News | April 10, 2024

The PEP in CAEWWS’ Step

By Petty Officer 1st Class Ryan Batchelder

In the sunny high desert of Northern Nevada, one Sailor is having a much different experience than he usually would have.
Lt. Cmdr. Tom Rixon, from High Wycombe, England, currently assigned to Naval Air Station (NAS) Fallon’s Naval Aviation Warfighting Development Center (NAWDC), Carrier Airborne Early Warning Weapons School (CAEWWS), is a Personnel Exchange Program (PEP) participant from the British Royal Navy. He recently had his last flight in the program on Jan. 26.
“Taking my last flight was a surreal feeling after my time here,” Rixon said. “Leaving behind the familiar and embracing something new and unknown has been eye-opening, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to collaborate in this partnership.”
The program, which is more than 50 years old, was announced in a “Z-Gram” from the 19th Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. Elmo Zumwalt, to enhance international and inter-service relationships by providing exchange opportunities for officers and enlisted personnel.
“We at CAEWWS have been participating in the program for more than 30 years now,” said CAEWWS’ Department Head Cmdr. Joshua Goodin. “When I was on staff 10 years ago, we always had a Royal Navy PEP participant, generally in an instructor position. I returned to Fallon in August of 2023, and in the three-and-a-half years total that I’ve been here, 10 Royal Navy Observers have come through the program, and I’ve known six personally.”
Rixon started his first six months in Virginia Beach, Virginia, qualifying for the E-2C Hawkeye and E-2D Advanced Hawkeye airborne early warning aircraft. As an Air Battle Manager and Naval Flight Officer, his remaining time at NAS Fallon, Nevada, as a warfare tactics instructor has seen him integrate effortlessly into the installation’s airborne early warning community, providing invaluable knowledge and instruction.
“My time at CAEWWS has been extremely fulfilling,” Rixon said. “The ability level and expertise that I’ve seen and been a part of here is second to none. Taking these personal experiences back to the U.K. I think will be a significant benefit for both countries.”
According to Goodin, working alongside a different country’s military can sometimes present challenges. For CAEWWS, the partnership with the Royal Navy has been essentially seamless.
“[Rixon] is the best of the best, and we’ve been very fortunate to have him as an instructor,” Goodin said. “He values performance and professionalism and is a fantastic leader. He’s a testament to the excellence the Royal Navy sends here to Fallon for the PEP. They value the integration between the U.S. and the U.K. as much as we do, and it’s a great opportunity to work and learn alongside some of our closest allies.”
Overall, the experience for Rixon has been beneficial in more ways than one.
“I arrived as a single guy, and I’m leaving happily married,” said Rixon, who married his wife Hannah in 2023. “Developing these relationships, both personally and professionally because of this program, has been rewarding in every sense. I’m grateful for this vast community of aviation professionals and fellow instructors that help keep both countries on the cutting edge.”
Capt. Shane Tanner, NAS Fallon commanding officer, echoed his sentiments about the PEP program.
“I have personally worked alongside four U.K. PEP officers attached to CAEWWS over the past 25 years—call signs ‘Titus’ Tite, ‘Mickey’ Spillane, ‘Errol’ Flynn, and now ‘Sicko’ Rixon,” Tanner said. “All of them are stellar Naval Officers and consummate aviators possessing a true warrior ethos. The unique professional expertise that these individuals bring to the NAWDC mission of ‘Training the Fleet’ in advanced warfighting tactics is indispensable to the joint fight. Moreover, they continue to reinforce the longstanding and historic maritime bond that the U.S. shares with the U.K. And lastly, I am proud to consider them personal and family friends.”
Petty Officer 1st Class Ryan Batchelder  is a commuications specialist with Naval Air Station Fallon, Nevada.