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

State News

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas (By Rick Burke, Navy Office of Community Outreach) – A 2009 Cabot High School graduate and Cabot, Arkansas, native is participating in a rigorous training process that transforms officers into U.S. naval aviators.

Ensign Christian Free 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 flight principles in advanced naval aircraft in adverse situations. 

“I enjoy that my workplace is not stationary and with the view from my office being in the sky, it’s second to none,” Free said. 

Free credits success in the Navy to many of the lessons learned growing up in Cabot. 

“My parents were very involved in my upbringing and they pushed me to do my best, and being a naval officer, they expect this same character with flying,” Free 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 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. 

Free 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, Free is most proud of graduating from primary flight training to advanced flight training. 

“The amount of dedication that I put into everyday brought me to an accomplishment that I first thought was not possible, receiving my completion certificate from primary flight training,” Free said. 

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

“My father served in the Army working in the telecommunications field, my grandfather was a printer in the Air Force and I have a cousin in the Navy as an air traffic controller,” Free said. “Being able to carry out my duty in service to my country feels good to make my other family members proud.” 

As a member of one of the U.S. Navy’s most relied-upon assets, Free 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 putting my country’s needs before my own,” Free said. “As a naval officer, I provide a good environment for enlisted sailors to ensure they are able to do their part in proudly serving their country.”

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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