Jentezen Franklin - Interview with Commander Frank Weisser
Jentezen Franklin: Well, he's a Atlanta native, they live up in Northeast Georgia. He attended the United States Naval Academy. He's got so many things that I'm giving you the abbreviated version. Was deployed aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt after his training. He flew 34 combat missions in Iraq, in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He joined the blue angels in 2007, one of the most elite flying groups that you will ever see. He served as the narrator in VIP Pilot in 2008, he also solo pilot in NATOPS officer in 2009. He's an American hero, he wouldn't say that, he's very humble, very kind, but would you give a warm welcome to Top Gun commander, Frank Weisser. I don't know if you can see Bill on the keyboard, but he's got his aviator glasses on, and I mean they're... You know, they've never played that when I come out to preach. I don't understand what the deal is here. I'm a top gun preacher. c'mon, now. Try to be. Sometimes. Thanks again for being here, we really enjoyed talking in the first service. I saw, Cherise and I went to see the movie, "Maverick" and the numbers are already in. It's the number one movie on the planet, in the world. it's breaking every record. It's got a great message, a message of inspiration and hope. What was that like working with Tom Cruise behind you, and you're flying feet off the ground and doing those feats in that aircraft?
Frank Weisser: Yeah, it was an incredible experience, of course. And one of the things it did for me is it broke down a lot of my Hollywood stereotypes, because I went into it thinking that these people were gonna be either, you know, too good to deal with just me, or having an air of superiority about everything. But what I found was to a person, they're incredible. And it wasn't just Tom, and the other actors. It was... Really, it takes such a machine to do what they do. And they're all just really incredible folks, and the experience was tremendous. It's nice to see behind the curtains a little bit and know what they do. And Tom was a real treat to fly with. He is a hard working guy like I mentioned before, and he just... You don't get to that level of success without working hard. And so, he... The man knows how to work, and he is also at it, but he's also an experienced pilot, which makes it a lot more fun to fly with him because he was just really strong in the airplane. And what I found was, when he didn't have any limitations, we had no limitations as a crew. So, we're only limited by what the jet could do, which is a lot, actually. So, it was a really... From my vantage point, just wanted to go up, fly safe and have fun, we really had a good time.
Jentezen Franklin: It's just fascinating to me and I'm sure to every person out there, you know, flying a machine like that. How fast do they get up to?
Frank Weisser: I think there's a line that says, "I could tell you, but then I'd have to kill you". The speed that's published for that airplane 1.8 machs, so that's 180% the speed of sound, which is about 750 miles an hour. So, it will go really fast.
Jentezen Franklin: And those G-Forces, have you ever passed out?
Frank Weisser: Not, in an airplane, but we get into a simulator that spins you around, and around until you pass out. And it's an uncomfortable feeling, for sure. And even being at seven or eight G's is really hard on your body. You feel like there's an elephant in your lap, you know, your body's pulled into the seat, if you go into a roller coaster at Six Flags, you might feel maybe two G's at the bottom of the loop, but this is... You know, I'm a 200 pound person, so, I weigh 1,600 pounds. That's a lot.
Jentezen Franklin: And you gotta keep your wits about you, 'cause your flying, right?
Frank Weisser: Yeah, it's not just surviving, it's actually thinking and still piloting the airplane.
Jentezen Franklin: You're a different breed. I mean, you're different. Wow, what would you... I mean, not only doing that, just flying, but then going into combat situations like you've done over and over in Iraq and other places. And knowing that you're gonna be fired at, knowing that you... The enemy would love, as a trophy to take and your plane down. Do you... You guys seem like a... Do you deal with that fear? Is it real to you? Or is it just a... Kinda something kick in?
Frank Weisser: Yeah, I think, obviously, as a pilot, you have to be prepared. So, you study and you prepare and you train properly to avoid that. But as we discussed earlier for me, fear is not... Was never an issue, and that's 'cause we're a Christian. And I'm a Christian so, I don't... I'm not afraid of dying that's the ultimate... The best is still yet to come for us, right? What I fear is not the airplane, what I fear is losing the people close to me. I would be fearful of not being there for my family as they grow up, but fearful of flying over bad guy country was never something that bothered me.
