Celebrates 65 Years Of Training Rotary Wing Pilots
Training Air Wing (TRAWING) 5
celebrated a milestone in naval aviation when the 30,000th rotary
wing student pilot walked across the stage to receive his coveted
"wings of gold," June 19.
First Lt. Michael Brown, USMC, walked off the stage as the
Marine Corps' newest helicopter pilot. He joined 37 other students
in achieving the designation.
Brown learned he would be the 30,000th helicopter pilot trained
by the Navy about one half hour before the ceremony. While he
recognizes that being the milestone pilot was largely a matter of
luck, it is still a hallmark he appreciates. "It is a great honor,"
Brown said. "It is a great testament to naval aviation. I am really
excited, and I hope I can do it justice."
After Brown was pinned by his wife Sara and congratulated by the
guest speaker, Rear Adm. Garry Hall, the ceremony was stopped for a
moment by Col. John Walsh, TRAWING 5 commander. Walsh then
presented Brown with a plaque to celebrate the occasion. Showing
typical aviator wit, the plaque read:
"Through no great effort of your own and by no selection means
other than being near the top of the alphabet during your winging
class, you are hereby selected as the 30,000th rotary wing aviator.
Congratulations, this number should be easy to remember."
While tongue-in-cheek, the plaque
relates that the true achievement in reaching this milestone is the
65-plus years of naval helicopter training. The last 37 years of
this training has been performed at Naval Air Station Whiting Field
in Milton, Fla., and includes all Navy, Marine Corps and Coast
Guard helicopter pilots.
Walsh cites the flexibility of the helicopter platform as a
primary reason for its continued, and increased, use over the
years. It is not only capable of bringing food, water, medical
assistance and shelter to people in need, but also evacuates
injured troops, delivers troops to a combat zone and provides
combat aerial support. The combat support role is especially useful
in urban zones where the ability to hover is strategically
The Navy recognizes the need for helicopter pilots, as is
evidenced by a planned 17 percent increase in helicopter flight
students to an estimated 600 per year by 2011. There are also plans
in place to increase the number of Marine helicopter squadrons by
six and the Navy by two over the next few years.