Two naval aviators and one naval flight officer received their Wings of Gold during a small ceremony at the National Naval Aviation Museum at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida, Sept. 12 as part of this year’s modified Virtual Tailhook Symposium.
Graduates were: Lt. j.g. Nicholas Mascaro, a naval aviator, Training Squadron (VT) 7; Lt. j.g. Christine Walker, naval flight officer (NFO), VT-86; and Lt. j.g. Thomas Fogwell, naval aviator, Helicopter Training Squadron 8.
The graduates represent three Chief of Naval Air Training (CNATRA) undergraduate flight training pipelines: Strike aviator, Strike NFO, and Rotary, respectively. CNATRA Rear Adm. Robert Westendorff presided over the ceremony, held in the museum atrium surrounded by large collection of aircraft and memorabilia from Naval Aviation history.
“Each of you have proven you have the strength, determination, and competency to wear these Wings of Gold and excel in the Naval Aviation community,” Westendorff said. “I am incredibly proud of you and our team of instructors who helped make it happen. Now there’s work to do as you advance to your fleet replacement squadrons and beyond. I look forward to flying with you in the fleet.”
Each wingee received legacy wings from individual sponsors from their respective aviation community. Retired Adm. William Gortney passed his wings to Mascaro; Retired Rear Adm. Don Quinn, Tailhook Association chairman, passed his wings to Walker; and Rear Adm. Daniel Fillion, director, Warfare Integration at the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations passed his wings to Fogwell.
“I am truly honored to have the opportunity to receive retired Adm. Don Quinn’s wings,” Walker said. “As part of the new generation of Naval Aviation, I know we could not be where we are today without the leadership that came before. I am excited to continue his legacy in the Electronic Attack community and inspire the next generation of naval flight officers.”
Gortney passed two generations of Naval Aviation heritage to Mascaro.
“I received these wings in December 1978 in VT-7 from my father who wore his wings through World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and the Cold War,” Gortney said in a statement read by Capt. Eric Doyle, Tailhook Association president. “I wore them through instructing in the training command, fleet and RAG tours and while commanding in every level of our Navy’s fleet command … it’s my wish these wings will serve you as well as they have served me.”
Mascaro’s wife pinned him during the ceremony.
“I’ve been told many times that as hard as school felt that I’ll look back one day and realize that was the easy part,” Mascaro said. “I am honored to serve my country and that pride will be what gets me through the tougher times. I want to thank all of my instructors at NAS Meridian and NAS Whiting Field for motivating and pushing me. This moment is truly once in a lifetime.”
Westendorff pinned on Fogwell’s wings.
“I feel truly honored to receive legacy wings from someone with such a distinguished reputation like Adm. Fillion,” Fogwell said. To student naval aviators just beginning training Fogwell said, “Don’t get so distracted with earning your wings that you forget to enjoy the moment. Flight school is an experience like no other and you’ll look back wondering how it went by so fast.”
The Tailhook Symposium is hosted by the Tailhook Association, a nonprofit organization dedicated to building camaraderie across the U.S. Naval Aviation community. The three-day, virtual event was designed to connect and inform the Naval Aviation team and included panels led by Naval Aviation leadership, pioneers, and industry partners in addition to awards and winging ceremonies. This year’s winging ceremony was sponsored by CAE USA.
“As this year’s Virtual Tailhook celebrates the Naval Air Training Command, we are honored to sponsor the winging ceremony and help put the spotlight on the critical importance training plays in creating the next-generation combat-ready naval aircrew,” said Ray Duquette, president and general manager of CAE USA.
CNATRA, headquartered in Corpus Christi, trains the world's finest combat quality aviation professionals, delivering them at the right time, in the right numbers, and at the right cost to a naval force that is where it matters, when it matters.
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LT Michelle Tucker