By Brian Livingston / email@example.com
The Meridian Star
There were a lot of giggles Thursday on board NAS Meridian as VT-7 welcomed the wives of Navy and Marine Corps aviators who are in the process of earning their Wings of Gold as full fledged pilots.
The goal of the annual event is to expose the spouses of aviators to the rigors and responsibilities of becoming an aviator. The spouses, 24 women who are married to the men who will soon be catapulting off the decks of aircraft carriers in support of America's military, were able to watch up close flight operations, put on pilot gear, tour the control tower and grab the control stick in one of the base's flight simulators. In the case of the flight simulators, the women's laughter turned to shrieks as they tried valiantly to keep the T-45 Goshawk in the air.
"This is my first time to do this and it is really incredible what they have to do," said Kay "Jackie" Tidwell, the wife of Navy Lt. Cmdr. Richard "Jack" Daniels. "Before now I had just to try and picture what they did but now I can really appreciate a lot of what they have to go through. It is really an eye opening experience."
The commander of VT-7, Cmdr. Steve Delanty, said this is a way to give back a little to the all important support group, the family, of these aviators.
"These spouses and their families are our most important support unit," Delanty said. "These aviators need all the support they can get and we consider the spouses to be a vital part of our team."
The women were given a debriefing to start their day and then they were off, in four groups, to the various locations on the base. The groups were taken to the runways to watch "touch and go" practice as the T-45s came in to simulate landing on a carrier deck. Another stop was to the paraloft where aviators put on their flight gear. The G-suit, which inflates with air to tighten up the lower body during high gravity maneuvers to prevent the aviator from passing out, was a test for the spouses.
"It was when I put on the helmet and mask that I got claustrophobic," said Stevie Clark, whose husband is Ensign Fergus Clark, a soon to be Navy aviator.
The spouses were given a tour to the control tower and then it was to the flight simulator facility where shrieks began to pierce the air.
"This is so great the Navy allows us to do this," Tidwell said as she sat in the cockpit.
Delanty said the Navy pilots appreciate the opportunity given to their spouses as well.
"The pilots just love this because it gives the spouses a greater understanding of what it requires to become an aviator," Delanty said.