Two F-18 pilots visit NROTC unit

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The following review was written by CDR Dan "Chilly" Buhr, Exectuive Officer in the United States Navy and NROTC Adjunct Assistant Professor at Iowa State University.

Over the weekend, the Iowa State NROTC was very lucky to have two F-18 pilots visit the unit to speak with midshipmen about life in the fixed-wing community and their role in the Navy.

LCDR Jed “Smoka” Johnson and LT Chad “Nature Boy” Henderson flew into Des Moines Intl Airport on Friday, September 26 where they were welcomed by a group of midshipmen. While at the airport, midshipmen were able to walk around the aircraft as the pilots explained different features and answered any questions the midshipmen had. Before the day was over each midshipman had the opportunity to climb onto the jet and take a look inside the cockpit. This was a great learning experience for the unit, as the pilots’ sole purpose for coming to Ames was to speak to the unit and share their knowledge.

The following day, LCDR Johnson and LT Henderson held a Q&A session for midshipmen to attend in order to learn more about the fixed wing and F-18 community. The session was very informal and served as a purely educational experience, designed to give midshipmen a comfortable environment to learn about day to day life as an aviator and the little things that make the community so successful. LCDR Johnson shared videos from their unit that gave a very in-depth perspective from the cockpit of an F-18. A quick, informative PowerPoint detailing the process of selection and training required to become a Navy pilot followed this video. After sharing information, a few more videos were shown with a focus towards motivating midshipmen to work towards earning a seat in the cockpit and what life on deployment is like for a typical fixed wing pilot. Concluding the informational portion of the session, the pilots and midshipmen were then able to share stories with one another and listen to good and bad experiences from “Smoka” and “Nature Boy” during some of their flight hours.

Thanks to MIDN 1/C Weideman, who organized the event, this visit proved to be an invaluable experience for those midshipmen interested in following the footsteps of LCDR Johnson and LT Henderson, allowing them to make connections that would not otherwise be possible without this experience. While their visit was short, the impact and motivation they have left with the aspiring midshipmen of Iowa State will resonate for months to come.

Learn more about Navy ROTC at Iowa State University.