The sky’s the limit for Sonoma Valley High grad Josh Overn, ‘01

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Joshua Overn attended Sassarini Elementary School, Altimira Middle School and Sonoma Valley High School.

Sonoma native Joshua Overn has taken the phrase “sky’s the limit” quite literally. The former Sonoma High School athlete is now enjoying a career as a helicopter pilot for the United States Navy.

It wasn’t an easy path for Overn to finally touch the sky. According to him, it took ambition and determination.

Born and raised in Sonoma, Overn attended Sonoma Valley High School from 1997 to 2001. “I truly enjoyed it,” he said. For all four years, he played football and baseball. He successfully earned a private pilot license for his senior project, getting his wings at age 18.

Growing up in a supportive community, Overn felt he had all the tools he needed to aim higher.

“The biggest impact the community had on me was with the baseball culture that Sonoma celebrated,” Overn said. “The small-town baseball feel was ever-present and the pride and tradition of Sonoma baseball inspired me to continue to play and enjoy the game. I felt like I belonged to the community due to baseball.”

With graduation on the horizon, Overn focused on the next four years.

“My curiosity for travel and flying drove me to apply to schools outside of the state toward the Pacific Northwest,” Overn said.

He chose to attend Washington State University in Pullman. There he continued to play baseball and flew small aircraft all year round.

He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in history and commissioned into the United States Navy as a Naval Aviator in 2006.

“I chose Washington State for its sense of community that is very similar to what Sonoma offers,” he said. “Compared to other PAC-12 universities, Washington State is small in population and size. It offered the same high quality education in a setting that was not overwhelming, busy and congested. The community cares for one another.”

He describes his decision to join the Navy as the best he’s ever made.

“That choice motivated me to finish college strong and become a Naval aviator like my grandfather before me,” Overn said.

He attended two years of flight school in Pensacola, Florida and San Diego before starting his first fleet tour in Jacksonville.

After three years flying a Navy H-60 Seahawk helicopter, Overn transferred to the United Kingdom to fly maritime helicopters for Her Majesty’s Royal Navy for another three years. Since then, Overn has served on the USS Makin Island in San Diego, and is now back to flying the Navy H-60 Seahawk helicopter in Norfolk, Virginia.

In the meantime, he earned a master’s degree in strategic studies and European security from the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey.

“I’m fortunate enough to be able to fly for a living now for our U.S. Navy,” Overn said. “However, the path to get to this position was not always the path I envisioned.”

To that end, Overn advises current high school students with similar aspirations to open their mind to various routes to success.

“There are many avenues out there following high school that can get you where you want to be,” he said. “Be flexible with your plans. They will change often and might lead you to other careers or jobs that you truly enjoy, but never thought you would. Look at all your opportunities and don’t close any doors prematurely.”

There is a much larger world outside of high school, Overn said. Whether you have the best time in high school or the worst, there is much more out there.

“Joining a branch of the military can open doors you didn’t think possible,” Overn said. “High school is just a stop along the way, not the end of the line.”

Joshua Overn attended Sassarini Elementary School, Altimira Middle School and Sonoma Valley High School.

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