It’s been a tough week. A good friend and neighbor died this week after a year long bout with cancer. He put up a hell of a fight.
Then, last night, I learned that milblogger extraordinaire and retired naval aviator Carroll LeFon had been killed when his F21 Kfir fighter jet crashed near the west gate of Naval Air Station Fallon in Nevada.
Lex, as most people knew him, was probably one of the best writers in the milblog community, bar none. A retired Navy Captain and former carrier squadron commander, he loved flying and detested “life in a cube”. After retirement he managed to land a dream job for men of his ilk – flying fighter jets for a civilian company contracted to provide the opposing force for naval aviators at the TOPGUN school. Lex, during his active duty days, had been the Executive Officer at that school.
I had the privilege of meeting Lex at one of the milblog conferences and then, over the years, kept up an on again, off again email relationship with him. I enjoyed our conversations immensely and I was a huge fan of his blog. I mostly lurked because, well, I’m a grunt and that wasn’t my world, but I learned more about naval aviation and aviation in general than I would have ever learned elsewhere. I also enjoyed his slant on other topics as well. He had a large and engaged commenting community, the sign of a healthy and well-loved blog.
The stories in tribute to him are just now starting to come out. There’ll be more as the days go by. He was a heck of a guy, a brilliant writer, a man who loved and adored his family and died doing what he loved best – flying a high performance aircraft.
His last post at the blog was a bit eerie but pretty much stated his philosophy best when it came to what he was doing. He’d had a drag chute malfunction on landing and had to “wrestle snakes”, as he put it, for a bit before finally landing the aircraft safely.
When I taxied back to the line the maintenance guys told me to go away for 10 minutes. Just in case the brakes might, you know: Catch fire. Which they didn’t, so no harm done.
It’s funny how quickly you can go from “comfort zone” to “wrestling snakes” in this business.
But even snake wrestling beats life in the cube, for me at least. In measured doses.
Every fighter pilot out there, in fact every pilot in general, knows that at some point or other they’re going to have to wrestle snakes. And, they also know that the possibility exists that the snakes may, at some point, win.
Yet even knowing that, they’d never trade the opportunity to do what they do for that “cube” of safety.
Lex was a good man doing a necessary and dangerous job training our future naval aviators. He paid the ultimate price. But he did it his way doing what he loved to do.
Fair winds and following seas, CAPT LeFon. You’ll be missed.