By Brian Livingston / firstname.lastname@example.org
The Meridian Star
In the not so distant past, Navy and Marine Corps aviators worried when they earned their wings they would be placed in the high performance F-14 Tomcat or a lesser desired aircraft like the tried and true A-6 Prowler or S-2 Viking.
They need not worry about that so much now because virtually every one of the aviators who earn their wings on board NAS Meridian will be jumping off the deck in the latest and greatest variant of the Navy's F-18 Super Hornet.
Obviously, a lot has changed in the years when Navy Cmdr. Garrett Krause was a "nugget", a name given to a fresh out of training aviator. What hasn't changed much, however, is how the men and women of the US Navy and Marine Corps are trained to be the finest flyers in the sky today.
"The technology has changed but the way we train these young people is not so different than when I was going through it," said Krause. "We still teach the same skill sets because they have been proven to be effective."
Krause is commander of VT-9, (Tigers) one of two training squadrons at NAS Meridian. Navy Comdr. Steve Delanty is the commander of the other unit, VT-7 (Eagles).
These squadrons receive students from Training Air Wing Five (TW-5) at NAS Milton, Florida, and Training Air Wing Four (TW-4) at NAS Corpus Christi, Texas, upon their completion of primary flight training in the T-34C "Mentor."
VT-7 and VT-9 conduct Total System (TS) strike training in the Navy's newest jet trainer, the T-45C "Goshawk." Upon completion of the TS flight instruction syllabus, the SNA's are designated Naval Aviators and receive their "Wings of Gold."
"The T-45 is a great trainer because it can do a lot of things on the basic level to prepare these young aviators a solid foundation," Krause said.
Training Air Wing One (TW-1) was commissioned on August 2, 1971, as the first Training Air Wing to incorporate the single-site training concept. Until that time, jet aviation students received only the basic flight syllabus at NAS Meridian prior to being transferred to bases in Texas for advanced flight training.
Krause has more than 1,600 hours of flight time in the T-45 alone. He said the students are highly motivated for the most part and extremely intelligent. What sets one student apart from another, according to Krause, is attitude.
"You see the same mistakes being made by every class that comes through but what you look for is how is that person reacting to their mistakes and how quickly do they learn from them," Krause said. "Almost all of them have the fire in their belly I did when I was their age. But who can hold it together throughout this demanding training cycle? That's the answer we are looking for."
The mission of Training Air Wing One is to provide newly designated aviators to the fleet for further training in operational combat aircraft and is conveyed in the wing motto, "Readiness for Victory at Sea Through Training."