On October 31, 2023, St. Mary’s College of Maryland students in Leslie Taylor’s CORE-P 201 class participated in an exclusive tour of the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division (NAWCAD) facilities at Naval Air Station Patuxent River (NAS Pax River). NAWCAD is the largest employer in St. Mary’s County. Taylor, who has served as a leader in naval aviation for over 35 years, including as former vice commander of the Naval Air Systems Command at Patuxent River and executive director of NAWCAD, teaches two CORE-P 201 sections.
CORE-P students, as well as staff and interns from the Center for Career and Professional Development, had the honor and opportunity to explore and learn first-hand about the mission, opportunities, and professional trajectories of NAWCAD and its military and civilian employees.
Students toured Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 23 at NAWCAD, Naval Air Systems Command’s (NAVAIR) largest flight test organization, and had the privilege of meeting Capt. Daniel Kitts, commanding officer (CO), and exploring the cockpit of an F/A-18. Jennifer McAteer, technical director, and John Frawley, platform coordinator, also provided insights into VX-23 and personalized the experience for the students.
CORE-P students visited the Manned Flight Simulator (MFS) and experienced the Multi-Mission Helicopter (MMH) simulation thanks to the hospitality of Joseph “Turbo Joe” Barton. Students also toured the Atlantic Test Range, where they learned about F-35 exercises including spin tests and vertical landings hosted by Walt Sidorovich and James Mumpower.
Throughout the day, students interacted with and learned from a variety of experienced military and civilian professionals, including their escort for the day, Kristin Williams.
“It was incredibly valuable to the diverse class of students who participated in the tour to not only meet naval aviators and civilians who support the mission of the warfare center, but also to hear how each of their degrees fills a specific need within the Navy,” said Taylor. “To be able to interact with the CO of VX-23 was an unexpected highlight.”
The tour was made possible by Crystal Krater, NAWCAD strategic education office education outreach coordinator. “This tour was an example of how the College is partnering with key community stakeholders to provide hands-on experiences and unparalleled professional development for our students through the Professional Pathways program,” said Michael Dunn, director of that program. “The CORE-P courses are designed to provide innovative and experiential learning opportunities to empower students to journey through the Learning through Experiential and Applied Discovery (LEAD) Initiative towards jobs, internships and other professional opportunities.”