Sailor of the Year caps off tour at Oceana with F/A-18 Hornet ride
By MC3 Terah Mollise, NAS Oceana Public Affairs
Photo by MC3 Terah Mollise Air Traffic Controller 1st Class (AW) Jack Coleman climbs into an F/A-18 Hornet.
Air Traffic Controller (AC) 1st Class (AW) Jack Coleman considers himself lucky. He not only earned the Sailor of the Year award for Naval Air Station Oceana, but was rewarded with the ride of his life in an F/A-18 Hornet on March 4.
For Coleman, this is a major end to his five-year tour at Oceana. With 13 years in the Navy, he reenlisted on March 3 for another three years and is in the middle of transferring to instructor duty at Naval Air Technical Training Center in Pensacola, Fla. “I was stunned when I found out the XO (NAS Oceana Executive Officer Capt. James Webb) was going to take me up,” he said.
Previously the commanding officer at VFA-81, Webb used this incentive with the “Sunliners.” After discussion with Oceana’s Commanding Officer Capt. Mark Rich, they decided that a very limited number of personnel, including Oceana’s three top Sailors this year, would qualify for the jet rides.
“This incentive flight is a reward for the labor Sailors put in throughout the year,” explained Webb.
After completing swim training, ejection seat training and cockpit familiarization at the Aviation Survival Training Center in Norfolk, Coleman suited up for his ride in the Hornet with Webb.
While the rides are being offered as incentives for Oceana’s Sailor, junior Sailor and blue jacket of the year awardees, they only take place during regularly scheduled training flights with Strike Fighter Wing (VFA) 106. Also earning rides are AC2 Ashlee Havens, Junior Sailor of the Year and Personnel Specialist Seaman Roanny Estevez, Blue Jacket of the Year.
Webb and Coleman participated in practice formation flights with a total of four of the “Gladiators” jets. “The power you feel throughout the ride is just amazing,” said Coleman.
“We went 46,000 feet, 6 Gs and Mach 1.3,” explained Coleman, who is still elated about his flight.
“It seemed so easy when we broke the sound barrier. I was expecting something to happen but nothing did,” Coleman said.
“The flight lasted a little more than an hour, and AC1 did great,” Webb said.
“I can’t even describe in words the feeling of being up there,” said Coleman.
Before enlisting in the Navy Coleman had his civilian pilot’s license. “When you fly a civilian plane, you are just sitting in a chair, but in the jet, you are strapped in at your ankles, thighs and to the parachute,” said Coleman. “Feeling the power of the jet, the two don’t even compare.”