I’m a Navy trained avionic technician, and I love it. It’s challenging and rewarding. A great feeling swells the heart as an aircraft leaves the ground for its first functional test flight. Every sweat, swear, and swing of the hammer comes together in that brief moment.
To aquire a civilian job equivalent to my Navy job in a timely manner is near impossible. However, that is exactly what has happened. Although, I worked on the MH-53, the Marines fly the CH-53; both are similar in appearance, but different in modifications. L3 refurbishes (loose term) CH-53 for the Marines, in an effort to prolong their structural life. After retiring and moving to Jacksonville NC, I joined L3’s new site.
To go and work on these mighty machines is unexplainable in short terms. A story unfolds as we begin to remove panels and wire harnesses. Bullet holes in one bird revealed the chaos of its missions. Wire harnesses repaired in a Frankenstein manner showed the time constraint given before the next mission. As we install new parts and repair damages, an old tired work horse begins to breathe new life. The day comes for all three engines to fire up with pilot in the seat. Apprehension fills the heart as the rotor head begins to whip the air into submission. With a forward lear of the rotor, the CH-53 taxis to the launch pad. The sound from this beast isn’t merely heard. It’s felt. Tension builds as everyone watches and listens for signs of distress. A heaving roar brings daylight under its wheels and a sigh of relief is felt as the war bird majestically hovers steady on point.
It’s not a job. It’s a love. Granted for some, this is a job. They don’t feel the excitement, and that’s fine. But, as the old saying goes, “Do what you love to do, and you’ll never work.” How true it is.
Lightening illuminated the room as Kevin began to count,
“One one-thousand, two one-thousand, three one-thousand…”
A roll of thunder signaled the approaching storm. The ten-year old boy wasn’t as afraid of storms as he use to be. However, lightning always brought an eery view to his room. Perhaps it was the split second revelation followed by the sudden darkness that led to his overactive imagination. Was that shadow my coat or a dark creature? He was certain that it was his jacket hanging in the closet. He clearly remembered hanging it there.
Another flash of lightning revealed his jacket was indeed hanging there next to an unknown shadow that seemed to be staring at him. All features were hidden, but he was certain something was standing in his closet. The thunder crackled as the creature moved, ever so slightly. It moved! I saw it move. There is something in my closet and it just moved. Focusing his attention to the closet he could hear the creature breathing. But, what is it? Kevin slowly slid out of his bed and slipped across the carpet; taking care not to make a sound.
The creature appeared to be short like a goblin. No identifying features were revealed as Kevin got close. Holding his breath he got within inches of it. He could still hear it’s rapid shallow breathing. There’s no such thing as monsters. If there are, I’m about to catch my first one. Raising his hand towards its head he slowly began to exhale.
“Kevin.” a small voice called out.
A fear struck him as the creature seized his hand with its cold pale fingers. Lightening struck illuminating its screaming face. Kevin’s scream was eclipsed by the explosion of thunder. His backwards leap pulled the creature from the closet. The two fell to the floor as fear gripped them both. Before Kevin could move his unknown fiend wrapped it thin arms around him.
“I’m scared.” his sister whispered.
A flood of revelation brought an onslaught of relief to Kevin. Realizing it was his little sister the whole time, he hugged her back.
“It’s OK. That lightening was scary.”
Reaching up, he pulled his pillow from his bed for them to share and covered up with the blanket she brought from her room. The two slept on the floor as the storm passed over. Every now and then his sister would jerk from the thunder, and he would comfort her. He knew this was all part of being a big brother, even if she did scare the living daylight out of him.
Five a.m. came quick for Chris. It wasn’t a late night with the boys, or an argument with his wife that brought the morning on so quick. No, he was just worn out from his new carpentry job. Setting in his favorite chair, he realized he had fallen asleep with his work boots on. A small quilt covered him; a sure sign his wife took care of him.
Slowly making his way to the kitchen his body ached. Every joint popped like a bowl of milk and rice-crispies. Setting at the kitchen table, he untied his boots and kicked them off. Pulling his socks off too, he placed his feet on the cold hardwood floor. The cool flat surface brought relief as he made his way to the coffeepot. First the a precise measurement of grounds, then a pot full of water was added. As the first drip of coffee fell, Chris began to stretch. How could he be this young and feel this old? His hands still felt tight from gripping a hammer all day. Hand cramps were a sign of learning. Gotta let the hammer do the work. He told himself as he stretched his fingers out. The morning fog cleared from his thoughts as he stood there watching the pot fill. I could be getting ready for the day.
A quick shower and fresh clothes helped him face the morning. Moving with more ease, he poured his first cup. Not sure if it was his youth, inexperience or the excitement of learning a new trade, but he was actually excited to go to work. His career choice was the foundation he was building his life on.
Life didn’t come with instructions. It came with those before us showing what works and what doesn’t. Like Chris, we have all stepped out with uncertainty. But our youthful vigor perpetuated us all to achieve our greatness. As our work kicks back with pain, we are reminded five a.m. comes quick for us all.
The engine raced as adrenaline rushed through Levi’s veins. Tires screamed in horror, fighting to hang onto the morning asphalt of each corner. Machine and man danced around each chicane resembling two familiar lovers, knowing each other’s moves. This was not loved; this was passion. Cresting at the last hill, three miles of straight road filled his eyes. With ears tuned to each signature shift point, Levi was pulled deeper into his seat. The speedometer’s needle slowly made it’s way past 150mph. At the end of the straightaway, a hairpin corner waited patiently. Nerves tingles as a 20mph sign flew by in a blur beckoning him to slow down. Was this stupidity or just craziness? Whichever, he knew he was coming in too hot. This is where experience and reflexes demanded perfection. One hesitation, or one miscalculation could send car and driver to an early grave. Like four permanent markers, the wide tires marked the pavement in a howling pain. Levi’s body was pushed to the side making it difficult to move. Knuckles turned white, fighting to stay in control. The car careened sideways around the corner. A downward shift and the sound of an accelerating engine shot Levi out of the hairpin. A quick glimpse at the side mirror revealed no space between the tire marks and the unforgiving grass-line. Once again he escaped death’s clutches. However, an old oak stood six feet from the line, baring scars from the many drivers it had caught; a sacred reminder of past mistakes made with confidence. Such is life through the eyes of Levi and why he loved to dance around the corners.
I would like to take the opportunity to thank each and everyone of you for following this blog. I am rekindling an old passion, and greatly appreciate the support received. I am humbled that so many people would choose to read my work. It means a lot. Thanks once again. Cheers 🙂