KINGSVILLE, Texas - A 2013 South Laurel High School graduate and London, Kentucky, native is participating in a rigorous training process that transforms officers into U.S. naval aviators.
Ensign Brandon Gilbert is a student pilot with the “Redhawks” of Training Squadron (VT) 21, based in Naval Air Station Kingsville, Texas. The squadron flies T-45C Goshawk aircraft.
A Navy student pilot is responsible for knowing the material and maneuvers for each flight they are assigned.
“I enjoy becoming proficient at flying,” Gilbert said. “I have come along way in my year of training and look forward to learning more.”
Gilbert credits success in the Navy to many of the lessons learned growing up in London.
“I learned to always look out for the people around me and to help out whenever necessary,” Gilbert said.
The T-45C Goshawk is a tandem-seat, jet trainer aircraft powered by a twin-spool non-afterburn turbofan engine with 5,527 pounds of thrust and airspeed of 645 mph.
VT-21’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 many 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 or the F-35 Lightning joint strike fighter jet. 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.
Gilbert 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, Gilbert is most proud of being recognized by the base commanding officer for volunteer work creating a display of model aircraft at the officer’s club in 2019.
“I enjoyed building something that will be apart of the base for years to come.,” Gilbert said.
Serving in the Navy is a continuing tradition of military service for Gilbert, who has military ties with family members who have previously served. Smith is honored to carry on the family tradition.
“My dad was an officer in the Air Force and both of my grandfathers were enlisted Marines,” Gilbert said. “I am glad to carry on the tradition of military service.”
As a member of one of the U.S. Navy’s most relied-upon assets, Gilbert and other sailors know they are part of a legacy that will last beyond their lifetimes providing the Navy the nation needs.
“Serving in the Navy means a great deal to me,” Gilbert said. “I am glad to contribute to the national defense of our country and protect the ones I care about most.”