Jason B. Ladd

Ask the Questions. Embrace the Answers. Make the Leap.

3 Abort Scenarios That Change, Save Lives

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“Abort, abort, abort, abort!”

Training

The call came too late. The pilot had already pickled off his live bombs on what he thought was the correct target during a training mission.

But his perception did not match reality. He might have had incomplete information, or he might have misunderstood the information he had. The military would call this condition having low situational awareness or “SA.”

Instead of finding the correct target, he accidentally dropped bombs on a friendly observation post resulting in death, injury, and the closure of the Vieques Island training range.

Because this pilot had low SA, he did not think he would be killing a person by his actions.

The only thing for certain in combat is the promise of uncertainty. During training flight, pilots practice establishing procedures and habit patterns in order to minimize human error during complex missions. When setting up for an attack, the goal is for things to feel “suitcased” prior to releasing ordnance.

The moment something doesn’t feel right, they investigate and take action or abort the attack.

Combat

“Friendlies, Kandahar.”

After hearing those two words, an F-16 pilot knew his life would never be the same. He had just rolled in and dropped a 500-pound bomb on what he thought was an enemy position targeting his flight lead after a 10-hour mission over Afghanistan.

In reality, it was soldiers from the 3rd Battalion Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry Battle Group conducting a night firing exercise.

This pilot knew he might kill a person, but he thought is was necessary to possibly save the life of his flight lead.

Recipe for Failure

In 2004, the Department of Defense launched a “Global War on Error” educational campaign to reduce human error as a contributing factor to aviation mishaps.

What stuck with me was the recipe that almost always contributed to human error:

  1. Time compression
  2. Distraction
  3. Breakdown in habit patterns

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Unfortunately, many mishaps occur during training missions where time compression can be safely mitigated. During training, if things are happening too quickly, you can ask for more time. However, if you allow yourself to be rushed, it’s easy to lose focus.

And that is when the habit pattern you’ve spent years ingraining into a disciplined routine, based on hundreds of repetitions and muscle memory, breaks down.

That is when your SA degrades. It’s when you’re stressed out and someone is trying to tell you what to do. But even though you hear them, you can’t make sense of the situation.

You might go internal and block everything out.

When this happens to a fighter pilot in the middle of an attack, the best course of action is to abort.

“Abort, abort, abort,” crackles over the radio, and the pilot can instantly breathe again. It’s only training. He has time to figure it out. The last thing he wants is any uncertainty about what he might be destroying.

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Abort Criteria

If you currently lack good intel on the controversy surrounding abortion and abortifacient contraceptive methods, then you should consider the following abort criteria before continuing an uncertain attack:

  1. Low SA
  2. Failure to properly identify the target
  3. Presence of friendlies in the target area

Before you roll in to those clinic doors, before you allow someone you love to pickle a beautiful life before its time, ask yourself these questions:

  • Am I certain that my perception matches reality?
  • Does this feel “suitcased?”
  • Am I certain I’m not accidentally targeting a friendly?

If the answer to any of these questions is no, then you have an obligation to abort your maneuver and reassess the situation.

Solomon reminds us in Ecclesiastes 11:5

“As you do not know the path of the wind,
or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb,
so you cannot understand the work of God,
the Maker of all things.”

One of a fighter pilot’s biggest fears is fratricide.

It should be yours, too.

You don’t have to continue the run. You can always abort.

Related Briefs

Photo credit: LCpl Michael Thorn / PD http://www.marines.mil/mobile/Photos.aspx?igphoto=2000782325

Photo credit: Cpl Uriel Avendano / PD http://www.marines.mil/mobile/Photos.aspx?igphoto=2000709630

Photo credit: Cpl KyleMcNally / PD http://www.marines.mil/mobile/Photos.aspx?igphoto=28741

About Jason B. Ladd

Jason is an author, speaker, Marine, and father of seven. He has flown the F/A-18 Hornet as a Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron 1 (MAWTS-1) Instructor Pilot and the F-16 as an Instructor Pilot. His award-winning book One of the Few: A Marine Fighter Pilot’s Reconnaissance of the Christian Worldview has been optioned for film adaptation. He is represented by Julie Gwinn of The Seymour Agency.

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