H’burg Native Helps Train Navy’s Aviation FightersBy LT. BRIDGET MITCHELL,
FALLON, Nev. – In Nevada’s high desert is the Navy’s premiere tactical air warfare training center, home to the Naval Aviation Warfighting Development Center and it’s Strike Fighter Tactics Instructor program, known to the world as TOPGUN.
A 2010 homeschool graduate and Hattiesburg native is part of the Navy’s finest aviation fighter training facility in the world.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Jesse Shafer is an aviation ordnanceman working with the Naval Munitions Command CONUS West Division Detachment Fallon stationed aboard Naval Air Station Fallon, Nevada.
A Navy aviation ordnanceman is responsible for moving and issuing ordnance to commands and squadrons.
“I always knew I wanted to work in the weapons field and I knew the Navy would be the best place to build my career,” said Shafer.
TOPGUN began 48 years ago with the determination of nine pilots, the skepticism of the government and almost no budget as history would recall. In the early years it turned the tide of a losing air war in Vietnam, revolutionized military doctrine, inspired a Hollywood blockbuster and attracted and trained the best allied pilots and air crew from all over the world.
Shafer plays a crucial role in the overall mission that flies more than 5,000 adversary sorties per year in support of the Navy and Marine Corps Active and Reserve fleet and replacement squadrons, carrier air wings and marine aircraft groups including the United States Air Force, Air Force Reserve and Air National guard and Canadian Forces.
"Nowhere in the world does the Navy have the ability to train as we do in NAS Fallon,” said NAS Fallon Commanding Officer Capt. David Halloran. “The Navy specifically chose NAS Fallon as the location for Top Gun and the Naval Special Warfare Tactical Ground Mobility Training Center because of the desert climate, mountainous terrain, and sophisticated ranges available in northern Nevada. Every Carrier Air Wing and Navy Seal Team is required to receive the essential training provided here prior to being deployed in theater.”
According to Navy officials, TOPGUN is highly competitive and exposes Navy and Marine Corps pilots to the most demanding training scenarios in fighter aviation lead by some of the most talented pilots in the world. Each pilot is hand-selected for air-to-air and air-to-ground training and subsequently, as a TOPGUN instructor.
“My great-grandfather and grandfather served in the Navy as well as an uncle in the military,” said Shafer explaining that military service is a family tradition.
“I was proud to be awarded a Navy Achievement Medal for leading the effort that quickly responded to a mechanical failure after an ammunition offload.”
Shafer also said they are proud to serve at the center of excellence for naval aviation, training and tactics development.
The future of U.S. aviation depends on the Navy’s ability to achieve their vision for defeating tomorrow’s air threats with the support of the ground crews and pilots.
“Serving in the Navy means seeing new places, meeting new people and experiencing things I never thought I would. I'm proud of what I do,” Shafer said.