Naval aviator dies in hiking accident

naval-aviator-dies-in-hiking-accident

A Washington state-based naval aviator died late last month in a hiking accident, officials have confirmed.

Lt. Adam “Forrest Gronk” Johnson, 29, of the Whidbey Island-based Electronic Attack Squadron 137, went missing on Sept. 26 during a hike near Vesper Peak in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.

He had been expected back from a solo day hike that evening, authorities said.

Search and rescue teams found his body the next day, and the Snohomish County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled his death an accident.

“Our deepest condolences go out to Lt. Johnson’s family and to VAQ-137,” Cmdr. Zachary Harrell, a Naval Air Forces spokesman, said in a statement.

Johnson had reported to the “Rooks” of VAQ-137 in May 2019 and loved living in the Pacific Northwest, his father, Brian Johnson, told Navy Times this week.

He had initially joined the Navy with the hopes of flying helicopters, but jets proved irresistible, his father said.

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“It was really the desire to learn how to fly and use it to help people,” he said.

Johnson was a bit of a renaissance man, powered by an intellect that propelled him toward varying interests, according to his family and obituary.

He graduated from Stanford University in 2013 with a biomechanical engineering degree, but also enjoyed playing guitar and piano, performing in operettas and rounding out his education with philosophy and political science courses.

Johnson worked as a ski instructor for a while after college and entered Officer Candidate School in 2015.

He earned his Wings of Gold in April 2018 and went on to qualify as a Growler pilot before deploying aboard the aircraft carrier Harry S. Truman in 2019.

“My brother was someone who went all in on life,” his younger brother, Bruce Johnson, recalled in memorial remarks provided to Navy Times. “Whether it was the adventures he took, the work he did, or the people who were blessed enough to meet him, he gave everything he had to his endeavors.”

“While it was cut far too short, I will always treasure the memories he and I made together,” he added. “I’m grateful that he made the most out of his life.”

About

Geoff is a senior staff reporter for Military Times, focusing on the Navy. He covered Iraq and Afghanistan extensively and was most recently a reporter at the Chicago Tribune. He welcomes any and all kinds of tips at geoffz@militarytimes.com.

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