1st Lt Lewis Swanson

Current B-1 Weapons Systems Officer

What made you pursue ROTC and a career in the military?

September 11th had a big role in my decision to join the military. I wanted to support the United States somehow, and I felt I had skills that would be useful as an officer, and as an aviator, so ROTC and the Air Force naturally worked out as the means to that end.

Where did you see your career going when you were a cadet?

I joined knowing 100% that I'd be the coolest fighter pilot ever.

Has it followed that path? How or how not?

When it came time to apply for rated slots, I had to decide if cool was really a good motivator for a career, and I decided that I really wanted to do the job of a CSO - particularly in the CAS (Close Air Support) world. So I applied to be a CSO, got a slot, got my wings in Pensacola and dropped B-1s, arguably one of the premier CAS platforms because of its large payload, long loiter times, and dynamic targeting capability.

What is your current job/assignment?

B-1 WSO (Weapons Systems Officer). Just started in my first combat assignment, so I haven't had a lot of experience, but it's been a blast so far!

What do you like most about it (and the AF in general)?

The B-1 has a pretty wide mission set, so it's relevant in just about every fight - which means we play in just about every fight. We fly fast and low, and carry a lot of bombs, and the community pretty much bounces back and forth between Ellsworth AFB, SD and Dyess AFB, TX, so it's a small, tight community.

What do you like least about it (and the AF in general)?

I puke all the time. All the time. But, I did ace the crunch portion of my last PT test. ...and queep [military word for "annoying or senseless bureaucratic requirements" or "busy work"] - there's a lot to keep track of.

What surprised you most about the Air Force?

I feel like every time I go to work, I step in a portal that takes me 5-10 years backwards. I always imagined the Air Force had the newest and coolest gadgets, but it's really a big slow machine when it comes to large scale acquisitions. It's really our people that make us so effective. Our training programs (though it may not seem like it) are some of the best around, and we get more training time than most every other military, which gives us a huge advantage when it comes to combat.

What advice do you have for future/current cadets?

Honestly, chill out a bit. I met so many people going through training who were always looking to get some kind of edge - studying ahead, getting the gouge, trying to learn everything before they ever start. Calm down. The Air Force has put together a training program for you to learn your career field, and it has worked for EVERY other officer in your career. You'll graduate your program as a brand new member of some team, and you'll be expected to perform at that level. Focus your efforts on learning what's in front of you, and be a sponge to everything else, but don't stress if you don't know exactly what the next phase will look like. Lean forward, sure, but don't forget you have to stand on your feet.

How did ROTC prepare you for your job now?

ROTC does a pretty good job of preparing cadets to be officers, and frankly, at least as an aviator, you don't really get a chance to be an "officer" for your first couple of years. That said, there's lots of little times where I've felt prepared for what I'm doing because of something I learned in ROTC, and I expect as I emerge from being a "student" that I'll get a lot more opportunities for those moments to happen.

Anything else you'd like to add?

There will be times in your career, and in your life in general, where things are just going to be really bad. Don't forget to stop every once in a while and look around to find beauty wherever you are. Heavenly Father will find some pretty cool ways to bless you, if you'll just look around and see it.