At the beginning of top gun, cougar was a skilled fighter pilot and a graduate of the elite Navy Fighter Weapons School, better known as Top Gun. He flew a Grumman F-14 Tomcat with his radar intercept officer (RIO) LTJG Sam “Merlin” Wells and was considered the best pair in their squadron.
While on a mission, Cougar encounters a hostile enemy aircraft and is shaken to his core. The traumatic experience leaves him with self-doubt and anxiety, which eventually leads to his departure from Top Gun.
His departure deeply affects Maverick, who feels a responsibility to help Cougar overcome his fears and return to the program. Maverick encourages Cougar to seek out a military psychiatrist and begin therapy, which allows him to discuss his experiences with the enemy aircraft and understand that his feelings of anxiety are normal responses to a traumatic experience. Through his journey of healing, Cougar regains his confidence and returns to Top Gun, ready to prove himself. In addition to entertaining audiences, the character of Cougar demonstrates the psychological toll combat can take on individuals and highlights the importance of seeking mental health support in high-pressure professions.