Whitefish Bay - Aliyah Watkins was known for her basketball skills at Dominican High School, but these days she is honing her technical skills with Naval aircraft.
Watkins, a 2013 Dominican High School graduate and Milwaukee native, is serving in the U.S. Navy with Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron 120. She works with the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye Squadron, also known as “Greyhawks,” operating out of Norfolk, Virginia. She is responsible for the upkeep of the maintenance on the aircraft, including tire changes and servicing the hydraulic systems.
“There is always something new with this job,” said Watkins. “I like the variety of work I get every day."
Her squadron’s primary mission is to fly and train naval aviators, naval flight officers, and naval air crewmen to safely and effectively operate E-2 and C-2 aircraft, preparing them to join the fleet.
The training also includes the newest variant of the E-2D aircraft platform, the Advanced Hawkeye, which is the most advanced surveillance aircraft in the Navy. It features a state-of-the-art radar with more capability and upgraded aircraft systems that will increase readiness.
With a crew of more than 100 sailors, jobs are highly specialized and keep each part of the Hawkeye running smoothly, according to Navy officials. The jobs range from training the new aviators, maintaining airframes and engines, processing paperwork, as well as handling and flying the aircraft.
“This is my first command and so far I have gotten to interact with so many people from different backgrounds, which is fun,” said Watkins. “We get to work on two different aircrafts, which is neat. I feel like I am learning a lot here.”
While on deployment, challenging living conditions build strong fellowship among the crew, Navy officials explained. The crew is highly motivated, and quickly adapt to changing conditions. It is a busy life of specialized work, watches, and drills.
“I have grown from making the decision to join the military,” added Watkins. “It has been an eventful experience and a great learning experience. I like the mission and purpose of my job. We are a training a command so we are getting pilots ready for a higher mission.”