Lt. Mark Swinger, AS '00

Naval aviator Lt. Mark Swinger grew up in self-described "Navy family," but he always wanted to attend university and even waited until his senior year in Newark to enlist. "I made the decision fairly late in my UD 'career', signing on with the Navy in April of my Senior year, with a report date of mid-June," Mark said. While his decision may have been "late" it has proven to be a wise one that today sees Swinger flying in one of the world's most elite squadrons, the Blue Angels.

The Blue Angels is the Navy's Flight Demonstration Squadron and is a mix of formation flying and solo routines using F/A-18 Hornets. The Blue Angels perform more than 70 shows at 34 locations throughout the United States each year, and since their inception in 1946, the "Blues" have flown for more than 427 million spectators worldwide.

Lt. Swinger graduated in 2000 with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. He also lettered in golf, helping the Blue Hens to a conference championship in the 1997-98 season. After graduation, Mark reported to Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Florida for Officer Candidate School and was commissioned an Ensign in September 2000.

Mark has fond memories of life in Newark and he still plays golf today. "The game compliments the air show we fly in that if you screw up on a hole, you have 17 more to go. With the air show, if you have a maneuver that didn't go well, you have 17 more to go. In addition, the focus required for flying 18 inches from another airplane at 380 mph and the concentration required to play a good round of golf are pretty similar!"

After Mark completed primary flight training and advanced jet training, he received his wings of gold in July 2002. A month later he reported to Fighter Squadron 101 in Oceana, Virginia for training in the F-14D Super Tomcat. While a student with the "Grim Reapers," Mark was awarded the Top Stick and Top Hook awards for overall performance and carrier landing grades.

In July 2003 Mark reported to Fighter Squadron 31, the "Tomcatters" with whom he completed a Western Pacific tour aboard the USS John C. Stennis and a deployment aboard USS Theodore Roosevelt in support of coalition ground forces participating in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Due to his excellence and leadership, Mark received the Tomcatter Trophy Leadership Award and the Association of Naval Aviation George H. W. Bush Pilot of the Year award for 2006.

Mark joined the Blue Angels in September 2007. He has accumulated more than 1,300 flight hours and 260 carrier arrested landings. His decorations include two Strike/Flight Air Medals, two Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals and various personal and unit awards.

"The Blues was always something I had thought about and wanted to be as an aviator, but never did I dream that I would actually be here!"