Jentezen Franklin: I was amazed to learn in the first service, that you don't really... You didn't really have even any experience in flying until you got in the Navy. And what happened?
Frank Weisser: Yeah, that's right. I went to the Naval academy...
Jentezen Franklin: How old were you?
Frank Weisser: I went to the Naval Academy at 18. So, right outta high school. But I went there to serve my country, and so, for me, it's all about service. It's not about what I did, it was about the fact that I did something, and that I wanted to serve and however I could serve our country, I'd let them decide that for me. And they do that anyway, the military is very much... The term is needs of the Navy. And so, my skillset was best aligned with flying, and so, that's what I was assigned to do. And then I learned that way. But what I found out right away, on flight number one was, I loved it. It was just an incredible experience. And then, it becomes this incredible blessing 'cause I can now serve my country and do something I enjoy doing.
Jentezen Franklin: Absolutely. Do you feel like... I mean, it's just... It almost sounds so random you know, if you wouldn't have went into the military, you would've never maybe flown an airplane. It's insane, and yet, that gift was in you. You're not just a pilot, which is incredible, but you are a top pilot. I mean, you are the one that the Navy sent to do these. To represent in this amazing movie, and I guess, you know, it just blows my mind that that gift was in you and somebody identified it. And somebody, you know saw that in you, and then one thing leads to another and you excel.
Frank Weisser: It's funny that when I went to the Naval Academy, I wanted to be a Navy Seal. And that was before Seals were popular after 9/11 and that sorta thing. This was in the mid 90's and so, I was really heartbroken actually. I cried when I found out that I was gonna fly. And now, there's one other aspect of this, which is, if you go to flight school, you don't know what you're gonna fly. And you can fly the fighters, or you could also fly cargo ships, or helicopters, or maritime patrols. So, there's a lot of ambiguity in what you end up doing. But I was heartbroken about it, and when I went down to flight school, I was surrounded by people who really had wanted to do that since they were little itty bitty kids. And so, my mind at the time was, I'm just gonna work... Outwork all of them, even though it's what they wanted to do because it's more important that I'm serving my country. And if I'm serving it by learning, If I'm serving by doing something I can prove more to me, by working hard at something I didn't wanna do, than by just working hard something I had for sure always wanted to do.
Jentezen Franklin: Tremendous. Do you believe that... Do you believe that everybody has something in 'em like that, that God put 'em here to do? I think it would be safe to say, you were born to fly. You were born to fly. I mean, the gift was in you... Is in you. Do you believe God put something in all of us? It may not be a pilot, but there's something that God has in mind with every life.
Frank Weisser: I do believe that, yeah. I think you have to ask God though. You have to be willing to say... Open up your heart and say, "Lead me the way you wanna go, and I will follow".
Jentezen Franklin: You sound so matter of fact about, you know, you started flying, and become a top pilot, but was there a moment when you recognized that there was a talent and gift that was unusual?
Frank Weisser: That haven't happened yet. No... I mean, I struggled when I learned that... I felt like I was a really below average pilot for a while. But once again, it's if you keep at it, and you keep trying. And for me, when I get to my lowest point, I resort to prayer. 'Cause what else is there? When you know, you can't do it all on your own, but there is someone who can help. And so, that's what I would always fall back on. And I believe that my success is because of my relationship with the Lord.
Jentezen Franklin: So good, amazing. Growing up in Georgia and then being out making a major... Maybe the biggest movie in... So far, in history. As far as people seeing it, and bringing hope and inspiration through that. Did you ever dream that you could have the kinda impact your life has had? Not only on freedom, and defending our freedom. The feeling that my wife and I had when we watched and left the movie was one of tremendous gratitude to the armed forces. Because we realized, while we were eating popcorn and having a good time, there were men and women, who absolutely put their lives on the line. They're in danger, even as we speak in this room, right now. And they do it day in and day out, all the time watching.
