Commentary: From Carson City to the skies: Student to earn wings

When U.S. Naval Academy Midshipman Rafe Tackes got the news he had been waiting for for what seemed like an eternity, he was on Cloud Nine.

Before too long the Carson City resident will be literally among the clouds.

Rafe, the 22-year-old son of Steve and Carol Payne Tackes, graduates in late May from Annapolis. He just learned that his request to be assigned as a naval aviator has been granted.

He could have been assigned to submarines, Marine Corps aviation, surface warfare or several other services within the U.S. Navy. But he got his longstanding wish.

"Ecstatic" is the way he described his feelings when he was notified of his assignment.

Naval aviation is a perfect fit for the 2005 Bishop Manogue High School graduate. He got his private pilot's license at 17 during his senior year in high school. His interest in aviation was nurtured by his lawyer father who has had a pilot's license since 1990 and is the attorney for the Carson City Airport Authority.

"Rafe began sitting in the co-pilot seat when he was 5 on a booster seat so he could see over the dash," Steve Tackes said. He said by the age of 10 Rafe was navigating with a map and able to pick out their location by finding landmarks out the windows.

"By age 14 he was using the radios to announce our position and reading checklists aloud," Tackes said.

"I've wanted to be a naval aviator for a very long time - ever since I saw 'Top Gun' in grade school, I think," Rafe told me in an e-mail a day after he learned he had made the grade.

He said the trips to the Reno Air Races and the Fallon Air Show with his dad "only increased my desire to fly high and go fast."

Rafe said the wait to learn his assignment was suspenseful, but "finally hearing my name called out and hearing the dramatic pause before hearing the words 'Navy pilot' was one of the most satisfying moments of my time at the academy."

Rafe explained that sometime next semester he will learn when he will report to flight school in Pensacola, Fla. He's hoping to get orders to report for duty in fall of 2010, "which will be the beginning of another wild adventure."

Summing up his feelings about his experience at the Naval Academy, Rafe said it has been "a lot of hard work, a lot of tears, sweat and blood but also a lot of laughs and extraordinary friends."

Said Steve Tackes, "There is no greater joy for a parent than to see their child realize his or her dream. The words happy and proud do not do justice to the pure joy that I feel for him."

As for Rafe, he wrote that he is "looking forward to serving my country and paying it back for the invaluable education that I have received and the unbreakable friendships that it has given me."

With an attitude like that, I expect to see exceptional performance by the future naval officer.

• Sue Morrow is a longtime journalist and member of the Nevada Newspaper Hall of Fame. She may be reached at


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