“Defrag” is the aviator nickname of Lieutenant Commander Clay Johnson, husband of Martha Bain Wall’s daughter, Kate. More easily recognizable nicknames are “Maverick”, “Goose”, and “Ice Man” – from the 1986 blockbuster movie, “Top Gun”. But, who knew that nicknames are call signs given to military pilots, flight officers, and even some enlisted aviators. These call signs are specialized forms of nicknames that substitute for the aviator’s given name and appear on flight suits and on flight jacket name tags, are painted/displayed beneath the officer’s or enlisted air crewman’s name on aircraft fuselages or canopy rails, and in radio conversations.
The origins of the call sign vary, but most refer in some way to the aviator’s surname; others may include personality traits or past exploits during the pilot’s career, etc. Sometimes the call sign can be derogatory, and it is considered bad form for one to give himself a call sign. (Wikipedia)
Defrag just completed a nine-week stint at the Naval Air Station Falleon in Falleon, Nevada, as a student at the Navy’s Fighter Weapons School – better known as TOPGUN. In an effort to showcase the TOPGUN story, Kate provides the following information.
History of TOPGUN
(https://www.cnic.navy.mil/regions/cnrsw/installations/nas_fallon/about/nawdc.html) In the early stages of the Vietnam War, the tactical performance of Navy fighter aircraft against seemingly technologically inferior adversaries, the North Vietnamese MiG-17, MiG-19, and MiG-21, fell far short of expectations and caused significant concern among national leadership. Based on an unacceptable ratio of combat losses, in 1967, ADM Tom Moorer, Chief of Naval Operations, commissioned an in-depth examination of the process by which air-to-air missile systems were acquired and employed. Among the multitude of findings within this report was the critical need for an advanced fighter weapons school, designed to train aircrew in all aspects of aerial combat including the capabilities and limitations of Navy aircraft and weapon systems, along with those of the expected threat.
In 1969, the United States Navy Fighter Weapons School (TOPGUN) was established to develop and implement a course of graduate-level instruction in aerial combat. Today, TOPGUN continues to provide advanced tactics training for FA-18A-F aircrew in the Navy and Marine Corps through the execution of the Strike Fighter Tactics Instructor (SFTI) Course. TOPGUN is the most demanding air combat syllabus found anywhere in the world. The SFTI Course ultimately produces graduate-level strike fighter tacticians, adversary instructors, and Air Intercept Controllers (AIC) who go on to fill the critical assignment of Training Officer in fleet units.
TOPGUN also conducts an Adversary Training Course, flying with adversary aircrew from each Navy and Marine Corps adversary squadron. These pilots receive individual instruction in threat simulation, effective threat presentation and adversary tactics.” (https://military.wikia.org/wiki/United_States_Navy_Strike_Fighter_Tactics_Instructor_program)
With this illuminating background information, it is even more impressive to read of LCDR Johnson’s recent stint at TOPGUN. Kate tells his story.
“LCDR Johnson went through the rigorous program and successfully completed the Adversary Training Program (a.k.a The Red Course) on August 15, 2019. As a graduate of the Adversary Training Program, LCDR Johnson will be expected to return to his operational squadron and provide the highest-level training and most current knowledge to Naval Aviators on the East Coast. His training at TOPGUN was specifically designed to allow him to best simulate the different air combat threats the United States faces from our most formidable adversaries all around the world.
“He is now able to be the best ‘bad guy’ he can be,” says Kate Josephine McGill Johnson. “This is a good thing for our country, though. And luckily, there isn’t a real ‘bad guy’ bone in his body. He just plays one at work.” LCDR Johnson is stationed at Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia Beach, Virginia, and is serving a tour as a Department Head with VFC-12, The Fighting Omars (radio call sign ‘Ambush’).”
Originally from Crawford, Texas, Johnson is a 2007 college graduate of the United States Naval Academy. He earned his Naval Aviator Wings of Gold in December of 2009 and has flown all variants of the F/A-18 since finishing flight school. He has flown combat missions over Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria while deployed on US aircraft carriers throughout his career.
Kate concludes, “If any local high school students would like to know more about the United States Naval Academy, please reach out to George and Martha Wall to get in touch with LCDR Johnson.”