By Kaylee LaRocque
NAS Jacksonville Public Affairs Officer
Secretary of the Navy (SECNAV) Robert V. Spencer and his wife, Polly visited Naval Air Station Jacksonville (NAS Jax) Aug. 25 to gain insight into naval aviation operations and new unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) capabilities.
Spencer, who was recently appointed the 76th SECNAV, visited the P-8A Integrated Training Center where new and current aircrew train to fly the Navy's newest maritime, patrol and reconnaissance aircraft. The multi-mission capable aircraft replaces the legacy P-3C Orion.
He also learned about the Navy's newest platform, the MQ-4C Triton Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, which will be operated by aircrew attached to Unmanned Patrol Squadron (VUP) 19 at NAS Jax. The squadron was commissioned in October 2016. The first two aircraft are expected to be delivered to Point Mugu, California later this year and should deploy in 2018.
"It was exciting to get a better understanding about these new aircraft and have the opportunity to fly the Poseidon in the simulator," he said. "It's amazing to see the new technologies available for our pilots."
While SECNAV was briefed and flying in the simulator, Polly Spencer met with NAS Jax Fleet and Family Support Center (FFSC) staff to learn about programs offered to service members, families and retirees.
The FFSC team, headed by director Carolyn McCorvey, presented overviews of the Navy Transition Goals, Plans, Success, Family Advocacy Program, New Parent Support Program, Suicide Prevention initiatives, sexual assault prevention, Exception Family Member Program, individual augmentees, domestic violence issues and the Gold Star Program.
"This team is amazing," said Polly Spencer. "I think the Sailors and their families are in great hands here and I'm so very appreciative to learn about these programs. Thank you for what you all do every day."
At the Triton Unmanned Aerial Systems Operator Training Facility, Officer in Charge Cmdr. Joseph Opp, briefed the Spencers on the training curriculum for pilots learning the new Triton platform and some of the features of the new system.
"The pilots start in a classroom setting, learning emergency procedures, what the system does, how it works and the parts of the aircraft," Opp explained to the SECNAV and his wife.
"The next curriculum allows them to learn the software and the scenarios in the fleet before working their way up to a NATOPs [Naval Air Training and Operating Procedures Standardization] check. They will then complete a tactical phase before being assigned to VUP-19 as a pilot of these unmanned aircraft."
The Spencers also toured a P-8A Poseidon at Patrol Squadron 10 where the aircrew explained the flight station, mission crew workstations, radar and acoustic systems. They discussed the new technologies and performance improvements the aircraft offers over its predecessor, the P-3C Orion.
The SECNAV visited Naval Station Mayport the previous day to tour USS The Sullivans (DDG 68) and to address Sailors during an all-hands call.
"I want the Sailors to know I work for them," said SECNAV Spencer. "My number one priority is people, because when called upon, our Sailors and Marines will be the tip of the spear, and I am focused on ensuring they have what they need to do their job."
"My vision is rooted in my three priorities of people, capabilities and process," he added.
"The Navy and Marine Corps team is the nation's forward deployed force, and as such must always be ready to deliver the fight in a moment's notice. To accomplish this task, we must ensure our people are highly trained, well equipped and we must improve and modernize our capabilities while streamlining processes."