Severna Park Native Trains To Serve As The Next Generation Of U.S. Naval Aviation Warfighters

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By Rick Burke
Navy Office of Community Outreach

A 2013 Severna Park High School graduate is participating in a rigorous training process that transforms officers into U.S. naval aviators.

Ensign Samuel Pershall is a student pilot with the “Redhawks” of Training Squadron VT-21, based in Naval Air Station Kingsville in Texas. The squadron flies T-45C Goshawk aircraft.

A Navy student pilot is responsible for learning the basics of flying military aircraft so he or she can successfully fly more advanced aircraft in the fleet.

“Every day is fun,” Pershall said. “It’s a relatively small community, so there is a lot of camaraderie amongst the students and a lot to learn from the instructors.”

Pershall credits his success in the Navy to many of the lessons learned growing up in Severna Park.

“I learned respect for the military growing up so close to a military base and self-discipline from participating in both sports and academics,” Pershall said. “Learning a hard work ethic and good study habits definitely helped me graduate from the Naval Academy with a bachelor's degree in ocean engineering.”

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-21’s primary mission is to train future naval aviators to fly as well as instill leadership and officer values. 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.

Though there are many ways for sailors to earn distinction in their command, community and career, Pershall is most proud of graduating from the Naval Academy with a bachelor's degree in ocean engineering.

“I grew up right next to Annapolis and I wanted to go there ever since I was little, so it’s a very rewarding and fulfilling experience when I graduated,” he said.

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

“My uncle graduated from the Naval Academy in 1973 and became a naval officer, and my brother is currently in the Navy as a surface warfare officer serving onboard USS Barry,” Pershall said. “It makes me proud to follow in the footsteps of both my uncle and brother, serving our country. I can relate to my brother about the experiences we have from both being in the Navy.”

As a member of one of the U.S. Navy’s most relied-upon assets, Pershall 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 contributing to something bigger than myself on a global scale and doing my best every day to help those around me,” Pershall said.

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