Dayton Native Follows Flight Dreams in US Navy
By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Brandon Martin, Navy Recruiting Command
For as long as they have walked the Earth, people have dreamt of taking to the skies
and gazing upon all the wonders that the world has to offer. In 1891, German
engineer Otto Lilienthal capitalized on this dream when he created the first glider
that could carry a person across the open skies. His invention spawned a number of
other inventors, such as the Wright Brothers, to create ways for dreamers to take to
One person who has followed this dream is Lt. Joel Peña, a U.S. Navy pilot and
current operations officer at Navy Recruiting Command (NRC).
“Being an aviator has been a childhood dream,” said Peña. “From a young age I knew I
wanted to be in the Navy and even more so to be pilot. I went to a Blue Angels air
show in Dayton, Ohio, when I was in middle school. I knew from that point on that
flying was what I wanted to do.”
With his eyes on the prize, the Dayton native soon found out that journey to the sky
would have many checkpoints along the way.
“I enlisted in the Navy as an Aviation Machinist’s Mate straight out of high school,
which led to an opportunity for submitting a package for Officer Candidate School or
OCS,” said Peña. “After completion of OCS, I attended Aviation Preflight
Indoctrination in Pensacola, Fla., for my initial training. Then I attended primary
and advanced training in Corpus Christi, Texas.”
After becoming a fully qualified pilot, Peña received the opportunity to finally see
what being an aviator in the United States Navy was all about.
“My experience flying in the Navy has been phenomenal,” said Peña. “I’ve been able
to see so many incredible things and really make a difference. One that really
sticks out to me was my deployment to El Salvador. I was able to coordinate multiple
humanitarian missions where we brought medicine, food and clothes to the poor
communities in El Salvador.”
After following his dreams and becoming a Navy pilot, Peña currently works in NRC’s
Diversity Department where he plays a vital role in facilitating that potential
applicants from a variety of minority communities can also follow their dreams.
“My department is an integral part of NRC,” said Peña. “Our main focuses are the
strategy of recruiting, outreach and STEM. The best part about what we do here is
being able to meet a wide range of diverse students from around the nation.”
As different as his two jobs seem, Peña has found a way to apply lessons from the
aviation world to his role at NRC.
“Being an aviator has taught me that I can overcome anything that I put my mind to,”
said Peña. “Additionally, I’ve learned that nothing is accomplished without
teamwork. These attributes have guided me to succeed in my current position.”
As his time at NRC dwindles down, Peña looks forward to making his return to the
aviation community as he is slated to become a “shooter” at his next duty station. A
shooter verifies all the pre-flight checks have been completed and everyone on the
flight deck is in position to commence flight operations.
With his dream of becoming a pilot fully accomplished, Peña now looks to follow in
the footsteps of Otto Lilienthal and inspire others to take to the open skies.
“I would encourage them to visualize flying as a career and ensure it’s what they
want,” said Peña. “Once they can see themselves as a pilot and they know for sure
it’s what they want then they can overcome any obstacle along the way. Stay
determined because it’s worth it, there is nothing else like it.”
Atlantic Ocean (April 30, 2006) – Aviation Machinist’s Mate 3rd Class Joel Pena
launches an F/A-18 Super Hornet assigned to the «Jolly Rogers» of Strike Fighter
Squadron One Zero Three (VFA-103), off the flight deck aboard the Nimitz-class
aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69). Eisenhower and embarked Carrier
Air Wing Seven (CVW-7) are participating in Composite Training Unit Exercise
(COMPTUEX). U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 3rd Class Jason Johnston
«Why Being There Matters»
On our planet, more than 70 percent of which is covered by water, being there means
having the ability to act from the sea. The Navy is uniquely positioned to be there;
the world’s oceans give the Navy the power to protect America’s interests anywhere,
and at any time. Your Navy protects and defends America on the world’s oceans. Navy
ships, submarines, aircraft and, most importantly, tens of thousands of America’s
finest young men and women are deployed around the world doing just that. They are
there now. They will be there when we are sleeping tonight. They will be there every
Saturday, Sunday and holiday this year. They are there around the clock, far from
our shores, defending America at all times.