Lawton, Oklahoma Native Serves with Navy Strike Fighter Squadron VFA-14
A 2005 Lawton High School graduate and Lawton, Oklahoma native 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.
Petty Officer 3rd Class Christopher Hotella is a logistics specialist 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.
“I am in charge of financial operations for the squadron,” said Hotella.
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 max loaded weight of 66,000 lbs., and a max 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 Tophatters are their commitment to excellence,” said Hotella.
Hotella said he is proud of the work he is doing as part of the squadron’s 217-member team, helping to protect America on the world’s oceans.
“The squadron would not be able to complete the mission without me making sure supplies are on hand and multi-million dollar finances are balanced,” said Hotella.
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 whom 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 they have flown 23 different types of aircraft, changed designations 14 times, and operated from 20 different aircraft carriers.
“I really enjoy the opportunity the Navy has given me to travel and see the different cultures of the world in person,” said Hotella. “I would like to thank my mother Melissa Turner, my younger brother Wyatt Turner, and my grandmother Laura Missey for their unwavering support.”