When you hear the words Top Gun, what comes to mind?

You'll probably think of the movie starring Tom Cruise that was released in 1986.  You might also be reminded of the long-awaited sequel, Top Gun: Maverick, that's now in theaters.

TOPGUN (yes, all one word), in true life exists in Fallon, Nevada.  It is the home of Navy Strike Fighter Tactics Instructor" program, and it's where you will find some of the top fighter pilots in the world.

Naval Air Station Fallon is home to pilots and numerous other support staff.  One of those is Petty Officer 3rd Class Ivan Escobedo, a 2018 Lufkin High School graduate.

“My parents taught me to respect everyone, and I carry that mindset with me everyday,” said Escobedo.

Escobedo serves as an air traffic controller at Naval Air Station (NAS) Fallon, Nevada.

“I joined the Navy to leave my hometown and to experience the world,” said Escobedo.

Fifty-two years ago, TOPGUN was introduced with the mission of reducing casualties of naval aviators sustained during the Vietnam War. Within a year, this goal was reached with the United States having one casualty for every 12 enemy deaths. Since then, TOPGUN continues to train the finest naval aviators.

“I am extremely excited about the impact this movie will have,” said Vice Adm. Kenneth Whitesell, Commander Naval Air Forces. “Much like the trend that followed the original film, I am confident that Top Gun: Maverick will have a tremendous impact on our Navy recruiting efforts which will greatly increase the numbers of brave and talented Sailors among our ranks.”

According to Navy officials, TOPGUN is a prestigious program only open to the top one percent of naval aviators. Aviators who attend the course are trained in a variety of areas including air combat, jet maneuverability, enemy tactics and more.

The mission of NAS Fallon is to support carrier air wings prior to deployment, as well as other units during training and exercises. This goal is achieved through 300 clear flight days a year, four bombing ranges, an electronic warfare range and many other training facilities. The base is also home to a 14,000-foot runway, which is the longest in the Navy.

NAS Fallon provides aviators the unique opportunity to train in realistic battle scenarios while including every element of an air carrier wing. It is the only facility in the world with this ability.

Serving in the Navy means Escobedo is part of a world that is taking on new importance in America’s focus on rebuilding military readiness, strengthening alliances and reforming business practices in support of the National Defense Strategy.

“The Navy is here to serve and protect,” said Escobedo.

With more than 90 percent of all trade traveling by sea, and 95 percent of the world’s international phone and internet traffic carried through underwater fiber optic, Navy officials continue to emphasize that the prosperity and security of the United States are directly linked to a strong and ready Navy.

Escobedo and the sailors they serve with have many opportunities to achieve accomplishments during their military service.

“The Navy has allowed me to become financially independent, which enabled me to buy a home and a car,” said Escobedo.

As Escobedo and other sailors continue to train and perform missions, they take pride in serving their nation in the United States Navy.

“Serving in the Navy means supporting my country and performing my job to the best of my ability,” said Escobedo.

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