By Lt. Paula Knight, Navy Office of Community Outreach

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – A 2012 Great Mills High School graduate and Patuxent River, Maryland, native is participating in a rigorous training process that transforms officers into U.S. naval aviators.

Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class David Finley

Ensign Matthew Eastburg is a student pilot with the “Stingrays” of Training Squadron (VT) 35, based in Naval Air Station Corpus, Christi, Texas. The squadron flies the T-44C Pegasus aircraft.

A Navy student pilot is responsible for learning how to fly.

“I enjoy the challenge and working together as a team,” Eastburg said.

Eastburg credits success in the Navy to many of the lessons learned growing up in Patuxent River.

“I learned a lot from team sports while in high school,” Eastburg said. “I was also taught a great work ethic from my dad and older brother.” 

The T-44C Pegasus is a twin-engine, pressurized, fixed-wing monoplane used for advanced turboprop radar aircraft training using two 550 shaft horsepowered engines, with a cruising airspeed of 287 mph. 

VT-35’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 P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft or Marine Corps’ MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft. 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.

Eastburg 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, Eastburg is most proud of completing primary flight training.

“The amount of work and stress it took makes me proud of the accomplishment,” Eastburg said.

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

“My dad is retired from the Navy and my older brother is a Naval pilot,” Eastburg said. “It means a lot to me to continue their legacy.” 

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

“The Navy is a career that serves a cause bigger than me,” Smith added.

David M. Higgins II, Publisher/Editor

David M. Higgins was born in Baltimore and grew up in Southern Maryland. He has had a passion for journalism since high school. After spending many years in the Hospitality Industry he began working in...