Frank Weisser: Yeah, I don't think I anticipated having an impact like we've been able to have for a variety of reasons. One of the unique things about being on the blue angels for so long is that you go all over the country, and you get to share this dream of aviation. You share why I was called to serve. And you have a chance to hopefully inspire and motivate, you know, the future generation. And for me, it was never about serving in the Navy. I wasn't trying to find a bunch of fighter pilots or find sailors to fix airplanes. It was just explaining why I felt called to serve and for me, and it's... The military is the way in which I chose to serve, but there's so many ways to serve, and everyone here is serving. And so, it was a chance to inspire and to just tell kids that it's better to give than to receive, and it's better to serve than to be served. And in this world, you're constantly... It's most important to do a little bit of everything, and to give that back. The blue angels have this really cool capability of sharing this incredible thing, this air show. The gentleman that I named my son Ben for was the best guy I've ever met my whole life, and he died in an airplane crash. And it was heartbreaking for me and for our family, but he had joined the Navy to fly because he's seen the blue angels perform. And he made me such a better person just being. Just the kinda person he was that I spent my time on the blue angels trying to find one more of him. If I can go out and motivate and inspire these kids and find one Ben, who can kinda change the world then mission accomplished on my end.
Jentezen Franklin: So good. I think... So, you're flying in at night over the ocean, and you've got a short runway that you've got to land that thing. And let's just throw in for kicks, stormy weather bad weather, 'cause, you have to what you have to do, what is that like? What is that like, landing that fighter jet on that runway? What would you describe it as?
Frank Weisser: Doing... Landing an aircraft carrier in the daytime is fun. Once you get good at it it's one of the most unique and enjoyable things in all of aviation, but doing it at night is not that way. Doing it at night is just work, and it's... It is scary. And it's scary only because you know your limitations as the pilot, and you know your aircraft's limitations, and you know the things that you can't control. Which is what the aircraft carrier does, it's what the weather does and there's just so many ways to have things go wrong or to mess up. And so, it's actually liberating in the sense that you realize you can't do it all yourself, and you have to trust. And first and foremost, you trust the Lord to keep you safe, but you also trust the people around you. As we were talking earlier, the time on the blue angels, the time behind the aircraft carrier at night, it's a level of high trust. Where you're putting your life in so many people's hands at the same time, and any of them with a simple mistake, not a deliberate mistake, but a simple mistake, could cause you to perish on that evening. And so, you have this level of trust that you put in everyone around you, the person steering the ship, the person talking you down, the person that's responsible that the lights work, the person that had fixed my airplane before I went flying, my wingman who's with me, you know, there are times where... For example, one night over the North Arabian sea, everything in my airplane just went dark. Everything. A total electrical failure. And so, another airplane joins up and the only way to land is to follow that airplane into land. Now, they're not going to land, they fly just about close enough that you can fly on their wing at night. And they drop you off, and you look forward, and then you land. So, talk about a level of trust that this wingman of mine... I know, I can't do it alone anymore. I don't have the capabilities, I don't have the knowledge to do it so it's a high degree of trust, but it it's actually a really wonderful thing to be able to trust another human being that much.
Jentezen Franklin: And when you're on that ship, and you know that that night you're going out on a mission, you did many, many, many, 34 combat missions, but hundreds of situations you were flown into during the Iraq war and so on. When you're laying in that bunk, in that ship, I know you're missing your family... What do you think about? How do you prepare mentally for... Knowing I'm not only going responsible for this machine and run my mission, but I'm going to be fired at, I'm going to be in danger, I could never see my family again. What was that like, and how did you get through that?
Frank Weisser: Prayer.
Jentezen Franklin: What's the prep? What... Is it a normal day or is it a routine that you go through and?
Frank Weisser: Yeah, for us especially, if... We fly a lot at night and that's because we're good at it. And so, you have in the military there's a tactical advantage by operating when other people can't operate. And so, the U.S. military is really good at operating in the darkness, and we do it with night vision goggles, we train more, we get more experience, and more hands-on training. And so, we do that because it gives us an advantage and so if you're flying at night you're not even taking off until nine or ten, so you try to sleep in as late as you can. But when you wake up, and you know you're flying that night, you're thinking about it all day long, for sure. 'Cause you understand the risks and more importantly you've had friends who have perished doing that exact same thing. So, we try to honor them by learning from their mistakes, and by not making the same mistake twice. But yeah, you have to be you have to be mentally strong and prepared before you ever launch. 'Cause you're strapped in a 35,000 pound or 45,000 once you load all the ordinance on... plane on your back.
