Wednesday, December 11, 2013

CSO Graduation

It has been a long journey for Tom.  He left for Florida in June of 2012 to start his Combat System Officers training.  Graduation was November 22nd.  It had been over a year since we had seen him and Bill and I really wanted to go to his graduation.  They make a big deal of it so we knew we had to be there.  We got there a couple of days before graduation and had the chance to do some sightseeing and spend time with Tom and Maddy.  I'm separating out the sightseeing pictures and will post and write about those later.  But after touring the air museum and Tom's graduation practice, we went to eat lunch with him at the O Club.  He is a regular there so a few of the waitresses had to come over to talk to him about graduation and what he is doing next.  A couple of the Blue Angels came in to eat lunch after their flight (Bill and I watched them take off) but I restrained myself from taking any pictures of them.  They certainly rock the tailored blue flight suit look.  I mean we are talking really tight.

Friday was all about graduation.  Twenty-four CSO officers graduated from his class.  Tom had wanted to participate in the Blessing of the Wings at the chapel that morning but had more pressing business to take care of before graduation so we didn't get to do that.  But graduation itself was a very nice ceremony.  He got his CSO coin, diploma and wings.

Tom asked Bill to pin on his wings.  He described it as being very moving to be able to do that for his son.  We are both very proud of him.  It was fun watching all these young men and women get their wings pinned on--seeing who they chose to do it and some were pretty creative.  One of the sisters and one of the spouses really packed a punch to give the "blood wings".  One little boy gave his dad his blood wings too which was really sweet.  And a fiance of one of the female graduates did a bend over backward kiss.  So it was fun what some of them decided to do to make it special.

The graduation took place in the National Naval Aviation Museum underneath this display of the Blue Angels in formation.  It was a really cool place to take a picture of Tom and Maddy.

There was lots of photos taken afterward by proud spouses, parents, grandparents and siblings.  Tom wanted a picture of the "Three Toms".  Hard to believe in a class of only 24 that there would be three with the name of Tom.
After graduation, there was a lunch and award ceremony at the O Club.  This is Tom taking his first real look at his diploma since they take it away from you during graduation so you can get your wings pinned.

And they have a tradition of what they call "breaking the glass".  And there are rules that are very creatively written as to how this is supposed to take place.  Basically the graduates that were going to be in the same planes did their toast together.  After drinking the shot, they had to pour what was left over their head and then throw the shot glass at a target of the monkey (see picture below in squadron tour of what the said monkey looks like) in the fountain behind the O Club.  Tom did his with one of the other Toms who will be going to Kansas with him.  We had to stay on the second floor balcony so we wouldn't get hit with flying glass.

After lunch, Tom signed us up for some simulation time in the T-6 and T-1.  In the first picture, he is showing us how they have to strap themselves into the T-6 to attach themselves to the seat, parachute, oxygen, etc.  It is the simulator in which they practice egress for those times when they need to eject.  Bill had a blast--I think this was his favorite part of the trip besides being proud daddy at graduation.  He got to do aerobatics and fly under bridges and between really close buildings sideways, etc.  And Tom showed us how he does a lot of the aerobatic moves.  Maddy and I just did photo ops.
Bill also liked getting to fly in the T-1 jet simulator.  He only crashed the plane twice.  It had a lot different feel than he is used to in little prop planes.  Maddy decided she wanted to give it a try too and Tom talked her through landing the plane.  She actually did it without crashing--although she did it in the grass strip between the two runways.  
He took us on a little bit of a tour of the squadron.  Showed us where they do their flight planning.  And we got to get up close and personal with the planes that they learned to fly and do their navigating in.

 And this was my favorite photo of the whole trip.  They both look so good in it.  

It was a pretty emotional week.  They found out bits and pieces all week about orders to SERE school in Spokane and when Tom needs to be in Kansas and how it affected their Thanksgiving and Christmas vacation plans.  And unfortunately Tom doesn't get to go on Christmas leave and will be by himself in Pensacola while Maddy is in Washington.  But it is what it is.  So glad we got to see him but wish that he could come home to see Grandma and Chris.  He is in Spokane for three weeks right now--and has been in the field since Saturday in sub-zero temperatures.  I certainly don't envy him that experience.  I have been cold enough in the house much less going outside with our record breaking cold temperatures here in Vancouver.  

So proud of our boy.  So glad that he is able to realize his long time goal of flying in the Air Force.

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