I’m from Petaluma, Calif. My dad, uncle,
two grandfathers, many cousins, etc., all had
enlisted in the Navy, so I was exposed to it
significantly growing up. I grew up wanting
to be an astronaut. I loved the idea of going
higher, farther, faster.
We also went to the airshow at NAS [Naval Air Station] Moffett Field, Calif., several times when I was
young, so I was already predisposed to like fighter jets.
Once I saw them up close, and realized I could get the
Navy to pay for my education in order to fly them, I
In the summer of 1995, I went onboard the USS Kitty
Hawk during Fleet Week in Seattle. I decided that day
that I wanted to fly jets off of aircraft carriers and that
I was going to the Naval Academy. I never looked back.
With a B.S. [Bachelor of Science degree] in physics and a B.S. in history from the Naval Academy, I
completed flight training and flew F/A-18s with Strike
Fighter Squadron [VFA] 81, flying combat sorties in
Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom from
the deck of USS Nimitz.
While I loved many of the facets of flying jets for
the active component, I did not love all of them, in
particular the constant demands of the work-up/
I flew adversary jets with VFC-111 at NAS Key West,
served as an F/A- 18 instructor pilot with VFA-106
Squadron Augment Unit and then went back to flying
adversary jets with VFC- 12.
My time in Key West with VFC-111 was the tour I
grew the most as a pilot. It was an eye-opening experience and the most I’ve been challenged in an airplane
throughout my career, made all the more rewarding
doing it in the aging F-5N Tiger II. My time with
VFC- 12 has been the tour when I grew the most as an
officer, though, broadening my experience and figuring
out how to manage a surprising array of problems that
I’d never encountered before.
Adversaries provide a number of benefits to fleet
readiness. First, any sorties that we fly as “red air”
Lt. Cmdr. Lee “Buckner”
FIGHTER COMPOSITE SQUADRON 12 (VFC- 12)
NAVAL AIR STATION OCEANA, VA.
WWW.SEAPOWERMAGAZINE.ORG 36 SEAPOWER FEBRUARY/MARCH 2017