Boy, does this bring back memories. Some observations:
When one solos for the first time the other candidates really do throw you in a pool. In this case, the pool was at the local Holiday Inn. I was the 6th candidate in my class to solo (after 9 hours of flight time). Everything about that first flight is etched forever in memory because, when my instructor, Marshall Heckaman, told me to "take it around", we had just completed the day's lesson, but I had been thinking that I was going to be flunked out. The damn thing was impossible to control (or so I thought). I honestly had no idea I had been flying the aircraft virtually the whole time. Those instructors were sneaky.
Instrument flight training was really, really hard. It made me sick because I could not see the horizon and the instructor (knowing this, I think) would throw the aircraft out of trim forcing me to reorient the damn thing. I did well, though and was one of only three guys to get a full instrument flight rating.
Flight training was pretty scary sometimes, but the really scary parts were also the most exhilarating. As you might imagine, we all hungered for the low-level gun runs. In this film, they do a great job of illustrating what it looks like from inside the aircraft. My instructor screamed at me if I ever got above 15' above the ground. Believe me, at 140 knots, 10 feet off the deck with the M60s blazing -- it's like nothing you could imagine.
Third, the eight day exercise was really cool -- especially the night navigation part. You'll see a bit of it toward the end when a guy runs out and lights up a small landing area with 5 or 6 torches. But note that the landing area is illuminated ONLY AFTER the pilot is on close final (i.e., just about to land). Prior to that, we were looking for a light no brighter than that given off by a match flare.
I count those two years (1 year of flight school and my tour in Vietnam) as possibly most formative ones of my life.