The commander of U.S. Navy Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 1 completed his 1,200th career arrested landing on Feb. 1 on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75), a rare occurrence among naval aviators.
Capt. Robert Gentry, a naval flight officer, landed in an F/A-18F Super Hornet assigned to the “Fighting Checkmates” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 211 while deployed with Harry S. Truman to the Arabian Sea.
The landing coincidentally occurred during the same flight operations landing cycle as the arrival of visiting Marine Corps Gen. Kenneth McKenzie Jr., commander, United States Central Command, aboard a C2-A Greyhound Carrier Onboard Delivery aircraft. Immediately following, Gentry was celebrated in VFA-211’s ready room with a reception that included a cake presentation from Capt. Daniel Prochazka, Truman’s executive officer.
Cmdr. Kenneth Hockycko, the commanding officer of VFA-211, was the pilot in the two-seat F variant Super Hornet for Gentry’s 1,200th carrier arrested landing, also known as a “trap.” Hockycko said Gentry’s flight was significant for several reasons.
“To share his 1,200th trap was an honor and, to me, symbolic of what we hold dearest as naval aviators – commitment to our craft, commitment to mission accomplishment, and commitment to one another,” said Hockycko.
Few aviators in naval history have achieved what the Tailhook Association, an independent, fraternal organization supporting sea-based aviation, has defined as membership in “The Grand Club,” aviators who have completed 1,000 traps. Fewer still, perhaps in the single digits, according to Hockycko, have surpassed 1,200.
“The Navy doesn’t keep people around and flying long enough to get to 1,200 traps unless they are worthy of being placed in leadership positions,” said Hockycko. “An aviator’s trap count is a measure of sea time, airmanship and leadership. To reach quadruple digits, one must have deployed and worked up many times.”
Lt. Peter Toy, a pilot assigned to VFA-211, further emphasized the significance of reaching 1,200 arrested landings.
“That number seems daunting and far-off for most junior officers who are just hoping to break 200 by the end of their first sea tour,” said Toy. “To provide some perspective from a junior officer, CAG has more landings on a ship than I have hours of flight time in naval aircraft.”
Gentry’s aviation career has spanned four separate decades. During this time, Gentry has also flown in the EA-6B Prowler, EA-18G Growler and the F-14 Tomcat, all contributing to his 1,200 traps.
“Most aviators won’t ever get the opportunity to even attempt to break 1,200,” said Hockycko. “As a point of comparison, I’m on my fourth sea tour, and I have fewer than half the traps CAG does.”
Cmdr. Joshua Keever, the CVW-1 operations officer, said the 1,200th trap milestone is indicative of Gentry’s tireless dedication to carrier aviation.
“It is an absolute privilege to be afforded the opportunity to work for such an outstanding, charismatic leader within the naval aviation community,” said Keever.
Hockycko said there is one more, personal reason this benchmark was so significant.
“When I was a lieutenant on my first junior officer tour, I was on the same landing signal officer team with the now-commanding officer of VFA-81, Cmdr. Dallas Jamison, and the now-commanding officer of VFA-136, Cmdr. Justin Halligan,” said Hockycko. “At the time, the then-Lt. Cmdr. Gentry was a department head in our air wing so those of us now serving as his squadron commanding officers were once the lieutenants who watched him come aboard 15 years ago.”
The Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations in support of naval operations to ensure maritime stability and security in the Central Region, connecting the Mediterranean and the Pacific through the western Indian Ocean and three strategic choke points.