By Cryptologic Technician Collection Chief Petty Officer James D. Cheney
PENSACOLA, Fla. – Warrant Officer 1 Thomas Forsythe, an Information Warfare Training Command (IWTC) Corry Station alumni, was among the first to be “winged” as an Aerial Vehicle Operator (AVO) for the MQ-25 Stingray and earn the warrant officer designator 7371, at the Naval Aviation Museum onboard Naval Air Station Pensacola on July 28, 2023.
The Aerial Vehicle Operator (AVO) Warrant Officer Program provides enlisted Sailors with the opportunity to operate carrier-based MQ-25 Stingray unmanned aerial vehicles. AVOs will be responsible for the day-to-day flying operations of the Stingray fleet. The MQ-25 Stingray is an aerial refueling drone with a length of 51 feet, wingspan of 75 feet, and height of 9.8 feet. It will be the first carrier-based unmanned aerial vehicle in the United States Navy.
Forsythe joined the Navy in June 2010, and after completing “A” school earned the Cryptologic Technician Collection (CTR) rating in April 2011. He completed several tours including Navy Information Operations Command Whidbey Island, Navy Information Operations Detachment Kaneohe Bay, and Air Test and Evaluation Squadron Two Zero (VX 20) before being selected for the AVO program.
In January of 2022, Forsythe was the top graduate and one of the first seven to graduate from Officer Candidate School (OCS) for to be selected for the new AVO designator.
The Navy received more than 100 applications from active-duty enlisted sailors for the AVO program. Forsythe said after hearing news of his selection his, original plan was to stay in the intelligence community. However, after thinking about what was best for his career and family, he decided to accept the commission and become a plank-owner for the program.
He said the training was a tough and rigorous from the time he was selected to his winging day.
“The hardest part of this training so far was the first three weeks of NIFE (Naval Introductory Flight Evaluation),” said Forsythe. “During this training you are taking five tests in three weeks, all while learning two topics at a time, one in the morning and another in the afternoon. After that training got easier, but wasn’t easy.”
To complete the training, Forsythe completed 22 months of training, only three months of which were near his family.
“The hardest was being away from the family,” said Forsythe. “It was longer than any normal deployment.”
Reflecting on his time as an enlisted Sailor and looking to the future, Forsythe said, “I loved being a CTR, had a great time, and will never forget what I have done and where I came from. I was the only non-aviation rated Sailor to be selected from the first group of ten. If you have a goal of doing something don’t let one or even two people stop you, their recommendations only matter for the moment and should deter you from trying.”
Forsythe explained that after submitting five OCS applications and two Limited Duty Officer packages he earned Wings of Gold in the Navy’s newest Air Warfare community as a warrant officer.
Forsythe said his most rewarding career milestones were, “being selected to go Special Projects Aircrew, even though it was short lived in Hawaii. Then my time at VX-20 working with the Triton MQ-4 and getting qualified as an observer on the C-130 (Hercules aircraft) to do tanking flights. This is what probably helped set me up for success in getting selected for the MQ-25 AVO program.”
Forsythe is now a proud member of the aviation warfare community, but who will also forever have ties to the intelligence community and all the previous lessons learned, mentorship and leadership he learned will enhance his new community.
|Date Posted:||08.17.2023 08:54|
|Location:||PENSACOLA, FL, US|
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