Exploits and Opportunities of an Airman

Exploits and Opportunities of an Airman is about the adventures through travel throughout Central America and the northern and southern parts of Europe, exploiting the current and historical. It is also about how having a family changes your outlook and values that you place on yourself, those around you, and your career. By bettering yourself with knowledge and credentials, you open doors for chances to prove something not only to others but also to oneself! The opportunities of this book are explained.

I was fortunate that those who went before me were willing and able to pass on their knowledge so I could build upon that knowledge and experience. While I was TDY in Panama, we had an old Black man who was our line chief. Some people would look at that as a derogatory statement. Yes, he was a Black man—but he was more, so much more. He was a wise and knowledgeable man. He knew his job, he knew the plane, and he knew how to handle young men. He is one of the men to whom this book is dedicated. It was about working together to ensure that we had planes in the air to help those in need. It was “Work hard and play hard.” I carried those thoughts with me my whole career!

While in Panama Canal, I had the opportunities to experience the wonder of the canal, as well as the devastation to those individuals who helped build it. I played on a golf course that was made through a dense forest. If your ball went into the woods, you did not go in to get it. I learned that first thing in the morning, you did not just go into the wheel well of a plane—it could have a nasty large snake or lizard that crawled up in there during the night. All in all, Panama was a fascinating and vibrant country.

Working on airplanes and then watching them take off after you had repaired it gives you such a feeling of accomplishment that is rarely felt. When you add the knowledge that the plane is heading to help someone, there is no greater feeling. I have been an aviation enthusiast since I was ten and my neighbor would take me to the Frederick airport in western Maryland. Today, it is the AOPA (Airmen Owners and Pilots Association) headquarters. Being in the Air Force has afforded me the opportunity to play with airplanes and enjoy my other passion for travel.

Through my travels, I had looked inside of live volcanoes that erupted nine months later. I was able to see the villas in Sicily that were used in the Godfather movies. On the other hand, I was in Morocco six months after we attacked Libya the first time, and I traveled all the way down to the foothills of the Atlas Mountains.

by David Shifflett

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