FLATBUSH – Growing up near Ocean and Church Avenues, Shelleyann Atwater never thought she’d join the Navy. Now, she’s Yeoman 1st Class Atwater, one of the newest crested members of the Navy’s U.S. Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron, a.k.a the Blue Angels.
After completing weeks of training at the Naval Air Facility in El Centro, California, learning about the flight squadron’s history, traditions, procedures and teamwork, she earned her crest, and a spot helping out in the events department, coordinating shows for the legendary squadron’s touring demonstrations.
Currently stationed in Pensacola, Florida, Atwater grew up in Flatbush, Brooklyn, attending the now-defunct Lafayette High School in Bath Beach. Back then, she was busy with family in Flatbush, soaking up the neighborhood’s diversity. “There’s so many island cultures,” she said, recalling her love of The West Indian Day parade, its food and festivities, as she grew up in a Jamaican family.
After high school, Atwater started on the career ladder, unaware of the turn that would take her to where she is now. “I was working as a paralegal,” said Atwater. “I initially thought I’d go to the Navy for 4 years, so I could pay for law school… but I fell in love with it.”
The teamwork, the camaraderie and the travel spoke to Atwater, who decided to make her career in the Navy, with its myriad jobs and experiences. Her time in the service has taken her around the world, and she reflects on trips to the Philippines and Thailand as some of her favorites.
Even stationed in Florida, Atwater still claims Flatbush, and misses being in Brooklyn. What’s first when she’s back? “Pizza,” said Atwater, “You already know! Gotta make a run to the local spot when I’m home.” Her efforts to find good pizza in Florida have been less than successful, as she tries to convince her fellow servicemembers of the singular, if ineffable, greatness of New York pizza—Brooklynites can sympathize.
For now, Atwater is focused on logistics for the Blue Angels’ opening show, in El Centro on March 10. But soon enough, she’ll be back to visit Brooklyn, as the Blue Angels perform at the Bethpage Air Show at Jones Beach, Saturday, May 26th.
It just goes to show: even with a globe-trotting career like Yeoman Atwater’s, everyone finds their way back to Brooklyn eventually.