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Navy instructors give some lift to local students’ dreams

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U.S. Navy instructor pilots with Training Air Wing 4, including Nick Hargraves, who once attended New Mexico Military Institute junior college, answer students’ questions Saturday afternoon and give close-up looks at the T6 Texan turboprop parked in a Roswell International Air Center hangar. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

U.S. Navy pilot instructors and the Training Air Wing Four leadership decided to provide some education to more than their own Navy and Marine recruits.

Saturday afternoon some pilots met with local students studying aviation or with an interest in the field at a hangar on the Roswell International Air Center to answer questions about training, careers and aircraft.

The Navy is expected to be in Roswell until the end of March to conduct the initial training of pilots assigned to the Chief of Naval Air Training Command based at the Naval Air Station in Corpus Christi, Texas.

“The Navy is in dire need of pilots,” said Lt. Comm. Scott Urlashick. “The more young kids we can interest, the better.”

Students at the event were from the New Mexico Military Institute Aviation Club and the Explorer Scouts, Post 103, one of the first aviation-oriented explorer groups in the nation and sponsored by Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell. Some of the students are already involved in ground school or flight training. A few pilots with the local Civil Air Patrol also attended. One of the Navy pilots talking to students shared a special connection. Pilot Nick Hargraves attended NMMI junior college for a year from 1999 to 2000.

The event was arranged by Jenna Secrist, who works with the technical educator program at ENMU-R, and her husband, Mike Lanfor, a ground school instructor. Together they lead the student groups and are involved in several efforts to promote aviation and drone-piloting education in the area. They also operate AIrPlay Media and Adventure Services LLC.

“Keeping students here and not having them go somewhere else for flight training is one of our goals,” Lanfor said. “Having opportunities like this are rare.”