Both U.S. Marines and Sailors love talking to high school students, extolling the virtues of joining the world’s greatest military, but it is a rare occasion to have members of the Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron, the Blue Angels, visit a school to talk to young people about their culture of excellence and how they got to this point in their career’s.
Lt. Cmdr. Julius Bratton, Blue Angel #5, lead solo and operations officer as well as a native of Woodlawn, Tennessee, and Aircrew Survival Equipmentman 1st Class Brandon Gatewood, a native of Kingsland, Georgia, went to talk with students at Del Norte High School in San Diego, California Sept. 22, 2023.
Bratton, a Naval Academy graduate, told the students about how he came to be a Blue Angel pilot.
“My father was in the military so we moved around a lot when I was young,” said Bratton. “I know how it feels to be the new kid in class, always having to make new friends.”
“I always remember what my father told me, ‘If you can dream it, you can see it. And if you can see it, you can achieve it.’ I still think about his quote every day,” said Bratton.
“When my family settled down in Tennessee, I did what I needed to do to be a successful student,” said Bratton. “I had a 4.0 average, took AP (Advanced Placement) classes, played sports. I thought I was doing alright, until I went to the (Naval) Academy, and this big fish in a small pond became a little fish in a very large pond.”
“I had to learn how to ask people for help and relearn how to study after my first semester grades came in,” said Bratton. “I asked those around me how they studied and I reengineered what they did to fit my life.”
Gatewood also recounted thow he came to be a member of the Blue Angel team.
“I didn’t have a plan after graduation,” said Gatewood. “I was working a lot and not liking my path at the time. I talked to a Navy Recruiter and thought this could be for me.”
“When it came time to select a job in the Navy, I was given five career paths and the Aircrew Survival Equipmentman stood out to me,” said Gatewood. “The job description said I would be taking care of aviation safety gear and equipment, and I thought it was a job where I could help keep people safe. That’s what I want to do.”
The two then took questions from the students. One student asked if the movie “Top Gun” was accurate?
“The training in the movie “Top Gun: Maverick” was very realistic,” said Bratton.
Gatewood then stepped in to say, “in the first movie when Goose died, all of the equipment involved had to do with my job (as an Aircrew Survival Equipmentman). But I would never have let that happen on my watch.”
After the questions and answers Bratton came down off the stage to take selfies with the students and to talk directly with students who had questions they wanted to ask him personally.
One of the missions of the Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron is to assist with recruiting of both the Navy and the Marine Corps. Recruiters from Navy Recruiting Station Poway and Marine Corps Recruiting Poway both were on hand to talk with students and to invite them to visit their static areas at the air show.
Two other groups of the Blue Angels team also visited West View High School and Scripps Ranch High School to not only spread awareness about the opportunities which the U.S. military service presents, but also to engage and get the students excited about America’s Air Show, at which they will be performing.
America’s Air Show is featuring the Blue Angels on Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego, California, Sept. 22-24, 2023. This event is the nation’s largest military air show and always draws thousands of people to see the Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron pilots fly F/A-18 ‘Super Hornet’ fighter jets as well as a Marine Corps C-130 ‘Hercules’ aircraft, affectionately known as “Fat Albert”.
NTAG Southwest’s area of responsibility encompasses more than 210,000 square miles covering southern California, southern Nevada and western Arizona. Headquartered at Naval Base Point Loma, San Diego, the command has 43 recruiting stations and employs more than 275 Sailors and civilian personnel with a mission to attract the highest quality candidates to assure the ongoing success of America’s Navy.
|Date Posted:||09.22.2023 21:15|
|Location:||SAN DIEGO, CA, US|
|Hometown:||KINGSLAND, GA, US|
|Hometown:||WOODLAWN, TN, US|