!” He wanted me to pull a maximum G turn to the right to avoid a large surface-to-air missile locked on to us and coming quickly to destroy our aircraft.I heard him scream louder than I’d ever heard a man scream,“BREAK LEFT!” Again I instinctively pulled hard to the left as another Iraqi surface-to-air missile shot past our left wing. I then gained as much altitude as possible to get out of range of a third missile coming our way. My heart was pumping and the adrenalin flowed as I got my first taste of combat. I thanked Bone for the critical calls that saved my life, but all he said in response was, “Hey, I saved my life, too, up here.”Another close call; another life. How many more chances would I get? That was five!! “Hey, Mr. Death, I am now
married with children, PLEASE leave me alone,” I muttered.....


......I flew my final combat flight on February 27th and was able to watch from above the famous tank battle of Medina Ridge between the United States First Armored Division and the Second Brigade of the Iraqi Republican Guard Medina Luminous Division outside Basra. The battle, which waged for more than two hours, was the largest tank battle of the war and the largest tank battle in United States history. The American tanks destroyed 186 Iraqi tanks, and the U.S. lost none.......


......During one training mission in Nevada, I flew wing for Captain John “Scorch”Daly, a young officer with incredible talent in our squadron. We went up against a couple of the Top Guns who were flying the F-5 aircraft. The mission was 2v2, meaning two of us and two of them. We took about 30 miles in separation and then headed toward each other. The objective? To shoot them down before they shot us down (simulated, of course). Everything was going well when I lost sight of Scorch and my air-to-air TACAN (the indicator that shows how far apart we were) showed Scorch was 1.2 miles away from my craft. That was the required distance for this particular engagement. I radioed Scorch to let him know that I had lost sight of him, but we continued our attack. I then noticed .8 on the indicator as I continued to look for Scorch and he for me, then .4, then .3, then .2, then .1 as my head was on a swivel, knowing he was very close. The hair on the back of my neck was standing up when I heard a loud thump under me as Scorch passed within a few feet of my aircraft; neither one of us saw the other until it was too late. Luckily, we missed each other, I regained sight, and we continued our pursuit down range to kill the F-5s.
That was too close for comfort! The way I saw it, I must have
had an angel on my shoulder. Two more lives to go........

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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