Navarre Native Becomes Naval Aviator, Headed to Jacksonville

Posted on November 9, 2020 by Staff reports

Lt.j.g. Connor Black stands in front of a TH-57 training helicopter with a fellow aviator after receiving their wings of gold at NAS Whiting Field on Nov. 5.  (Photo by Jamie Link, NAS Whiting Field Public Affairs)

Lt.j.g. Connor Black, who hails from Navarre, Fla., earned his Wings of Gold onboard Naval Air Station (NAS) Whiting Field in a ceremony on Thursday, Nov. 5.

Following graduation from Navarre High School in 2014, Black pursued a scholarship opportunity with both the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) and Navy ROTC. 

“After high school, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, but I knew about ROTC programs and the scholarships they offered.  So I applied for the Air Force and Navy scholarships.  Eventually, the Navy offered me theirs, and I accepted,” he explained.

With the Navy scholarship, Black studied psychology at Southern University and A&M College, where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. 

His interest in pursuing naval aviation began during his senior year of college. “I had spent some time with an aviation squadron, and was happy to move into that pipeline. I’ve enjoyed it thus far,” Black commented.

Mentors in his life helped him stick with his goals and provided encouragement to stay in school.  “I don’t come from a family of service (military).  I had a teacher in high school who was a retired Navy helicopter pilot. He pointed me in the Navy’s direction when we talked about what I wanted to do. My best friend’s dad was also an Air Force Chief Master Sergeant, and he was the one who convinced me to stick it out when I had doubts about college,” Black said.

When asked what his experience in aviation training was like, Black commented that “it’s hard to beat your navigation solos in advanced training. You get the keys to one of the birds and are told to have fun with it, be safe, and learn from the experience. You’re not graded, you get a friend (who is also in aviation training) to sit in the left seat, and you get to apply the stuff you’ve learned over the past few months as you fly around the Gulf Coast. It really was the first time I felt like a pilot,” he explained.

Growing up in Navarre, Black got used to the aviation around the area.  “But what was interesting was seeing the place where I grew up from the air. I can’t tell you the number of times I would look down and say, ‘hey, I remember going to that movie theater or restaurant.’ It also provided a sense of scale, because I’d always thought of Navarre and Pensacola as far apart…but out over the East Bay, it’s easy to see how close they really are,” he said.

Excited to begin a future chapter in naval aviation, Black’s next move is to NAS Jacksonville to fly the MH-60R helicopter with Helicopter Maritime Strike (HSM) East.