Achievement is the most satisfying and addictive thing I’ve ever experienced. Getting through the YOU Session and the Pilot Specialised Testing had my confidence up in the sky, and I was soon expecting a call for my attendance at the final part of selection; Flight Screening. Held over two weeks, Flight Screening is a live-in test where you fly a number of sorties in a CT-4 aircraft and do a bunch of group activities, ending the fortnight with a panel interview by senior officers who discuss everything about you, including your performance over the previous two weeks. I was so excited, but there was something I needed to do. Prior to applying for the role, I wrote to the aviation doctors for the air force (AVMED) about how I knew I was outside the eyesight requirements but knew of this surgery (see previous post – “Action”) that could get me over the line. The doctors at AVMED told me to apply and to see what happens. Now that the application process was getting serious, I decided to write to them again explaining how I got through the first major hurdles of the process and had progressed to the final stages. I also mentioned how I strained my eyes as hard as I could which enabled me to pass the basic eye exam. The reply was as instant as it could be in the mail; I was told to go and see an Australian Defence Force approved ophthalmologist. ‘Of course’ I thought as I booked a time to see the same ophthalmologist who had been so passionate about supporting my application. The only thing was that between the time I saw him last a few months prior and the time I called, he had retired.
Visiting another approved ophthalmologist was an anti-climax. The office of the surgery seemed like a processing plant, henchmen/henchwomen putting me through a battery of tests, with only a ten minute window at the end with the ophthalmologist. I explained my situation and how the previous optho I saw not too long ago had been keen to support the surgical option available to me. At the end of my consult, I nearly begged for his written support to the defence force in aid of my application. He appeared to be slightly disinterested in my plea, but I’ll never truly know what was written on that eyesight analysis form. I left his office feeling slightly disappointed, having expected a raft of enthusiasm to match the now retired ophthalmologist who I originally saw. Over the following weeks, I called the Flight Screening office and my recruiting officer a couple of times to find out any hint of how much longer the doctors at AVMED wanted to review my application.
After arriving home from work one afternoon, I checked the letterbox and found the usual marketing garbage of 20% off an apple and ‘This bra will fit anyone’. At the bottom of the pile I found an envelope with a defence recruiting letterhead. My heart missed a beat and a shiver went through my whole body as I raced inside, took a seat, and opened it. “Dear Mr Gibson, I would like to thank you for considering an opportunity with the Australian Defence Force. Unfortunately….” and so the letter went on about why they could not allow me to continue. Slightly expecting this to come but wishing it hadn’t, I knew the only option available to me was to appeal to a higher authority. But this wasn’t a decision that I wanted to make hastily. I knew that if I was to appeal I would have to seriously research the surgical option and invest a lot of time (and money) into proving its worth. In my decision analysis, I asked myself just one question. Is this the one thing I wanted to do for the rest of my life? It was an answer I didn’t even need to think about.