Top Pilot On U.S. Carrier Believes In Being First
ABOARD THE USS INDEPENDENCE (AP) _ Capt. Arthur N. ″Bud″ Langston believes in being first: He is the top pilot on the Independence, the only aviator qualified to fly all three Navy attack aircraft and he commanded the first mission over southern Iraq.
After 24 years in the Navy, with more than 300 combat missions in Vietnam and the Gulf War under his belt, Langston said he knows what it takes to be successful in battle.
″If we’re going to have to fight, then I certainly would want to be the one up front leading,″ he said.
But Langston, 47, the commander of Carrier Air Wing Five, is far happier that the 70 aircraft and 115 pilots on the Independence are doing quiet patrols over southern Iraq without, so far, having to fire a shot.
″I think we’re saving lives every day,″ he said. ″And as long as we fly over them, the Iraqis are intimidated and they’re not going to do the kind of horrors to their people that we felt was going on before.″
The United States, Britain and France began patrolling the ″no-fly″ zone below the 32nd parallel on Aug. 27 to protect Shiite Muslims sheltering there.
On the face of it, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein is showing now sign of militarily challenging the air exclusion zone.
Still, there have been reports from Iraqi dissidents and the U.S. Pentagon of continuing Iraqi ground action against the Shiites, many of whom fled to the marshes after a failed uprising last year.
While Navy pilots routinely fly two attack aircraft and do precision- demanding night carrier landings only in one, Langston can do night landings in all three - the A-6 Intruder bomber, the FA-18 Hornet fighter- bomber and the F-14 Tomcat fighter.
He also can fly every other aircraft on the carrier, including the E-2C Hawkeye early warning plane and the EA-6B Prowler which does electronic warfare, and has notched up more than 5,000 flying hours and over 1,100 carrier landings.
Born in San Diego, Langston was a student at San Diego State University at the height of the Vietnam War in 1967 and knew he was going to get drafted. He beat them to the punch and enlisted. He wound up doing two tours in Vietnam, flying A-6s.
He flew bombing missions over Iraq and Kuwait from the USS Saratoga two weeks into the air war.
For a Navy aviator, Langston said, it never gets any better than being commander of the air wing on an aircraft carrier.
″I want to do this for the rest of my life - honestly,″ he said. ″I’ve got nine squadrons. I’ve got lots of talented people. It’s just wonderful.″