Niceville native earns his wings

Northwest Florida

MILTON, Fla. (WKRG) — Lt.j.g. Cody J. McWilliams, a Niceville native, earned his wings of gold at Naval Air Station (NAS) Whiting Field Dec. 17.

McWilliams graduated from Niceville High School in 2014, and then went to the Naval Academy where he graduated and received his commission in 2018. 

McWilliams comes from a family of military service. His parents, Tim and Tracy, were both Air Force officers, and his sister is a Coast Guard officer. 

“Both of my parents were Air Force officers. My older sister is a Coast Guard officer, and my dad flew C-130s, so I grew up a military kid. While I was at the Academy, it just seemed to be a natural career progression.  I developed the desire to fly and follow in my father’s footsteps. I grew up around pilots and pilot kids, so the influence was there as well,” McWilliams said.

McWilliams’ journey to being pinned with the coveted wings of gold began like most Naval aviators. 

He first attended a 6-week course, Aviation Preflight Indoctrination (API) at NAS Pensacola. API is an intensive ground-school portion of flight training that takes place prior to student Naval aviators getting inside the cockpit of military aircraft.  

After API, McWilliams was assigned to Training Squadron Three (VT-3) at NAS Whiting Field to attend fixed wing training in the T-6B Texan II aircraft and learn to fly.

After successfully graduating from primary, he then selected helicopters and stayed at Whiting to begin training in the TH-57 airframe for his advanced helicopter training. He trained with Helicopter Training Squadron 28 (HT-28), the “Hellions.”

Each segment of primary and advanced training lasts approximately 26-28 weeks, so McWilliams was stationed at Whiting for more than a year.

He related that the curriculum and ground study, as well as flying schedules were intense but rewarding. His time in Niceville prepared him for the competitive challenges.

“I was a swimmer at Niceville High School, and my mom coached the Ft. Walton swim team, so there was a little rivalry in the house, which was fun,” he commented.

Having grown up in a military family also likely gave him a head start.

“My mom was a huge influence in my life, and when I was in high school, she didn’t realize how those values and influences of being a military officer had made a big impact on me as I was maturing. I am grateful for that,” McWilliams reflected.

McWilliams is headed to Helicopter Maritime Strike (HSM) Squadron 40 “Airwolves,” at NAS Jacksonville, Fla., to learn to fly the MH-60R multi-mission helicopter.

“I aspire to be the best aviator possible, and hope to return to Whiting Field someday as an instructor pilot,” he said.

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