Every year on May 8 United States naval aviators pause to commemorate the birth of naval aviation and reflect on the numerous milestones accomplished by their predecessors.
This year, on the 109th birthday of naval aviation, Lt. Joseph Dejunco, from Atlanta, an E-2 Naval Flight Officer serving as a Catapult Officer “shooter” aboard USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) reminisced on the naval aviation milestones that inspired him to become a pilot and those that motivate him for the future of naval aviation.
“I have had a passion for aviation since I was a child,” said Dejunco. “I remember watching the Blue Angels as a kid and deciding that I wanted to be a part of naval aviation. I specifically wanted to be a naval aviator because I wanted to have the chance to take off and land on an aircraft carrier.”
Now, as a shooter, Dejunco is responsible for the safe and efficient launch and recovery of aircraft from Ford’s flight deck. Since commissioning Ford had conducted more than 2,300 catapult launches and arrested landings using the newest technology in naval aviation, and first major design changes to aircraft carriers since the 1960s.
“Celebrating the birthday of naval aviation makes me think of all those who came before us,” said Dejunco. “It makes me proud to be on Ford and be able to be part of the team that introduced the electromagnetic aircraft launching system (EMALS) and advanced arresting gear (AAG) to the fleet.”
In addition to the pride they feel in their heritage, aviators also have memorable experiences that help remind them why they wanted to become a naval aviator in the first place. Dejunco fondly recalled one experience that makes him glad he chose naval aviation as a career.
“One of the coolest experiences I have had as a naval aviator was having the opportunity to fly down the Hudson River in an E-2C Hawkeye,” said Dejunco. “It was incredible flying down the river through Manhattan at 500 feet, where I could see all the buildings up close from a viewpoint very few people get to see.”
Dejunco will help continue the legacy of naval aviation achievements, as a shooter supporting Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW 117) when they complete their 5-month transition from the E-2C Hawkeye to the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye in the coming days. VAW 117’s transition will take the Navy past the 50 percent point, making the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye the new baseline platform for the community.