A 2014 Youth Challenge Program graduate and Alexandria native is serving in the U.S. Navy aboard Naval Air Station Jacksonville, home to the U.S. Navy’s newest maritime, patrol and reconnaissance aircraft. Petty Officer 3rd Class Austin Waffer is a naval aircrewman serving with Commander, Patrol and Reconnaissance Wing 11 (CPRW-11). A naval aircrewman is responsible for detecting, tracking and attacking enemy submarines while onboard Navy aircraft. “My favorite part of the job is flying,” said Waffer. He credits success in the Navy to many of the lessons learned in Alexandria. “I learned there will always be bumps and you just have to get over them,” Waffer said.
The P-8A Poseidon is a multi-mission aircraft that is replacing the legacy P-3C Orion. Those who fly in the P-8A hunt for submarines and surface ships as well as conduct intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions. The P-8A operates with a smaller crew than the P-3C, and it also delivers an extended global reach, greater payload capacity, and higher operating altitude. It also has an open-systems architecture with significant growth potential.
According to Navy officials, there are more than 15 Navy patrol squadrons in the U.S. and eight of those squadrons belong to Wing Eleven, headquartered in Jacksonville, Florida. This means that those who serve here are part of the first “Super Wing” in Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance history, ready to deploy and defend America and allies around the world.
Wing Eleven recently added the Navy’s newest squadron to its arsenal: Unmanned Patrol Squadron Nineteen (VP-19), flying the MQ-4C Triton Unmanned Aerial System (UAS). The P-8A and MQ-4C will serve as the future of the Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Force, according to Navy officials.
When asked about his plans following his assumption of command ceremony in June, Capt. Craig T. Mattingly, Commodore, Patrol and Reconnaissance Wing 11 said, “Our focus will be to take care of our most precious assets, the men and women of (Wing Eleven). We will sustain current readiness of our P-8A squadrons and reserve P-3C squadron while incorporating the MQ-4C Triton into the maritime patrol and reconnaissance force.”
Though there are many ways for sailors to earn distinction in their command, community, and career, Waffer is most proud of advancing to the rank of petty officer 3rd class. “Advancing gives you more leadership opportunities,” Waffer said. As a member of one of the U.S. Navy’s most relied-upon assets, Waffer and other sailors know they are part of a legacy that will last beyond their lifetimes, one that will provide a critical component of the Navy the nation needs.
“To me, serving in the Navy means I’m doing my part,” said Waffer. “We’re free because people do their part. I’m just doing mine.”