Editor’s Note: Mike Savicki, of Cornelius, North Carolina, decided that he wanted to be a Navy fighter pilot. He felt he was strong, smart and brave enough to be among the Navy’s top jet fighter pilots, and he almost made it. Part 1 of a 5 part series.
I was a three sport varsity athlete in high school and it’s fair to say I loved being active. I played soccer, basketball and ran track. When I went to college, I was a varsity soccer player and played club level volleyball and rugby. I graduated from college in 1990, but in 1989 when I was a junior at Tufts University in Boston, one of my roommates and I dared each other to try and run the Boston Marathon. I had no idea what it took to run a marathon but when you are dared to do something when you are with college buddies, you do it as long as it is within reason.
I ran my first Boston Marathon as what is known as a “bandit.” I hadn’t qualified to be a registered runner so this was my only option. I just wanted to do it for fun. I ran that marathon on a whim just to see if I could do it and finished it in 3 hours and 55 minutes. The first half of the marathon was so exciting, because of the crowd, the places we got to see as we ran and the sheer excitement of being a part of one of the oldest and greatest marathons in the world. What made it even more special was the fact that I grew up just two towns from the starting line.
The start was fantastic but to this day I think that the last 5 miles are the best. You’re running into Boston, thousands of fans are screaming and cheering for you and the prestige you feel after you’ve completed the race is just tremendous. After I finished, I realized I’d fallen in love with running marathons. One year later I ran the Boston Marathon again, as a bandit, and finished it in 3 hours and 22 minutes.
In college I studied international relations and political science and was also enrolled in the Navy ROTC program. So on top of my course load, I completed the requirements of the officer’s training program. I was expecting to be in the Navy for at least 6 to 10 years. And what did I want to do? I grew up during a time when everyone had seen or knew about the movie, “Top Gun,”which glorified being a Navy pilot. I craved the excitement and adventure that the movie portrayed. The more I learned about the life of a Navy fighter pilot, the more I wanted to be one. I felt that my two courses of study at college would help me know more about the world and the places where I might be sent. My commitment was to be a Navy fighter pilot and I looked forward to seeing the world.
Immediately after graduating from college, I moved to Pensacola, Florida, which is where Navy flight training begins. During my first eight months, I’d started some of the academics for becoming a Navy pilot and had just been assigned to a training squadron. However, I’d never actually flown a jet by myself but was counting the days until I would get to take the stick all by myself. I’d flown in the A-4 jet with an instructor, which was one of the smaller fighter jets that pilots learned to fly before they were selected to fly the F-14, which at that time was the premier fighter jet. I was getting through flight school pretty well, both academically and physically, and there seemed to be no reason that I wouldn’t succeed.
Mike Savicki is the national spokesperson for the first-ever, National Mobility Awareness Month in May. The National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association (NMEDA) is sponsoring the awareness month.
Founded in 1989 as a non-profit trade association, NMEDA supports more than 600 mobility equipment dealers, manufacturers and driver rehabilitation specialists in the U.S. and Canada dedicated to expanding opportunities for people with disabilities.
For more information about Mike, please visit www.mikesavicki.com