Wednesday, November 21, 2012

"Flying Iron Hand" with My Son Elijah...

During the Vietnam War, US combat pilots became familiar with a coined term called "flying Iron Hand".  This originally stemmed from a series of US operations designed to suppress enemy SAM (surface-to-air missile) sites, but "stuck" beyond to mean the process of identifying, suppressing and destroying enemy anti-aircraft sites in advance of larger attacking forces.

Usually, as I understand it, Iron Hand missions are flown in pairs or small groups, with one aircraft basically serving as bait for enemy SAM sites while the other aircraft sneaks in and takes them out before they can fire their missiles at the aircraft doing the baiting.  It's a risky and dangerous proposition, but in a world of smart and guided missile threats, pilots have become extremely efficient at the process, often sending an experienced pilot to flush out the SAMs while a less experienced pilot does the actual hunting and smashing.

As my son Elijah just turned 13 this year, I couldn't help beginning to see in my own mind an entire jungle of things that could "shoot him down" in various situations (social and otherwise) in our increasingly complex world.  Most of these things pale in comparison to the "big targets" of teaching core values like Faith and Compassion, but are still things that could knock his plane out of the sky if he didn't see them coming, whether in simple day to day operations or in social settings as he grows older, dates girls and interacts with others.  As a result, I took Elijah to breakfast and told him that I'd like to be his Wingman one weekend a month or so to embark on an ongoing mission to knock out some of these potential "threats" before they happen.  I explained to him the concept of "Flying Iron Hand", and told him that I would be the more experienced pilot who flies out ahead to highlight the targets so that he can fly in behind and take them out with greater safety.  I told him that I had developed a basic list of things to make sure we covered, but that the list could grow and change as he grew and changed to make sure that we stay relevant and adaptable to what he feels are the greatest needs.  More than anything, I guess, it's just a chance for the two of us to both spend time with each other, but also intentionally make sure that certain manly qualities are passed from father to son.  Here are some starters for what we're going to cover in the next few months:

  • Wear a suit
  • Iron a dress shirt
  • Tie a tie
  • "Spit polish" shoes
  • Cook 2-3 decent meals or dishes
  • De-escalate a threat
  • Shoot a handgun
  • Basic self-defense
  • Pursue and treat a woman
  • Pick out flowers
  • Basic etiquette in a non-etiquette world
  • Behave at a formal restaurant
  • Basic First-Aid
  • Formally address a write a letter
  • Speak in public
  • Drive a car
  • Drive a car in an emergency
  • Jump a car battery
  • Change a tire

Do you have a list of possible targets?  Have you flown similar kinds of Iron Hand missions either with your dad or your son?  I'd love to hear about them!  Drop me a line either in the comments here on this post or via e-mail at


1 comment:

Ryan said...

To understand where food comes from, both the miracle of growing and the challenge of nurturing, I recommend growing a garden.

Another important area is a major car or lawnmower repair.

Third is construction of a house, the framing, plaster, and painting.