Competition brings not-so-close shave
July 9, 2003
Some of the guys looked more like cheesy porn stars than badass fighter pilots.
The mustache that Lt. Cmdr. Vic Bindi sported, for instance, had him in the running for the lounge lizard award in Strike Fighter Squadron 192’s moustache competition.
The competition is all in the name of tradition. It’s one of several ways Carrier Air Wing 5 squadrons on the USS Kitty Hawk bond and pass time while underway.
Strike Fighter Squadron 192’s mustache-growing commenced when the aircraft carrier left Yokosuka, Japan, in late January.
“I had nothing (in the way of facial hair). Which is what I want to get back to very quickly,” said Bindi, 34, during the deployment.
Other stache awards include cheesiest, most-frequently boogered and Neanderthal.
Bindi won the lounge lizard award before. “I keep waiting for some blond guy to come in with a really nasty mustache.”
As much as he despised the unkempt stache, he digs how it bonds the F/A-18 Hornet pilots.
“Although a lot of us really hate our nasty mustaches, it means enough to us to stick it out with the rest of the guys that we’re not going to shave them off until the bitter end,” he said.
The carrier returned home in May, but squadron members decided not to have an official vote.
At sea, about once a month, the Golden Dragons held hand-written signs and posed for photos and messages to e-mail to significant others to see the staches’ progress. One pilot spent some time on his message, drawing an eyeball, heart and what was supposed to be a ewe.
“Dude, you love sheep?” a pilot chortled.
In a serious competition, the squadrons compete against each other for the best landings. Landing signal officers from each squadron judge pilots’ tail hooks and award the top new pilots and the squadron with the best average.
The Golden Dragons weren’t the only squadron finding ways to connect. Up the passageway, Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron 115 was exercising toward a goal: free beer.
Before leaving the Persian Gulf, the Liberty Bells officers started a “Run Back to Atsugi” challenge. If they ran, biked and rowed 4,400 miles before hitting a port call, the squadron’s executive officer had to thrown down his credit card and the drinks were on him.
“The point is to get the group to think about something other than flying and the war,” said Lt. j.g. Steve Taylor, 25, a naval flight officer. “It’s a good stress release.”
It’s a healthier competition than the one the Black Knights squadron attempted a previous cruise; the F-14A pilots unsuccessfully tried to devour a mile of hot dogs.
Sea Control Squadron 21 also got into the game, with Xbox competitions. On no-fly days, a dozen officers got engrossed in “Halo,” a combat game.
While underway, the Red Tails found ways to break up the monotony of long refueling flights in their S-3B Viking aircraft, said Lt. Jim Oswalt. On past deployments, they’d see who could sneak in “meows” over the radio.
The most recent deployment, “We come up with a tournament to name all the famous girls you think are good-looking,” said Lt. Cmdr. Jim Davis, 33, a naval flight officer.
Oswalt joked that squadrons look to the Red Tails to provide the levity.
“We don’t fly a really super cool jet … and shoot lots of cool weapons,” said Oswalt, 33. “Our goal’s to win the party wherever we go.”