Where in the world is a Shamrock? - Zach Zuroweste

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Zach Zuroweste
is a 1997 graduate of New Haven High School.  Today he flys the F/A –18 and is aboard the USS George H W Bush CVN 77 somewhere in the North Arabian Gulf.  He is currently deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Pirate Suppression Operations.

Zuroweste’s current squadron is The Golden Warriors of VFA-87 or better known as the “War Party”.  He has been with this squadron for over three years.  His squadron provides close air support sorties in support of coalition ground troops in Afghanistan six days a week.  Commander Officer Christopher Petrock said in a newsletter, “Our presence makes a big difference in dissuading insurgents from making attacks against friendly forces.”

Zuroweste will be leaving the “War Party” squadron in little over a month to return to Virginia Beach, Va where he will join his new squadron, The Fighting Omar’s.  This squadron is the Navy’s professional Red Air Squadron.  Zuroweste said, “This means I get to play “bad guy” for three years.”

The Red Air Squadron is one of the Navy’s elite groups of pilots.  Zuroweste will be sent to the Navy Fighter Weapons School, which is famously known as “Top Gun”.  There he will be helping to train new pilots prior to their deployment.  Zuroweste will also be training in the art of professional red air and receive a graduate level education in the latest tactics and tactical flying.  He will then use his experience and knowledge to teach their fleet aviators how to defeat the enemy.

Zuroweste wants his family and friends to know how much he misses and loves them all and cannot wait to see everyone during Christmas.

I asked Zuroweste what is the most terrifying part of flying and what his daily routine was.

Zuroweste said, “The most terrifying part of flying is landing at night on a pitching deck aircraft carrier.  The only time it is good is when it is over.”

0500: Wake up and start prepping for the day’s mission.

0600: First two hour brief about the mission for that day.

0800: Launch for that day’s mission.

0801--1430: Spend about six hours supporting our troops on the ground.

1500: Debrief and Intel on what we did that day.

1600: Prep for the next day’s event.

1700: (Ground Job) I am currently the quality assurance officer as well as a squadron pilot. My division is responsible for maintaining the professional standards in maintenance practices on our 30+-year-old aircraft.

1800: Mentor with the young sailors.
Zuroweste said, “While flying is an awesome job, working with these young kids is the most rewarding part of my job. We pluck these warriors straight out of high school and have them repairing our $40 million aircraft...and they do one hell of a job. These kids work extremely long hours and have to do it right or we don’t fly a mission and this means we lose lives on the ground.  They are true professionals and I am proud to work with them.”

2000: Zuroweste said, “Then it is my favorite part of my job (sarcastically) paperwork, paperwork and more paperwork.  Part of being an officer is being a good manager. I usually have about 40 pieces of paper I have to process each day.  Anything from inspections to audits, to sailor performance issues. It is a never-ending job.”

2200: Intel update. We have two email accounts on the ship, one is for unclassified emails from which we receive correspondence from family and friends; the other is classified email, which I cannot tell you about. (Laughter) We get Intel updates, mission requirements, and other national security information via this channel.”

2400: Bedtime for a few hours before we rinse, lather, and repeat.

That is a day in the life of a Navy Fighter pilot.

Photos courtesy of the U.S. Navy