Spring native trains to serve as the next generation of U.S. Naval Aviation Warfighters

By: Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class David Finley
| Published 06/10/2019


KINGSVILLE, TX- A 2006 Klein Collins High School graduate and Spring, Texas, native is participating in a rigorous training process that transforms officers into U.S. naval aviators.

Lt. j.g. Aaron Clayton is a student pilot with the “Golden Eagles” of Training Squadron (VT) 22, based in Naval Air Station Kingsville, Texas. The squadron flies T-45C Goshawk aircraft.

A Navy student pilot is responsible for learning to be a professional aviator.

“It is a constant challenge,” Clayton said. “Just when you start to feel that you have a grasp on one area of training, you get knocked back to square one on a new topic.”

Clayton credits success in the Navy to many of the lessons learned growing up in Spring.

“I was lucky enough to have some great mentors, including my parents and some exceptional supervisors, that taught me how to work on a team and develop a strong work ethic,” Clayton said.

The T-45C Goshawk is a tandem-seat, jet trainer aircraft powered by a twin-spool non-afterburn turbofan engine with 5,527 pounds of thrust and airspeed of 645 mph.

VT-22’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 many 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 F/A-18 Hornet fighter attack jet aircraft or the F-35 Lightning joint strike fighter jet. 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 percent of the Earth’s surface is covered by water; 80 percent of the world’s population lives close to a coast; and 90 percent of all global trade by volume travels by sea.

Clayton 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,” said Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer. “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, Clayton is most proud of getting selected for the Seaman to Admiral Program. This program allows enlisted sailors to become naval officers.

“It felt like validation for all the work I put in before the commission,” Clayton said. “I'm excited for all the opportunities it opened up for me.”

Serving in the Navy is a continuing tradition of military service for Clayton, who has military ties with family members who have previously served. Clayton is honored to carry on the family tradition.

“I am proud to carry on the tradition of service, we have a rich history and I am happy to contribute to that,” Clayton said.

As a member of one of the U.S. Navy’s most relied-upon assets, Clayton and other sailors know they are part of a legacy that will last beyond their lifetimes providing the Navy the nation needs.

“Serving in the Navy means my family is taken care of,” Clayton said. “I am proud to be part of one of the most powerful militaries in the world.”

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