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Virginia Tech graduate follows in father’s Navy pilot footsteps

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VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. -- There is a new face at Naval Air Station Oceana.

Lt. Junior Grade Alex Mickle couldn't be happier because the Woodbridge native is finally home.

"I’m excited to be here. I'm the new guy by a lot," Alex said.

He spent the last few years flying jets, specifically the F/A 18 Super Hornet in the skies over arid Fresno, California.

"You never get over that moment when you’re getting up the ladder and climbing over into the cockpit and strapping in," Alex said. "You can do it 1,000 times and it is always a special moment and excited for it every time."

Lt. Junior Grade Alex Mickle

Lt. Junior Grade Alex Mickle

The jet can deliver a devastating blow and moves faster than the speed of sound.

"The first few times, if you’re not ready for it, your legs come up into your chest," Alex said. "It puts you in the back of the seat when you put on the afterburners."

A few weeks ago,  the 25-year-old pilot joined the Gunslingers Squadron in Virginia Beach. It is the same squadron that just returned from a seven-month combat mission aboard the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower.

"Being able to fly this and serve my country it has been just great. A dream come true," Alex said.

His new squadron flew missions against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

The Virginia Tech graduate is following footsteps in the sky of someone special. Alex's father flew in F-14's for the Navy.

"He is just as excited as I am," Alex said. "I grew up with that and thought that was the coolest thing ever. So I decided to give it a shot. See if I could do it on my own."

Alex's Executive Officer Commander Erik Stinson said the veterans of the squadron relish taking young pilots like Alex under their wing.

"I would trade places with him in a second," Stinson said. "It is how we do business in the Navy. We train our replacements."

A confident Alex readily admits he has a lot to learn. Especially landing the jet on an aircraft carrier.

"It is a little postage stamp out in the middle of the ocean," Alex said.

Alex is several months away from his first deployment aboard a carrier. Until then this proud pilot from Virginia can think of no higher honor than flying for the United States Navy.

"It is everything. It is your family. It is your friend. Your country. Your loyalty. My ideals. That is why we carry it with us," he said.

Greg McQuade features local heroes in a weekly “Heroes Among Us” segment. Watch Greg’s reports Thursdays on CBS News at 6 or here on If you would like to nominate someone to be featured on “Heroes Among Us,” click here to email

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