JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A Denton native is serving in the U.S. Navy at Naval Air Station Jacksonville, home to the newest maritime, patrol and reconnaissance aircraft.
Airman CheDeja Irwin, a 2015 Ryan High School graduate, is an aircrew survival equipmentman serving with Commander, Patrol and Reconnaissance Wing 11.
An aircrew survival equipmentman is responsible for maintaining survival equipment for an aircraft’s crew.
“Knowing that my job is important and that my work could save a life is incredibly rewarding,” said Irwin.
She credits her success in the Navy to many of the lessons learned in Denton.
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 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 11, headquartered in Jacksonville. This means those who serve here are part of the first “Super Wing” in maritime patrol and reconnaissance history, ready to deploy and defend the U.S. and allies around the world.
Wing 11 recently added the Navy’s newest squadron to its arsenal: Unmanned Patrol Squadron 19, flying the MQ-4C Triton Unmanned Aerial System. 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, of the 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 11]. 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 a sailor to earn distinction in their command, community and career, Irwin said she is most proud of receiving the Enlisted Aviation Warfare Specialist pin.
As a member of one of the Navy’s most relied-upon assets, Irwin 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.
“I didn’t have patience before,” said Irwin. “I learned that patience and I am very curious. The Navy is a big thing and not everyone can do it. It means a lot to me and my family since I am the first person to serve.”