When you think Blue Angels, you probably envision a high-performance Navy and Marine Corps Squadron of F/A-18 Hornets performing graceful, split second aerobatic maneuvers in formation to the applause and amazement of audiences.
But the more than 450 students at Green Run High School and Green Run Collegiate learned there’s much more to these pilots than their precision flying and unmatched tactical operation of combat aircraft.
LT CMDR John Hiltz, a 14-year Navy officer, began his day meeting with the NJROTC students at the school before moving into the auditorium to greet the schools’ ninth through 12th-graders.
Students listened closely as the Right Wing Pilot in the #2 plane explained the mission of the Blue Angels to showcase some of what the Navy and Marine Corps do overseas on our country’s behalf and the critical role that each member of the squadron plays to ensure that each flight is orchestrated to perfection. To demonstrate the importance of mitigating the risks of the mission by trusting each other to do their jobs, Hiltz asked students to extend their arms in front of them.
“There’s approximately 13 inches between you and the person in front of you, right? Now look to your left and right. You have about 6 inches between your arm and your neighbors’. That’s the distance between the wing tips of the jets when we are in flight. Each of us takes great pride in the job we perform and this teamwork is what keeps us safe and able to accomplish our objective,” he said.
Hiltz then shared his own high school and college experiences that led him to the Naval Reserve Officers’ Training Program to prepare him for his present career as a naval aviator.
“We all bring different things to the table, some we can control and some we can’t. The key to success is understanding how to maximize your efforts to focus on what you CAN control,” Hiltz said. He went on to tell students to pursue their dreams by finding out what they needed to accomplish their goals. He encouraged them to stay motivated and focused and to take action to aggressively overcome obstacles they would encounter; to constantly analyze what’s ahead to have a plan in place.
AM2 (AW) Coralice “Cora” Vezza, an aviation instructional mechanic responsible for the precision of the paint scheme on the jets used as cues and checkpoints for the Blue Angel pilots, then addressed the group. From San Juan, Puerto Rico, she told students that she couldn’t control the fact that she grew up speaking another language or that no one in her family had ever gone to college, but she did plan and take the necessary steps to do something important in life. Learning English, getting good grades, playing sports, joining the band and staying focused and out of trouble enabled her to graduate from college, join the Navy, travel the world and continue her education to prepare her for a 20-year career doing a job she loves.
After answering several questions from the audience, LT CMDR Hiltz really hit home for many students explaining being successful was important but they should also strive to be happy. He mentioned the recent loss of one of our nation’s most successful comedians who couldn’t seem to find happiness.
“Stay involved with your family and get involved in your community,” he stressed. “When you give of yourself to better the lives of others and help them to be successful, the rewards are tremendous and you will find happiness in what you have accomplished. It will help you to stay motivated and positive and keep a healthy attitude.”