A 2013 Royal Palm Beach High School graduate is currently serving with the U.S. Navy’s Strike Fighter Squadron Fourteen, also known as the “Tophatters,” at Naval Air Station Lemoore in California.
Airman Karley Bowen is an aviation maintenance administrator with the squadron, which the Navy designates as VFA-14, and works with the Navy’s most lethal and versatile strike fighter aircraft, the F/A-18E Super Hornet.
“My job is to make sure that the maintenance paperwork and records are kept up,” Bowen said.
The Super Hornet takes off from and lands on Navy aircraft carriers and is capable of conducting air-to-air combat as well as air-to-surface combat. It is approximately 61 feet long, has a maximum loaded weight of 66,000 pounds and a maximum speed of 1,190 miles per hour.
Operating from the sea aboard aircraft carriers, the Super Hornet gives the Navy the power to protect America’s interests anywhere, at any time. The versatile jet has the ability to destroy targets located hundreds of miles inland, without the need to get another country’s permission to operate within its borders.
“My favorite thing about the squadron is the tradition that the Tophatters have,” Bowen said.
Bowen said that she is proud of the work she is doing as part of the squadron’s 217-member team, helping to protect America on the world’s oceans.
“My job is to up keep the log books, and if they are not accurate, the mission can’t be completed,” Bowen said.
Sailors’ jobs are highly varied in VFA-14. Approximately 24 officers and 193 enlisted men and women make up and keep all parts of the squadron running smoothly. This includes everything from maintaining aircraft airframes and engines, to processing paperwork, handling weaponry and flying the aircraft.
“VFA-14 is made up of a group of hardworking and skilled individuals who work exceptionally well together,” said Cmdr. Tommy Locke, VFA-14’s commanding officer. “Being a part of a squadron with as much history as VFA-14 instills a lot of pride and honor in our team and in the work we do. Everyone knows their job and what is expected of them to complete our mission.”
The Tophatters are the Navy’s oldest active squadron, having formed in 1919. Since the squadron’s inception, its has flown 23 different types of aircraft, changed designations 14 times, and operated from 20 different aircraft carriers.
“The Navy has given me a lot of opportunities to excel, and I enjoy the benefits the Navy provides,” Bowen said.
ABOVE: Airman Karley Bowen in front of an F/A-18E Super Hornet fighter aircraft.