USS Eisenhower / US Navy — There’s no doubt that naval aviators have one of the most dangerous jobs in the world. But being a naval aviator for the world’s most powerful Navy takes it up an extra notch.
The Navy is the United States’ power projection across the world’s oceans. So being constantly forward deployed to international conflicts comes with the territory. Navy pilots are highly skilled professionals, and like their counterparts in the Air Force, they must constantly fly hours-upon-hours to sharpen their skills. This alone could mean life and death if they should encounter enemy aircraft.
However, naval aviators are a strange and colorful bunch. You got to be a little off your rocker to sign up for the job. A job that requires landing a speeding jet on a floating and bobbing runway — way out in the middle of the ocean. If that wasn’t demanding enough, try doing it at night in bad weather.
The pilot of the E-2C Hawkeye seen below is an example of the gut check needed to do the job. The carrier’s arresting cable snapped upon landing. He and his crew were headed into the drink, but he managed to save his life and the lives of everybody on board.
Lt. Cmdr. Thomas Browning, Lt. Cmdr. Kellen Smith and Lt. Matthew Halliwell were presented the award for reacting in time to prevent the loss of an aircraft by maintaining positive control during the mishap. The award is presented for heroic actions or meritorious service while participating in aerial flight.