A total dog-and-pony show for the parents of student pilots, UPT graduation was a 48-hour death march of touring, talking, saluting, eating, and sweating in the summer heat of Columbus. My parents loved it.
My mom and dad drove to Mississippi from Rhode Island for the ceremony. I got to give my mom a ride in a T-38 simulator, but because of her claustrophobia, she wouldn’t let me close the lid on the cockpit. With the cockpit opened, the hydraulic legs that gave the sim its motion wouldn’t function. The open cockpit also presented me with a roomful of distractions. Without motion and with our added distractions, I flew a terrible approach to the runway and crashed as I tried to land. "Raymond, are you sure you want to be a pilot?" my mom comfortingly asked.
While I still keep in touch with many of my classmates from UPT Class 88-07 at Columbus Air Force Base, these photos and mementos from July 22, 1988, signify the last time we were all together - our last day before our first assignments...in the Real Air Force.
Before we received our diplomas and silver wings at graduation, the guest speaker said he had some special presentations to make. At the beginning of the ceremony, he recognized five award winners and distinguished graduates from our class with our two former F-4 navigators-turned-fighter-pilots winning most of the hardware up for grabs. After the first five guys, everybody else just got a rolled up piece of paper with a pilot's silver wings...until the end of the ceremony. When the last name was called, which happened to be mine by virtue of the alphabet, our speaker told the audience that he had one last special presentation to make. He handed me the hot pink golf ball shown on this page, which I keep on my office desk.