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Navy and Marine Corps Aviator Student Strike Pilot Training
by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Drew Verbis
March 13, 2021

Chief of Naval Air Training (CNATRA) conducted strike pilot training with Navy and Marine Corps student naval aviators detached from Training Air Wing 1 at Naval Air Facility (NAF) El Centro, February 16 to March 5. 2021.

The detachment is the first opportunity for Navy and Marine Corps student naval aviators from Training Air Wing 1, stationed aboard Naval Air Station Meridian, Mississippi, to deliver inert (practice) ordnance to identified targets within NAF El Centro bombing ranges, a mission-critical phase in undergraduate strike pilot training.

March 3, 2021 – Chief of Naval Air Training (CNATRA) conduct strike pilot training with Navy and Marine Corps student naval aviators detached from Training Air Wing-1, Meridian, Ms., operating the T-45C Goshawk jet aircraft onboard Naval Air Facility (NAF) El Centro, California. NAF El Centro supports combat training and readiness of the Warfighter. This includes air operations support to operational fleet and training squadrons as well as squadrons from other services (USMC, USA, USAF) and Allies. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Drew Verbis)
March 3, 2021 – Chief of Naval Air Training (CNATRA) conduct strike pilot training with Navy and Marine Corps student naval aviators detached from Training Air Wing-1, Meridian, Ms., operating the T-45C Goshawk jet aircraft onboard Naval Air Facility (NAF) El Centro, California. NAF El Centro supports combat training and readiness of the Warfighter. This includes air operations support to operational fleet and training squadrons as well as squadrons from other services (USMC, USA, USAF) and Allies. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Drew Verbis)

“NAF El Centro provides the venue and support for an indispensable part of strike pilot training,” said Commodore, Training Air Wing 1 Capt. Tracey “PETA” Gendreau. “Strike detachments ensure our students get the practical experience they need to develop their warfighting skillsets. Learning how to tactically employ an aircraft is vital to providing the fleet aviators who are ready to fight.”

Students also practiced tactical formation, low level, section low level, and road reconnaissance flights during the detachment.

This year’s operational challenge is to actively mitigate the spread of COVID-19 while maintaining mission readiness.

“Team NAFEC works hard to meet their many customer’s needs,” said Capt. William Perkins, commanding officer, NAF El Centro. “The thing I am most proud of is the positive feedback I get from visiting squadron leadership regarding the extra mile our entire team goes to in order to help them meet their unique, and often significantly different training requirements.”

Many of the embarked student naval aviators remarked with surprise about how busy the airfield landing pattern is with multiple types of aircraft operating in the area.

March 3, 2021 – A U.S. Navy T-45C Goshawk jet aircraft prepares for takeoff strike pilot training with Navy and Marine Corps student naval aviators onboard Naval Air Facility. NAF El Centro supports combat training and readiness of the Warfighter. This includes air operations support to operational fleet and training squadrons as well as squadrons from other services (USMC, USA, USAF) and Allies. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Drew Verbis)
March 3, 2021 – A U.S. Navy T-45C Goshawk jet aircraft prepares for takeoff strike pilot training with Navy and Marine Corps student naval aviators onboard Naval Air Facility. NAF El Centro supports combat training and readiness of the Warfighter. This includes air operations support to operational fleet and training squadrons as well as squadrons from other services (USMC, USA, USAF) and Allies. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Drew Verbis)

“The flight line is full year-round with Navy and Marine Corps squadrons and smaller detachments who come for a few days or a few weeks to conduct training on the nearby Navy live-fire ranges,” Perkins said. “NAF El Centro typically experiences multiples days where units from all Department of Defense services operate in the same space.”

The mission of NAF El Centro is to support the combat training and readiness of the warfighter. This includes air operations support to operational fleet and training squadrons as well as squadrons from other services (Marine Corps, Army, Air Force) and international military partners.

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