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Letter to My Former Self: ENS Becca Guild

Posted on: May 09, 2014 08:00 EDT by Naval Academy Public Affairs

Ensign Becca Guild, USNA graduate and naval flight officer in training in Pensacola, Fla., wrote the following letter as part of the ongoing series “Letter to My Former Self.”

I graduated with the class of 2013 with a B.S. in Political Science. I participated in Women’s Glee Club and was an intramural warrior.

During my time at USNA, I saw myself joining the Surface Warfare community. After my firstie summer surface cruise, I realized the community could not offer me some aspects of life that the aviation community could provide.  Once I returned, I started talking to the naval aviators around the yard and quickly saw how happy they were with their career and how much pride they took in their community.  I decided to put Naval Flight Officer as my first choice and I got it! Although the pipeline is longer than SWO, I thought having time dedicated to getting my wings was a good way to go through my career.

Before I graduated, I picked the second earliest date, July 10, to report to NAS Pensacola. Because of that date, I had to come back to USNA to TAD for two weeks. In order to prepare for the big move, I got in touch with the PCS office near the baseball field. The moving paperwork was a little overwhelming, but once I went to the office, it cleared a lot of the confusion up. 

I left on Friday, July 5, and had an allotted 3 days to travel to Pensacola. One thing that I did not know was that when I arrived after the three days of travel, I was supposed to check in to my new command even though it was before my assigned check in date. I waited until my check in date and was charged leave for the two days in between.

Another frustrating thing with moving was finding a place to live. Pensacola is a very spread out city, and most people suggested living in Perdido Key, which is 20 minutes from the back gate to NAS, 45 minutes to downtown, but a short walk to the beach. Most landlords will not talk to anyone interested until 3 weeks from moving time, so it presented a headache during my basket leave. I currently live with 2 other roommates from USNA and it helps keeping costs low.

I felt relatively unprepared for coming to NAS Pensacola, but the JO Practicum class helped me gain some perspective as to what Pensacola has to offer. I knew only a little bit about the pipeline when I had service selection and JO Practicum class focused mostly on post-winging pilots, rather than in-flight school pilots and naval flight officers. I would have appreciated talking more in depth about the expectations of IFS, API, and primary/intermediate/advanced.

When it comes to flying and the aviation community, I had absolutely no background other than taking Aero 1, JO Practicum and aviation week during PROTRAMID. After waiting two months, I finally started Introductory Flight Screening and got in the pilot seat for the first time.

The civilian instructors are incredibly helpful and patient. Aviation Pre-Flight Indoctrination (API) is very difficult and is known as a “weeding out” tool. However, coming from USNA gives you an advantage. I knew 25 out of the 35 people in my class because we were all alumni and we all had very similar study habits and backgrounds. The best advice I can give to a JO coming to Pensacola is to have as much fun as possible without getting in trouble, work hard, and take advantage of all the flying opportunities Pensacola has to offer. 

At Naval Aviation Schools Command, almost everyone, with the exception of the instructors, are new ensigns. That being said, I felt like I was a firstie plus. I had fewer responsibilities (no firstie billet, only school and bills) and significantly more freedom. The only harsh reality was the leave time. I did not quite understand that even in a training command, holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas/New Years, and others holidays were not a given time for everyone to take leave.  Someone always has to be on watch and sometimes that person is you, regardless of what plans you have.   

Get an apartment as close to base as possible. There are no room inspections in the civilian world; find a roommate that has the same hygienic standards as you. Find a furnished apartment so you don’t have to move everything after a few months and the basics (bed/couches/ tables) are provided.

Make a budget. The first paycheck is an eye opener, but it goes by fast once you have real bills.

Do not have unrealistic hopes about leave.

Learn how to manage your time. There is no study hour or sports period. It is on you to study at home or to go workout in your spare time.

Keep an open mind when you meet new people. Meeting people from OCS and NROTC offer a new perspective on the Navy, which differs significantly than the usual cynical midshipman mindset. Spending time with other USNA alumni is a comfort, but reaching out to new people encourages you to grow as a person. At the same time, staying in touch with your friends at school becomes increasingly harder; especially with everyone in different time zones or on deployment. I try to write letters and send care packages to my friends on deployment to make them feel a little better. 

The paycheck is huge compared to a midshipmen’s paycheck, but with that comes paying bills, uniform costs, and buying food. The JOPA is great in the aviation community. The JOs in the aviation community truly watch out for one another and bend over backwards to help their classmates. I love being a JO at NAS Pensacola! 

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