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Prowler pair turns into Angels
Two Whidbey sailors join elite flight team
While most of the selectees for the Blue Angels team had a background working with the F/A18 Hornet, Aviation Electronics Technician 2nd Class Meredith A. Ansley and Aviation Machinist’s Mate 2nd Class Zackary J. Gruwell from the Whidbey-based “Lancers” were the only selectees from the EA-6B Prowler community.
Ansley has been interested in the Blue Angels since she was a child. She spent childhood summers vacationing in Perdido, Fla., close to Naval Air Station Pensacola, where she vividly remembers watching the Blue Angels practice and perform shows. From that moment on, she knew she wanted to work in aviation when she grew up. She reported to the Lancers in September 2004 as an airman and has progressed impressively to be one of the leading Lancer second-class petty officers.
Ansley’s selection came at a pivotal time in her career. Before being selected to join the Blue Angels, she was not sure about her future in the Navy. She did not know whether she should stay in. She knew, however, that she wanted to make a difference somewhere and that, if she stayed in the Navy, she eventually wanted to become an officer. After talking with some senior Lancers, she learned the Blue Angels were accepting applications for the 2009 team. With a bit of encouragement from the same Lancer leadership, she decided to submit an application package.
Ansley found out that she was accepted by the Blue Angels on May 29 when she received an email from her future Blue Angel leading petty officer.
“I was expecting to find out through an official Navy message,” Ansley said. “I had to double-check the email address to make sure it was a certified Blue Angels email address and not from someone on the boat goofing around or pulling my leg.”
The whole process turned out to be a blessing in disguise for Ansley because she is now reenlisting to execute her orders and is eligible for a reenlistment bonus. In addition, she is going closer to home to fulfill a high-profile duty in Pensacola.
Ansley is very excited to get started on the next chapter of her naval career, meet new people and learn a new platform.
Gruwell has been in love with planes ever since he was a little kid. It is a thrill for him to be with the Lancers and work on an aircraft carrier. In fact, he has some experience flying single-engine planes himself.
Similar to Ansley, Gruwell also did not know whether he wanted to stay in the Navy or go back home to Lusk, Wyo., to help on the family farm after his tour with the Lancers.
When Gruwell discovered through the Lancers’ Plan of the Week that the Blue Angels were taking applications to fill their roster for the 2009 Team, he decided to look it up and see if he would qualify for it. Some of the criteria he found were that the applicants must have no non-judicial punishments, no financial problems, no Physical Fitness Assessment failures, and no visible tattoos when wearing Summer Whites. He met all requirements, so he decided to fill out the application package.
Gruwell found out that he was accepted to the Blue Angels when he got an email from his Blue Angel LPO June 3. He was not quite as suspicious as Ansley because he knew how she found out that she had made the team. He was very happy and relieved when he found out that he made the team as well.
“I am looking forward to showing people what naval aviation is all about, what the jets can do, and making a difference, even in a little way for somebody,” Gruwell said.
VAQ-131 is based at Whidbey Island Naval Air Station. It’s part of Carrier Air Wing 2 and embarked with the USS Abraham Lincoln Strike Group currently in the 5th Fleet area of operations to support Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom as well as Maritime Security Operations. Operations in the 5th Fleet area of responsibility are focused on reassuring regional partners of the United States’ commitment to security, which promotes stability and global prosperity.