U.S. Navy Lt. Cdr. Larry Malone briefs Air Cadets Kendall Bret and Rhys Davies of New Zealand during a P-8A Poseidon tour during the 2018 Royal International Air Tattoo. The P-8A Poseidon is the U.S. Navy’s latest maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft.

Seedcorn plants STEM, P-8A Poseidon provides the platform

To the layperson, the P-8A Poseidon (P-8A) looks like any other commercial airliner, yet at this year’s Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT), July 13-15 at Royal Air Force (RAF) Fairford in Gloucestershire, UK, VP-30 ‘Pro’s Nest’ from Jacksonville, Florida crew schooled aspiring aviators on the platform, giving youth from around the world the basics of the military’s latest maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft.

For example, Cadets Kendall Brett and Rhys Davies of New Zealand toured the P-8A. Davies plans to join the New Zealand Defence Force later this year after graduation. Others toured and were reminded that good study habits, and a focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM)-subjects are a good fit for aviation and military careers.  

“I think if we talk to enough kids [at this airshow or others], said Lt. Garrison Erwin, a former P-3 pilot and now P-8A pilot, “hopefully we’ve planted seeds and we’ll enjoy the benefits of those folks 10 years from now.”

Having cadets aboard the P-8A made sense because several countries like New Zealand are procuring the aircraft as a maritime patrol and reconnaissance solution to address their individual requirements. Besides the U.S. and Australia, the PMA-290’s cooperative partner, Norway and the United Kingdom are set to also receive the aircraft soon. Other countries have also expressed an interest.

This year, cadets attended the airshow from Australia, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Ukraine, Sweden and the U.S., where they celebrated the RAF’s 100th anniversary.

Each year, the UK exchanges with approximately 17 countries, and there are about 100 cadets annually, according to Sqn Ldr Gordan McElroy of the Royal Air Force Air Cadet program.

“Some Air Cadets are defense-minded and aviation-focused,” said Master Aircrewman Keith Treece. “These are the kind of people we need to recruit as my replacement in the future.”

With thousands of flight hours under his belt, Treece is excited to talk about the possibilities of a long, successful military career with the young people.

When I was a youngster, that’s where the real ‘Seedcorn’ started for me,” Treece said.

Treece is stationed in the U.S. with VP-30 as part of the UK/U.S. Seedcorn personnel exchange program established after the UK’s Nimrod program was discontinued. The Seedcorn staff maintain their aviation proficiency on the P-8A Poseidon, as well as, training U.S. Navy personnel.

The staff is located at Jacksonville, Fla., and Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md.

“The way the P-8A is developed, the kids will love it,” said Treece. “This is computer generation. We can attract them by showing them the airplane, explaining what it’s all about, but it’s not just about the aircraft.”

It’s a complete lifestyle to be in the military and to be in the RAF, he said. There’s a good wage, and an opportunity to get involved in loads of sporting activities, and to go around the world as well.

Naval Flight Officer Lt. Marc Wallis left the U.S. Navy and returned to the service after completing his college degree.

“I originally got out because I wanted to go to college,” he said. “I went to UC Berkley and graduated.”

“But, it all goes back to legacy,” Wallis said. “Every time I’d go back to see my grandfather before he died, he didn’t talk about his jobs, instead, he talked about being in the Navy and in WWII.

Wallis said, he began to wonder about his own legacy and the things he wanted to pass on to his own grandkids. His desire to give back helped him to make the decision to return to the military.

“Working with these guys or other countries operationally is really exciting,” he said. “We’re talking to all kinds of people of different ages and different schools are asking us, what we do?”

They [cadets and students] need to study hard, work hard, and have a goal, Wallis said. 

“Clearly what we need to do now is to begin to attract the next generation of operators,” said Treece. “Not everyone can be a pilot, and there are other opportunities to consider,” he said.

The Air Cadets [where he got his start], is a great organization for youth interested in aviation and the military, he said.

“During selections, they had a glut of pilots,” said Treece about his initial experience. “But, what they desperately needed was people to work in the maritime role… antisubmarine warfare (ASW) and anti-surface warfare (ASuW), and so I trained to be an acoustics operator.”

That was more almost three decades ago now, he said, ASW and ASuW professionals are still in high demand today.

According to the article, “UK risks STEM labour shortage by 2023 due to baby boomer retirement,” more than half a million STEM jobs need to be filled to replace retiring workers. And, the statistics in the U.S. are no different.

VP-30 ‘Pro’s Nest’ crew wanted the message to be loud and clear, “we need and want you!”

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