How did you become interested in joining the Navy and aviation? What inspired you?
I was introduced to the Navy as a career option by my 10th grade chemistry teacher, Dr. Snider, who recommended that I apply for an internship at a Naval Research Lab. Although I didn't end up getting that internship, I started researching more about the Navy after that.
After starting at the Naval Academy, I decided on aviation because of my interest in aerospace engineering and space exploration, which was something I discovered at Hutchison through the amazing science program and teachers. The biggest draw to Naval aviation for me was the people in the community. Every single aviator I talked to while at the academy absolutely loved their job and was so excited to talk about it. I also think it's a unique way to incorporate my aerospace engineering degree into my job.
Women make up about 12% of all Navy pilots. Is it common for you to be the only woman in a class/on a flight or one of a handful? Did attending an all-girls school prepare you for this challenge?
I am currently the only woman in my class of 12, but there are other female students that I interact with regularly because the classes in primary are a little fluid. There are great support networks too, which have helped me meet other women and find mentorship. I'm a member of Women in Aviation International, and there is a network for female instructors and students here in Corpus Christi. I think attending an all-girls school helped me build confidence in myself and my abilities, which was helpful while at the Naval Academy and now in flight school.
What are you learning in flight school?
I’m currently in Primary Flight Training, which is the second of three training programs I’ll go through before getting my wings and graduating as a Naval Aviator. While in primary, I’m learning to fly the T-6B and we’re focusing on the fundamentals of a lot of different areas of flying, including visual flight, instrument flight, aerobatics, and formation flight. At the end of primary, we’re selected for what type of aircraft we’ll fly in the fleet, and I’m hoping to select helicopters.
I recently flew my first solo (flight without an instructor), and now I’m starting on instrument flight. My first solo flight was really exciting! It was nerve-wracking being alone while I was starting up the plane and going through all of my pre-flight checks, but as soon as I took off, it was almost like muscle memory to go through the flight.
What advice do you have for any Hutchison student considering joining the military?
My biggest advice for anyone thinking about joining the military is to make sure it’s really for you. Try to talk to people outside of just admissions or recruiting personnel who have been in or are currently serving. The military does have great opportunities and it’s a great path for a lot of people, but it’s not necessarily for everyone.
The process of deciding whether or not the military was for me was kind of a long one. At the Naval Academy, you don’t sign your commitment to serve until the beginning of your junior year, and you have plenty of time to learn and speak to people before deciding for sure. I initially thought the military was for me because it could open a lot of doors to fields that I’m interested in, which is still true. Ultimately, I decided to continue with my commitment after speaking a lot with mentors at the Naval Academy and learning about how I can best help people from my position in the military, which is why I want to select helicopters with the ultimate goal of working in search and rescue.
How did your Hutchison experience help you get to where you are today?
I think the biggest thing Hutchison did to help me get where I am was that everyone encouraged me to challenge myself. I was very fortunate to have a lot more academic opportunities than many of my peers did in high school, and it absolutely set me up for success in a challenging and competitive environment like flight school.
Monica Fleck ’18 graduated from the Naval Academy in May 2022 with a Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Engineering and was commissioned as an ensign in the U.S. Navy. She is currently attending flight school as a Student Naval Aviator and hopes to one day work in search and rescue.