The Warriors: Reflections of a Fighter Pilot, Test Pilot, and Veteran of the Air Wars over Vietnam

Article excerpt

The Warriors: Reflections of a Fighter Pilot, Test Pilot, and Veteran of the Air Wars over Vietnam by Robert E. Ross. Yucca Tree Press (http:// yuccatree.com), Barbed Wire Publishing, 270 Avenida de Mesilla, Las Cruces, New Mexico 88005, 2002, 304 pages, $25.00 (hardcover).

As new generations of airmen filter into the ranks, the American experience in Southeast Asia slowly dwindles from the consciousness of the active duty force. Veterans who saw combat duty during the conflict in Vietnam are fewer in number, and as they retire, their ability to pass on lessons learned to younger troops diminishes correspondingly. The fear is that the passion and emotion that come from stories of their firsthand experiences will lose something when translated into memoirs and history books. Enter retired colonel Bob Ross. In a book he waited his whole career to write, Ross masterfully describes the emotional highs and lows, likes and dislikes, and triumphs and defeats of his Air Force career.

In this account of life as a test pilot, fighter pilot, and combat commander, Ross tells his Air Force story with wit, candor, and refreshing irreverence. He brings a no-nonsense perspective to a culture he describes as beset with needless paperwork, career bureaucrats, and hangers-on at all levels of the chain of command. Both the bomber community, champions of "stan-evals," and a class of pilots he describes with the phonetic spellings of the letters Wand D draw Ross's ire.

The author begins by describing his inadvertent entry into the flying community after studying engineering at the University of California at Berkeley. After joining the Air Force with the expectation of using his education and experience as a civil engineer, Ross was startled by his assignment to a position in communications and electronics. …