'Hit The Roof' Means Something Special To These Air Force Pilots
My humorous column about fighter pilots first appeared in Life in the Times, the lifestyle section of AIR FORCE, ARMY & NAVY TIMES, October 14, 1991. A similar tale worked its way into my novel The Final Salute.
'HIT THE ROOF’ means something special to these Air Force pilots
Ask any fighter pilot what a “roof-stomp” is and the answer will invariably be “a hospitality check.” Then go home and secure all valuables hanging from the walls or rafters, for the Midnight Ninjas in Flight suits just might show up when you’re least expecting them.
What are they doing up there besides rousing the occupants from sleep? Waiting for an invitation to “come on in” and party!
Any hard-core veteran of previous roof-stomps knows the first order of business for the sleepy-eyed host is to offer his bar stock, beer and whatever groceries may be in the cupboard. On one “raid,” my children’s box of animal crackers was not overlooked during the eating frenzy. I should have been a better hostess and offered to make omelets for everyone, but at one o’clock in the morning, “Sgt. Skillet” was off duty. Besides, seeing grown men munch on little buffaloes and tigers was somehow gratifying.
I don’t know how long roof-stomping has been around (I’ve heard it dates back to World War II fliers in England), but I can tell you when I was first initiated: 12 years ago, my wedding night. It just happened to fall on a Friday night.
I thought I was prepared for everything in my new role as an Air Force pilot’s wife – until a herd of “somethings” overhead came stampeding over our bed. My groom broke out in laughter, and we quickly threw on our robes. Like any good military bride, I opened the door and graciously invited our nocturnal callers in. By now my hair was a bird’s nest of baby’s breath hanging haphazardly from a half-twisted French roll. When I saw the other pilots’ wives and girlfriends toting champagne and snacks, I knew I was in good company.
Over the years my husband and I have been “victimized” by numerous roof-stomps, and we’ve even participated in a few. Then things quiet down – until one of the guys in the squadron announces he’s getting married.
It was around 3 a.m. the last time we were roof-stomped. I awoke to a low hum growing into a loud buzz. I peeked out the window, grumbling to myself, “No, God. Don’t let this be what I think it is.”
“Don’t let ‘em in,” I hollered as my husband went out the front door. By now our then 4 ½-year-old was wide awake and raring to go as he bellowed out the Turtles’ battle cry, “Cow-a-bunga Dudes! They’re back!” But the baby, then 2 ½, was crying like Chicken Little. You’d cry, too, if you thought “the sky was falling” over your crib.
I wanted to be mad at these guys. I wanted to tell them to go home and grow up. My oldest wanted to join his daddy and be amongst the mob. I found myself sliding open the window, expecting to hear something tacky escape from my own mouth – until I saw the individual faces: the nice young lieutenant they call Junior who has ushered with my husband at church; Gene, a flight commander recently married to another Air Force officer; and Al, an expectant father who played Santa at the squadron children’s Christmas party.
The next day one of our neighbors on base complained about all the commotion the night before. I was a little surprised by her attitude because she had been an Air Force wife a lot longer that I had. There was only one way to change that. Call out the guys and crank up the cassette player with James Taylor singing Up on the Roof, and give her a “hospitality/humor check.”
Kathleen M. Rodgers is the author of THE FINAL SALUTE, ranked # 1 on Amazon’s Top Rated War Fiction – 2012. Ranked # 2 on Amazon’s Bestselling Military Aviation - 2010. Winner 2009 Silver Medal from Military Writers Society of America. Her work has appeared in both national and regional publications.