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 “Roger Ball!” is the clipped transmission the Landing Signal Officer (LSO) makes to the pilot of an aircraft as he commences his final approach to the deck of a carrier.  It means that the LSO has sight of the aircraft, it is in the proper configuration for landing, and within parameters to continue the approach. In naval aviation lexicon “Roger Ball!” most simply means, “You’re looking good.  Keep it coming!” 

Appropriately, “Roger Ball!” is also the title of a historical biography of a Navy fighter pilot. It chronicles the life experiences of John Monroe “Hawk” Smith from his earliest days, his budding infatuation with jet aircraft, to the many adventures and experiences that would shape and prepare him for a career as a Navy fighter pilot, Commanding Officer of TOPGUN, and tactical innovator.

 This work takes the reader on a journey that each pilot and Naval Flight Officer experience in the training command, the squadron, and overseas deployments.  It captures the hardships of cruise, the thrill of piloting a fighter, the terror of night arrested landings, the excitement of overseas adventures, the heartbreaking pain of losing squadronmates, and euphoria of returning home.

 Set against the backdrop of many historical events, continuous tension in the Middle East, a war seemingly without end in Southeast Asia, and a Navy fighter community mired in supine training convention and arcane fighter doctrine, is the story of one man’s struggle to change things—to make the Navy fighter community better.  But it is far more than that.  It is the story of Navy Tactical Aviation (TACAIR) at its worst and its finest.  It is the story of commitment, loyalty, leadership, and the raw personal courage of naval aviators.

     Hawk’s story, “Roger Ball!” is a tale that should be told.  It intertwines the true, first hand accounts and experiences of a fighter pilot with the significant developments in the fighter community and historical events in which Hawk was a part.  Finally, it speaks to the men who laid their careers and sometimes their very lives on the line for their shipmates and their country.   

    For everyone who spent time in the service, for those who were, or aspire to be a military aviator, for anyone interested in a career in the military,  for those history buffs who are intrigued by many of the air-to-air programs and air combat development projects which resurrected the Navy and Air Force TACAIR communities to tactical preeminence, this is a must-read work.

    Captain John Monroe “Hawk” Smith retired from the Navy on 1 October 1993.  It was a long run and an exhilarating odyssey of trial, sacrifice, and achievement.  It was far more than a small boy could ever have imagined and the adventure of a lifetime for one who had dared to dream that he could one day ...