Jentezen Franklin: How did your faith hold you steady through those trying times, and even in what you do? How does your faith... What role does it play?
Frank Weisser: I'd say it's all-consuming on my end it's... And it has to be. When you realize that you can't control it but only the Lord can, and you put your faith in Jesus, it's actually a pretty big blessing to know that... Like I said, you're not fearful, you're just grateful. That's the word I spoke of earlier, it's... I'm very grateful. I'm grateful that I'm here of course, but I was very grateful to be able to serve. It is... it's quite a blessing to actually serve a cause bigger than yourself and that's really what it comes down to. It's a chance to do something that you can take pride in, but also that you know you're doing something valuable for the world around you. It is a blessing.
Jentezen Franklin: You talk about trust. I was just thinking about it, and how you have to trust your wingman, and your people and your friends, but your wife and your family. We just don't always understand that, I think the price that the family pays.
Frank Weisser: Yeah, you're exactly right. So, I made the choice to serve my country. When we were dating, I said to my wife, you know, if this becomes more, if we get serious... Almost trying to warn her off, that this is not an easy life to be a Navy wife, 'cause I'll be gone a lot and you're gonna be home by yourself, and hopefully raising a family. And she told me at the time that she felt that was the way she was called to serve, and that it takes the spouse too. And on that... So, she chose to serve at my side, but the children they don't make that call. They're born into that level of service. And so, my oldest daughter was born, I was with her for one day as we moved between Virginia and Florida, and then my son was born when I was at a... On a four-week swing doing air shows with the blue angels. And our baby girl was born while I was over Afghanistan. And it's hardest on Bethany, but it's of course really hard to be gone so far away, you know. I got in my airplane the day that Caroline was born, and I typed in the way point... So, in airplanes, it's where you're going, your route. And as I took off in the carrier, I typed in the way point for the hospital she was born at to see the most direct route, if I had to get to her. It was like 8,950 miles over the north pole, and back down to California. I thought, "Well, I'm a long way, I'm a long way from her right then".
Jentezen Franklin: It's very touching, it's very powerful. And it's not an easy job being a father. It's fun and easier when they're young, but at some point kids become, you know, independent and that's the goal. But there's great challenges with that. What would you say to fathers out there today? You know, I don't know how people do it without the Lord. I don't know how you raise a family in the 21st century without Jesus Christ, the cornerstone. And I may fail at a lot of things as a father, but I will not fail at passing down to my children that cornerstone of everything that you ever dream of it must be built on Christ Jesus, our Lord and Savior. That's success, right? That's a hero, if we can do that as fathers.
Frank Weisser: Yeah, I wholeheartedly agree. I think that it takes a far stronger, and more powerful man to admit when they're wrong, and to ask for forgiveness. I think being brave isn't about just protecting your family all the time, it's about letting your children know that you also are vulnerable, and that you can make mistakes. We were driving to church this morning and we were having... My daughter, my oldest had written a kind note that we read last night. And she mentioned, you know, through the ups and the downs, and the tough patches. And I said, "Tell me what those tough patches were". And so, we went through a time that she was essentially, banished to a chair to sit for a period while she thought about what she'd done wrong. And I said, "You know, just so you know. It's harder on me than on you". And she laughed at me 'cause, "I don't think you know dad, it's definitely harder being punished". And I said, "No, it's harder to punish because you don't know if you're doing it right". And as the parent, you definitely... Every parent in the world wants what's best for their kids. They want their children to be better off than they were. They want them to be better people than they were. And so, you feel that burden of responsibility, but there's no one telling you what to do. And there's no one leading you except the Lord. And so, when you invite God into your life, knowing that we don't know all the answers, but we ask Him for help. I don't know any other way than that.
Jentezen Franklin: So good. And today, to all of our fathers, we're here to encourage you, we're here to tell you that... I'm sitting on the stage, I know this is so uncomfortable for me to... With a hero. But you're just as much of a hero, when you stay, when you stand when you say, "I love my family, no matter what is going on they're mine. And nothing will ever make me be separate". And that's the kind of heavenly father we have today. How many of you appreciate commander Frank Weisser coming by with his family? Would you show him some appreciation today? Thank you, sir. You're amazing. Bless you.