Banners were hung. Music was playing. Black and red balloons decorated the table around a similarly colored cake.
The flightline around the Training Squadron THREE line shack appeared festive versus functional Tuesday, Aug. 6 as the squadron members celebrated their selection as the top aviation training squadron in the Navy.
Although written notification of the award was received in June, the official presentation by Chief of Naval Air Training Rear Adm. Mark Leavitt was held off until his schedule allowed him to make the trip to Naval Air Station Whiting Field.
“The award is a testament to the Red Knights’ teamwork, dedication and professionalism. Their innovative thinking and hard work paid significant dividends in producing our future aerial warriors.” Leavitt said.
The Training Excellence Award, also called the Vice Admiral Robert Goldthwaite Award, is presented annually to the flight training squadron that “that successfully demonstrated the most unique approach to the challenges of naval aviation” during the preceding calendar year. VT-3 submitted a package that emphasized innovation and safety in their training processes.
According to their package, the squadron flew the most hours and graduated the most students with the shortest average time to complete training of the primary training squadrons with Training Air Wing FIVE. The unit flew 16,760 hours with zero significant mishaps. This marks the 26th consecutive year and 740,000th flight hour without such a Class “A” mishap.
The VT-3 “Red Knights” also unveiled a new “Knight School,” which bridged the gap between computer aided study and instructor-led in-flight training. The seminars were taught by one experienced instructor and a newly qualified T-6B instructor. The courses, covering local course rules, emergency procedure, systems reviews and more, helped to reduce student flight failures by 83 percent and improved both pre-flight and operational student performance.
The squadron has been requested to submit the program for review for potential wider implementation.
Lt. Col. Brian Schafer, VT-3’s commanding officer, believes the program likely served as the deciding factor for selection, and while he was excited at the end result, he was even more thrilled at the process.
“Knight School was a joint process to help build better students,” he said. “Watching a joint wardroom (Air Force, Navy, and Coast Guard) working together and making ideas function no matter where they came from – it’s not about the award, but about doing our job right and executing to the best of our abilities. That’s what I am most proud of, the award is just gravy.”
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