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Buldog's wings


A "Here I was..." report by Lt. Bulldog, 87th Stray Dogs 872nd Squadron”

Let me share with you the story of "How Bulldog Got His Wings".
When I applied for membership back in September/October '99 of what was then known as "187th European Virtual Fighter Squadron, Stray Dogs", I was quite new to combat flight simulators in general and Falcon 4.0 in particular. I had read the manual (understanding little more than half of it) and I was becoming increasingly frustrated because I was doing terribly in my single-player campaigns. In a desperate quest for help on the internet, I stumbled upon the Stray Dogs' web site.

Hey, this was interesting! Until this moment I had had no idea that such organizations even existed, but here were a bunch of guys sent from Heaven. Not only did they appear to know all there was to know about Falcon 4.0, they offered to share this knowledge through multi-player training sessions. After reading the terms of membership, I made a quick decision and filled out the application form, suppressing a nagging feeling that I would probably make a fool of myself.

I soon received a nice email from Trapper, explaining the necessary technical details. He also told me that I would be contacted by Training Officer Cisco, who would make sure that I knew what I was doing before I was allowed to fly with the rest of the guys. I spent a Saturday afternoon setting up Roger Wilco, mIRC and ICQ, and in the evening I logged on to the IRC server for the first time. Just to say hello and get a feeling for what was going on. I certainly didn't intend to fly and knew that I wouldn't be allowed to. Or so I thought.

When I arrived, there were 6 or 7 guys present. I remember Trapper, Ghost, Mobo, Cisco and possibly Striker and Slammer. Everybody greeted me with enthusiasm. Ghost was briefing them before a mission involving three flights: Sweep, SEAD and Strike. Of course, I didn't understand much of anything, but I was sensible enough to keep my mouth shut. After the obligatory "Any questions?", somebody suddenly asked: "Bulldog, are you coming, too?"

(I'm sure we were at least 6 pilots, possibly more, which seems surprising today, given the difficulties we have with keeping even 4 pilots airborne.)

"Who? Moi? But I don't even know how to join a multi-player flight. I'll just screw everything up!"

That didn't seem to put them off, and before I knew it, Cisco was guiding me through the procedures. It took quite a while to get me connected, partly because I had a LAN card that nobody thought to ask about, but everybody seemed endlessly patient. Eventually, I found myself in the cockpit of Sweep-2. I was told to keep close to Cisco. Period.

Ignoring all the RW gibberish in my speakers, I somehow managed to follow at least somebody, greatly assisted by the his smoke trail. Suddenly, there were enemy fighters all over the place and I immediately lost whatever SA I had (read: I could no longer see Cisco, or whoever it was that I had been following). Having switched to dogfight override mode, I miraculously got a lock on "a plane" and fired a heat-seeker. Down he went. Pure luck, but nevertheless the same thing happened again seconds later. Splash two. Then something blew me up and the flight was over for me, which was probably a good thing because it saved me the embarrassment of crashing the plane in yet another futile landing attempt.

It was only then that I realized that I had no idea what it was that I had hit and that I should probably have requested permission to fire. Oh dear!

Fortunately, the debriefing gave me credit for killing two MIG-23s, but I still returned to IRC prepared to defend myself with an "I told you so!"

Surprisingly, I was not reprimanded. At first, nobody seemed to have noticed me at all and they were congratulating each other on a very successful mission. Trapper expressed great satisfaction with the result. After having scrutinized the ACMI for about ten minutes with Ghost, Trapper made the official announcement that I had earned my wings in combat. Were it not for the "official" tone of his announcement, I would have thought he was joking.

But there I was, an officer of the famous Stray Dogs. Shortest bootcamp duty ever seen.

A few weeks later, I was awarded the first Flying Pig award in the history of the Stray Dogs for shooting down a fellow pilot called Sniper. I felt strangely honored.