A 2013 Millennium High School graduate and Litchfield Park native is participating in a rigorous training process that transforms officers into U.S. naval aviators.
Ensign Hunter Jones is a student pilot with the “Stingrays” of Training Squadron (VT) 35, based in Naval Air Station Corpus Christi, Texas. The squadron flies the T-44C Pegasus aircraft.
A Navy student pilot is responsible for learning and mastering the aircraft systems needed to become a successful naval aviator.
“Every day is different and you never have a perfect flight, but you are always reaching and continuing to pursue perfection,” Jones said.
Jones credits success in the Navy to many of the lessons learned growing up in Litchfield Park.
“My parents and siblings instilled in me morals, values and self-discipline, and using these traits help me become a successful naval officer,” Jones said.
The T-44C Pegasus is a twin-engine, pressurized, fixed-wing monoplane used for advanced turboprop radar aircraft training using two 550 shaft horsepowered engines, with a cruising airspeed of 287 mph.
VT-35’s primary mission is to train future naval aviators to fly as well as instill leadership and officer values, Navy officials explained. Students must complete four phases of flight training in order to graduate, including aviation pre-flight indoctrination, primary flight training, and advanced flight training. After successfully completing the rigorous program, naval aviators earn their coveted “Wings of Gold.”
After graduation, pilots continue their training to learn how to fly a specific aircraft, such as the Navy’s P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft or Marine Corps’ MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft. They are later assigned to a ship or land-based squadron.
A key element of the Navy the nation needs is tied to the fact that America is a maritime nation, and that the nation’s prosperity is tied to the ability to operate freely on the world’s oceans. More than 70% of the earth’s surface is covered by water; 80% of the world’s population lives close to a coast; and 90% of all global trade by volume travels by sea.
Jones plays an important role in America’s focus on rebuilding military readiness, strengthening alliances and reforming business practices in support of National Defense Strategy.
“Our priorities center on people, capabilities and processes, and will be achieved by our focus on speed, value, results and partnerships,” Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer said. “Readiness, lethality and modernization are the requirements driving these priorities.”
Though there are many ways for sailors to earn distinction in their command, community and career, Jones is most proud of receiving his commission to be a naval officer from the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy.
“My childhood dream has always been to fly aircraft and being commissioned is one step closer in achieving that goal,” Jones said.
Serving in the Navy is a continuing tradition of military service for Jones, who has military ties with family members who have previously served. Jones is honored to carry on the family tradition.
“Both of my grandfathers, one in the Navy and one in the Marine Corps, served during WWII, and I’m honored to carry on the family name serving my country,” Jones said.
As a member of one of the U.S. Navy’s most relied-upon assets, Jones and other sailors know they are part of a legacy that will last beyond their lifetimes providing the Navy the nation needs.
“It’s an honor to serve in the Navy because to me, it means being a part of something bigger than myself,” Jones said.