"Listen midshipman, this is your last shot to get out. After we're airborne you're in it for the long haul. Keep your eyes open, ask questions, and keep your lunch off the electronics." Gecko, the Marine pilot in whose F/A18 I was sitting, was effortlessly selling me on his service. Fifty minutes and six Gs later, I knew I would be wearing a Marine Corps uniform at graduation.
Ten days before my ride with Gecko I had arrived at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Arizona, known as Desert Talon, with little inclination to become a Marine. Instead, I thought this training was my best shot at a few joyrides in something fast and pointy. Navy pilot seemed like the best option for a newly frocked second-class midshipman who did not see eye-to-eye with the Corps' "every Marine a rifleman" mentality. As it turned out, however, I was lucky enough to get my joyrides and a life-changing outlook on my commission.