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Fri, Mar 12, 2004

Naval Reserve Pilots Lead Training Detachment

A First For Reservists

Naval Reserve instructor pilots are setting the example for the next generation of naval aviators. The instructors are part of Squadron Augment Unit (SAU) 9, the Reserve component of Training Squadron (VT) 9, one of two training squadrons that operate from Naval Air Station (NAS) Meridian (MS), as part of Training Wing (TW) 1. VT-9 has come to Key West (FL) to teach Navy and Marine Corps student pilots formation flying and gunnery techniques. This detachment represents the first time Reservists have been in charge of a training mission.

SAU-9 and their active-duty counterparts are demonstrating the model for Reserve integration. Of the 21 instructor pilots in Key West from VT-9, 13 are Reservists serving with SAU-9. The detachment commanding officer and the officer in charge (OIC) are both drilling Reservists. All the scheduling and logistics required to get the detachment off the ground were coordinated by either SAU-9's drilling Reservists or full time support officers. The remaining eight instructor pilots are active duty, serving with VT-9.

With the Navy’s emphasis on Reserve integration as a backdrop, the SAU-9 leadership role is a natural step. Most of the drilling Reservists in the unit have been instructors at Meridian for five or more years, many for more than 10. In their civilian careers, most fly as commercial airline pilots, giving them extensive experience in the air.

"Our experience cuts the time for labor in half," said Lt. Cmdr. Neyland Springer, the detachment OIC. "Everybody knows what they're doing, and how and when to do it. We don't do this full time, so for us to be successful, we have to do a really good job of coordinating and communicating. Our experience makes that easier for us to handle."

Springer is typical of the pilots of SAU-9. He completed his last active duty tour at NAS Meridian as an instructor. Upon leaving active duty, he then began his career in the Reserves as an instructor pilot at Meridian. All told, he has served as an instructor for more than 10 years, including his tours while on active duty.

"I like teaching students," he said. "It feels good taking all the experience you've had as a pilot and passing it on to the next generation. Seeing our people perform as well as they have,” he said, “is a testament not only to the individual flyers, but also to every instructor that they've flown with. It's nice to be a link, even a small one, in that chain."



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