The Navy posthumously awarded Wings of Gold Dec. 10 to all three Sailors killed during the Dec. 6 shooting at Naval Aviation Schools Command aboard Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida.
Acting Secretary of the Navy the Honorable Thomas B. Modly proclaimed Ensign Joshua K. Watson as a naval aviator, and Airman Mohammed S. Haitham and Airman Apprentice Cameron S. Walters as naval aircrewmen, Dec. 10.
“It is my honor today to present the Wings of Gold to the families of these three American heroes who were among the first to respond to horrific attacks upon our own naval family and tragically, were also our Sailors who made the ultimate sacrifice in protecting their brothers and sisters in arms,” said Modly. “Although this authorization pales in comparison to their immense bravery in the line of fire, this winging represents the symbolic achievement of the coveted goal that all three came to Pensacola to accomplish: to join the long line of naval aviators, flight officers, and aircrewmen who have served the cause of freedom so valiantly for over a century. Airman Haitham, Airman Walters, and Ensign Watson represent the highest virtues of naval aviation, and undoubtedly belong in that great fraternity of selfless service to our Navy, our Department, and our Nation.”
Chief of Naval Air Training Rear Adm. Daniel Dwyer oversees all undergraduate Naval Aviation training and is the designation authority for all naval aviators.
“The selfless acts of heroism displayed by these young Sailors the morning of Dec. 6 are nothing short of incredible,” Dwyer said. “They each embody the warrior ethos we expect and require of all wingmen. There is no doubt in my mind they each would have led the charge in their respective Naval Aviation careers. We are deeply saddened by this tragedy and our hearts are truly with the families and friends of our Shipmates.”
Commander, Naval Air Forces Vice Adm. DeWolfe H. Miller III is responsible for all Naval Aviation units. He expressed his condolences to the families of the Sailors and spoke of their bravery in the face of mortal danger.
“Ensign Watson, Airman Haitham and Airman Apprentice Walters are heroes,” Miller said. “Their actions and sacrifice embodied the competence, courage and character of those who wear Naval Aviation Wings of Gold. These wings were presented in honor of their brave actions and in everlasting memory of their sacrifice.”
Student naval aviators are selected based on their aptitude for flight training. A recent U.S. Naval Academy graduate, Watson possessed the education, skills, and tenacity required of naval aviators and was set to begin the rigorous training toward earning his coveted Wings of Gold. Naval aircrewmen, often said to be the Navy’s “guardian angels,” undergo some of the Navy’s most physically challenging training. Candidates must be comfortable in the water, and pass demanding physical fitness standards. Both Haitham and Walters possessed the strength, skill, and determination required of the Navy’s aircrewmen.