Horseheads Native trains to serve as the next generation of U.S. Naval Aviation Warfighters


CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – A 2011 Horseheads High School graduate and Horseheads, New York, native is participating in a rigorous training process that transforms officers into U.S. naval aviators.

Ensign Mitchell Johnson is a student pilot with the “Rangers” of Training Squadron (VT) 28, based in Naval Air Station Corpus Christi, Texas. The squadron flies the T-6B Texan II aircraft. 

A Navy student pilot is responsible for learning how to fly naval aircraft both effectively and efficiently to execute missions in the fleet. 

“I love the challenge and each flight is different,” Johnson said. “I have a great sense of accomplishment each time I pass my flight tests because it’s one step closer to becoming a naval aviator.”

Johnson credits success in the Navy to many of the lessons learned growing up in Horseheads. 

“I learned perseverance from my parents and this trait has definitely helped me become the person and naval officer I am today,” Johnson said.

The T-6B Texan II is a training aircraft that is powered by a 1,100 shaft horsepower, free-turbine, turboprop single-engine, four-bladed propeller, with a cruising speed of 320 mph. 

VT-28’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 F/A-18 Hornet fighter attack jet aircraft, the P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft or the SH-60 Seahawk helicopter. 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.

Johnson 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, Johnson is most proud of graduating from Officer Candidate School and receiving his commission in becoming a naval officer. 

“It taught me to always keep going, to never give up and always be part of a team,” Johnson said. 

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

“Both my grandfathers served in the Army and I have one uncle who served in the Air Force and the other in the Navy,” Johnson said. “I feel honored to continue the family name serving our country.”

As a member of one of the U.S. Navy’s most relied-upon assets, Johnson and other sailors know they are part of a legacy that will last beyond their lifetimes providing the Navy the nation needs. 

“Serving means dedication to the job and the camaraderie in the military is like no other,” Johnson said.

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