Ketchikan native trains to be a U.S. Navy pilot
By RICKY BURKE
August 20, 2016
Ensign Mari Freitag is a student naval aviator with the “Rangers” Training Squadron (VT-28), based in Corpus, Christi, Texas, that operates the T-6B Texan II aircraft. As a student, Freitag is responsible for learning everything about the aircraft she flies so she may become the best naval aviator in the fleet.
“I love being a student naval aviator because not only am I constantly being challenged on a day-to-basis but it’s pushing me to be a better person, officer and pilot,” said Freitag.
Ensign Mari Freitag
VT-28’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 F/A-18 Hornet strike fighter jet, the P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft or the SH-60 Seahawk helicopter. They are later assigned to a ship or land-based squadron.
Many of the pilots will fly aircraft which take off from and land aboard aircraft carriers, a unique capability which allows the Navy to operate anywhere on the world’s oceans. Recently, Navy attack aircraft operating from aircraft carriers sailing in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea and from Middle East waters have launched hundreds of strike missions against terrorist targets in Iraq and Syria.
As a member of one of the U.S. Navy’s squadrons with the newest aircraft platforms, Freitag said she and other VT-28 sailors are proud to be part of a warfighting team that readily defends America at all times.
“I love being at this command because their training in developing students to become naval aviators is second-to-none,” said Freitag. “Although I'm fairly new at this command, I've gotten the sense already that the instructors want me and the other students to push our limits so we may reach our goals not only in flying, but both professionally and personally.”
Jobs are highly varied at VT-28, according to Navy officials. Approximately 69 men and women officers and 15 civilian employees make up and keep all parts of the squadron running smoothly -- this includes everything from training the new aviators, maintaining airframes and engines, processing paperwork, along with handling and flying the aircraft.
"Leading this extraordinary team of Naval Officers and civilians is an honor,” said Cmdr. James T. Sultenfuss, commanding officer of VT-28.
Serving in the Navy, Freitag is learning about being a more responsible leader, Sailor and person through handling numerous responsibilities.
“From the very start, the Navy has not only strengthened my integrity but it’s given me a sense of pride and purpose serving my country,” said Freitag. “Additionally, the training I take with me being a pilot, provides me the opportutniy to support and defend my Navy brothers and sisters who are deployed,” said Freitag.
Editing by Mary Kauffman, SitNews
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