In order to qualify for acceptance into the Naval Aviation Cadet program, a person must have met the following requirements:
- Be between 19 and 25 years of age.
- Be a United States Citizen
- Be single with no dependents and remain so until commissioning.
- Pass written and physical examinations.
- Two or more years of accredited college courses or be active duty
enlisted high school graduate or passed GED.
- Be approved by an officer selection board.
Qualified candidates were inducted into the NavCad program as enlisted personnel technically ranking between a Chief Petty Officer and a Warrant Officer. NavCad applicants must complete Preflight School and attend basic and advanced flight training. NavCads were obligated for 4 years of active commissioned service in the United States Naval Reserve after commissioning as a naval aviator. Reserve officers could submit a request to the Bureau of Naval Personnel to be moved to regular Navy status after commissioning.
Arriving at NAS Pensacola for flight training, NavCad recruits from every state in the union entered the Indoctrination Battalion of the Preflight School and emerged 17 weeks later ready for primary flight training at Saufley Field. While in Preflight, Cadets underwent rigorous physical conditioning and studied subjects that included navigation, aerodynamics, power plant principles, and leadership principles.
All members of NavCad class 32-57 then reported to training units at Saufley field where they would learn to fly the T-34 Mentor. The first eleven flights were with the same flight instructor. Flight number 12 was a check ride with a different instructor and, if the flight went well, the aircraft would land at an outlying field where the instructor would leave and the student would make a solo take-off and several touch and go landings before picking up the instructor for a return to Saufley.
There was an informal ceremony following a student's first solo that consisted of a friend cutting the student's tie in half. Flight number 13 was a solo flight from take-off to landing and following this flight, the student was authorized to wear a solo bar on the left breast.
The next 14 flights were a mixture of solo and instructed flights. The 15th flight was the final check ride in primary. Passing that check ride meant that the student would go on to either Corry or Whiting Field. Up until March of 1958 multi-engine students went to Corry and flew the SNJ Texan while single-engine students when to Whiting to fly the T-28 Trojan. Corry field was then closed and all basic students were sent to Whiting and the T-28.
The instructional course at Whiting was in two phases. Students received familiarization, instrument, and night training at Whiting North and then went on to Whiting South for formation training.
When a single-engine Cadet successfully completed basic training he was assigned to Barin Field where he would receive gunnery and carrier qualification training. Cadets were "field qualified" by the Landing Signal Officer (LSO) after making a series of simulated carrier landings on the field runway. Normally, Cadets would be qualified on the Navy's training carrier U.S.S. Antietam but it was being overhauled when I was at Barin so I did not get the opportunity to land a T-28 on the carrier.
In 1958 there was one more stop after Barin Field and that was NAS Memphis where we underwent intense instrument training in the rear seat of the Navy T2V aircraft. After 20 flights in the T2V Seastar we were off to advanced in Texas at either NAAS Kingsville or NAAS Beeville. Cadets undergoing advanced training were authorized to wear the double solo bar.
At the time class 320-57 cadets were arriving at Beeville and Kingsville both bases were transitioning all jet students from the straight wing Grumman F95-5 Panther to the swept wing Grumman F9F-8 and the two-seater F9F-8T Cougars. In addition to jet training Kingsville also supported multiengine training in the Grumman S2F Tracker anti-submarine aircraft.