South Hadley native training to fly worldwide missions with U.S. Navy

South Hadley native Edward Thomas is serving in the U.S. Navy assigned to Training Squadron 27 in Texas, where he is learning the skills needed to fly missions around the world.

South Hadley native Edward Thomas is serving in the U.S. Navy assigned to Training Squadron 27 in Texas, where he is learning the skills needed to fly missions around the world. U.S. NAVY

By JOHN OSBORNE

For the Gazette

Published: 06-22-2024 3:26 PM

SOUTH HADLEY — South Hadley native Edward Thomas is serving in the U.S. Navy assigned to Training Squadron (VT) 27 where naval aviators learn the skills they need to fly missions around the world.

Thomas, a 2018 graduate of Pope Francis High School, joined the Navy two years ago. Thomas also earned a bachelor’s degree in quantitative economics from the U.S. Naval Academy in 2022.

“I joined the Navy for the educational opportunities and I wanted to give back to my country,” said Thomas. “Both of my parents were immigrants (his mother from Canada and his father from Haiti) and they achieved the American dream and it’s the least I can do to give back to the country that gave my family a better life.”

Skills and values learned in the Navy are similar to those he found in South Hadley.

“I grew up around a hodgepodge of cultures and we had to find common ground, just like in the Navy,” said Thomas. “Growing up in a military family with my father serving in the Army, it’s been a smooth transition. Moving five times in the last 18 months may sound crazy, but I’ve adjusted well.”

Today, Thomas serves as a student pilot assigned to VT 27, a U.S. Navy primary flight training squadron located at Naval Air Station Corpus Christi, Texas.

The aviation squadron’s primary mission is to train future naval aviators to fly as well as instill leadership and officer values, according to Navy officials. Students must complete many phases of flight training to graduate, including aviation preflight indoctrination, primary flight training, and advanced flight training. After successfully completing the rigorous program, naval aviators earn their coveted “Wings of Gold.”

After graduation, pilots continue their training to learn how to fly a specific aircraft, such as the Navy’s F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter attack jet, the F-35 Lightning strike fighter jet, or the SH-60 Seahawk helicopter. These aircraft take off from and land on Navy aircraft carriers at sea.

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Navy aircraft carriers are designed for a 50-year service life. When the air wing is embarked, the ship carries more than 70 attack fighter jets, helicopters, and other aircraft, all of which take off from and land aboard the carrier at sea. With more than 5,000 sailors serving aboard, the aircraft carrier is a self-contained mobile airport.

Aircraft carriers are often the first response to a global crisis because of their ability to operate freely in international waters anywhere on the world’s oceans.

Thomas is grateful to others for helping make a Navy career possible.

“I want to thank my parents, Teresa and Ruliere, who have always supported me in my dream to become a pilot,” Thomas said. “I also have to thank the people I’m serving with now. They push me and pick me up when I’m struggling. And I can’t forget Phillip Paul, my high school social studies teacher who was my mentor and pushed me to go to the Naval Academy, his alma mater. After talking to him, I knew the Navy was the right choice for me.”

John Osborne is a senior chief mass communication specialist for the U.S. Navy.