Rob's Winging Ceremony + Our Next Adventure (Part One)

The minute that Rob got his soft patch wings on Wednesday evening, I feel like the whirlwind began!   I headed home because Rob had to stay to finish some paperwork and then go to a meeting.  Five minutes before his meeting is scheduled to start, I get a text from Rob telling me some HUGE news.  Of course I freak out and text him back a few  a million times with no response because he is in the meeting.  The news is so huge that I know I can't tell anyone with Rob being home so I am running around my house like a crazy person, trying to process everything and not spill the secret.
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So what is the big news?  Rob found out that he was selected to fly the new F-35 Lightning!  He was the first student EVER to be selected from Meridian to fly this jet  and was totally shocked and honored...and obviously thrilled!  (The F-35 isn't even listed on their "dream sheets", where they rank the potential jets they want to fly, so Rob didn't even know it was really a possibility!)  This means that we will be moving to Beaufort, South Carolina where Rob will go to the rag/fleet replacement squadron for the next year-ish to learn to fly the F-35.  It's been a couple of weeks and I still can't believe that it is happening.  We called our families, ran across the street to celebrate with Blair and Wil, and literally were on cloud nine all night!
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The next day, everyone came into town for Rob's winging.  I picked up Rob's sister Erin from the airport, met up with my parents and Rob's parents at our house and waiting for Rob to get home from work.  It was so nice to have everyone in town to celebrate!  We went to our favorite Meridian restaurant, Harvest Grill, for dinner and then called it an early night to prepare for an early morning the next day.
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Rob's winging started at 8:30am on Friday morning.  We grabbed everyone breakfast sandwiches from the Sandtrap and then headed to the squadron for family day.  There was a few speeches, awards, a video at the squadron and then we were able to head over to the sim building to let our families fly the jet simulator.  We had a quick break to eat lunch at our house before headed to the chapel for the formal ceremony at 1pm.  The ceremony was short and sweet: a quick intro speech then the pinning of the wings and then done.  Each person was called up to the stage, a quick bio was read, the wings were pinned on, families posed for pictures, and then on to the next.  (There were 19 people winging with Rob).  It was an honor to be able to pin those wings of gold on Rob's chest, knowing how hard he has worked over the last three years to earn them.
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We had a little bit of time to change and relax before our families and a few close friends came over for dinner.  I had dinner catered by Dickey's BBQ, cupcakes from Margie's Mixing Bowl, and aviator sunglasses as party favors.  After dinner, we headed to the official winging party at the Meridian Little Theater.  We've been to several winging parties in the past however I am definitely going to call this one the wildest.  It's safe to say we took "YOWO - You Only Wing Once" a little too seriously ;)  It was a blast to be able to celebrate with everyone, even if we paid for it the next day.
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Our families stayed in town for the rest of the weekend and we showed them the typical Meridian tour - aka we took them to Weidmann's and my parents ate BBQ in a gas station (Pappy's) ;)  Overall, it was a wonderful weekend and I am so proud of Rob for earning those wings of gold!

Final flight in the T-45 + Soft Patch Wings!

Ever since Rob started flight school, I have loved learning about all of the traditions in the aviation community.  It seems like every milestone is celebrated with a fun tradition: the shirt tail cutting after solo-ing in the Cessna, the tie cutting and taking a swim in the VT-3 pool after soloing in the T-6, platform selection, and finally the most recent: the final flight of flight school!
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When Rob got back from the boat/weapons detachment, he had eight flights left in flight school.  With his winging date two weeks away, we knew that he had time but that it would be close.  Of course, it turned out to be even closer than we hoped!  On Wednesday (the week of the winging), Rob still had two flights left due to weather problems earlier in the week.  After a crazy stressful day of "happening/not happening/happening/not happening", Rob completed his final flights of flight school!  Just before the sun set and right in time, I was lucky enough to watch Rob land his last flight from the flight line.
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As tradition requires, when Rob got out of the plane and took off his gear, a crowd was ready to greet him -- along with a fire hose to blast him with cold water!  It just so happened his final flight landed on one of the coldest days so far this winter ;)  After sufficiently soaking him down, the commanding officer of the squadron ripped off Rob's soft patch, with his name and the EGA, from his flight suit and replaced it with his new patch with his name and aviator wings!  That patch with the wings has been displayed in a glass case in the squadron every single day since Rob checked in, as a constant reminder of what he was working towards.  It was so exciting to see him finally able to wear those wings and know that he had made it through flight school!
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Look at those wings!  Rob was the last person in his class to finish so I hoped that they would tell him which aircraft he would fly and where we would be moving when he landed but in typical military fashion, they kept us on edge for a little bit longer :)  I will just was well worth the wait!

Hokies in Atlanta

While Rob was gone on the detachment, Virginia Tech just happened to have a Thursday night game against Georgia Tech in Atlanta!  Since Blair's husband was gone on the detachment as well, we decided to make a quick trip to the ATL to see Danielle and watch the Hokies play!
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We left Thursday morning and got in town just as Danielle was getting off work.  We headed to the Virginia Tech Atlanta Alumni tailgate at the Brickhouse.  We got to hang out with the Hokie bird and even meet the athletic director, Whit Babcock.
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We walked a few blocks to the stadium and headed in to the game.  While it wasn't Lane Stadium, it was exciting to see the Hokies play and to watch Frank Beamer in action one last time.  The game was a nail biter but we ended up with seats right behind the end zone to savor a Hokie win!  It was the perfect little getaway to break up the detachment.

My husband is a Hooker!

Last month, we said goodbye to the boat-stache which means Rob officially landed the T-45 jet on a space the size of a tennis court on a moving air craft carrier ship in the middle of the ocean!  Sound insane?  I think so too!
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In the two weeks leading up to the boat, Rob's class paused what they were doing in flight school and spent every single day practicing "bouncing".  This means doing dozens of landings on ground each day, hitting the same spot every single time, to prepare to successfully land in that tiny space on the boat.  On the last day, I was able to go out to to the flight line and watch Rob bounce and "call the ball" over the radio.

Rob received his carrier qualification on the USS Eisenhower off the coast of Jacksonville, Florida after successfully trapping (landing and coming to a stop on the boat) ten times.  After his carrier qualification, Rob headed straight to El Centro, California to finish most of his remaining flights on the two week weapons detachment.
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It's tradition when the guys come home from landing on the boat to hang the banner that says "My husband is a hooker".  The term "hooker" comes from the fact that they use the tailhook to stop the plane on the boat.  Living on base, it has so much fun to watch the hooker signs go up for our neighbors and I was so excited to finally hang Rob's sign.  His face when he saw the giant head hanging on our porch was priceless!
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While our husbands were gone on the detachment, we may have had a little too much fun with Rob's giant head as well!  What can I say -- I was missing my husband ;)

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